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.

Pat Buchanan: Competition – It’s A Good Thing!

pat-buchananPat Buchanan is right on the money.  Again.

In a recent editorial he points to a Senate hearing where Apple CEO Tim Cook (former darling of the Dems) was excoriated for tax avoidance.  You see, Apple has paid zero US income tax on its earnings from outside the country in recent years, and it’s perfectly legal.  Ireland won Apple over with its 2% corporate tax, compared to the 35% Apple would pay our Treasury.  Corporate income tax now makes up less than 10% of federal revenues, and will continue to decline as long as we fail to compete with other nations.

Buchanan says the solution to our economic woes is to abolish the corporate income tax in a revenue-neutral exchange for a 10% tariff on all imported goods.  This would bring American corporations (and their off-shore money) racing back to the homeland, and would invite foreign manufacturers to move here as well, reversing the death-spiral of our currency and our ghastly trade imbalance.

Instead of blaming entrepreneurs for avoiding taxes, our fearless leaders should work on attracting and retaining businesses, along with the jobs and wealth they create.

Adam Smith, the father of free market capitalism, taught us that any attempt to control commerce externally is a bad thing.  Free and natural competition is a good thing.

The best solutions are usually the simplest.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

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

Here’s an unusual video for you Rockers on the Right Side.  Yeah, it’s GOOD THING by Paul Revere and the Raiders, but from a different perspective – behind the drums.  Unless you have played drums, you would not know that everything is different back there – the sound, the lights, the distance from the audience, even the “feel” of the music.  It’s kind of a lonely world for drummers.  This video features Raider drummer Tommy Scheckel.  And even Tommy is different – a left-handed drummer playing a right-handed setup.  It makes for some unusual moves!  Scheckel is a relative newcomer to the Raiders after playing for 27 years with the Buckinghams (“Kind Of A Drag”,” Susan”,”Don’t You Care”).   Enjoy!  Oh, and hug a drummer today.

I Didn’t Serve

photo by Henry Huet - AP

photo by Henry Huet – AP

I didn’t serve in the military.

When I graduated from high school in 1971 the war in Vietnam was the ugliest wart on a butt-ugly year.  Cambodia and Laos were dragged into the mess.  American soldiers increasingly turned to drugs to numb the effects of the seemingly endless war.  Anti-war protests turned violent.  The US economy was in the tank, suffering ever-higher inflation, unemployment, and taxes.  American cars were so bad the Chevy Vega was named “car of the year.”  President Richard Nixon initiated wage and price controls – not exactly a free-market solution to our economic problems.  The nightly news in 1971 was grim, to say the least.

As a high school senior I had been recruited by all the military branches, especially the Marines.  I considered joining, because I wanted to go to college and didn’t have any way to afford it.  But I knew I wasn’t tough enough to be a Marine, and nobody wanted to go to Vietnam.

August of 1971 was the last military draft lottery and my number was 228 – I was not going to be drafted.  So my family scraped together a few dollars, I took a couple of part-time jobs, and off I went to college.

No, I didn’t serve in the military.  And I have always regretted it.

I envy my friends who served.  They have fond memories of the comradery, the travel, the hyper-organized “get-it-done” military attitude and lifestyle.  They worked hard but served with pride and they smile as they look back on their military years.  They seem to have a maturity that is absent in many of their peers.

I have a fascination with military technology and history, and can lose whole days of vacation time rattling around on a decommissioned aircraft carrier or studying the mechanical intricacy of WWII bombers.  I watch war movies and get caught up in the patriotism and adventure.  I admire the polish and confidence of the young men and women who return from service in the Middle East.

But I also know that war is hell, and I wasn’t ready for hell in 1971.  I have profound respect and admiration for the guys who kept crawling up the hill on Tarawa, over the dead bodies of comrades and enemies.  For the bomber crews who kept strapping in, knowing that the odds were against completing their required 25 missions over Germany.  For the GIs who manned up for another breathless patrol into the steaming jungles of Vietnam – and another, and another.

I didn’t serve.  But I mourn the loss and injury of every serviceman and woman who did.  And I am infuriated when our government sometimes treats our warriors and their families so badly, while too-frequently coddling our enemies.

I didn’t serve.  God bless all of you who do, and who did.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Paul Revere and the Raiders have been among our strongest supporters of Vietnam veterans.  For many years Paul Revere led the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC.  He and the band donated the proceeds from their “Ride to the Wall” CD and tour events to veterans organizations, and still honor our veterans at every performance.  If this super group of patriots is playing near you, don’t miss their top-notch show – they are just as hot as they were in 1966.  Here’s a clip from one of their events, a shout-out to the Vietnam Vets.