These Truths Are Self Evident

In Catholicism we believe in certain truths. These truths define our faith.

In fact, at every mass we recite The Apostle’s Creed  which lays out the tenants of our faith: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty…” Each time we go to mass we reaffirm this belief. Given what we know today by way of breakthroughs in technology and science, many critics scoff at this creed finding that it refers to a time when life was more simple. It is therefore ironic that while many Liberals and Progressives mock the Church for its stands and its creeds, the Left has its own creed. It’s just packaged differently. This whole notion of creeds came to my attention when a friend of mine blasted this out to all of his email contacts:

  1. If you believe that tax cuts for the rich benefit the poor or middle class, please de-friend me.
  2. If you have less than $15 million in net worth and still call the estate tax the “death tax”, please de-friend me.
  3. If you don’t believe the earth is warming due to greenhouse gases, please de-friend me.
  4. If you believe everyone in the USA should have health insurance, please de-friend me.

It was a fairly aggressive stance.  He was saying that if you don’t believe what I believe then we should no longer be friends. Imagine if a Catholic lay person sent this out to his friends! I can hardly imagine the scope of rebuke and criticism.

You see this list that my friend sent out is part of the “Leftist Creed.”  The difference in creeds is that the Catholic one is inspired by God and deals with the relevancy of God presence in our lives; the Left’s creed is created by man as the foundation and pillar of government as its basis and support system.

For Catholics, the creed is a statement of faith, hope and our undying faith in Christ. Something greater than us. For the Left, faith and hope are placed in the bureaucracy of government: the belief that government is good and has the power to alleviate suffering.

I harbor no allusions regarding government. I detest and loath it. I am an American with strong Latino roots. Latinos know all too well from experience how corrupt politicians are. Just look at Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba. This distrust of all things related to politics is quite common in Latin America. Less so here in the states. Barack Obama and FDR are two politicians who come to mind, both of who governed and believed that the power of the State could solve all of society’s ills.

Given my friend’s myopic belief in the Leftist Creed, he is willing to forgo friendships over it.  I wanted to address his points, if not with him directly then here.

  •  Taxes: The State and the establishment (teachers, media, etc.) always take the high ground, arguing over the moral correctness of paying taxes. They habitually sight the worst case alternatives when arguing for higher taxes. The homeless mother who would live on the streets if not for government housing; the lunch program for children who would otherwise starve. By claiming the high ground, all others who don’t pay their fair share are labeled as “cheats” and “tax evaders.” For me, taxes are government sanctioned theft. The State is claiming a right to your wages simply because you live here. Theft is to take someone’s property against his will, i.e., by force or fraud. If I don’t pay my taxes, I will end up in jail. How is that any different than being robbed by a mugger who will harm or kill me if I don’t turn over my wallet? In the first case, the Left argues my funds are being used to take care of the poor; but, how is that different than the robber who will using my funds for the same thing? The Left claims the high ground to coerce and manipulate people out of their money. It uses these arguments by saying government will allocate and distribute the money more efficiently and equitably than private institutions. In the end , all taxes do is fund government jobs and grows the State assuring the need for yet more taxpayer money.
  • Global Warming: There is this blatantly repeated mantra that the science on global warming is “settled.” When is anything in science settled? Consider these once settled items: the earth is flat, the planets revolve around earth and earth is the center of the universe. Remember, the question for the Left is not so much whether there is any warming but whether human activity is the major contributing factor to such warming. The fact is human beings do have an effect on the planet. And, yes we have done terrible things to it including the annihilation of numerous species. I would argue humans do have a big effect on climate change given all of our industrial production; but, so could a myriad of natural phenomena such as weather, solar flares, hurricanes, and/or earthquakes. There are other factors with greater magnitude and historically documented impact than what we humans can do. The threat of global warming/climate change disaster is about fear, manipulation and profit…all being used by the political class to collect more taxes and power to support their one-world, Socialist agenda.
  • Health Insurance:  I don’t think anything owes anybody anything. I can’t outsource my health. Its my personal responsibility to be mindful of  what I eat and maintain my body so that I don’t get sick. We have been conditioned and trained to run to doctors to cure us when, in reality, they should be in place to support disease prevention, not as station of last resort. For example, car insurance works because it supports the right behavior. If I need new tires or an oil change, I pay for it myself with many companies competing for my business. But if I get into an accident or cause major damage, I use my car insurance. Similarly, I would gladly pay for catastrophic health insurance that would only cover emergencies such as cancer; but, that option is not available here in the U.S.  Inexplicably, the Left was ecstatic over the passage of universal healthcare under Obama. They knew veterans have been covered by that plan for years and the V.A. is widely recognized as an total failure and abomination.  Had healthcare been allowed to evolve under free market principles, medical costs would have collapsed the same way the cost of televisions have collapsed as quality improving exponentially over time.

We all need basic principles and values to provide a framework for living our best lives. This is what a creed does. So, you can choose between a creed, such as the one I follow, that assures me of my inherent divinity as a child of God and worth His benevolent guiding hand or you can choose the Leftist Creed that assures you that without government intervention you are doomed to poverty and destruction of the planet.

Free Will. You choose.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Calling All Writers!

If you’re an aspiring writer…blogger, novelist, columnist…there is no better advice than what this successful, published author shared in his recent shout out to all who yearn to see their work in print.

“The key to getting your book written, says Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Hunter, isn’t talent or luck or inspiration. It’s the act of sitting down every day and writing.”

Read the full article here:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/05/27/if-you-want-to-write-a-book-write-every-day-or-quit-now?via=ios

Prison Time

A good friend of mine was recently released from prison after serving three years for a fraud conviction.  He had proof of his innocence but wasn’t allowed to enter it into evidence. As he put it ” The District Attorney and the police conspired together to convict me and they succeeded.”

He told me his story and shared the inadmissible evidence. I personally know this guy and his character. I believe him. But, we live in an age of rules, regulations and laws that make it difficult for even the most honest of people to stay within the law. And, of course, we have different laws for different people. (Hilary Clinton serves no time).

Naturally, my friend was more than concerned about finding a job following his release. Surprisingly, he found one fairly quickly. Today, he is back on his feet. He does not feel stigmatized. In fact, according to him, his story now makes great dinner table conversation! The response that he gets from colleagues and peers, once they found out about his prison stint, is, curiously, indifference.

Why?

We now live in a society where everyone knows the system is rigged.  There is no stigma attached to having been in prison because the general public knows it can happen to anyone. Well, almost anyone. (Remember Hillary Clinton?). Simply stated, people no longer trust our police or the legal system.

When I was in high school, I took Russian Studies and learned about the Russian Revolution and the horrors of the Gulag. The Gulag was established by Joseph Stalin. It was a work camp that existed from  the 1930’s to the 1950’s and imprisoned around 14 million people. The writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote many stories about the horrors of the Gulag and his books describe the terrible circumstances that innocents suffered. The Gulag became a prototypical symbol of an out-of- control-government and a warning of what could happen to you on its whim. Later, schools taught students about the Gulag to warn others about the perils of an overzealous government forcibly condemning its people to imprisonment.

Remarkably, the United States penal system has has now surpassed the Gulag in terms of the sheer number of those imprisoned.  What is more shocking is that our prison population has reached an ominous milestone over the past few years. The number of Americans who were in jail and prison, including former inmates, is approximately 19 million people as of 2010. This number exceeds the 18 million people who endured Soviet Gulag incarceration between 1929 and 1953.

The Conservative media seems to gloss over this story. I listen to quite a bit of Conservative talk radio on a daily basis and all I hear from the pundits is how free our country is. But how free can a country be when we have the highest incarceration rate in the world?

I have both traveled and worked in other countries. I can state firsthand that we are not, in many ways, the freest country in the world. I have been amazed by how much easier it is to do certain things in other countries. For example, I found the medical care and dental care in Australia much more affordable and accessible than here in the U.S… without all of the paperwork. I was amazed how easy it was to do business in Hong Kong. The city is now considered the best place in the world to start business. Take a listen:

When I worked in banking in the U.S., I had to be licensed and regulated. My emails were continually monitored. My conversations taped. Anything we sent out was vetted by lawyers. Americans have become so enslaved and yet we think all this monitoring is “freedom.” If I had broken any of those myriad of laws and regulations, I could have easily ended up in prison…like my friend.

Our ever-increasing laws are complex and arbitrary, which greatly reduce our freedoms and daily ensnare more and more of us.

For example, Martha Stewart was convicted and went to jail for making money on a trade (“insider trading”) that harmed no one. Yet Stan O’Neal, who bankrupted one of the largest financial firms in the world (Merrill Lynch), causing the loss of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, walked away unscathed. No jail time, millions of dollars in personal profit and the unfettered ability to start over again. When most Americans hear this injustice they siply shrug. We have come to expect these inequities and unequal application of the law.

There is no longer fairness in our justice system.

The increasing incarceration rates and resulting diminution of our freedoms is partially caused by the move to criminalize all manner of activity; but especially drugs. Whenever the U.S. has cracked done on drugs, it understandably worsened the problem. Alcohol provides the classic example: It wasn’t much of a problem before the enactment of Prohibition in 1920, and it hasn’t been one since its repeal in the 1930’s

The Prohibition of the ’20s turned the Mafia from a small underground group of disconnected individuals into centralized big business. It turned citizens and businessmen into criminals. “The War on Drugs” has done the same thing for drug dealers. Its turned petty drug dealers into kingpins. (As an aside, “The War on Poverty” has created more poor people. You’d think we’d stop making war).

Making a product illegal artificially turns both users and suppliers into criminals. The illegality makes the product vastly more expensive than it would otherwise be and opens the black market floodgate that draws in not only more seasoned criminals but also entices those who alter the substances with deadly fillers in order to maximize profit.  Crime becomes a health crisis as well.  In addition, many users who become addicted are driven to crime to finance their habits. Because of the risks and and reduced supply, profits for suppliers are huge and, therefore, attract the most greedy and ruthless people to run these organizations.

When you combine corrupt law makers with a corrupted justice system then add prisons and illegal activities run for profit, you create a dysfunctional and deadly incentive to arrest and imprison people. Such is where we have arrived.

Welcome to the Land of the Free.

Steve

Confession of A Baby Boomer

I’m depressed. Is that politically incorrect to share? I’m sorry.

 

Would you rather I post puppy photos or an inspirationally uplifting poster on Facebook? Would that not offend your sense of well being as much as having to deal with my momentarily dreary reality? You know, Facebook, where everyone is either celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary or thoroughly delighted with their total acceptance of the solitude and peace that they’ve attained in their non-relationship life?

Am I the only person willing to publicly share a less than stellar moment of my life? Well, if I’m not the only I’m certainly among a dwindling minority. Depression, or circumstances that lead to it, is one of the last truly taboo subjects. You can come out of the closet and beat your chest while proudly proclaiming you are one of the 61 “gender” possibilities that Facebook lists but you better not say you’re in a slump.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not always like this. In fact, I teach motivation and inspiration. Its just that in the real world, not the fake worlds of social media or virtual reality, people get depressed, sad, even dare I say, angry. Not being able to speak to this fact just makes it all the more difficult. In fact, it makes people feel isolated, alone and as if there is something wrong with them that others do not have similar periodic misfortunes.

Nonsense.

Everyone suffers…we just all do it differently. Some suffer silently and others cry out like a coyote at full moon. But suffer we do. So where’s the shame? In fact, a society that makes someone feel shame for having a slump and daring to share is has lost its compassion. I think we’re there and I blame two things: the absence of God and abundance of technology.

Every generation has its challenges and difficulties with the upcoming generation and the technological advances biting at its heels. But in the past, what was true that is no longer is that change occurred within a framework of basis principles and values that were commonly held and time tested: God, family, friendship, neighborhood, charity, compassion and national pride. Think about those. They’re all gone or so grotesquely distorted as to be unrecognizable.

Now, when I or anyone else comes upon a rough patch, there is no real world embrace to hold us. We can have 580 friends on Facebook but, in a pinch, none of them can hug us. We can’t even be sure any of them would if they were close enough to be given the chance. So aloneness has become an emotional, as well as physical, fact of life.

As if my personal challenges were not enough (a recently damaged nerve in my ankle that kept me sofa-bound and on crutches for a month…oh, sorry, was that more “negativity” than you wanted?) there is North Korea, Democrats and Republicans at each other’s throats, black lives hating white lives, sanctuary cities, a government in denial about unemployment and inflation the middle class is suffering, measles outbreaks in U.S. Syrian immigrant communities and…and…and…

So, I’m having a bad week or two. I know all the positive, self-help things I can say or do to deny how I feel. I know how to practice Transcendental Meditation. I know how to listen to my daughter when she tells me “Mom, go do laps and swim it off.”

I simply choose not to.

I am a real person and real life has its ups and downs. Fake life…Facebook, Instagram, e-harmony and all the others do not. But that’s it, isn’t it. They’re not real. You and I are. So, if you’re having a bad day, month or year you’re not alone.  I’m here.                     

Carole…contact@carolegold.com

Movie Review: The King’s Speech

I may be a bit late to the party but last weekend I (Steve) watched “The King’s Speech” for the first time. I was blown away. The acting was extraordinary, the story true but more importantly, the life lessons profound.

The story is set in England just prior to World War II. It revolves around Prince Albert who would later become King of England. Albert has a speech impediment, a severe stammer, which causes him to be withdrawn and not at all eager to perform public duties. However, since he has an older brother Edward, Duke of Windsor, Albert takes comfort in knowing he will likely never be King.

At the same time, Hitler has risen to power within Germany and its army is on the march to conquer Europe.  The stammering Prince must face the emergence of radio as a means of communication. His stammer is now for all the world to hear. Undeterred, Albert gives speeches as best he can, often so terrified he freezes up during their presentations. He has hired and fired a variety of speech coaches to help overcome the problem but to no avail. Nothing seemed to work. None-the-less his wife, Elizabeth I, remains intent on helping him and stumbles upon an Australian speech therapist who looks promising. This is where the movie begins.

Colin Firth plays Prince Albert and Geoffrey Rush the part of, Lionel, the speech therapist. Lionel is a self-possessed man who is not intimidated by the Prince. He sets the terms and conditions of therapy and demands the Prince come to his office.  He says within those walls the two would be equals. Lionel calls Albert “Bertie,” a family nickname. It infuriates Albert as do many of Lionel’s methods. Lionel acquiesces to but one of Albert’s demands: that therapy be limited to vocal exercises and breathing techniques with no delving into personal matters. This despite Lionel’s certainty that they would eventually have to get at the emotional trauma that caused the stammer to begin with, as was the case with all stammers.

Somehow, during the process of therapy, an unlikely trust and friendship develops between the two men.  Such that when their father, King George V dies and Prince Edward ascends to the throne, the unlikely becomes Albert’s greatest nightmare. His brother abdicates the throne to marry an American divorcee. Albert visits Lionel at his office and the two share a cup of tea and the soon-to-be crowned King reveals his past. A nanny who deprived him of food, inflicted physical pain and favored his brother. Further, parents so disengaged that it took them a year to notice he was emaciated. There was the origin of the stammer. Finally revealing this long buried shame, Prince Albert becomes King George VI.

There are two remarkable messages from this movie that can serve us all. Carole and I share them both here.

Steve

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins speaks at length about working on oneself. For example, he has had many clients who made fortunes only to lose them. When Robbins probed to find out why some achieved great success only to lose it, he discovered that he could teach them techniques but if the client did not make the deep and lasting changes in their thinking, success would be temporary. One example was a client would repeatedly make money only to lose it a short time later. Robbins discovered that his client had grown up very poor. Making money made him uncomfortable so he reverted to what was comfortable and what he had been, poor.

George VI knows the stakes are huge. Hitler’s Germany is on the march and many lives will be lost if the King is not able to rally his people. He must address the nation on the eve of war. Faced with the challenge of his life, George succumbs totally to the speech therapist’s direction.  He does the necessary deep work and discovers where his stammer originated. He takes to radio and inspires a rapt nation. Humility and courage. These are the tools of greatness.

Carole

Helena Bonham Carter plays Elizabeth. The supportive strength that Queen Elizabeth provides her terrified husband cannot be overestimated. While Albert, as both Prince and King, wants to throw it all away, give up or run and hide, it is his wife who shares her own fears and secrets that give her husband the will to prevail.

The most poignant scene between the two occurs the night before Albert is to appear before the counsel of Lords to assume the naming of him as King George VI. Prince Albert slumps at his desk weeping over how little he knows of kingship and its responsibilities. He says he was not “meant to be King”…his brother was. Elizabeth wraps her arms around her troubled husband and shares that she, too, never wanted a public life. She says that falling in love with him caused her to wonder if she could survive such a marriage. But she reveals that she took comfort in the fact that he had “such a lovely stammer” she would never have to worry about the likelihood.  Elizabeth was showing him that she, too, was about to face an unintended life but face it, none-the-less, with grace.  She was his rock.

Much is made of the “divine feminine” aspect of God; but, much of it misses the mark. The divine feminine is that aspect of creation that supplies nourishment in every aspect of life. It is not just about child bearing or motherhood.  Whether in the bedroom, boardroom or corridors of government, the divine feminine is the support and counterbalance to the divine masculine. It is power not force. It is compassion not pity. It is the courage to be “love in action.”

Both of us

The “King’s Speech” received 12 Oscars. It deserved them all.  Of greater and more lasting importance are the life lessons learned from from two people faced with circumstances they preferred not to encounter. Courage and humility go a long way in conquering the unanticipated and the unknown. They go even further when true power is used as it was intended: as unconditional love in action.

 

 

 

Mexico And The Border Wall

Given all the discussions about the border wall to be built, it is amazing to see how many people are up in arms about the idea. The border is just a line that demarcates one piece of land from another. In reality a difference in a few miles should mean very little, but the fact is that border means a lot.

That little plot of land that separates two countries in reality separates two ideas, two ideologies. Those differences in thoughts that get transmuted into laws and systems of governance have profound affects. Don’t believe me, go into any border town that separates Mexico and the Unites States and you can see with your own eyes what I mean. The contrast is stark. On one side of the border you have 50 million people living in poverty, while on the other side you have massive wealth.

All countries in the world have a border. And if you have ever travelled for any length of time you will notice that at every country that you enter there is a border agent to check you in. The fact is most countries worldwide realize it is good policy to see who enters your country.

The current upheaval in Europe is due to large part of the mass immigration from foreign countries without any proper vetting.Germany and many of the other European  countries have allowed millions of immigrants into their country with mindsets and religious outlooks completely different than their host country. They have let in millions of people into  countries that they do not respect or want to assimilate into. The only reason they are there is because the economic prospects in their own country is worse.

I lived in Australia in the late 90’s and one of their major concerns was illegal immigration. Given the land mass is as big as the U.S but with only a fraction of the population, 20 million at the time, many Australians were very afraid of losing their culture via illegal immigration. The Australians knew that small changes in their country could potentially have devastating changes on their cultural and political landscape. They knew their “Australian Culture” could be wiped out if they did not assimilate the new immigrants into Australian culture.

So yes it is important to vet people that come into your country. No sane country wants to bring in criminals, terrorists, or the infirmed into their country. It is irresponsible and reckless to do so. In addition it is equally risky to bring in people into your country who will never assimilate our contribute to the well being of the country.

Many of the planned proposals being offered by Trump seem sane and reasonable but for many on the left, the whole notion of restricting immigration has people up in arms especially as it relates to Mexico. But even Mexico does not have an open border policy when it comes to immigration. For example here are some of the Mexican immigration laws:

  • immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor
  • foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • foreign visitors who enter under false pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned or deported;
  • those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.

So even Mexico which has no problem exporting their people to the rest of the world is very conscious of vetting people who want to come into their country.

The reason that Mexico exports so many people is because the country is a mess.  Currently one out of four Mexicans now live in the U.S. With a country of over 120 million people , 50% of the people live in poverty.  The economic policies in Mexico just do not help its people. Even after N.A.F.T.A which now has 60 billion dollar trade deficit with the U.S.- all this money that has flowed into Mexico has not helped the average Mexican.

The question always asked me the media and the immigrant rights groups is how it possible that the U.S can be so cruel to the plight of these Mexicans? But the question remains why isn’t this same question asked of the Mexican government? Why is the Mexican government not asked how can they be so cruel to their own citizens that they would allow half of its population to live below the poverty line and allows 25% of its population to live overseas?

The fact is Mexico exports its poor and oppressed to the U.S which finds them employment. The Mexicans who live outside the country then in turn  remit over 20 billion a year  back to Mexico. Even with all of this money coming back to the country, Mexico still can’t raise its people out of poverty.

Where is the outrage! Mexico fix your country! If you fixed your country your people would not leave.

I have met many Mexicans who would have gladly stayed in Mexico if there was more opportunity. Many of these poor people who come here  are so desperate that they are willing to trek through the desert risking their lives for the chance of a better life. In addition many come here not knowing the language and essentially are living in a culture where they can’t even read or write English.

The fact is the Mexican economy is so bad that the people have simply given up. They believe their government is ineffective and corrupt. When I see illegal Mexican immigrants protesting against the U.S. for its immigration policies, it makes me cringe. The outrage is misplaced. They should be screaming at their own elected officials, not ours.

Since they are not citizens here , they have no rights. They are protesting against people who have no connection to them nor do they represent them. If they attacked and demonstrated as loudly as they do here maybe their leaders would have enacted policies to help them.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

We Are Broke

We are broke. The nation is broke.

The national debt is at twenty trillion and counting. That number does not even include all of the additional unfunded liabilities which, when included, add trillions more.

For the most part know, the average person knows nothing of this. We live in an era where we are told to carry on and move forward as if this mind-numbing debt means nothing.  Most of the stories being reported today are about the overreach and abuse Donald Trump is inflicting on America through proposed cuts; but, the fact is many of these cuts are desperately necessary and overdue.

This same scenario played out a few years back in New Jersey. There, governor after governor used taxpayer funds to aid public sector unions. When Chris Christie became governor and began changing policies that affected many of these programs, there was tremendous backlash accompanied by calls to throw him out of office.  Christie responded in a speech before the state legislature as follows: “Year after year governors have lied to you, administrators have lied to you; but, when I come in to tell you the truth about the status of the states finances, I become the bad guy. Shouldn’t the people who lied to you for years be treated as the bad guys and not me?”

Trump has been given the unenviable task of governing a nation completely buried in debt. He said he plans to cut many government programs because of the debt and, predictably, the Left is outraged. Some of the programs rumored to be cut are:

  • National Endowment for the Arts (eliminated entirely)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (eliminated entirely)
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting (privatized)
  • The Minority Business Development Agency (eliminated entirely)
  • The Economic Development Administration (eliminated entirely)
  • The International Trade Administration (eliminated entirely)
  • The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (eliminated entirely)
  • The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (eliminated entirely)
  • Violence Against Women Grants (eliminated entirely)

What’s most fascinating about the Left’s outrage is how it sees the role of government. The Left argues that the monies the government generates from tax revenues should be spend it wherever there is a need. For example, for the Left, many rural communities only have access to the arts through government grants given to local artists.  Therefore, spending government money on this is a worthy cause.

For those who are politically Right or Libertarian these programs as wasteful. The government’s role in society should be safety (the police), strong defense (border security, and enforcement of laws (courts and contracts). The Right does not, or cannot, understand the outrage in response to Trump’s attempt to de-fund many programs because, again, the government should not be funding these projects in the first place

Take for example Public Radio…commonly known as NPR. Taxpayers fund this network even though today technology provides us with radio, satellite radio, streaming radio  and podcasts.  You would think there would be no complaint about cutting NPR radio given the multitude of readily available and easily accessible resources. The market would not miss NPR because there are enough alternatives existing elsewhere.

Similarly, public television. We live in an age where people are daily cutting and limiting  their subscriptions to cable companies because there are so many other ways to access this medium. Apple TV, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu are leading the charge into this world of “on demand” customized content. In addition, free media is available all over the net these days… especially with sites like YouTube which provides free access to all of its content.  So, again, in a day where T.V is ubiquitous, why do we still need the government involved?

Finally, do any of these programs matter at all when you have no money or capacity to pay for it?. Has the public lost its collective mind and sensibility?  The nation is broke. Even if we saw a need for it, we no longer have the ability to pay for it. 

Doesn’t it logically and rationally follow that there is the need for cuts?  The same way a family will cut back when it needs to tighten its financial belt, the government should as well.

Ronald Reagan once quipped there are only a few certainties in life: death, taxes and a government program. Donald Trump is beginning to realize how hard its going to be to cut funding or eliminate these programs. For many in the private sector, industries grow and die all the time. For the displaced, they have to learn new skills and adapt to meet the needs of the marketplace to find work again. Only in government does this natural process fail to occur. Good ties…bad times…government jobs are forever.

This is the reason for the outrage.

A government job is about as good as it gets. A steady paycheck and no competition.  Its why all of the private suppliers who sell to the government are upset with the new changes. They know all too well the best client in the world is the U.S government.

We are long overdue for a reality check and cuts in the public sector…now made more pressing because we no longer have the ability to pay for unnecessary programs.

As with Chris Christie, should we be mad at Donald Trump for exposing the cuts that need to be made or the politicians who lied to us for years about the status of the country’s finances. Shakespeare had it right. Read your Henry V.

“Don’t shoot the messenger.”

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

Student Loans- The Next Bubble

The say the ticket to success is an education unless it bankrupts you along the way.

In case you’re unaware, a student loan bubble is brewing that’s set to explode. The crisis is looming large in terms of outstanding debt and is beginning to worry a lot of people.

Currently, there is $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loans which are growing at about 20% per year. This debt is greater than the national debt of many countries.  By our own government’s metrics, roughly 1 in every 3 loans is either not being serviced or is in outright default!

Presently, at more than 1,000 schools (representing about one-quarter of all U.S. colleges and other schools) over  half of its students have already defaulted or failed to pay any amount toward these loans within seven years of leaving school. In other words, according to the government’s own data, at least 40% of this debt – representing more than $500 billion – will never be paid.

Even more alarming, much of this debt was packaged up, “securitized,” and sold to investors around the world as “good” debt. Given the “implied guarantee” of the U.S government for these loans, global investors bought them up. Once again,   they will go bust just as the loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went bust.

If the economy was as good as the pundits claimed, and education as valuable as the universities claim, these students would all have jobs and payback on these loans would not be an issue. But, my countrymen and women like to believe in fantasy and so they believed in the tale Obama and the media told them.

The tale?  All is well in the U.S. economy.

Adding insult to injury, student debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.  So, even if the former student has no job and thus no way to pay back the loan, he or she will be forever be obligated to pay it back. There will never be an escape from the indebtedness.

In times past, there existed debtors’ prisons, where people who could no longer pay back their debts were incarcerated and put to manual labor until their debt was paid in full. As our society advanced, sane people recognized that this was no way for a rational society to resolve an economic problem. Bankruptcy courts were set up, the discharge of debt, in whole or in part became common practice.

To the contrary, the student debt problem harkens back to ancient times as these people will never be able to discharge their debt.  While they will not be imprisoned, at least not for the moment, the looming debt and the pressure to pay it off will seem as if they are. Furthermore and perhaps most disturbing, is that should government and its agencies of enforcement continue to grow in size and in power, a crisis (economic or otherwise) puts an indebted person in the weakest possible position…and the least autonomous.

Bankruptcy, the settling of debts and forgiveness of loans, is quite common in America. Businesses as well as frequently  use the legal process of bankruptcy to settle up with creditors or wipe the slate clean to start again. President Trump, by way of his corporations, has used the bankruptcy courts on numerous occasions to “settle up” his finances.

One of the main reasons that the U.S. is so successful in the business world is how we view risk, failure and success. We inherently understand that life is risky, business life particularly so in a free market, and so we  have mechanisms in place to deal with failure. Failure is never final. We can begin anew. In other cultures, such as Japan, failure is so avoided and its reality so disgraceful, that people so “afflicted” choose to commit suicide as the rightful end to failure. That culture even has a name for these individuals: “evaporating people.”

In U.S. tech world, the purview of private equity investment, the risk is that only about 10% of those companies will ever make any money.  When the odds on happens, investors don’t come screaming and threatening to put the company’s founders in jail; they don’t try to relegate them to debtors prison. They know life and business is inherently risky and failure happens.

Failure: We all dislike it. Prefer to avoid it. Don’t plan for it…but it happens.

What makes the pending student loan crisis even more sickening is that it is penalizing the youngest and most vulnerable segment of our society. The ones we have convinced of the lie that a college education is imperative to their future success no matter what the cost. These students are coming out of college with a bill due of over $37,000 and with, at best, uncertain job prospects. The debt for those coming out of graduate and professional schools is multiples of that number.

We have two massive problems on our economic horizon: 1) 1.4 trillion dollars of mostly uncollectible debt and, 2) a weak labor market yet to be addressed. There are currently over 95 million unemployed Americans. You are deemed to be in the “labor force” if you have a job or are looking for one. You are counted part of the participation rate if you are in the labor force. But we have 95,000,000 Americans no long in the labor force! They don’t have a job and/or have stopped looking for one.

Both of these critical issues need to be faced and reconciled. If not, the U.S economic recovery will continue to falter even following the miracle Obama recovery I must have blinked through.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com



Donald Trump And The Media

Donald Trump was just sworn in as President; yet, the opposition continues, fueled by a media that presents the news in a manner suggesting we are about to be ruled by a dictator.

The media, and certain specific Clinton-backed-Soros-funded organizations  are trying to weaken Trump even as he takes office. They are pushing two narratives to effect that end: 1) Russia meddled in our elections thus causing Trump to win and 2) Trump lost the popular vote and, therefore, has no mandate.

The argument that Trump won because of Russia’s alleged meddling is laughable. Elections are run at the state level not the national level. It is the states that receive and tally votes, first broken down by county then precinct then polling stations. So for Russians to hack an election, they would have to go precinct by precinct to do so.  Additionally, the majority of voting machines in the U.S. are still manual. Not being connected to the internet makes them impossible to hack.

In fact, Jill Stein, Green Party candidate, was so influenced by this accusation that she launched a recount in three states only to find that Trump actually won more votes than initially counted. The conclusion? There have been no verified findings that prove voters who cast their votes for Clinton somehow had their votes switched to Trump.

The second narrative being sold is that since Hillary won the popular vote, she should be president. It’s as if the whole media complex forgets we live in a Constitutional Republic not a democracy. This is U.S. Civil Procedure 101!

What has happened to our “journalists” and “reporters” that they don’t even know the fundamentals of our system of governance?

Donald Trump campaigned to win the electoral college vote not the popular vote. That is why he won. Had the election been a straight popularity vote (as in a democracy…mob rule…) he likely would have campaigned differently to win those votes. And, based upon his penchant for winning, I suspect he would have won that election as well.

The Founders set up the Electoral College specifically for this reason. They did not want mob rule. The whole point of a national election with an Electoral College was to decentralize the process so that voters in less populated states had some recourse to petition their government.  If the popular vote had been the determining factor, Hillary Clinton would have won based upon the preferences of two states: California and New York. That would have negated consideration of the preferences of the other 48 states!

Part of this continuously fed outrage stems from the fact that so many of our citizens trusted the media as their source for information. That “source” never had Trump ahead in the polls. Either they did not want to believe the phenomenon or they did want to report it. The net result was that for many in the general public they never considered a Trump win remotely plausible. Hence, their shock, awe and outrage!

Had the media been more transparent about the campaign and the economic disaster of the Obama presidency, the general populace would have been more aware of what was happening here in the U.S.

For example, look at some of the economic numbers that occurred during the Obama administration:

  • $19.9 Trillion: The Staggering Mountain Of Debt Obama Will Leave Behind On January 20, 2017. (“Daily History Of The Debt,” U.S. Department Of Treasury, Accessed 12/23/16)
  • $9.2 Trillion: The Increase In The National Debt Since Obama Took Office. (“Daily History Of The Debt,” U.S. Department Of Treasury, Accessed 12/23/16)
  • $1 Trillion: Tax Increases In ObamaCare Over A Decade. (“ObamaCare: Trillion Dollar Tax Hike That Hurts Small Businesses,” U.S. House Of Representatives Committee On Ways And Means, 3/31/16)
  • $870.3 Billion: Estimated Economic Cost Of All The New Federal Government Regulations Finalized Since Obama Took Office. (“Regulation Rodeo,” American Action Forum, Accessed 12/27/16)

If some of these numbers had been reported, Hillary Clinton probably would have pushed a much more aggressive economic growth plan to help alleviate some of the voters’ concerns resulting, in all probability, of her having received more votes.

Since the press did not want to report the reality, nor did they want Donald Trump to win, they reported the news as if Hillary winning the presidency was a foregone conclusion. Had they been more objective in their reporting, Hillary Clinton probably would have worked harder, and campaigned more heavily in the battleground states that Donald Trump ultimately won.

The point being, the unqualified, unverified support for all things Obama and Hillary actually hurt Clinton’s chances of becoming President. Whether on her own, or simply her swalloing the media narrative whole, she never grasped the real understanding of the popularity of Trump and his message.

Many on the Left love Obama for the things he did: universal health care and legalizing gay marriage. They are forever reminding us of these accomplishments. Yet, why didn’t the media report that he added 10 trillion dollars worth of debt, about $66,000 dollars for every person in the U.S.? The answer: Because it probably would have changed what people thought about him and the truth just doesn’t fit the Left’s political agenda and long term goal: Socialism American style (a/k/a Progressivism).

Take Obama’s biggest accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. Everyone was supposed to be covered. Really? I don’t have health insurance for my family because it costs too much ($2,000 per month). When I talked to a health insurance company about my situation, they specifically told me not to get it as it was too expensive!  Yet, I am forever reminded by the media that everyone is covered…everyone except me, my wife and 6 children apparently.

Even with Obamacare, millions of people still don’t have insurance. It solved nothing!

The whole focus of pushing these two narratives was and is to weaken Trump and rewrite history. In the book classic 1984, by George Orwell, one of the main jobs of the government was to control the press. The manner in which this was accomplished was through the stories published by the press. Whenever the government wanted to change public opinion, new stories, new versions of the truth, were written to sway and change the minds of the people.

As Diane Keaton says to Jack Nicholson in the movie Something’s Gotta Give, “The truth doesn’t have versions.”

One of the main reasons Trump won is because most people hate Washington, its politicians and the media that support the incestuous relationship between them. What the media is trying to do is to weaken Trump and send a warning shot to other potential candidates outside the system.

Wanted: President. Job reserved for insiders only. Outsiders need not apply.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Obama And Biden Award Themselves Medals

Ricky Gervais a few years back hosted the Golden Globes Awards and he joked to the audience about the uselessness of awards “Remember if you do win tonight, no one cares about that award as much as you do. Don’t get emotional, it’s embarrassing. That award is, no offense, worthless. It’s a bit of metal some nice old confused journalists wanted to give you in person so they could meet you and have a selfie with you, okay? That’s all it is!” Ricky Gervais had won three of these awards for his past performances and yet he thought so little of the award that they were used as doorstops in his house.

The joke is funny because it is true. Because over time, the majority of awards and titles mean nothing to the general public. They only matter to the people who receive them.

Which leads me to President Obama and Vice President Biden who awarded themselves service medals during the last few weeks in office. President Obama awarded himself the Distinguished Public Service Medal for his own appreciation as his time as Commander in Chief while Vice President Biden won the Medal of Freedom award, the nations highest civilian award.

Many pundits were incredulous at the awards. And on many of the comment feeds on the articles have likened the awards to a much maligned “participation medal” and many others were even more skeptical of Obama giving himself a medal.

In Latin America the practice of the government awarding themselves participation medals is quite common. It is not uncommon to see a general in uniform stacked with medals and ribbons This is especially bizarre given none of them have seen any combat in generations. So self deluded with power and aggrandizement they award themselves medals to let people know how important they are.

Not all medals and awards are useless. Take a look at any serviceman who won the Medal Of Honor and you will get a glimpse if what real heroism looks like. I know many combat veterans here in the U.S who were actively engaged in combat operations and by ways of medals, have very little to show for it. The point being these awards were meant to really mean something.

For example in Mel Gibson’s latest movie Hacksaw Ridge about a Navy Medic, Desmond Doss, the movie depicts the heroism of Desmond as he saved countless lives on the battlefield. For his actions, he won the Medal Of Honor and I can guarantee you that every man in his unit will be forever thankful and indebted to Desmond for his actions and truly honored for him to win such an award.

Contrast this to President Obama winning his award for being an excellent Commander and Chief, the whole sordid notion reeks of desperation. Military awards are always given by their superiors to their junior leaders to recognize their efforts. Being that he is the most senior military leader, he nominated, recommended and awarded himself the award. President Obama winning that award is comparable to a mid level employee at Apple giving an award to Steve Jobs for his leadership abilities. That is how pathetic this whole thing is. In the military a junior officer can never recommend or award his superior an award, it is not the protocol and it is not conducive to good leadership.

The whole ceremony reminded me of the the famous line from Shakespeare: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” from Hamlet. The saying  has been used as a figure of speech to describe someone’s overly frequent and vehement attempts to convince others of some matter of which the opposite is true, thereby making themselves appear defensive and insincere.

These two must know how desperate this whole scenario reeks of so they award themselves medals to hide their incompetence.Since no one else will give them the credit they so rightly deserve, they award it to themselves. They really really want to let people how good, heroic and noble they were. And yet we have Benghazi.

During an attack on a U.S embassy in Libya, the president and his staff would not support Americans actively engaged in combat during the firefight where Ambassador Stevens was killed as well as four other Americans.The participants on the ground repeatedly called for help and even though there were Marines ready to go in, they were denied. We as a country had no problem putting Americans lives in harms way, and yet the Obama administration would not protect them when called.

With the Benghazi story as the backdrop of how not to behave in combat, during the invasion of Iraq, I remember reading a story about a Marine General who was relived of his duties during the attack quite simply because his units were moving too slowly causing other units in the attack unnecessary risk. I called my former Company Commander to see if he knew the story and if he could add clarity to the article. My former Company Commander said it was a highly unusual move for a commander to be relived of duty during combat operations as the General’s honor would forever be destroyed. He said “Most marine commanders would rather commit suicide than to face the eternal shame of failing in combat.”

His comments did not shock me as they rang true.For many not acquainted with military culture, this is exactly how mature military leaders think, and yet when President Obama had the chance to help fellow Americans in combat, he reportedly slept through the night.

Add this to his recent pardon of Bradley Manning who Obama commuted the sentence of a solider who went into a war zone, stole tons of classified files, and gave them to WikiLeaks. Manning released hundreds of thousands of secret documents relating to national security, during a time of war, with no regard to how it would undermine our war efforts and put lives at risk.  In any other time, Bradley Manning would have been shot for treason.

The whole thing is so outrageous that words don’t do it justice. The pardon of Manning along side his own award for leadership stand as juxtaposition of a man gone mad. A truly despicable finale to his presidency.

 

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com