Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Let’s not change what makes us uncomfortable. Let’s learn from it!

Change this! Get rid of that! America has a new mania where people try to remove statues and monuments they don’t like, that make them uncomfortable, or that they believe are bad. If a statue or a monument upsets people, it must be erased from the American landscape where it has existed for years or decades. 

In the process of soothing these feelings of discomfort, features of American history, some of them very important, will forever be removed to the trash pile, painted over, or stored in a warehouse somewhere, and lost to the generations that follow. 

These things can help future Americans learn about their country so that they will be able to understand its full history and evolution, both the best and the worst.

Instead of the full story of what built America, what will be left to future generations to learn from is whatever the existing culture deems important at the time. 

Some important elements in the history of the United States of America will be removed through this politically correct cleansing of America’s history, for no better reason than to soothe the discontented.

Included in the list of things from America’s past that have been targeted for removal from public view are: The Jefferson Memorial; Mount Rushmore; Stone Mountain; two Chicago Parks; and monuments and statues across the nation.

While the subject of some monuments may be a person or persons who may now be unpopular, the monument or statue itself may be a special achievement. 

Likewise, the people who are remembered and honored by prominent statues were not universally bad. The recent dislike of Thomas Jefferson, for example, is because he owned slaves. In fact, slavery is the reason for so much of today’s efforts to remove many statues and monuments.

Slavery is now universally condemned in the U.S., as it should be. And it is a dark period in the nation’s history. But for decades during slavery in the south, no one living at that time was alive when slavery did not exist in the southern states. Slavery wasn’t right, but it was the way things were; it was a regular part of life in the southern U.S.

The Jefferson Memorial honors America’s third president, and a Founder of our republic. Although Jefferson inherited slaves from his father and kept them throughout his lifetime, he also publicly denounced slavery. The totality of his life and work was not just being a slave owner. His work was critical to the formation of the country in which so many now are able to condemn him for owning slaves.

Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which began the struggle for freedom from the binds of British dominance, he was a critical part of America’s formation, and he had served as the nation’s second vice president before being elected president.

Surely this man’s great contributions to the formation of the United States of America are enough to warrant his remaining a part of the story, and not being removed from our history.

It took some 400 workers from 1927 to 1941 to produce the majestic figures on the rock face in the Black Hills of South Dakota known as Mount Rushmore. Those four were Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. 

Rushmore is an amazing tribute to workmanship as well as a unique work of art. It depicts four of our most notable presidents, all of whom had their faults, as do we all. But they are forever a part of our history. 

The carving on Stone Mountain in Georgia has similar assets. It is the largest high relief sculpture in the world. The Confederate Memorial Carving depicts three figures of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. The carving is 400 feet above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain.

Like Mount Rushmore it is a tribute to workmanship, is a work of art, and features people prominent in our history who are now being condemned. 

Chicago has parks named for George Washington and Andrew Jackson that are also targeted for change. Someone has suggested changing Jackson Park to honor either modern civil rights figure Jesse Jackson or singer Michael Jackson, and also renaming Washington Park. However, both Washington and Jackson contributed much to our Country, and deserve their rightful place in history.

And there are numerous monuments and statues in North Carolina, Virginia and in towns and cities all across the nation that also are targeted. Each of them represents some contribution to the rich history of what was and still is the greatest nation yet conceived.

People mostly aren’t looking at the big picture. Our country has made mistakes, as all countries do. Each of us can think of things we would prefer weren’t part of our history. But erasing history is foolish.

Future generations can only learn from our successes and our failures if they know what they are. The good and the bad together form our history, and nothing less than the whole story is acceptable to tell America’s story.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The future: a $15 an hour minimum wage and more 100 degree days?

The House of Representatives passed a bill recently that would increase the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $15 by 2025. Proponents call this a “living wage.” The House vote was 231-199 with 3 Republicans supporting it and 6 Democrats opposing it. 

It’s not breaking news that raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is a divisive and hotly debated topic. What’s lacking is any sensible reason to do this, unless you consider vote buying as sensible.

Most minimum wage earners are younger and just entering the world of work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2018 only 2.1 percent of all hourly workers earned the minimum wage, or less. These workers tend to be under 25 years old and work in the food and hospitality industry.

The younger minimum wage workers generally do not require a “living wage,” as many still live with their parents or are college students, and few are the head of a household.

As with other work, some minimum wage workers are really good, some are okay, and some aren’t good at all. But a $15 minimum wage means that the best and worst employees in minimum wage jobs will earn the same $15 wage, which nets out at $31,200 a year for a 40-hour per week full-time job. 

As a matter of sound economics, government should not dictate minimum wages or any wages, other than for government workers. But should this become law, government will have increased the payroll expenses of virtually every business in the country.

While minimum wage workers will reap significant benefits from the increase, business owners will face mandated increases in payroll expenses. For a business to operate successfully it must have more income than expenses. This makes achieving that goal more difficult.

Every employee who was making more than the old minimum wage will get a raise to the new minimum. Those making above the minimum should also get their additional wages added to the new minimum, or they will not be happy.

Where will that money come from? Likely sources are higher product and service prices; reduced employee hours; fewer employees and perhaps more computers and robots. And, if these solutions are not sufficient to maintain profitability, businesses will close and jobs will be lost.

A July report from the Congressional Budget Office estimates that up to 3.7 million Americans would lose their jobs if the minimum wage were raised to $15 per hour by 2025.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who claims to be an Independent, but is seeking the Democrat presidential nomination, claims the $7.25 minimum is “starvation wages.”

But – surprise, surprise – Bernie does not practice what he preaches. After his statements supporting a $15 minimum wage and raising the minimum above the “starvation” level, many of his campaign workers began complaining that he isn’t paying them at that level. 

It was reported that henceforth campaign workers will be paid at least $15 an hour, but some would have their hours reduced to keep wage expense down. 

Boom! Reality hit the Sanders campaign. But will Bernie learn the economics lesson, or continue to peddle the false narrative that every working person needs to make at least $15 an hour in order to stay alive?

However, because of all the harm this measure will do to the economy, the Republican-controlled Senate will almost certainly vote against the legislation, saving jobs.

In other news, a recent story in a South Carolina newspaper predicted that “by the middle of this century, the number of sweltering days in the Palmetto State is forecast to increase by more than 350 percent if little or nothing is done to stop man-made climate change,” and by “the end of the century, the increase could approach 600 percent.”

Global warming advocates will readily endorse this prediction, especially after last weekend’s very warm temperatures and heat indexes of 100 degrees or more. 

This discomforting prediction comes from a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) showing that the United States is heating up rapidly due to climate changes, which these scientists attribute to human activities.
Increases in the number of days with extreme, dangerously hot weather can be expected to rise sharply in hundreds of cities across the country, the researchers say.
The UCS says it’s already too late to prevent all of the rising heat, but the country can slow down the trend with aggressive action to halt man-made global warming. The UCS did not propose that the nation adopt the wild and crazy Green New Deal, but conceivably might do so at some point.

If humans are causing this warming, can the United States really do enough to stop it? We have led the world in carbon emission reductions for years. Other nations, China and India, to name two, not only are not reducing carbon emissions, they are increasing them.

Why are Americans expected to sacrifice jobs, lifestyle and amenities to try to stop global warming? We must demand that the rest of the world, particularly China, India and the other culprits, catch up with our progress on emissions, and not punish ourselves.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Public discourse on illegal immigration has become irrational

It is often said that the United States is “a country of immigrants,” meaning that it was immigration of good people from other countries that built America and made it the great nation that it became.

Centuries ago, people crossed the oceans to come to North America. The British colonies formed, and after some time dissatisfaction with the British Crown’s treatment led to the Revolutionary War and independence, and the United States of America was born.

People from many nations came here seeking a better life, and helped strengthen the new nation in many ways. That was a long time ago, and for several generations since that time the large majority of Americans are people who were born here, not who immigrated here. However, some still regard America as a nation of immigrants. 

Today, America is a nation of natural born citizens that accepts some immigrants.

America still values those good people who come here for a better life and to become loyal and productive Americans. And long ago a process was established whereby they may do so. 

Over recent decades, however, that process has developed weaknesses and has atrophied, creating the problems we face today from millions of people who have come here illegally. They have overwhelmed our system, and pose many problems and, yes, many dangers to the country and its citizens.

A boisterous faction of Americans believes that having a sensible and orderly process for vetting and admitting immigrants is cruel, even racist. In their eagerness to promote having no immigration process or rules, severe madness seems to have taken control of them.

Here are a few examples.

1. The “citizenship question” question: Two hundred years ago the U.S. began asking those filling out census forms if they were citizens. It is not unusual for census forms to have had that question included. 

President Donald Trump wants to put the question back on the census form for 2020. Oddly, there was strong opposition to that very sensible and long-standing idea. In fact, Trump’s enemies called him a dictator for wanting to ask that question.

2. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded to Trump’s order to deport certain illegals. There are approximately one million illegal aliens whose claim of asylum was denied, and who were ordered to leave the country, but haven’t. Pelosi said, "A violation of status is not a reason for deportation."

These illegals were contacted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about scheduling an orderly removal, and have ignored all those efforts.

"When I saw that the president was going to have these raids — I mean it was so appalling; it's outside the circle of civilized human behavior to just be kicking down doors, splitting up families, and the rest of that, in addition to the injustices that are happening at the border," she said, later adding, “what's the point?" 

Unless those who have been ordered deported resist their legal removal, the removal process will not fit the wild description Pelosi’s over-active imagination dreamed up. Further, she has publicly urged illegal aliens to resist deportation. 

“This brutal action will terrorize children and tear families apart,” Pelosi said, completely ignoring that none of these people are supposed to be here in the first place, and refused to obey orders to leave the country.

Trump’s response: “If people who ignore court orders & stay in the U.S. illegally are not deported, we do not have rule of law … Democrats have become the party that puts illegal immigrants first!”

3. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said in a press conference regarding illegals being detained, "It's hard to be up here to tell this story as a mother and as an American." She said that these people were not in U.S. "custody" but in "our care." 

“First, no one is illegal,” Tlaib declared. “That term is derogatory now because it dehumanizes people,” she said, in a House Oversight committee hearing. “You can say any other forms of maybe ‘coming in without any regulations’ or so forth …” 

"We don't need new laws; we need morality. We need an administration that understands there are human rights violations happening.” She added, “And you know, this is a choice by the current administration, they are choosing to not allow asylum seekers to go through the legal process.” Oooops!

4. The notorious Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., recklessly compared holding facilities for detainees – which are compelled by the number of illegals in the country to contain thousands more detainees than they were designed to house – to the “concentration camps” of the Holocaust where millions of innocent Jews were tortured and murdered. 

Illegals being in the country doesn’t bother these and other Democrats; they really aren’t inconvenienced by this situation. They champion allowing millions of illegals to enter the country, and be well cared for. But they would never allow illegals to move into their neighborhoods or homes. 

Illegals definitely do cause problems for citizens, and the nation. Illegal immigration costs millions of tax dollars, for which we get minimal, if any, return, and some commit vicious crimes.

We must get illegal immigration under control.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The national debt is one big problem nobody’s doing anything about

The national debt currently is more than $22,000,000,000,000 – that’s 22 trillion dollars – and growing by the minute. No one in Washington seems very concerned about it. What’s worse is that this situation has existed for decades.

Data from the Office of Management and Budget shows that of the ten presidents who were in office when the debt grew the most, all but two were 1970 and after. In case you can’t call them to mind, they are, in order: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

The four who ran the highest deficits, as reported by Kimberly Amadeo, writing in The Balance, are, from worst to least bad:
* Barack Obama, leading the pack with $6.785 trillion. 
* President George W. Bush is next, racking up $3.293 trillion.
* President Ronald Reagan added $1.412 trillion.
* President George H.W. Bush created a $1.03 trillion deficit in one term. 

However, Amedeo explains, blaming the president is too easy because other factors play a role. She listed the following:
1. The president has no control over the mandatory budget or its deficit. That includes Social Security and Medicare benefits. These are the two biggest expenses any president has. 
2. The Constitution gave Congress, not the president, the power to control spending. The president’s budget is just a starting point. Each house of Congress prepares a discretionary spending budget. They combine them into the final budget that the president reviews and signs. 
3. Each president inherits many of his predecessors' policies. For example, every president suffered from lower revenue.
4. Some presidents have to deal with catastrophic events. President Obama responded to the worst recession since the Great Depression. President Bush reacted to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. Their required responses came with economic price tags.

The point here is that every year since Nixon was elected president, except for four, there has been a budget deficit, and that is a serious problem that is not being addressed. The national debt is more than six times the annual federal revenues of recent years.

Justin Bogie, Senior Policy Analyst in Fiscal Affairs at The Heritage Foundation, addressed this problem in an article last month. “Despite the strong economy, the nation remains in a precarious and unsustainable budget position, just as it was last year,” he wrote. “Debt held by the public is set to rise to nearly one and a half times the size of the economy in the coming decades.”

Some want to blame the Trump tax cuts for causing the problem, or if not causing it, making it worse. Actually, despite the tax cuts, or as a result of the tax cuts, federal revenues have risen since 2017. 

The Congressional Budget Office shows that for 2017, before the tax cuts took effect, federal revenue totaled $3.316 trillion. After the tax cuts took effect revenue rose by $14 billion to $3.330 trillion in 2018, and the CBO projects revenue of nearly $200 billion more than 2017 at $3.511 trillion for 2019.

Federal tax collections were the highest in history in 2018 and 2019. So, the problem is not a revenue problem, because with sensible policies revenue can increase even beyond 2018 and 2019 levels. 

What we have is a problem of spending, further complicated by some slight of hand by Congress.

“Congress utilizes a wide variety of gimmicks and accounting tricks to hide the true costs of legislation,” Bogie writes in another Heritage article. “This allows Congress to spend more and more — evading fiscal discipline and adding billions of additional dollars to the federal debt each year.”

Such tricks include: Timing Shifts - shifting in what year revenues or expenses may be reported; using Disaster and Emergency Spending to circumvent budget caps; double counting Federal Trust Fund savings; not accounting for interest costs in Legislative Cost Estimates, and other such deceptions.

Obviously, closing these loopholes should be a first step in restoring fiscal sanity to the budget process. But closing and/or consolidating government agencies to remove duplication of services; eliminating wasteful policies and programs, as well as ending overreaching and underperforming government programs; and general belt-tightening, not unlike businesses utilize, to stay in business can make a substantial difference.

These are common sense steps. But they go by the wayside in our gargantuan government that is infected by self-interest and political motivations, things elected officials and bureaucrats often put ahead of what’s best for the country and the citizens whose taxes pay their salaries, and fund this malfeasance.

The Government Accountability Office’s “Annual Report” lists steps to reduce costs, reduce fragmentation, overlap, and duplication within federal agencies and programs. When followed, they produced positive change in the past.

And, The Heritage Foundation has produced a report titled “Blueprint for Balance,” that “presents a holistic vision for how to rein in out-of-control government spending, create a more accountable and effective budget process, and balance the budget in 10 years.”

The Heritage blueprint outlines how government can cut $10.8 trillion over 10 years, extend the tax cuts, and eliminate deficits by 2029. 

It’s time to focus on this problem.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

To Democrat candidates, America really is the land of the free!

Most Americans understand that America’s reputation for freedom comes from its providing opportunities for all to do mostly as they please, with certain sensible restrictions, to pursue happiness and success at their own pace.

That philosophy worked well for more than 200 years, but lately has come under attack by the left as being inadequate to provide a free and easy life to people, including those among us who are not citizens, and even if they are here illegally.

Today, to the left, “the land of the free” means “the land of the free stuff.”

And, yes, there is evidence for that statement: The public statements made at the first two Democrat debates between hopefuls for the party’s nomination for president.

Human Events reports the following list of the free stuff the Democrat candidates have offered: Free College; Free Healthcare; Cancellation of Student Loan Debt; Reparations for African-Americans; Reparations for Same-Sex Couples; Free Childcare; Free Housing; Free Income; and Free Healthcare for Illegal Immigrants.

It would be a challenge to compile a list of things that are more contradictory to the American ideals of individual freedom and individual responsibility than this list.

Among other problems, such as the enormous cost of these gifts, this list produces government control of nearly every aspect of life, something liberals, socialists and communists all love with a passion.

After being driven to a war for their independence, and winning it, the colonies formed a government set forth in the U.S. Constitution that was unique and has proven itself very successful. It offered a huge degree of individual freedom, guaranteed many specific rights, and promised to all the ability to determine their own future and to work to succeed at it.

And today’s Democrats want to undo all or much of that good work, and become like so much of the rest of the world, turning over our individual sovereignty to the government in return for free stuff, and “one-size-fits-all” programs that never work the way they are advertised, if they work at all.

Let’s look at free healthcare, “Medicare for All,” as it is called.

The FY2020 federal budget calls for $3.65 trillion in revenue, but $4.75 trillion in spending, producing a deficit of $1.1 trillion. The projected cost of free healthcare is $32.6 trillion over 10 years, or $3.26 trillion a year. That takes nearly all of the revenue projected for FY2020.

And since “free stuff” isn’t free, that money must come from somewhere. Taxes will go up to pay for these vote-buying efforts. A lot. On everybody, not just the hated rich, the 1 percent. And restrictions on healthcare services and providers will inevitably follow, limiting freedom.

Other promises also require the government to take your money to fund them. “Education should be a right, not a privilege,” so said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “We need a revolution in the way that the United States funds higher education.”

In his argument for free college, Sanders makes a somewhat valid point, saying that people need education beyond what the K-12 public schools provide. He notes that many years ago a high school education was enough to prepare people for many entry-level jobs. But that has changed. 

Automation has replaced many of those jobs, and feel-good – but foolish – objectives like a mandated $15/hour minimum wage, will hasten those jobs being replaced by machines that cost less, don’t take vacations, and don’t often get sick.

Sanders’ idea of an expensive college education for everyone is silly. Many good paying jobs go unfilled because potential workers are often in college getting a degree that won’t help them get a job, instead of in training programs that will prepare them to work. Making college free for all is not just unnecessary, but just plain dumb. It will benefit colleges far more than students. And will cost billions.

The target audience for these wild, socialistic ideas have given little if any thought to their likely repercussions. And it’s not easy to tell whether those promoting the free stuff are merely trying to attract voter support, or working toward eventual government control over every aspect of our lives, or both. 

Democrats/liberals want to offer freedom: freedom from personal responsibility; freedom from having to work to achieve your goals and support yourself; freedom to allow the government to tell you what you can and cannot do with your life, etc.

These promises will turn what is still largely a nation of self-sufficient people into a nation of people that are dependent upon government. That is not what America is all about.

It is better for each of us, and it is better for America, when people have to show that they have what it takes to make something of themselves and take care of themselves and their family. This system has worked extremely well since the nation’s founding nearly two and one-half centuries ago. 

It is an critical omen that so many actually like these ideas, which indicates that they don’t know or understand the wisdom of the country’s sensible traditions.

Those who champion these foolish ideas must never be elected president, or to any other national office.