Sunday, July 31, 2016

The 'Monty Hall Election' or 'Let's Make A Deal!'

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) issued the following statement today after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its latest Long-Term Budget Outlook showing the national debt climbing to 141 percent of GDP by 2046, with real economic growth remaining at a depressed 2.1 percent on average over the next 30 years, and Medicare and Social Security facing insolvency.
“One wonders how anyone can look at this report and not feel compelled to take action.
We have no choice. The Congressional Budget Office is sending yet another wake-up call, and policymakers better listen. These debt projections portend a horrible fiscal legacy that is being left to our kids and grandkids with a correspondingly weak economic growth outlook that will mean less opportunity for our nation and its citizens in the years to come.
“The good news is that we can enact policies that ensure a more responsible fiscal outlook. A balanced budget would help deliver greater economic growth. We can protect current seniors and tomorrow's retirees from insolvent Medicare and Social Security programs. We can do all this while embracing policies that support a healthier and more vibrant economy.”

Let's take a look at what is really important about this upcoming election on November 8:

Our future. Your kid's future. Your grandkid's future.

No pressure, right?

We have written about this so many times before that we will just urge you once again to download and print out this 162-page CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook and read it in its entirety.

Keep it handy so you can take notes and scribble in the margins as you listen to the talk show hosts and the evening news and  see just how far off the mark all of them are when they misspeak or misquote the facts about our somewhat dire fiscal situation.

Just don't read it before you go to bed at night or else you will have nightmares.

The key to this election is electing a President who will lead the US Congress and Senate into a workable compromise on balancing our budget primarily through limitations on federal spending, reducing federal regulatory burdens on US businesses and passing legislation that basically frees up the creative energetic power of the free market to grow business which will then lead to more jobs and higher employment.

It sounds so simple. How can it be so hard to put into practice, then?

Which brings us to the great Monty Hall, host of the long-running 'Let's Make a Deal!' television show which ran from 1963 to 1976.

Despite this being perhaps one of the most raucous elections since those of 'Old Hickory' 'Gen'l Andy' Andrew Jackson's presidential campaigns near the beginning of the Republic (you ought to read about them and see how really nasty American campaigns used to be), we still have some very serious public policy decisions to make as a country and we are electing either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to lead us to those conclusions.

Who do you think has the best chance of being able to make deals with Congress to fix our national finances? Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

Monty Hall used to bring wild, enthusiastic people down from the audience, many dressed up in costume and paraphernalia that would make a French masquerade party seem tame by comparison, and offer them deals based on this simple premise:

'Do you keep what you know for sure is behind Door #1 or do you take a risk and trade it for what you hope will be a far greater prize behind Door #3?'

Sometimes behind Door #3, a contestant would see a bright new shiny red Mustang convertible behind the curtain which would make his/her trade of a Fridgidaire behind Door #1 seem like a great deal.

But sometimes behind Door #3 would be a booby prize which meant the contestant essentially traded down for nothing.

After decades of seeing and hearing and watching and investigating Hillary Clinton, we seem to know her pretty well inside and out, don't we? 26 years in the national limelight is plenty of time for people to form impressions of people in public life, whether rightly or wrongly. After that long of a time, it is difficult to imagine that the person you see in public is going to be much different for the rest of their lives.

Richard Nixon is the first person many people equate Hillary Clinton with when you ask them who she reminds you of in public life. Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower are not usually the first two comparisons you hear made.

Hillary Clinton is behind Door #1. Like her or hate her, she is a 'known quantity' when it comes to public life because she has made thousands of decisions either by vote in the US Senate or as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama for 4 years.

She has a record of supporting so many more government and liberal causes that her 'variance from the norm' based on her past will be relatively small if elected to the White House. Her tack further left to satisfy the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party on issues such as forgiving $1 trillion in student debt (guess who would pay for that, taxpayers?) virtually assures that she will be boxed into the same ideological corners as far to the left that Tea Party Republicans get boxed in to the right.

However, she is still a 'known quantity'. The chances of her reversing course and becoming a staunch advocate of the free market and fiscal sanity such as by curtailing federal spending first and foremost is about 10% perhaps.

On the other hand, you have Donald Trump who might be have as wide of a range of variance as any presidential candidate in modern history when it comes to being put in some political philosophical silo. He has no official voting record as an elected official so no one can point to this vote or that vote as 'proof' of what he would do if elected President in about 3 months now. He has no record as a Cabinet official such as Secretary of State, Treasury, Commerce or Defense that anyone can point to either as evidence of his 'good judgement' or 'lack thereof'.

Which is THE primary reason he has defeated every other candidate who had a record of elective service this past year when you come to think about it. 'None of the people with elective experience have solved many big problems we face' say his voters, 'so why not Donald Trump?'

Donald Trump is behind Door #3. He might be the 'bright new shiny red Mustang convertible' or, as many of his detractors believe, he might be the 'Unsafe at Any Speed' Corvair, as Ralph Nader coined it and killed it forever.
Is this 'Donald Trump' or 'Hillary Clinton'?

Let's say there is a 50/50 chance he could be either the shiny red Mustang or the Corvair. Are you willing to take that chance on the upside knowing that what you are going to get in Hillary Clinton has very little chance of ever turning out to be like the thrill of riding down the highway in a bright red Mustang convertible with your hair blowing in the wind like Donald Trump's blond hair one day?

Or is it just 'too risky'? In which case, you just keep riding along in the same old Edsel we are riding in now that is running out of gas and heading towards a financial and fiscal cliff with each passing day? (The Obama Economy, which Hillary Clinton would extend and continue as President Obama's third term legacy, just clocked in at a dismal 1.2% growth rate for 2Q, 2016)

Presidents rarely have campaigned in the past on one platform or set of basic philosophical political principles and then done a complete 180 degree about-face once elected and done the complete opposite in terms of proposing legislation and signing whatever came back from Congress.

FDR campaigned as a tight-fisted fiscal conservative in 1932, for example. Once elected, however, he went completely over to expanding the welfare state, first as a means to get people fed during the Great Depression, but then as a matter of leadership and getting re-elected despite repeated challenges and over-rulings from Chief Justice Louis Brandeis on the US Supreme Court that FDR had vastly overstepped his boundaries as Chief Executive of the nation.

Presidents have to be malleable to deal with any contingency that may arrive under their leadership. It would be very difficult to imagine a pacifist, anti-war President who promised to stay out of war, for example, not declare war against Japan the day after Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941.

Most of the time, they change once in office. Slightly. Hardly ever do US Presidents completely lie about what they will do once elected because if they do, they get beat in the next election usually.

The question you have to decide is this: Which person do you think can lead us out of this morass of fiscal and economic problems we face today....based on your reading of the problems we face in the Long-Term Budget Outlook we have just given you as an assignment to read?

Just make sure you read that as soon as you can. You don't want to make the wrong decision for the future of this country, do you?

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Friday, July 22, 2016

The 'Stag-Nothing' of President Obama's 8 Years In The White House

Remember the term 'stagflation'?

Unless you came of age during the late 70s/early 80s, this term will mean absolutely nothing to you.

It was a term coined by British Conservative politician, Iain Macleod, in 1965 who later became chancellor of the exchequer in England in 1970.

Generally, 'stagflation' was used to describe a horrible economic mess of a condition where bone-headed and wrong-minded government fiscal and monetary policies combined to produce high inflation, stagnant economic growth and high unemployment.

It was used to hammer President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential campaign by Ronald Reagan to great effect.


Because President Carter's almost completely inept leadership on fiscal and monetary policy during his only term in office led to outrageous rates of inflation, up to 12% by end of his term; 21% interest rates; unemployment rates that hit 10% less than a year after he left office on January 20, 1981 and a general sense of 'wrong direction' for the country such that even he had to admit it was a 'malaise' in a national address that was almost too hard to even watch.

Know what the 'dissatisfied with the way things are going' poll numbers under President Carter' were as recorded by Gallup in 1980?


Know what they are today under President Barack Obama?


That looks like the American people are about as 'unhappy' with the results they have gotten under President Obama's leadership as they were under President Jimmy Carter, doesn't it?

Look at those economic indicator numbers. They also led to the 'misery index' which Ronald Reagan used to ask people: 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?' to great effect and great success as he walloped Carter in the largest electoral wipeout of an incumbent President in American history.

We don't have rampant inflation rates today. We don't have rampant interest rates today. We don't have rampant 'official' unemployment rates today, although we do have 'rampant' under-employment and people leaving the workforce which does not affect the official unemployment rate because they are simply not looking for work due to discouragement and other factors.

What we have today after 8 years of President Obama's leadership (sic) and policies in America is this:


Seriously, think about it. We don't have anything even remotely close to an economic boom going on in America today.

Oddly enough, if we did have massive job creation and hiring going on, you would see interest rates and inflation start to drift up due to higher demand for money and the material and services that almost always accompany any even modest economic recovery.

It has now been 7.5 years under the leadership of President Obama who can not possibly still be blaming George W. Bush 43 for this lackluster economy, can he? (don't answer that)

We have somehow 'successfully' (sic) managed to rein in our humongous national economy, the most diverse and productive economy the world has ever seen, to slow to a virtual crawl after 8 years of increased taxes and regulations emanating from Washington federal bureaucracies like millions of fire ants spoiling a picnic.
What we need is a President who doesn't like more
fire ant regulation of American business

Since Barack Obama took office, and before he leaves on January 20, 2017, a record number of federal regulations will be issued by his Administration, did you know that? He will have presided over the record number of close to 640,000 pages as published in the Federal Register spewing bureaucratic verbiage to install over 24,000 new final rules and regulations to tell our nation's businesses mostly what they can and can not do.

FDR in his heyday of virtually nationalizing everything under his New Deal for 12 years probably didn't exceed those mind-numbing generation of promulgated regs.

People who like more government write more laws and more regulations. It just goes together like a hand-in-a-glove.

As a result of the wet blanket of these mind-numbing new regs when coupled with all the new taxes and deficit-spending under President Obama, we are now at the virtual stage of an economic standstill if there ever was one.

Let's review the cold hard facts of our economic situation today from official government sources:
  1. Inflation for the last year has averaged about 1%.
  2. Federal funds rate at the Federal Reserve is now 0.5%.
  3. US prime interest rate is 3.5%
  4. 'Official' Unemployment Rate is 5%.
  5. 'Real' Unemployment (U-6) Rate from Department of Labor is 9.6%.
  6. Close to 8 million Americans are 'officially' unemployed *
  7. Another 7.6 million Americans are under-employed or part-time looking for full-time *
  8. 15.6 million unemployed or under-employed Americans today *
  9. The Average Economic Growth Rate for the last 7.5 years under President Obama is 1.76%
1.76% average GDP growth for 8 long years. When we worked on Capitol Hill, any projection of growth rates below 3% per year were considered 'decimal dust' and 'ridiculous'.

'How could the greatest economic engine the world has ever known be kept BELOW 3%?' was the sentiment.

Well, we did it. Yippee. Congratulations.

In otherwise 'normal' economic times, inflation at near-zero levels would be terrific for business, economic expansion and massive job creation.

In otherwise 'normal' economic times, interest rates at historically low levels would be terrific for business, economic expansion and massive job creation.

In otherwise 'normal' economic times, unemployment rates at below 5% levels would be terrific for business and economic expansion since, obviously, massive job creation had presumably occurred.

In otherwise 'normal' economic times, unemployed people who wanted to work and make a living and provide for their family would be sprinting towards the job market, not leaving it in droves, as in many months under President Obama, when more people left the job market than the number of people who found jobs,

We have 'none' of that today, do we? Ask around. Ask your friends and families if they feel a sense of exuberance about their economic prospects and financial situation today.

Ask them if they are finding job opportunities jumping out at them from every source they meet.

That is what a 'normal' economic expansion would look and feel like. Older folks who experienced such expansions in the 1980s and mid-to-late 1990s can tell you that is exactly what it looked and felt like when they experienced it.

They don't see it happening right now. They have not seen it happen for the past 7.5 years.

So ask yourself this serious question in the privacy of your own home:
  • Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago? By a lot, by a little or not by much?
Any continuation of the same economic policies for the next 8 years will most likely yield the same desultory results.


Is that what you really want for the next 8 years?

*(see Jobenomics for a full in-depth analysis of all the employment numbers)

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

If Vouchers Are Good Enough for Veterans in the GI Bill…

Freedom of Choice in Education
First published in North State Journal, 7/17/16

People express concern from all sides of the political spectrum about the quality of our public education system.

Some say the answer is paying our teachers more money. Others believe the size of classes need to be reduced. Others say we need more modern curricula. Still others say we need to go back to basics and a classical education.

How about injecting a full dose of freedom of choice into public education nationwide?

Milton Friedman in his seminal book, ‘Free to Choose’ wrote about the dynamics of such freedom of choice in education in 1979. At the time, the experiments with vouchers and educational choice had very limited experience up to that point.

We have had 37 years since then to evaluate whether the established public education model with ‘big box’ schools and heavy administrative overhead has worked to better educate the youth of our country.

You can decide for yourself whether it has worked well or not.

Before you completely go bonkers about ‘vouchers in public education’, though, consider two things that might pop your opposition balloon pretty quickly:

1) The GI bill allows veterans to get funding from the federal government to use at ANY institute of higher learning whether it is public, private, religious or graduate school ANYWHERE in the country.

Millions of veterans have taken full advantage of the GI bill which is nothing but a voucher any way you slice-or-dice it. No restrictions on using federal taxpayer money for any purpose other than letting the veteran get a college or graduate degree at any college or university of his or her choice.

Not the government’s choice or with any restrictions.

2) Have you ever heard of the North Carolina Legislative Tuition Grant Program funded by North Carolina state tax dollars since 1975?

According to their official description, ‘(t)he NCLTG program pays a grant to eligible undergraduate North Carolinians enrolled at an approved private institution’.

That’s right. Your publicly-paid and supported North Carolina tax dollars are annually appropriated for the targeted purpose of helping North Carolina undergraduates pay for expenses at approved, eligible ‘private’ universities in the state.

Here’s a short list of the private universities your state tax dollars have been going to help students pay their tuition for the past 41 years:  Duke, Davidson, Mars Hill, Wake Forest, Shaw, Lenoir-Rhyne, Guilford, Belmont Abbey.

Virtually every private college or university in North Carolina is eligible for a student to use this grant of just under $2000/annually to pay for college tuition. Close to 50,000 students annually are given this state grant subsidy to the tune of $88.4 million in this year’s budget.

If that is not a form of a full choice ‘voucher’ to pay for higher education at private universities, some of which still maintain some form of religious affiliation, then there is no such thing as a true voucher anywhere in the country.

To summarize, the GI Bill has worked well for the past 81 years and has enjoyed bi-partisan support every year. North Carolina has long been using taxpayer funds to subsidize college tuition at private colleges and universities.

What exactly is the problem with vouchers again when it comes to public education?

The key point for everyone to remember is that the only objective we must achieve is educating our youth in the best way possible. If the current status quo has failed to achieve that objective over the past 50 years, isn’t it time to change and do something different?

Injecting more parental choice in public education might be the way to go. It works for GIs and North Carolinians who go to private colleges on the taxpayers' dime.

Why not our schoolchildren?

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Why Do Hillary Clinton's Emails 'Matter' In the First Place?

Benedict Arnold-Was He Or Was He Not 'Extremely Careless'
with Sensitive Classified Information Under Gen'l Washington?
There is a lot of chatter going on about FBI Director James Comey's decision not to recommend a prosecution of presumptive Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her 'extremely careless' handling of classified emails while Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

Sadly, much of the chatter immediately degenerated into political barrages, most of which was not based on any personal expertise or actual experience with classified information in the federal government to begin with.

So what else is new in this social media age?

We like to deal with original documents and data resources when we dig into budget, tax and health care issues and then let you decide for yourself what you think about each issue.

The issue of the proper use and handling of classified documents is so important we thought we would devote an extra large dosage of information for you to use as you decide what to think about this whole ordeal.

Loss of classified information no matter from what level is extremely dangerous and should not just be dismissed out-of-hand as a trivial matter.

Because it is not.

Protection against espionage is as old as the American Republic to begin with. General George Washington was particularly attuned to it as portrayed in the pretty well-documented AMC series 'Turn: Washington's Spies' which you should watch if you get the chance.

General Washington did not take the loss of confidential secured classified information very kindly. He authorized the execution of those who participated in the loss of sensitive information as they were caught and discovered.

In this case, we reached out to several folks who are experts or attorneys in the world of federal classified information for some background for you to consider as you follow the fallout from the FBI decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton.

A) First, here's a personal reflection from our experience as we went through the secret clearance process to be a congressional staffer who could gain access to secured classified information for a subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the US House of Representatives:

Getting a secret clearance to review classified federal government information is hard. Getting 'top secret' clearance is very difficult.

Gaining access to any classified information means you have to submit a very detailed questionnaire that you have to sign under penalty of the law if you submit falsified information in any way before you get completely grilled by interviewers who not only interview you as a candidate to gain classified information but also dozens of other people who know you or might be part of your immediate or extended family.

Imagine the surprise of your siblings when one calls up to say: 'I got a call from the FBI today to talk about you. I hope you haven't done anything wrong'.

Quite honestly, during our interview, we were more than surprised to find out that the interrogator brought up a few things about the past that caused a shiver to go down our spine and wonder: 'How did they ever find out about that?'

Once secret clearance was granted, we had to go through a training session on how we were going to access the classified material in question that lasted several hours.

During this training, we were told in no uncertain terms that what we were going to see on a classified basis was 'important to our collective national security' and 'any breach of security regarding the information in question would be dealt with the most severe penalties possible under the law'.

No one came out of that briefing with any sort of ambiguity about what that meant. ANY release of information, whether deliberately or by accident, would put any one of us into severe jeopardy, legal and career-wise.

Beyond that, however, was this very clear and succinct message:
'Any and all classified information in the federal government is that way for a reason. People could die and our national security could be compromised with ANY release of classified information no matter how big or small we may have thought it was. SO DON'T DO ANYTHING STUPID TO RELEASE THE INFORMATION!'

When we went to view the material, we were asked to empty our pockets of all pencils, pens, papers, wallets and anything else that could be used to take notes and then walk out with them.

About the only things we were allowed to take into the secure room were the clothes we were wearing that day to work.

Before we went into the secured room guarded by 2 military guards, we each had to sign an affidavit that what we were about to see and hear in the room would not be divulged to anyone outside of that secured room.

We went into the secured room where they locked the door behind us and we were allowed to view the material and ask questions for about an hour.

After the meeting, the door was unlocked from the outside and we were escorted out of the room but not before we were essentially frisked to make sure we were not trying to walk off with one of the secured binders of classified information, which would have been quite uncomfortable given that it was about 3 inches thick and in one of those large binder notebooks.

We were reminded once again of our oath to protect everything we saw or heard in the classified briefing from being disseminated in any way, shape or form and we were not allowed to discuss anything we saw with anyone outside of the room.

Then we were allowed to go back into the halls of Congress and resume our regular workday.

That was the regular course of treatment of classified information for any Congressman, Senator or congressional staff who was involved in any intelligence matter and who 'needed to know it' to conduct the course of their work on Capitol Hill.

B) Here's a comment from a former White House staffer who was in charge of classified clearance for White House staff and officials:
'For any of my friends who don't realize how unlikely it is for classified information to accidentally end up on a non-classified computer or server (government or personal).
Classified computer systems are physically separate from non-classified systems. They do not connect in any way. It is not possible to accidentally email from a classified system to a non-classified system.
When I had a classified computer system at my desk, I had to physically switch a toggle on a box on my desk, to even get to the classified system and did not have any access to my unclassified computer system while working on the classified one. We were all instructed to never remove any classified information from the premises, and certainly, never ever take it home!!
Additionally, I had to log off of that system at the end of every work day, physically remove the hard drive, and lock it up overnight. If it was discovered my hard drive was not locked up (yes, co-workers were expected to check/report on each other), I could receive a security violation, which could lead to the loss of my clearance, and therefore the loss of my job.
We were all expected to take the most extreme measures possible to protect this information. There are tens of thousands of Americans who follow these precautions every day, because they care about ensuring the safety of the American public and protecting our National Security.'

Fortunately, 99% of the people who work in the federal government with classified information take it very seriously to protect our national security.

That is what makes this whole case with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton so disturbing to begin with.

ANY rational person would have to believe that the Secretary of State of the United States of America, of all people, would take extraordinary steps to protect classified information at least as seriously as the lowest-ranking career civil servant at the State Department who had access to such classified information.

Yes or no? It is not a trick question.

C) Here's a comment from an attorney in Northern Virginia who right now, today, is defending several people who had access to classified government information and are being charged with various violations of the very same 'classified' laws and regulations of the State Department and Department of Defense that governed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and all of her staff while still in that office:
'I'm working on some cases right now where ordinary citizens are being pursued by the federal government for "recklessly" failing to report the potential release of classified information.
No actual release.
No intent.
Just alleged failure to report it.'
Did you get that? His client is being charged not for releasing the information; not for actually forwarding the classified information to anyone; not selling it in a treasonous deal with ISIS operatives but only for their 'alleged failure to report the potential release of classified information'.

If that was a standard the FBI used against Hillary Clinton and all of her key aides who participated in this transmission of multiple sensitive classified emails, 'failure to report it', then all of them would have to be guilty since none of this would have even come to light except for the Benghazi hearings long ago that brought them to the national forefront.

One thing that really bugs us is the apparent insouciance of many on the left to discount the importance of this breach of security and gross 'extremely carelessness' when it came to Secretary Clinton and her aides handling classified State Department emails.

These are not recipes for beef stew that are being posted on classified State Department emails like you see on Facebook or Instagram.

These are travel plans, names, strategies and plans of attack by American servicemen or diplomats or CIA agents or spies, all of which we have to protect with the utmost reliability or else, as our trainer said back on Capitol Hill, 'people will die and our collective national security will be compromised'

This is a far more serious case than just being 'another political witch hunt' as some on the left and in the Hillary apologist crowd want you to believe and dismiss as they do.

Even though the FBI and now the DOJ have failed to prosecute, there are other steps that can and should be taken to restore some of the confidence that has been lost by the American public watching this play out on national tv.

For one thing, any and all of Hillary Clinton's aides and her lawyers, none of whom had security clearance Director Comey admitted today in his congressional hearing so they should not have been allowed to review the emails in the first place, should be allowed to gain security clearance of any degree or level if Hillary Clinton does become President Clinton and she asks them to join her in the White House.

That is what 'extremely careless' handling of sensitive, secure and classified information would get you, as an ordinary citizen and employee of the State Department, at the very, very, very minimum.

If you didn't go to jail, that is.

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