Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What If Hillary Had Won?


(first published in North State Journal 9/19/18)

Where would we be today?

We would still be languishing in the throes of the economic malaise we endured for 8 long years under President Barack Obama. The same policies that never produced more than 1.9% annual GDP growth for 8 years from 2009-2017.

The question for everyone as we head into the election season this fall is this:

‘Are you economically better off than you were 2 short years ago?’

Had Hillary Clinton been elected President, here’s where we would be today:

  • 1 million more people would be on Medicaid nationwide and 2 million more people would be collecting food stamps because they couldn’t find a job.
  • Enrollment in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) would be 12% higher than 2.3 million today.
  • Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be far higher than 40.7 million reported in January 2018, the lowest since May 2010.
  • The number of people on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) would far higher than 8.6 million in March which was the lowest level reported since February 2012.
  • The Dow Jones Average would be 20,000 today, perhaps 21,000. Not 26,062 as it closed Monday.
  • We would not be experiencing the benefits of 3.5% to possibly 4% real GDP growth rates we are now seeing.
  • Businesses would continue to suffocate under the staggering flood of never-ending new rules and regulations promulgated under President Obama.  Hillary Clinton would have kept all of them in force and expanded them in number; under President Trump, thousands have been rescinded and new regs have been reduced to a dribble.

The election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton triggered a massive sense of relief in the business sector and unleashed ‘the animal spirits’ of entrepreneurs nationwide as Adam Smith would have said. The Council of Economic Advisers point towards the demarcation point as being November 8, Election Night 2016. (see chart)

Not one day before.
IF such an explosion of confidence had happened during any of the 8 long years that President Obama was setting policy for our nation, everyone would have known it, recognized it and applauded him for getting the job done.
The explosion of confidence never happened under President Obama. It would not have happened under Hillary Clinton either because she vowed to continue and expand every one of President Obama’s misguided policies.

This new-found confidence in the private sector is working. Friends, neighbors, family members and people everywhere are getting new higher-paying jobs instead of job rejection letters. Millions more of our fellow citizens of all ages and races are working today and providing for their families.

The national Democratic Party wants the public to believe that a sign of government policy success is how many people are on government assistance. They want more socialism which means more government control of your lives, not less.

We believe the reverse is true. The more people are independent and off of government assistance because they have a good job, the better it is for them personally and for the nation as a whole.

Think very carefully about yourself first and your personal economic interests, dreams and desires and those of your children and your friends when you vote this fall.

Do you really want to give the keys back to Congress to the same Democratic leaders who supported every failed economic policy put forth by President Barack Obama?

In 1999, Gallup found a vast majority of Americans thought President Bill Clinton was personally immoral but they liked the fact they personally benefited from the results of the economy that happened under his watch.

You may personally dislike President Trump and the way he does things. But be wary of electing people to Congress and legislatures who want to reverse everything that has worked so far under his term.


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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

"Believe In Something. Even If It Means Sacrificing Everything. #JustSignYourName"

'Hey! If an old guy like me can do it, so can everyone'
(first published in North State Journal 9/12/18)

How odd was it that in the same week Nike introduced its “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” #JustDoIt campaign, the vaunted New York Times would publish an ‘anonymous’ op-ed piece about the Trump White House by someone who felt so strongly about its dysfunction…they didn’t sign their name to it.

Does this person not feel strongly enough about the dangers of the Trump White House to sacrifice their own job?

Nike probably won’t sponsor this person. Or will they in absentia?

Is this person old enough to remember the heroism of AG Elliot Richardson and Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus when they resigned instead of bowing to the pressure of President Richard Nixon in 1973 after he demanded they fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating Watergate?

Does this person remember that John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence with 55 other delegates? Benjamin Franklin is attributed as saying after affixing his signature: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Had the Founders stayed ‘anonymous’, maybe they could have avoided the gallows noose had they lost The War.

The publication of the anonymous op-ed piece in the New York Times by a ‘senior Trump Administration official’ last week has broken new ground in the annals of journalism.

Who in their right mind would ever publish such an ‘anonymous’ document? How do we know it is even a ‘real’ person who wrote it? What if some junior staff person at CNN drafted it and submitted it to the New York Times editorial board and they published it because they hate President Trump so much that they will do anything to take him down?

After all we have seen in traditional and social media lately, are we 100% sure this is not some planted hit piece purely for political purposes?

At the beginning of the Republic, there were hundreds if not thousands of small newspapers around the 13 colonies. Hardly any of them pretended to be totally objective, totally non-partisan journalistic news outlets.

The more partisan they were, the better were sales of their newspapers. The more incendiary their attacks against the Federalists in power or the Democratic-Republicans who followed later, the more papers they sold to the people who agreed with their point of view.

James Callender was a master of disaster when it came to publishing horrible and totally bogus claims against political opponents of his friends James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Most of the time, Messrs. Madison and Jefferson funneled the information they wanted Mr. Callender to publish in the first place.

The factual news was secondary to the spreading of their side of the story and their preferred points of political philosophy as it pertained to the new government.

Have we gone back to the future where the venerated Grey Lady of American journalism that has operated under the banner ‘All The News That Is Fit To Print’ for a century has descended into being a mere propaganda arm of the left-wing Progressive movement and ‘The Resistance To President Trump’?

Here’s our policy at the North State Journal: If you are not brave enough to sign your name to an opinion piece, we will never publish it.

We might have taken maybe 1 journalism course in college among our various writers but even we know that publishing such anonymous op-eds is wrong. It is dead-wrong for the country, our body politic and for American journalism.

Men and women of integrity in American politics over time have risen above such cowardly behavior and either challenged powers-that-be publicly and face-to-face or, as we saw in the case of Nixon’s Watergate fiasco, resigned rather than serve under corrupt leadership.

We wish more men and women of integrity on both sides of the aisle would stand up for what is right.

#JustSignYourName


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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Old North State Electoral Armistice of 2018

The Treaty of Paris 1783
(first published in North State Journal 9/5/18)

The election process in North Carolina is broken.

More specifically, the process in-between elections is broken. Too many lawyers. Too many lawsuits.
Too many unelected judges inserting themselves into what is constitutionally a legislative issue.

For the past 30 years, North Carolinians have seen what happens when both sides ignore the basic tenet of a theory made famous during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, “MAD” or “Mutual Assured Destruction”:

‘The purpose of MAD is to prevent the use of nuclear weapons in the first place’.

People have unleashed every imaginable legal weapon in North Carolina to challenge every redistricting map and every election since 1982.

It is time to call a truce. Call it ‘The Old North State Armistice’ if you want.

Headlines in recent newspapers have blared out:

“North Carolina's congressional districts unconstitutionally gerrymandered, federal judges say”
“Governor Roy Cooper to legislators: ‘Expect further legal action’ on constitutional amendments”

Can we all agree to get back to the days where legislative districts are drawn by the state legislature and people in those districts can get to know their elected representatives for more than 1 election cycle?

The US Constitution is clear about who has the right to draw congressional and legislative districts after every decennial census: the state legislatures.

The Founders did NOT give that crucial apportionment power to the President; Congress, US Senate, any state governor or any unelected member of the judiciary, including the US Supreme Court.

They could have. But they didn’t. They purposefully gave that critical power to the duly-elected members of each state legislature.

As much as you might abhor Republicans now in power, remember you already have the ultimate ‘impeachment’ tool of any elected official at your disposal:

Biennial Elections.

The Founders realized that times change, people change and young adults grow up with the changing dynamics of life. They realized the best way for a democratic republic such as ours to accommodate such change would be to give voters the ability to change their elected representatives with the most power, Congress and the state legislatures, as often as possible.

Two years is a short period of time to tolerate the abhorrent policies of the opposing party, no matter how bad you might think they are. Many on the right honestly are shocked the country survived 8 years under President Obama.

Take it from someone who toiled in the salt mines of the minority party for over a decade in Congress from 1985-1994.

Being in the minority by 85+ votes stinks, plain and simple. It is degrading; it is depressing and it is painful.

The Republic survived. Somehow.

Being in the minority builds resolve to do whatever it takes to win the next election. Maybe it is organization. Maybe it is fundraising. Maybe it is changing positions on issues that matter to the voting public.

In 1975, there was just 1 GOP senator fighting against 49 Democrats in the state senate and just 9 Rs vs 111 Ds in the NC General Assembly.

Now that was a prime example of extreme partisan gerrymandering given that North Carolina had voted statewide for Republicans Richard Nixon for President in 1968 and 1972 and Governor Jim Holshouser and Senator Jesse Helms in 1972.

In 1994, despite the best efforts of Democrats in 1991 to gerrymander legislative districts nationwide including North Carolina, Republicans scored a massive electoral upset and took control of Congress for the first time since 1954 – 40 long years.

In 2010, despite the best efforts of Democrats for over 100 years to keep Republicans in the deep minority, Republican leaders out-organized, out-raised and out-spent Democrats to take over control of the NCGA, despite the gerrymandering accomplished in 2001 by the Democratic majority.

Biennial elections will work.

Let’s agree to lay our legal swords down and let voters do their constitutional function.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

You Might Be A Socialist If...

(first published in North State Journal 8/29/18)

(with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy of ‘You Might Be A Redneck’ fame)

In a recent Gallup poll, 57% of all Democrats said they preferred socialism to capitalism with the highest ratings among liberal young people aged 18-29.

You might ‘think’ you are a socialist at heart. But you probably aren’t.

Take this test and preface each question with ‘I Might Be A Socialist If’ to see if you really do qualify:

  1. I am willing to pay up to 56% of my income to the government every year without looking for loopholes or complaining about it.
  2. I want all major decisions to be made by faceless, unnamed, unelected bureaucrats in Washington, state capitals and local governments.
  3. I want state-run monopolies to control the marketplace.
  4. I want centralized government to monitor my speech and what I can say and when I want to say it or not allow me to talk at all.
  5. I want government to provide massive subsidies and protections to old archaic businesses threatened by new companies and innovations such as Amazon, Apple, PayPal, Uber and Netflix.
  6. I want all of my personal health care decisions to be made by government employees who run medical facilities as well as the government runs the US Postal Service and the state DMV today.
  7. I don’t want any competition to the public education system or allow any alternative means of educating my children, even if the local public school to which we are assigned has been performing poorly for the past 30 years.
  8. I want everyone to be paid the same even though I have worked my tail off and studied and sacrificed when everyone else was playing around and partying.
  9. I want the process to start a new business to take up to 5 years to get through tons of government red tape, regulation and bureaucracy.
  10. I think my personal freedom is less important than everyone else’s needs, wants and desires.

‘Socialism’ where college and health care are ‘free for everyone!’ might be initially attractive to the generation that grew up with Napster and saw everything being offered for free: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pandora, Fortnite.

Except that each business is an extremely capitalistic enterprise that is utterly dependent upon advertising from the private sector to survive.

No profit. No business. The day they stop making a profit, they die.

Chances are very, very high that ‘you might think you are a socialist’ when, in practice, you are very much a freedom-loving American who wants to better yourself and your family through the miracle of free enterprise and capitalism as much as anyone who has ever aspired to get to America legally or illegally in the past.

No one moves to any European country for the promise of their welfare state in retirement if it means restriction of their freedoms to do whatever you want earlier in life.

Close to 50 million legal immigrants live in America today. 15% of the U.S. population legally moved here to participate in the free enterprise system instead of going to socialist nations around the globe.

The US represents 4% of the world’s population of 7.6 billion and yet, 20% of the 250 million international legal migrants worldwide have come here, not Sweden, France and certainly not Venezuela.

You want capitalism. You NEED capitalism. Not only to satisfy your needs and desires such as the next IPhone 10000 but to be able to pay the taxes to pay for the social programs you say you want.

As hard as anyone in America tries to make socialism sound ‘cool’, the truth is that deep down in your heart, you are not a socialist and never will be.

Let Europe stay socialist. Go there if you want to visit. But you will always come back to the freedom of America.


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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Will This ‘Blue Moon’ Election in North Carolina Turn Into An ‘Eclipse’ For The GOP?

(first published in North State Journal 8/22/18)

What is a ‘blue moon’ election anyway?

A ‘blue moon’ election happens when there is no statewide Presidential, US Senate or gubernatorial campaign at the top of the ballot to drive voter turnout up.

It is called a ‘blue moon’ election because a real blue moon, or a second full moon in one month, happens infrequently about every 2.5 years.

‘Blue moon elections’ are 6 times more rare. They happen every 12 years in North Carolina. The last one was 2006 which was favorable to Democrats. Before that was 1994 which was devastating to Democrats nationally and allowed Republicans to take control of the NCGA for the first time in a century.

If Republicans and conservatives fail to take this upcoming ‘blue moon’ election seriously, 2018 might become ‘The Eclipse Election’.

Of Republicans. Not Democrats.

Care to guess what happens in typical mid-term congressional elections with a US Senate campaign included?

Turnout drops 40%-to-50% from quadrennial presidential campaign years.

During a presidential election, 60%+ of registered voters show up to vote. In 2016, 4,769,640 people or 68% of all registered voters in North Carolina voted.

In a ‘normal’ midterm, perhaps 3 million registered citizens, or 44% of all registered voters, would vote in North Carolina.

There is no US Senate race at the top of the ticket this November.

This is not your ‘typical’ midterm election in North Carolina.

This is a ‘Deep Dark Blue Moon’ election without a lot of attention and enthusiasm. Many North Carolina voters will wake up the day after the November 6 election and say: ‘You mean there was an election yesterday?’

On top of that, 5-6 of the 13 congressional elections in North Carolina involve entrenched incumbents running unopposed or virtually unopposed. That will further depress turnout in those congressional districts which cover 46% of the state population.

We may not have 3 million people show up to vote this fall in North Carolina. It might be far under that number.

Care to guess who wins such low-turnout elections?

The party that can harness the most energy among voters. In most cases, that energy is ‘anger with the status quo’.

In 2016, all anyone had to do was to go to any Donald Trump rally and see 10,000; 15,000; 22,000 people show up from Greenville to Kenansville to see that energy at work. Democrats pooh-poohed it as non-indicative of what would happen on Election Day, only to wake up to see Hillary Clinton go down in defeat.

In 2017-2018, all anyone has had to do was look out an office window on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh and watch 20,000 to 30,000 red-shirted public education teachers march to the legislature to see that energy on the Democrat side this time around.

If you are a Republican or Unaffiliated voter or in business and are generally pleased with Republican control of the NCGA in terms of tax cuts and making North Carolina a more business-friendly state since 2011, and you have enjoyed the tax cuts and deregulation from Washington and the stock market gains since 2016, don’t kid yourself….you can lose everything in this election unless you get as energized as you were in 2016, 2010 and 1994.

There is an absolutely crucial NC Supreme Court race involving incumbent Republican Justice Barbara Jackson that hardly anyone knows about. Republicans are now a 3-4 minority on the Court; if Barbara Jackson is defeated, Republicans will be a 2-5 minority until 2022 at the earliest.

‘Energized’ means giving more money to campaigns this year than you did in 2016.

‘Energized’ means telling all of your employees and friends to vote in this crucial election.

‘Energized’ means not being complacent because politics is never static.

If you don’t get ‘energized’---and real soon---you may witness a political eclipse on November 6.

And the state map will be as blue as the moon.


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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Abraham Lincoln, The US Flag and The National Anthem


(first published in North State Journal 8/15/18)

“Fellow countrymen:

242 years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Equality guarantees everyone’s freedom to protest in America. Including kneeling for the national anthem and American flag.

Equality also guarantees this: No one has any right or power to make anyone else agree with or listen to them or watch any football game if they choose.

In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.

Such was the case with the Civil War. 2,672,341 Union soldiers fought under the 35-star American Flag during the Civil War. The vast majority were white men from the North who had never seen or met a black person in their life before the War.

642,427 of those Union soldiers suffered casualties during the War. There may not be another prior instance in history where a war was fought and slaves of another race or nationality were freed and not re-enslaved by the victors.

Let us not ever forget these brave men who consecrated the rebirth of freedom for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

1,227,890 Rebel soldiers fought under the Confederate Flag. They lost. They and 3 million other white Southerners lost everything; land, possessions, political power, slavery; you name it, they lost it.

The Union flag prevailed. The Rebel flag didn’t. If for no other reason, that should be cause for the utmost respect every time the American flag is unfurled and the national anthem is played.

If you want to kneel before flags that represent past injustice, kneel before the English, Portuguese or French flags. They were the largest slave traders for centuries before and after America was colonized.

From beyond the grave, I have witnessed hundreds of millions of people being freed from oppression and dictatorship the world over by men and women serving under the American Flag.

16.1 million American soldiers served in World War II under the 48-star flag to defeat the German Nazis and the Japanese to protect and preserve the very freedoms used today.

There may be good reason to protest specific police departments for excessive use of force against minorities. Protest in front of each one. Start and pay for schools such as the one Lebron James started in Akron to help young children from impoverished neighborhoods get a great education and escape the cycle of poverty.

Run for public office and set policy for local law enforcement to deal with the tough issues they face every day. Serving in public office is a high form of patriotism as well.

It can never be explained while kneeling during the national anthem that ‘no disrespect is intended’ towards millions of fellow Americans who have served in the military.

The American flag and anthem are very important to them whether a protester likes it or not.

Slavery and racism have been a cancer on the soul of humanity everywhere since time immemorial.

From where I sit today, the most amazing thing about America is not how far we need to go for full equality but how far we have come from the beginning of our Republic.

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that Martin Luther King’s dream will soon come true:
“(Our) children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.
It is for the living to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought before have thus far so nobly advanced. It is for all Americans to be dedicated to the great task remaining’.



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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Dealing With The Whole Ball of Wax in Health Care

The Whole Ball of Wax
(first published in North State Journal 8/8/18)

The Mercatus Center published a working paper by Charles Blahous last week on the ‘Medicare For All’ (M4A) bill sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders.

Every Bernie follower in the modern Socialist Democratic Party (SDP) ran to the media microphones to fairly shout: ‘M4A will save $2 trillion over 10 years! That is proof that single-payer health care coverage in America would work!’

Direct quote from the report:
“It is likely that the actual cost of M4A would be substantially greater than these estimates, which assume significant administrative and drug cost savings under the plan, and also assume that healthcare providers operating under M4A will be reimbursed at rates more than 40 percent lower than those currently paid by private health insurance.”
In other words: ‘You have to believe in both the Tooth Fairy AND Santa Claus before you can say M4A will not bankrupt America!’

There is no way on God’s green earth that every physician and hospital administrator will sit back idly and willingly accept a 40% reduction in payments from all private health insurance plans which cover 180 million Americans today.

Bernie Sanders has never seen a sea of white coat physicians swarming Congress like he would see if M4A came close to passage.

The report also clearly states that federal spending would go UP between $32.6 trillion to $38 trillion dollars over 10 years under M4A.  Bernie Sanders and his band of merry socialists could double everyone’s income and payroll taxes and that still wouldn’t be enough to pay for that massive increase.

Does anyone seriously believe that taxpayers would tolerate their taxes being more than doubled, on the distant hope of total health spending may have a snowball’s chance in Hades of going down by 3-4% over a decade?

If we are going to think anew about health care in America, let’s think about the ‘whole ball of wax’ in another way:

We are currently spending $3.868 trillion in direct and indirect payments, government and private, on health care in America, roughly 19% of GDP.

In 1960, it was 5% of GDP.

Why not take all current resources and find a way to divvy it all up according to need and income and then have everyone buy at least the most basic insurance they need to protect against a medical catastrophe that would wipe out their life’s savings in 1 week if it happened to them or their family?

What is ‘insurance’ anyway?

You buy home insurance to insure against the loss of your home due to fire. You don’t buy insurance that sends a crew to clean out your gutters every month.

You buy car insurance to insure against the total loss of your car in an accident or by theft. You don’t buy insurance to change your oil every 3000 miles.

Same with health care. We shouldn’t have to buy insurance to fix every hangnail we get during the course of our lives. We need insurance to pay for the enormous costs of cancer surgery and treatment or long-term nursing care due to a head trauma accident. That should be mandatory; other private plans can be offered for intermediate services and elective procedures.

We currently spend more than enough on health care in America, more per capita than any other
country on earth. We could cut the costs of The Whole Ball of Wax of Health Care by half if everyone tomorrow stopped smoking; stopped over-drinking and over-eating; walked vigorously 30 minutes every day and lost 15% of current body weight.

Which seems to be as likely to happen as Bernie Sanders getting his M4A bill passed. Still, if you want to stick it to the big bad insurance companies or medical profession, get healthy.

You will be glad you did. In many ways.


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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

2% Real GDP Growth Rates Are NOT The New Normal


(first published in North State Journal 8/1/18)

Remember the familiar lament from President Obama’s team for 8 long years?

‘2% real GDP growth is the new normal for the US economy’.

2% annual growth wasn’t even the ‘new normal’ under President Obama.

1.64% was. Pitifully and sadly so.

Their lamentations hearkened back to former President Jimmy Carter’s depressing ‘malaise’ speech of July 15, 1979:
‘It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.’
The ‘crisis of confidence’ Americans had from 1977-1981 was not in their own ability to perform.

Their ‘crisis of confidence’ was in President Jimmy Carter and his ability to lead.

The same can be said now about President Obama. His economic and foreign policy records will be linked with President Carter’s forever.

The above chart tracks the US economy on a seasonally-adjusted basis from the last year of the Bush 43 Presidency through 8 years of President Obama to 18 months under President Trump.

Seasonally-adjusted GDP growth rates actually make the first two years under President Obama look somewhat more favorable even though they were the worst two years economically since 1981-82 and before that, the Great Depression Decade of the 1930s.

No one in their right mind faults President Obama for the desultory real GDP growth rates in 2009 and 2010. The real estate crash nationwide and the failure of our banking and financial institutions plus the resulting job layoffs and business bankruptcies were the result of economic and fiscal polices that were years and decades in the making.

However, President Obama and his economic team had 6 more years to pass policies that would ignite the competitive economic spirit of America.

They failed to do it. Ever.

They concentrated their focus on managing everything with bureaucrats from Washington which crushed the free-wheeling spirit out of American business for the remainder of his term.

For whatever reason, be it Obamacare in 2010 that cast a very heavy blanket of regulations and taxes on US businesses or the avalanche of regulations the Obama Administration layered on American business, real GDP growth rates never exceeded 3% for any year of his presidency for the first time in modern American history.

Real GDP growth under President Obama averaged 1.9% annually for his presidency. If you take out the first 2 years and give Obama the benefit of the doubt since 2009-2010 clearly was a result of previous economic policies and mistakes and give him some credit for the 2017 growth rates even though a lot can be attributed to President Trump’s election, average real GDP growth on a seasonally-adjusted basis under Obama was only 1.64% annually from 2011-2017.

Businessmen and women today exude optimism and enthusiasm when they talk about their economic prospects and plans for expansion, increased sales and hiring more people.

Is it the tax cuts passed last December? Is it the rescission of hundreds if not thousands of federal regulations that were strangling economic growth? Is it the prospect of not having to worry about more taxes or regulations until 2020 at least and maybe 2025?

It may be all of these. It may be the fact that American businesses, workers and investors know that the Obama years are finally over and they can operate in a new business environment where they can work hard and keep more of what they earn and not pay more of it to the government.

Economic growth is contagious.

Maybe annual 3%+ real GDP growth rates are ‘the new normal’ today.

Again.





































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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What Has Happened To The Modern Democrat Party?

'Waddya mean we are not welcome to any Jefferson-Jackson
Democrat Party fundraiser anymore in America?'
(first published in North State Journal 7/25/18)

Much has been written about the Tea Party and the right-wing fundamentalist Christian influence on the Republican Party over the years.

Editorial writers seem to believe the more they write about ‘how dysfunctional’ the GOP is, the faster it will be driven into oblivion.

The last time the Republican Party held this many elected legislative seats nationwide in the US Senate, Congress and state legislatures and had occupants in the White House and 66% of the Governor Mansions was a century ago in the 1920’s.

Which brings to mind Mark Twain’s quip when informed that American newspapers were erroneously reporting he had died in London: “Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated.”

What about the Democrat Party? What has happened to them over the years?

If you had told a young Republican growing up in North Carolina in the 1960s and 70s that one day in their lifetime, Republicans would dominate the national and state landscape, they would have thought you were completely delusional.

Democrats controlled every possible lever of government from the Governor’s Mansion to dogcatcher across the state east of Morganton.  Democrats in North Carolina at the time tended to be fiscally responsible folks for the most part who balanced budgets with spending restraint first and resorting to tax hikes as a last resort, not the first option; supporters of free enterprise; advocates for a strong national defense; and fiercely anti-communist.

After filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Southern Democrats later supported civil liberties and a more active government stance as part of their coalition with northern liberals to control Congress for the next 30 years.

What has happened since then?

In 1985, there were 91 Southern Democrats in Congress. ‘Blue Dogs’ as they were known.

They typically voted with Republicans on economic, tax and defense-related issues. Which is why so much of the Reagan Revolution happened in the first place. They bucked the northern liberal leaders of their party on a regular basis to vote for common-sense legislation.

There are 8 Southern Blue Dog Democrats in Congress today. 4% of the Democratic Caucus.
4% does not constitute a majority. None of them are full committee chairs or in leadership positions in the Democrat Party in Congress.

Today’s national Democrat Party touts their ‘new and bold leadership for the future!’ as 76-year old, self-avowed-and-proud-of -it ‘Socialist’ Bernie Sanders, 69-year old Elizabeth Warren, and 28-year old completely socialist congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Queens, New York.

Here’s what the leaders of the Democratic Party want to do today:
  • ·       No Borders!
  • ·       No ICE!
  • ·       Repeal Everyone’s Tax Cuts!
  • ·       Free Higher Education!
  • ·       Medicare for Everyone!
  • ·       Capitalism is Terrible!
  • ·       Socialism is Great!

What in the name of Andrew Jackson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, JFK and even Bill Clinton is going on with the modern Democrat Party?

The lack of vociferous opposition from any moderate Democrat about the direction of their national party is deafening. No Democrat voted for the tax cuts.  All of them will vote for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker if Democrats win Congress in November which means the socialist democrat agenda will be advanced, not the moderate Southern Democrat agenda.

Southern Democrats and Republicans disagreed on a few issues in the past but they voted together on the big issues for the good of the country such as job creation, the economy and national defense and security.

The Republican Party has its own internal issues to deal with. At least the GOP is heading towards more freedom and free enterprise. Not towards a socialist state.

Dozens of long-term Democrat political operatives in North Carolina have told me they have switched to Unaffiliated because of the leftward shift of the party.

Stay in the Socialist Democrat Party if you want. Or join 2,184,175 other North Carolinians who registered as Unaffiliated, the second largest affiliation in the state.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Man Walks Into A Socialist Restaurant In Maine...

'I am pretty sure we didn't
fight the Civil War to save
America for socialism'
'No, we didn't, Mr. President.
No we didn't'



(first published in North State Journal 7/18/18)

While in Maine recently, we marveled at the beauty of the coastline, the bustling small towns and harbors and the majesty of Acadia National Park.

We also saw tons of portraits and lithographs of General US Grant and family on walls of shops and homes. Second was President Abraham Lincoln.

It was Maine. Not the South.

We went to a highly-recommended restaurant that featured organic, locally-sourced vegetables; fresh caught fish right from the dock boat and ‘the best hamburger ever made’ because of the high-quality meat served under summer tomatoes and lettuce.

Maybe it was a play on being the ‘social’ place to go in town but staff prominently displayed black t-shirts that read: “The ‘social-(ist)’ place to be in town.”

After being talked out of asking a lot of questions by my family, an internal discussion took place in my head with the waitress that went something like this:

“Soooo, is this really a ‘socialist’ restaurant?”

“Well, it is Maine. We love Bernie and Elizabeth and now Alexandria, ya know.”

“Ok, then. I’ll have this great burger everyone is talking about. Socialists want free college education and health care for everyone so I assume it is free as well, yes?”

“It is $17.99, sir”.

“Wow. I can get a Big Mac for $3.99. Why doesn’t your burger cost the same as a Big Mac?”

“Ours is better sir. Better ingredients, more healthy for you. The beef comes from cattle that are fed the highest-quality grass and heirloom corn their entire lives.”

“But I thought socialists thought everyone should be treated the same. Your burger should cost the same as a Big Mac, yes?”

“Can I get you a drink, sir?

“Are you paid the same as the person who owns this place? Does the proletariat staff share the profits equally on a pro-rata basis?”

“We work for the owner. She is a well-respected and award-winning chef here in Mid-coast Maine.”

“So I guess she took all the risks in buying this place, borrowing money, putting in new ovens and equipment and hiring the staff and filing the tax forms and got all the licenses needed to run a restaurant?”

‘Well, yes, I guess she did.”

“At $17.99/burger, y’all must be making a lot of profit, yes?”

“I guess so. I just started work here a coupla months ago.”

“Even though you have no money in this business, do you get an equal share of the profits? Do you get to go to the same place as the owner does in the winter when it gets brutally cold up here?”

“I think I heard she has a place in Turks and Caicos or somewhere like that.”

“If this place goes bust because someone gets salmonella poisoning from some organic lettuce that has not been properly cleaned before serving, will the banks that lent the money to start the business just write off the debt and forgive the debt entirely without taking any action to recover their money by putting liens on the owner’s home or other assets?”

“I really don’t know sir.”

“Should I tip you or not? I mean, after all, why should I reward any excellence on your part if it will be seen as ‘unfair’ to any of your colleagues?”

“I really don’t know what you are talking about, mister.”

‘This really isn’t a ‘socialist’ restaurant then, is it, ma’am? Socialism draws its energy from capitalism. A risk-taking entrepreneur with vision and talent starts a business to make profits to pay the bills and survive. No profits; no way to pay your wages, therefore, no job for you and no money for anyone else through social programs.”

“I guess so. I just work here, ya know”.

“Y’all Mainers know Grant and Lincoln were Republicans, don’t you?”

“Thanks for coming, sir. Have a nice trip.”


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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Debunking The Myths of Social Security

You get to choose: understand the facts behind
Social Security or believe in the myths of SS
(first published in North State Journal, 7/11/18)

Myth #1: Social Security is not an entitlement.
 

Social Security is not only an entitlement program, it is the largest and most prototypical federal entitlement program.  Virtually any credible glossary of federal budget terminology will point to Social Security as the leading example of an entitlement (specifically, an entitlement is a program in which payments are obligated to beneficiaries according to eligibility criteria set in law, without requiring annual legislation to appropriate funds).

Myth #2: Social Security wouldn’t be in financial trouble if politicians hadn’t stolen and spent its money.

Social Security trust fund reserves are by law invested in US Treasury securities, which finance federal government spending.  But this phenomenon has nothing do with Social Security’s shortfall.  Social Security still owns all that money and earns interest on it.  Whenever Social Security tax revenues fall short of its benefit obligations, as they have since 2010, Social Security taps both interest and principal of its trust funds to pay benefits.  Social Security’s shortfall exists despite the government’s repaying those funds to Social Security, not because it won’t.

Myth #3: Participants have paid for their benefits. 

Workers covered by Social Security contribute payroll taxes, which establish an entitlement to benefits for themselves and certain dependents.  However, this does not mean they have paid for the full amount of their scheduled benefits.  Social Security has a shortfall precisely because in the aggregate, workers have not paid for their benefits: total scheduled benefits well exceed what workers’ tax contributions, plus interest, can finance.

Myth #4: Social Security is solvent until the 2030s, so there is still plenty of time to fix it. 

How soon Social Security’s trust funds run out, and how soon we must act, are two entirely different things.  By the time its trust funds are depleted, annual income and costs will be so far apart that there is no realistic chance of legislation closing the shortfall.  The window of opportunity for correction is closing now, if it hasn’t closed already.

Myth #5: Because Social Security is self-financing, it doesn’t add to the federal budget deficit. 

Since 2010, as Social Security’s costs have exceeded its tax revenue, the federal government has been running larger deficits to fund the payments it owes to Social Security. The fact that the federal budget benefited from Social Security surpluses in the past doesn’t make its ongoing deficit-worsening outlays, during the years it pays Social Security back, any less real.

Myth #6: Taxing rich people more by raising the cap on taxable wages will fix the problem. 

There’s a statutory cap on each worker’s annual earnings subject to Social Security taxes -- $128,400 this year and indexed to grow automatically in most years.  Raising the taxable maximum from today’s level all the way to about $350,000 in 2022 would only eliminate about 14% of the structural deficit, in part because a worker’s benefits are linked to his tax contributions and thus the tax increase would generate higher benefits for the well-off.  That cost increase could be prevented by changing the benefit formula on the high-income end; but without benefit changes, a tax cap increase by itself doesn’t accomplish very much.

Myth #7: Social Security privatization is a live option. 

Many years ago when Social Security was running surpluses, presidents such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush suggested that workers be given the option of saving them in personal accounts. 

None of those proposals involved privatization, but instead would have allowed for individual saving within a publicly administered system. That opportunity vanished in 2010 when Social Security began running cash deficits.  Since then there have been no surplus Social Security contributions to save, and every program tax dollar collected now goes out the door to pay current benefits.

Despite the fact that this has long been a dead issue, occasional “privatization” fear-mongering continues.
===Written by Charles Blahous

Charles Blahous is the J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith chair and senior research strategist at the Mercatus Center, a visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution, and a contributor to E21. He recently served as a public trustee for Social Security and Medicare. This article was originally published on economics21.org.








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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What Would Thomas Jefferson Write Today on July 4, 2018?

'Let's Get It Right This Time, Shall We?'
(first published in North State Journal, 7/4/2018)

‘In the course of human events, it becomes necessary from time to time for a nation of diverse people to reassess the political bands which have connected them together.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

To secure these rights, and to defend against the tyranny of a few against the many, we have a democratic republican form of self-government deriving their just powers from the consent of the free people governed.

Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to register to vote to amend it and make it a better government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers that shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence will dictate that government programs long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and experience has shown that mankind is more disposed to suffer than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations evinces a design to reduce them under excessive government control, it is their right, it is their duty, to change such government, and to provide new safeguards for their future security.

Returning to our roots:

  • Every citizen is entitled to their own personal freedom as long as they do not impinge on the freedom to which others are entitled to pursue their dreams and ambitions.
  • The primary purpose of government is to provide secure physical defense from all threats, domestic and foreign, to allow individual freedom and creativity to flourish personally and professionally.
  • America always will be a ‘nation of laws’, not whims.
  • Each citizen will be responsible for their own actions and personal and family welfare.
  • Where the private sector can do the job, government should stay out of it.
  • Where the private sector can not, government can help people as temporary means of support.
  • Where state and local government can provide, the federal government will not.
  • The success of any assistance program, for individuals or businesses, will be measured not by how many people depend on it but how many people become independent of taxpayer help and are relieved of government dependence.
  • “Taxation ‘with’ representation” should produce a fair consumption tax to replace all extant federal taxes.
  • A defined contributions retirement program that will enrich each participant will replace Social Security.

We have reminded our elective officials over the past 8 decades of the creeping impediments of inept and over-reaching government interference into our lives. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity and urged them to take corrective action such as curbing the growth of our national debt, but they have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity to declare independence from the collectivist spirit of governance where the few want to control the lives of many. From this date on, we will do everything humanly possible to boost the independent spirit of what makes us all Americans.

We, therefore, the People of the United States of America, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, publish and declare, these Free and Independent citizens have full power to pursue freedom; gain knowledge; learn a trade; establish Commerce; take care of their families; speak and worship freely and to do all other acts and things which Independent people may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor'

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How To Solve The Immigration Crisis At the Border

(first published in the North State Journal 6/26/18)

‘Move all decision-making on all permanent and work-related visa applications away from the border’.

Make the US/Mexico border solely a checkpoint line where ‘go/no-go’ decisions are made allowing people with proper credentials to pass through.

Roughly 11 million US visas are granted each year. 80% are non-permanent tourist visas.

In 2012, it was estimated that up to 5 million people at the time had valid green card applications in process with the Department of State. Approximately 1 million permanent green cards are issued each year to people from all parts of the globe who have followed every step of the immigration process legally, in most instances, many times for many years.

There are 20 US consular offices, including the main Embassy in Mexico City, geographically dispersed throughout Mexico. People leaving Central American countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala intending to immigrate to the US probably pass within 100 miles or so of 7 consular offices in the interior of Mexico.

People seeking political asylum or permanent visa status in the United States can apply at any of these local offices in Mexico today. The application process for permanent visas or asylum requests is clearly spelled out at www.state.gov.

President Trump could issue an executive order tomorrow directing the Secretary of State to reallocate resources and personnel within the Department of State to expand visa application services at all of the 17 consular-related offices in Mexico not located on the US border.

No longer would Central American people or children with or without accompanying parents be enticed to travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles in unsafe conditions, on a very arduous and dangerous journey to the US border with no guarantee of success in the first place.

They can visit the consular office in Oaxaca or Acapulco instead.

One thing everyone the world over learns in childhood is ‘not to break in line!’ There is no valid reason to allow anyone from any country to skip ahead of the 5 million other people who have taken all the legal steps and paid all the legal money to get a permanent green card ahead of them.

Another step would be to adopt the Mexican legal immigration process as a precondition for evaluating US approval of their green card application.

Mexico has granted permanent status to roughly 1 million foreigners out of their population of 127 million people. Mexico has a very strict policy about immigration; once anyone qualifies for admittance to Mexico, their background checks have been thoroughly checked, verified and vetted.

If you want to apply as a couple for permanent residency in Mexico, you have to demonstrate an income stream over the past six months of at least $2,325 per month from a pension or other verifiable work-related accounts or have savings in the bank amounting to $93,000 US over the past 12 months.

If we followed the official Mexican government policy lead as a qualifier for consideration for permanent American immigration, then if a person has lived in Mexico as a bonafide Mexican citizen and complied with the laws of Mexico in an impeccable and spotless manner, perhaps then they could apply to come to the United States on a permanent basis later.

Everyone can agree that the American system of immigration is broken and in need of dire reform and replacement. Until then, we need to enforce existing law and protect the rights of law-abiding citizens who immigrate to America the legal way.

One reason why millions of people each year apply to come to the United States is because we are supposed to be a ‘nation of laws’ where citizens have equal rights and equal opportunities.

The day we cease to be a ‘nation of laws’ is the day people will stop lining up to come here.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rapid Economic Growth Cures A Lot Of Sins



















(first published in North State Journal 6/20/18)

‘We now estimate real GDP is expanding at a 4.0% annual rate in Q2, up from our prior estimate of 2.75% and almost twice the 2.2% growth rate experienced in Q1," JP Morgan chief U.S. economist Michael Ferol’—6/14/18

Are real GDP growth rates of 4%+ even remotely possible?

Of course they are. We experienced an extended period of real GDP growth over 4% annually from 1994-2000. Bill Clinton was President; Congress and the Senate were controlled by Republicans.

Before that, under President Ronald Reagan’s economic policies, we saw extended real annual economic growth rates over 4% from 1983-1988.

Economic booms are fueled primarily by productivity gains and pro-growth fiscal and monetary policies, not population growth as many assume. Most importantly, economic booms are fueled by abundant amounts of pure business optimism by owners and workers alike.

Business owners essentially ‘went on strike’ during the Obama years as they saw avalanches of federal regulation, taxes and control descend upon the American economic landscape. They reined in their hiring of new employees and capital investment for 8 long years and have only recently been ignited to invest and expand by the Trump and Republican tax and economic policies.

Besides the fact that there are more job openings today in America than there are people to fill them for the first time in recent history, what else does 4% annual real GDP portend for our future?

For one thing, if sustainable, 4% annual growth for the next 5 years will solve our exploding budget deficit and debt dilemma. Even though our elected leaders of all parties in Washington have been reckless and irresponsible since 2001 when it comes to federal spending.

CBO publishes regular updates of economic and budget projections, most recently April of 2018 (pictured above).

CBO makes pro-forma projections on a regular basis. Their predictions about what may happen is based solely on the most recent experience they can look backwards at and measure.

Annual economic growth under President Obama was 1.9% for 8 long years. Based solely on that precedent, CBO has made predictions about the next 10 years based on that same dismal rate of real growth.

Even though we now have a different President with a 180-degree different approach to business, capitalism, freedom and free enterprise.

In the attached spreadsheet, projections have been made based on 4% real GDP growth rates for the next 10 years, highlighted in yellow. 2% inflation is added on for nominal GDP growth of 6%.

Roughly 20% of GDP is captured by federal income, payroll, estate, and excise taxes each year so those numbers are extrapolated from the higher GDP projections to get the new revenue numbers, also highlighted in yellow.

If, and this is a humongous ‘IF’, we don’t spend any more money than projected under CBO current baseline assumptions, we will balance the budget by 2024 or certainly 2025 with real economic growth rates of 4% of more until then. (as indicated by green highlights above).

Virtually all economic forecasts were wrong in 1981 when President Reagan was in office or in 1993 before the Clinton Internet boom years. No one clearly predicted real GDP growth rates exploding under each Administration except the economic policy advisors in each Administration who privately hoped and prayed that things would turn out better than anyone had hoped or prayed.

The absolute key factor in all of this? Congress and President Trump can not increase spending over the current baselines for the next decade. Holding overall spending to 2% annual growth as was done from 1994-2001 would insure fiscal sanity.

If we experience 4% real GDP growth for any extended period of time, that sure will be a lot of ‘crumbs’ as Nancy Pelosi has called it.

It will be darn near a wedding cake for every American household.




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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What Do China, The EU and G7 Nations Fear More Than a Trade War?

'Look, Donnie, we can't allow ANY foreign wienerschnitzel to come
into Germany to compete with OUR wienerschnitzel!'*
(first published in North State Journal 6/13/18)

Total free and fair trade.

Unmitigated by tariffs, trade barriers or artificial restrictions established by government to avoid pure unadulterated business competition.

Our trading partners around the world, as well as many business leaders in America, like the way things are right now. The more protection they receive from government, the harder it is to wean them off government assistance to compete on a fair and level playing field worldwide.

President Trump is right to call for an end to all tariffs and barriers and move toward a global free trade zone. He should press to lower nation-specific U.S. tariffs by 10 percent per year and tell each trading partner nation that as long as they lower their tariffs on U.S. goods and services by commensurate percentages annually, the U.S. will continue to trade with them and lower tariffs until they hit zero on both sides of the equation.

Countries will have to reduce their dependence on unfair trade barriers such as overregulation and currency manipulation which will obviate the need for tariffs in the first place.

The very existence of mutually agreed-upon tariffs between nations sets up the threat of retaliatory tariffs that lead to trade wars later. Free and fair trade can only be accomplished in a tariff-free world.

Tariffs are used typically to protect domestic industries in developing countries that want to grow up the economic ladder to modernity. However, once protected, an industry always wants to “stay protected,” be they in America or overseas.

The Canadian tariff on U.S. milk is 270 percent to protect the interests of 11,000 Canadian dairy farmers. Not the consumers.

In 1791, America was “China” in terms of trade piracy and protectionism. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton wrote the first “Report on Manufactures” which encouraged the nascent government to pay spies to steal English textile manufacturing secrets and bring designs of textile machines back to New Jersey.

It worked. Soon textile mills were all over New England only to be lured to North Carolina and the South a century later by the attraction of cheap hydroelectric power supplied by the Southern Power Company, soon-to-be Duke Power, and other trade incentives such as “cheap labor” costs.

Once a nation has established itself as a stable economy and player on the world stage, the need for prohibitive tariffs and trade barriers diminishes exponentially.

China is now the second-largest economy in the world behind the U.S. They are no longer a “developing” country in need of tariff protection.

They are an economic powerhouse.

China achieved economic success partly due to economic reforms under Deng Xiaoping in 1978 but predominately through unfair trade practices. The Chinese government has engaged in imposing excessive regulatory hoops for foreign companies entering the Chinese market; deliberate manipulation of their currency to maintain price advantages over foreign competitors and serious theft of U.S. technology and ignoring U.S. trademark and patent protection that would make even Alexander Hamilton blush in admiration.

Milton Friedman argued that American consumers benefit from other nations acting so stupidly since they are using their resources to provide cheaper products to American consumers which meant Americans could enjoy a higher standard of living regardless of how unfair foreign trade practices were.

That may be true. But wouldn’t every person on this planet benefit from a perfect trade world absent any tariffs or trade barriers?

Prices would fall precipitously across-the-board around the globe. Nations that hold natural competitive advantages in certain resources and talent would produce and sell top-quality goods and services to the rest of the world and receive high quality goods and services from other nations in return.

Economic reality ultimately trumps human manipulation of trade at every turn. We don’t need new trade agreements built on mercantilist tariffs and protectionism.

We need a new world order of zero tariffs and trade barriers. Everywhere.

*photo courtesy of Bundesregierung/Jesco Denzel/Handout via REUTERS German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to U.S. President Donald Trump during the second day of the G7 meeting in Charlevoix city of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. 

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