Thursday, December 31, 2020

Curing Leukemia With Leeches

Since America appears to be heading into a period of increased socialist policies under President-elect Joe Biden, and, if the unthinkable happens, most certainly under Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, it is perhaps wise to see what other great leaders of freedom had to say about their countries’ experiments with “democratic” socialism.

Calling it “Hibiscus” socialism wouldn’t make it look any better. It is still highly centralized government control of our lives no matter how one describes it.

Biden’s election is “historic” only in the sense that he is the oldest-person to be president-elect in the United States of America. He is the first president-elect from Delaware, unless one counts Rutherford B. Hayes, our 19th president, as the first since he was from Delaware, Ohio.

Donald Trump was responsible for over 100 million votes in the 2020 election: 74 million voted for him; 31 million voted against him. Polls say 39% of the people who voted for Joe Biden really voted against President Donald Trump because they hated him so much. Joe Biden might be lucky to count 50 million who truly were enthusiastic about voting for a Democrat candidate for president in 2020.

Hardly anyone has any idea of what Joe Biden stands for, what he did in 47 years of relatively obscure public service, or what he intends to do as President. He would not come into the White House with any of the adulation and public support that Presidents Obama, Reagan or Eisenhower enjoyed.

The #NeverTrumpers and people who hated Trump are about to get a real-life lesson in pure politics. They are about to get a dose of socialist policy they never believed possible. After that, all they will be able to do is blame themselves for what they hath wrought.

Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of Great Britain in 1979, a year before Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. Both were elected because the creeping socialism in their respective countries was dragging both nations down into a morass of stagflation: 10% inflation, 21% interest rates and high unemployment.

Her task, as she saw it, was to dismantle socialism and replace it with a robust free market to restore the fortunes of Great Britain on the world stage. As only a great, educated British leader could do, she had some ripe comments about socialism:

“As Arthur Shenfield put it, the difference between the public and private sectors was that the private sector was controlled by the public sector and the public sector was not controlled by anyone.”

“The former Labour Cabinet Minister, Douglas Jay said that ‘the gentleman in Whitehall really does know better what is good for the people than the people know themselves’.”

“To cure the British disease with socialism was like trying to cure leukaemia with leeches.”

“Seen from afar, or from above, whether a socialist gentleman in Whitehall or by a High Tory, socialism has a certain nobility: equal sacrifice, fair shares, everyone pulling together. Seen from below, however, it looked very different. Fair shares somehow always turn out to be small shares. Then someone has to enforce their fairness; someone else has to check that this fairness does not result in black markets or under-the-counter favouritism; and a third person has to watch the first two to make sure that the administrators of fairness end up with no more than their fair share.”

Therein lie the inherent flaws in democratic socialism. Politicians who propound socialism for all almost uniformly have zero experience doing anything in the real world outside of government and politics. Joe Biden was in government for 47 years. Bernie Sanders never succeeded in anything before he ran for Mayor of Burlington, Vermont. AOC has never run a business, law firm or medical practice. Kamala Harris was a district attorney in San Francisco before becoming US Senator, but she is not an expert in the biogeochemistry of climate change, the economics of health care or any other aspect of our life socialists want to “change forever.”

Democratic socialists believe in their hearts, souls, and minds they, like the gentleman in Whitehall, know far better what is good for the people than the people themselves.

They don’t. America would do well to heed the words of Margaret Thatcher.

Happy New Year.

(first published in North State Journal 12/30/20)

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Thursday, December 24, 2020

These Are The Times That Try Men's Souls

"Man, I sure hope future Americans appreciate what we are doing here!"

On Dec. 24, 1776, a beleaguered General George Washington was looking for some way to inspire his Continental troops after suffering crushing defeats in New York. His undermanned Continental Army was facing the British army, strengthened with Hessians, under the command of General William Howe, encamped across the Delaware River in Trenton, New Jersey.

It was cold and snowy; his troops lacked provisions and many of them were about to leave the army when their enlistment was up on Dec. 31. It was Christmastime and the last thing they wanted to do was embark on a secret attack across an icy river in the dead of night on Christmas Eve.

General Washington found the inspiration needed to rouse his troops in “The American Crisis,” a pamphlet published five days earlier by Thomas Paine. Paine’s “Common Sense,” published earlier in the year on Jan. 9, had been the spark that lit the flame of independence from Great Britain six months before the Declaration of Independence.

General Washington ordered the 3400-word pamphlet to be read aloud at McConkey’s Ferry to his troops, which included future American office-holders Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, President James Monroe and Vice-President Aaron Burr.

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value…

“Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to tax) but ‘to bind us in all cases whatsoever’ and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God….

“I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction…who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war… Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretense as he…

“(I)n the fourteenth century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit was performed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman, Joan of Arc. Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment!

“I thank God, that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it…Look on this picture and weep over it! and if there yet remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.”

That Christmas Eve night, after adopting the motto “Victory or Death,” the newly-inspired troops crossed the Delaware River and attacked a sleeping, and probably slightly inebriated, Hessian garrison at Trenton on Christmas Day to provide the first real victory for the Revolutionary Army in the War for American Independence.

Times may change.  Americans will always have days when our souls are tried.

The only thing that matters, that which history will remember, is how we, as individual Americans, respond to such travails.

(You might want to read "American Crisis" in its entirety today or tomorrow and maybe even out loud to your family. Read it here:

(first published in North State Journal 12/23/20)

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Taxing The Rich Doesn't Work

"Buy One, Get One for $1 trillion
in Taxes!"
“Tax The Rich” will be the mantra of progressive Democrats in Washington once again. It has been the rallying cry of progressives since passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913, which made the income tax constitutional. Rich robber barons were the only ones who had enough income to tax in the first place, so of course it made sense to “tax the rich.”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) believes in soaking the rich so much that she is selling t-shirts with “Tax The Rich” on the front for only $59.

Imagine that. AOC, the leader of The Socialist Revolution in America, is using capitalism to sell t-shirts to fund the left’s efforts to overthrow capitalism and tax the rich.

Wait until she becomes rich selling t-shirts; she will become a Republican overnight.

Targeting the wealthy to “pay their fair share” has never solved any specific public policy issues. The top 1% of all taxpayers, those making over $500,000 annually, pay 40% of all income tax as it is today. We still have poverty; we still have thousands of bridges to fix and our education system is not working optimally, to put it mildly.

The main reason to target the rich is to punish them for their success through class warfare. History has shown innumerable instances where the masses wanted to dethrone wealthy kings because they lived such comfortable lives when so many of them struggled to make ends meet. Many times, they were understandably justified in their anger since the king over-taxed them and sent them to fight wars so he could gain even more wealth and power at their expense.

What happens when someone in America, starting with nothing, gets rich through their own efforts, their own hard work and putting their own money at full risk by investing in their own business? Did they gain their wealth by stealing from the masses or sending their sons to war like kings in days of yore? Does their success mean everyone else is entitled to demand whatever percentage of their income they should pay in taxes for the rest of us to use as Congress sees fit?

Americans exert an enormous amount of time, energy and resources each year to make enough money to support their families and make a profit in their business. They spend an inordinate amount of time, money and energy, too much really, each year trying to avoid paying as much of their tax liability as possible as well.

The problem with progressives trumpeting “Tax The Rich!” is that the very wealthy have access to the very best tax accountants, lawyers and advisors in the land. They will use every available legal means to make sure they pay as little income tax as possible. Most take no salary and avoid paying any income tax and payroll taxes at all. Americans earning below $200,000 find it almost impossible to hire the same high-priced sophisticated experts to shelter their income since the tax savings would be far less than the cost of such experts.

The U.S. Treasury collects 57% of total revenues annually from individual income taxes (50% or $2 trillion) and corporate income taxes (7% or $239 billion). However, due to the plethora of tax breaks in the U.S. Tax Code, roughly half as much, or $1.3 trillion per year in income tax, is not collected by the U.S. Treasury. People and corporations simply are protected by the current tax code from paying more taxes. That’s true today and will continue to be as long as we have an income tax.

Before anyone gets too incensed by “rich people not paying their fair share of taxes!”, everyone, including progressives, has to realize that two of the top tax breaks in the US Tax Code are the home mortgage interest deduction and the employer-paid share of employee health insurance. Take away those two deductions and the political party that does so will cease to exist after the next election.

Conservatives should pop some popcorn and watch progressives such as AOC drive President-elect Joe Biden and the Democratic Party crazy with her scorch-the-earth tax policy proposals. 

The 2022 mid-term elections are right around the corner.

(first published in North State Journal 12/16/20)

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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Running Into Walter Williams In The Airport

'You keep your money; I will keep
mine. What is wrong with that?'
Walter Williams had a lot of wisdom. I certainly learned a lot from him over the years.

I got my first paycheck for a real job in the summer of 1978 after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill. To my horror and abject surprise, when I opened the envelope, 33% of it had vanished due to state and federal tax withholding, some strange thing called “FICA” and other various deductions.

That was the moment I decided to get into politics. I wanted to find out where 33% of my paycheck was going every other week and see if it was worth it.

The chairman of the Durham City Council lived across the street, so I asked if I could attend a Democratic precinct meeting at his house the next Tuesday night. Durham being Durham meant you had to get involved with the Democratic Party to get anything done.

When I raised my hand to ask a question on three successive motions, the chairman rebuffed me each time and closed discussion by deeming each motion passed by “unanimous vote.” Since I was definitely not in unanimous agreement, I went to the board of elections first thing the next morning to register as a Republican.

I formed a Young Republican group in Durham. I think we had six members. We could hold our meetings in a phone booth, almost literally.

Later that fall, I happened to see Walter Williams waiting for a plane in an airport. He was a tall slender man with big hands and a warm smile. We talked about the current economic turmoil under then-President Jimmy Carter, which ultimately led to 12% annual inflation and 21% interest rates by the day he left office on Jan. 20, 1981.

All I really knew about him was he was one of only two African-American scholars, Thomas Sowell being another, who wrote about the American free enterprise system in a positive manner. Dr. Williams wrote about racial issues, but from the perspective of how the underlying ideals supporting free enterprise could raise everyone up — regardless of race, religion or background — in such an engaging manner that I thought he would be a good guest to invite to speak our group in Durham.

He said he would come any time we invited him. All he needed was a $1,000 honorarium and travel expenses, and he would get on a plane from Northern Virginia as soon as possible.

“But Dr. Williams, we only have 6 members. We can’t possibly find $1,000 [$3,500 in 2020 dollars] to pay your travel expenses. We just graduated from college!” I somewhat plaintively explained. “Plus the government is taking 33% of every paycheck we get!”

He leaned over me, smiled again and said: “Well, welcome to the real world then. You want me to come share my ideas; I think that is worth $1,000 plus expenses. If you come up with it, let me know and I will be there.”

He shook my hand and left to get on his flight, presumably to some other place where someone could pay him $1,000 plus expenses.

He was not condescending or demeaning in any way. He proposed a fundamental transaction that is at the core of a free market; if we wanted him to do something for us, we had to pay him $1000 plus expenses. He wasn’t going to give his services away for free. The government was not going to pay for him to come speak to our group in Durham, nor should it.

In virtually everything he wrote about over his long and distinguished career, Walter Williams explained the essence of what a free enterprise system in a democratic republic should look like — voluntary, mutually-agreed-upon transactions where both parties get what they want from each other. Walter Williams wrote about capitalism and freedom in ways that made him one of the most eloquent expositors of the free market ever in American history.

Being a black man made him unique in the world of conservatism in the 1980s. His beliefs on political philosophy and economic theory, however, transcended racial, religious and socio-economic differences.

He talked about what essentially should unite us all as Americans: freedom. Without a flourishing free enterprise system, we will cease being Americans in spirit and in fact.

Walter Williams once said: “Let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you — and why?”

He will be missed.

(first published in North State Journal 12/9/20)

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Joy of Being Blissfully Self-Unaware

'What, Me Worry About Truth?'
It must be great going through life completely and blissfully self-unaware.

There is a certain amount of hypocrisy that comes along with the territory once anyone enters the political world. Slightly shading the truth to score a political point here, slightly accusing opponents of doing the same thing as you are doing there — politics is not a place where everyone is telling 100% of the truth 100% of the time, that is for sure.

Not even your friends.

However, coinciding with the spread of COVID, a pandemic of amnesia must have also hit America that selectively targeted the collective memory of the left, based on how they are reacting to the election challenges now underway.

Chief Impeachment Orchestra Leader Democrat Adam Schiff recently said: “It is just tearing down our democracy… I do expect, in the new Congress, that yes, [Republicans will] continue to try to go after Joe Biden, delegitimize Joe Biden. They won’t be interested in getting things done.”

He didn’t even blush or blink an eye. The leader of the Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th century, Tomas Torquemada, would have at least squirmed a little when confronted with his hypocrisy.

There used to be a time when political figures who said such things were ostracized and laughed out of Washington, D.C., never to be taken seriously again. They became a caricature of themselves due to their rank hypocrisy.

From the moment on election night 2016 when the media had to declare Donald Trump as the winner, people on the left and in the media immediately pushed the idea that “the election was rigged!” They claimed Trump won only because he colluded with (take your pick) Russian foreign agents, the KGB, Vladimir Putin, hackers, Ukraine or Boris Badenov, and therefore his Presidency would be illegitimate.

Democrats and the media spent the next four years — four years, mind you, not just four weeks — telling everyone that the electoral system in American was unsafe and untrustworthy. The Trump campaign is challenging the 2020 election results and claiming voter fraud and the untrustworthiness of the Dominion Systems voting machines, among other things.  All of a sudden, like Paul on the road to Damascus, liberal Democrats have seen the light and are now saying everything is perfect with our electoral system so move along; there is nothing to see here.

Please. Give American citizens a break. There has to be some sort of outer limits on how much hypocrisy the country can take.

Politics has always had its share of dirty campaign tactics, claims of “stolen elections” (see JFK; Chicago, Mayor Daley; Texas, LBJ 1960) and claims of illegitimate presidencies (see George W. Bush 43, 2000; Rutherford B. Hayes, 1876; and Benjamin Harrison, 1888)

There was no sincere concession by Hillary Clinton and Democrats in 2016 to “ensure a peaceful transition of power” to the incoming Trump Administration. In his well-worth-reading book, “Shattered,” Jonathan Alter describes in great detail how Clinton brought her chief political strategists together in her hotel suite the day after the election and told them to start spreading the idea that she did not lose the election fairly, telling them to blame it all on the Russian Collusion hoax to discredit President Trump and make him appear as “illegitimate.”

“The Resistance” was formed overnight, with Madonna saying she would like to blow up the White House and Whoopi Goldberg and The View spouting off fantastical theories of Trump being a Russian puppet for the next four years. Impeachment proceedings led by the aforementioned Inquisitor Schiff ended in nothing.

Joe Biden called for “unity” and “healing” on Nov. 7 after the media declared him the winner and “president-elect.” He could call on all the people who either funded or participated in the riots in Raleigh and major cities across the nation to raise money, roughly $1 billion or so, to completely pay for the repair of buildings and small businesses that were destroyed since Memorial Day if he were serious about uniting the country and healing the nation.

Otherwise, he is as self-unaware as the rest of the Resistance. He might as well put a lid on every day at 9:30 a.m. and stay in the basement of the White House if claims of malfeasance in 2020 fail to prevent his inauguration on Jan. 20.

“Malice towards none; charity towards all.” You know, the Lincoln thing.

(first published in North State Journal 12/2/20)

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