Who Makes Laws?

In a “pure” democracy the majority of voters makes the laws, and the result can be that minorities have no rights at all, hence the term “tyranny of the majority”. In a republic such as ours laws are made by elected officials in bodies called legislatures. This system is breaking down. In response to demands from vocal groups that are funded by billionaire socialists and fronted by spoiled celebrities or teenage bullies, ( this is called mob rule), corporations have decided that they can make de facto laws and indulge in discrimination with impunity as long as they align with the liberals. Why is it acceptable for Dicks Sporting Goods to refuse to sell a legal product (a rifle) to legally qualified buyers (aged 18-20) based on personal opinions (indulging in age discrimination) but it’s not acceptable for a bakery to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage because it violates the owner’s personal religious beliefs? Regardless of their endless rants against discrimination, liberals clearly believe that discrimination is only bad if it violates their world view, otherwise it’s wonderful. If Dicks can get away with it the liberal judge who ruled against the bakery should be removed from the bench.

Now we have giant banks, notably BOFA and Citi, refusing to do business with legal firearms manufacturers and retailers. This is clearly an effort to shut them down, and if it’s allowed, who will the rich elitists decide to shut down next? As the foundation of commerce banks have a lot of power, and with it comes the responsibility to society to treat all legal enterprises equally. Corporations can do this in communist China, but it shouldn’t be happening here.

There is one sure way to stop bank lawmaking. If the banks have gotten so big that they think they can make de facto laws, it’s time to break up the big banks.

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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.

 

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.

How Has That “Hope and Change” Worked Out?

No more mister nice guy!

I’ve suggested ways to help the economy and pointed out problem areas, but now, as we approach an election that will determine the fate of our nation, it’s time to start looking at the current political situation in more detail. A good place to start is to see where the Obama administration has taken the country in the past 7 plus years. It’s pretty much the wrong direction.

One obvious fact is that the national debt has more than doubled and is now topping 19 trillion dollars. That’s a sum that even billionaires can’t comprehend. That’s an enormous debt to pile on our children, their children, and generations to come. Even worse, the debt escalation shows no sign of slowing as Democrats just can’t stop spending, even on low value programs. It’s a cancer that could cripple and bring down our republic.

Second is the complete lack of accountability in this administration. I addressed that in my “No Accountability, No Consequences, No Problem” article. The idea that so many people in high responsibility, high paying jobs aren’t held responsible for incompetence, lying, or outright wrongdoing is unacceptable. How many “average workers” enjoy such protection?

The nation is dangerously divided racially and economically. This is unfortunate because our first black president should have been able to heal many differences. Instead he has worked like a community organizer and divided the nation. You can refer to Saul Alinksy’s “Rules for Radicals” for the list of community organizer tactics.

There’s also more tension between police and civilians, with increases in both random attacks on officers and fatal shootings of unarmed suspects. This is dangerous for both sides and comes at a time when cooperation is vital to counter gang and terrorist threats.

The economic stimulus that was supposed to lift the country out of a severe recession didn’t help a lot of people. The top 1% enjoyed huge stock market gains thanks to Fed policies while working people saw stagnant wages and retirees still get zero interest on their savings. Too many people are working below their abilities or working several part-time jobs to survive. Good paying manufacturing jobs are being replaced by low wage service jobs. American IT workers are being replaced by H1B visa holders (even though that’s illegal). Welfare has expanded and programs have seen no reform to make welfare a hand up, not a handout for life.

The US is experiencing an unprecedented drug addiction epidemic, with overdose deaths reported every day.  This is a clear sign that people are unhappy, depressed, frustrated, or frightened by the direction the country is taking.  Since existing actions aren’t curbing the epidemic and the government isn’t willing to secure our southern border to cut off the flow of illegal drugs it’s taking the one-size-fits-all approach of intimidating doctors and making it harder for legitimate pain sufferers to get medication.

The signature ACA is just a numbers game to get more people on insurance rolls. It has given people insurance plans that they can afford to buy (thanks to subsidies), but can’t afford to use (thanks to sky high deductibles), yet insurance companies are losing money. That’s not a sustainable way of doing business. Once taxpayers have to bail out insurers and families can’t use their policies the country is on a path to a single payer system. While the simplicity of single-payer seems attractive, would you trust the government to manage it after the way the VA has treated our veterans? One basic failure of the ACA is that it does nothing to control costs; the other is “one-size-fits-all”.

The unconstitutional Department of Education has asserted even more control over public schools through Common Core, which, like the ACA, is a “one-size-fits-all” program. States, communities, and parents are being phased out of public education (except to pay the bills).

There has been no reform in taxation, immigration, or criminal justice; areas where both parties should be able to find some common ground.

Our infrastructure is deteriorating. Our electric grid and communications systems are vulnerable to cyber attacks. We are relying on luck, and when a hostile nation or terrorist group strikes, it will run out in an instant and we’ll learn about life in the Middle Ages.

We have seen erosion of our Constitutional rights, privacy, and even private property as the government finds more ways to seize property without adjudication..

We have seen the rise of two state “religions”: climate change and political correctness. Climate change is a matter for scientists; political correctness is simply stupid.

Our foreign policy has been inconsistent; our objectives unclear. Our support of “change” in the Mideast to oust repressive dictators hasn’t brought people freedom; it’s led to violence. The world has seen the rise of the most brutal terrorist organization in recent history, ISIS. It is anything but a “JV Team” and as more groups with similar goals pledge allegiance to ISIS this threat won’t be stopped anytime soon. Our military is seen as weakening as powerful nations like China extend their military influence and North Korea is testing ballistic missiles. If a large scale war breaks out the US cannot afford to be on the losing end.

Many people in this country are angry. The “hope and change” hasn’t made their life better. Can things get worse? Definitely! The Democrats’ favorite candidate, Hillary Clinton, has promised four more years of the current administration’s failed policies and attacks on our rights. She’s been a liar her entire career, but Democrats ignore that fact because she’s “entitled” to be president. Since when is any public office an entitlement? The last person to rule our soil as an entitlement was King George III.

Opportunity Knocks. Quick, Bar the Door!

The USA currently has an opportunity to secure it’s position as a world leader in technology and industry while securing the future of it’s workers.  Opportunity is knocking and the Federal government is refusing to answer.

When I wrote “Jobs for America, Starting Today” I was looking at two regional industries, one that has been running a successful apprenticeship program for over a century and another that recently partnered with a community college to develop a skilled workforce.  Now this trend is spreading.  Honda America is establishing a program to interest students in manufacturing jobs and develop the workforce of the future, Starbucks is offering it’s employees college scholarships, and we can expect other businesses to step up.  For those who think manufacturing is just for machinists and mechanics, remember that modern manufacturing also requires engineers, computer programmers, quality control experts, logistics specialists, and industrial safety and health professionals.  The best way the Federal government could help is to Get Out of the Way.  Businesses need skilled employees, colleges need qualified students, but neither needs a government middleman to broker the deals.  Neither needs the “strings” that come with government “help” either.  Here’s how the Feds can get out of the way.

Reform and simplify the corporate tax code.  Lower the tax rate while cutting “corporate welfare” to ensure that tax breaks benefit everyone, not just the top executives.

Implement my “PARA” plan for repatriating overseas  earnings in a way that will create jobs here at home while helping the environment as businesses can use that money to  improve energy efficiency.

As millions of Baby Boomers retire their knowledge must be passed to the next generation.  Encourage businesses to offer transitional employment such are part time work to retiring employees so that new employees can benefit from their experience.  In most cases it’s a win-win proposition.  Reform the individual tax code too to help all employees.

Abolish the Medical Device Tax immediately.  It hurts everyone: patients, providers, and businesses that save lives.  Medical technology is a growing field that requires multi-disciplinary professionals, and one in which this country excels, so keep these businesses here and growing.

Cut excess overhead by eliminating requirements for endless reports that no one looks at, then cut the bureaucrats who asked for them.

Stop flooding the country with unskilled immigrants.  A tight labor market will result in wage increases without a mandated minimum wage increase while an excess of available laborers will depress wages.  Politics can’t change the basic rules of economics.

Don’t increase the H1B visa ceiling for skilled foreign workers until every citizen with a STEM degree has a job in their field.  Technology companies and IT departments  have used H1B visas to cut older (i.e., higher paid) workers out of job opportunities.  Also, since H1B holders tend to be in the higher salary ranges, don’t let their spouses work and take jobs from citizens.

If you expect businesses to help in training the workforce of the future don’t tell them who they must hire.  Let them invest in those who are best qualified for the particular work at hand.

Reject the false promises of modern socialism, which is actually elitism.  Don’t put the UN ahead of the USA either.  Resist the notion that we must become a third world nation in order to help third world nations.  We are a sovereign nation founded on one document, our Constitution, and it has helped this nation prosper for over 200 years.

Security II

Economic security at the national level is basically sound money management, including setting priorities, managing budgets, and limiting debt.  Congress doesn’t seem to be too good at these.  Well run companies carefully manage their capital structure.  Government at all levels doesn’t bother because it can always raise taxes.  Debt can reach a point where raising taxes alone won’t work.  Can anyone even conceive of how much $17 trillion is?  How are our children and grandchildren supposed to pay this off?  True, it’s not all due at the same time, but as some debt is retired we keep adding more so the trend is upward.  Has foreign debt given other countries too much leverage in setting US policy, or could it be used as an economic weapon?

At the personal level economic security starts with a good education that leads to a decent paying job that leads to a secure retirement.  This was an improving trend in our country but that trend seems to have reversed as the middle class is in decline.

Emotional security is simply the feeling that things are good in this country.  For generations many parents found emotional security in seeing their children do better than they did.  I was the first in my family to go to college and my parents were proud.  For immigrants from oppressive countries emotional security may come from freedom from the fear of a brutal government.  Emotional security contributes to the “pursuit of happiness”.

There’s an economic metric that retailers watch called the Consumer Confidence index.  It’s a measure of both the economic and emotional status of the population.  Higher confidence means consumers are more likely to spend than when they’re worried.