Right To Work

A “Right to Work” law says that a worker in a “union shop” can’t be required to pay union dues even though that worker benefits from the union negotiations with management.  Some states have passed these laws and they’re contested in a few other states.  I support Right to Work, not because I oppose unions themselves, but because I oppose forced political contributions .

I think unions have done a lot of good for working people (although some have gotten too powerful), and they serve an important role in labor/management relations.  The problem I see is that unions make political campaign contributions from workers’ union dues, thus forcing people to make contributions to candidates whom they may not support.  Why should anyone be forced to contribute to a socialist candidate if they don’t believe in socialism?  Unions donate almost exclusively to Democratic Party candidates.  Now today’s Democratic Party is no longer the party of John F. Kennedy; it’s the party of Karl Marx.  Democrats no longer say “ask what you can do for your country”; now it’s “ask what your country can do for you”; heck, even if you’re not a US citizen “come get the free stuff” from a struggling and declining work force.  Democrats also scrounge for every “right” that might endear them to some specific group while waging an unprecedented campaign against the most fundamental rights of all of us: the Bill of Rights. See my “Repeal the Bill of Rights” article for a discussion of how those freedoms are under attack.

Is “Right to Work” a fundamental right under the Ninth Amendment?  That’s a good question.  It wouldn’t have occurred to the authors of the Constitution to include a “Right to Work” amendment in the Bill of Rights because at that time everyone who was able to work was expected to work and neither unions nor the welfare state existed.  Rather than argue the entire issue I’ll focus on the political contribution portion, where compromise is possible.  I think that not being forced to make political contributions to any candidate IS a fundamental right.   It’s part of the right to vote itself.  I’d like to see a SCOTUS ruling that workers don’t have to pay that portion of their dues that are political contributions.  That would protect the unions’ need for funding to support labor/management negotiations and grievance resolution without forcing workers to be political campaign supporters.

As for socialists, remember the food lines in the former Soviet Union and the more recent food riots in Venezuela.  Socialists of a feather starve together, except for the leaders of course, who are more equal than the masses.

Rein in the EPA – Carefully

We have to protect the environment.  Our lives and the future of the human race depend on it.  No one wants US cities to look like Beijing during high smog events.  No one wants to drink contaminated water or see rivers full of garbage.  The EPA has a valid function so it shouldn’t be abolished.  I think it has gotten “drunk on power” under the previous administration and needs to be reined in somewhat.  It seems to have morphed from basing actions on scientific studies and cost/benefit analyses to basing actions on bureaucratic authority.  That’s often a problem with agencies that can make rules but have no accountability to the voters.  It’s particularly noticeable in that the EPA rushed through some new rules in the last few days of the Obama administration.  Was that really enough time for a thorough analysis?  The EPA’s job is protecting the environment, not bureaucratic jobs.

Rather than delve into the controversial topic of climate change I’ll discuss a local matter that can really hurt taxpayers, and that’s wastewater treatment, a subject that’s very localized.  Suppose a city has wastewater treatment plants that meet current discharge specifications.  A company develops a treatment method that is more efficient, i.e., can better clean the water, and suddenly the city gets a notice from the EPA that they must meet this new “standard” or face ridiculously high fines.  Does the EPA have to provide scientific evidence that this new standard is necessary or are they working to “as low as achievable”?  That’s not science, it’s pandering to industry.

Another issue that involves local water is the EPA effort to exert control over virtually every body of water in the country, including small privately-owned ponds and “ephemeral” water (streams and puddles that only exist seasonally).  This extension of the EPA’s original mandate along with its power to levy fines has made life miserable for some farmers and other landowners.  Unless the landowner is using those small waters to dispose of toxic materials (which is illegal anyway) this is nothing but a bureaucratic power grab.

I’m offering the following suggestions to “bring the EPA down to earth” without destroying the earth:

  1.  Temporarily freeze all regulations that were issued between January 1, 2017 and January 21, 2017 until they are adequately reviewed for necessity.
  2. Establish a “show me the science” policy for cities faced with sudden revisions to local requirements for matters like wastewater treatment that would require costly upgrades to plants that meet current specifications.  Explain to the community why the change is needed in plain English, and allow a reasonable implementation time.
  3. Reexamine the EPA authority to levy very high fines, specifically in cases involving changes to standards that are currently being met (as opposed to willful violators).  This is a power that is subject to abuse and that drains money needed to make the changes.
  4. EPA officials need to understand that with authority comes accountability.  Fire employees involved in the Animas river disaster and bar involved contractors from Federal contracts for 10 years.

Where’s the North Pole?

M1: “Ummm… where’s the North Pole?”

M2: “I dunno… up north I guess.”

M1: “where’s north?”

M2: “I dunno… but someone does… check Wiki.”

 

Would anyone like to draw a cartoon to go with that hypothetical exchange?  It might be funny if it didn’t reflect a truth.

A recent survey by a fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH regarding attitudes towards climate change and science itself revealed that less than one in five Americans know that thousands of their fellow citizens live and work above the Arctic Circle (where’s Alaska?) and that less than half know where the North and South Poles are located.  Although this survey was looking at the attitudes of  different political supporters, it, along with previous studies regarding educational attainment and international testing, deliver a scathing indictment of the public school system.  The most expensive public school system in the world isn’t educating its students for that real world!  If people don’t know where Alaska or the Poles are, it’s not because of their political views, it’s because they never learned geography (even of their own nation).  If people don’t know how our government is supposed to work it’s because they never learned civics.  If, as business leaders have said, young employees can’t write a coherent sentence, it’s because they never learned English grammar.  Likewise for science, mathematics, history, and any other subject.

Sadly, liberals who demand “one-size-fits-all” Common Core schools while ignoring successful alternatives like charter and magnet schools, are putting politics ahead of the children.  If they think  that kids need to spend more time “feeling good”, or feeling guilty for the actions of people 200 years ago, or questioning their gender, they’re only contributing to the decline in learning.  Indoctrination isn’t education.

The first step in reversing this downward trend is accountability.  Start by ending tenure, a luxury that other professions don’t enjoy.  Taxpayers need to be asking what they’re paying for, e.g.,  will a shiny new school building really mean a better education or is it just a better resume for the mayor?  Parents need to demand accountability, but so do teachers.  It’s up to the parents to see that homework is done, to attend scheduled meetings, and to teach their children respect for others.  The more we expect the schools to do the jobs of parents the less time the schools will have to do their own job: educating.

The second step is to get Federal government control out of education.  Over fifty years of “Fed Ed” and a trillion dollars later we haven’t gained that much.  Return control of the schools to the states, hand them a copy of my “Mission Statement for Schools”, and tell them to shape up.  If the parents care and the states want to compete economically and attract business, they’ll deliver.

The third step is to “put America first” so that business can thrive.  Make sure that trade agreements guarantee fair trade, not just “free trade”.  Put citizens first by limiting immigration to what the economy can absorb without reducing wages or seeing US workers replaced by H1B visa holders.  Reform our tax code and stop rewarding companies that move operations overseas.  We don’t have to be isolationist, just sovereign.  The future of our nation depends on it.

The Iceberg

Thanks to technological advances like radar and satellite tracking, icebergs aren’t the bane of shipping that they once were, but we can still learn something from them.  Most of the mass of an iceberg is under water, which is why people refer to the “tip” of an iceberg.  Well, the national debt is like an iceberg in some ways.

We see a number, right now over 19 trillion dollars.  That number is so large that nothing in our everyday experience helps us to comprehend it.  It’s almost doubled in less than eight years under the progressive Obama administration and there’s no reason to think that Democrats would curb that growth.  That’s an annual increase of around 9%.  Are your CDs paying that?

What we don’t see is what lurks beneath that number; the impact on our economy and national security.  Like any other debt, the national debt isn’t free; the government must pay interest on that debt to the bondholders.  Interest rates have been at record lows for years but they won’t stay there forever.  As interest rates rise the government will have to pay higher interest on new debt as it’s issued.  This is one part of the debt iceberg we don’t see.  Debt interest is paid from tax revenues, so as the debt rises the government will either have less money to spend on national defense, social programs, and environmental protection or it will have to raise taxes.  A second part of the debt iceberg that’s largely hidden is that the debt eventually has to be repaid as the bonds mature.  This is a huge and growing mortgage on future generations.  Of course that debt can always be refinanced at a higher interest rate but we all know where that leads: bankruptcy.  The third, and least conspicuous hidden part of the debt iceberg is that trillions of dollars in US debt are held by foreign countries.  That gives these countries leverage to demand special treatment and even an economic weapon to use against us in case of a conflict.

Here’s something to think about.  The national debt is now over 105% of the US GDP.  That’s right, it’s higher than the total annual output of our nation.  Anyone who thinks this can go on forever must believe that money grows on trees.

Here’s what we need to bring this situation under control before the iceberg of debt sinks the ship of state:

  1. Responsible elected officials who recognize the problem and are actually willing to do something about it.  This means keeping spending within revenues and actively reducing outstanding debt.
  2. A plan to reduce the outstanding debt.  If we ever get real tax reform (not just more pages of rules) this should be part of it.  For example, under a flat tax we could have Flat+1, where the flat portion covered expenses, 1/2 of the extra 1% goes to debt reduction, and the other 1/2 of the extra 1% goes to upgrading our infrastructure (see “Infrastructure: Circulatory System of a Nation” for more on this issue).
  3. Limits on both the total amount of debt that can be held by foreign countries and the portion of that amount that can be held by any one country.  See “The More You Owe Me the More I Own You” for further discussion of limits on foreign debt.

 

Hillary Tech: US STEM Students Don’t Matter

In her technology agenda (which you can read on her own web site) Hillary Clinton gives the nation’s technology moguls, hedge funds, and teacher’s unions everything they could want: billions of dollars for technology research, internet expansion, and computer science education.  Then she gives US graduate students in STEM subjects a big slap in the face.  She wants to give green cards to foreign STEM graduate students along with their diplomas.  That’s right, green cards!  These aren’t the non-immigrant H1B work visas that allow a foreign worker to work for one company; these cards grant permanent resident status with a path to citizenship.

So, how does this hurt US graduate students?  A permanent resident can apply for any job with any company, anywhere, any time.  That puts foreign graduates in direct competition for the best jobs with US graduates, and once in the job line they’ll probably get favorable treatment.  This competition is globalism at it’s worst.  It’s inherently unfair, one reason being that there’s no reciprocity with other countries.  A US student couldn’t get an MS in Computer Science in Canada, for example, and expect to be granted automatic residency.  The result will be that US students, already burdened with the heaviest debt, will be relegated to the lower paying, less challenging jobs.

How can anyone who wants to be president of the US suggest establishing a completely open global job market in the US?  Globalists like Soros must be cheering.  Hillary shouldn’t be elected, and if you’re a STEM student or have students in college you now have a good reason to not vote for her.  She’s working for Wall Street, not for you, regardless of what her signs say.

There is an alternative: the H1B visa program.  While I’m opposed to employers using the H1B visa system to replace experienced US professionals I recognize that this program has a legitimate purpose in allowing employers to fill necessary jobs that are unfilled by US citizens.  If the H1B visa regulations were strengthened to protect US citizens as I suggested in “Does STEM Matter Any More” we could balance the needs of technology employers with the right of US STEM graduates to be at the front of the employment lines.

 

A vote for Hillary is a vote against US students.

Ten Percent is a Low Bar

We often hear the criticism of the Clinton Foundation that it only gives ten percent of it’s income to charity.  The rest is used for salaries, expenses, travel, etc., while the foundation serves as a funnel for foreign countries to contribute to the Clintons.  For once, however, that 10% isn’t a case of “Clinton privilege” but rather the result of a rather weak IRS law defining a charity.  Ten percent is the minimum an organization has to contribute to it’s stated cause to qualify for tax-exempt status.  Consequently some charities give little more than 10% .  So, where does the rest of the money go?  Well, to salaries and expenses of course, but a lot of it goes to solicitors (those people who phone endlessly and send out address labels hoping you’ll at least cover the cost).  Now we know it takes money to make money but I think 10% is a pretty low bar to effectively get a subsidy from the taxpayers.

Let’s raise that minimum number to 35% incrementally.  A new charity would start out at 5% for the first year then increase by 5% each year up to 35%.  An existing charity would start out at the current 10% and would see the same increase each year.  Any charity could request one one-year extension and the increments could be delayed in the event of a major recession.  While it’s true that a charity might see a decline in total revenue if it hired fewer solicitors, that amount would have to fall by around 70% before the stated cause would receive less money than it would at the current 10% minimum.  The effect might be to sort out organizations run by people who really want to help humanity from those who simply want an income.  In some cases it might must make the organization more efficient.

Think 35% is too high or 1-year interval increases are too short?  How about 30% and/or 2-year intervals?  Even 25% should provide more money for those in need while better justifying the tax exempt status.  My point is simply that tax exempt status equals a taxpayer subsidy, and if that money is supposed to be helping worthwhile causes that’s what it should be doing.  A “slush fund” is not a charity.

Cancer Moonshot or Drunken Birds?

President Obama has said he would like to see a “moonshot” effort to cure cancer.  Remember that he’s also said “put America first” and “if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor”.

So, if we need serious medical research on cancer, why is the government squandering our tax dollars on research grants that have no apparent value to relieving human suffering or protecting the environment?  The NIH gave 5 million dollars to study if birds slurred their songs when drunk; the NSF awarded 3.9 million to study sexy goldfish; and, the worst, the NIH gave 3.5 million dollars to China to study why people see the face of Jesus in toast!  Why are we giving millions of dollars to Communist China?  If we’re going to squander money at least keep it in our economy.  As I’ve said before, China is NOT our friend.

While on the subject of cancer, lung cancer is the number 1 cancer killer, yet lung cancer research is vastly under funded compared with other common cancers.  There are no high profile fund raising events, free screenings, or commercials advocating for lung cancer victims.  While survival rates for breast, colon, and skin cancers have improved significantly in the past 40 years the survival rate for lung cancer has barely moved.  There’s an unholy reason for that.  Lung cancer is associated with smoking (although its also caused by radon gas and pollution), so years ago the nation decided that smokers were morally weak and therefore “deserved” what they got.  That attitude is similar to the one which we saw during the early years of the AIDS epidemic when gays were considered morally weak and deserved what they got.  Political activism changed that situation but there’s no activism for lung cancer victims.  Now that addiction is considered a medical problem rather than a moral weakness there’s no excuse to keep lung cancer research at a low priority.  Many consider nicotine to be more addictive than heroin.  The fact that we squander millions of dollars on goofy grants shows just how dysfunctional our government has become.  Agencies that can’t assign sensible priorities to research are assuming that tax dollars are unlimited.  They need a lesson, starting with a few firings.

Hats off to medical research though.  They may not be able to help lung cancer victims but they can grow longer eyelashes (wink, wink).