Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Spirit of Religion and the Spirit of Liberty Are What Made (Makes) America Great

J’espère que les Américains
ne bousilleront pas l’Amérique un jour !*
Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the early days of the Republic on an official mission for the French department of the interior to study the US penitentiary system. What he discovered as he traveled America became one of the seminal works on government in world history, “Democracy in America,” published in 1835. 

He discovered the Anglo-American civilization “…is the result of two quite distinct elements, which elsewhere have often been at war but in America have somehow been incorporated into one another and marvelously combined. I allude to the spirit of religion and the spirit of liberty.” 

He observed religious liberty in America which allowed minimal, decentralized democratic representative government to be established at the local, state and national level. Both could not exist without the other, he said, or else eventually the new American republic would fail. 

Religious freedom in America allowed people to govern themselves and negate the necessity for powerful government to be concentrated in the hands of kings, tyrants or councils that often ruled in capricious ways. Without a virtuous, self-governed populace, the need for concentrated power in the hands of a few would become a necessity for no other reason than keeping the peace based solely on observable human nature. 

As activists seek to dismantle traditional norms in our culture that have emanated from our historical journey as a nation based on Judeo-Christian principles, we are faced with what James R. Wood referred to as a Tocquevillian conundrum in his March 25 review of Shadi Hamid’s essay in The Atlantic, “America without God,” published in Providence magazine: 

“We have to also account for the Böckenförde Paradox: the idea that liberal societies depend on non-liberal realities that liberal structures can neither produce nor sustain. Liberal societies require a virtuous, and thus religious, citizenry, as many of the Founding Fathers recognized. But, as the Tocquevillians have long argued, liberal societies seem to undermine the very institutions that inculcate such virtue…Such societies do this…through the general disdain expressed toward religion by individuals, academia, the entertainment industry, the media, etc.” 

When the populace ceases to be religious, then politics becomes “religion” for partisan followers. “Without morality, freedom cannot reign and without faith there is no basis for morality” he wrote. Societies without morality and faith would devolve into a state of Darwinist survival of the fittest, where it doesn’t matter who is more moral or ethical but which political faction has the financial, technological and organizational resources to take over full control of the government and tell everyone else what to say, think and do. It sets up bitter conflicts that never get resolved. 

Witness the cancel culture around us or the rampant censorship of opposing views by the titans of social media outlets. There is no appeal to a high authority in the religious sense of such actions — only a statement that those who are censored have opinions or views about public policy matters with which the media titans disagree. 

There is no other reason to argue for the abolition of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate if it is not to make certain political beliefs the state-mandated “religion” for everyone to obey and follow. Ending the filibuster would render the U.S. Senate to the status of being just another legislative body instead of the crucible of reason and compromise which has served America for 232 years. 

About 35% of all millennials now consider themselves to be “nones,” as in having no religious affiliation, and 23% of all voters are “nones,” up from 16% in 2007. Based on what de Tocqueville observed 186 years ago, it is easy to envision a day when America ceases to be a religious nation and becomes a secular socialist nation as France and other European nations have become. Not only would he be shocked at the amount of control Americans have ceded to Washington bureaucrats, he would also be stunned at animus directed toward religious people by today’s media and left-wing socialists. 

Easter is a good time to reflect not only on our personal salvation but about how important our religious beliefs are to our collective life together as Americans. The spirit of religion and freedom go hand in hand with each other in America. One of them goes and our democratic republic dissolves with it. 

(first published in North State Journal 3/31/21)

*J’espère que les Américains ne bousilleront pas l’Amérique un jour ! in French roughly translated means "Man! I sure hope Americans don't screw up America one day!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Insane Futility of Taxing the Rich

President Joe Biden has declared emphatically he will get a massive tax hike through Congress, and he will sign it. 

Knock yourself out, Mr. President. Raising tax rates has never paid for all the new spending anyone has gotten through Congress. Tax revenue flowing to Washington has held remarkably steady at around 18.5% of GDP following multiple tax hikes, cuts and reforms every year since 1970. 

Tax revenues will be around 18.5% after President Biden and his band of merry, liberal, socialist Democrats pass their tax plan. The problem is everyone, including a lot of Republicans, keep proposing more spending we can’t pay for with current revenue. Spending has held remarkably steady as well at 21% of GDP since 1970. America has borrowed an average of 3% of GDP each year since, which is why we now have $28 trillion in national debt instead of $0. 

In early March, the CBO estimated U.S. deficits over the next 10 years will be $12 trillion before any new spending is enacted, including the recent $1.9 trillion COVID bill.  

President Biden’s “soak the rich” tax plan that CBO guesstimates will raise $3 trillion is a veritable spit in the bucket when it comes to paying our bills. $3 trillion in new taxes over a decade averages $300 billion annually. After liberal, socialist Democrats celebrate “making the rich pay their fair share!”, whatever that is at any moment in time, there will still be close to $1 trillion — $900 billion — in annual budget deficits left to cover. 

Then what? Then taxes will trickle down to upper-income and then middle-income taxpayers through bracket creep and inflation. There is no way Biden’s tax plan will not eventually hit millions of taxpayers below $400,000 as he promised. 

Higher tax rates almost never raise the amount of tax revenue the CBO estimates. The CBO uses a static forecasting method which ignores any behavioral changes, such as rich people hiring more tax accountants and lawyers to protect their income and assets from higher taxes or moving their wealth offshore. 

Economic conditions and investor confidence determine tax revenue to Washington much more than US tax law. President Herbert Hoover proposed massive tax increases on the rich to reduce massive budget deficits caused by the Great Depression in 1930. Less than 10% of the revenue forecasted ever materialized.  

Government is the most inefficient means possible to get money to the poor. A 2007 study by James Rolph Edwards, “The Costs of Public Income Distribution and Private Charity,” revealed that two-thirds of marginal tax revenue raised goes to support middle-income bureaucrats and overhead costs. One-third gets to the poor people for whom the bill was intended. The reverse is true in private charitable organizations where even the most inefficient charity spends only 33% on manpower and overhead costs to deliver the same assistance to the same poor person. 

The poor would be much better off if President Biden could somehow order billionaires to pay $300 billion per year directly to people on poverty without the government middleman taking its massive vig that any casino would admire. $10,000 would go directly to each poor person; man, woman and child. A poor family of four would receive $40,000 on top of benefits they currently receive each and every year. 

Here’s the show-stopping question no socialist Democrat wants to hear or try to answer: “If raising taxes and spending trillions of dollars was going to solve all of our poverty problems, wouldn’t poverty in America have been abolished by now?” 

American taxpayers have spent $28 trillion (in 2016 dollars) since 1970 to defeat poverty — 3.5 times more than America has spent on all wars combined since the Revolution. U.S. poverty rates have fluctuated between 11% and 15% since 1970, with 2019 being the lowest in recent memory at 11.7%, primarily due to the expansion of jobs under President Trump. 

Taxing the rich doesn’t work. It just helps liberal, socialist Democrats feel better without making any real difference. They will never confiscate all rich people’s wealth to pay for all their utopian wish lists, so they should stop trying. 

(first published in North State Journal 3/24/21)

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Where Is "Moderate Joe" Biden?

"'President' Edith Bolling Galt
telling Woodrow Wilson
where to sign"

Every senior moderate Democrat in North Carolina assured us during the campaign that Joe Biden was a moderate. They said he would stand in the way of the left-wing, extreme-liberal socialists who control the Democratic Party today.  

“He is no Bernie Sanders,” they all promised in unison. 

Based on his first 56 days in office, it is impossible to tell the difference between President Joe Biden and socialist Bernie Sanders. There is no difference politically between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders — and Vice-President Kamala Harris, for that matter. 

No moderate president would agree to a monstrosity of a waste of taxpayer money bill as President Biden did last week when he signed the massive $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus bill. No moderate would support HR 1, which would destroy all state and local control of elections. No moderate would call for unity and then sign ultra-partisan bills crammed through Congress without one vote from the opposition party.  

It is as if “Moderate Joe” Biden has been kidnapped and held hostage in the White House. Or perhaps something more serious has happened. 

The last medical report released about Joe Biden’s health was on Dec. 15, 2019, when he was still former-Vice-President Joe Biden, a candidate with a very slim chance to win the Democratic nomination as the moderate. Kevin O’Connor, DO, associate professor and doctor of osteopathy at George Washington University, concluded his report:  

“Vice President Biden is a healthy, vigorous 77-year-old male who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency, to include those of Chief Executive, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief.” 

He may have been fit for the challenges of the “most important job in the world” 15 months ago. However, President Biden has exhibited neither the will nor the strength to govern as a moderate. He was either elected under false pretenses, or something has happened to him that has clouded his judgment about what his moderate political philosophy would look like once elected president. 

Being president of the United States of America is not a routine job or an emeritus board position. Presidents make life-and-death decisions, including sending troops into battle. When they affix their signature to legislation, it is the final step in our constitutional process which can set policies in place for decades, not months. 

Americans have seen serious medical conditions of presidents covered up by a fawning press beforePresident Woodrow Wilson suffered a massive stroke in October 1919 and spent the last 16 months of his presidency essentially bedridden. His wife made most of the major policy decisions for America in the White House while his handlers and a compliant press protected Wilson from the public.  

President John F. Kennedy was almost incapacitated by intense back pain while in the White House. He received daily injections of pain-killers and had to take barbiturates to sleep. JFK took anti-psychotic drugs on at least one occasion — it is a good thing it apparently wasn’t during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 when America came to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. 

FDR was the most well-known invalid in the White House. He contracted polio in 1921 but with the aid of a compliant press, his struggles with the disease were well-hidden from the public for his entire 11 years in the White House.  

President Biden has not held a live press conference. He hasn’t scheduled a State of the Union address. He doesn’t take random questions after making a prepared speech read from a teleprompter. He gets yanked off the stage by his handlers as if he were a vaudevillian performer who bombed. 

If he had governed as a moderate to this point as promised, there would not be the same cause for concern. When there is no discernible difference between what Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders would do in the White House, that is an alarm bell that has to be addressed. 

Over 81 million people voted for Joe Biden believing he was fully healthy, fully moderate and fully capable of discharging the immense duties of the presidency. They may have been deceived and misled by his campaign and a press that hated President Trump so much they would cover up anything to get him out of the White House. 

It is time for an independent medical examination of the president to be conducted by a respected neurologist, psychiatrist and general physician who is not a political appointee.   

(first published in North State Journal 3/17/21

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

A Medicare Boomer Apology To His Younger Self

"Keep Your Hands Off Of
My Government-Sponsored
To my 22-year-old idealistic self, I apologize. To the millions of Boomers who had to pay for a rising tide of entitlements for the past 40 years, I apologize. To the millions of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Boomers to come, please accept my deepest, most profound apology as well. 

I apologize for failing to help reform entitlements back when it would have made a difference. At any time along the way, from 1980 to 2006, had Congress, the U.S. Senate and any president screwed up enough courage, and brains, to reform entitlement programs once and for all, we would not be in the budget and national debt morass we are in today. 

Oh sure, there were some sporadic attempts to reform entitlements over the years and some minor success was achieved.  But in 1985, if a soothsayer had told budget staffers the eligibility age for Medicare would still be 65 and cost US taxpayers $722 billion — 4.4% of GDP — in FY 2021, they would have been laughed out of Washington. Surely, we thought, and believed, future politicians would not be foolish enough to ignore entitlement growth and let them spin out of control and go bankrupt 40 years in the future. 

At the very minimum, Medicare should have been amended to be on the same age eligibility track as Social Security. Social Security recipients must be 66 years and 4 months to receive full benefits today. They will have to be 67 by 2029. 

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are on Medicare simply due to their age, not their income, wealth or health status. They could buy any hospital in the country for cash and get treated for every ailment under the sun by the best doctors in the world. They do not need the payroll taxes of a blue-collar plumber in Warsaw, North Carolina, to help them pay their medical bills. 

One out of every six seniors over age 65 possesses over $1 million in assets, including their home. Instead of being on a comprehensive Medicare plan, they should be enrolled in a managed care plan with catastrophic insurance provisions and pay a far higher share of their health care costs due to their income status. 

It is a colossal failure of the modern welfare state of America that middle-to-low-income wage-earners are being taxed at all to pay 90% of health care costs for super-wealthy senior citizens. 

No rich person in America should be on welfare. 

To be honest and truthful to my rebellious 22-year-old self, I admit, I did breathe a huge sigh of relief when I was forced by law to cancel my private individual health plan to enroll in Medicare. I finally escaped the $1,100/month premium, $11,000 annual deductible and $7,500 family out-of-pocket coinsurance cost of my individual private health plan for the past decade. Before Obamacare passed in 2010, my monthly family health insurance premiums were below $350/month with annual deductibles below $3,000.  

My monthly Medicare premium is now $398/month with $1484 deductible for Part A (hospital) and $203 for Part B (doctor). Going on taxpayer-funded Medicare will feel like a $25,000 tax refund due to much lower annual out-of-pocket costs for premiums, deductibles and copays. 

I will never join AARP for their part in blocking every sane and sober entitlement reform over the past 40 years. I will never forgive them for their “Republicans Killing Granny” ads. At every turn, the AARP, liberal activist groups and Democrats stopped any reasonable Medicare reform cold for the past 40 years that would have truly saved Medicare instead of bankrupting it for everyone very soon. 

Medicare, Social Security and every entitlement program are going to be huge problems for every Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z worker going forward. Their payroll taxes are likely to go up at least 25% and higher for the rest of their lives. 

Every Boomer on Medicare would like to thank every younger worker for paying 90% of their health care costs, just as our parents thanked us. Deep down, however, we are sorry we didn’t fix it for you, for us and for America.   

We could have done it, but we didn’t. It is all on us. 

(first published in North State Journal 3/10/21)

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

When COVID Relief Is Just Plain Pork Spending

I have seen a lot of gargantuan spending bills go through Congress in the form of budget reconciliation or omnibus appropriations at the end of a contentious session.

I don’t think I have ever seen one so loaded up with extraneous spending that has nothing to do with dealing with the crisis at hand as the second COVID-relief plan passed by the Democratic Congress last week, the American Relief Plan (ARP). Not OBRA, COBRA, TEFRA, EGTRRA or PPACA, otherwise known as Obamacare.

None of them come close.

There is $1.5 billion in this bill for AMTRAK. AMTRAK has never been profitable since inception in 1971. COVID didn’t cause current problems at AMTRAK; AMTRAK structure and management has always caused problems at AMTRAK.

There is $350 billion to bailout big blue cities and states that have been massively mismanaged for decades. There is $86 billion included specifically to bailout blue state and city pensions, such as in Illinois where many retired government workers receive $350,000 in annual pension payments. COVID didn’t cause financial problems in big blue cities; big blue city politicians have overpromised and overspent for decades, which has caused financial problems in big blue cities.

The list of egregious pork spending in this COVID relief bill is embarrassing. There is $200 million for museums and libraries — even though they were shut down for an entire year; $270 million for the NEA, the National Endowment for the Arts. There is $128 billion for K-12 public education — except 95% of this money will not be spent until between 2022 and 2028, not in 2021.

There may be $600 billion in this bill that can reasonably be tied to COVID relief including funding for more vaccines ($75B), PPP ($473B), aid to ailing restaurants ($26B), assistance to airlines ($15B) and $7.2B for PPP for small businesses that have been wrecked by gubernatorial executive shut down orders for the past year.

Had the bill stopped there, President Joe Biden might have had his first truly bipartisan victory for “unity,” with a majority of Republicans voting for it in the House and the Senate.

The remainder of the $1.3 trillion is pure partisan politics. Democrats are paying off the constituencies that elect them and who helped defeat President Trump. There is no other way to look at it.

Arizona Republican Congressman Paul Gosar offered an amendment to take out all non-COVID-related spending in the bill and convert it into sending $10,000 checks to these people most affected by COVID instead of $1400.

It was defeated along party lines. Democrats want to send more money to big blue state politicians to distribute to their supporters instead of directly to the average American family.

Remember the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Nowheresville, Alaska, which forever tarnished the career of Sen. Ted Stevens in 2005? The left and the media rightfully jumped on the Bridge to Nowhere to highlight how elected officials waste federal dollars with no regard to the consequences.

There is the equivalent of 2,222 wasteful “Bridges to Nowhere” in this solidly Democratic bill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer “swears” is “big, bold COVID relief!” It most definitely is not all related to COVID.

One thing that is truly “bipartisan” in Washington, sadly, is the astounding amount of federal debt both parties in control of the White House and Congress have amassed since 2001. Federal debt owed to the public was $3 trillion before 9/11. If this bill becomes law, debt owed to the public will approach $24 trillion by the end of 2021. Roughly $6 trillion in intragovernmental debt is owed between the government and such programs as the Social Security Trust Fund which will never be repaid.

If, or rather when, inflation is triggered again by such fiscal malfeasance and explosive money supply growth by the Federal Reserve, then all of us — rich, poor, black, white, young and old — will really be in this mess together.

President Joe Biden seems to want to steer America back to the stagflation economic doldrum days last seen under President Jimmy Carter in 1979-81. He has only been in the White House for 41 days; imagine what economic damage he and the Democrats might do over the next four years.

(first published in North State Journal 3/3/21)

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