Are You a “Maker” or a “Taker”?

photo by Kenneth Song

There are “makers” in this world and there are “takers.”  Some produce more than they use, and some don’t. We are at a point in our crazy history when the number of takers is right on the cusp of outnumbering the makers.

My father left me only a few gems of wisdom; here is perhaps the best:  “Son, there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Sadly, half of our population believes it is possible for the government to provide free college, free housing, free medical care, free food, and even free spending money to anyone who wants it.  Actually, the socialists (who have taken over the Democrat party) claim we all “deserve” free stuff.

No, there is no such thing as a free lunch, or free anything for that matter.  If government gives something to one person, it must be taken – at threat of physical force – from somebody else.  By definition, that is theft.

People are charitable by nature, and most will give some of their own property to someone who they feel is truly in need.  But our Constitution does not say that the government has the duty or the right to force one citizen to give their property to someone else whether they approve or not.

Thank God there are people who care and give freely of their time and money to others. While many Americans (and many illegal aliens) sit and complain, demanding free stuff and benefits that they have not earned, a few “makers” are hard at work trying to make our nation a better place for the generations that will follow.

I have a friend who was diagnosed with a rare cancer several years ago and was given three months to live.  He is no longer able to operate the business he built through years of hard work and risk.  But he continues to work every day for conservative leaders and to promote legislation that will benefit all Americans.  “I can’t just quit,” he says, and “leave a mess for the kids and grandkids.”  Everything he touches ends up better than the way he found it.  He is a “maker.”

Another friend has spent her entire life defending American traditional values, especially the rights of the unborn.  Despite withering physical problems that would stop most people in their tracks, she still teaches and convinces and cajoles those who don’t understand the “free lunch” problem.  Those who are lucky enough to meet her are inspired and blessed.  She is a “maker”.

My adult son is totally blind.  Despite his college degree, the job market has not exactly welcomed him with open arms.  So he volunteers his time as a reading tutor for at-risk sighted kids, and works at a hospice soothing dying patients in their final hours with a little conversation, a magazine article, or a bible reading.  He’s a “maker”.

President Trump left a lucrative business career, spent a huge amount of his own money, and has withstood inhumane abuse from the media and opponents from outside and within his own party.  He could be multiplying his wealth and enjoying life with his beautiful wife and family.  Instead, he works long hours and take all the heat his enemies can dish out, because he loves our country and knows what is needed to set us back on the course to prosperity and success.  President Trump is a “MAKER.”

I, and most people who want the best for our nation and all of its people, celebrate President Trump and the other “makers”.  And frankly, we are repulsed by the “takers” we see on our television screens and computers every day.  There is no middle ground.  Each of us must choose a side.  Maker – or taker.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I hope you always forgive and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Oh, you find God’s grace in every mistake
And always give more than you take

My Wish – Rascal Flatts

 

Please watch this beautiful vignette of some American “makers”, Rascal Flatts.

1 in 20 Working Age Americans is on SSDI!

ssdi-benefits-application

I am nearing Medicare age and have made some recent visits to the Social Security office to get things figured out.

Like most Americans, when I think of Social Security, I picture white-haired grandmas and grandpas getting their money back after a lifetime of contributing to a retirement account, along with their employers.  But there’s much more to it than that.

On our first visit to the Social Security office, we couldn’t help but notice that we were the only retirement-age people in the room.  The second visit was the same – everyone there was under forty years of age.  Almost all were minorities and many were non-English speakers.

On the third visit I asked our Social Security advisor “Why is the waiting area full of young people?”

Without a blink, she answered, “ADHD.”

At first I didn’t make the connection.  But then I remembered hearing a while back that ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) was one of many new qualifiers and relaxed standards for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) eligibility introduced during Obama’s term.

I was surprised that a federal employee would be so candid, but she was clearly upset.  “We are overrun with people filing for SSDI for their kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD at school.”  As a school board trustee a few years ago, I learned that public schools are labeling students as ADHD as fast as they can, both to receive additional Title I federal funding and also to ease cumulative testing pressure.  With the new rulings and interpretations that allow ADHD kids to receive SSDI payments, the benefit floodgates are wide open.

“But isn’t SSDI intended to replace lost income for workers who are disabled?” I asked the advisor.  “Kids don’t have any income to replace!”

“Exactly,” she replied, unable to hide her disdain for the abuse of public funds.  “If the parent is receiving any kind of government benefits, the ADHD kid can receive SSDI payments.”

Later I learned that ADHD isn’t the only questionable qualifier for disability payments.  Others include obesity, limited education, lack of work skills, adult ADHD, physical problems caused by drug abuse, and inability to communicate in English.  And many non-citizens can qualify.

I would expect that some Social Security offices rubber stamp SSDI approvals without much resistance, while others do extensive due diligence.  And judges who ultimately rule on eligibility in the event of appeal will also vary in their discretion.  Amazingly, the Social Security Administration pays attorneys to advocate for benefits for applicants.

2018 marks the first year in which the Social Security retirement trust revenues fall short of payments.  SSDI also takes in less than it pays out.  Some analysts predict doom and gloom for these “entitlement” programs, and also Medicare, while others are not as alarmed.  In 2015 the Daily Signal reported that a stunning 1 in 20 working age Americans was receiving SSDI payments, up from 1 in 40 in 1990.  Maybe this is partly why our labor participation rate is still only 63%.  The explosive growth in SSDI participation may have been partly due to the economic malaise of the Bush/Obama era and seems to be leveling off with better economic conditions under the Trump presidency.

SSDI is not a “get rich quick” scheme – 91% of recipients get less than $2,000 per month.  And there are many legitimately disabled people who need the benefit.  Most Americans are fine with that.   But the program is not cheap, costing $143 billion last year.

Was the advisor in my Social Security office a “canary in a coal mine?”  It’s hard to know, but it seemed that a lot of the folks in the waiting room could have been at work, especially at a time when unemployment is non-existent and employers can’t find enough able bodies to meet their needs.

Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN) has offered a bill, HR 6532, which would initiate reforms to the SSDI system, including

  • improvements to judicial case review
  • elimination of double-dipping from unemployment and disability funds
  • a review of eligibility guidelines
  • frequent testing for ongoing eligibility
  • elimination of delayed retirement by SSDI recipients.

The bill is in committee and deserves the attention of budget-conscious congressmen and constituents.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

I don’t want to work
I want to bang on the drum all day
I don’t want to play
I just want to bang on the drum all day

 

Jim Jordan Would Be a Winner as Speaker

 

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will retire his position at the end of the current legislative year.   Assuming the GOP maintains control of the House, the swamp-dwelling elites on the Hill hope his equally feckless accomplice, Kevin McCarthy, will succeed him.

Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner, was reviled by most conservatives during his stint as speaker.  I frequently complained to my congressman, Mick Mulvaney (founding member of the House Freedom Caucus and current director of OMB) about Boehner’s refusal to maintain regular budget and appropriations order, and his trembling fear of Nancy Pelosi and the minority party.  Boehner was so afraid of “owning” a government shutdown that he allowed President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the compliant news media to utterly violate the Republican House majority with omnibus spending bills and other atrocities.  When I asked Mulvaney whether Boehner had any redeeming characteristics, he said, “At least Boehner did away with earmarks.”

Despite their loathing for Boehner, House conservatives couldn’t enlist a principled member to replace him when he stepped down in 2015.  They meekly accepted Ryan as speaker.  Knowing Ryan was a Boehner protege, and expecting a continuation of weak-kneed if not downright liberal leadership, I pressed Mulvaney for an explanation.  Why didn’t we fight?  “Nobody wanted the job,” he replied.  “And Ryan promised us regular order in the House.”

We didn’t even get that.

So here we go again, faced with the prospect of yet another sissy as speaker.

But this time a principled conservative has stepped up for the job.  Jim Jordan, Freedom Caucus founding member and former chairman, has announced his intention to run for speaker of the House.

President Trump has taken bold action on behalf of the American people,” Jordan told The Hill. “Congress has not held up its end of the deal, but we can change that.”

His announcement was enthusiastically received by grass-roots conservatives, who favor him 99 – 1 over McCarthy.  Jordan said a top priority would be border security and immigration reform.  He also would make sure that committee chairs are selected by their members instead of being “purchased” from the speaker with contributions, as has been the recent practice.

It didn’t take long for the swamp-elites to react.  Ryan immediately said he would not support Jordan for speaker.  “I’m not going to be here,” Ryan said. “I support [House Majority Leader] Kevin McCarthy. Everybody knows that.”  And an attack against Jordan was launched by “deep state” provocateurs Perkins Coie (the same firm that compiled the fake Trump dossier) claiming that Jordan, as an assistant college wrestling coach 25 years ago, ignored students’ reports of sexual abuse.  The fabricated claim was immediately extinguished with Jordan receiving support from all corners, including Ryan’s.  Jordan’s moral and leadership credentials easily withstood the assault.

There is evidence of a side benefit from Jordan’s candidacy.  Reports show increased enthusiasm for the GOP in the 2018 election among voters who know that Jordan might be the Speaker of the House.  Certainly Jordan’s positive relationship with President Trump can be leveraged to win votes for conservative House candidates and preserve the majority.

While Jordan is still considered an underdog in the race for House speaker, growing support from grass-roots conservatives and strong backing from the House Freedom Caucus makes him a solid contender.  When I asked Congressman Ralph Norman about Jordan’s bid for the speakership, he said, “The election of Jim Jordan will be a GAME CHANGER for our entire conservative movement and will finally put our great nation on a pathway to financial solvency.”

Jordan had a record 156 wins as a college wrestler.  We could sure use a winner leading the House of Representatives.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

It took a long time and I knew for now
I can see the day that I breath for
Friends agree there’s a need
To play the game, and to win again
I’m winning!

Winning – Carlos Santana w/ Alex Ligertwood

 

The Senior Executive Service IS “The Swamp”

photo: NJ.com

I don’t like the idea of publishing a story that I can’t verify.  But recent political events in our capital and around the world have just been too strange.

Corrupt leftist politicians are caught red-handed in all kinds of illegal and immoral shenanigans, with absolutely no consequences.  Meanwhile, leftist government employees conduct expensive and fruitless witch hunts, trying to pin something – anything – on the current President.  And the leftist pursuers somehow actually work for the President they are trying to destroy!  They vilify and attack anyone who actually loves our country and wants to enjoy and preserve our success.  All the while the complicit leftist news media whip their vapid charges into a frenzy as the abused “conservatives” on the Hill barely complain, let alone take any defensive action.

Nope, it’s just too strange.  This kind of upside-down, illogical stuff just doesn’t happen.  It’s dogs loving cats.  Blizzards in July.  Rosie O’Donnell eating a salad.  Something is wrong here.

There has been a lot of talk about the “Deep State”, and at first I blew it off as conspiracy theory.  But the strangeness continued and accelerated.  Eventually I had to accept the fact that most government employees are leftists, voted for Obama, and violently hate Trump along with everybody who doesn’t hate Trump.

But that begs the question:  we have a majority of Republicans in both houses and a Republican president.  Why are these foaming-at-the-mouth leftists on the government payroll? What or who is the “Deep State?”  And why do they have so much power that they can turn reality on its head?

My bewilderment about this strange state of affairs led me on a mission to try to make some sense of it all, and on the journey I stumbled into something called the Senior Executive Service, or SES.  It seems that back in 1978 the government was so screwed up that President Carter decided to create a new tier of civil service employees who were a cut above the average government plodders.  They would be recruited from the private sector with higher pay, nice perks, and no oversight.  That’s right, no oversight.  They can’t be fired (in 2016 out of 8000 SES employees exactly two were discharged), and they can pretty much do whatever they want.  Every administration after Carter added SES employees, and as their numbers grew, so did their autonomy and power.

In December 2015 President Barack Obama issued an executive order to “strengthen” and further build the ranks of the SES, with huge pay raises and new employees grateful and beholden to Obama.  There are now over 8,000 SES employees, and over 7,000 were passed on from Obama to Trump.

Then in December 2016 (coincidentally the month after Trump was elected president) the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs did a study of personnel policy and endorsed the following statement: “By law, the appointment or removal” of SES positions “shall not be subject, directly or indirectly to review or approval by an officer or entity within the Executive Office of the President.”  Read that last sentence again.  Senator Ron Johnson ostensibly headed the committee, but Senator John McCain was the cheese.  Other notables:  Jon Tester, Ben Sasse, Heidi Heitkamp, Corey Booker, Tammy Baldwin, Joni Ernst, Kelly Ayotte.

Hmmm.

When you add it all up, it starts to smell swampy.  Reportedly the ranks of SES members include Horowitz, Rosenstein, Comey, Paige, Strzok, Podesta, Holder, Jarrett, Lynch, and many more of Obama’s “cadre”, as he referred to the SES.

How can the obvious corruption and animus against the “outsider” Trump be so pervasive throughout the federal agencies?  How can FBI, DOJ and other security agency employees be so feckless in the conduct of their jobs and fearless of any attempts at accountability?  Think about it: WACO, Ruby Ridge, the Hammonds, LaVoy Finnicum, the unexplained Las Vegas concert massacre, Fast and Furious, the IRS Tea Party scandal, the EPA land use outrages, the refusal to investigate Clinton scandals and the Foundation, the ongoing funding of Planned Parenthood, the refusal to enforce immigration laws, the unfounded attacks on Trump and his people, and so many more inexplicable events.

I can’t prove that the SES is organized enough to actually embody the creatures of “the Swamp”.  But when people act this strangely, you can’t help but wonder if the conspiracies are more than just theory.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

People are strange when you’re a stranger
Faces look ugly when you’re alone
Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted
Streets are uneven when you’re down

People Are Strange – the Doors

 

 

Our Mysterious Dance With China

The United States, and President Trump, are dancing with China.  And what a fascinating dance it is.

We are opposites.  The USA is a democratic republic with a constitution designed to empower citizens, although that concept seems threatened these days.  Still, we remain a beacon of freedom, with a cherished tradition of free trade, private property, elected representative government, and individual rights and responsibilities.

Communist China, on the other hand, operates with a very powerful and complicated central government.  It has an elected legislative branch, the National People’s Congress.  The president and vice-president are the executive branch.  A state council of cabinet heads are appointed, and the powerful People’s Liberation Army wields considerable influence over the direction of the nation.  While the government appears in design to be plebeian, in fact it remains completely authoritarian.

Interestingly, the modern Chinese oligarchy has grasped and accepted the economic reality (a fact lost on many Americans) that individuals who are allowed to own property and risk their own wealth in a free market for personal reward will create economic growth that benefits all.  Communism in its historic form called for everyone to subjugate their individual desires for the benefit of the masses.  That purist form of communism has always failed miserably.

So today China’s government teeters on a fence.  Central command and control is paramount.  But entrepreneurship and the opportunity for individual wealth is now accepted as the pathway to national success.

An interesting case study is the development of the great railway from central China to Tibet.

China has long claimed ownership of Tibet, but the physical remoteness of the mountainous area kept Tibet isolated and fairly independent of Beijing’s reach.  Tibetans had their own language, their own Buddhist customs, and a rural economy that, while viewed as primitive by the civilized world, was fair and functional.  Buddhist monasteries played a major role in education, politics, and the values that drove daily life in Tibet, and the Dalai Lama was the chief authority of the region.  But in the early 2000s China decided to absorb the TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region) into its growing socio-economic machine.

While Tibet’s geography includes the Himalayan Mountain range, the more foreboding barrier for the Chinese mission was a 710-mile plateau of permafrost between Golmud, in Central China, and Lhasa, the population center of Tibet.  Permafrost is a mixture of soil and frozen water that is so unstable as to make any kind of construction a major challenge.  Highways built on permafrost buckle and heave with the temperature changes.  And China needed more than a highway to subjugate Tibet and take advantage of its vast natural resources and strategic military location (China and India have a longstanding conflict over the Tibetan border and territory).   China needed a railroad to Lhasa.

The logistics of building a railroad over the permafrost plateau had been studied for years, and the enormous engineering challenge was never really answered.  Nonetheless, the Chinese government, as part of its “Go West” plan to industrialize and civilize western and southern China, decided to forge ahead with construction in 2000, with an eye to completion before the Olympics in 2008.

It was an impossible mission.  But against all odds, and at a tremendous human and economic cost, the Chinese government pushed the project through to completion in 2006.

Tibet was changed overnight.  The agrarian Tibetan people saw their temples destroyed, their farms obliterated, and their culture wiped out in a flash.  The TAR was flooded with Han Chinese entrepreneurs who were awarded government contracts and developed the Tibetan countryside into cold, bustling, cinder-block Chinese cities replete with hotels, bars, and multitudes of government office buildings.  The Tibetans lost their homes, land, and farms, and had no opportunities in the rich new job market, ostensibly because they did not speak Chinese and could not follow instructions.  But even Chinese-speaking college-educated Tibetans were frozen out.

Now China is developing copper, iron, oil and natural gas, and many other minerals in the TAR, and Tibet pulses along with the burgeoning state/private economic tsunami that proliferates across China today.  The railroad struggles with permafrost problems, but no worries – problems are dealt with as they occur.  The economy in Tibet bursts at the seams, but most of the investment comes from the central Chinese government.  A middle class continues to emerge, and more Tibetans, like Chinese across the country, are buying new cars.  The rate of economic development in China is astonishing, and now Tibet is part of the show.

This railroad was impossible.  But it was essential to the goals of the Chinese government.  So they did it.  It may not be fair, but they just did it.

Meanwhile, the United States contemplates tariffs against China, in retaliation for abuse of intellectual property and their own tariffs on our goods headed for Chinese consumers.  President Trump is the first free-world leader to stand up against China’s incredible economic willpower.

The United States can no longer look down our noses at nations that do not subscribe to our form of government.  China is kicking butt, although according to historical economic models the heavy infusion of government capital should not be sustainable.  China’s methods are not always fair, human rights are abused, the government is brutally driven in its pursuit of economic growth.  But it is what it its, and we need to understand how to cooperate with this juggernaut nation.  It will take considerable strength to match the economic force of the Chinese.  Our old models of international trade just aren’t relevant any more.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Let’s dance
For fear your grace should fall
Let’s dance
For fear tonight is all
Let’s sway
You could look into my eyes
Let’s sway
Under the moonlight, this serious moonlight

The World Needs the USA to Show Them the Way

The world needs a strong, determined, and righteous (dare I say Christian) United States to show them the way.  That’s not fantasy.  It’s not ego.  It’s just the truth.

Many Americans think the United States is arrogant to even suggest we know the path to peace, prosperity and progress.  They believe we must respect all cultures and tolerate all behavior, even if it makes us flinch.  Who are we to interfere?  The American left says we should “lead from behind”, if at all.

Our universities endorse socialism and communism, never mentioning the hardship and atrocities that history proves will inevitably result.  Our youth march in the streets to the beat of the hard-left drum, oblivious to the millions who have starved and died all over the world in lands where totalitarian despots ruled.  They close their eyes to the human misery, fearful of being called aggressive or intolerant.  Communism, to them, is the fair way, despite the fact that communists do not allow private ownership of property or personal choices.

Meanwhile, some on the far right feel that only dominant military power can maintain peace and order.  In their world-view, only regime-change can bring about progress, and it is counter-productive to dignify despots by meeting and discussing a path forward.  They must be defeated and removed.  Cynics would say the “neo-cons” also view military action as a profit opportunity.

After World War II our less-than-stellar military attempts at freeing the world’s oppressed have left us wary of investing more blood and treasure outside of our borders, and our military physique has atrophied while our adversaries, especially China, muscled up.

As a Christian nation, we know in our hearts that we can’t allow human misery to endure without trying to help.  Appeasing and supporting ruthless despots clearly isn’t going to change their behavior.  Threatening them doesn’t seem to work, either.  Is it hopeless to believe that America can lead the world away from despotism, starvation, and oppression?

President Trump has not given up.  After our nation’s repeated failures to suppress North Korea’s belligerent nuclear intimidation, Trump is meeting Kim Jong Un face-to-face, inviting him to join the civilized world.  The United States promises harsh sanctions and even threatens military engagement for bad behavior, but offers incentives for following the right path.  As the North Korean people get their first glimpse of sunshine, Trump’s approach looks promising.

Vladimir Putin has chafed under the embarrassment of Russia having been relegated to second-class status among the world’s leading nations.  President Trump, recognizing the opportunity to steer Putin’s behavior toward acceptability, chides the G7 leaders about leaving Russia out.  Trump will meet Putin soon, and I expect to see the G8 configuration restored, resulting in a win-win for Russia and the rest of the world.

Shortly after his election, President Trump met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to share concerns and opportunities, and later recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, changing the political landscape in the Middle East.  Suddenly the United States has strategic allies all over the area, ISIS has all but disappeared, and Iran may soon face a popular uprising to displace their despotic regime.

Meanwhile, China watches the United States re-asserting itself as the economic and moral leader of the world.  Trump demands fair treatment in international trade, and he will likely get it.

There can be no misunderstanding – the despots of the world are bad guys, and we must demand human rights for all.  But until we have a relationship, a conversation, an understanding of mutual benefit, life will not get better for the oppressed.

It’s up to the United States, and our president, to show them the way.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I’m swimming in a circle,
I feel I’m going down
There has to be a fool to play my part
Someone thought of healing,
But all I really want to know
Oh won’t you show me the way
I want you show me the way

Trump’s Legacy – Freedom

This week President Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Obama/Kerry nuclear agreement with Iran.

It was, like most Trump foreign-policy speeches, brief, direct and common-sensible, putting America’s security and interests first.  He pulled no punches, calling the original deal “a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States.”

Trump made a concise, compelling case for dumping the agreement.  But he added one potent paragraph at the end of his speech that was even more significant:

Finally, I want to deliver a message to the long-suffering people of Iran: The people of America stand with you. It has now been almost 40 years since this dictatorship seized power and took a proud nation hostage. Most of Iran’s 80 million citizens have sadly never known an Iran that prospered in peace with its neighbors and commanded the admiration of the world. But the future of Iran belongs to its people. They are the rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land and they deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams, honor to their history, and glory to their god.

We now have a president who understands the human value of self-determination that Americans share.  He gets it.  And as his presidency evolves, more people around the world will get it, too.

Despite the “resistance” of his short-sighted adversaries, Trump will make his mark of freedom around the world, without spilling American blood and wasting our hard-earned wealth.  Eventually Iran’s people will overrule their despotic leaders and rejoin the free and modern community of nations.  North Korea will follow suit.  Venezuela will not be far behind, and recent cultural progress in Saudi Arabia holds promise for the defeat of Muslim extremism and the expansion of personal freedoms across the Middle East.

We Americans have often assumed that our success is a direct result of our unique form of government.  No doubt, to this point the design and execution of our democratic republic has been a major contributor to our growth and prosperity.  But the details and nuances of how our government works is secondary to the single, underpinning belief that we hold most dear – above all else we Americans treasure our personal freedoms.

President Trump’s work toward eliminating the nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea is much more than a military exercise.  The people of these nations, and others, may soon realize that our president is helping them gain their freedom.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

You can knock me down and watch me bleed
But you can’t keep no chains on me.
I was born free