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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