Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Fireworks of the Fourth of July Jobs Report

The Best Fireworks Display You Really
Owe It To Yourself and Family To See
The Bureau of Labor Statistics came out this week with their latest jobs report.

President Obama hailed the drop in the official unemployment rate and wants to celebrate it with fireworks.

Conservatives looked at the same data and concluded it was a massive dud or worse, the entire fireworks assembly to be fired on the Washington Mall tonight exploded before being fired.

How can that be? How can the jobs report be so confusing that it can produce such very different conclusions?

First of all, a little history lesson about the Fourth of July in case you may have missed it before.

John Adams, our first Vice-President under George Washington and our 2nd President, wrote a letter to his wife Abigail after the conclusion of the writing of the Declaration of Independence. He dated his letter to her on July 3 and said the following about July 2, the day the delegates to Philadelphia approved the Declaration: 'The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America'.

He went on to say to Abigail:
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
Because there was no internet in the day, or CNN or FOX or MSNBC, it took awhile for his letter to get to her. Plus, the Declaration was transposed into its final form and 'July 2' was scribbled out and 'July 4' was printed as the official date it was approved.

Anyway, fireworks have been a part of the American experience since Day 1. They are not expressly talked about in the US Constitution, although there are plenty of 'fireworks' in that document as well as evidenced by some of the Roberts Court decisions in recent times, yes?

Here is the latest jobs report from BLS. Read it for yourself and decide if you think it is a beautiful display of job growth creation success or a dud that blew up on the launching pad. Or neither.

The Obama Administration touts the fall in the official unemployment rate to 5.3%, down from the high of 10% in October of his first year in the White House in 2009. They also hailed the drop in the number of officially 'unemployed' workers by 375,000 to 8.3 million total, down from 11.6 million in January, 2009. Which looks good on the face of it, doesn't it?

His opponents point out that while President Obama was hailing the fact that 223,000 people found jobs in June, 'the civilian labor force declined by 432,000 in June, following an increase of similar magnitude in May. The labor force participation rate declined by 0.3 percentage point 
to 62.6 percent in June' (from BLS June jobs report)

How can that be a good thing? The labor force declines when people retire or stop looking for work altogether. You can't be counted as 'unemployed' if you are no longer looking for work.

The labor participation rates almost across the board are now at their lowest rates since 1978. Before millions of women started to enter the workforce en masse and create the truly great acronym for the IRS to use to describe those couples who worked, DINK (Double Income, No Kids).

It is so hard to get your mind around these dull data points. So we are borrowing some important and telling charts from Stephen Moore from an article he published in Forbes Magazine in 2014.



Here's the most troubling aspect of this so-called 'recovery' since 2009: There just don't seem to be a lot of great jobs being created out there, does it?

As a result, the first chart tells us that millions of younger Americans are not just not finding a job, they are dropping out of the workforce altogether. Those 16-19 have dropped out the most, right when they really need to find a job, ANY job, to learn the skills and discipline needed to get a better job as they grow up and get more training and education.

Let's face it: in an ever-increasing technological America competing with countries across the globe for business, a young person with no education, training or job experience is going to have a hard time making it on his or her own.

Perhaps the most troubling chart is the second one that either Mr. Moore or some plucky assistant gleaned from the dull BLS reports because government doesn't usually offer their data in such clear and graphic and colorful detail that is pleasing to the eye to see.

The number of new jobs touted by the Obama Administration as having been created under his watch, as of September 2014, was about 6 million new jobs. Not bad on the face of it.

However, the number of people leaving or not entering the workforce, as in the case of the younger folks noted above, has been about 7 million people since September 2014.

That can't be good under any circumstance, can it? People leaving the workforce means less demand for goods and services and the ability to pay for them, right?

Many of these people are aging Boomers. We get that. We are right there in it with them.

But many are not. Many are aging Boomers who want to keep working, or as evidenced by the fact that Boomers are the only age cohort that has seen an increase in the labor participation rate since 2009.

They tell us:

  • 'I can't afford to retire'
  • 'We got wiped out financially in the Great Recession of 2008-2011'
  • 'Social Security is not enough to retire on'
So expect to see Aging Boomers hang onto their jobs as long as they can. Which also frustrates younger workers who would like to see them retire so they can take over their jobs.

So which is it in your eye? Is the latest jobs report a fireworks display of amazing color and celebration of the American spirit....or has it shown that our policies of the past 6 years have exploded on the ground in their cases?

Happy Fourth of July regardless. We still think John Adams go it right.



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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Want 'Proof' That The 'True Legislative Intent' of Congress Was To Create State Exchanges in 2010?

'I wonder if that young man knows what he is doing'
'Maybe I shoulda run for Congress
where I could really write laws'
Were you confused, shocked, horrified or just plain old confused last week when the Supreme Court handed down its decision on the tax credits for the state exchanges?

Join the club. We have long thought the US Supreme Court should rule on the matter of the law at hand and not try to rewrite or divine the intention of the legislative process with a Ouija board or whatever they used to write their latest ACA proclamation last week.

Last week's decision on the ACA made us really wonder if that was true anymore. There's a very simple reason why which we will explain later in this post.

The latest decision by the Roberts Court on the ACA comes down to this:
'Do you want the US Supreme Court in effect 'writing' legislation as the Roberts Court did last week again on the ACA? Or do you want Congress and the US Senate to do their job and write legislation and leave it up to the Supreme Court to say 'yes' or 'no' as to its constitutionality as written on a piece of paper and leave it at that?'
Without being completely disrespectful of the Supreme Court and trying to honor their intellect, training and education, we have to wonder if it might have been a good idea for Chief Justice Roberts and every other Supreme Court Justice to spend some not insignificant amount of time on Capitol Hill watching the meat-grinder of legislation up close and personal before being appointed to the Highest Bench in America. We know he and the other 8 Justices are supremely qualified and educated and worthy of all respect and praise and honor due them.

Laws being written on Capitol Hill. Or
laws being re-written under judicial review
by SCOTUS.  Take your pick.
However, we think he and the majority missed a key major point on this one, one that even untrained-in-the-law people such as us could have told them to consider had they just asked us. Or anyone else who is familiar with the process and politics of writing legislation on Capitol Hill.

German statesman Otto Von Bismarck is credited with coining the best phrase we have ever heard about legislation:

''If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”


Unless you have seen the process up close and personal, you also may have missed the one little fact as well that seems to have eluded Justice Roberts in the ACA judicial review process. He has now not only once but twice 'saved' the ACA by a rather open-minded, shall we say, interpretation of the 'legislative intent' of the Democrat majorities then in control of the entire machinery of our government from 2009-2011 as opposed to what they actually wrote down on paper in legislation.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority 6-3 decision upholding tax credits for people who sign up for the ACA regardless of whether or not the state in which they live had established their own 'state exchange' versus a 'federal exchange'. In essence, he looked into his crystal ball to look backward in time and decided that Congress conflated the two exchanges and really meant 'federal exchanges established by the states' all along.

Chief Justice Roberts has solidified his view that the Supreme Court has a critical role at identifying precisely what the 'legislative intent' was of Congress at any time in the past. Even though Congress has 435 elected representatives, 100 Senators and hundreds of highly educated, trained and skilled lawyers, attorneys and bill drafters to craft legislation in the first place.

Congress might be clownish at times in their deliberations and public announcements. But they do have extremely well-qualified legal staff to write legislative language exactly as the chairmen, the Speaker, the Majority Leader and the majority of the Members of the US House and US Senate at the time want them to write it.

What struck us first was how this decision clearly overlooked, or at least managed to masticate to death in a very tortured way, the language as written about the state exchanges in the ACA which is about as clear as day according to anyone who has read it. From the Roberts decision (which you should read for yourself):
'The Affordable Care Act addresses tax credits in what is now Section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code. That section provides: “In the case of an applicable taxpayer, there shall be allowed as a credit against the tax imposed by this subtitle . . . an amount equal to the premium assistance credit amount.” 26 U. S. C. §36B(a). Section 36B then defines the term “premium assistance credit amount” as “the sum of the premium assistance amounts determined under paragraph (2) with respect to all coverage months of the taxpayer occurring during the taxable year.” §36B(b)(1) (emphasis added). Section 36B goes on to define the two italicized terms—“premium assistance amount” and “coverage month”—in part by referring to an insurance plan that is enrolled in through “an Exchange established by the State under [42 U. S. C. 18031].” 26 U. S. C. §§36B(b)(2)(A), (c)(2)(A)(i)
Not to belabor the point that we used to work up on Capitol Hill, but we did. Long ago. Back in a time when people were very careful about what they wrote into legislation because the misplaced comma or semi-colon could mean 2 very different things once enacted and signed into law by the President on any bill or piece of legislation that moved through congressional deliberation.

What we don't understand about the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court's thinking here is that there is a very simple way for Congress and congressional staff to fix legislation once passed if they find a mistake or a typo or an incongruity or 2 or 3 or 1000 as seems to be the case in the ACA.

That process is called 'technical corrections'.  If a law is found to be askew in any way once passed, another bill is written to correct the typos and incongruities of a law which is called 'The Technical Corrections Bill' to whatever the underlying piece of legislation was that was recently passed.

Think of it as the 'spellchecker' or at least the 'grammar/punctuation/English language clarifier-checker' function of the US Congress to make sure laws are passed as intended and as amended through the normal majority-vote legislative process.

More times than not, it is passed unanimously without a lot of comment or debate because it doesn't change the 'legislative intent' of the Congress that passed the law in the first place.

These technical corrections bills usually are passed within months of passage of the underlying base core text bill.

Let's look at a timeline of the passage of the ACA:
  • March 30, 2010 ACA becomes effective as the law of the land.
  • Democrats controlled the White House (President Obama)
  • Democrats controlled the US Senate by 58-to-60 votes during the entirety of the 111th Congress
  • Democrats controlled the US Congress by 255-180 majority for the entirety of the 111th Congress
  • ACA passed without a single Republican vote in the US Senate or US House
  • ACA was passed by the process of reconciliation despite having 59 Democrat votes in the Senate
In other words, the Democrats controlled everything lock, stock and barrel at the time of passage of the ACA.

Why does this make any difference?

It makes a difference because at any time for the rest of the 111th Congress from March 30, 2010 to December 31, 2010, if there was any ambiguity about what the Democratic Congress meant about any single word or phrase in the ACA, they had 9 WHOLE MONTHS to correct it through a technical corrections bill they could have passed by overwhelming margins and sent to President Obama for his signature.

Right then and there, the whole nation would have found out if by writing 'state exchanges', that Congress actually meant 'federal exchanges set up in the states'. The Democrats in 100% complete control of the US government from 2009-2011 had their chance over 9 long months in 2010 to clear things up and make their legislative intent explicit and not leave it up to Chief Justice Roberts and 5 other non-elected Justices to make those decisions for us as a nation 5 years down the road.

You can not tell us that not one single person on the Democratic staff of any Democratic Senator after the passage of the ACA noticed the 'ambiguity' Chief Justice Roberts points out in his decision between states that specifically had 'state exchanges' as qualifying for the tax credits versus those that did not set up their own exchanges and left it up to the federal government to come in and set one up.

Maybe no one actually ever read this 2000+ page bill in its entirety before it was passed as then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Not even Jonathan Gruber. Not even Constitutional-Scholar-In-The-White House, President Barack Obama.

Republican staff people were already pointing this anomaly out almost immediately upon passage of the ACA. Legal scholars around the nation started preparing arguments for lawsuits almost as fast as the Tea Party exploded onto the scene in the aftermath of the ACA. One of the most prominent points of contention was this very language cited by Chief Justice Roberts as being 'ambiguous'.

From where we stand, this looks like it was a deliberate attempt by the Democrat Majority at the time to write a bill to force states to set up their own state exchanges in order to qualify for the tax credits for the people who enroll in them.

You have to remember that there was another coercive feature of ACA that sought to penalize states that did not expand Medicaid by refusing funds for the entire program which the Roberts Court found to be unconstitutional on June 28, 2012. Presumably on states rights grounds you gotta believe. This provision fits in the same frame of thinking that the Democratic Congress at the time had in mind to coerce and force each state to set up exchanges whether they wanted to or not as well as expand Medicaid under threat of losing federal matching funds for the entire program.

The thinking would go as explained by a fictional majority staffer at the time:
'We need something to force every state to comply with the new law to get everyone covered by insurance. Otherwise the funding for the ACA really doesn't work at all. We need to set up state exchanges with tax credits to entice or force the states to offer such coverage along with banging them in the head to expand Medicaid by threatening to withhold matching funds from them for the entire Medicaid program'

Political staffers think like that. It is part of the game.

Do you really think the conversation between Democrat staffers on House Ways and Means, Senate Finance and the Health Committees in both the House and Senate that had jurisdiction over the bulk of the ACA went like this?
'You know, this language in the ACA really is a mess. We didn't call the 'penalty' a 'tax' in the first place because that would have killed it as one of the biggest tax hikes in American history. We didn't clarify that when we wrote 'state exchanges' 18 times we really meant 'federal exchanges set up in the states'.
Let's just ignore the very simple method of fixing it by using the technical corrections bill and making the state exchange language less ambiguous. Heckfire! Let's just roll the dice and see what the Roberts Supreme Court says about it 5 years from now. He was a George W. Bush 43 appointee to you....I am sure he will see it our way!'
Which he surprisingly did. Twice now.

If this was just a case of 'inartful' legislative drafting as indicated in the Roberts' decision, then the ACA may take its rightful place in the annals of legal history as being one of the most confusing and 'inartful' pieces of legislation to ever have been passed by the US Congress.

To date, there have been at least 51 changes to the ACA either by executive order (in the form of delays mostly, so as to put off the full brunt of the cost of ACA to employers and individuals covered by the mandate until after the 2014 elections first and now the 2016 Presidential Election); legislative changes or judicial review.

This could have been all cleaned up by the Democrat-controlled 111th Congress through a tidy, carefully written and crafted technical corrections bill between March 30, 2010 and the end of the year 9 months later before the Democrats lost control of both the House and the Senate.

But it wasn't fixed. Why not? Could it possibly be that the 'legislative intent' all along by the Democrat Congress was to force states to comply with the new ACA rules in full and expose those states unwilling to set up state exchanges as being cold-hearted and insensitive to the issue of the uninsured who lacked health insurance in their state? The resulting political pressure would have been enormous on anyone in that state's legislature under those terms, don't you think?

Now the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America along with 5 other colleagues have somehow managed to go back in time and 'divined' the legislative intent of our duly-elected Congress of 2010. In effect, for the second time now, (changing the 'penalty' to a 'tax' in the last big ACA decision being the first), Chief Justice Roberts has helped rewrite legislative language on a major bill which is a duty normally reserved for our elective Representatives and Senators.

The Democrat Congress and US Senate and President had 9 whole months to correct this ambiguous language in 2010 and make it explicit that they meant 'federal exchanges set up in the states' through the very simple, basic and elementary technical corrections legislative process.

Chancellor von Bismarck's adage should be set on its ear and amended thusly:

''If you like judicial review at the Supreme Court making law and sausages, you should never watch either one being made”

* Last paragraph of Judge Scalia's scathing dissent:

'Having transformed two 
major parts of the law, the Court today has turned its attention to a third. The Act that Congress passed makes tax credits available only on an “Exchange established by the State.” This Court, however, concludes that this limitation would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.

Perhaps the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will attain the enduring status of the Social Security Act
or the Taft-Hartley Act; perhaps not. But this Court’s two decisions on the Act will surely be remembered through
the years. The somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed (“penalty” means tax, “further [Medicaid]
payments to the State” means only incremental Medicaid payments to the State, “established by the State”
means not established by the State) will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence.
And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some
laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.

 I dissent'.


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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hate To Say We Told You So...

'You keep spending more money than you take in
and you will get in trouble one day, Linus!'
But we told you so.

We grew up in the days of $300 billion annual budget deficits in the early 1980's. That doesn't sound like a lot in these days where $1 trillion deficits were yawned at by the Obama Administration for 4 years after the fiscal crisis was over. They even brag today about 'bringing the deficits down by 1/2!' during his term in office, which still puts them at the $500 billion annual deficit level as if something monumental has been achieved.

Way back when, $300 billion annual deficits were really a big deal. They represented close to 30% of  the annual federal budget which was $808 Billion in total in 1983 if you can believe that or not.

People ran for federal office in the 1980s and 1990s specifically to address the deficit and balance the budget. Adults back then intuitively knew something had to be done about them eventually and, eventually in 1997, the adults in the Clinton White House and the adults in the Republican House and Senate got together and passed the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and we got 4 successive budget surpluses from 1998-2001.

So it can be done. No doubt about it. It is right there, proof in the history books.

$1 trillion budget deficits in 2009-2012 represented about 30% of annual federal budgets as well. But you know what was different?

Back then, the national debt held by the public and foreign sovereigns was about $1 trillion and represented about 30% of GDP.

Today? Our national debt held by the public has ballooned to over $13 trillion ($18 trillion overall) and represents over 72% of GDP.

(We consider intragovernment debt between the federal government and 'trust funds' (sic) such as in Social Security about as seriously as CBO does which views them as having 'no economic value whatsoever'. Debt between government agencies is ephemeral at best and really comes down to this one day: raising your taxes or cutting spending in other programs to 'pay off' those debts down the road)

CBO has just released their 2015 Long-Term Budget Forecast and in it you will read the following chilling words that no one in the Obama Administration wants you to read, nor will they ever tell you it is all that important for you to read.

But it is. It should shape the way you look at any candidate running for President, Congress or the US Senate for the rest of your life. It should also change the way you look at the Federal Government as the never-ending piggybank that never runs out of money to spend on anything anyone wants in this country.
'How long the nation could sustain such growth in federal debt is impossible to predict with any confidence. At some point, investors would begin to doubt the government’s willingness or ability to meet its debt obligations, requiring it to pay much higher interest costs in order to continue borrowing money.
Such a fiscal crisis would present policymakers with extremely difficult choices and would probably have a substantial negative impact on the country. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict confidently whether or when such a fiscal crisis might occur in the United States. In particular, as the debt-to-GDP ratio rises, there is no identifiable point indicating that a crisis is likely or imminent.
But all else being equal, the larger a government’s debt, the greater the risk of a fiscal crisis.'
You want to go through 2008-2011 again? How much of a 'fiscal crisis' do you want to go through again? More importantly, how much of an economic crisis do you want to put your children and grandchildren through? Haven't we already caused them enough problems already?

We are not really even out of the last economic retrenchment yet by all indications and reports. The Fed under Janet Yellen announced last week they were not going to raise interest rates from near-zero levels because they are lowering their economic forecast to 1.8% this year down from an already anemic 2.7% from their previous forecast not more than 8 months ago!

Go ahead. Put your feet up sometime this week and stay inside during this hot weather and read this CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook in its entirety. We dare you to do so. It is only 128 pages including charts and footnotes and acknowledgements and, for an otherwise dry subject, economics and federal budget policy, surprisingly well-written and interesting.

If you don't like history or economics but prefer fiction, pretend this is a science fiction novel where some sort of alien DNA has landed in America and is quietly and secretly infecting everything we own and do as a business or hobby or art or science. If we stop feeding the beast via deficit-spending, it will die and go away since deficit-spending is its fuel, its oxygen.

However, if we keep doing what we are now currently doing, overspending in an unbalanced, not optimally productive manner from the federal budget level, one day, without anyone knowing it, it will collapse our financial system and wreak economic havoc on everyone, rich and poor; black, white, Asian and hispanic; the washed and the unwashed.

How exciting would that sci-fi novel be?

Sadly it could happen. It has happened to hundreds of irresponsible governments in the past, even to the vaunted Roman Empire, The British Empire, the Ming Dynasty and the Soviet Union. Even CBO is ratcheting up their trumpets to sound the alarm more whole-heartedly in this report from what they have said in the past.

'Do you really want me to know more
about your country's finances than
you do?'
If you want to take the easy way out and read some of the pertinent highlights, we have copied a few from the report so you can get back to what you are doing and not read this whole report.

However, if you do read the whole report, you will be like that Dos Equis guy who says: 'I don't often read federal budget reports. But when I do, I know more than 99.999999% of all the rest of you American citizens out there'

Be like the Dos Equis guy then.


Excerpts from the CBO report:


  • With deficits projected to remain close to their current percentage of GDP for the next few years, federal debt held by the public would remain at a very high level, between 73 percent and 74 percent of GDP, from 2016 through 2021. Thereafter, the larger deficits would boost debt—to 78 percent of GDP by the end of 2025.
  • At the end of 2008, federal debt held by the public stood at 39 percent of GDP, which was close to its average of the preceding several decades. Since then, large deficits have caused debt held by the public to grow sharply—to 74 percent of GDP in 2014; debt is projected to stay at that level in 2015. Debt has exceeded 70 percent of GDP during only one other period in U.S. history: from 1944 through 1950; it peaked at 106 percent of GDP in 1946 because of the surge in federal spending that occurred during World War II (see Figure 1-1).
  • CBO projects that, under current law, net outlays for interest would jump from 1.3 percent of GDP this year to almost 3 percent 10 years from now. By 2040, interest costs would be 4.3 percent of GDP, bringing total federal spending to over 25 percent of GDP (see Figure 1-4). Federal spending has been larger relative to the size of the economy only during World War II, when it topped 40 percent of GDP for three years.
  • Total national spending on health care services and supplies—that is, by all people and entities in the United States, governmental and nongovernmental—increased from 4.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in calendar year 1960 to 9.5 percent in 1985 and to 16.4 percent, about one-sixth of the economy, in 2013, the most recent year for which such data are available.
  • Federal spending for Medicare (net of certain receipts, termed offsetting receipts, which mostly consist of premiums paid by beneficiaries) and Medicaid rose from 2.0 percent of GDP in 1985 to 4.7 percent in 2014. Underlying those trends is the fact that health care spending per person has grown faster, on average, than the nation’s economic output per capita during the past few decades. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that growth in health care spending per person outpaced growth in potential (or maximum sustainable) GDP per capita by an average of 1.4 percent per year between calendar years 1985 and 2013.
  • Key factors contributing to that faster growth were the emergence and increasing use of new medical technologies, rising personal income, and the declining share of health care costs that people paid out of pocket. Those factors were partly offset by other influences, including the spread of managed care plans in the 1990s, the 2007–2009 recession, and various legislated changes in Medicare’s payment policies.
  • Discretionary Spending A distinct pattern in the federal budget since the 1970s has been the diminishing share of spending that occurs through the annual appropriation process. Between 1965 and 2014, discretionary spending declined from 66 percent of total federal spending to 34 percent. Relative to the size of the economy, that spending decreased from 10.9 percent of GDP to 6.8 percent.
    (editor's note: If you think the federal government should be spending more money on education, roads, research and development, the environment, welfare and any other assorted programs, don't blame the Republicans for this drop, blame the seniors and their lobby, the AARP. Because every time senior lobbying groups such as the AARP stop any discussion about entitlement reform, your favorite discretionary program just keeps getting nibbled to death by ducks as the startling numbers above prove)





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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

'Making History!' Versus 'What Are You Gonna Do As President To Help Make My Life Better?'

'I voted for the First Black President and the First Woman President!
'Way!' Not way!'
In 2008, many Americans faced this choice when they voted for President of these United States:
  • Vote for a perceived third term of George Bush 43 in the form of Republican Presidential candidate John McCain with the attendant baggage of the Iraq War and pending economic implosion; or
  • Vote for a fresh young face in the form of then-Senator Barack Obama who also gave them the chance to 'make history' by voting for 'America's First Black President'.

They chose the latter. Twice.  Even though Bill Clinton still insists that he was the First Black President for some reason.

Many people both young and old knew very little about Barack Obama. We still know very little about him relative to the living autopsies we have been forced to watch when Mitt Romney ran for President or virtually every other major candidate ran for the Nation's Highest Office.

Just watch how the press will dig into Donald Trump's kindergarten records or Marco Rubio's driver's ed class records in high school. We will know more about Carly Fiorina's tutoring of football players at my former high school in Durham, North Carolina than we will ever know about Barack Obama's records in high school, for example.

Not many people knew the depth of his commitment to the government being the primary means of solving problems versus the private sector. Certainly no one understood that when he said he would 'get American troops out of Iraq' that he meant 'for good', regardless of whether the Muslim Brotherhood and The ISIS Empire would raise their ugly heads.

Hardly anyone young we know asked the serious political question everyone should ask themselves before voting in any presidential election:

'What is this Presidential candidate going to do for me if I help get him/her elected by giving them my precious vote?'

Go ahead. You are free to be selfish and think about your own personal circumstances for a moment. There is nothing in the Constitution against you dreaming about fulfilling your own potential and destiny as much and as far as you want. You can share all of your riches and new found wealth down the road with others like Bill Gates has done through his foundations. Or you don't have to if you want to do something else with your money such as save it, invest it or just blow it.

If you are not going to become the next Bill Gates or Steven Jobs, you still have the freedom to vote for people who will not over-burden you and your business with taxes and regulations to the point that the life is choked out of both.

Let's face the truth of the matter: If you knew for sure ahead of time that a certain candidate would NOT be able to help create the political and economic conditions to support a booming economy so you could get a good, high-paying job; help keep gas prices low; keep us safe from invading marauders or make progress on solving the big problems of our times, no matter how 'historic' their election might be, would you vote for that candidate anyway?

Is it so important to you that you would cast a symbolic vote for the first black president or the first woman president or the first rotund president or the first ambidextrous dyslexic ADDHD transgender president just because you wanted to say you were part of 'making history' instead of doing what is right for you and your family?

Today, we are faced with another historical 'first': Hillary Clinton who has declared it is time for Americans to set another 'historical first' in the span of 8 years of American history by electing the 'First Woman President!'

We have had some great transcendent presidents: Lincoln, FDR and Reagan usually come to mind first in such discussions. We have had some close to great presidents, some for what they did before they became president even though the grind of the office tarnished their star some: Jefferson, Madison, Eisenhower come to mind.

We have had more than our fair share of terrible Presidents, that is for sure. The run from 1837 to 1859 was particularly dismal from Martin Van Buren to William Henry Harrison (who died within a month of being inaugurated); John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and then whom most historians consider to be absolutely the worst President in American history, James Buchanan. All one-termers. For very good reasons.

Mr. Buchanan left a note in the desk in the Oval Office to be opened by the new President, Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861 which read: "If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man."

This from a man who did next to nothing to avert the coming scourge of war, or much of anything else truth be told.

Where will history rank Barack Obama not just as the First American Black President but just as an 'American President'? If Hillary Clinton is elected, will she be remembered pretty much as the 'First American Woman President' or as the 'Successful American President who led us out of this sluggish economy, restored peace through strength throughout the Middle East and the world and led to solutions on the federal budget, deficits, national debt, climate change and everything else that has not been solved over the past 15 years at the very least?'

It makes a profound difference, you know. You either are going to elect someone who can help get this economy turned around so you can find the job of your dreams if you are a young person....or you are not. If you vote for the 'first' of anything and they fail to deliver in terms of helping you get to where you want to be in your life and career, then is voting for 'history's sake' all that it is cracked up to be?

We thought it might be interesting to listen in to the conversation of two 38-year old guys in 2024. Both voted for Barack Obama to be The First Black President in 2008 and then one of them voted for Hillary Clinton to be the First Woman President in 2016.

Assuming that the economy stays as stagnant as it has been for the past 6 years, (The Fed just announced they are not raising interest rates and have lowered growth targets for 2015 to 1.8% down from 2.7%) ; the national federal debt has exploded to $30 trillion and engendered double-digit inflation again, entitlements consume 100% of all incoming revenue of any sort and America is still 'leading from behind' in the Middle East as it is today, their conversation in 2024 might be pretty interesting.

We are assuming, of course, that Hillary Clinton will not run against President Obama's policies in any way. Mostly because she was there for the implementation of all of them from the failed stimulus packages to the 'Cash for Clunkers' program to the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and, of course, the passage of Obamacare that 'promised' to reduce the costs of the average American family by $2500 per year.

She has to agree with all of them or else she will be campaigning against herself in 2016, won't she? Just as John McCain had to lug around the baggage of the Bush 43 White House years, so too will Hillary Clinton have to tote the baggage of the Obama White House years.

Anyway, here's the conversation of these 2 guys in a basement somewhere:

Garth: 'How you doin', man? Scored any new jobs lately?'

Wayne: 'No, not really man. I have had a few interviews but nothing really substantial has turned up yet'.

Garth: 'You've been saying that since you graduated from State Tech in 2008, man! What the heck is going on?'

Wayne: 'Well, you know, as soon as I graduated, that damned Great Recession that George Bush 43 and the Republicans caused wiped out the highly-paid IT job I was supposed to get in one of the major banks in Charlotte. Those Twin Towers of Wachovia and Bank of America melted into the pavement of Tryon Street and with it went my degree and chance to success'

Garth: 'I remember Wachovia. Barely. But that was a long time ago, man! That was 16 years ago! That is almost as long as it took for you to get born and graduate from college!'

Wayne: 'Yes it was, man. But I felt pretty good about voting for Barack Obama, whom you will remember was The First Black American President, you know.'

Garth: 'But his policies didn't work! Look at yourself! You are still living in your parent's basement and you haven't had a job with a company for any length of time so you could get any benefits yet!'

Wayne: 'Yes they did, you moron! It was just that the Republicans had screwed things up so badly under W with their 'trickle-down economics' and giving tax cuts to the rich and bailing out the Big Banks and all that that President Obama's policies didn't have a really good chance to work, you know?'

Garth: 'Well, what did you do after that?'

Wayne: 'Well, my parents were pretty nice to me and let me hang out here in the basement, at least while I was trying to get things settled under my feet you know. I kept interviewing but there just were no really great jobs out there. And then the mean old Republicans cut back on the number of weeks I could receive unemployment which really ticked me off.'

Garth: 'And what did you do then?'

Wayne: 'I went on disability for awhile just to make ends meet, you know, and then I went back to community college to get another degree, this time in solar power mechanics'

Garth: 'That sounds pretty cool, man. How did that work out?'

Wayne: 'Not so well. The Republicans around the country all canceled the solar power tax credits in their states despite Obama pushing for them at the federal level and that industry went kaput just like that'

Garth: 'Well, you live by the sword; you die by the sword, know what I mean? Didja vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016?'

Wayne: 'Of course I did! She became the First American Female President you know!'

Garth: 'Yep, I do know that. How did that work out for ya?'

Wayne: 'Well, she tried to get another stimulus package through, just like Obama did, this time to build high speed monorails all over the country but the mean old Republicans didn't approve of that either so nothing happened on that front. She vetoed every tax cut/job stimulus plan put forth by the Republicans for 8 years so essentially nothing really happened to help me out, bro!'

Garth: 'Did she work with the Republicans in the House or the Senate?'

Wayne: 'What am I, a flipping talking head on EmbedNUrHead TV nowadays? All I know is that she said she would veto every Republican idea that would allow rich people to make more money with tax cuts; the people of the peaceful ISIS Empire in the Middle East needed to be protected against nuclear aggression and proliferation on the part of Israel and she would never change one thing in the 'Grand Society' entitlement programs which used to be 3 programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.'

Garth: 'Which she didn't! Now 100% of every tax dollar that comes into Washington as income, payroll, corporate, excise, death or internet taxes goes to cover just those 3 programs in the Grand Society: SS, Medicare and Medicaid!'

Wayne: 'Hey, man! You sound like you know what the heck you are talking about! What are you doing nowadays, Garth?'

Garth: 'I became a Republican consultant and lobbyist a long time ago, Wayne. I figured there would be plenty of opportunities to help get Republicans elected running against the policies of Obama and then Hillary and I was right: 45 states now have Republican Governors and Republican control of both houses in the state legislature'

Wayne: 'Do you have a good salary and fringe benefits?'

Garth: 'Wayne, in the real world, you eat what you kill. I have clients all over the place and they pay me to do work for them. I pay more than my share of taxes in my humble opinion but yes, I have a good job with a good income. I bought a house and put away some money for retirement. My first son is going off to college in a couple of years but we set aside a 529 plan for him when he was born and bought some Google stock that will basically pay for his 4 years at a private university.'

Wayne: 'What happened to you, Garth?'

Garth: 'I grew up I guess, Wayne. I guess I just grew up'




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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Disagreement, Civil Discourse and Freedom In America

We are always interested in seeing and hearing how different people interpret 'The American Dream'.

Some say it is 'freedom of opportunity!' Others say it is 'freedom of speech' or 'freedom of thought'. Many say it is 'the chance to say and be and do whatever you want anytime you want to say or be or do whatever you want!'

So far, so good. As long as you live on an island by yourself with absolutely no interaction with any other human being, yes?

On an island, you can 'say and be and do' whatever you want. Mainly because there is no one else to 1) offend; 2) hurt; 3) take advantage of, or 4) defeat in any sort of transaction either personal or commercial.

As a lone survivor on a desolate island with only enough fresh water and food on which to exist, you can be a racist, a homophobe, a right-wing idiot, a left-wing Obama zombie or even a mild-mannered quiet thoughtful level-headed person if you so choose. No one else gets hurt; you get to say and do and be anything you want.

But who wants to live on a desolate island? Even if you have 100% agreement with yourself all the time.

How about 'the freedom of disagreement' if I don't want to agree with some, part or any of what you have to say about any particular issue? Isn't that a basic American freedom we sort of take for granted? Is there any rule or regulation that says each and every person has to agree with everyone else on everything?

That is sort of ridiculous, isn't it? It goes completely against the freedom to choose what you want to do, think or say every day. Besides, who gets to 'choose' what everyone else should be able to do, think or say anyway?

The Nazis and the communist regimes in the former Soviet Union thought they had the solution for making sure everyone thought the same and did what they told them to do. 'Peace' in those cases was understood to be 'acquiescence to the authorities in charge of the government', not just the absence of war.

We got to thinking about how unique our American way of life is this week while talking with some bright young friends who have some big ideas about changing and improving the way media delivers the news, and not just the 'news' news but the facts behind the news.

Good for them. We need better sources of information to inform our electorate. Right now, if you read any of the daily news sources, you just don't get the sense that any of them are fairly presenting the facts behind the news with any sort of dispassionate objectivism, do you?

The main question that came to mind was this: 'Why are Americans having such a hard time lately getting along?'

We have race riots in Ferguson and Baltimore. No one seems to be able to pass anything through Congress of any great degree. The economy doesn't seem to be expanding fast enough to provide well-paying jobs to everyone who wants to find one.

All you hear is one side blaming the other for all the problems under the sun. If Jesus was a Democrat who was seen by the Republican Caucus in the US House walking across the reflecting pond on the Washington Mall, they would all say in unison: 'Jesus can't swim!' And vice versa.

It is that bad nowadays.

These young dreamers brought to our attention the following letter to the editor in the Raleigh News and Observer by Herb Eckerlin, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at NC State and a proponent of solar power.

He calls himself a 'long-term proponent of solar energy' but he takes issue with the continuance of tax credits in North Carolina for solar energy with the hopes they will help make North Carolina the 'Silicon Valley for Solar Power'.

You gotta think some desert that gets full blasts of sun all day long might become the 'Silicon Valley for Solar Power' before North Carolina but that is another matter.

What struck us was that instead of denigrating opponents of solar power as 'idiots' or people 'who don't know anything about science or solar power', Professor Eckerlin chose to stay on the high road and deal with the facts of the issue. Rather than engage in ad hominem attacks on anyone*, Professor Eckerlin chose to act like a distinguished professor of science that he is and try to examine all sides of the tax credit issue surrounding the solar industry in a fair and balanced way.

In a very small way, this letter to the editor makes the point we have been trying to make all along since we started writing this blog on February 26, 2009:

We would all be better off if we understood 2 basic concepts of freedom in our American Democratic Republic:

1) Be civil in your discourse with others, and
2) Everyone doesn't have to agree with you every time you speak in order to come to some common agreement down the road


We don't live on an island all by ourselves. We don't even live on an island where everyone else is of the same race and worships the same god or idol as in many to most civilizations that have existed in history. Those places make it far easier to come to some agreed-upon social standards on which to operate a country where millions of people live and eat and work every day.

We live in a land where the over-arching principle that was established by our Founders in 1775, first by declaring their independence from England and then in 1789 when they ratified the Constitution, was and still is 'freedom'. No other single word encapsulates their basic underlying principle under which they hoped Americans would live forever.

Or for 'as long as we could keep it', as Benjamin Franklin told Mrs. Powel right after he signed the Constitution.

Once we can all agree that the basic underlying principle of being an American is 'freedom', then we can start to talk about our differences and disagreements in an entirely different light, can't we?

You have the freedom to say you want more government spending to help poor people. Others have the freedom to say they don't think people should be over-taxed to give money to Washington to pay for the programs you want to see enacted.

Those differences don't make either person 'stupid' or 'wrong'. It means they have different ways of looking at the world and have different understandings and interpretations of economics, human nature and religious belief.

Having the freedom to say whatever you want also connotes the mirror image of others having the freedom to not hear what you have to say about anything. They certainly have the freedom not to agree with you on anything if they choose.

It is a tricky business. Which brings us back to civil discourse once again.

Have you ever bought anything from a sales person or businessman who said you were dumb? Of course not. The first order of business in any transaction is to have the customer like you to begin with. If you insult them or hate them in any way, you can forget having their business for very long, that is for sure.

One reason why many thoughtful and well-meaning and educated people we know are so turned off to the global climate change issue is not because they deny there might be an issue with our planet heating up but because the proponents of climate change legislation are so demeaning and dismissive of anyone who dares to challenge them on, well, anything relating to the environment.

'It is settled science and that is all there is to it!' claim many climate change politicians and advocates. Some politicians have suggested that it is somehow 'treasonous' to express any doubt about the claims of some climate change activists and somehow people should be prosecuted for doing so.

Well, the sun used to revolve around the earth and that was 'settled science' (at least as determined by the Catholic Church at the time) until some brave people such as Copernicus and Galileo pointed out that the earth revolved around the sun. And almost were burned at the stake for doing so.

How refreshing it is to read something such as Professor Eckerlin's letter to the editor who has taken the time to be objective about his area of expertise and make balanced arguments that see the merits of not only his side (advocacy of solar power) but that of opponents to solar power (cost, government subsidies).

Maybe this man should run for Congress. We need men and women who know what they are talking about in terms of serious subject matter (outside of pure campaigning and politics) but who can seek to persuade people to come to some common sense conclusion through the power of facts and pure reason.

We don't have time to go through every contentious issue we face in America but the same sort of level-headed leadership and articulation of ideas and principles could apply to any of them we have today:

  1. Race Relations
  2. Economic/Job Growth
  3. Rational Budget Control
  4. Debt Reduction
  5. Climate Change
  6. Foreign Affairs/National Defense
The days of ad hominem attacks and trivialization of important issues have gotten us absolutely nowhere over the past 15 years of American politics. We have become as polarized in American politics as perhaps since before the Civil War, except then, we were 'polarized' over huge contentious issues such as slavery and states rights.

Today? You see flash media polls on whether you support Bruce Jenner's decision to become a woman being used as some indicator of whether the national electorate is blue, red or purple. Hardly an issue of the utmost greatest national importance right now, yes?

You want to 'win' on any political issue or debate? Start by trying to be nice and win some friends first on the other side. Over time, you can present as much information and data as you want but if you don't deliver it in a somewhat winsome manner, leavened with humor as Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill did so well, you will probably never get a majority of people to agree with you and get something passed to your liking.

You also might want to learn how to disagree in a not-so-disagreeable manner yourself. There are two sides to every debate, you know, and your response to a point of view opposite to yours says a lot about you and your confidence in your stance on the issue. (*see ad hominem attack below)

More reasoned rational civil discourse such as this from Professor Eckerlin with thoughtful examination of facts and figures and less listening to talk radio/cable hosts such as Sean Hannity, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh might be a good way to start.

Use your own brain to think about these big issues. Not theirs. 

And then seek to persuade them to some accommodation of your ideas without beating them over the head with a club or calling them a 'bigot', 'racist' or 'idiot' for a change.

You might start getting somewhere.

* We have found over the years that when people run out of ammunition in the form of facts and supporting data, i.e. 'proof', they resort to insulting the other party and calling them names and denigrating their abilities, etc. Most times these are very small people of limited integrity who are not really worthy of engaging in further debate but rather being dismissed as politely as possible and possibly pitied.

Or as Mark Twain once said: 'Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down and beat you to death with experience'.




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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

'No One Would Create A US Health Care System Like The One We Have Today'

No words necessary
We were having lunch with a distinguished health care expert yesterday talking about, what else? health care in North Carolina and America at large.

This person has been in health care over the past 30 years from deep inside the bowels of major medical centers (terrible analogy, sorry), in health care advocacy and in public service.

It is fair to say that this person has seen it all and knows a heckuva lot about health care costs and delivery in America.

We got to talking about the pending SCOTUS decision coming up on the ACA, aka 'Obamacare' and this person said this:

'If we were starting a new health care system in America from scratch on a blank sheet of paper, NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would ever propose a system that looks exactly like the one we have operating today!'

The ACA was proposed with the good intentions and political promises of covering everyone in America with 'affordable' (hence the 'A' in the ACA) health care.

The 'promise' that President Obama and the Democrats then in charge of Congress who passed the ACA gave the American people that this would 'save the average American family $2500' has long been blown out of the water. Many families have seen their health care premiums go UP, not DOWN, close to 100% over the past 2 years of implementation. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina recently announced that people on the very ACA plans the President and the Democrats promised would 'save them money' are going to see their premiums go up between 25% and 50% in 2016.

Election year. Yippee.

With the pending SCOTUS decision about to come down perhaps later this month, we thought now might be a good time to review some of the facts about health care so you have some frame of reference in which to talk about this when the decision is handed down and all the flamethrowers are ignited from either side of the equation:

  1. Close to 75% of all health care costs* in America today are being paid for by government sources. Whenever you see 'government sources' or 'government-paid'; substitute two words:

    - 'My Taxes' or
    - 'Money Borrowed from the Chinese' or other sources 'that my kids and grandkids will have to pay for one way or another, either directly in payment of interest and principal or, in the more likely tried-and-true fashion used time and again in all recorded history, inflation.
  2. Total health care costs today are expected to be about $4 trillion. Out of a GDP of $16.3 trillion. 1/4 or 25% of our American economy is tied to the health care system.
  3. In 2012, just over 2 years ago now, US health care costs were 'just' $3 trillion. Our total health care costs have exploded over 33% in the last 24 months.

    Maybe some of this can be attributed to the 'woodworking' effect of the ACA and expanded Medicaid coverage where people who were previously treated for free in the emergency rooms or pro bono by well-meaning doctors (who can't turn people away from the Emergency Department anyway regardless of their condition) are now 'officially' counted as being part of the 'paid' health care system.

    Still, costs are going up, up, up. As Mick Jagger would say: 'To live in this town, you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!'
  4. 100% of all Medicaid costs in America are paid by the government, mostly federal from 60%to 79% or so with the rest being paid for by the state government. (Remember to substitute in thw words 'My Taxes' or 'Debt' anytime you see the words 'the government')
  5. 100% of all Medicare Part A (hospital) costs are paid for by the government.
  6. 75% of all Medicare Part B (doctor and physician payments) are paid for by the government.
  7. Almost all or 100% of Medicare Part D is paid for by the government.
  8. Who knows how much of Medicare Part E-Z set up by Obamacare is paid for by the government? Even the CBO stopped trying to figure it out 2 years ago when the goalposts kept moving around under the Obama White House policy changes and exemptions from the ACA were giving out to thousands of allies or groups to whom the Obama Administration was sympathetic.
  9. 100% of all Military health care, both current and retirees, is paid for by the government.
  10. The VA is 100% paid for by the government.
We could go on and on but we think you can see the picture. 

'How may we help you today? We are from the
government and we are here to help'
We do not have a health care system in America today based 100% on private health delivery principles. We are closer to a government-paid system health care than most people would like to admit.

Instead of ours being a 'single-payor' system however, we have something that looks more like a multi-headed dragon at times with all of the confusing and many times contradictory policies, forms, applications, and acronyms from HCFA (now defunct) to CMMS, DHHS, TriCare, ERISA to you name it.

True 'health care reform' would not increase overall costs; everyone's personal costs; make the process of staying well or getting well more arduous or produce more opportunities for litigation as the process matures.

We did not get it with the ACA. Sadly for the nation, all we got was more expense without any of the underlying cost drivers being addressed through thoughtful serious reform.

Something to keep in mind as you hear the talking heads chatter on about the upcoming Supreme Court decision on the ACA.

* see Chris Conover: Government On Track To Make Up 66% Of Health Care Spending which was written in 2012 so we rounded up to our 75% estimate 3 years later



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Friday, June 5, 2015

What If Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton Were Around Today?

C.F. Payne rendition of Hamilton, Jefferson
and Madison: 'Hey! What if we got it wrong?'
What would their political discourse be today?

We know there are the modern-day equivalents of Messrs. Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton in America today. We have met them by the dozens, hundreds by now across the state. Very accomplished people who care deeply about what is going on in North Carolina and the country.

The only difference?

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton ran for public political office in the 18th century and made a massive difference not only for generations of Americans to follow (half of all Americans who have ever lived are still living today oddly enough) but whose ideas of freedom and democracy have been exported the world over.

All because they ran for public office.

Imagine that happening today. Our very best and talented citizens deciding to run for political office even if they only serve 2-3 terms in any elective body. Anywhere.

We got to wondering what the conversations of a modern-day Jefferson, Madison or Hamilton would be like given that so many #1 draft picks who are their modern-day equals have willfully opted not to face the challenges of modern-day politics and have declined to run for public office. At any level.

As hard as it might be to imagine our Founders not meeting the challenges of today, suspend your disbelief for a few moments and see what you think about the following 'conversation' that could very easily take place on a golf course, in a university club somewhere or maybe at a dinner with spouses and friends over one of George Washington's distilled libations:

'Oh man. Obama has done it again' says Tom Jefferson.

'What is it this time, Tom?' says Jim Madison.

'Oh, this time all President Obama has done has been to appease the Muslims in Iran by giving them nuclear capability they can turn into a nuclear device in 10 years or so'(1)

'That might be the first time you have been right in a long time, Tom!' says Alex Hamilton.

'Thanks, Alex. That means a lot to me, as in a lotta nothing!' retorts Tom.

'Hey, Alex!' pipes in Jim. 'Wadja think about the way President Obama concentrates a lot of power in the White House and basically ignores the Constitution and tries to bypass Congress all the time?'

'What is wrong with that? responds Alex. 'We need a strong executive in the White House. You know, like George Washington long ago. If our Founding Fathers hadn't given him strong executive powers to run the military and make decisions he thought were best for the country 223 years ago, we might still be a British colony!'

'Yeah' says Tom. 'Back then they were bitching about 'no taxation without representation!' Today we HAVE taxation WITH representation! What is so great about that?'

'You shoulda been a Federalist, Alex' scolded Jim. 'Instead of a fire-breathing Progressive Democrat who wants to run everything out of Washington'

'I still don't see what is wrong with that' Alex says.

'What about this $18 trillion national debt Obama has helped ring up?' interjects Tom as he cracks open a beer. 'He has rung up more additional debt that any President dating back to your beloved George Washington, big fella!' 

'Every President has rung up more debt than any President since Washington' snaps back Alex. 'It is a bigger country today than back then, you moron!'

'Aren't you worried about it in even the least little bit, Alex?' asks Jim.

'Of course I am worried about it. I just think we need to solve these massive problems first and then take care of the debt. After all, if you two clowns knew anything about international finance, which you obviously don't, you would know that we can keep issuing debt because America is still the safest place to harbor money in the world. And, to top it all off, we will pay of this debt just like we have all the other debt in history: with inflation over time.'

'Great' says Tom. 'That is all we need. Another dose of Jimmy Carter-led double-digit inflation! That about killed my family business in 1980, bub!'

'Well, what are you going to do about any of this?' asks Alex.

'Waddya mean 'What are we going to do about this?' asks Tom and Jim in tandem.

'I mean, are you going to run for Congress or something to fix these massive problems or go to work in the federal government as a Cabinet undersecretary or something or run for the state legislature to work on state problems such as public education or repaving these terrible roads that knock my car out of alignment every week or local office such as city council, county commission or school board?'

'Are you freaking kidding? Heck no, I am not running for any public office!' said Tom. 'I have been tinkering with inventing a few things and my roses are in the running for 'best rose' at this year's annual show. Ever since my wife passed away, I have been pretty busy writing, playing music and teaching at The University. Plus I have that big family business that needs tending to although I have tried to turn it over to some competent managers, who are hard to find'

'Tell me about it, Tom!'
interjects Jim. 'I have 5 kids, all in private school with big private tuitions if you know what I mean. We have the big house in Montpelier to tend to plus we have vacation homes all over the place and country club memberships I have lost track of counting. How could I ever think about running for public office?'

'I know what you are talking about' said Alex. 'I have been writing so much I feel like my fingers are about to fall off. My law practice is keeping me pretty busy and since we have offices in New York, Washington and London, I am always flying around back and forth trying to keep things going. I just don't see how I could possibly do all that and run for public office too!'

'Oh well' sighs Tom Jefferson. 'I guess we will have a presidential election in 18 months and then we will have a new President and things will get better'

'Yeah, that's right. There is only so much a man can do' says Jim. 'Only so much a man can do'

'Now if Hillary Clinton wins, I might go work for her as her Secretary of the Treasury' Alex Hamilton pipes in.

'How much did you give to the Clinton Foundation anyway, Alex?' laughs Tom as Jim rolls his eyes. 'See ya next week. Same time. Same place.'

And off they go back to their homes and real daily life activities. Never to be seen on a ballot, giving a political speech or advocating change for the public good in any government setting.

Sad, isn't it?

(1) Jefferson, who was not an international interventionalist by any stretch of the imagination or a warmonger to any degree, sent the US Navy to crush the Muslim Barbary Pirates of Tripoli who were demanding ransom for hostages. Ransom payments to such pirates amounted to 20% of the annual federal budget at the time



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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Are 'Official' Government Employment Numbers Rigged?

The US Economy Under President Obama:
'Fouled Spark Plugs'
Sometimes sure seems that way, doesn't it?

The most recent downward revision in the Q1 US GDP numbers are a case in point. After the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) declared the US 'grew' by an albeit measly .2% in the first quarter of 2015 on April 29, not less than 1 month later on May 29 does the very same BEA come back and say that the US economy not only didn't grow a measly .2% in the first quarter of 2015, it contracted .7% in the first quarter of 2015.

How can we go from a weak economic expansion to what could be called a recession if it happens two quarters in a row in about 30 days?

Is the process rigged to make President Obama look better in the public eye than his economic policies have proven out to be?

We have been wondering about this perceived problem for a long time and decided to ask the BEA if this was true or not.

They send back this link of 'Vintage History of GDP' as if it is some fine wine or something. 

Below is the first page where you can see the detailed accounting of the Advance estimate followed by the subsequent second, third and revised, and then in some cases, revised again, GDP growth estimates.

Take a look and then refer back to the 'Vintage History' to see how the BEA has adjusted its GDP growth numbers going back to 2002 under President George Bush 43.


What may surprise you is that, contrary to public opinion depending on whether you support or oppose the President in charge at any moment in time, economic growth revisions seem to be as uniformly distributed during the Obama years as under the Bush years. Advance estimates were revised up and down with about the same regularity as during the Obama years.

BEA supplied this link for those of you who want to go back further to analysis historical trends going back to 1921 and the good old Coolidge growth days of the mid-1920s. President Coolidge's track record of cutting federal spending, federal debt, federal taxes and balancing successive budgets all the while overseeing an economic explosion in the US economy may never been seen again.

Sadly.

However, one thing that might not surprise you as you analyze the 'Vintage Data', which we encourage you to do with a fine wine or vintage scotch or rye whisky in hand, is that the average rates of growth each year under President Obama have been about half the historical norm in America.

1/2. 50%. Why is that?

It could be argued that we had to come out of the worst Recession since the Great Depression and that is true. However, the highest rates of growth usually occur in the first couple of years AFTER the end of a major recession, mainly because the economy is replacing millions of jobs that were lost during the prior recession, not creating marginal millions of new ones.

Go ahead. Take a look at the entire Vintage History. We can wait while you look, gape and stare.

We have long been a critic of over-spending at the federal level and massive accumulations of federal debt that has to be serviced, namely 'interest has to be paid whether we like it or not' on every dollar we borrow from overseas or from individual investors.

We have long been a critic of over-regulation that goes far beyond the mere oversight function of government to keep us all safe and healthy in the marketplace. When you have legislators who know next to nothing about banking or health care writing massive laws governing and hamstringing the banking industry such as Dodd-Frank or healthcare such as the ACA (didja see where BCBSNC wants to raise ACA premiums 25% next year because of, you guessed it, 'higher health care costs'?) and acting like they know how to run both businesses, which they don't, that is where we draw the line on excessive government regulation.

Under President Obama's leadership, we have had both for the past 6 years now and counting. We see no reason to believe that the economic growth rates under his leadership will magically double in the next 18 months to get back to the US historic norm, do you?

Why should they? Most businesses have learned how to operate without adding on too many new employees to avoid the direct and administrative costs of such things as the ACA. What money they may be making is spent disproportionately more on legal and accounting fees to comply with the excessive regulations now in place.

No wonder the economy is so sluggish. The American Economy is sputtering along more like an old jalopy with fouled spark plugs than a sleek new BMW speeding down the highway.

What happens in the American Economy affects all of us whether we are working, retired or not. Especially if you are under the age of 30. These are your golden years in terms of establishing yourself in your career and gaining skills in the workforce that will follow you the rest of your life.

It is also the time when any money you can set aside for retirement will grow at its greatest potential. $1 set aside in 2015 and allowed to grow in value and earn interest or dividends will be worth a heckuva lot more than $1 set aside in 2020 or 2030 or 2040 down the road.

Which makes this next Presidential election very critical to you young people. You are either going to choose a President who understands how to grow this economy and provide a world of opportunity for you to participate in or you are going to choose a President who wants to continue the top-down management approach of the Obama Administration that is now proving to be one of the slowest economic growth creators in the last 100 years.

Just look at the numbers. The BEA doesn't lie.