Economic Good Things

Yesterday Congress passed yet another drunken-sailor budget, which would suspend the debt ceiling for another two years and result in an additional $322 billion in spending, ballooning the deficit to $22 trillion dollars.

Not long ago my conservative friends and I took to the streets protesting the unfathomable $16 trillion debt that the federal government had foisted upon our children and grandchildren. Then we got steamrolled by Obama, not exactly a top-drawer economist. Even holding both houses was not enough to stop the spending tsunami, and before you could blink, the Democrat socialist revolution had overtaken Congress.

In an effort to extinguish my “hair on fire” I set out looking for some little rays of economic sunshine among the dark clouds. Here’s what I found:

  • DEREGULATION is driving the economy at an unexpectedly brisk pace. All around I see businesses starting and expanding, construction projects popping up like popcorn, opportunities for workers of all types at premium wage rates, and consumer spending and optimism going through the roof.
  • FOREIGN TRADE POLICIES, TARIFFS AND ALLIANCES – President Trump clearly understands the “art of the deal”, and his push-back against China is bringing positive change. Protests in Hong Kong might drive regime change, or at least policy change. And Trump’s outsized influence on Brexit, Iran, Russia and North Korea all have economic implications. While international trade is not a “zero sum” game, other nations are finally feeling the heat of dealing with an “A-team” on the economic playing field.
  • ENERGY INDEPENDENCE – For a very long time, the USA economy was like many American families – one paycheck away from bankruptcy. At any time a Middle Eastern mullah could shut off the supply of oil, plunging our economy into chaos. That threat is now extinguished.
  • AGENCY REORGANIZATION – Russ Vought and Mick Mulvaney of the OMB are tightening the noose on agency leadership, getting more bang for the taxpayer buck, down-sizing and decentralizing, and updating personnel and procurement procedures. Every day they are changing the government culture to more closely operate like private business.

When Mulvaney was my congressman, we had several discussions about federal spending, with me venting my frustration that the debt was exploding and nobody cares. Mulvaney, always the pragmatist, said, “We can’t fix the deficit and debt by reducing spending. It’s way too late for that. We will have to outgrow it.”

At the time, Mick’s message was not what I wanted to hear. And I still would like to see a more mixed approach: cut spending while the economy is healthy and growing. But the appetite for restraint is just not there. Not with the Democrats and many weak-kneed Republicans in Congress who win re-election by giving away free candy. Not with the president, who had to adopt the same stance to guarantee re-election and time to complete his mission. And frankly, not with the under-informed spoiled-brat public, most of whom pay no federal taxes and whose ranks are swelling every day with immigrants from nations who have never participated in a consumer-driven supply-and-demand economy.

Can our debt keep expanding without consequences? Probably not. But all you can do is all you can do.

I used to employ a business strategy that seemed to work pretty darn well. Every business is segmented into products, or markets, or divisions. Too many executives and managers put all of their energy and focus into the underperforming segments of their businesses, ignoring the segments that are smoking hot and growing. I always promoted the strategy of putting maximum effort and resources into what’s doing well instead of beating your head against the wall trying to fix the losers.

So yes, we had a bad budget deal. Boogers. But if we look closer, there are a lot of “good things” going on.

Seems this worlds got you down
Your feelin’ bad vibrations frown
Well, open your eyes girl, look at me 
I’m gonna show you how it ought to be
We’re gonna’ have a good thing
Such a good thing baby

Good Thing – Paul Revere and the Raiders

In memory of Paul Revere, one of the truly good guys in the history of rock and roll.

More News From the Real World

Yesterday a big truck pulled into our driveway to deliver a refrigerator.  The delivery men were both young, athletic, hard working African-American dads.  One has month-old twins and the other has a couple of young daughters.

After finishing the work, they took some time to visit with us, and I accepted their admiration for my awesome man room.  They were impressed by our new home on the lake, and I could see them wondering, how does a guy get one of these?

My “dad” buzzer went off.  I just can’t resist an opportunity to coach enterprising young people.  I am an unapologetic card-carrying disciple of free enterprise and American capitalism, and nothing makes me happier than seeing a young person who wants to move up and achieve a better life for his or her family.  At risk of embarrassment, here is our conversation, condensed.

Worker 1: “That is a big, beautiful house.  How did you guys get here?”

Me:  “You know, my wife and I started out dirt poor.  We had absolutely nothing.  But we worked hard, and saved, and kept working and saving, and here we are.  It’s America!  We are living proof that the American dream is real and success is out there for anybody who is willing to work for it.”

Worker 1: “I’m thinking about starting my own business, I have a couple of ideas.”

Me: “Owning your own business is great.  If I had known how fun and profitable it is to have your own business, I would have done it long ago.”

Wife: “And it’s a great time to start a business. The economy is booming!  There are all kinds of opportunities right now.  Companies are starting up and growing and hiring people because of the tax reform.”

Worker 2: “Yeah, business has really picked up.  Our company can’t find enough people to hire.”

Wife:  “I’m a Trump supporter and he has really turned things around after Obama.”

Workers 1 and 2 simultaneously:  “That’s for sure, Obama didn’t do us any favors!”

Me:  “Maybe the best thing Trump has done is get rid of all the crazy regulations.  We moved here from Montana, and the oil and coal and mining and agriculture industries have taken off again there because Trump got the EPA and other agencies to back off.”

Worker 2: “I’m going back to school to finish my classes in underwater welding.”

Me:  “Wow!  That sounds like a great career with a lot of demand.  Are you a welder now?”

Worker 2: “Yes.”

Me: “Well if you want to make some big money in a hurry, go to the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and eastern Montana.  Welders there can make six figures because there is so much demand.  Even drivers make big money, and the employers pay for CDLs, help with housing, and have good benefits.  It’s not a great place for the family, but a lot of young guys buck it up for a year or two, make some big money, and then they are set.”

Wife: “There are always great opportunities somewhere.  You may have to move, or do some kind of work you don’t want to do.  We have all done work we didn’t want to, but that’s part of building wealth.”

Me: “I’ve always said I can do anything for a while.  You don’t have to bust your rear end and save your money forever, just for a while.  Then things get a lot easier.”

Worker 2:  “Well, maybe I’ll have a place like yours some day!”

As I said in my last post, don’t believe the silliness you see and hear on the evening news.  They would have you believe that young people, especially minorities, are angry and oppressed.  The leftist politicians and talking heads predict a “blue wave” led by socialists who will save us all from the greedy corporations.

It just isn’t true.  These young African-American dads are typical of the guys on the street that I enjoy meeting and with whom I am proud to share our great American heritage and values.  They understand responsibility, work and reward, they respect employers and capitalism, they know when somebody is trying to blow smoke, and they are optimistic about the direction our country is headed.  And – surprise!  They love Trump!

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Stand in the place where you live (now face north)
Think about direction, wonder why you haven’t before
Stand in the place where you work (now face west)
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven’t before

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

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

What the Hell is Going On In the Middle East?

Don’t you wish we still had a functioning news apparatus in this country?  The Middle East is blowing geopolitical gaskets left and right, and our news media spends every waking moment hyperventilating over Hillary’s abuse of Bernie a year and a half ago.  That and the non-stop bashing and belittling of our president.

Last week Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, arrested most of the senior leaders of his nation, including 11 princes, ostensibly on corruption charges.  A few hours later rival Prince Mansour bin Muqrin’s helicopter went down near the Yemeni border with seven other officials on board and no explanation.

Then Lebanon’s prime minister resigned after the Saudi crown prince claimed that he routinely dispatches Hezbollah attacks against Saudi Arabia. And Bin Salman again loudly blamed his ongoing conflict with Yemen on Iranian subterfuge, further angering his nearly-nuclear neighbor.

Meanwhile, the Saudi treasury is quickly bleeding out due to tumbling oil prices in the wake of a world-wide drilling frenzy.  The crown prince’s answer is to plant a glitzy mega-city called “Neom” in the desert, in hopes that if properly fertilized it will grow money.

While the mainstream media has totally whiffed trying to prove Trump-Russia campaign collusion, they also failed to notice that under Trump’s watch ISIL has thrown in the towel after getting thumped by American-led Iraqis and purged from Syria by Russian-led troops.  Now there’s some real collusion for ya.

Wait, there’s more.  It seems Qatar just signed a defense agreement with Russia.  I wonder, does that give them access to our huge military base at DoHa?

These are exciting times in the desert, all right.  But if you are one of the vast majority of Americans who gets your news from Joe and Mika, or the Comedy Channel, or Sean Hannity for that matter, you didn’t hear about any of this last week.  They can’t waste their important air time on such trivia, because you need to know who paid for the fake story about prostitutes peeing on Obama’s bed in Russia years ago.

Tom Balek, Rockin’ On the Right Side

The King called up his jet fighters
He said you better earn your pay
Drop your bombs between the Minarets
Down the Casbah way

I usually share live performance videos, but this classic sendup by the Clash is just too much fun!

What’s Wrong With You? Don’t You Care?

I’m glad that many people are generous and caring.  I know that there are some among us who have problems and need help.  I’m happy to help someone in need, like most Americans are.

In fact, statistics show that Americans are more kind and caring to strangers than pretty much any group of people in the world.  When a disaster occurs in any corner of the globe, it is expected that the USA will be there to help pick up the pieces with military, financial, and humanitarian assistance.  And at home we not only support charities, we also provide a safety net of food, housing, medical care and other benefits through our tax dollars.

Generosity was expected of the mostly Christian men and women who founded and developed our nation.  Our pioneers valued hard work and honesty too.  Anyone who took unfair advantage of this generosity was shunned by society.  But as our government and our daily lives became more secular over the years, generosity has come to be viewed as a weakness by the unscrupulous, and the number of reprobates and schemes exploded as government officials learned they can build lucrative careers by giving away other peoples’ money.

We moan about our crushing national debt while politicians claim they can’t cut spending because it is mostly untouchable mandatory “entitlements”.  How naïve or apathetic does one have to be to not see the enormous waste, fraud and abuse in these entitlement programs?

I remember my shock the first time a drug addict offered to sell me food stamps on the street at 50 cents on the dollar.  It had never occurred to me that food stamps could be sold.  Yesterday I was in line at the grocery store behind a veiled Muslim woman and her husband, both dressed to the nines, and venting their displeasure to each other (in Arabic) about the cashier who struggled to separate valid food stamp items from the others.  The wife used her EBT card for the legitimate groceries, and the husband paid for the non-qualifying products with his American Express card.  I didn’t follow them to the parking lot, but I would bet they loaded their groceries into a new luxury car.

One of many problems with ObamaCare is the costly expansion of the Medicaid program to include middle income Americans who can no longer buy health insurance through normal channels.  Concurrent with the failure of ObamaCare is an epidemic of opioid addiction, overdoses, deaths, and the related social costs including unemployment and destroyed families.  Some politicians claim that even more Medicaid spending is required to address the burgeoning opioid problem.  In reality, expanded Medicaid has largely caused the opioid epidemic as millions of people now walk around with unlimited health care credit cards in their pockets and it is only too easy to report aches and pains and ask for opiates which can be easily sold for cash.

Signs appear on the street offering to buy diabetes supplies for cash, next to signs in Spanish advertising tax filing help and promising large refund checks for merely listing dependents.  Education grant checks go to people who never appear on campus.  Couples live together and raise families but never marry because they would risk losing earned income credit and other entitlements.  I could list schemes and scams for the rest of the day and not even scratch the surface.

The Tin Man wanted a heart. The scarecrow wanted a brain.  The cowardly lion wanted some courage.  There’s no reason why we can’t have all three.  We should all care about others, but we have to be smart enough to avoid abuse, and strong enough to say no once in a while.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ on the Right Side

Don’t you see
You’re hurtin’ me
Don’t you care?
Don’t you care?

The Buckinghams – Don’t You Care

 

What The Hell Is ‘Mad Dog” Up To?

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

With all eyes on the middle of the swamp, riveted on the battle over the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare, a little drama has been percolating, unwatched, over in the far corner under the cypress trees.

Not long ago, General James Mattis rode President Trump’s full-throated endorsement to the lofty post of Secretary of Defense, past eminently qualified candidates like Sen. Jeff Sessions, Rep. Mike Rogers, and veteran security advisor Stephen Hadley.  The men overlooked for the job had several things in common – all are Republicans, are loyal Trump supporters, and are broadly respected in conservative circles.

Mattis had a few things going for him, too.  People called him “Mad Dog”.  He once said, “it’s fun to shoot some people.”  He also once said he is opposed to the Iran nuclear giveaway.  Did I say his name is Mad Dog?

President Trump was so impressed with old Mad Dog he slam-dunked him right into one of his most critical cabinet posts.  Congress didn’t hesitate to give Mattis a waiver allowing the recently-retired general to bypass the required 10-year waiting period between active military service and SecDef.  Why, Leon Panetta himself personally campaigned for Mattis.  What’s not to like?

Wait a minute, Leon Panetta?  The guy who viscerally hates Donald Trump?  The far-left, Obama insider, Democrat apparatchik who was one of the biggest moving parts of the Clinton Machine?  That Leon Panetta?

It gets weirder.  Old Mad Dog’s first big recruit was Anne Patterson for undersecretary of defense for policy.  Patterson gained notoriety as a honcho on Hillary Clinton’s team for her support of the Muslim Brotherhood regime that failed so spectacularly in Egypt.

General Mattis also flirted with Democrat Michele Flournoy, founder of the far-left Center for New American Security and former Obama undersecretary of defense for policy, for a sub-cab post.  Flournoy ultimately turned him down because Mad Dog is not quite leftist enough to suit her taste.

Mattis’ latest pick is Rudy DeLeon for undersecretary of personnel and readiness.  DeLeon is a senior fellow at the Center for America Progress, whose current stated mission is to undermine the Trump presidency.  CAP was created and developed by John Podesta (there’s that name again) and is funded by George Soros.  According to Jordan Schactel in Conservative Review, DeLeon signed on to a letter that calls Trump’s national security order restricting immigration “beneath the dignity of our great nation” and advised government workers to apply “discretion,” in an attempt to essentially undermine the president’s initiative.  DeLeon is a big proponent of Obama’s nuclear giveaway program to Iran.

I can’t see any reason why a person with DeLeon’s pedigree wouldn’t fit perfectly into Trump’s administration, can you?

General Mattis’ appears determined to load up the administration with as many Trump-haters as he can find, as if there aren’t enough enemies left over from the Obama regime already.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Big man, walking in the park
Wigwam, frightened of the dark
Some kind of solitude is measured out in you
You think you know me but you haven’t got a clue
Hey Bulldog!

Hey Bulldog – the Beatles