Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Social Security Lump of Coal for Millennials

(first published in North State Journal 12/19/18)

Everyone knows Social Security is the ‘third rail’ of American politics. Touch it or even talk about it as a politician, and ‘you will die’ as they say.

Does everyone also know that while Social Security worked to help alleviate suffering during the Great Depression, massive demographic changes since then have made it one of the worst financial investments Millennials will make without any freedom to invest their money otherwise?

‘Currently, for every $1 a middle-earning couple (born in 1985) pays into Social Security, they can expect $1.01 back in benefits when they retire. That’s not a great return on investment, and it may fall in the future because Social Security isn’t on track to keep paying this level of benefits. If the government cuts benefits enough to make the program solvent they’d only get $0.80 for every $1 they pay in’*

Welcome to your Social Security Lump of Coal this Christmas, Millennials!

Social Security provides 50% of retirement income for close to 50% of the 62 million seniors (31 million) on Social Security.  20% of all seniors (12 million) rely almost totally on Social Security benefits with no other retirement income streams.

The biggest problem with Social Security in the minds of freedom-loving, market-based conservatives is not that it is too expensive or too big of a government program. The problem is that it does not provide a much higher retirement benefit to the very people it was designed to help in the first place: lower and moderate-income senior citizens.

The sad part about Social Security is that it forces people to rely on a relatively measly average payment of $1422/month or $17,532 per year post-retirement at age 66. (In 2027, seniors have to be 67 to receive full benefits)

Fervent opponents of Social Security reform have kept tens of millions of retirees from living a far more comfortable life in retirement than they are today. With the same amount of money paid into OASDI, a middle-income retiree could retire with a nest egg of hundreds of thousands, perhaps over a million, dollars had they been able to invest those same dollars in a traditional retirement account for 40 years.

Absent any changes today, Millennials will be looking at more dismal rates of return on their OASDI payroll tax ‘contributions’ (sic) 35 years in the future.

What happens when a recession hits and stock portfolios take a beating?

The government could act as a backstop just as it did during the banking crisis of 2008-09 and guarantee a payment each month to get retirees back to at least their projected average monthly Social Security check based on what they would have received from the old system and calculation. 

Not full payment; just a partial payment to make them whole.

Once the economy and stock and bond markets recover, those emergency payments can stop.

There really is a basic fundamental question to be asked here.  Is it fair to force American citizens to accept a substandard system of funding their retirement when there is a much more lucrative system available to them?

Based on aging demographics and declining birth rates, the majority of OECD countries have come to the conclusion that they must expand and encourage mandatory private retirement accounts in addition to public funds. (see chart above)

The United States does not allow any private investment of OASDI tax payments into personal accounts under Social Security. None. Whatsoever.

This Christmas when Millennials go home to talk with their enlightened Boomer parents, they should tell them they love them and want them to keep their substandard Social Security benefits for as long as they live. No one wants to, or will, ever change that.

However, Millennials and future generations should want to do better. Far better. For each person individually and, then by happy extension, for every other American who will grow old with them.


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Thursday, December 13, 2018

So NOW There Is Election Voter Fraud In North Carolina!

(first published in North State Journal 12/13/18)

For decades, people in the media and outside of the electoral process have been saying: ‘There is no election or voting fraud in North Carolina! None. Nada. Never’

Last week, when allegations of ‘election irregularities’ came to light in the 9th Congressional District race that led the NC State Board of Elections to deny certification of the election of Republican candidate Mark Harris to Congress, those same people erupted in a chorus of ‘See! There IS election fraud…and the Republicans always do it!’


Can we all agree on the following basic principles?

1. There is no room for any illegal voting by anyone ever.
2. There is no room for any person who is not a legally born or naturalized citizen to vote ever.

If we can all agree on those 2 basic bedrock principles, we can take steps to reinstate full 100% faith in our electoral system.

Otherwise, confidence in our electoral system will continue to erode and further weaken our democratic republic. Which is precisely what we do not need right now.

As long as there have been elections, people of all political persuasions have done everything under the sun to win the election for their candidate or their side.

George Washington lost his first campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1756.

In 1758, he did what any candidate would have done back then to win the next election: he outspent the other candidate by buying enough booze on election day to win by a landslide.

Today he would go to jail for ‘bribing’ voters.

There were 397 votes cast. George Washington got 309 of them. 78% of the vote.

Here's the bill his supporters sent to him before the election: 

  • 34 gallons of wine
  • 3 pints of brandy
  • 13 gallons of beer
  • 8 quarts of hard cider
  • 40 gallons of rum punch
  • Total bill: 34 pounds, Virginia currency.
That is 1.16 quarts of alcohol for every vote cast for the 'George Washington for House of Burgesses!' campaign, July 24, 1758. 'My only fear is that you spent with too sparing of a hand' he wrote to his supporters beforehand thinking maybe even a quart per vote would not be enough.

Talk about a shady unreported and unlimited ‘independent expenditure campaign’. With alcohol. On Election Day. George Washington!

Google ‘Zeno Ponder’ of Madison County in western North Carolina. In the 1960s, he would routinely stuff one ballot box with ‘correct’ ballots marked for Democrats just in case he needed them. The real ballot box would be switched out for the stuffed one if his side was losing very late on election night.

Leslie McCrae Dowless is at the epicenter of allegations of election fraud in Bladen County which affects the outcome of the Mark Harris-Dan McCready congressional race for the 9th District. It is alleged that he paid handlers to pick up absentee ballots, in violation of state law although other states such as California allow such ‘harvesting’ of absentee ballots, and perhaps didn’t return close to 1000 ballots that may have been marked for McCready instead of Harris.

Dowless has been working for Republicans for the last 8 years. Care to guess for whom he may have worked prior to the Republican takeover of the NCGA in 2010?

Democrats. Democrats he may have helped might be feeling a tad bit woozy if investigative reporters start going back beyond this year. He sure didn’t learn his craft starting in the summer of 2018.

America put men on the moon 50 years ago. Isn’t it about time we use 21st-century technology such as digital certificates that are secured by identity management and blockchain software using multi-factor authentication, including biometrics, to confirm the veracity of voter registration?

Now that everyone agrees that election voter fraud ‘actually exists’, both sides have the impetus to guarantee that it never happens again.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Compromise and Public Service: President George H.W. Bush

(first published in the North State Journal 12/5/18)

One of the coolest things about running for Congress even if you don't know what you are doing is you get to take pictures with the President of the United States and his Vice-President if they are of your same party.

In 1984, I was running for Congress from NC-2 so every Republican candidate from across the country went to Washington for some training and briefing on the issues.

Whether you had a chance of winning or not.

Which I didn’t. NC-2 was a 91% D/9% R gerrymandered district.

They line you up and then announce you as 'So-and-So from The Second Congressional District of North Carolina!' as if you are entering the king's court which you sorta are since it is the White House.

I first sat next to President Ronald Reagan who nodded his head as our picture was taken and said in exactly the same velvety voice you have heard a million times: 'Weeeelllll, Good Luck to You, Young Man!'.

I went around the corner where, about 30 seconds later, I found myself seated next to Vice President George H.W. Bush.

I told him I worked for a company called 'Zapata Ind....' before he cut me off with a laugh and said: 'That is a great company! Glad I started it!' thinking I was working for Zapata Offshore, an oil firm he started, not the bottling industry concern I was working for, Zapata Industries.

That is why he is seen in this picture slapping me on my knee.

Little did I know that I was getting photos of myself with 2 American Presidents in the span of 2 minutes since George H.W. Bush was the first sitting vice-president to directly succeed a president in the next election rather than by death or resignation since Martin van Buren succeeded President Andrew Jackson in 1836.

George H.W. Bush exemplified selfless ‘servant’-leadership at his very essence. He could have avoided service in World War II. He grew up in a family of privilege and pedigree in a patrician New England family.

He enrolled at age 18 to be the youngest aviator in the Navy.

For the same reasons, he ‘didn’t have to run’ for public office. But he did; he ran for the US Senate; served in Congress, was the Ambassador to China, was Ronald Reagan’s vice-president and then was elected President in 1988.

People say they want ‘compromise’ and ‘leadership’. They got both in President Bush 41.

At the 1988 GOP Convention in New Orleans, then-Vice President Bush said these unforgettable words: ‘Read My Lips. No New Taxes’.

In 1989, OMB director Richard Darman gave him the facts about the ‘alarming’ and ‘looming’ dangers of the then-unbelievable $152 billion deficits ‘for as far as the eye can see’. Our annual federal budgets were roughly $1.2 trillion and our national debt held by the public was the ‘unmanageable’ sum of $2.1 trillion.

We have $1 trillion annual budget deficits building on top of a $16 trillion national debt held by the public 30 years later. Both of which are glaring testaments to the collective failures by everyone who
has occupied the White House, Congress and the US Senate since 2001.

President Bush 41 signed the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act (BEA) when he knew it would hurt his chances for re-election in 1992 because it violated his 1988 campaign pledge. The BEA established spending control for the 1990s and laid the foundation for the 1997 Budget Act.

We had budget surpluses in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 and paid down $600 billion of national debt while the internet-fueled economy continued to grow.

Voters voted President Bush out of the White House in 1992. But he did the right thing and he knew it.

I miss the statesmanship and guts of leaders like President George H.W. Bush.

Sad to see such leaders go.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Coercive Power of Government

(first published in the North State Journal 11/28/18)

I had the chance to speak with a brash hot-shot young political operative from another Southern state who had helped a Democrat win a big campaign recently.

As Southern political types are wont to do, there was a lot of bragging and embellishment. Even young ones.

I asked 2 simple questions: 1) ‘Why are you a Democrat instead of a Republican?’ and 2) 'Do you believe in the coercive power of government?'

The bragging stopped. The answer was tepid and trailed off into platitudes and vapors.

The. Questions. Could. Not. Be. Answered.

Most people want to use the coercive power of government to tell people what to do ‘under penalty of the law’ if they think it has some beneficial ameliorative effect on American society.

However, the same people bristle at any effort by others from the opposite political belief who want to use the same coercive power of government to make them do something that impinges on what they perceive to be their God-given freedom to do.

No one really likes to have other people tell them what to do. Let’s all admit that much at least.

Here’s an easy question to start with to see how much ‘coercive power’ of the federal government you prefer: ‘Do you think rich people should be forced to pay more in taxes?’

Most people will reflexively say yes. They want the government to extract as much tax revenue from rich people and ‘big bad corporations’ as possible.

Mainly because that means they won’t be forced by the same government to pay more in their personal income taxes each year.

Should you be forced to pay more in taxes for the things you say you want the government to do for the poor, for the children, for our collective national defense?

Most people will say no to that question. ‘I am barely making ends meet as it is today!’ people will say especially if they have children who want to go to college and a wife who wants to take those same children on a vacation or two during the year.

How about using the coercive power of government to take away the 300 million+ guns that are in the hands of 50-80 million legal gun owners? Do you support that?

What if the other political side wins an election promising they will overturn every marijuana law on the books in the states that have approved its use and then authorizes the police force of the federal government to come into every home to take previously legal marijuana away from its owners?

How does that coercive use of government look to you now?

Generally, the laws that work for us as a free society are those that enable things to be done that benefit us all whether we acknowledge it or not. National defense and domestic security are two areas where the coercive power of government through taxation benefits us all.

A sound national and state transportation system is another. Building ‘post roads’ actually has the additional benefit of being in the Constitution so it is ‘constitutional’ as well.

Is ‘public education’ something that your children should be ‘coercively forced’ into attending without any choice at all? Or should you have the freedom to decide on your own to send your child to a charter, religious or private school with tax money you have already paid?

Our political differences are binary stars rotating around this question of the extent of how much coercive force of government each of us thinks Washington, our state capitals and local governments should have to govern our daily lives.

Maybe if we could find some common agreement on the limits of such power on which everyone could agree, that would be the start of finding compromises and solutions all of us could support on everything else.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Top Ten People Who Wanted To Kill Alexander Hamilton But Aaron Burr Got To Him First

(first published in North State Journal 11/21/18)

Everyone knows Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton for a litany of reasons.

Aaron Burr was not the only person who wanted to kill Alexander Hamilton.

He just got to him first.

In the revival of interest in perhaps our most consequential Founder, it might be helpful to give thanks that despite the vitriol we see every day, we are far better off than the early days when political opponents shot each other over their differences, no matter how trivial or profound they may be.

There were plenty of people who deep down probably wanted to kill the pretentious, arrogant and preening Alexander Hamilton.

Thomas Jefferson placed a bust of himself across from one of Hamilton at his front entrance to Monticello. They would stare at each other for all eternity “opposed in death as in life.” Hamilton, to his defense, wrote: “If there be a man in the world I ought to hate, it is Jefferson’.

Then-VP John Adams called the pretentious Hamilton ‘the bastard son of a Scotch peddler’ for taking too much credit for George Washington’s military success in the Great War for Independence. Adams also resented Hamilton’s subversion of his own aspirations for the White House in 1796 and 1800.

General Charles Lee tried to replace George Washington as commander of the Continental Army in 1777. Washington’s loyal aide, John Laurens, challenged Lee to a duel and wounded Lee to the extent that Laurens’ second, none other than Alexander Hamilton, interceded to end the duel and save Lee’s life.

Lee resented Hamilton for his part in Lee being drummed out of the Continental Army for insubordination. Had Lee had 2 pistols, he surely would have shot at Hamilton after firing at Laurens.

Lee’s will stipulated that he not be buried in a church graveyard since “I have kept so much bad company when living that I do not choose to continue it when dead.” Including Hamilton.

James Reynolds should have wanted to shoot Alexander Hamilton after he discovered that his wife Maria was having an affair with the former Treasury Secretary. What Reynolds really wanted was money from Hamilton so he resorted to blackmail to keep it secret instead of shooting him dead.

Future President James Monroe, the fourth Virginian out of the first 5 US Presidents, challenged Hamilton to a duel in 1797 when Hamilton learned that Monroe knew of his affair with Maria Reynolds.

“Do you say I represented falsely; you are a Scoundrel,” Monroe wrote to Hamilton.

“I will meet you like a Gentleman” Hamilton replied.

“I am ready; get your pistols” Monroe responded.

James Callender was the champion muckraker of the early Republic. He threatened to reveal possible financial malfeasance by the Secretary while in office which would have ruined Hamilton financially after all he had done to escape the poverty of his youth. He hated Hamilton and the feeling was likewise.

Thomas Paine, author of ‘Common Sense’, called the party of Hamilton, the Federalists, "disguised traitors" who were "rushing as fast as they could venture, without awakening the jealousy of America, into all the vices and corruptions of the British Government“.  He hated Hamilton too and vice versa.

There were at least 12 other documented cases where Alexander Hamilton was challenged to a duel by other men offended by him in some fashion or who were challenged by perhaps the most consequential of all our Founders, Alexander Hamilton.

Perhaps the person who had every reason to shoot Alexander Hamilton was his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. She must have been the First Saint of The New American Democratic Republic.

Despite what you may feel about our politics today, give thanks tomorrow that it is as ‘clean’ as it is.

At least we are not witnessing daily duels between President Trump and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and everyone else.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What's Next?

(first published in North State Journal 11/14/18)

Democrats take back Congress. Republicans add a couple of seats to their majority in the US Senate.

Donald Trump stays in the White House.

What happens next for 2019 and 2020?

We have seen divided government before. 15 of the past 37 Congresses since 1945 have been unified government with one party control of the White House, Congress and Senate.
22 have not. The American people intuitively understand precisely what the Framers of the Constitution, specifically James Madison, were worried about most which was the concentration of power in a few select hands.

Plus no matter who is in the White House, many voters just don’t like what they have seen for the first 2 years of any Presidency so they vote heavily against his party in control for Congress.

Will 2019-2020 be a period of total acrimony and 100% gridlock where nothing gets done? Or will we see adults in both parties in the Senate and Congress to come together and pass bipartisan legislation for the good of this country?

Aristotle said that legislation should not be passed unless it helps make each citizen ‘more virtuous’. He didn’t say ‘pass only legislation that is easy to do and won’t hurt you and your party in the next election’.

‘Gridlock’ is not all that bad. Speaker Joe Cannon, a crusty old guy from Illinois at the turn of the 19th century to the 20th, said the best Congress was one that didn’t pass any legislation.

What if, by some meteoric rise in maturity, statesmanship and leadership, adults in both chambers decide: ‘Why don’t we do something great for the country since we are elected to do that anyway?’

A lot of folks in both parties will have to buck their leadership and wingnut extremes and vote in the best interests of the nation first, not their party or even their re-election chances in the next election.

At the 1988 GOP Convention, then Vice-President George H.W. Bush 41 promised the delegates: ‘Read My Lips. No New Taxes!’

In 1990, because the annual budget deficits of $340 billion and $3 trillion national debt were considered ‘dangerous’, ‘intolerable’ and ‘unsustainable’, President Bush 41 signed the Budget Enforcement Act (BEA) passed by Congress and the Senate with heavy Democratic majorities. It included cigarette tax hikes of 4 cents/pack, excise taxes on yachts and elimination of the salary cap on Medicare payroll taxes.

No Republican likes higher taxes. However, budget spending hawks in 1990 got discretionary spending caps and the PAYGO budget enforcement mechanism in return for voting for BEA.

That single bill set the predicate for the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 which led to the only 4 balanced budgets we have seen in our lifetimes.

If enough brave members in each party in each house rise up and band together to get to 50%+1 and pass a comprehensive spending control bill that has at its core fundamental reforms to entitlement programs, we might one day look back at the 2018 elections and say: ‘Thank you to our great American leaders of 2019!’ as if they were George Washington, Henry Clay and Sam Rayburn of the past.

Even if the Democrats, as expected, unleash 2 years of hell for President Trump in terms of investigations and impeachment proceedings against him, his Cabinet, Brett Kavanaugh and his family, they all fall apart when they cross over to the Republican-controlled Senate chamber.

The only thing that could get done in Washington would be judicial confirmations and treaties. If Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate, President Trump can nominate the next Supreme Court Justice and easily pass them on to the Court almost overnight. The House has nothing to do with that.

You can start holding your breath waiting for ‘The Grand Compromise of 2019’ bill right now. We will tell you when a deal is cut and you can exhale.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Time To Be A Rational Optimist

(first published in North State Journal 11/7/18)

Isn’t everyone tired of all the negativity around the country?

It comes from all sides. Don’t kid yourself that it doesn’t.

Wouldn’t it be nice on this day after the 2018 elections if someone, anyone, everyone started talking about what is right with America and the world instead of blaming the ‘other side’ for everything wrong with both?

David Gardner, who founded the stock market advisory firm, The Motley Fool, with his brother not long after graduating from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1988, gave a talk last week at the Wilberforce Conference sponsored by the North Carolina Study Center.

He spent a lot of time talking about a book, ‘The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves’ by Matt Ridley and how it influences his stock picking methods.

Ridley argues not from a philosophical or a political standpoint but from a science perspective that over the past 10,000 years, human beings have built not only wealth but trust across socio-economic and racial barriers by learning how to trade with each other.

As a result of trade and free enterprise, human development has accelerated at warp speed over the last 200 years. Mass epidemics have been wiped out or averted; 99% of the people on the planet today live in far better conditions than our Stone Age ancestors; global life expectancies have doubled since 1900 and billions of people worldwide have been lifted out of abject poverty once they have joined the international community of commerce and free enterprise.

These are all ‘great things’ everyone can and should celebrate together.

At a micro-level, two other things happened this past weekend which give at least older Boomers hope for the future from their Millennial offspring.

Our oldest son said he was working on a new board game because ‘people are tired of playing video games and being disengaged with each other. They want to interact more with their friends and neighbors and this new board game will help them do it’.

Our oldest nephew came to a birthday party for his 90-year old grandpa with short-cropped hair and announced he had gotten another raise at work and was now looking to buy an older used pickup truck simply because ‘it made more sense’ for him and his wife at this stage of his life.

He is now 35. Middle age in the strictest terms of life expectancy.

Despite all of our collective problems and doomsday predictions heard daily on cable tv and talk radio news marinated by vitriol and negativity by different political philosophies and worldviews, there is immense hope for the future regardless of what you hear daily.

Julian Robertson, founder of Tiger Management and benefactor of the prestigious Robertson Scholarship program at Duke and Carolina, closed a finals interview weekend with a very brief but on-target comment based on practical optimism: ‘There are people in this room tonight who are going to balance the federal budget; find a cure for cancer; and develop a solution to global warming. We hope you will come to Duke and Carolina to learn how to do it. Thank you and good night’

The driving force behind this rational optimism has to be a continued reliance on the freedom of people to think, innovate and act without outside constraints by governments often run by people who really do not know anything about technology, free enterprise or business in the first place. If we allow government to continue to expand their hegemony over millions of free people making mutually-agreed upon transactions daily, the rapid progression of conquering the world’s problems may slow to a crawl.

Buy ‘The Rational Optimist’ and read it this week. No matter what the outcome of any campaign was for you specifically, we all deserve a respite to dream big and hope massively for the future.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Is 2018 The Most Important Election Ever?

(first published in North State Journal 10/31/18)

Every election is important. That is why our founders instituted two-year election cycles for the offices closest to the needs of the people: the U.S. Congress and state legislatures.

Delegate Roger Sherman of Connecticut explained why regular elections were necessary during the Constitutional Convention in 1787: “Representatives ought to return home and mix with the people. By remaining at the seat of Govt. they would acquire the habits of the place which might differ from those of their Constituents.”

AKA “Potomac Fever.”

Delegate Rufus King of Massachusetts pointed out the balance biennial elections would bring to the new democratic republic: “It seems proper that the representative should be in office time enough to acquire that information which is necessary to form a right judgment; but that the time should not be so long as to remove from his mind the powerful check upon his conduct, that arises from the frequency of elections, whereby the people are enabled to remove an unfaithful representative, or to continue a faithful one”.

We are about to elect our 116th Congress next Tuesday. Just how important can any single election be, really?

According to sociological historians Neil Howe and William Strauss, the 2018 elections are very important. As a postscript to 2016 and a prelude to 2020.

In 1991, they co-authored the book “Generations” in which they meticulously chronicled the group dynamics, characteristics and identity of every generation of Americans from Colonial days to 30 years in the future and beyond in 20-year age cohorts.

Everyone knows that succeeding generations are different from their older siblings and parents and grandparents. Boomers see life a lot differently from their “The World’s Greatest GI Generation” parents mainly because of far different life circumstances that shaped their formative years.

Howe and Strauss identified four generational identities that have been repeated in 80-year cycles dating back to before America’s founding. After a crisis — such as World War II in 1941; the Civil War in 1861 and The Revolution, ending in 1781 — America has experienced roughly the same cycle of generational attitudes toward government, institutions and individualism three times now.

By their reckoning, we are entering “The Fourth Turning” of American history, which is also the title of another book they published in 1997.

After a “Crisis Era” subsides, a high period of renewed faith in public institutions is followed by an “Awakening Era” where social discipline starts to falter and spirituality and personal awareness become more important to people. An “Unraveling Era” ensues where institutions become more distrusted, as government has been for the last 20 years, and special emphasis on individualism, freedoms and rights become paramount. The next Crisis Era creates “heroes” who emerge to lead our country back to its foundational roots to start the cycle all over again in a generational “turning.”

If this sounds like hocus-pocus this Halloween, consider the fact that each war above was almost exactly 80 years apart from the previous one.

2020 is 80 years from 1940.

Hopefully, we will avoid such bloodshed and mayhem. However, Howe and Strauss predicted in 1991 and then in 1997 that before the year 2020, we could witness a major terrorist attack on American soil (2001); a major financial meltdown (2008-09) and the rise of angry rebellious voters (Tea Party 2010; Antifa 2018), so maybe they are onto something.

Maybe they are crackpots like soothsayer Jeane Dixon.

They foresaw the elections of 2016, 2018 and especially 2020 as being pivotal to what America would look like for the rest of the 21st century.

Will the 2018 election bring back more socialism as we saw under President Obama? Or will the 2018 and 2020 elections end the modern Progressive Era for good as it was defeated in the 1920s during its last heyday?

It sure feels that way.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The 'Silent Majority', Chicago 1968 and Mob Rule

 The great majority of Americans are neither radicals nor reactionaries. They are middle-of-the-road folks who own their own homes and work hard and would like to have the government get back to its old habits of meddling with their lives as little as possible…It sometimes seems as if this great ‘silent majority’ had no spokesman. But (he) belongs with that crowd; he lives like them, he works like them, and understands’.
In 1968, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago erupted when student protesters against the Vietnam War clashed with older mainstream Democratic delegates on the convention floor and then with police outside as protests turned violent.

Middle-of-the-road American voters nationwide watched the riots in the streets of Chicago on the evening news and reacted with horror and disgust.

Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon called on this ‘silent majority’ of voters to vote for him to bring law and order back to the streets of America. Nixon soundly defeated Democrat
Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey and third-party candidate Alabama Governor George Wallace to win the White House in the fall.

50 years ago, the national Democratic Party forgot the ‘silent majority’.  They apparently have forgotten them again in 2018.

Democrats win when they have candidates such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama appealing to the basic common interests of all Americans regardless of race or class.

Jobs. Security. Education. Opportunity.

Just as Republicans do when they do the same.

The current Democratic Party offers voters none of those. They embrace mob rule; denying opponents of their right to free speech; willfully disdain of national immigration law; establishment of sanctuary cities and ‘free everything’ from education to health care regardless of cost to the taxpayer, tens of millions of whom are part of the ‘silent majority’.

Democratic mobs harass Republicans when they go to restaurants (Senator Ted Cruz and his wife); wail primal screams in the gallery during confirmations of Supreme Court nominees (Brett Kavanaugh); they even tried to shout down 95-year old former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at NYU last week while yelling ‘Rot In Hell!’ ‘Rot in Hell!’

Those are not winning arguments to get the silent majority on your side. Any competent political consultant on either side will tell you that.

An international public education non-profit organization, More In Common, published a report last week, ‘Hidden Tribes’, which concluded our current extremely polarized environment is not universal but a battle between 8% of rich white radical liberal extremists on the left and 6% of rich white conservative extremists on the right.

The other 80%~ voters are the ‘Exhausted Majority’. All they want is the government to work together to get things done and stop blaming everyone but themselves for their failure to do so.

Just like the Silent Majority voters of years gone by. The same bell curve of voters who have existed since the beginning of the American Democratic Republic.

Older idealistic Boomers who grew up in the tumultuous 60s are now on both extremes running our national politics. In many ways, our idealism has proven to be a disaster, the national debt being a prime example. Boomers would rather be proven ‘right’ on every issue rather than compromise on any common solution for the good of the nation.

The report confirmed what many seasoned veterans of campaigns have been saying for the past 20 years: Republican and Democratic candidates are not speaking directly to the interests of the independent, unaffiliated voters or any moderate registered Democratic, Republican or Libertarian voter.

Was Bruce Barton of Colliers Magazine talking about Richard Nixon or Donald Trump in the opening quote above?

No. He was talking about Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge. In 1919.

Maybe history really is repeating itself. Every 50 years or so, the silent exhausted majority is ignored.

Until they rise up at the polls.

(first published in North State Journal 10/24/18)

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Trump Tariffs and Trade

(first published in North State Journal 10/17/18)

Tariffs are bad. They are just “taxes” by a different name.

Higher taxes and tariffs retard economic production and growth. The higher the tax, or tariff, the lower amount of product is sold.

Would the imposition of the Trump trade tariffs lead to a worldwide recession all by themselves as some fear? Or will they lead to a tariff-free world which has been the dream of every free market philosopher in history?

The total amount of trade on which new tariffs could be imposed by President Donald Trump is approximately $640 billion in dollar terms on items shipped from China, Canada, Mexico, the EU and Asian Rim countries to the United States.

The amount of business transacted worldwide today is roughly $80 trillion in dollar-denominated terms. Global economic growth is expected to be 5 percent this year, so world GDP could grow by an additional $4 trillion on top of the current level of $80 trillion.

If the tariff rate imposed by the U.S. is 25 percent on $640 billion of trade in volume, $160 billion would be collected by the Trump “tariff/tax hike.”

The Trump-imposed tariffs would represent a miniscule 0.2% percent of world GDP output for the entire year. They would amount to only 4 percent of the nominal GDP growth of the entire world of $4 trillion over the next year.

Both assume that the tariffs will be enacted. Many say President Trump is using the “threat” of imposing tariffs to force nations to the bargaining table to get a better deal for Americans.

What is truly big and significant?

Chinese pilfering of U.S. intellectual property rights.

Based on the 2017 Commission on Theft of American Intellectual Property, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said: “Chinese theft of American IP currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion (in lost sales or economic value) annually.”

Up to $600 billion annually in America alone; four times the size of the possible Trump tariffs. That is as if the GDP of the state of Ohio is removed from American soil and given to Chinese workers and government enterprises as a gift each year.

China has been stealing intellectual property rights in the form of patents, copyrights and designs for decades from every advanced nation on earth. Intellectual property protection is the core of free enterprise everywhere around the globe. Failure to protect IP from being stolen without due process and payment of royalties devalues every product, service or technological breakthrough American inventors, creators and businesses make every day.

Chinese government and corporate engineers and businesses steal designs and technology from every sector imaginable and then manufacture products at very low wages and costs so Chinese products dominate the market and then destroy their foreign competitors who invented it in the first place.

Why don’t the Chinese worry about protecting their intellectual property rights? If China ever produces innovations as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Benjamin Franklin did, maybe then they will start clamoring for intellectual property protection for their products instead of stealing ours.

The Trump strategy appears to be coming into focus: Revamp existing trade agreements with all trading partners around the globe first and then build a worldwide coalition against the Chinese to force them into submitting to the basic tenets of fair play in a world of free trade.

Otherwise, a coalition will in effect erect global trade embargoes on China to bring their economy to its knees until they do agree to play by the rules of free and fair trade.

No previous administration or Congress has taken such a blunt force posture toward China. Gentle or turning-the-other-cheek diplomacy obviously has not worked in the past, so why not try another tactic?

Such blunt force may be the only way to bring China into the community of nations where true free trade can prevail for the 21st century.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018



(first published in North State Journal 10/10/18)

Why does our political discourse get so nasty from time to time?

Human emotions get hyper-inflamed over hot-button issues. In the 19th century, it was slavery. In the mid-20th century, it was communism and then civil rights.

Since 1973, it has been abortion rights post-Roe v. Wade.

Minnesota Senator Joe McCarthy gained nationwide notoriety in the early 1950s by mercilessly accusing 205 public servants in the State Department of being ‘card-carrying communists’ often without offering any evidence to back up his claims.

On June 1, 1950, freshman Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith gave a speech on the floor of the US Senate as the first Senator to take McCarthy to task for his reckless ways which was the beginning of the end for him politically.

On June 9, 1954, Joseph Welch, attorney for the Army during the Army-McCarthy hearings destroyed McCarthy with this statement: ‘Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?’

68 years later, another brave Maine Senator, Susan Collins stepped up to reverse the collapse of decency which hopefully hit its denouement in the Kavanaugh hearings.

Nowhere has vitriol been more on display than during US Supreme Court nominations since 1987:

  • Robert Bork was ‘borked’ where Senate Democrats opposed to his view of constitutional originalism used every possible negative tactic to defeat him which worked when he lost 42-58; 
  • Anthony Kennedy was subsequently unanimously confirmed; 
  • David Souter passed 90-9;  
  • Clarence Thomas was ‘thomased’ after allegations from Anita Hill but narrowly confirmed 52-48; 
  • Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and John Roberts were confirmed easily;
  • Bush 43 nominee Harriet Myers withdrew when her legal knowledge and ability to be on the High Court was questioned;  
  • Samuel Alito was confirmed 58-42;  
  • Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed 68-31 with 59 Democrat votes and 9 Republican Senators voting aye; 
  • Elena Kagan was confirmed 63-37 along similar lines; 
  • Obama nominee Merrick Garland was ignored by the Republican Senate because it was a presidential election year; 
  • Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch was confirmed 54-45; and 
  • Brett Kavanaugh was ‘kavanaughed’ but confirmed Saturday to the Supreme Court 50-48.

Students of history will notice that the nominees who were most viciously attacked were conservative Republican jurists. Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh were ruthlessly savaged by Democratic Senators in public.

The truth of the matter is that these bloody nomination battles had little to do with personal character issues or even judicial philosophy and temperament.

When a justice was nominated whose judicial philosophy threatened the fragile majority on the Court as it pertains to abortion rights, these nomination fights got nasty very quickly.

The only Democratic nominee who was ‘not treated fairly’ in the eyes of Democrats was Merrick Garland in 2016. Former Democratic Senator Joe Biden, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee had this to say about nominations during a presidential campaign year in 1992:

“(President George H. W. Bush should) not name a nominee until after the November election is completed” (and, if he did), “the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over.”

Republicans followed Senator Biden’s dictum with regards to Judge Garland.

Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the ‘nuclear option’ when he allowed votes on judicial nominations during the Obama Administration without requiring a 60-vote hurdle to close debate and proceed to the vote on the nomination.

Republicans followed Democratic precedent again with the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh confirmations.

Short of a political truce or a medical technological breakthrough to allow a transfer of a human zygote to another host to take it to term, such nasty political attacks will continue.

The only way to prevent them is to elect new Senators who won’t stoop to such base level tactics to win at any cost.

It does not do the American Republic any good when they do.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cut All the 'Red Tape' Out of the Federal Budget

first published in North State Journal 10/3/18)

Until 1925, the federal government used to wrap official federal documents in red tape. It made things look ‘official’, borrowing from regal Spanish and British traditions of long ago.

President Calvin Coolidge and his budget director, Herbert Mayhew Lord, with whom he met personally every Monday morning at 9:15 am sharp, reasoned that if they replaced the official ‘red tape’ with regular white string, they could save tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars each year.

So they did.

President Coolidge and Lord literally ‘cut the red tape’ out of government spending.

Even ‘waste in government’ was turned into budget savings. An employee on the General Supply Committee figured that ‘seven barrels of spoiled, soused (pickled) seal shoulders from Alaska’ could be sold for $20 as ‘crab bait’ to New England fishermen.

That $20 was used to pay off some of what was then a very slim national debt of $21 billion. 0.1% of the $21 trillion of national debt we have today.

It worked. Under President Coolidge, the federal budget was reduced to close to $3 billion (not trillion) and held flat for his 6 years in office. As a result of his initial tax cuts, the economy took off and generated surplus revenues to the federal treasury which, combined with budget restraint, allowed the Coolidge Administration to reduce overall federal debt by 33%.

Tax cuts; economic growth; budget restraint, debt repayment. Lather, rinse, repeat and do it again and again and again.

It works.

The major thing missing in that equation in Washington lately has been ‘budget restraint’. We did not have a Calvin Coolidge in the White House when Presidents Obama and Bush 43 were occupants.

It remains to be seen if President Trump will put the brakes on spending; he has 2 more years to become the next Coolidge.

We have not had a majority of 50%+1 Democratic or Republican Calvin Coolidges in the US Senate or Congress either where it really has to start anyway.

What is so hard to understand about not spending other people’s money?

Former Congressman Alex McMillan with whom I worked for a decade used to say that he thought of every new dollar spent by the federal government as if it came from the pocket of a hard-working person to whom $1 was very important. He was determined not to spend that person’s hard-earned dollar in a frivolous manner not critical to the overall best interest of the nation.

What would the budget look like today if everyone thought the same way? Would we spend taxpayer money on expensive pork-barrel projects such as the Railroad Museum in Strasburg, Pennsylvania?

Or the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska? How about any superfluous and unnecessary defense program that out-lived its usefulness in the last war?

If you are a liberal and like the idea of more federal welfare and support programs, you have been duped for the past 40 years.

Explosive growth in spending on health care entitlements, Medicaid and Medicare plus the military and veteran health plans have crowded out spending on domestic programs which in 1960 was 68% of the budget.

Today it is less than 32%.

Here’s an indisputable fact: If we hold medical cost inflation to 1-2% per year or below, we could balance the federal budget in the next 5 years with no tax increases and no other cuts in the budget anywhere.

It can be done without sacrificing health care quality outcomes. Small creative entrepreneurial companies are helping several large corporations hold their health care cost growth to 1-2% per year today.

But we need to elect modern-day Coolidges to elective office first. To cut more than red tape.

(budget facts from ‘Coolidge’ by Amity Shlaes 2013)
Picture courtesy of Jarek TuszyƄski / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Collateral Damage of the Kavanaugh Confirmation Process

Judge Brett Kavanaugh
I run The Institute for the Public Trust.
‘The sole mission of The Institute for the Public Trust is to find, recruit and train the next Thomas Jeffersons, James Madisons, Benjamin Franklins and Alexander Hamiltons for the state of North Carolina and the nation. 
Seldom do we see people of such caliber and talent offer to run for any public office nowadays. They are ‘out there’; they just don’t run for political office anymore for a wide range of reasons. 
The Institute for the Public Trust is committed to changing their minds by teaching them how modern American politics really operates and why they should be part of the solution and not part of the problem by staying on the sidelines.’
Here is the on-going collateral damage of such political machinations we see on traditional and social media every day: A draining of the pool of great people who otherwise might consider using their immense talent to do the basic job of running our self-government at every level.

When is enough ‘enough’ in politics? Character assassination by name-calling has long been a staple of American politics. Teddy Roosevelt called William Howard Taft “a fathead with the brains of a guinea pig”.  John Adams was called “a hideous, hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

Name-calling Americans can handle.  But what are the standards of fair play in politics today? Can anyone make an ambiguous legal felony charge against any political figure at any time anywhere?

Every charge of sexual assault is serious. Each one should get immediate attention from law enforcement authorities as soon as it is reported.

Any false accusation is serious as well.

The troubling thing about these last-second accusations from 35+ years ago is that Brett Kavanaugh has been vetted and background-checked 6 different times by the FBI for his previous stints at the White House and as a Judge on the US Court of Appeals over the past 28 years. None of these accusations came up after exhaustive research and investigation.

Had any cases of abuse or harassment been uncovered earlier, Judge Kavanaugh would have been correctly not confirmed to any of these important high-level public service positions. Those were very important public policy and legal jobs no one should have if proven guilty.

Either the FBI has not been doing its job or hundreds of people who have known or worked with Brett Kavanaugh since 1990 have been colossal liars engaged in a massive coordinated conspiracy that concealed a potential dark side for the past 3 decades to protect him for a future Supreme Court nomination.

Members of the 2006 Duke lacrosse team were ‘proven’ guilty by the media, pundits and news commentators before any evidence was presented. Once the evidence was fully presented, the Duke lacrosse players were exonerated and the media was discredited along with DA Mike Nifong who was publicly humiliated and forced to resign his law license.

If unilateral character destruction methods such as this last-second attack on Brett Kavanaugh succeed without evidence or corroboration, no one will be the winner in the end. Every Democrat considering election or appointment to public office will become a sitting duck for exactly the same salacious legal accusations by Republican operatives and hit groups and vice versa.

If the charges against Judge Kavanaugh are proven true, voters should rightly punish the 9 Republican Senators up for re-election at the polls next month for supporting him. If the charges against Judge Kavanaugh are proven specious and untrue, voters should rightly punish the 24 Democratic Senators up for re-election for supporting false testimony against Judge Kavanaugh.

We may never get the next James Madison or George Washington to run for public office if this continues. We may never get anyone to run again.

(first published in North State Journal 9/26/18)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What If Hillary Had Won?

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

Where would we be today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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