Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Is President Trump Being 'Unfair' To Our NATO Allies By Asking Them To Pay More For Their National Defense?

NATO Member Nation Defense Spending as Percentage of GDP (2016)
Much is being made of President Trump's public comments about asking our NATO allies to shoulder more of the collective NATO cost burden.

This is not a new thing. Republicans as far back as the 1980's were regularly talking about 'defense burden-sharing' as one way to start getting out from the enormous $300 billion+ budget deficits back then.

Think that is not a lot? That represented close to 30% of annual total federal budgets of just over $1 trillion.  Today's budget deficits, while enormous at $500 billion+, are 'only' 12% of annual federal budget totals of $4 trillion or so.

Still, the question of fairness and justice comes up when you consider that since World War II, the United States taxpayer has been asked to pay for a disproportionate share of the collective defense budget of the free world, namely the US, Canada and Western Europe before the Iron Curtain fell and Eastern Europe for the most part became part of NATO in the 1990's.

Is it 'fair' and 'just' to ask fellow free democracies such as France, Spain and Germany to pay more for their individual defense as part of the overall NATO treaty that commits the US and other nations to come to their defense in the event of an unprovoked attack?

As you can see from the chart above, only Greece, Poland, Estonia and the UK are paying more than 2% of their GDP in defense spending in addition to the US. 23 other member NATO nations fall below the suggested 2% of GDP threshold that every member nation knows is the preferred target for every nation.

The US is paying 3.62% of GDP in defense spending. Since the US economy is so enormous compared to the rest of the world, that translates into over $650 billion in FY 2016 or twice as much in real terms as the rest of the 27 NATO nations combined, even though their collective GDP is greater than the US.

Essentially, US taxpayers (and young people by virtue of the debt we have built up for them at stratospheric levels prior to the Trump Administration taking office) have paid for the vast amount of defense of freedom for our NATO allies since 1945.

Granted, the US has benefited from the institution of freedom and democratic government across the globe since World War II. Every time a dictatorship fell or communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, the US gained new friends and allies and trading partners just to name a few benefits of exporting freedom across the globe as the #1 American export since 1945.

However, 72 years is a very long time. The devastated nations of World War II, namely France and Germany, are among the top 6 economies in the world today. Surely they can be asked to shoulder more of their 'fair share' of the collective burden defending freedom and peace in their nations.

After all, they are closer to the hot spots of the world than the US is. It would seem they would understand the importance of paying for their freedom more fully than relying on a Big Brother such as the United States has asked its taxpayers.

Know what the 'excess' of the United States spending more than 2% of GDP on defense spending is annually?

It is close to $300 billion. Per year. Know how much lower our national debt would be today had the US spent only 2% of GDP for the past 17 years instead of the projected $21 trillion it will soon be?

Over $3 trillion. Our collective debt burden would have been close to $18 trillion instead of $21 trillion solely by limiting our defense spending to 2% of GDP as 'suggested' by our NATO alliance.

Or, to put it other ways, taxes could have been cut roughly on average $200 billion per year for the last 17 years. We could have paved and re-paved every US highway probably 2 or 3 times in advance of the Trump proposal to spend $1 trillion on our nation's infrastructure. $3 trillion in spending over the last 17 years could have done a lot in the fields of research to cure cancer, Alzheimer's or AIDS.

No wonder France and other European nations have the resources to offer 'free' health care or higher education or any of the other litany of supposed benefits of living in a socialized nation! Being relieved of paying fully their fair share for their national defense allows for such policies to be pursued by elected politicians in each country each seeking to get elected and stay elected.

9/11 changed a lot for the US. Much of our increased defense spending came as a result of the now 16-year War Against Terror with major expenditures on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still, our NATO allies benefit whenever American troops and military strength push back against such oppression. Had the US not been attacked on 9/11, perhaps the targets of Al Qaeda then and now ISIS would have been France, England or Germany. They would have had to have increased their defense spending regardless.

There are historical reasons why no one in their right mind would want to ever see a Germany or a Japan for that matter fully re-arm their military completely outside of a very tight military and national security strategic alliance. For one thing, both nations have repeatedly shown over centuries a very dangerous disposition to fully arm and then wreak havoc, destruction and millions of deaths on the world stage.

No one ever wants to see a fully independent and warlike Germany or Japan operating again.

However, that does not preclude either nation from paying a higher proportionate share of their solid economic output on their national defense and security. They could very easily make regular payments into a collective pool for NATO members and basically 'purchase' their security and defense from other members as they deploy troops and assets in the defense of all members in the alliance.

'Defense burden-sharing' was not a bad idea in the 1980's. It should not be dismissed as 'out of hand!' and 'crazy!' and 'insane!' as many in the press are portraying President Trump's recent pronouncements to be.

He could be a bit more pragmatic and diplomatic, to be sure. Perhaps such conversations should take place in private first at some conference of the G-7 or something like that.

However, ask yourself this question:

'Are we going to be paying a disproportionate share of the defense of Turkey, Denmark and Italy in 2027? 2057? 2117?'

If the US is still paying for the bulk of the defense of NATO in 2117, that would be longer than the period of time from the end of the Civil War in America to today.

Think about that. It has to change. Today is as good as any.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Look at that Plate-Spinner!

(click through title link to see video)

One the most amazing acts in television history, if you are of a certain age, was 'The Plate-Spinner' on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in the 1960s.

Ed Sullivan was a producer of many vaudeville acts and had really no discernible talent other than he could spot new acts and trends and put them on the air before anyone else knew who they were.

When he announced 'The Beatles!', America went wild. Elvis Presley graced his stage as did innumerable actors and bands.

But there was one act that seemed to be on at least 2 Sundays every month that captivated and mesmerized anyone who saw it: The Plate-Spinner.

Erich Brenn of Austria would come on-stage with a lot of fanfare music in the background and proceed to start spinning plates and bowls and whatever he could get his hands on it seemed on top of 5 or 10 or 15 long sticks on a table or stuck in the stage floor somehow.

All a person could do was to sit transfixed for the 2-3 minute performance watching the plates or bowls start to lose momentum and then somehow, Erich Brenn would spin the sticks and get them moving again properly instead of crashing to pieces below.

So far, in the first 3 weeks of President Donald Trump's presidency, we have been reminded of 'Erich Brenn, the Plate-Spinner from Austria!' mainly because the ultra-left in this country seemed to have gone bonkers over every single action, word and appearance of our new President.

And whether it is by design on the part of President Trump (he coulda been the second 'Ed Sullivan' you know) or happen-stance, all that attention on a tweet he sent out or a comment he made about his daughter's clothing line seems to have unhinged the Democrat opposition to the point where it is all they can do to find the next place to protest, riot or block and impede any conservative speaker or cabinet official from entering a building to speak on a matter.

Which leads us to remind everyone of the truly 'serious' and important work his administration and this Congress have got to do over the next 4 years. The more the left stays unhinged focusing on the trivialities of his plate-spinning, the more will get done to solve the truly big problems we face as a nation, beginning with this great summary below from The Committee for a Responsible Budget

  • 'Trump has taken office with higher levels of debt as a share of the economy than any president other than Harry Truman in 1945.
  • Unlike the debt under President Truman, which began to fall rapidly shortly after World War II ended, debt is projected to rise continuously during President Trump’s time in office and beyond.
  • Federal entitlement programs and interest currently represent a larger share of the budget than under any previous president, leaving relatively less room for defense and non-defense discretionary spending.
  • If in office for two terms, President Trump could face the insolvency of three major trust funds, and an additional one – the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund – soon after.

Debt is Higher Than at Any Time Since Truman

Over the past 50 years, the national debt held by the public has averaged about 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and was only 35 percent of GDP as recently as 2007. Since then, debt has grown dramatically, and is now higher than at any time since just after World War II.

Between 2007 and 2016, debt more than doubled as a share of GDP, from 35 percent to 77 percent.

This means that President Trump entered office with higher debt than any president since Truman in 1945, when debt was 103 percent of GDP.

At 77 percent of GDP, debt at the beginning of President Trump’s term is significantly higher than the 58 percent of GDP when President Eisenhower took office, the 46 percent when President Clinton entered, or the 44 percent at the beginning of President Obama’s tenure.

Trust Funds Are Headed Toward Insolvency

In addition to the overall debt and deficit situation, President Trump is confronted with a number of major trust funds out of long-term balance, with three that could be depleted by the end of a hypothetical second term in office.

CBO projects the Highway Trust Fund to become insolvent some time in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021. At that point, $70 billion of general revenue that was transferred into the trust fund in 2016 will have been spent in its entirety. As a result, the $40 billion of dedicated revenue will fall about one-third short of the projected $57 billion in spending in 2021. Through 2027, spending will exceed revenue and trust fund reserves by $139 billion, requiring significant adjustments to align them.

Two years later, in FY 2023, CBO projects the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) trust fund will exhaust its reserves. When that happens, beneficiaries will face an immediate 16 percent benefit cut. To delay this cut, policymakers will need to close a $175 billion shortfall between 2023 and 2027. Over a 75-year period, the SSDI shortfall equals 0.65 percent of taxable payroll (the Social Security Trustees estimate a 75-year shortfall of 0.26 percent of payroll).

By FY 2025 – either near the end of a hypothetical second term or the beginning of the following president’s term – CBO projects the Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund, which funds Medicare Part A, will also reach insolvency. When this trust fund is depleted, Medicare payments would be cut by 13 percent unless policymakers close the program’s $198 billion shortfall between 2025 and 2027 and the significantly larger long-run deficit (the Medicare Trustees project Medicare will be insolvent by 2028 and faces a shortfall of 0.73 percent of taxable payroll.)

Finally, CBO projects Social Security’s Old-Age and Survivors Insurance trust fund will deplete its reserves by calendar year (CY) 2030. At that point, under current law, all beneficiaries would face a 31 percent benefit cut. Though this date is still 13 years away, it is unlikely policymakers will be able to prevent insolvency (or prevent a large general revenue transfer) if they don’t act in the next few years. As we’ve explained before, delaying action on Social Security will ultimately require larger tax increases and spending cuts spread over fewer cohorts with fewer possible exemptions (such as current beneficiaries) and less time for workers to plan and adjust. Over 75 years, CBO projects Social Security’s retirement program faces a massive gap of 4 percent of payroll – the equivalent of one quarter of spending or one third of revenue (the Social Security Trustees estimate a 75-year shortfall of 2.39 percent of payroll and an insolvency date of 2035).'

As always, we encourage you to read the entirety of the report from CRFB and print it out and keep it handy if you have to; it is only 11 pages.

But while the left is getting all steamed up about 'Trump-The Plate Spinner From Queens!', you'll be able to soberly and calmly discuss with your friends and colleagues the importance of reducing federal spending so we can get our financial national fiscal house in order not unlike what has happened in the state of North Carolina over the past 4 years that has led to a $556 million annual surplus in the next budget.

(We couldn't resist: here's the Ed Sullivan Show announcing 'The Beatles!' to the world in 1964.

If you have never seen it, you just can't understand how much of an impact this performance had on America. 73 million people watched it that night when the population of the US was only 191 million folks. That would far exceed current Super Bowl ratings if adjusted for population growth)

The Ed Sullivan Show First Appearance of The Beatles in video on Jukebox[4] from Zip Code on Vimeo.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Don't Like the 60-Vote Hurdle in US Senate? Here's A Way Around It Perhaps.....

'My '60' Was Easier To Get To Than
The US Senate's '60'!
The media is breathlessly obsessing over whether Democrats in the US Senate, led by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, can keep 8 Democrats from crossing over to vote with the 52 Republicans to get to the magic number '60' so that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch can be voted on to fill the seat left open when Justice Scalia died last year.

What is so 'magical' about the number '60' in the US Senate anyway?  When did '60' become so important so as to effectively be used to shut down operations of the Senate and therefore the entire federal government for much of the past 17 years essentially?

It is not like Roger Maris in 1961 trying to break Babe Ruth's home run record of 60*. There is nothing inherently 'magical' or even 'constitutional' about the number 60 in the US Senate, is there?

We think there is a very simple way to make the number '60' in the US Senate virtually worthless in short order. However, first a little history:

The 'terrible' thing that the US Senate wanted to prevent with the number '60' was the long 'filibuster' that would occur when or if a Senator would claim the floor and then proceed on a long sustained speech for 1, maybe 1.5 days at a time thereby stalling all Senate action for the duration.

Appropriately enough, the word 'filibuster' comes from the Dutch word for 'pirate' or 'freebooter':
'FILIBUSTERING'is a term lately imported from the Spanish, yet destined, it would seem, to occupy an important place in our vocabulary. In its etymological import it is nearly synonymous with piracy. It is commonly employed, however, to denote an idea peculiar to the modern progress, and which may be defined as the right and practice of private war, or the claim of individuals to engage in foreign hostilities aside from, and even in opposition to the government with which they are in political membership. ["Harper's New Monthly Magazine," January 1853]
'Piracy' of full and open free debate, that is. Filibusters do nothing other than delay free and open debate in the US Senate which should be anathema to anyone in the United States of America.

In 1917, the Senate adopted a rule that called for 67 votes to close off debate (called 'cloture'). Previously, since the beginning of the Republic, there was unlimited debate on an issue as long as the there was unanimous consent (100%) to continue debate before taking a vote.

The president pro tempore (or his designee) of the Senate could keep recognizing Senators who wanted to continue a filibuster as long as he wanted (and his party agreed to).

Remember: the rules of debate in the US Senate are just that: adopted rules by the Senate at the time. There is no constitutional requirement in the US Constitution regarding 'filibusters' or 'cloture' or anything like that.

As it is today, you would think the number '60' is ingrained in Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution relating to the establishment of the Senate.

It is not. Anywhere.

Unlimited, open and free debate about everything was the hallmark of the US Senate, commonly referred to in the past as the 'World's Greatest Deliberative Body'.  No longer can it be claimed as such primarily due to the cloture rule of 60 today. Both sides engage in threats to 'do filibusters' simply to bottle up contentious issues and avoid making the tough votes and compromises on the big issues we send them to Washington to work out in the first place.

Cloture votes were designed to limit the obstructionist use of free debate of the opposition, especially obnoxious to the majority party in control of the Senate at any particular time.

'Filibusters' are great when you want to oppose an issue. They are 'awful' when you want something passed but your opponents engage in the dilatory tactics of the filibuster.

One the more famous (or infamous) individual filibusters in recent history was when South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond took to the floor in a filibuster against allowing debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1957. He started speaking at 8:54 pm on August 27 and ceded the floor back to the Chair at 9:12 pm on August 28, 1957.  He spoke for 24 hours and 20 minutes on a wide range of issues from reading Shakespeare to his momma's recipe for 'pot-likker'.

Great theatre. Looked like Jimmy Stewart in 'Mr. Smith Goes To Washington'. 

What stopped Senator Thurmond?

Nature itself. Lack of sleep, physical fatigue will ultimately get every human being to submit to yielding the floor. 'Nature called' in the sense that Strom Thurmond eventually had to use the bathroom facilities and get some sleep, although Capitol Hill legend has it he used some sort of catheter device to postpone his inevitable visit to the bathroom.

After a 60-day Civil Rights filibuster in 1964 that was essentially broken when Republican Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois brought 27 Republican Senators to invoke cloture at 67 votes, many observers sought to reduce the cloture vote even lower to frustrate future filibusters.  This finally was accomplished in 1975 when the rules to invoke cloture were changed in the US Senate to bring the threshold down to 3/5s or 60 votes from 67.

Today, all you hear about is how hard it will be to get 8 Democrats to switch over to join 52 Republican Senators to get to 60 in the Senate to invoke cloture (end any potential filibuster) and allow the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to get to the floor of the Senate where he could be approved by simple majority or 51. (Republicans have 52 in the Senate today)

We think the effective number today to end cloture is 51 simply because former Majority and Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada quite honestly, and 'stupidly' as history will bear out, got a Senate rule lowering the vote for federal judges to simple majority rather than be subject to cloture rule votes. They were frustrated by their inability to get many of former President Obama's judicial nominees through the Senate because Republicans would not join the Democrats to get to 60 votes.

See? Obstructionism is bipartisan.

This is the so-called 'nuclear option' you keep hearing about. It is not 'nuclear' in the sense that the Senate will be radioactive for 250 years after using it. But it does take the US Senate far from the original intent of allowing minority party rights in the US Senate by our Founders that it might as well be considered a 'nuclear bomb' to our form of government and should be avoided at all costs.

'Resorting to the 'nuclear option' reduces the US Senate of the United States of America to merely being a second House of Representatives where majority rules and minority parties just get creamed and lose leverage in any compromise solution.

We don't need or want a second House of Representatives where popular emotion can often rule the roost in times of stress or crisis. The US Senate is supposed to be a place where cooler heads prevail and members of both parties are FORCED to make accommodations in compromises to pass laws and confirm nominees that reflect more of the center of the political spectrum than the extremes on either fringe.

So, what is the 'solution' alluded to earlier?

  • Let Senators go ahead and filibuster their brains out.
  • Let Nature take her course and her revenge against them. 
  • Nature always wins.

Think about it. Former Senator Harry Reid has effectively reduced the cloture vote to 51 anyway. It is like saying a women is 'half-pregnant'; she either is or isn't pregnant. The effective cloture vote now is 51 whether anyone likes it or not.

Senator Mitch McConnell can urge Senators to adhere to the 60-vote threshold now in the rules of the Senate but when push comes to shove, if only 7 Democrats join the 52 Republicans in the Senate to invoke cloture, Republicans in the Senate can just change the rules in the Senate and adopt simple majority rules to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and be done with it.

So there. That is what is going to happen in the next month or so in a nutshell if you don't see 8 Democrats crossover to vote for cloture in somewhat of a dispirited effort to 'return to tradition and principle' in the Senate.

Allowing a Democratic Senator to start the debate by filibustering the Gorsuch nomination for a day or 2 at best would allow Majority Leader McConnell the opportunity to claim the floor when that Senator passes out from exhaustion and recognize a Republican Senator who could make the motion to proceed to debate the Gorsuch nomination on the floor of the Senate.

Debate will have started. The filibuster will have failed. The next speaker is recognized. And a motion to proceed to vote can follow some adult-level debate about the relative merits and demerits of Judge Gorsuch.

At that point, Mr. Gorsuch could be voted onto the Supreme Court with 51 votes, not 60 as it sounds like today.

What the Senate would lose is a day or so of listening to someone read Shakespeare or the New York City phone book (if such a thing still exists nowadays) into the Senate Record. It might be an affront to efficiency and common sense but the US Senate is not supposed to be 'super-efficient' when it comes to passing legislation in the first place.

Making Senators actually do a filibuster would be much more 'painful' to them personally, physically and emotionally than constantly falling prey to their 'threats' to filibuster. Make them do a couple of them, particularly the older and more frail Senators by age, and the allure of engaging in prolonged, dilatory tactics becomes much less interesting of an option to most sane people.

Including Senators.

In addition, people of their state might grow tired of their Senator constantly gumming up the works of the US Senate instead of doing the very hard work of working to find ways to get the bill in question amended in some way that would allow their affirmative vote.  Having a Senator spend 1 day per week screwing things up in the Senate might be fun for a couple of weeks or a month but after awhile, it will grow old and stale as last year's bread.

Order would be restored to the US Senate in terms of restoring it to the 'World's Greatest Deliberative Body' where substantive debate can and should be engaged and let the cards fall where they may based on reason, fact and persuasion.

As it should be.

(Restoring earmarks in appropriations bills so deals can be made and cut to get a Senator's vote once again would be helpful as well. Putting an earmark in for a state for a bridge to be built across a small river to a revered historic landmark in honor of the home state Senator's dearly beloved grandmother who hailed from the region would be a small price to pay to get things moving again on a bi-partisan basis...but that is a story for another time)

*(editorial side note: every major league player who hit more home runs in a season than Roger Maris is tainted by questions about their use of illegal or at least unethical PEDs or performance-enhancing drugs so 61 and 60 are still 'magical' numbers in Major League Baseball at least)

** (Caveat)- There may be some obscure parliamentary rule we are unaware of that experienced parliamentarians spend years in academia debating whether it was offered by a specific number of angels on the head of a pin. However, this discussion came out of a discussion from a veteran of Capitol Hill recently who went to Washington in the 1970s and has basically 'seen it all' so we are going with his observation.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

President Ronald Reagan Had His 'PATCO Moment' in August, 1981

PATCO didn't work
President Donald Trump has had 7 PATCO moments in his first 11 days in the White House.

What is a 'PATCO Moment' you may ask?

First, a little history lesson:

PATCO was the acronym for the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization that served as the union for all the nation's air traffic controllers at all the nation's airports.

No one in their right mind would suggest theirs is not a very important job to our personal safety and national commerce. They are highly trained people and everyone should be grateful they do a great job every day.

However, they are also federal workers. Public servants as much as any congressional staff or administration official is.

Here's the oath they take when they accept the job at any of the approximately 10,000 US airports:

'I am not participating in any strike against the Government of the United States or any agency thereof, and I will not so participate while an employee of the Government of the United States or any agency thereof.'

President Reagan took that oath seriously. As do the vast majority of federal workers when they take federal jobs.

Except the PATCO workers as of August 3, 1981, that is.

'At 7 a.m. on August 3, 1981, the union declared a strike, seeking better working conditions, better pay, and a 32-hour workweek. In addition, PATCO wanted to be excluded from the civil service clauses that it had long disliked. 

In striking, the union violated 5 U.S.C. (Supp. III 1956) 118p (now 5 U.S.C. § 7311), which prohibits strikes by federal government employees. 

Ronald Reagan declared the PATCO strike a "peril to national safety" and ordered them back to work under the terms of the Taft-Hartley Act. 

Only 1,300 of the nearly 13,000 controllers returned to work.

Subsequently, at 10:55 a.m., Reagan included the following in a statement to the media from the Rose Garden of the White House: "Let me read the solemn oath taken by each of these employees, a sworn affidavit, when they accepted their jobs"

He then demanded those remaining on strike return to work within 48 hours, otherwise their jobs would be forfeited. At the same time, Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis organized for replacements and started contingency plans. 

By prioritizing and cutting flights severely, and even adopting methods of air traffic management that PATCO had previously lobbied for, the government was initially able to have 50% of flights available.

On August 5, following the PATCO workers' refusal to return to work, Reagan fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order, and banned them from federal service for life.1)

And they never worked as an air traffic controller at a US airport ever again.

That one singular act was routinely referred to as the 'signature moment' when everyone in the nation knew for sure that President Reagan was setting a new course for America after 4 years of dismal economic growth, 'stagflation', rampant inflation, sky-high interest rates, 444 days of Iran holding 52 American hostages in Tehran, gas shortages and rising gasoline prices under previous President Jimmy Carter.

President Reagan had survived an assassination attempt in March of 1981, barely 2 months after he was sworn-in as President and he had started the process of passing tax cuts to revive the economy.

But the PATCO strike was the moment that defined the early years of President Reagan since it signaled a return to law, a return to reason, a return to honorable selfless public service and a return to common sense.

President Reagan had that signature PATCO moment in August, 1981 just over 7 months in office.

President Donald Trump has had 7 'PATCO-like Moments' in his first 11 DAYS as President of the United States.

  1. Signed order allowing Keystone Pipeline to proceed
  2. Withdrew US from Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations
  3. Announced hiring freeze in federal government
  4. Announced freeze and rollback of federal regulations
  5. Announced the beginning of the construction of the border wall with Mexico
  6. Issued temporary halt to immigration from 7 countries most identified with Islamist extremism
  7. Announced the selection of Neil Gorsuch as his nominee to the US Supreme Court.
We may have missed a couple along the way. At this rate, President Trump may average a PATCO-esque moment or 2 per day for each day he is in office.

You may love this change of direction under President Trump or you may hate it. But there is no denying that just as ex-President Obama promised significant change in 2009 as he took office, President Trump is delivering on significant change in 2017 as he takes office.

As monumental as many of these actions have been,  it remains to be seen what the US Senate and Congress will do since that is where substantive changes can be made to last the long-term through legislation.

If Congress follows suit, this year may be one of the most active and substantial sessions of Congress in perhaps the last 20 years. 

You might want to stay tuned.

1) from Wikipedia

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