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

Rep. Ralph Norman Defends Gun Rights

I was with Congressman Ralph Norman Friday morning for his “coffee visit” town hall at the Rock Hill Diner.  When we went to the reserved area, a group of women in red t-shirts (Moms Demand Action) planted across from us, intent on dominating the event with their radical anti-gun agenda.  They claimed that they are not anti-2nd amendment, but as the discussion developed, their talking points turned toward hard-left “Resist” statements, i.e. anti-Trump, pro-abortion, anti-gun rights, etc.

Many of their arguments and claims were naive if not childish, often without any factual basis, even just plain false. I was seated next to Ralph and defending gun rights.  While we agreed on some points, we countered other claims and demands with reason and facts, and the activists grew more frustrated and aggressive. They demonstrated little knowledge about firearms, gun law, law enforcement, legislative process, etc. They even tried presenting a fake news item and we proved it was untrue.

At one point I told one of the activists, “I am a concealed carrier, and if a terrorist came in that door shooting the place up, I would defend you.  Doesn’t that give you comfort?” Incredibly, she said NO!  She doesn’t believe I should be allowed to own a gun, and said she would prefer to “talk it out” with the terrorist.  That’s when the congressman was asked by another attendee if he is also a concealed carrier.  Norman reached into his jacket, pulled out his .38, laid it safely on the table, and stated he is a carrier too, and he would defend himself and them.  He said he carries all the time except when he is in Washington, DC and he if anybody comes after him with a gun, he had better be a good shot, because he will be shooting back.  The gun wasn’t exposed more than a minute or two.

Nobody was intimidated.  Nobody was afraid.  Our photo, published in the Rock Hill Herald, shows everybody smiling. Congressman Norman was calm, affable, warm and gentle with these ladies.  We all agreed on some of their points.  But that wasn’t good enough for them. The congressman did upset one of the ladies by admonishing her for the proliferation of F bombs and other profanity all over her group’s web page.  He pointed out that children see Facebook pages too.  It is interesting to note that within hours of the incident the Congressman’s Facebook page was filled with vitriol and profanity, some of it from the very people who we met that morning.  It appears that these messages have since been “scrubbed”.

After their failed attempt to bully the Congressman, the “Moms” ran directly from the diner to the newspaper office, and their embellished story was printed as gospel by the press.  It hit the wires and was instantly viral in the national news media.

Congressman Norman made a statement on his Facebook page, but already the national “Resist” movement had been mobilized, filling his page with expletives, F bombs, and ugly hatred.  Norman asked me to help develop a response, and with some media-savvy friends from DC we worked out a plan which has been fairly well received. You have probably seen his second response .  We have been getting good support from conservative groups around the country.  We set up an interview on Fox and Friends for Monday morning.

This is a pivotal moment for defense of the 2nd Amendment and the NRA.  The “Moms” group is funded by and was sent on this mission by out-of-state money and is, as Norman said, hell-bent on eliminating private gun ownership.  We believe they were also accompanied by, if not directed by, one of Archie Parnell’s officials. They pretended to be concerned about child safety, but when I questioned them they defended the murder of 650,000 American babies per year by abortionists (latest available statistics), so it’s clear this is not about children for them.

The clip on the right is an example of the kind of people we face from the left (apologies for the language).  It takes no small measure of strength and purpose to run for office against today’s brand of Democrats.

Congressman Norman is absolutely on the right side of this battle, and the radical leftists will find that they picked the wrong target for an ambush.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Don’t take your guns to town, son
Leave your guns at home, Bill
Don’t take your guns to town

Don’t Take Your Guns to Town – Johnny Cash

 

 

Whenever I get a request for a Johnny Cash tune at one of my weekend gigs, I know they are expecting “Folsum Prison Blues”, the standard Cash bar song.   But I sing this one instead, the story of a good young man who died defending himself and others against a bad guy.

Forget Politics – Think Economics

Politics is too much.  It’s just too big.  So many issues, policies, personalities, feelings, fears, doubts, lies, propaganda.

Everything is hyped and overstated.  The political and cultural divide grows wider and deeper by the day.  In the jumble and tumble of daily politics and market-driven “news” it’s so hard to stay focused on what is real and important.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes for me all of the posturing and gamesmanship gets to be too much – too damned much to digest and bring to any kind of focus or certainty or closure.  Too much grey area and not enough black and white facts. It’s no wonder so many people tune out and continue their lives in blissful disengagement.  I’m not able to do that (you probably aren’t either) and I find myself sometimes needing the “click” of a padlock – the binary knowledge that I know something is right, and imperative, period.

About every ten years or so I come full circle back to what I know in my guts to be true about life, and how we as Americans (and for that matter as human beings on planet Earth)  are wired to make the right choice and do the right thing.   And the path revealed is not political. It always comes back to economics.

To hell with politics.  Every human being on the planet – basket weaver in India, farmer in North Dakota, factory worker in China, soldier in North Korea – has this in common:  we get up every morning and set out to improve the standard of living for ourselves and our families.  Period.

Isn’t this true?  Can you disagree?  We all want a little bit better life for ourselves and the ones we love.  It is a universal truth – a metaphysical fact.  Forget religion.  Forget political party.  Forget culture, education, race, gender, age, nationality.  We all want the same thing.  Better food.  A nicer house.  Less hard labor.  More quality time with our loved ones.

We, the people of the United States of America, have been a beacon of inspiration and righteous success since our nation’s noisy and unconventional birth.  We have improved the standard of living for not only ourselves but also for people all over the world on a quantum scale ever since we became a “thing” in 1776.   We have set the standard.  We are the land of opportunity, the place to be, the bad go-getters and the mean motor-scooters.  We have what it takes.  We know what it’s all about.

Don’t we?  Lately we aren’t so sure.  I mean we did, but do we still?

We Americans have generally credited our political system for our success – our Constitution, our three branches of government with built-in checks and balances, our Bill of Rights, etc.  Great.  It’s all good.  But there’s more to it.

I submit that our American success story is the result of our economic system – free enterprise and free markets, equal opportunity, and minimal government intervention.

Because the truth is:  every human being is ruled by self-interest.

It’s not a bad thing.  We work hard to provide for our families.  We help those in need because we know we may, ourselves, some day need help.  We look for ways to meet the wants and needs of others in the market because that will reward us, as well as them.

Some will say that free markets favor the greedy and unscrupulous.  But America, born a Christian nation, avoided that problem.  We trusted each other.  We were raised to be moral, honest citizens.  We believed in fairness.  Our word was our bond.

As long as America is a Christian nation, and makes decisions based on economic merit, and values honesty, we will be fine.  But we must each shoulder our responsibility.  For every political issue or question we should consider: will this course of action help improve the standard of living for all Americans?  And will it be fair to all Americans?

Anything outside that simple framework just really doesn’t matter.  Try looking at any political issue or question in these terms.  Improved standard of living + fairness/honesty (Christian morality).  The correct path becomes pretty obvious.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I’ve got to get it somewhere
I mean, you never know, maybe
You’re dreaming

Too Much – Dave Matthews Band

 

The always awesome Dave Mathews Band:  it’s just Too Much!  Especially drummer Carter Beauford.

I’m Taking Names and Keeping Score

scoreboard

Would you watch a basketball game if nobody kept score?  Of course not.  If nobody keeps score, nobody wins.  If nobody wins, the contestants will lose interest and probably not put in much effort.

Besides, if nobody keeps score, how do you know which team or player is the best?

Okay, I’ll get to the point.  When we elect a congressman or a senator, we assume he or she is doing what we want them to do.  But are they?  Unless you have the time to look up their votes on every issue, you can’t possibly know.  And even if you did, you would have to know which votes are important and which are just “show votes”, intended to make a legislator look good even though they don’t really accomplish anything.

Congress has an 11% approval rating, but incumbents are re-elected 96% of the time.  If we don’t like what they are doing, why do we keep re-electing them?  The answer:  they get away with lousy performance because voters aren’t keeping the score.

Fortunately, there is a great way to measure your congressman’s performance.  It’s the Heritage Action Scorecard.  Heritage Action is the activist wing of the acclaimed Heritage Foundation, and their aim is to hold members of congress accountable.  The Scorecard is the perfect tool.  Heritage Action identifies “key” votes – issues which have a direct and important impact on quality of life in America.  The scorecard shows how each member voted on every key issue, and accumulates an aggregate score.

My South Carolina congressman, Ralph Norman, has a 95% rating in the current session, which compares to 68% for the average house Republican.  That puts him near the top of the pack.

Norman score card

Digging deeper, I can see that only one of his votes did not agree with Heritage Action’s recommendation.  The Scorecard makes it easy for me to thank my congressman when I like his vote on an issue, or to ask for justification when we aren’t on the same page.   And it sure makes the check-writing decision easier at election time.

As a Montana native I still follow the politics there.  I can’t help but notice Senator Jon Tester’s 0% rating.  I hope my Big Sky friends are noticing too.

Too many citizens think they have no control over what happens in the nation’s capital.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.   With a tool like the Heritage Action Scorecard and a telephone, every voter can hold his members of Congress accountable, and can make an informed decision at primary and general election time.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

I’m winning
I’m winning
I’m winning
And I don’t intend on losing again

Winning – Santana

Trump’s Prerogative – Cut the Red Tape

Trump cuts red tape

ObamaCare has not been repealed or replaced.  As of this writing Tax Reform is stalled.  Planned Parenthood abortions are still being funded with tax dollars and there are no bricks in The Wall.

Crooked Hillary escaped without a scratch.  We don’t have a budget and Congress will soon pass yet another bloated continuing resolution to avoid shutting down the government when it busts the debt ceiling.  Again.

Appointments for judicial, state, and agency officials languish on desks as buildings full of holdover Obama appointees and Clinton devotees spend their workdays plotting new coups against the president.

With Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the White House for almost a year now, it appears that conservative voters have little to show for their 2016 trifecta victory at the polls.  But there is a bright spot.  A very bright spot.

While Congress sits on its thumbs, President Trump has used his executive prerogative to cut red tape and waste in the federal bureaucracy.  He threw down the gauntlet last March when his perfectly-chosen budget director Mick Mulvaney announced, “The president’s beholden to nobody but the people who elected him, and yes, I understand that every lawmaker over there has pet projects. That’s the nature of the beast.”   USA Today listed the 62 agencies and programs on Trump’s chopping block at that time, and breathlessly warned that it was the tip of the iceberg.

Last week Trump and Mulvaney thoroughly enjoyed graphically comparing the mountainous volume of regulations in place today versus the small stack of the 1960’s.   The Trump administration has already cut over 1500 regulations and vows to make the “stack” even smaller than it was when the Beatles topped the charts.

“By ending excessive regulations, we are defending democracy, and draining the swamp,” the president declared. “Unchecked regulation undermines our freedoms and zaps our national spirit. It destroys our economy – so many companies are destroyed by regulation. And it destroys jobs.”

Trump is just getting started.  It’s hard work, but long overdue.  His predecessor, Barack Obama, clobbered the US economy with an additional $122 billion dollars of red tape per year, stretching his authority or even flouting the Constitution in the process.

Trump can’t force Congress to do the right thing, or keep its promises.  But as president, it is his prerogative to cut red tape and waste in the agencies under his control.  It’s good news for conservatives.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideEverybody’s talkin’ all this stuff about me
Why don’t they just let me live?
I don’t need permission, make my own decisions
That’s my prerogative!

My Prerogative – Bobby Brown

Coffee Talk on Tax Reform


Some “coffee talk” on tax reform:


Our national debt is now approaching $21 trillion ($231 trillion if you include unfunded liabilities like government pensions), and nobody seems to care.  Most of our congressmen still want to spend more and tax less.  I guess they think we can just print more money whenever we want and there is no down side.  They had better hope interest rates can be artificially held to near zero for generations to come.


Everybody knows the tax code is ridiculously complex.  But few understand what a drag on the economy this complexity causes.  Here’s something to think about:  the cost of filling out government tax forms is estimated by the IRS at $400 billion per year.  At the bottom of every business tax form is a small box that asks how many hours were spent preparing this form.  The preparer will write “2 hours” or “.5 hours” on the form, and the IRS rolls up this number, multiplies it by some arbitrary labor cost per hour, and comes up with $400 billion.  But that’s just for filling out the form!  It doesn’t include the billions of hours spent on accounting to generate the numbers to report on the form!  I know some of this accounting also serves internal purposes, but much of it does not, especially in small businesses.  And we aren’t even counting the cost of the IRS, the IT systems required for data gathering, or the Advils swallowed every April.

I’ll bet the cost of reporting taxes easily exceeds a trillion dollars.  Think about it:  our annual GDP is $20 trillion.  Ask any business owner what percentage of the labor hours in his business are spent punching computers, gathering data and doing accounting.  A conservative average might be 25%.  That would be $5 trillion of bookkeeping per year.  Imagine what our economy could do if we didn’t spend a quarter of our time bean-counting instead of making something useful.


OMB Director Mick Mulvaney knows that there is terrible waste in government, and we could cut a huge chunk out of the federal budget without causing any pain for Americans.  And while he is making the effort to cut spending as best he can, it won’t work.  “Too slow,” says Mulvaney, an honors scholar and holder of advanced degrees in international economics, commerce, and finance.  “The only way to turn the ship around is to grow the economy.”

Mulvaney believes 3% GDP growth, which has been fairly common in our history, would grind down our debt and reduce the drag on the economy, but only only if we could muster some restraint in the growth of spending.  It’s encouraging and discouraging at the same time.  It’s definitely do-able.  But our elected class has learned that they can get elected and re-elected by promising to give everybody somebody else’s money.


The purpose of taxes is to fund the government.  Collecting taxes should be simple:  Here is the budget for next year (say $1 trillion).  Add up the total wages of all adult citizens ($33 trillion).  Divide – the answer is 3%.  Ask each citizen to send a check for 3% of their wages to the swamp.

That might be a little bit too simple – for example, all business and investment profit would need to be distributed as personal income, not retained.  But our tax code has grown to over 75,000 pages, and that’s because it is used for much more than just funding the government.  It’s all about controlling our behavior.  Most tax laws were put in place to reward some of us with tax breaks, or to punish some of us with higher taxes, or to encourage (or require) all of us to act in a certain way.

If you think the government should have less control over your daily life, you should want the tax code to be severely simplified, and the corrupt IRS whittled down to reflect its core mission.


Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

It’s Hell! Tryin’ to make it
When you’re doin’ it by yourself
It’s Hell! Payin’ taxes
When there’s no money left

Money Can’t Buy Me Love – Or Votes

The recent Republican primary runoff victory by Judge Roy Moore over Luther Strange in the race for Jeff Sessions’ Alabama senate seat is just the latest in a string of expensive losses for the Swampers.  Nearly a full year after American voters turned the pollsters and pundits upside down, the DC good-ole-boys are still in full Trump Denial.

Here are some of the Swampers’ embarrassing defeats:

  • Breitbart News reports Strange lost the runoff election by 20%, spending an estimated $30 million ($137 per vote) compared to Moore’s $2 million ($7 per vote).  This is after Moore pounded Strange in the first primary despite being outspent 25 to 1.  Strange was heavily funded by Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund and the NRA.
  • Issue One claims Democrats blew $32 million in a failing effort to push Jon Ossoff past Republican Karen Handel for the Georgia congressional seat vacated by Tom Price, who has already resigned his administrative office.  Issue One says Handel spent $23 million, but other analysts claim Handle was outspent 8 to 1 – the truth is probably somewhere in-between.
  • Hillary Clinton spent about $15 per vote, three times the amount Donald Trump invested on the presidency in 2016.

The first shot over the DC Establishment bow was fired by Dave Brat in 2014, when he sacked Eric Cantor, Republican house majority leader, in the Virginia congressional primary race.  Cantor had the backing of the entire swamp, including the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA, and the National Association of Realtors.  All of the Republican money and every loose dollar on K Street was bet on Cantor – $5.5 million in all.  Brat had a measly $200,000 and a warm smile from the Tea Party.  It’s fitting that Brat’s first name is David, as Goliath (Cantor) fell in a large, thunderous heap.  Brat has since been a stellar Freedom Caucus member.

My Congressman, Ralph Norman (R-SC), spent a little bit more than his opponent, Archie Parnell, seeking the seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney a few months ago.  And most of that spending was his own money.  “I don’t want to owe favors to anybody,” he told me early in the race.  And he has stayed true to his word, already taking strong positions against the powerful, big-money lobbyists.  Norman is also on the Freedom Caucus.

Maybe the Swampers will finally “get it” and stop trying to buy political offices against the will of the people, who are tired of business as usual on Capitol Hill.

Nah, it won’t happen.  The DC Establishment Swampers will continue to do what Swampers do – spend other peoples’ money.  They can’t help themselves.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

 

I don’t care too much for money,
Money can’t buy me love!

Can’t Buy Me Love – the Beatles

 

The lads are rockin’ it with their Rickenbackers and Voxes!