Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Sky Really Is Falling on Social Security

(click through title link to see video)
 You've been bombarded with a lot of information over the past year about a lot of issues, a lot of which really are not that important to the vast majorities of people living in America today when it all comes down to it.

Politics tends to default to the lowest common denominator in terms of highlighting issues that prey on people's emotions to get them to vote for one side or the other on Election Day. You see it all the time from all sides of the political spectrum and that has been the case in American politics since Jefferson and Hamilton and Adams were hammering each other.

Social Security is not one of those lowest common denominator issues. It is probably one of only 2 federal programs (Medicare being the other) everyone in this country either pays directly into (in the form of payroll taxes) and/or benefits from financially if you live long enough to participate in either program in retirement.

Therefore, you need to know all you can about the facts and figures of Social Security as well as all the 'myths' that surround the program mainly because of its massive size and complications.

The Committee for Fiscal Responsibility has produced this comprehensive document, 'Nine Social Security Myths You Shouldn't Believe' which should provide you with as much information as you could ever want to consume to be knowledgeable about the current state of Social Security so you can converse with your friends and colleagues and hopefully edify and educate them as well.

  • Myth #1: We don’t need to worry about Social Security for many years.
  • Myth #2: Social Security faces only a small funding shortfall.
  • Myth #3: Social Security solvency can be achieved solely by making the rich pay the same as everyone else.
  • Myth #4: Today’s workers will not receive Social Security benefits.
  • Myth #5: Social Security would be fine if we hadn’t “raided the trust fund.”
  • Myth #6: Social Security cannot run a deficit.
  • Myth #7: Social Security has nothing to do with the rest of the budget.
  • Myth #8: Social Security can be saved by ending waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • Myth #9: Raising the retirement age hits low-income seniors the hardest.

We won't go into much detail here other than to show you the key charts and graphs below that highlight the refutation of the myths mentioned above. Hopefully, these charts will either interest or alarm you enough to force you to read the entirety of the 10-page CFRB report so you will become fully versed in the gravity of the situation now facing us in Social Security 'insolvency' or at least 'severe shortfall'.

Just to give your heart a little palpitation today, consider Myth # 6:

Myth #6: Social Security cannot run a deficit.

Fact: Social Security is running a cash deficit today, and it will keep running deficits until its trust funds run out. (Figures 4&5 below)
Social Security is legally barred from going into debt; in other words, it cannot spend more than it takes in (or has transferred in) over the life of the program. However, the program can (and does) run annual deficits. In 2016, for example, Social Security will run a cashflow deficit of about $70 billion.
Over the next decade, the Trustees project cash-flow deficits of $1.5 trillion, and CBO projects deficits of $2.2 trillion.7 Even including interest income, the program is projected to begin running deficits by 2018 or 2020.
2018 or 2020. That is right around the corner, ladies and gentlemen! Have you heard even a peep out of our Chief Executive, President Barack Obama about this looming crisis? Nope. Not a word.

Everyone 'presumes' that since Social Security is funded by its own separate payroll tax, that it is always going to be funded solely by those revenues.

What is happening now is that Social Security essentially is dipping into the same general pot of revenue the government receives every day from taxpayers that has been used to pay for defense, homeland security, transportation and environmental protection programs.

What most people do not realize is that that same general revenue pot of money is currently ALSO funding close to 85% of the entire Medicare budget in the country and 100% of all the Medicaid budget funded by the federal government nationwide.

What happens when Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the national debt consume 100% of federal tax revenues paid into the US Treasury each year and the majority of SS funding comes from general tax revenue, not just the dedicated payroll tax?

Nothing else will get funded unless we borrow THE ENTIRETY of our defense, transportation, homeland security, welfare, environmental protection, foreign aid, science and tech, housing and education budgets from overseas sources.

If you are a young working person out there today, you can be enamored all you want by the promises of Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton but just realize that nothing he/she promises you is likely to ever happen under him or her or any other President to follow in your lifetime.

The cash shortfalls in Social Security pretty much insure that the days of an expanding welfare state in America are over and done with.

You can't expand what you can't pay for. And you young people are going to find it very difficult to fund even the Social Security promises made to your grandparents and parents in the next 10 years when the vast majority of the Baby Boom population start drawing Social Security checks directly out of your FICA or payroll taxes every single month.*

Unless dramatic changes are made to all of our entitlement programs under the next President and Congress that is.

The 2017-2018 115th Congressional session could be the most impactful session of Congress in your young lifetimes.

You better hope the right people get elected for your future.

 *(side-note: When SS started, there were almost 42 workers to help pay for the benefits of every single retiree because there were so few retirees eligible at the time and so many workers. Today, the ratio is about 2.5 workers to pay for every retiree on SS. So good luck on that.)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

‘Black Male Lives Matter’ ...Therefore We Need Social Security Reform

first appeared in North State Journal, 4/24/2016 page A7

One of the more egregious inequities in the US federal budget is the way African-American males are treated by Social Security.

How is that you say? ‘Social Security was passed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to help every older person regardless of race survive in their golden retirement years!’ you can hear defenders of Social Security start to shout.

Consider this:

If you, or an African-American, or a Hispanic or any person who has worked during your lifetime, male or female, die 5 minutes before you become eligible for Social Security benefits, now at about 66 years of life, you will receive exactly $0 for all of those hard-earned dollars and cents you religiously paid in payroll taxes every tax period, whether you liked it or not and whether you even knew it or not.

Your surviving spouse will be eligible for benefits after your death. But it will be nowhere near what it could have been had Social Security been set up as a defined contribution program similar to a 401k program or IRA that takes your hard-earned dollars and puts them in a dedicated investment plan with only your name on it, to grow through the miracle of compound interest and dividends over the years of your working career.

So why does this matter if someone is white versus African-American or Hispanic or any other ethnicity?

The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently published a report, Shorter Life Expectancy Reduces Projected Lifetime Benefits for Lower Earners which sounds obvious except when you delve into the numbers and see that disproportionately high numbers of African-American males are affected.

Average life expectancy for African-American males in the United States now is about 72 years. White males can expect to live over 79 years. Everyone is living longer nowadays due to better nutrition and advances in medical breakthroughs and technology beyond the wildest dreams of people even 25 years ago.

However, when you consider that the eligibility age for Social Security is 66, a fair number of African American males will not live long enough to receive one dollar of any of the Social Security payroll taxes they paid into the system over their lifetimes.

The truly only ‘fair way’ to rectify this injustice is to transition to a private investment system for each and every person. Instead of receiving nothing in benefits in the case of the African-American male mentioned above, had such a system been in place since 1980, even at a low-wage scale, his estate would have had perhaps several hundred thousand dollars in it that could be used to pay off the mortgage, pay for someone’s higher education or generally take care of his surviving spouse in a more comfortable fashion.

The current Social Security system can be considered the bare minimum, ‘The Minimum Wage’-version of what a retirement plan could look like.

With a new system that uses direct investment vehicles for each and every person, at least when a person dies, his or her family could receive a lump-sum payment far in excess of any amount of SS benefits they could have ever received during the working partner’s lifetime.

It is one major way millions of lower-income and African-American males can help their families and generations-to-follow better off financially as they build wealth for the future. Black male lives matter just as much as every other working person’s lives matter.

We should change Social Security to make it happen.

Maybe we can get some of the political candidates running for any office, say, those running for President, to start discussing matters of importance such as this with the American people.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Should President Obama Apologize for Hiroshima?

There has been speculation that President Obama is seeking an opportunity during the upcoming G-7 Conference in Japan to go to Hiroshima to apologize in some manner for the United States dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki to end World War II in the Pacific in 1945.

It would be the coda to his 2 terms in the White House where seemingly every injustice in the world can be traced to 'American Imperialism!' or 'American Capitalist Greed!'. From his very first world trips, they have been described as 'apology tours' designed to make friends with everyone, including our enemies, and the world will all come together and sing 'I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke!' or something. (click through the title link if you can not see the video below)

President Obama has repeatedly 'bowed' to foreign leaders, both friendly and non-friendly during his two terms in the White House. Not just figuratively speaking but in actual physical practice.

American Presidential tradition has been to not bow to foreign leaders ever since George Washington defeated the Redcoats under King George III. Think President Washington would have ever bowed or curtsied to His Majesty and Queen had he ever met them in person? (which he didn't)

With this presidential campaign season upon us, we thought it might be interesting to speculate on what an accurate and more realistic presidential address to the world would look like when it came to America 'taking responsibility' for our actions on the world scene over the past 246 years:

'Dear Citizens of the World:

The Great American Experiment will never grow old or die.

We were founded on the predicate that every person is endowed and created with certain inalienable rights such as life, freedom and the right to pursue whatever endeavor you so choose during your life here on earth.

We believe in freedom and democracy so much that we have engaged not only in a major civil war on our own soil to free millions of people from oppression, where more Americans died fighting for that freedom than in any and all wars combined since, we have entered into wars on foreign soil to help free hundreds of millions of people from destruction, death and vile oppression from sadistic, mad leaders the world over.

For that, we will never apologize.

We will never apologize for helping to liberate Europe from the madman Adolf Hitler who murdered over 6 million Jews for the 'crime' of not fitting his idealized notion of what an Aryan Nation should look like.

We will never apologize for bringing to a close the communist darkness that was known as the Soviet Union whose very own leaders, Josef Stalin as the worst of them, murdered or imprisoned over 100 million of its own citizens before the USSR died on Christmas Day, 1991 of all blessed days.

We will never apologize for bringing to an end the murderous, ruthless and ultimately mindless leadership of the Emperor of Japan who caused the death and brutal destruction of perhaps tens of millions of Chinese and southeast Asian people prior to and during World War II.

We will not apologize for ridding the world of ISIS and Al Qaeda one day soon in the near future when we can all stand together and say we did.

We hope and pray that we will never again see wars waged on a scale of the world war that ended with the unleashing of nuclear weapons on the face of this earth. Our collective survival depends on keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of madmen and mad states who would seek to do otherwise.

We wish we would see the days where walls of cities and enemies such as the Midianites were brought down solely by loud trumpets and faith.

But until we do, we Americans will never stop defending freedom, promoting democracy, advancing free enterprise and protecting innocent people and then returning home after insuring their security and leave the people of each new free nation to live their lives in peace.

You have our word and solemn promise on that.’

Think we will see anything like that from President Obama later this summer in Japan? Such an address would be far more 'truthful' than trying to pin America as being a net detriment to humanity on a regular basis during our relatively short 227-year existence.

Wouldn't it be nice to see a US President talk about how great America is and has been in world history once again?

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

'Zero. Point. Zero'

When we started this blog in February, 2009, soon after President Barack Obama was sworn into office as the 44th President of these United States of America, we thought we might write 20 or so postings about the basics of the federal budget with some thrown in on taxes and health care policy for good measure.

Since they were all integrally tied-in with each other.

This is the 591st publication of such ruminations out of 658 that have been written over that 7.1 year period. 67 that we started writing bored even us upon second thought or were so poorly-written or thought-out, we thought the better part of valor was to just let them die on the shelf.

Still, roughly close to 85 ruminations have been published each year since 2009.

And you know what?

Nothing on the federal spending, budget, tax or even the healthcare side of things has gotten appreciably better since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008.

In fact, it could be argued that things have gotten far worse under President Obama during those 7 years.
  1. We have accumulated another $10 trillion in national debt under his term in office. More than the accumulated amount of federal debt that occurred under any President dating back to George Washington on a nominal basis at least.
  2. The federal budget is not balanced.
  3. When President Obama leaves the White House next January 20, 2017, the federal deficit is expected to balloon once again.
  4. If interest rates even start to approach the more 'normal' range they have been in for the past 50 years in America, say 5%, the federal deficit will explode as we have to service the then-$21 trillion in national debt at 5%+ (or far more) instead of the current 2% we pay now in interest costs.
    This will mean over $1 trillion in net interest costs will be going out the door each year under the next President no matter who it is; left, right, socialist or whatever. That would be close to 23% of the federal budget each year for those of you counting at home.
  5. Tax rates are higher under President Obama than they were before he took office. Taxes imposed on business and individuals such as the plethora of new taxes imposed under the ACA are a major reason why the economy is still stuck in neutral, or worse, and has been for the past 6 years at least.
  6. As noted in a previous post, we would have all been FAR better off had President Obama and the Democrats 100% in charge of Congress and the US Senate in 2009-2010 just focused on expanding Medicaid under the ACA and just left the private markets alone. There are so many distortions and contradictions and contortions in the private health insurance market today that many of the ACA co-ops are collapsing; health insurers are leaving states right and left and refusing to carry any ACA policies any longer and many people have just given up trying to find a good policy any longer and just pay the ACA fine or ignore it altogether.
Take a look at this article which pretty much sums up the total 'success' (sic)  of the Obama White House years when it comes to financial, fiscal and economic matters: 'Obama is Pleased With Yellin As Economy Shows Signs of Slowing'.

'Signs of SLOWING'?

If the US economy was a submarine, the captain would be screaming: 'FULL STOP!"

From the Bloomberg article: 'Some economists last week cut their tracking estimates for growth in first-quarter gross domestic product to near zero..'

'Near-zero' means 'zero' especially when you take into account that we still have some inflation in our system.

Do you young people have any earthly idea what 'zero economic growth' means for you and any and all of your friends who have graduated from college in the last 6 years?

It means that the economy is not even growing fast enough to absorb all of the graduates entering the work force beyond what it takes to replace the people who retire or die and otherwise leave the workforce.

It means that recent graduates are probably working at below-normal salaries and wages because in a non-growing economy, businesses do not need to hire any additional employees, especially when such hires means enormous additional costs such as imposed by the ACA and increased regulations over the past 7 years.

'A zero rate of economic growth' means that wages will be stagnant for as long as the economy stays weak. It means chances for rapid escalation through the work force in your chosen industry is nil.

'University of Chicago Economics Professor Dean Wormer' perhaps would say it best on CNBC when confronted with the abysmal economic record of the Obama Administration: (if you can't see the video in the email sent via distribution, click on the title link above and scroll down to this section to view)

Young people of America: You deserve to experience the full benefits of a thriving, growing, dynamic job-creating America.

Those of us who are about to go on Social Security and Medicare (and send you the enormous bills to pay for out of your weekly, bi-weekly or monthly paychecks forever it will seem to you) at least had the chance to live through 2 of the greatest economic explosions America has ever experienced: 1982-1988 under President Ronald Reagan and 1995-2000 under President Bill Clinton.

A 'President Bernie Sanders' would produce an economy that undershoots even that of the Obama White House. A 'President Hillary Clinton' would continue the same economic policies of President Obama that has produced 0.0 GDP growth as she has repeatedly vowed on the campaign trail time and time again.

Use the left-side of your bright young brains to analyze all the data, facts and figures before you vote this fall. It is all well-and-good to vote for a single issue or for a certain personality because you 'like' them or 'like' their Facebook page or on some other social media

However, none of that will mean a thing to you if you and your friends: 1) can't find a good, high-paying job; 2) can't move up the economic ladder of success as fast as you want to or 3) even buy a starter home and begin a family.

Otherwise, you will be voting for 'Zero.Point. Zero' economic growth. Again. After 2 previous elections already.

Remember how Dean Wormer said it. That is all you need to know about your future.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

What Is The Truth About The ACA?


We would have ALL been better off had the Obama White House and the Democratic Congress in 100% of all legislation been honest and just proposed a massive expansion of Medicaid in 2009-2010 and left the private health insurance markets alone.

Because that is essentially what the ACA has done more than anything else: expanded coverage by Medicaid programs across the nation by over 34 million people.

'In 2013, the CBO projected that 34 million people would be on Medicaid or CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program) in 2016. The CBO now says that 68 million people will be on Medicaid or CHIP in 2016—double its earlier estimate.'*

Remember the numbers that were bandied about about the number of 'uninsured' before the ACA was passed?

Anywhere from 35-40 million people were estimated to not have medical coverage at the time. Based on those numbers, the Medicaid expansion efforts supposedly have cleared up that uninsured number pretty much by now.

Lawmakers and many states have figured out how to game the system once again to the detriment of future taxpayers and debt-payors, namely our sons and daughters and grandchildren. Not current taxpayers.

How so?

The Obama Administration, in their attempt to basically 'bribe' states into expanding their Medicaid programs, offered to pay for the entire Medicaid expansion costs by 100% by the federal government, not the states, for a period of 5 years. Then the match drops to 'only' 90%. Forever, supposedly, without further Congressional action taken.

So what does this mean?

It does not mean that the federal government is raising federal taxes to pay for this increase not in the least bit. It DOES mean that the federal government is either borrowing MORE money from the Chinese or foreign sovereigns to pay for the expansion OR the Fed will monetize the debt somehow by creating more money out of nowhere based on nothing else other than the 'full faith and credit' of the United States of America.

Not even at the state government level does the taxpayer have to pay for any of the Medicaid expansion costs for the first 5 years and then only very little after that.

(However, after that first 5 years, even a 10% state match for the costs of Medicaid expansion can be crippling when states have to balance their budgets and they have pressing needs to pay for such as teachers pay and better roads and safer communities through public safety programs)

We no longer live in a 'real-world' PAYGO (Pay-As-You-Go) world when it comes to government spending.

We are now cavorting about in the dream world of 'Don't-Pay-As-You-Pass-Along-The-Bills-To-Your-Kids' (DPATBTYK) world and digging a deeper fiscal hole for them with each passing day.

There. Doesn't that make you feel better about things already?

Read the links to the 2 stories about Medicaid noted in the article above to discover how the ACA has also resulted in fewer people being enrolled in the now far more expensive private health plans for companies or individual plans.

If they are still in them, that is.

The ACA is going to have to be HR1 when the next Congress convenes and we are going to need a President who will sit down with leaders from both the House and the Senate to be realistic about the failures of Obamacare and work to fix all of the problems it has caused this country.

*from Weekly Standard

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Socialism vs Capitalism: What Works Best?

'I guess to make a broader point, so often in the past there’s been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist. And especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate, right? Oh, you know, you’re a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you’re some crazy communist that’s going to take away everybody’s property. And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory — you should just decide what works.'
President Obama was speaking to a group of Argentinian young leaders after his trip to Cuba (where 'socialism' has worked so well (sic) that Cuba is still mired in the 1950's, not the 21st century) when he essentially said there is no substantive difference between socialism and capitalism so 'you young people of Argentina should just pick and choose what works' between the two and 'roll with it' in essence.

Enid, The Church Lady
Well, as The Church Lady would say: 'Isn't that special?'   

That would be all well and good if capitalism and socialism started out with the same moral equivalence and ended up with the same results over history.

They haven't. For the most part.

Take a look at recent quotes from Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov recently:
'Capitalism is the greatest destroyer of poverty in world history and socialism its greatest creator, rivaling war'
'Socialism, where everything is free except you!'
'I'm enjoying the irony of American Sanders supporters lecturing me, a former Soviet citizen, on the glories of Socialism and what it really means! 
Socialism sounds great in speech soundbites and on Facebook, but please keep it there.
In practice, it corrodes not only the economy but the human spirit itself, and the ambition and achievement that made modern capitalism possible and brought billions of people out of poverty
Talking about Socialism is a huge luxury, a luxury that was paid for by the successes of capitalism.
Income inequality is a huge problem, absolutely. But the idea that the solution is more government, more regulation, more debt, and less risk is dangerously absurd'

As with most anything in life, 'talking about' something is usually far different from 'living' or 'actually experiencing' that something, isn't it?

Why would Garry Kasparov know more about the dangers and spirit-sapping emulsification of socialism than, say, President Barack Obama of the United States of America?

Because he lived under the iron rule of the former Soviet Union for 28 years of his life before witnessing the fall of communist rule in Moscow in 1991, which started with the enhanced defense posture of President Ronald Reagan in 1981, resulting in the freedom of millions of Russians and other ethnic citizens from central heavy-handed, non-creative, oppressive,rule.

Kasparov was fortunate; he survived. 60 million to 100 million people were murdered under the Stalinist regime all in the name of making the Soviet Union 'safe' for communism.

No western political leader such as President Obama or Democratic presidential candidate such as Bernie Sanders could ever hope to understand the vast differences between socialism and capitalism until and unless, of course, either of them actually was forced to live under such oppressive regimes as did Mr. Kasparov.

Then both would most likely be singing an entirely different tune.

Granted, America has adopted some federal programs that are ‘socialist’ in nature. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the most prominent federal programs in America that are designed to be a 'shock absorber' of sorts when it comes to providing a social safety net that is designed to be more of a trampoline than a hammock goes the old analogy.

As Kasparov points out, however, even these are paid for by capitalism in one form or another. We make money and pay taxes so these social welfare programs can be funded. Or at least paid for by borrowing with the promise of repayment from taxes paid in the future.

Don’t make the mistake of equating the freedom of capitalism with the spirit-sapping nature of socialism as Garry Kasparov pointed out.

The upcoming election is more than just choosing between personalities or political parties. The fall election is about whether America continues down the path towards more socialism as espoused by President Obama for the past 7 years or whether we head back towards free enterprise capitalism so eloquently advocated by President Ronald Reagan during his 8 years in office.

New jobs net of population growth soared under President Reagan. Not so under President Obama’s two terms as you can see from the following chart.

You get to choose which outcome you want for the next 8 years. Choose wisely.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

'If You Are Young And Not A Liberal....'

               '...You Don't Have a Heart' goes the old adage.

Liberal Heart
Conservative Brain

But take a look at the second verse of a quote commonly attributed to Winston Churchill but which probably originated with other commentators, philosophers and politicians before him:

'If you are old and not a conservative, you don't have a brain!'

At what point exactly do young people cease being 'so liberal' and start to become 'more conservative', at least on fiscal issues such as government spending and personal taxation?

Apparently, it is when they get jobs that pay them between $40,000 and $60,000, or about the same income level they start to pay significant taxes on their income over what they pay in the only real 'flat tax' we have, the payroll tax, according to a poll from Reason-Rupe.

Wonder why that is?

It is much easier to be idealistic and say we need such-and-such a program when we are younger and in college than to step up to the plate and say:

'You know what? We need to address this problem from a public policy perspective and I am willing to pay 10% more of my income in taxes to pay for it! And so should everyone in my city/state/country!'

When was the last time you ever heard a political candidate say that in public?

The answer is: 'Never'

It is always 'We must make the rich pay their 'fair share'!' (even though they already pay more than their 'fair share' based on income percentiles) or 'We must make Wall Street pay for it!'

There really is no mystery as to 'why' younger people start to become more conservative in fiscal issues as they grow up and start getting paid for their work and raising families and paying the rent and buying homes and paying the mortgage and buying cars and paying for them and such.

It is because we all want to provide the best lives we can for ourselves and our families. That is the reason people came to America in the first place; to be able to lead lives with as little interference as possible, or none in many cases, from government or religious authorities who controlled life in European nations at the time.

It gets very hard to do the more the government takes out of your paycheck each and every week, doesn't it?

No one is really arguing for a 100% repeal of the welfare state from the conservative side of things. What they are arguing for is some consideration about the size and scope and efficacy of the totality of welfare programs that exist in America today.

If welfare programs are working at maximum efficiency and are producing optimal results, as in reducing poverty, increasing health standards and educational success, then they should be continued.

In fact, if welfare programs work 100% as proposed and envisioned, poverty should now be a thing of the past, shouldn't it? The purpose of welfare programs is to eliminate poverty, isn't it? Not perpetuate it.

However, if any welfare program is deemed ineffective or worse, detrimental and causing adverse outcomes, then they should be reviewed and either eliminated, reformed or replaced until we find something that does work to reduce poverty for example.

The 'best' welfare program, of course, is a growing, vibrant economy where millions more people can find work each year and take care of themselves and their own families. We have not therefore had the benefit of the 'best' welfare program over the past 7 years and still counting under the Obama Administration.

One thing for young people to consider is how the federal government is offering to provide such a welfare state with their money. For example, Social Security was passed in 1935 as a government solution to provide temporary financial assistance to millions of senior citizens who were starving and out of work during the Great Depression.

That was 81 years ago. Social Security has remained fundamentally unchanged since then except for the expansions of coverage and increases in the payroll taxes it has taken to finance those expansions.

What is happening with all the money every young person has taken from their weekly, biweekly or monthly paychecks? Is it going into special trust accounts with their name on it where their money is invested so it can earn 6%+ per year for the next 40 years of their work careers and they can retire with a healthy cash nest-egg of say $1 million at age 67 (which will be their minimum legal retirement age at least by 2056?

Nope. Every dollar and cent of their OASDI payroll taxes paid today goes out the next month to current retirees or dependents on Social Security. That is the definition of the ‘welfare state’ if there ever was one.

Young workers pay now with the hope and expectation their children will do the same in 40+ years or so. Except their children's payroll taxes will be much higher then unless we do something now to reform Social Security.

Shouldn’t we be using our conservative 'brains' more now?

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

'Are We At War' Post-Brussels/Paris?

From US State Department Reports
35,272 people worldwide were killed, injured or taken hostage by terrorists. In 2014. Alone.

According to the US Department of State under Secretary John Kerry who is serving in the Administration of President Barack Obama. Not according to some right-wing nationalistic group or any other analysis.

The US State Department.

64.3% of the casualties in this one year alone were perpetrated by ISIS or the Taliban.

22,705 innocent people worldwide were killed, injured or taken hostage by self-avowed terrorists who are claiming they are doing this under the cloak of Islamist terrorism

To put this all in perspective, 6828 American Soldiers died in Iraq/Afghanistan since 2001. 

Over a 15-year period, as terrible as the loss was for the families of these fallen heroes and for the nation, 6 times more people were killed, injured or taken hostage in the single year of 2014 by terrorists worldwide, the majority of whom are self-described Muslims who are intent on wiping out 'The Great Satan', America from the face of the earth. 

Along with Israel. Our most loyal long-term ally in the Middle East.

If you take just a five-year snapshot of casualties caused by terrorists since 2010 worldwide, the number exceeds 125,000 innocent people who have been killed, injured or taken hostage by militant terrorists, mostly claiming 'victory' for Al Qaeda or ISIS.

If you look at any of the casualty totals from major wars in American history, you will get a sense of the carnage and obscene loss of life that has occurred at the hands of these terrorists that for some reason, our government has failed to even label as 'terrorists' for fear of antagonizing them further.

(totals include killed, wounded, hostage, MIAs)
  • 25,000 in American Revolutionary War
  • 20,000 in War of 1812
  • 17,435 in Mexican-American War
  • 600,000-850,000 in American Civil War
  • 320,518 in World War I
  • 1,076,000 casualties in World War II
  • 211,000 Vietnam War
  • 58,000+ Iraq Gulf War I and II and Afghanistan
The number of people who have been killed, wounded or taken hostage by terrorists worldwide over the past 5 years alone has been exceeded by US casualties only in the American Civil War, World War I and World War II in absolute numbers.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said today after the Brussels attack: 'We are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war.'

The question for all of us American citizens as we select a new leader for the White House is whether we think we are 'at war' with radical terrorism worldwide and domestically or not.

Terrorists abroad, especially those who are hiding under the cloak of Islam including ISIS, certainly think they are 'at war' with us and the rest of western civilization. Otherwise, they would not be killing and maiming so many innocent people worldwide each year, would they?

The absence of war does not necessarily mean we are 'at peace' goes an old saw in Washington, D.C.

America is never 'at peace' as long as terrorism and oppression are 'at war' with us and other peace-loving people of this world.

We need to be taking a much more serious approach to eradicating this scourge of terrorism from the face of this planet.

It will not go away on its own willingly if history is any guide or tutor to us.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

'The More Things Change In American Politics.....

...the more they just keep changing'.

We saw this animation showing how voting patterns changed over time in American history starting from the beginning. It is worth taking 2.5 minutes to watch it. (click through title link if you can't see it in this format)

The one thing that jumps out at you if you are any student of American political history is how voting patterns have changed over time and are still continuing to change.

Even as we speak right now.

We are experiencing tectonic shifts in American voting behavior right now during these presidential primaries that adherents of both sides of the political spectrum are either failing to recognize or refusing to recognize such as the case might be.

For example, it was probably 'impossible' for Federalists in 1800 to believe that less than 20 years in the future, their beloved Federalist Party would completely cease to exist. Similarly, it was 'impossible' for the National Republican Party of John Adams and Henry Clay in 1828 to imagine that less than 8 years in the future, their party would be destroyed and essentially replaced by the new Whig Party. Which lasted only 20 years until Lincoln helped reform remnants of the Whigs and National Republican Party under the banner of the new Republican Party which is essentially the structure we see today.

Except 'those' Republicans were very high tariff protectionists whereas modern-day Republicans are fairly considered to be open trade, laissez-faire advocates.

Which is where the rub starts between current conservative Republicans and Donald Trump, their leading vote and delegate-leader in the GOP primaries so far. He favors very high tariffs in retaliation for unfair trade practices and huge surpluses with our trading partners, which, of course, he says he is going to fix anyway through new negotiations so there no longer be huge trade imbalances between the United States and the rest of the world, namely China and Mexico.

Has the Republican Party come full circle back to the days of John Adams and Henry Clay when it comes to tariffs, or just back to the protectionist stance favored by Republicans during the McKinley years?

The point of all this is just to show how dynamic, as opposed to static, American politics has been over the years. 'Classical liberals' (free enterprise, free traders) become conservatives who beget protectionists, somehow. Strong Democratic defense hawks (JFK) beget a party of isolationism and retreat from the world stage. 'Balanced budget advocates' such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt become progenitors of Big Government welfare statism and 'balanced budget Republican conservatives' of the 1980's and '90's become feeders of government spending and expansion in the first decade of the 21st century.

One thing that has been true more often than not in American presidential politics has been that is has been a personality contest from the beginning.

Think there was a lot of love for George Washington after leading the young nation to victory over the dreaded British? Think there was a lot of love for General Ulysses S Grant (the 'S' stood for nothing; his name was 'Hiram Ulysses' and 'H.U. Grant' didn't sound as good as 'U.S.' did at the time) when he ran in 1868 just 3 years after keeping the Union together?
'Mix 1 part policy with 6 parts personality
and you got a presidential candidate!'

Combine 'personality' with a few important issues such as 'immigration' and 'jobs' and you get Donald Trump. It is almost like mixing up Kool-Aid it seems so simple put that way.

What we are most likely seeing right now in both established political parties is a fracturing and perhaps splintering of both into new factions. There is the very left-wing part of the Democratic Party and the more traditional Democratic coalition that started post-Watergate. There is the right-wing social conservative wing of the Republican Party that started to form in the 1980's under the Moral Majority umbrella headed by Reverend Jerry Falwell and the more fiscally-conscious, business friendly, strong national defense coalition that has always been considered to be the core of Republican politics dating back at least a century.

As the extremes on both sides have gained power and the upper-hand in primaries and then win the general election, both parties are now more heavily represented by people who are maybe 3-4 standard deviations from the mean on the political philosophical scale.

Yet the vast majority of Americans, perhaps 80%+, still consider themselves to be around the middle politically, not more than 1 and maybe 2 standard deviations from the mean on any issue. They tend to be self-described 'socially libertarian/fiscally conservative and responsible' voters who don't really get too ginned up about politics on a second-by-second basis.

And they feel completely ignored and un-listened to by leadership in both major parties today. (emphasis added)
Mainly because they have lives to live that are far more interesting and important than listening to Rush Limbaugh and Chris Matthews and Bill O'Reilly and Rachel Maddow and Glenn Beck and Josh Earnest of the Obama White House all day long.

They just want their elected leaders to go to Washington, do their jobs, solve the big problems, shut up and come home. They don't like or admire the finger-pointing; the blame-game; the political posturing; the 'promise' that 'just help elect a few more of us and we will stop Obamacare!' or any of the childish, puerile and sometimes just flat-out ignorant statements our elected leaders put out on a daily basis.

These are the people who have left both the Democratic and Republican parties in the last decade such to the point that some observers are predicting that Independent/Unaffiliated voter will make up close to 50% of the registered vote across the entire state of North Carolina by 2020.

I had 3 people call me last week to ask how they could re-register as Independents. 2 left the GOP; 1 left the Democratic Party.

Maybe it is these people who are fueling the coming mitosis of both the Democratic and Republican Party.

Or maybe these Independents are just looking for a new leader to help reform and corral them into a new political party much as Henry Clay led the advent of the Whigs in the middle 19th century out of the rib of the National Republican Party.

Either way, things are going to be very different from now on. The older Baby Boomers who love to fight and argue about everything (even if it means getting absolutely nothing done on anything important in a bi-partisan manner) who were part of the old Democratic coalitions of the 70's and 80's and the GOP Reagan coalition of the 80's and 90's are going to be more and more marginalized by younger generations of Gen-Xers and Millennials who look at our generation with mouths agape and wonder why we have never gotten anything done except to pass all these problems on to them to deal with, and in the case of the $20 trillion national debt, to pay for.

Because we are really stupid, I guess is the only answer.

'So why not try 'Feel the Bern' Bernie Sanders or 'The Donald' Donald Trump'? many people seem to be saying nowadays. 'The political pros have gotten nothing done. What do we really have to lose anyway?'

Things in politics do not stay the same as time goes on which disproves the French aphorism 'plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

In American politics, the more they change, the more they just keep changing.

We'll have to see where this iteration takes us all. But it won't be back to where we were before 2016, that is for sure.
***Here's an extremely brief summary of the 'great issues' that were at stake in each election in American history: (winner in parentheses) 

Most elections came down to 3 things: 1) the personality of the candidates vis-a-vis the other candidate(s) in the race for the White House at the time; 2) a referendum on the most recent previous Administration and 3) 1-2 solid issues of some great or grave magnitude (slavery, war, recessions, etc)
  • 1789- (Washington) Will George Washington run or not?
  • 1792- (Washington) Will George Washington run again or not?
  • 1796- (Adams) Democracy vs. centralized government in Washington; Jay Treaty with Great Britain; decentralized agrarian republic vs one built on commerce and industry.
  • 1800- (Jefferson) Federalists attacked Jefferson as an un-Christian deist. Adams administration’s foreign, defense, and internal security policies; naval buildup; creation of a standing army; freedom of speech; deficit spending by the federal government.
  • 1804- (Jefferson) 1803 Louisiana Purchase; reduction of federal spending; repeal of excise tax on whiskey; Federalists broke apart, no real opposition
  • 1808- (Madison) Embargo Act of 1807; economic recession
  • 1812- (Madison) War of 1812. Virginia’s control of White House; defense of  New York frontier vs British in Canada
  • 1816- (Monroe) Succession of Virginia presidents; Hartford Convention of 1814; Bank of United States; Federalists fielded no real opposition
  • 1820- (Monroe) James Monroe faced no organized opposition for reelection in 1820; Federalist Party ceased to exist.
  • 1824- (John Quincy Adams) Republican party broke apart in the 1824 election. 'Corrupt Bargain' broke out.
  • 1828- (Jackson) Jackson’s Democratic-Republicans had first national network of party organizations. National-Republicans, party of John Adams/Henry Clay platform: high tariffs, federal funding of roads, canals, and other internal improvements, aid to domestic manufactures, and development of cultural institutions.
  • 1832 (Jackson) Political patronage,tariffs, federal funding of internal improvements; Jackson’s veto of the rechartering of the Bank of the United States; abuse of executive power.
  • 1836 (Van Buren) Referendum on Andrew Jackson
  • 1840 (William Henry Harrison) Second National Bank and internal improvements
  • 1844 (Polk) Expansion of territory, slavery, abolition
  • 1848 (Taylor) Slavery and territorial expansion
  • 1852 (Pierce) Slavery and territorial expansion
  • 1856 (Buchanan) Slavery
  • 1860 (Lincoln) Ban on slavery in the territories, internal improvements, a homestead act, a Pacific railroad, and a tariff.
  • 1864 (Lincoln) Prosecution of Civil War
  • 1868 (Grant) Management of Reconstruction and black suffrage
  • 1872 (Grant) Civil service reform, laissez-faire liberalism, end to Reconstruction, protection of black rights.
  • 1876 (Hayes) End to Reconstruction, scandals under Grant Administration
  • 1880 (Garfield) Equivocation on the currency issue; civil service reform, generous pensions for veterans, exclusion of Chinese immigrants. The Republicans called for protective tariffs; the Democrats favored tariffs 'for revenue only'.
  • 1884 (Cleveland) Civil service reform; totally nasty campaign 'Ma, Ma, Where's My Pa?'
  • 1888 (Benjamin Harrison) Republicans became party of high tariffs; Northern veterans, angered by Cleveland’s veto of pension legislation and decision to return Confederate battle flags.
  • 1892 (Cleveland) Republicans supported ever-increasing tariff rates; Democrats demanded import taxes for revenue only. Third party Populists wanted government ownership of railroads and monetary reform
  • 1896 (McKinley) Sound money; gold standard; high tariffs; silver coinage; 'Cross of Gold' 
  • 1900 (McKinley) Free coinage of silver; imperialism overseas
  • 1904 (Teddy Roosevelt) Trust-busting; gold vs silver coinage; advent of progressivism
  • 1908 (Taft) Roosevelt's legacy' anti-trust issues.
  • 1912 (Wilson) 2 brands of progressivism; Wilson’s New Freedom anti-monopoly policies; return to small-scale business. 'Bull Moose Party' Roosevelt’s New Nationalism interventionist state with strong regulatory powers
  • 1916 (Wilson) Staying out of WWI; progressivism
  • 1920 (Harding) Conservatism vs progressivism; law-and-order; 'return to normalcy'
  • 1924 (Coolidge) Fiscal conservatism versus social progressivism; higher taxes on the wealthy, conservation, direct election of the president, and the ending of child labor.  
  • 1928 (Hoover) Anti-Catholicism; Prohibition, old-fashioned rural values. 'A chicken for every pot and a car in every garage'
  • 1932 (FDR) Repeal of Prohibition; reduction in federal spending (Democrat platform); referendum on Hoover regarding management of Great Depression; balanced budget and gold standard
  • 1936 (FDR) Big government; burgeoning welfare state; progress of New Deal
  • 1940 (FDR) Interventionalism into WWII vs. isolationalism
  • 1944 (FDR) WWII; FDR health; stand on communism; shape of postwar world. Issue of president serving four terms. 
  • 1948 (Truman) Civil rights, progressivism
  • 1952 (Eisenhower) Isolationism vs. internationalism; Korean War, communism, inflation
  • 1956 (Eisenhower) Foreign policy; prosperity; nuclear testing, Suez Canal crisis
  • 1960 (JFK) 'Missile Gap'; foreign policy; Catholicism of Kennedy
  • 1964 (LBJ) Vietnam, bombing of North Vietnam, dismantling of Social Security; social reform, New Frontier
  • 1968 (Nixon)  Vietnam War, civil rights; protests; Chicago Democratic Convention; law and order; 'secret plan to end Vietnam War'.
  • 1972 (Nixon) End to Vietnam War; inflation; unemployment; Watergate happened
  • 1976 (Carter) Ford pardon of Nixon; 'outsider' of Washington versus 'insider'
  • 1980 (Reagan) Inflation, unemployment, Iranian hostage crisis
  • 1984 (Reagan) 'Morning in America'; peace and prosperity
  • 1988 (Bush 41) Peace, economic stability; continuation of Reagan policies; Willie Horton ads
  • 1992 (Clinton) Economic recession; Iraq War I
  • 1996 (Clinton) Economic expansion, peace, 'war dividend'
  • 2000 (Bush 43) 'Compassionate conservatism', aftermath of Clinton impeachment
  • 2004 (Bush 43) Bush tax cuts; 'Swift Boating' of John Kerry
  • 2008 (Obama) First African-American president; economic collapse; 'Hope and Change'
  • 2012 (Obama) Referendum on Obama years
  • 2016 (?)
* for a more full reading go to

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Who Would Be A 'Perfect' Constitutional President Anyway?

The North Carolina Presidential Primary is Tuesday, March 15.

There's been a lot of talk over the past year about who would or would not 'support and follow The US Constitution!'.

What does that mean'? Exactly?

Who has been the 'most constitutional' President we have had in the United States? Has there ever been a 'perfect' US President who did everything by the book and followed the US Constitution to a 'T'?

Was it Abraham Lincoln? He kept the Union together but many people fault him for suspending habeas corpus at the beginning of the Civil War as being too 'dictatorial' for any American president to do.

Was it FDR? He led America out of the Great Depression and to victory in WWII but many of his executive orders and legislation were overturned by the Supreme Court as being 'unconstitutional' for one reason or another.

Was it Andrew Jackson? Whig Senate Majority Leader Henry Clay of Kentucky absolutely hated General-turned-President Jackson.

Clay thought Jackson was the worst possible Chief Executive because of his proclivities towards making military and executive decisions without consulting Congress.

Henry Clay compared President Andy Jackson to King George III of England which was more than fighting words less than a living generation or two removed from the War of Independence.

What do we Americans really want in a President anyway?

Americans generally want their President to do two things:
  1. Inspire and lead them to a future of hope and prosperity.
  2. Be the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces to keep us safe from all attack.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a President who understood what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind when they carved up the duties of the legislative versus the executive branch in 1787?

1) 'The President proposes and the Congress disposes'

The President can propose any and all sorts of legislation and urge Congress to pass them and give speeches all across the country. It would help if he/she understands that Congress has to pass these initiatives first and not resort to end-runs through executive orders out of the White House all the time.

2) 'The ONLY legislative function the president has is his/her ability to compromise and negotiate'.
The President can veto legislation that has been passed by Congress, not write it and force it down their throat. That is the extent of the legislative function any chief executive has under our Constitution.

The next President needs to understand that the will of the people is expressed in legislation as passed by both the House and Senate first, not the White House.

Since the President has the veto pen, he/she can, and should, be engaged in the legislative process offering input as to what he/she would find objectionable as legislation wends its way through Capitol Hill on its way to the White House.

This used to be called 'compromise' and 'presidential leadership'. President Reagan had it; President George H.W. Bush had it. We saw both of them send their legislative liaison teams to Capitol Hill from 1985-1992 with the goals of balancing the budget, cutting spending and making America's defenses the strongest it possibly could be...and achieving certain degrees of success every year.

Both Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 understood that the essence of presidential leadership and therefore, success is this:

Set a legislative target and goal; negotiate with congressional and Senate leaders; get as much as you can during any particular session of Congress; cut a deal; declare victory in Vietnam...and go home.

Presidents Bush 43 and Obama utterly failed to understand the concepts of presidential leadership and compromise on a bi-partisan basis for the past 16 years. We have a $19 trillion national debt Washington monument to testify to their ignorance of such basic constitutional roles of the President that the younger generations will pay for for decades and decades.

Failure to compromise with Congress and the opposing party will mean complete failure for the next President and the country given the problems we face.

3) 'The President is The Commander-In-Chief...But Congress Has To Concur With Its Authorization/Appropriation Authority'

Presidents and Congress have learned to 'game the system' when it comes to overseas military engagements.

The US hasn't issued an official congressional 'declaration of war' since World War II. Every other overseas military engagement has been technically a 'police action'. Dodging the responsibility of declaring war has perhaps allowed too much flexibility when it has come to allowing US Presidents to send troops into harm's way while allowing Congress to use such parliamentary maneuvers as supplemental appropriations bills to fund those actions.

It would be helpful to have a President who asks Congress to declare war before sending troops overseas and abide by a more strict interpretation of constitutional powers on both the executive and legislative branches of government
These are not inconsequential decisions.

Choose wisely on Tuesday, March 15. Your future depends on it.

(first published at North State Journal 3/11/16)

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

'Is It 'Evening' In America'? Or 'Morning?'

'It's morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country's history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It's morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?'
So goes the text of one of the most successful political ads in American history, 'Morning in America', which was the theme of the 1984 presidential campaign of incumbent President Ronald Reagan asking the American people for a second term.

Presidential terms in the White House are usually evaluated by voters on a continuum. If things get better under a President's leadership during their first term, they usually get a second term to continue their progress.

If things don't get better during their first term, they usually do not get a second chance to try, try again.

In fact, ever since the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was adopted to prevent another 4-term president such as FDR from occurring again in America, modern presidential history suggests that a two-term president pretty much runs his course of favorability with the American voting population and they are ready to 'try something, ANYTHING!' different for the next 4 years.

Democrat Harry Truman filled out the unexpired 4th term of FDR only to surprise everyone probably including himself and his wife Bess when he defeated Thomas Dewey of New York in 1948.

America elected Republican World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and in 1956. His Republican VP, Richard Nixon was expected to be the first sitting VP since Martin Van Buren in 1830 to be elevated to essentially fill a third term of a sitting President but ran into the charm of Democrat JFK and lost in a squeaker of an election in 1960.

JFK was assassinated in 1963 and his VP, Democrat LBJ assumed office and blasted GOP candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964 only to not run again in 1968 after he got us even deeper into the Vietnam quagmire than JFK did.

GOP Richard Nixon returned to the national spotlight in 1968 and overwhelmed Democrat Senator George McGovern 520-17 in the Electoral College in 1972 despite having succumbed to his own paranoid-ish insecurities which led to Watergate which led to his resignation in 1974. Then-GOP VP Gerald Ford elevated to the Oval Office only to lose to Democrat Outsider Jimmy Carter in the bicentennial year of 1976.

In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan blasted Jimmy Carter 489-49 in the worst electoral blowout of any incumbent president in American history. Reagan then utterly destroyed former Democrat VP Walter Mondale in 1984 in one of the worst electoral college pastings in American history, 525-13, not far behind George Washington's 2 consecutive victories by acclamation.

Perhaps because of the economic boom of the 1980's fostered by Reagan's pro-growth, pro-business policies, his VP George H.W. Bush 41 became the first sitting VP to succeed a president of his own party since Martin Van Buren in 1830. Only to be undone by the economic recession of 1991 and the entrance of third-party gadfly Independent candidate, Ross ('I'm all ears!') Perot in the 1992 race which effectively helped Democrat Bill Clinton win with 43% of the popular vote.

Bill Clinton served two terms in the prosperous and peaceful last 8 years of the last century. His Democratic VP, Al Gore lost another squeaker to Republican Governor George W. Bush 43 of Texas in one of the more famous or infamous presidential elections since Jefferson/Adams/Burr/Pinckney in 1800.

Bush 43 served 2 terms and presided over the worst economic crash since the Great Depression in 2008. Democratic US Senator Barack Obama capitalized on that economic unrest and dissatisfaction with the War in Iraq plus the fact that he could become the first African-American President in US history to score a landslide victory over Republican John McCain of Arizona who came to find out being a maverick in your own party and sticking your finger in the eyes of fellow Republicans is not the best way to win friends and influence people to vote for you.

Which brings us to today. 2016. Election Year with a capital 'E' and 'Y'.

It comes down to the same question Americans have faced at the end of every Presidential term in office:
'Are YOU better off than you were 4 years ago?'

If the majority of voters in the states that comprise the majority of the electoral college and can get to 270 for any candidate say 'yes', the person who follows the incumbent of their own party wins.

(Except that has only happened once since 1830 when it happened with Bush 41 in 1988)

Most of the time, Americans grow tired of their Presidents if for no other reason than Americans seem to value 'change' which translates to them in their heads as 'progress' most times. Jefferson and Madison left office after 8 years with approval (or unfavorability ratings) approaching 25% according to many historians who can figure out that sort of thing.

We think much of the 'anger' you see in the primaries that is manifesting itself in record crowds for both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is a reflection of a mass dissatisfaction with the last 8 years under President Barack Obama.

Like every President before him, he came into office with the chance to be a 'transformative' President, one with the ability to 'unite, not divide' us as a people; lead us down the path towards economic prosperity and peace and safety for us in this world of chaos.

As the first African-American president, perhaps expectations of such a messianic-type deliverance were pushed sky-high beyond the capacity of any human mortal being to achieve them.

However, the fact of the matter is that, unlike President Reagan's 'Morning in America' campaign which was based on solid economic facts as well as perception, the twilight of President Obama's term in office seems to feel more like 'Evening in America', doesn't it?

'It's evening in America. 

Today more Americans will not go to work than ever before in our country's history. 

Even though interest rates are at about zero effectively, housing starts are less than half what they were before President Obama took office in 2009.

Less than 26% of all Millennials are choosing to marry and even with inflation at near zero levels, they are not looking forward with confidence to the future. 

It's (sadly) NOT morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Obama our country is not prouder and stronger and better.

Why would we ever want to return to where we were for the last 8 years?'

You can just see the ads starting to write themselves.

Americans historically vote their pocketbook first and everything else later.

If you think it is 'Morning in America' today, vote for Hillary to continue the Obama agenda for 4-8 more years.

If you think it is 'Evening in America', vote for someone else on the Republican side.

Make the best choice for your future in the coming weeks.

Your future. It is the only future you are gonna have.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

'I Would Rather Be Saved From Drowning By A Muslim Who Could Swim....'

'Help! I need someone who can swim to save
me from drowning!'
'...than by a Christian who couldn't'.

So goes a quote by Protestant Reformer Martin Luther.*

What is the relevance to today's American Republican Presidential primary campaign?


Many observers were somewhat stunned that Donald Trump received 41% of the registered evangelical vote in South Carolina last weekend. He has received similar numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire and apparently last night in Nevada along with virtually every other poll that has been taken in other primary states over the past 4 months at least.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz trailed Donald Trump in South Carolina with 37% of their vote even though he has assiduously targeted evangelicals in every state as the basis for his road to the GOP nomination.

We don't know what his target was when he started the campaign but it had to be at least 50%+1 of the evangelical vote if not 60% or more in order to make the numbers towards nomination work for him.

We know he didn't count on coming in second to Donald Trump or anyone else in South Carolina or any other state in the 'evangelical lane' as some are starting to call it as if this was some sort of horse race or NASCAR race.

So what is going on out there anyway?

We think the same things that are driving evangelicals to vote for Trump are the same things driving others in both parties to vote for the most outsider of all outsiders they can find in this 2016 presidential primary season:

Lack of confidence that the US economy is working as it should and America is safe from all attack.

It is one thing to vote for a candidate who has impeccable religious credentials when things are going well and we all want a leader to exemplify the epitome of American values, character and beliefs.

George Washington held that kind of sway over the American voting population for two elections where he ran unopposed for President. He also had the added benefit of leading the new nation to independence and victory over the hated British who 'only' had the most powerful armed forces the world had ever known to that point in time.

Jimmy Carter ran as an outsider to the entire Washington political apparatus in 1976 and was able to position his campaign as 'looking out for the little guy' in the wake of the resignation of President Richard Nixon and the subsequent pardon by President Gerald Ford. He was able to portray himself as the 'Man From Plains, Georgia' much like Bill Clinton became 'The Man From Hope (Arkansas) in 1992 but President Carter also benefited from being able to speak fluently and without reservation about his role as a Sunday School teacher even while a sitting Governor.

His term in office is routinely referenced as being one of the least successful four years of any of our 44 US Presidents today. 21% interest rates; 12% annual inflation; skyrocketing gas prices and 52 hostages from our US Embassy in Tehran being held by Iranian fundamentalists for 444 days will do that to a Presidential legacy.

We think evangelical voters in the GOP primary have seen and felt and heard the same things other disgruntled voters have seen and felt and heard over the past 7 years under President Obama:
  1. Very low annual rates of job creation and opportunity
  2. Very low annual GDP growth by any estimation relative to other Presidents
  3. Sense of weakness and a diminishing of American strength, power and presence overseas.
  4. Heightened sense of unease due to ISIS threats to kill American citizens anywhere in the world including on American soil.
  5. A recognition that we may be in the same sort of 'malaise' under President Obama that we were living in under President Carter.
They all want it to get better. On all accounts. Soon.

American voters have come to realize that because someone can recite the Bible at the drop of a hat is not a 100% indicator as to whether they can fix the economy or keep America safe from threats. The depth of someone's spiritual life and devotion is no real direct indicator of whether they understand how to balance the budget; reduce the national debt or fix our public education systems, just to name a few major problems we face today.

That is why we think so many evangelicals, along with other segments of the Republican Party as well as independents, unaffiliateds and blue collar workers formerly known as 'Reagan Democrats' are flocking to Donald Trump.

They don't hear his insults, lack of specificity on issues or his constant repetition of him leading in the polls.

They hear him say: 'I am going to fix this. I am going to 'Make America Great Again!' and that is enough for anyone tired of the malaise we have seen over the past 7 years.

As political commentator Alex Castellanos said about evangelicals in South Carolina voting for Trump over Cruz:
'Cruz has taken for granted that evangelical voters would support the most evangelical candidate. When the bus is racing towards a cliff, however, evangelicals want more than a minister to offer a prayer.
They’d like somebody who knows how to drive to turn the bus around.'
Americans want someone to lead them who is inherently optimistic and positive about the future of America. Not someone pointing out the faults of America all the time and apologizing for everything America has done in the past whether it is justified or not.

Americans want someone 'who can swim' to save them from drowning, give them CPR and help them get up off the sand and back to their family, friends and home where they can lead normal productive interesting lives.

Even Martin Luther might agree with that.
'Gosh! I wonder for whom I would vote in this
2016 Republican Campaign for POTUS if I
was alive and registered to vote as a US

*I hope. I seem to recall reading this in one of the biographies I have read about Martin Luther but failed to keep the exact quote for record-keeping and future reference for some reason. However, any cursory reading of Martin Luther will yield many other similar pithy-isms such as this one below I did verify in a previous post from 'Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy' with attribution to Eric Metaxas so it is not totally out of the question that Luther could have written such a statement, which I wish I had saved if he had written it, of course.

If he didn't write the quote I used in the post above, he should have.

If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would have sooner become a hog than a Christian.’ (actual quote from Martin Luther confirmed in Metaxas' book)

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