Wednesday, August 29, 2018

You Might Be A Socialist If...

(first published in North State Journal 8/29/18)

(with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy of ‘You Might Be A Redneck’ fame)

In a recent Gallup poll, 57% of all Democrats said they preferred socialism to capitalism with the highest ratings among liberal young people aged 18-29.

You might ‘think’ you are a socialist at heart. But you probably aren’t.

Take this test and preface each question with ‘I Might Be A Socialist If’ to see if you really do qualify:

  1. I am willing to pay up to 56% of my income to the government every year without looking for loopholes or complaining about it.
  2. I want all major decisions to be made by faceless, unnamed, unelected bureaucrats in Washington, state capitals and local governments.
  3. I want state-run monopolies to control the marketplace.
  4. I want centralized government to monitor my speech and what I can say and when I want to say it or not allow me to talk at all.
  5. I want government to provide massive subsidies and protections to old archaic businesses threatened by new companies and innovations such as Amazon, Apple, PayPal, Uber and Netflix.
  6. I want all of my personal health care decisions to be made by government employees who run medical facilities as well as the government runs the US Postal Service and the state DMV today.
  7. I don’t want any competition to the public education system or allow any alternative means of educating my children, even if the local public school to which we are assigned has been performing poorly for the past 30 years.
  8. I want everyone to be paid the same even though I have worked my tail off and studied and sacrificed when everyone else was playing around and partying.
  9. I want the process to start a new business to take up to 5 years to get through tons of government red tape, regulation and bureaucracy.
  10. I think my personal freedom is less important than everyone else’s needs, wants and desires.

‘Socialism’ where college and health care are ‘free for everyone!’ might be initially attractive to the generation that grew up with Napster and saw everything being offered for free: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pandora, Fortnite.

Except that each business is an extremely capitalistic enterprise that is utterly dependent upon advertising from the private sector to survive.

No profit. No business. The day they stop making a profit, they die.

Chances are very, very high that ‘you might think you are a socialist’ when, in practice, you are very much a freedom-loving American who wants to better yourself and your family through the miracle of free enterprise and capitalism as much as anyone who has ever aspired to get to America legally or illegally in the past.

No one moves to any European country for the promise of their welfare state in retirement if it means restriction of their freedoms to do whatever you want earlier in life.

Close to 50 million legal immigrants live in America today. 15% of the U.S. population legally moved here to participate in the free enterprise system instead of going to socialist nations around the globe.

The US represents 4% of the world’s population of 7.6 billion and yet, 20% of the 250 million international legal migrants worldwide have come here, not Sweden, France and certainly not Venezuela.

You want capitalism. You NEED capitalism. Not only to satisfy your needs and desires such as the next IPhone 10000 but to be able to pay the taxes to pay for the social programs you say you want.

As hard as anyone in America tries to make socialism sound ‘cool’, the truth is that deep down in your heart, you are not a socialist and never will be.

Let Europe stay socialist. Go there if you want to visit. But you will always come back to the freedom of America.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Will This ‘Blue Moon’ Election in North Carolina Turn Into An ‘Eclipse’ For The GOP?

(first published in North State Journal 8/22/18)

What is a ‘blue moon’ election anyway?

A ‘blue moon’ election happens when there is no statewide Presidential, US Senate or gubernatorial campaign at the top of the ballot to drive voter turnout up.

It is called a ‘blue moon’ election because a real blue moon, or a second full moon in one month, happens infrequently about every 2.5 years.

‘Blue moon elections’ are 6 times more rare. They happen every 12 years in North Carolina. The last one was 2006 which was favorable to Democrats. Before that was 1994 which was devastating to Democrats nationally and allowed Republicans to take control of the NCGA for the first time in a century.

If Republicans and conservatives fail to take this upcoming ‘blue moon’ election seriously, 2018 might become ‘The Eclipse Election’.

Of Republicans. Not Democrats.

Care to guess what happens in typical mid-term congressional elections with a US Senate campaign included?

Turnout drops 40%-to-50% from quadrennial presidential campaign years.

During a presidential election, 60%+ of registered voters show up to vote. In 2016, 4,769,640 people or 68% of all registered voters in North Carolina voted.

In a ‘normal’ midterm, perhaps 3 million registered citizens, or 44% of all registered voters, would vote in North Carolina.

There is no US Senate race at the top of the ticket this November.

This is not your ‘typical’ midterm election in North Carolina.

This is a ‘Deep Dark Blue Moon’ election without a lot of attention and enthusiasm. Many North Carolina voters will wake up the day after the November 6 election and say: ‘You mean there was an election yesterday?’

On top of that, 5-6 of the 13 congressional elections in North Carolina involve entrenched incumbents running unopposed or virtually unopposed. That will further depress turnout in those congressional districts which cover 46% of the state population.

We may not have 3 million people show up to vote this fall in North Carolina. It might be far under that number.

Care to guess who wins such low-turnout elections?

The party that can harness the most energy among voters. In most cases, that energy is ‘anger with the status quo’.

In 2016, all anyone had to do was to go to any Donald Trump rally and see 10,000; 15,000; 22,000 people show up from Greenville to Kenansville to see that energy at work. Democrats pooh-poohed it as non-indicative of what would happen on Election Day, only to wake up to see Hillary Clinton go down in defeat.

In 2017-2018, all anyone has had to do was look out an office window on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh and watch 20,000 to 30,000 red-shirted public education teachers march to the legislature to see that energy on the Democrat side this time around.

If you are a Republican or Unaffiliated voter or in business and are generally pleased with Republican control of the NCGA in terms of tax cuts and making North Carolina a more business-friendly state since 2011, and you have enjoyed the tax cuts and deregulation from Washington and the stock market gains since 2016, don’t kid yourself….you can lose everything in this election unless you get as energized as you were in 2016, 2010 and 1994.

There is an absolutely crucial NC Supreme Court race involving incumbent Republican Justice Barbara Jackson that hardly anyone knows about. Republicans are now a 3-4 minority on the Court; if Barbara Jackson is defeated, Republicans will be a 2-5 minority until 2022 at the earliest.

‘Energized’ means giving more money to campaigns this year than you did in 2016.

‘Energized’ means telling all of your employees and friends to vote in this crucial election.

‘Energized’ means not being complacent because politics is never static.

If you don’t get ‘energized’---and real soon---you may witness a political eclipse on November 6.

And the state map will be as blue as the moon.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Abraham Lincoln, The US Flag and The National Anthem

(first published in North State Journal 8/15/18)

“Fellow countrymen:

242 years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Equality guarantees everyone’s freedom to protest in America. Including kneeling for the national anthem and American flag.

Equality also guarantees this: No one has any right or power to make anyone else agree with or listen to them or watch any football game if they choose.

In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.

Such was the case with the Civil War. 2,672,341 Union soldiers fought under the 35-star American Flag during the Civil War. The vast majority were white men from the North who had never seen or met a black person in their life before the War.

642,427 of those Union soldiers suffered casualties during the War. There may not be another prior instance in history where a war was fought and slaves of another race or nationality were freed and not re-enslaved by the victors.

Let us not ever forget these brave men who consecrated the rebirth of freedom for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

1,227,890 Rebel soldiers fought under the Confederate Flag. They lost. They and 3 million other white Southerners lost everything; land, possessions, political power, slavery; you name it, they lost it.

The Union flag prevailed. The Rebel flag didn’t. If for no other reason, that should be cause for the utmost respect every time the American flag is unfurled and the national anthem is played.

If you want to kneel before flags that represent past injustice, kneel before the English, Portuguese or French flags. They were the largest slave traders for centuries before and after America was colonized.

From beyond the grave, I have witnessed hundreds of millions of people being freed from oppression and dictatorship the world over by men and women serving under the American Flag.

16.1 million American soldiers served in World War II under the 48-star flag to defeat the German Nazis and the Japanese to protect and preserve the very freedoms used today.

There may be good reason to protest specific police departments for excessive use of force against minorities. Protest in front of each one. Start and pay for schools such as the one Lebron James started in Akron to help young children from impoverished neighborhoods get a great education and escape the cycle of poverty.

Run for public office and set policy for local law enforcement to deal with the tough issues they face every day. Serving in public office is a high form of patriotism as well.

It can never be explained while kneeling during the national anthem that ‘no disrespect is intended’ towards millions of fellow Americans who have served in the military.

The American flag and anthem are very important to them whether a protester likes it or not.

Slavery and racism have been a cancer on the soul of humanity everywhere since time immemorial.

From where I sit today, the most amazing thing about America is not how far we need to go for full equality but how far we have come from the beginning of our Republic.

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that Martin Luther King’s dream will soon come true:
“(Our) children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.
It is for the living to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought before have thus far so nobly advanced. It is for all Americans to be dedicated to the great task remaining’.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Dealing With The Whole Ball of Wax in Health Care

The Whole Ball of Wax
(first published in North State Journal 8/8/18)

The Mercatus Center published a working paper by Charles Blahous last week on the ‘Medicare For All’ (M4A) bill sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders.

Every Bernie follower in the modern Socialist Democratic Party (SDP) ran to the media microphones to fairly shout: ‘M4A will save $2 trillion over 10 years! That is proof that single-payer health care coverage in America would work!’

Direct quote from the report:
“It is likely that the actual cost of M4A would be substantially greater than these estimates, which assume significant administrative and drug cost savings under the plan, and also assume that healthcare providers operating under M4A will be reimbursed at rates more than 40 percent lower than those currently paid by private health insurance.”
In other words: ‘You have to believe in both the Tooth Fairy AND Santa Claus before you can say M4A will not bankrupt America!’

There is no way on God’s green earth that every physician and hospital administrator will sit back idly and willingly accept a 40% reduction in payments from all private health insurance plans which cover 180 million Americans today.

Bernie Sanders has never seen a sea of white coat physicians swarming Congress like he would see if M4A came close to passage.

The report also clearly states that federal spending would go UP between $32.6 trillion to $38 trillion dollars over 10 years under M4A.  Bernie Sanders and his band of merry socialists could double everyone’s income and payroll taxes and that still wouldn’t be enough to pay for that massive increase.

Does anyone seriously believe that taxpayers would tolerate their taxes being more than doubled, on the distant hope of total health spending may have a snowball’s chance in Hades of going down by 3-4% over a decade?

If we are going to think anew about health care in America, let’s think about the ‘whole ball of wax’ in another way:

We are currently spending $3.868 trillion in direct and indirect payments, government and private, on health care in America, roughly 19% of GDP.

In 1960, it was 5% of GDP.

Why not take all current resources and find a way to divvy it all up according to need and income and then have everyone buy at least the most basic insurance they need to protect against a medical catastrophe that would wipe out their life’s savings in 1 week if it happened to them or their family?

What is ‘insurance’ anyway?

You buy home insurance to insure against the loss of your home due to fire. You don’t buy insurance that sends a crew to clean out your gutters every month.

You buy car insurance to insure against the total loss of your car in an accident or by theft. You don’t buy insurance to change your oil every 3000 miles.

Same with health care. We shouldn’t have to buy insurance to fix every hangnail we get during the course of our lives. We need insurance to pay for the enormous costs of cancer surgery and treatment or long-term nursing care due to a head trauma accident. That should be mandatory; other private plans can be offered for intermediate services and elective procedures.

We currently spend more than enough on health care in America, more per capita than any other
country on earth. We could cut the costs of The Whole Ball of Wax of Health Care by half if everyone tomorrow stopped smoking; stopped over-drinking and over-eating; walked vigorously 30 minutes every day and lost 15% of current body weight.

Which seems to be as likely to happen as Bernie Sanders getting his M4A bill passed. Still, if you want to stick it to the big bad insurance companies or medical profession, get healthy.

You will be glad you did. In many ways.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

2% Real GDP Growth Rates Are NOT The New Normal

(first published in North State Journal 8/1/18)

Remember the familiar lament from President Obama’s team for 8 long years?

‘2% real GDP growth is the new normal for the US economy’.

2% annual growth wasn’t even the ‘new normal’ under President Obama.

1.64% was. Pitifully and sadly so.

Their lamentations hearkened back to former President Jimmy Carter’s depressing ‘malaise’ speech of July 15, 1979:
‘It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.’
The ‘crisis of confidence’ Americans had from 1977-1981 was not in their own ability to perform.

Their ‘crisis of confidence’ was in President Jimmy Carter and his ability to lead.

The same can be said now about President Obama. His economic and foreign policy records will be linked with President Carter’s forever.

The above chart tracks the US economy on a seasonally-adjusted basis from the last year of the Bush 43 Presidency through 8 years of President Obama to 18 months under President Trump.

Seasonally-adjusted GDP growth rates actually make the first two years under President Obama look somewhat more favorable even though they were the worst two years economically since 1981-82 and before that, the Great Depression Decade of the 1930s.

No one in their right mind faults President Obama for the desultory real GDP growth rates in 2009 and 2010. The real estate crash nationwide and the failure of our banking and financial institutions plus the resulting job layoffs and business bankruptcies were the result of economic and fiscal polices that were years and decades in the making.

However, President Obama and his economic team had 6 more years to pass policies that would ignite the competitive economic spirit of America.

They failed to do it. Ever.

They concentrated their focus on managing everything with bureaucrats from Washington which crushed the free-wheeling spirit out of American business for the remainder of his term.

For whatever reason, be it Obamacare in 2010 that cast a very heavy blanket of regulations and taxes on US businesses or the avalanche of regulations the Obama Administration layered on American business, real GDP growth rates never exceeded 3% for any year of his presidency for the first time in modern American history.

Real GDP growth under President Obama averaged 1.9% annually for his presidency. If you take out the first 2 years and give Obama the benefit of the doubt since 2009-2010 clearly was a result of previous economic policies and mistakes and give him some credit for the 2017 growth rates even though a lot can be attributed to President Trump’s election, average real GDP growth on a seasonally-adjusted basis under Obama was only 1.64% annually from 2011-2017.

Businessmen and women today exude optimism and enthusiasm when they talk about their economic prospects and plans for expansion, increased sales and hiring more people.

Is it the tax cuts passed last December? Is it the rescission of hundreds if not thousands of federal regulations that were strangling economic growth? Is it the prospect of not having to worry about more taxes or regulations until 2020 at least and maybe 2025?

It may be all of these. It may be the fact that American businesses, workers and investors know that the Obama years are finally over and they can operate in a new business environment where they can work hard and keep more of what they earn and not pay more of it to the government.

Economic growth is contagious.

Maybe annual 3%+ real GDP growth rates are ‘the new normal’ today.


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