Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Another Time For Choosing

“It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers.
This idea? That government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.
Will we continue to believe in our capacity for self-government or will we abandon the American Revolution and confess that intellectual elites in Washington can plan our lives better than we can plan them ourselves?
We are told we must choose between a left or right. I suggest there is only an up or down.
Up — to man’s age-old dream — the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order, or down —to the ant-heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity and humanitarian motives, those who sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path.
Our liberal friends use terms like the “Green New Deal”.  President Obama told us we must accept greater government activity in the affairs of the people.
They say, “Strife will end through our acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism.” Another voice says, “The profit motive has become outmoded. It must be replaced by the welfare state.” Or, “Our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 21st century.”
President Obama said the Constitution is outmoded. His supporters thought of him as “our moral teacher and our leader”. He said he was hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document. He needed to “be freed,” he said, so that he “could do for us” what he knew “was best.”
Liberals define liberalism as “meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government.”
“The full power of centralized government” — this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize by overthrowing King George III. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. They know when a government controls people, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose.
We have come to another time for choosing.
Liberals say: “What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power.” Outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.
We need to restate clearly the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him…. We can not achieve this Dream when our tax policy is engineered by people who view the income tax as a cudgel to achieve changes in our social structure….
Realize that the doctor’s fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can’t socialize doctors without socializing patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business.
If you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he’ll eat you last.
Think about what’s at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemies mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars: forced socialism and fiscal irresponsibility. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.
They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.
Winston Churchill said that “the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits—not animals.” He said, “There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here.
We did all that could be done.”
(Adapted abridged version of Ronald Reagan’s October 27, 1964 nationally televised speech in support of GOP Presidential candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona)
(first published in North State Journal 3/20/19)

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

When Your Opposition Is In The Process of Destroying Themselves….

(first published in North State Journal 3/13/19

There may still be a few Democrats left who believe they are part of the Old Democratic Party of JFK, RFK and Henry “Scoop” Jackson.

They might want to stop watching the news then.

The daily news coming out of Washington, DC is saturated with the latest pronouncement from freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about how to turn the United States of America into the Socialist State of America.  Freshman Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar regularly spews out blatantly anti-Semitic remarks about Jews and Israel. Erstwhile Democratic-presidential-candidate-but-you-know-he-really-is-a-Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders keeps pushing for another new impossible-to-pay-for-program he wants the government, meaning you, the American taxpayer, to pay for.

If you think JFK, his brother Robert Kennedy or defense hawk Senator Jackson of the state of Washington would be a proud Democrat today, you would be wrong. None of them would be a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party much less ever be a nominee for any high political office.

The Democratic Party of the 1960s through the 90s was based on the solid pillars of anti-communism, free enterprise, capitalism and civil rights. They favored legislation aimed at helping the average working American, the elderly and the poor while they stood up to the Cold War Soviet threat in Eastern Europe and communism around the world.

These young socialist Democratic leaders of today and tomorrow want the $44 trillion Green New Deal; the $33 trillion Medicare for All deal, cancellation of $1.56 trillion in student loan debt before offering free college education to everyone and open borders with no immigration rules whatsoever.

Presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker wants everyone to become vegan instead of meat-eaters for the sake of the environment.


There is no room at the inn for old-line Southern Democrats, JFK or RFK Democrats or even modern-era Blue Dog Democrats.

Before Republican enthusiasts get too excited, however, over the internecine warfare on the Democratic side, they should heed the advice of the late great political strategist Lee Atwater:

“When the opposition is in the process of fighting and destroying each other….let them”.

The biggest problem partisans have when they see the other side fighting among themselves is keeping their mouths shut. Inevitably, when they do enter the fray, they say something impertinent, intemperate or just plain wrong which brings public attention back to their party and their inherent fractious battles and the media loses its focus reporting on the damage being done on the other side.

Chinese general, military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu wrote circa 500 BC: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Napoleon reportedly told his generals: “Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.”

The Prussian military strategist Clausewitz wrote often about sowing confusion in the mind of the enemy and taking concentrated specific action to capitalize on that confusion.

When the army of Judah under King Jehoshaphat started singing, the Ammonite and Moabite troops were so confused they attacked and completely destroyed the troops from Edom. Then they turned against each other and destroyed themselves.

Gideon took 300 men into battle against the Midianites with only trumpets. “When they blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every (Midianite) sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled.”

The worst thing any Republican can do right now is divert attention from the dissolution of the modern Democratic Party as it has been known for the past 50 years with an inopportune comment.

Let the Democratic Party become the party of socialism; anti-Semitism, infanticide, anti-capitalism, mandatory gun buybacks and confiscation, less personal freedom and much higher taxes on their own.

Their leaders can’t turn back the tide any more than King Canute could.

The American people can see the unraveling of the Democratic Party themselves. They don’t need any help from a camera-seeking Republican to see the truth. 

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Why Is The Duke Carolina Rivalry So Intense?

Coach Bill Murray of Duke
Coach Frank McGuire
of North Carolina
(published in North State Journal 3/7/19; reprint of earlier post)

Like the Hatfield-McCoy feud, hardly anyone knows why the Duke-Carolina rivalry got so hot and contentious in the first place.

Over 50% of the people who live in North Carolina were not born here. To many of them, the vituperative nature of the rivalry must seem confusing and odd given the stature of both universities as great institutions of research, medicine and higher education.

Memories of Gerald Henderson’s elbow breaking Tyler Hansbrough’s nose makes Tar Heel fans fume about Duke’s dirty players. Photos of Eric Montross shooting free throws with blood running down his face incite Carolina fans to swear Duke’s mascot really is Lucifer dressed in blue.

Walter Davis’ 35-foot bank shot to tie the game in 1974 after being down 8 with 17 seconds to play makes Duke fans visibly collapse at its memory. Say “Austin Rivers” and Tar Heel fans shudder remembering his 3-point rainbow to win by 1 for Duke at the buzzer.

Old-timers point to the 10-minute brawl between Duke’s Art Heyman and Carolina’s Larry Brown in 1961 that spilled into the stands at Duke as the start of the red-hot rivalry. Heyman was supposed to follow fellow Long Islander Brown to Carolina but didn’t and bad blood boiled between the two players and schools for years to come.

Why did the Duke-Carolina rivalry reach such a fever pitch? Competition gets heated between any rival teams. What made Duke-Carolina go nuclear?

According to personal accounts of protagonists at the time, the real reason started when a slick New York Catholic coach, Frank McGuire, came to Chapel Hill in 1952 and brought a slew of great Catholic and Jewish basketball players with him from New York City.

Football was still king in the South in the 1950s. Duke and Carolina football players would have a few beers after games in a collegial manner and swap tall tales for hours on end. There was a common admiration and friendship, not hatred and disdain.

Frank McGuire shook up the gentlemanly nature of the athletic community in North Carolina and the ACC. He sported slick pomaded hair, wore expensive tailored suits and talked in a brusque, clipped New Yawk accent that irritated every Southerner who heard it.

Duke fans hated him. So did fans of every other ACC team.

To make matters worse, for Duke fans especially, McGuire brought a national title to Chapel Hill in 1957 with an undefeated team no less.

Soon there was talk about “recruiting irregularities” under Coach McGuire which caused even the UNC administration to become more than slightly “uncomfortable” with the Tar Heel coach.

When Duke Athletic Director Eddie Cameron went public with his concerns about McGuire’s recruiting tactics, Coach McGuire held a press conference specifically to call Cameron a “prick” for questioning his integrity.

All hell broke loose in the Duke athletic department.

Duke Football Coach Bill Murray, renowned for his vice-like handshakes, swore he would kill McGuire for insulting his friend Eddie Cameron and got into his car heading to Chapel Hill to do just that.

Somehow an assistant coach cut him off in a chase car before Murray got to Chapel Hill to commit capital murder with his bare hands and disaster was averted.

Seething anger became deep-set in the Duke football program under Murray and emotions and fistfights spilled out on the gridiron often during the annual year-end Duke-Carolina games.

But it was on the basketball court in hot, steamy Duke Indoor Stadium and Carmichael Auditorium where the Duke-Carolina rivalry became molten steel-hot and still is to this day. Having national title caliber talent, teams and coaches battle each other for the past 60 years has only added to the rivalry every winter. 

You can thank Frank McGuire and Bill Murray for igniting the rivalry every time you watch the next Duke Carolina classic. It would not be the same without them

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Corporate Tax Incentives: Capitalism or Socialism?

(first published in North State Journal 2/20/19)

The withdrawal of Amazon from Long Island City, New York after massive opposition from the left-wing of the local Democratic party has unveiled at least one thing on which left-wing socialists can agree with right-wing conservatives:

Corporate tax incentives are bad.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, now the titular leader of the National Democratic Party,  tweet-gloated after hearing about Amazon’s withdrawal: “Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world’s biggest corporations? Yes, they can.”

Amazon will not be hiring 25,000 people in Queens, many of which would have been in AOC’s congressional district. The average salary was expected to be $150,000 per job.

State and local governments of New York offered $3 billion in tax abatements and subsidies to Amazon. Future tax payments to New York governments from 25,000 new jobs was expected to be in the range of $20 billion or more which looked like a pretty good deal to Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio who were counting on those revenues to expand government programs.

It was a good deal if you support government co-mingling with private enterprise, that is.

AOC’s argument against the incentives was that the money could be better spent on the direct needs of people in New York instead of helping a wealthy corporation make more money. She thought $3 billion in incentives was cash paid directly to Amazon instead of phasing-in over a number of years in lower tax payments.

Many conservatives must be silently high-fiving AOC and her comrades for defeating the Amazon deal. “After all”, they say, “why does government recruit companies with taxpayer money? Keep taxes and regulations low, build an educated workforce and they will come.”

What are corporate incentives: capitalism or socialism?

Eric Shiffer, a New York businessman blurred the argument when he said: 
“[Ocasio-Cortez] is a rat poison to the heartbeat of capitalism…(F)or her to be celebrating the lost jobs, thousands of construction and blue collar jobs that come from building [Amazon’s] headquarters, as well as executive jobs and corporate jobs, steps on the throat of what keeps democracy alive — capitalism, not socialism.”
“Rat poison to the heartbeat of capitalism”? Will democracy and private enterprise die unless government intervenes to recruit companies such as Amazon with taxpayer money?

Most of the time, the damage to free enterprise comes when government tries to do things better left to the private sector.

Are corporate tax incentives one of them?

In 1992, when Southern states were hemorrhaging tens of thousands of textile jobs, BMW received $130 million in tax incentives from South Carolina that transformed the 30-mile I-85 corridor between Greenville and Spartanburg from Textile Mill Central to Leipzig South.
61,500 South Carolinians work in the auto manufacturing industry today.

In 1993, Alabama offered the then-unbelievable amount of $250 million in incentives to Mercedes-Benz to build a plant in Vance to replace textile jobs in their state. The North Carolina congressional delegation, Governor and NCGA were aghast at such an outlandish proposal compared to what North Carolina offered.

40,000 Alabamians work in the auto industry today.

North Carolina still has no appreciable employment related to the automobile industry 23 years later.

AOC might have won the battle to stop Amazon from going to New York City. Some state will win the war by offering $3 billion or more and 25,000 Amazon jobs will go there instead.

We live in a Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) system of state economic competition whether we like it or not. Until voters who don’t like politicians using their tax money to entice companies to locate in their state vote them out of office nationwide, the Amazons of the world will pick and choose where they will locate next and hire 25,000 North Carolinians, Texans or North Dakotans.

They won’t be Yankees in Queens, New York. That is for sure.

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My Health Care Is Too Expensive!

(first published in North State Journal 2/27/19)

One of the most interesting things about health care debates is how everyone believes they are “paying too much for health care!”

In reality, 98% of all Americans pay far less than the full actuarial cost of health care for them and their families. The only people who pay the full amount are 7.5 million self-employed who do not benefit from any subsidy on the ACA exchanges and who pay for their individual health plans straight-up every month.

Everyone else has their health care subsidized by someone else, be it their employer that pays 82% of employee health care costs on average each month or the taxpayer who pays 100% of Medicaid for poor citizens at the state and federal level; at least 85% of all Medicare costs for senior citizens and whatever subsidy is available for ACA-eligible applicants.

The wonder is how no one outside of the individual market seems to know how lucky they are when it comes to paying for health care in America.

The attached chart is a very simplified comparison of what Americans enrolled in different plans pay each month for their health care. It does not take into account the myriad of options of coverage or the vast differential in deductibles or co-payments each person has to pay before getting full reimbursement coverage.

74 million poor people pay zero for their health care coverage in Medicaid since they do not make enough to be able to pay for it in the first place.  State employees in North Carolina only recently started paying any monthly premiums at all in that $3.7 billion annual program that is paid by state tax dollars but now pay $50/month for full individual coverage.

The average employee of a company, university or large institution of any sort pays approximately $120/month for their share of health care premium cost coverage. 44 million seniors over age 65 on Medicare pay $135/month for basic Part B physician coverage (Medicare Advantage adds to that base) and receive Part A Hospital coverage for free essentially since those benefits are paid for by current payroll tax deductions from every wage-earner in America.

A federal employee pays $243/month for health care insurance despite internet memes that assert federal workers and Congressmen get “free health care for life!” which is false.

The only people in the American economy who pay the full freight of the actuarial average cost of health care of over $7000/person/year are the people who are self-employed or who work in small businesses that do not provide health care benefits.

They pay at least $600/month for an individual plan. Up to $2400/month in some cases for a couple.

When health care costs go up 5%, an employee of a large corporation might see an increase of $5 in withholding for their health care coverage in each monthly paycheck. $60 per year.

A person on an individual plan would see an increase of $360/year by comparison.

Most Americans have a pretty good deal when it comes to health care coverage. As long as “someone else” keeps paying for most of the monthly premium, that is.

If people were forced to pay 75% of the real cost of their insurance coverage, we would see a massive revolution in how health care is delivered and paid for overnight.

The future unpaid-for liability of close to $100 trillion for all entitlements is enough to bankrupt America. Add in $33 billion in unfunded liability for the North Carolina state retiree health plan and it becomes pretty evident that we have a ticking time bomb on our hands that we, the living generation, have to fix before handing it off to our children and grandchildren.

Moving away from “other people paying for my health insurance coverage” to a more patient-based system is one step towards forcing discipline in the health care industry.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Oligarchicide—The Far Left Attack On Wealth

Morehead-Cain Foundation
Duke Medical Center

(first published in North State Journal 2/13/19)

After the Peloponnesian War, the Spartans dismantled the Athenian democracy and replaced it with a group of wealthy oligarchs called the Thirty Tyrants.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues in the current Socialist Democratic Party of America must think our Founders replaced a monarchy with Oligarchs 230 years ago.

In the view of many in the rapidly-drifting-to-the-extreme-far-left-socialist Democratic Party, our country is run by wealthy people who are “immoral” simply because they have wealth and others do not.

They think we would be better off without any wealthy people. “Oligarchicide” it would be called if we got rid of them all.

How “immoral” can wealthy people be?

  • James Buchanan Duke built an international tobacco empire in Durham. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians were employed over the past century either in the tobacco-growing industry or in manufacturing centers around the state. The Dukes started Duke Power, now Duke Energy, which is the largest energy company in America today.

    With his wealth, he and the Duke family endowed Duke University which spawned the internationally-acclaimed Duke Medical Center and something called “Krzyzewskiville”. They established the Duke Endowment which funds Davidson College, Furman and Johnson C. Smith University and a myriad of charitable organizations across the Carolinas.

  • John Motley Morehead III studied chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. He started the Union Carbide Company after figuring out a way to manufacture acetylene gas for industrial use. Not only have tens of thousands of people worked at Union Carbide over the past century, he gave much of his wealth to start the Morehead Foundation at Chapel Hill, endowed the Morehead (now Morehead-Cain) Scholarship program and built the Morehead Planetarium and various other buildings on campus for everyone to use.

Had both Mr. Duke and Mr. Morehead been George Bailey and been granted a wish to see what life would have been like in North Carolina had they never been born, they would have seen a rural state that would have been far poorer, less educated and unhealthier longer than it was.

Both men had a “gift” for business just as a doctor has a gift to help people get well, a respected judge has a gift of distributing justice fairly or Zion Williamson has the gift of slam-dunking for the Duke Blue Devils.

All gifted people who do well make us all better off in the long-run by doing what they do well.
John Antonio Pascarella, Hayek Visiting Scholar at the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism calls such a gift for business the “Money-Making Art”:
“The Greek word usually translated as "business" is chrēmatistikē (money-making art). The art of chrēmata could be translated as "money," or "property," but literally means "useful things". That would mean the money-making art should more properly be understood as “the art of useful things”.  
This fits the Greek root of the word — chrē — which means "use or need."  That would be the clearest way to understand the natural root of money-making, which for Aristotle is a limited part of what we broadly call "economics."

James B. Duke and John Motley Morehead did not know they would one day be fabulously wealthy as a result of their vision, hard work and determination. No one does. No one would go through all the trials and frustrations of starting and running a business if they thought they would be subject to the heavy-handed coercive force of government under control of socialists such as AOC who would confiscate the fruits of their ingenuity and invention to the tune of 70% or more.

The extremism of today’s left-wing socialist Democrats should be roundly derided by sound-thinking Democrats, Independents and Republicans everywhere. What they want is not American at all in terms of philosophy, practicality or ethos.

The confiscatory nature of their proposals would be truly tyrannical in practice.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Lizard Brain of a Conservative

The Lizard Brain Part of A Conservative
(first published in North State Journal 2/6/19)

Springtime brings new sessions of Congress and the NC state legislature. Budgets have to be cobbled together. Spending priorities get set for the year. Appropriations are made later to conform with budget instructions.

Liberals must go crazy trying to understand the brains of conservatives during these times. “How can they possibly not support expanding Medicaid, spending more on public education, affordable housing and environmental protection every single year?” they must fret about while wringing their hands.

Liberals think fiscal conservatives have lizard brains. Lizards don’t have the capacity for deep rational or emotional thought. They eat, sleep, try to avoid being eaten themselves, reproduce and slither in and out of rocks all day long.

Liberals think conservatives are cold-hearted, mean-spirited and simply callous to the needs of others.

When it comes to government budgets, true fiscal conservatives do think in simple terms, however it is not cruel.

It is balanced.
“Whatever is being spent in total today is enough to ask taxpayers to fund out of their pockets. If someone wants to expand a program or spend money on a new initiative, they are obligated to say what taxes they will raise or what other existing program they will cut to pay for it first.”
That is how PAYGO (Pay-As-You-Go) started in the Budget Enforcement Act passed by Congress in 1990. PAYGO was the most successful budgeting tool ever in the history of this country until President Bush 43 and the Republicans essentially neutered it in 2003.

We had the only 4 balanced budgets in our lifetime from 1998-2001 as a result of BEA. Had PAYGO remained fully in force, we would not be in the fiscal maelstrom we are in today.

At the state level, lizard-brained conservatives don’t mind spending the entire annual state budget on one program be it Medicaid, public education, public safety or transportation, the Four Horsemen of every state budget, as long as all other programs are cut and eliminated and no new higher taxes are imposed on state taxpayers.

Whatever the total amount of government spending is today, lizard brains want to hold the line on more government spending. They prefer to eliminate programs that don’t work and spend that money on another priority.

Better yet, return those savings to the taxpayer in the form of tax cuts or refunds. Lizard brains believe people spend their own money more wisely than government bureaucrats and elected officials can anyway.

In the view of lizard-brain conservatives, all liberals want to do is to keep every existing government program fully funded and then add on more new government spending for whatever they want to spend your money on next.

At the federal level, the only program liberals ever want to cut is in defense spending. Defense and construction of roads are two federal programs explicitly mentioned in the Constitution so lizard brains at least have the constitutional mandate argument to rely on in both cases.

If you are an elected official, here’s how to engineer universal goodwill among all voters but especially the Unaffiliated voters whom now represent 34% of all voters in North Carolina:

  • Set aside one entire year for legislative oversight and conduct a truly bipartisan effort to clear out every government program that has out-lived its usefulness or is not achieving its stated goals.

To my knowledge, over the past 40 years, there has been only 1 federal program that was voted out of existence. The Federal Helium Reserve. It began in 1925 to provide helium for a new-fangled thing called a dirigible. It was privatized in 1996 and presumed dead only to have Congress re-authorize it in 2013.

Even dead federal programs come back to life like Lazarus.

Liberals: If you want to expand Medicaid and continue to increase spending on public education, help lizard brain conservatives find the way to pay for them first. Not after the fact.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Propositional Republic Of America

"One day, there really will be a place where everyone,
every man and woman of every race, creed and religion, will
be free and equal to everyone else."
(first published in the North State Journal 1/30/19)
At the end of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Mrs. Powel asked Ben Franklin: “Well, Doctor Franklin, what do we have, a monarchy or a republic?”

To which he replied: “A republic, if you can keep it”.

But what kind of republic did they create? Republics have meant many different things over history ranging from national legislatures dominated by wealthy Senators to republics in name only where an autocrat ruled with an iron fist behind the scenes.

Ramon Lopez, a post-doctoral fellow in the Tocqueville Program at Furman University spoke to The Institute for the Public Trust which I run last weekend in Charlotte. He pointed out that America was first a “propositional republic” prior to being a democratic republic as established in the Constitution in 1787.

Our country was based on an idea first before the machinery of our current government was established by the Constitution. An idea of freedom and equality, not another government ruled by monarchs.

President Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address said our new nation was “dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal” in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 long before the Constitution was written and adopted.  All that followed rested upon that propositional phrase.

Professor Lopez pointed out that Rome was a “propositional idea” as well. To be truly “Roman” meant any conquered people could enjoy the freedoms of a Roman citizens regardless of race, creed or religion, as long as they adopted the rules of Roman citizenship while being protected from outside invaders by the Roman army, the most powerful fighting force on earth at the time.

The founding myth of Rome, he said, was that “they were descended from immigrants, exiles, and, criminals. The Romans claimed that a prince had escaped Troy when it was sacked by the Greeks, and that he found his way to central Italy. His descendants eventually founded the city of Rome, inviting anyone to settle it—anyone who was poor, or desperate, or in need of a new home….(T)o be a Roman became a civic designation, not an ethnic one.”

We have a direct intellectual and philosophical umbilical cord connecting modern-day America to the democracies of ancient Greece and the Roman Republic dating up to 2500 years ago. Unless we teach it to the next generations, we will forget it and the underlying principles of equality and fairness to all.

The birth of the United States of America was not tied to the Muslim tradition as President Obama tried to assert several years ago. The men who founded America were deeply ensconced in the history and tradition of both Greek and Roman civilizations. They learned to read by reading the Bible and Plutarch’s Lives; they relaxed by reading Thucydides and Euripides.

Without our collective understanding and embrace of that fundamental philosophical proposition underpinning of our nation, our democratic republic would have failed long ago. Without understanding Jefferson’s proposition as the most essential foundational principle to our government, America will fail as the ancient Greek democracies and Roman Republics failed when they forgot what proposition their nation was founded on in the beginning.

At North Carolina A&T several years ago, an African-American woman asked a simple question: “Mr. Hill, when are we going to stop calling ourselves African-Americans or Irish-Americans and just call ourselves “Americans”?

That is a good question. What is the propositional phrase we can all recognize and accept today and move ahead as if we are playing on the same team?

Perhaps it is a recommitment to the revolutionary idea that “all people are indeed created equal”. No one is better or worse than anyone else. We all have the same aspirations and hopes for a better life as free people.

Maybe then we can move ahead to solve the issues we face together. As equals.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Kabuki Dance of Government Shutdowns

'You Know We Will Re-Open Government; We Know We Will Re-Open Government'
(first published in North State Journal 1/15/19)
After World War II, Japanese diplomats wanted to change the image of Japan from one of being murderous war mongers to being one of creative world leaders.

To cultivate goodwill among the American public during years of tedious treaty negotiations, troupes of Japanese kabuki dancers were sent to the US for entertainment purposes. The hope was that Americans would learn to appreciate the ancient Japanese culture through the intricate, slow motions of kabuki with its stories of deception and intrigue which always ended in a resolution that the protagonists clearly knew would happen from the outset.

The effort failed miserably. Returning GIs were too busy buying tract homes and fathering and raising Baby Boomers in a bustling post-war economy to want to learn about the culture of a nation that attacked Pearl Harbor, caused 426,000 American casualties and ended in atomic warfare.

In 1961, Henry Taylor of the Los Angeles Times called a political maneuver by President Kennedy to fire undersecretary of State Chester Bowles a ‘left-wing kabuki’ dance and political machinations on both sides have been labeled ‘kabuki theatre’ ever since.

The Current Government Shutdown Is A Kabuki Dance Masterpiece.

Government shutdowns are bad policy. They hardly ever achieve their stated goal, which, in this case, would be the construction of The Wall between the US and Mexico.

Everyone knows we are going to re-open the federal government 100% sometime. The actors on stage, President Trump, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are going through the same long drawn-out and very slow motions of deception and intrigue seen in every other government shutdown that failed as well.

What is the ‘pressure point’ that makes a shutdown seem like a good political tactic to employ in the first place?

No money is ever saved during any federal shutdown.

85% of the federal government is operational today under the ‘partial shutdown’ scenario established after past shutdowns.

2/3rds of the $4 trillion federal budget is spent on mandatory spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. ALL of those checks flow because they are ‘mandated’ by government to be paid at all times which would include during nuclear warfare.
850,000 furloughed federal workers will be paid in full once they return to work after the shutdown ends. Some single-earners may find it difficult to pay the bills unless a federal credit union will float them a short-term loan but essentially, shutdowns become ‘paid vacations’ for federal workers.

Net interest costs continue to accrue on $21 trillion of national debt already on the books. With interest rates rising from the near-zero levels under 8 years of President Obama to more ‘normal’ rates of 3-4%, the total net cost of interest paid will roughly double in 2019 over 2016 levels.

Most of the 300,000 currently furloughed federal workers live in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, Maryland metro area. Those areas never vote for a Republican President anyway so President Trump won’t be punished at the polls in 2020 in those areas for his role in the shutdown.

What is a better way to get The Wall done?

Cut a deal.

$5 billion is ‘decimal dust’ in federal budget terms. $5 billion is 0.125% of annual spending.

We incur additional debt of $5 billion per day.

Find 10 states with heavy Democratic representation that need 1 bridge built for $500 million each.

Get those Democrats to support The Wall in exchange for a bridge in their states, $5 billion for $5 billion.

A second option would be to grant permanent work status for 700,000 DACA recipients in return for the entire $25 billion to complete The Wall, be it physical, electronic or an Invisible Fence along the Rio Grande border.

There’s a deal to be made. Make it and end this senseless kabuki dance once and for all and forever.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Democracy is God's Government

(first published in North State Journal 1/23/19)

“You see, the Founding Fathers were really influenced by the Bible.

“The whole concept of the ‘imago dei,’ as it is expressed in Latin, the ‘image of God,’ is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected.

“Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity.

“And we must never forget this as a nation: there are no gradations in the image of God.

“Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God.

“One day we will learn that. 

“We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “American Dream” sermon, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, July 4, 1965.

In 1710, the Rev. John Wise, a Congregationalist minister in Massachusetts, preached from the pulpit: “Every man must be acknowledged to be equal to every man. … The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor…”

The Rev. Wise would preach to the American colonists that democracy is God’s chosen form of government for both the church and the state because it relies on the natural state of man being made free by God in the first place over civil government having dominion over them.

It was certainly preferable over rule by a single fallible, fallen creature monarch, the King of England at that time.

He was not advocating the establishment of America as a theocracy to be ruled by church leaders. He was talking about every citizen having been given the equal natural right by God to pursue their happiness and not live under a dictator or tyrant who demanded they pay taxes to support their rule first over pursuing their own personal dreams and ambitions.

The same ideals John Wise preached were the same ideals MLK preached 250 years later for everyone, including African-Americans and women who were excluded before at the time of the Rev. Wise’s preaching. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty and individual rights were the same ideals people hoped for in the 18th century as they were in the 20th and now in the 21st century.

In a speech commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, President Calvin Coolidge expounded on the sermons of the Rev. Wise and said: “Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make government.”

Any law or regulation that restricts entry or competition in a marketplace of ideas, products or services is less than “ideal.” It contradicts the natural law freedom of that person to pursue their happiness and provide for themselves and their family.

We cannot unwind the mistakes of the past. We can set a course for the future to “live together as brothers” and “respect the dignity and worth of every man” as the Rev. King wished for in his “American Dream” sermon by encouraging more freedom, not less, in every aspect of American life.

America was not perfect at the beginning. We certainly are not perfect now. The only way we can make this a “more perfect Union,” and we have to keep trying, is through our currently existing democratic republic form of representative democracy.

Not through an experiment with “free-for-all” (except the taxpayers) democratic socialism.

You will never hear anyone talk about “republican socialism.” It would antithetical to the principles of natural law individual freedom expressed by both the Revs. John Wise and Martin Luther King Jr. 250 years apart.

Forced involuntary socialism is not God’s government. Democratic republicanism is. Let’s keep it that way.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

"Remember Rick McIntyre!'

'Congressman-Elect McIntyre: You're the winner!'
'Nope, Congressman McCloskey:
You are the winner!'

The empty congressional office of the 9th District of North Carolina brings to mind other close congressional elections in the past.

In 1984, former Harris Teeter executive Republican Alex “Landslide” McMillan defeated Democrat D.G. Martin by 321 votes. In 1986, former Republican Congressman Howard “Landslide” Coble won his first re-election by 79 votes in a rematch with the incumbent Democrat he defeated in 1984, Robin Britt.

Both elections were scrutinized for “discrepancies” and “voting irregularities” post-election. Ballot boxes were impounded and recounts were ordered. Weeks went by before final election results were certified by state authorities and the winners were allowed to serve in the 99th Congress.

Nothing took the cake, however, like the 8th District Congressional race in 1984 in Indiana.

Congressman Frank McCloskey appeared to be the winner election night by 72 votes only to be reversed several days later when an “accounting error” (sic?) was found that gave state Rep. Rick McIntyre a 34-vote margin of victory.

There were two very important issues at play then as now. One is the somewhat confusing and overlapping responsibilities governing elections given to the states and Congress in Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution.

The second is the apparent lack of progress in electoral verification despite all of the computer and technological advances since 1984. “Voting irregularities” still haunt our elections.

Indiana’s Republican secretary of state certified McIntyre as the winner and a subsequent recount extended his lead over McCloskey. However, the Democrats — under Speaker Tip O’Neill, who controlled the 99th Congress by 71 votes — set up a “bipartisan” (again sic?) task force of two Democrats and one Republican that conducted a review and somehow deemed McCloskey the winner by four votes and seated him in Congress instead of McIntyre.

Eight Democratic operatives were indicted the next year in 1986 under charges they conspired to pay voters between $15 and $35 apiece to vote a straight Democratic ticket in 1982 and 1984, including the contested McIntyre race.

All of this was too late to help McIntyre, who went on to lose his 1986 rematch with McCloskey. To all of the detractors who deny voter or election fraud ever happens anywhere in America because everyone in politics is too virtuous to commit fraud, this is just one more data point refuting such naivete.

To our knowledge, no incoming Democrat has been refused a seat in Congress under Republican control in recent history. Republicans tend to believe states should make their own rules for election even if some of the winners are less than virtuous, to put it politely.

One former member was overheard saying when a thrice-convicted congressman was elected from Louisiana: “Well, even scoundrels and crooks need representation too!”

Should the majority party controlling Congress be able to overturn any election anywhere in the country? Or should states be the final arbiter of any election outcome in their state be it a federal office or state or local?

In the 1984 election, 234,092 registered Indiana voters voted for either McIntyre or McCloskey. Were they denied their “one-man/one-vote” constitutional right to decide who their congressman would be when Democrat leaders in Congress made their unilateral decision to seat McCloskey instead of McIntyre?

Last year, 282,717 registered North Carolinian voters voted for either Mark Harris, Dan McCready or Libertarian candidate Jeff Scott, who got 5,130 votes. Should they have the right to decide who should represent them on the big issues in Washington, or should Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer have that responsibility?

Voters in the state of North Carolina should have the final say in who represents them in Congress. Either certify Harris as the congressman or hold a special re-election as soon as possible so the people of the 9th District have a representative vote in the 116th Congress.

(first published in North State Journal 1/9/2019)

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

How To Remain Sane Through 2019

Michael Cromartie: Meet St. Augustine
Augustine: Meet Michael Cromartie

(first published in North State Journal 1/2/19)

Here are the headlines optimists and conservatives want to see in 2019:
  • Economic Growth Hits 4%!
  • Unemployment Falls to 2%!
  • Stock Market Hits 30,000!
Here are the headlines pessimists and liberals want to see in 2019:
  • Trump Impeached! Second President Forced to Resign from the White House!
  • Economy Tanks! It Is All Trump’s Fault!
  • America Gives Up On Capitalism and Turns to Socialism!
Will any of these come true next year?

No one knows what will happen 1 year, 1 month or even 1 day in the future with 100% certainty.

Think of the poor weathermen; they have science and satellites on their side and they often predict a snowmageddon that turns into nothing.

Each person can control how they respond to life, however. They can turn off the 24-hour news and cable show talking heads if they are driving them crazy; shut down their social media accounts; start reading great literature; go on daily hikes; volunteer more in their after-work hours to help others in need and generally take better care of their own personal health, physical, mental and spiritual.

One truth of the matter in 2018 is that many of us spend far too much time worrying about politics and what other people are doing when we could spend that same amount of time doing whatever we can do to make things better in any number of ways.

A dear departed friend, Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC, (yes, there is such a place) used to talk about returning to an ‘Augustinian sensibility’ about the role of politics in our daily lives. As he described it:
‘We need to adopt a form of Christian realism that recognizes that, because of the Fall, we live in a world that will remain sinful and broken until the end of time. While living in a broken world, our task, if it’s political, is to help the state curb that brokenness and that sinfulness in a way that aims toward justice.
I use the phrase “Augustinian sensibility” to lean against a Utopian temptation for people on the Right or the Left who give the political realm more significance than it should be given.
So it’s a chastened view of politics, but it’s not anti-political. People should have firm, clear political convictions on what justice means, without becoming so ideologically wired that they have over-expectations for what can happen in the public policy realm.
It’s a Christian cast of mind. Having that cast of mind can help nurture a form of Christian civility that is really important in these times, when we have a culture that is more shrill than ever.’
The same should be said by the atheist, the agnostic, the Jew or the Muslim. We can all lean against the temptation to think that mere mortal men can establish a Utopia here on earth through politics and coercive government and seek to do justice and spread mercy through our daily interactions with as many people as we can.

Will universal adoption of this ‘Augustinian sensibility’ mean 2019 will see a historical budget deal to balance our budget signed by President Trump after 100% buy-in from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and all the Republicans in the US Senate and Congress? Will it mean The Wall will be built? Will it mean any of the big public policy problems we face will be solved by some clever creative bipartisan compromised legislation?

Probably not all by itself.

However, if we adopt Michael Cromartie’s ‘chastened view of politics’, we will be spared the hypertension of watching the evening news or listening to talk radio 24/7 and be pleasantly surprised by anything positive happening in 2019 instead of disappointed by the new year.

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