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.

 

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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).

A Privacy Paradigm

The left-wing/liberal/progressive position on individual privacy runs something like this: “If you’re not doing anything wrong what difference does it make if we track you?”.  The flaw in this position is the assumption that Big Brother has a fundamental right to know everything you do.  I can’t find that in my copy of the Constitution, can you?

The real privacy paradigm should be based on “Need to Know“, much as national security information is (supposed to be) controlled.  Suppose “the engineer” works for a defense contractor and has a secret level clearance.  That doesn’t mean that this engineer can go around accessing every secret document in the company because access is limited to the classified information needed to do the engineer’s job.  An engineer working on fighter jet navigation would have no need to access information on submarine nuclear power plants, for example.  Last week I bought a bag of chocolate chips.  Does Big Brother have any need for this information?  If not, leave me alone.

If privacy was based on “need to know” rather than “want to know” we’d all be both freer and more secure.

Repeal the Bill of Rights?

In “The Freedom Triangle” I explained how freedom is defined by three components: democracy, rights, and responsibilities.  Our basic inalienable rights are found in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights.  Every one of them is important.  Every one was included because the authors of the Constitution, in their wisdom, had seen how authoritarian governments had abused their subjects and sought to protect us.  In fact the Constitution doesn’t talk about “subjects”, it talks about “We the People”.

Now the Constitution can be changed by the deliberately cumbersome process of amendment.  It’s long and tedious and the outcome is uncertain, but in this case that’s a protection, not an inefficiency.  Democrats, socialists, and other progressives, however, have found ways to weaken our rights by DE FACTO means.  That term simply means “that’s how it is”.  If you don’t like a law but can’t easily change it, find ways to circumvent it.  These tactics might be unofficial, like intimidation, or official, through restrictions or taxation.   In this article I’ll look at how several amendments are being attacked.

First Amendment:

Intimidation (aka Bullying):  At this time intimidation is the primary weapon against free speech.  It began with political correctness, a crybaby concept that has grown from a minor nuisance into a state religion.  We see intimidation on college campuses where students complain about “micro-aggression”, demand “safe spaces”, and are even told to call police if they hear something “offensive”.  Now that’s intimidation.  On a larger scale, political correctness stifles communication to a point where serious issues can’t even be discussed.

Intimidation also threatens religious freedom by erasing religious equality.  When Christian churches remove exterior crosses so they don’t “offend” Muslim immigrants they’re not accommodating newcomers, they’re surrendering their right to exist as a public entity; doing exactly what is required in Muslim countries.  From a Christian point of view they’re denying Christ just as Peter did.  When a restaurant owner is bullied into removing a sign advertising bacon for breakfast his free speech is suspended.  Jews don’t eat pork either but they’ve never tried to impose their dietary rules on others.

Legal Action:  Can the USA have laws against free speech beyond the “don’t yell fire in a theater if there isn’t one” and “don’t threaten violence”?  Maybe, because it’s happening in European countries that guarantee free speech.  In Germany a comedian has been arrested for insulting the president of Turkey, and In Sweden people can be arrested for ethnic slurs.  Some in the US are saying that “climate change deniers” should be arrested and oil companies should be sued because they “knew” their products would cause climate change.

Second Amendment:

Propaganda:   No amendment is under heavier public attack than this amendment, even though self defense it a fundamental human right.  It’s in common law because historically only the un-free (prisoners, serfs, slaves) were denied the right to protect themselves and their families.  We hear anti-gun propaganda everywhere, much of it funded by billionaires who are surrounded by armed bodyguards.  Their message: “be rich or be dead”.  They blame the NRA for Chicago violence, not the gang members doing the shooting.  They make their case with bogus logic that anyone who has learned how to think can spot as invalid.  Any criminal act is the act of a person, not an object.

Legal Action:  In addition to funding propaganda campaigns, billionaire Mike Bloomberg spends millions to buy local elections for anti-gun candidates who will then enact restrictive laws.  The result is a confusing patchwork system of laws that turn honest people into criminals while doing nothing to stop crime.  Liberal San Francisco’s laws are so tough that the last legal gun shop had to close, yet they did nothing to stop an illegal immigrant with a stolen gun from murdering an innocent young woman.  Chicago’s tough gun laws can’t stop the endless gang wars that have made it the murder capital of the US. The latest effort to drive gun makers out of business is to attempt to sue them for gun violence.  No company has ever been held liable for criminal use of their products because the company has no control over the consumer.

Taxation:   Everyone has heard Chief Justice Marshall’s statement that “The power to tax is the power to destroy” and liberals know punitive taxes can be used to deny “little people” their rights while preserving “billionaire rights”.  Seattle has a $25 tax on guns, a US territory has a $1000 tax per gun, and Hillary wants a 25% tax on guns (all for more money to squander).  What part of “right” don’t they understand?

Health care:  President Obama and his British-born Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy want to draft doctors into their war on legal gun ownership.  They have decreed that “gun violence” is a public health problem (but gang violence isn’t) so doctors should question patients about gun ownership, presumably to then evaluate their mental fitness to own a firearm while simultaneously creating a national gun registry in those digitized medical records.  Since doctors don’t get “gun violence” training (they don’t get knife or fist violence training either) they’ll be fed the far left agenda and sent out on a mission to declare as many people “mentally unfit” as possible (it’s already happening at the VA).  That won’t work on doctors who are also hunters but it will on many.  The answer is “no”.

Intimidation:  I discuss the DOJ’s “Operation Choke Point” under the Fifth Amendment.

SCOTUS:  In the case “D.C. vs. Heller” the Supreme Court upheld the right of honest people to own a firearm for self defense.  Progressives would love to get this ruling overturned.  That would effectively repeal the Second Amendment.

Fourth and Fifth Amendments:

Legal Action:  The fourth Amendment protects private property from unreasonable search and seizure without due process.  The fifth Amendment protects individuals from being deprived of “life, liberty, and property” without due process.  Government departments are using often dubious tactics to deprive people of their property without adjudication.  Here are two of them.

The IRS can seize bank assets of individuals or businesses if they suspect small deposits are being “structured” to avoid reporting requirements of amounts in excess of $10,000.  They don’t need any evidence of criminal activity, indictment, trial, or conviction to proceed.  Victims are often small businesses that deposit money regularly just to avoid being a robbery target.  Even innocent people must file an expensive lawsuit to get their money released.

Police can seize property under “civil asset forfeiture” if they suspect criminal activity, and that includes “untainted” assets, i.e., those not associated with the suspected activity.  Again the word is “suspected”; no indictment, trial, or conviction required.  Asset seizure can make it difficult for an accused person to hire attorneys and prepare a defense; a right guaranteed by  the Fifth Amendment.

Eminent Domain:  Eminent domain was included in the Constitution to allow governments at all levels to take private land, with compensation, for public projects that would benefit the community.  The intent was to support construction of roads, bridges, schools, and other public facilities.  That concept has unfortunately been expanded to allow taking of private property for private developments under the guise that they will expand the local tax base.  This “public good ” is nothing but a gift for wealthy developers at the expense of the people.

Intimidation:  The DOJ has initiated a process of intimidation not supported by any law called “Choke Point” to cut off “high risk” businesses from having bank accounts and obtaining credit.  Basically banks are threatened with legal action so they cancel the accounts of many honest businesses that pay taxes and wages.,  High risk businesses include firearms dealers, short term lenders, used car dealers, and adult entertainment.  So, what constitutes “high risk” is determined by politically motivated bureaucrats, not the law.  Congress has been urged to outlaw this practice but liberals support it because it furthers their agenda of control of the people.

Ninth Amendment:

Legal Action:  This amendment protects “unenumerated rights” of the people, i.e., those not specifically guaranteed by the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights.  The most important right that has been asserted under this amendment is the right of privacy.  As the Federal government demands more an more tracking of peoples’ lives privacy is being lost, often in the name of the “common good”.  That is collectivism, the antithesis of what the Constitution stands for.  To make the situation even worse, neither the government nor various private data collection agencies can adequately secure their data against hacking or insider misuse.

Tenth Amendment:

Congress:  This amendment says that all responsibilities not specifically assigned to the Federal government by the Constitution remain with the states or the people.  Congress has been more than happy to de facto repeal this amendment with “one-size-fits-all” programs.  Nothing in the Constitution allows the Federal government to control public schools yet Congress created the Department of Education and has given it unlimited power over the states and parents.  This has allowed billionaire Bill Gates to fund development of Common Core, his vision of an ideal system, and coax the government to enforce it.  Nothing in the Constitution allows the Federal government to use the IRS to enforce health insurance yet it approved the ACA.  All the promises associated with this program were lies: costs will go down, you can keep your doctor, etc.  Even the insurers are losing money on this one.  Rising health care costs are a problem but the ACA does nothing to solve it.

Intimidation:  The Department of Education uses threats of withholding education money from school districts that refuse to comply with it’s directives.  Simply put, it uses our tax dollars against us.

So, that’s the picture, and it isn’t a good one if you value freedom because without rights you are not free.  Can the Bill of Rights be saved?  Yes, but time is running out.  The 2016 elections will pretty much determine whether your children will stand in freedom or kneel in servitude.

 

If you like your rights you can keep them… NOT.

SCOTUS Focus

The unfortunate death of Justice Scalia has brought election year turmoil to the process of selecting a replacement.  Democrats demand prompt action while Republicans advocate for “wait until next year” even though they know they may not win.  The Constitution doesn’t specify a number of justices for the Court, which began with 6 and has had as many as 10, so this really isn’t a constitutional argument; it’s a political one.  The Supreme Court, with it’s authority to review laws for constitutionality, was supposed to serve as a somewhat independent check on overreaches of power by either the executive or legislative branches.  Instead it has become  a pawn of partisan conflict.

When a president appoints a justice solely to advance a party agenda, overturn previous rulings, or “legislate from the bench” the court becomes an arm of the executive branch with influence much longer than the president’s term of office.   That isn’t what the authors of the Constitution intended.  In it’s pursuit of collectivism the far left sees the Court as a means to nullify the individual rights granted by Bill of Rights.  The Court has no authority to amend the Constitution or repeal its amendments.  Justice Scalia understood that.  There’s a procedure for amending the Constitution that requires more than a court decision.

Freedom: it’s easy to lose and almost impossible to get back.

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.

The Art of the Bad Deal

When Donald Trump spoke in New Hampshire he pointed out that when the US government negotiates deals, it loses.  He’s right.  The US concedes while getting nothing in return.  The Iran deal would give Iran relief from sanctions while providing no assurance that it won’t eventually develop nuclear weapons.  The climate deal with China allows it to continue polluting the atmosphere while the US must cut emissions immediately (see previous post on this subject).  The proposed deal to restore relations with Cuba gives Cuba access to trade and potentially a lucrative tourism boost while giving us nothing.  I’m not opposed to normalizing relations with Cuba.  After all, we normalized relations with Vietnam where 58,000 US troops died.  How many died in Cuba?  As a sign of good faith, however, we should at least get the repatriation of the violent US criminals, including a “cop killer”, that Cuba has been harboring for decades.  What about the TPP?  We don’t know because it’s a secret.  Any deal that could affect employment, our standard of living, our sovereignty, or our Constitutional rights shouldn’t be a secret.   What happened to transparency?

Mr. Trump’s second point, that we lose because we have inept negotiators, is incorrect.  We don’t lose because of incompetence, we lose by intent.  We lose because this administration wants us to lose.  Any loss that advances the progressive agenda, expands the power of the Federal government, or serves the UN agenda of dragging down developed western nations to make the world “fair” is a good loss.  Why else would a President who is sworn to uphold the Constitution agree to any treaty that could compromise our rights within our own borders?

Since we lose by intent there is no solution within the current administration.  It’s up to the voters to elect officials who are willing to uphold our sovereignty and “put America first” as the President once said.  Here’s a message for all you fair-minded progressives.  The USA didn’t become a great country because some socialist club like the UN bestowed that status upon us.  The USA became great because generation after generation worked for it, fought for it, and died to protect our freedom.  If you don’t like this country or can’t respect this heritage you’re free to leave.

2016 Update:  While TPP may be one of the president’s globalist objectives, some of his strongest supporters, environmentalists, are concerned that TPP could be used to subvert their Clean Power efforts.  It looks like TPP might be an even worse deal than we thought.