Bring it on

President George W. Bush was roundly criticized for uttering his taunt of “bring it on” in articulating a strategy for fighting back against radical Islamic terrorism. President Donald Trump essentially takes the same view on a number of issues, most recently China and illegal trade imbalances. America First means being ready to fight, never nurturing the status quo.

Despite what has been and will be accomplished by a President and an administration rarely fazed by confrontation, we are increasingly hearing the drumbeat of Republican gloom as the 2018 mid-term election season approaches. The Democrats are energized, we’re told, by pundits and politicians alike.

Walker Warns of Dem Wave in Wisconsin after Liberal Wins State Judicial Race, read a headline at TheHill.com, citing a tweet by Republican Gov. Scott Walker:

“Tonight’s results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI. The Far Left is driven by anger & hatred — we must counter it with optimism & organization.”

A similar headline appears on the The Daily Beast website, Mitch McConnell Frets on Midterms: ‘The Wind is Going to Be in Our Face’. “This is going to be a challenging election year,” McConnell said.

Another Daily Beat headline shouts, New Analysis Finds More Republicans at Risk in Midterms.

“Democrats are widening their targets and a nonpartisan analysis shows that more GOP incumbents might be at risk.”

There is plenty of historical data to back Democrat optimism about a blue tsunami sweeping them into control of the U.S. House or Senate (the latter, a longer shot). But, as with healthy returns on investments, the past does not assure what will happen in the future.

This much we know. The present looks pretty solid for Republicans. In North Carolina the economy is growing, while unemployment is shrinking. The state ranked in the top 10 among best places for wage growth in 2017 (3.8%), tied at ninth with Georgia, according to Business Insider. Nationally, President Trump’s favorable rating (51% reports Rasmussen) has surpassed Barack Obama’s at the same stage of their presidencies. It is becoming increasingly difficult to argue that Republicans will struggle in states Trump carried in 2016 because of dissatisfaction with him since he took office, especially in the aftermath of last year’s tax cuts and a renewed pledge to secure the Southern border.

Also not to be overlooked in the face of inner-party fear mongering is the raw reality of what it is Democrats are actually for. The young co-founder of Great America Era, commentator and prolific tweeter Jack Murphy, neatly summarized just how far to the left the Dems are shifting as evidenced by themes on which they plan to win:

“Free college. High taxes. Open borders. Getting rid of ICE. Taking the guns. Unlimited welfare. Single-payer healthcare.”

In another tweet, Murphy brilliantly itemizes the Democrats’ glorious scandals and track records during the Obama era, the 2016 election and here and now in the Age of Trump:

“Fast & Furious (under Obama AG Eric Holder). FISA abuse. Oakland’s mayor (warning illegals about ICE raids). A failing Veterans’ Administration. IRS abuse. Benghazi. Hillary emails. Uranium One. NSA spying. Bowe Bergdahl.”

He might have added sanctuary cities and the bogus Mueller investigation, which can’t find a sliver of Russian collusion evidence.

We remind you that this is the RESOLVE blog. It is named for an acronym: Republicans for Security, Opportunity, Liberty and Victory that Endures. If we remember what we stand for, rally our voters to grasp the pivotal importance of the 2018 midterm elections, and hammer home the absurdity of Democrats running on a Hate Trump platform, it will indeed be a blue November — for them.

Mark his words

President Donald Trump was elected to “drain the swamp”, a phrase that characterizes for many a federal government gridlocked by entrenched career politicians across the ideological spectrum. His supporters, the so-called base, continue to demand drainage but Trump encounters resistance at every turn. Swamp creatures are defiantly protective of their turf (or muck, to be more precise).

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Mark Meadows 

The Swamp overwhelmed the quest for Obamacare repeal early on. It was taken to its knees, finally, when Congress passed and Trump signed major tax cuts and reforms in late 2017. Other minor dredging has been accomplished here and there on Capitol Hill, yet along came the $1.3 trillion Omnibus spending bill. Even Trump was wearing waders at the signing ceremony for that spending fiasco.

Hours beforehand, Trump tweeted that he was tempted to veto the bill. The first entity to step forward in full support of a proposed veto was the House Freedom Caucus, a widely derided group of Republican lawmakers led by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11). Going back to the age of Obama, Meadows and the Caucus have stood shoulder to shoulder since 2015 as Swamp-busting contrarians, committed to “giving a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them” and “open, accountable and limited government.”

Understandably, Democrats and, less vocally, many Republicans dismiss the Caucus as a band of obstructionists on matters of spending and ideological flash points such as immigration control. “Very destructive,” writes Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein. True conservatives applaud the refusal of Meadows & Co. to waiver, which typically is the signature of movements with staying power and, ultimately, real power.

As the Omnibus train was veering off the rails, Meadows and 24 others voted against bringing the bill to the floor, furious “that Republican leadership were only able to get (Trump) just over one-twenty-fifth of what he wanted for the construction of his long-promised border wall,” reported The Daily Caller. Said Meadows:

“Members of the Freedom Caucus chose to vote no, because this omnibus doesn’t just forget the promises we made to voters — it flatly rejects them.”

Meadows, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) penned an opinion piece in mid-March decrying yet another inclination by Republicans to accept business as usual. Despite the important elimination of the Obamacare mandate in the tax reform bill, policies remain under consideration that “would expand this healthcare disaster beyond even President Obama’s ambitions,” they wrote.

While still pending, Meadows et al are sounding the alarm — using a now well worn alarm button:

“One (proposal) would direct the Obama-created bailout known as cost-sharing-reduction (CSR) payments to go to ObamaCare insurance companies. Another would create an entirely new reinsurance program to funnel billions of taxpayer dollars directly to insurers in order to convince them to stick with ObamaCare.”

Who are the “destructive” ones in this scenario?

If there is a fray to enter, Meadows typically leads the charge into it. As a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he’s become a go-to for Fox News programmers but is often seen on the Sunday show circuit as well. Most recently, he and Ohio’s Jordan were guests on FNC’s The Ingraham Angle to walk deeper into the fray surrounding calls for a new Special Counsel to investigate improprieties, and perhaps illegalities, committed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation leading to and after Trump’s election.

Meadows and Jordan recently reviewed a heavily redacted report by the DOJ, which is a first step toward assembling the puzzle that will confirm shady activity and communication by figures such as fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, demoted FBI official Peter Strzok, and former CIA Director John Brennan.

“On seven pages, there were 12 material facts — material facts, not just names — material facts that were omitted by the Department of Justice. It’s time they come clean and give us what we need. … This Department of Justice is not complying with the subpoena. … For the Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) to suggest that there is not enough ‘there’ there is extremely disappointing.”

The frequent refrain echoed by frustrated Republican voters is a simple request, “Do your jobs.” The entrenched Swampers argue the better measure of their performance is how often they “get things done”. Meadows consistently does his job, unapologetically. Which is good news for his North Carolina district and for those who want to see President Trump succeed. Fellow NC lawmakers in Washington would be wise to adopt Meadows’ tenacity.

In a profile written for Vox.com last August, Tara Golshan described Meadows’ sphere of influence in Washington:

“The reality of today’s Congress is that in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus is in control of the Republican agenda — with Meadows at the helm. He leads a body that made its mark as an opposition force from within. But tasked with governing, Meadows has to decide whether his conservative principles supersede getting things done. He may have paved the way for (Paul) Ryan’s speakership, but it’s Meadows who stands in the way of every major Republican policy push.”

Conservatives stand with him.

 

 

Hudson vs. 60 Minutes

Hudson on 60 Minutes

It was just a matter of time before last December’s passage of H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, by the U.S. House of Representatives sparked left-wing media outrage. Leave it to none other than CBS’ 60 Minutes Sunday prime time program to unleash correspondent Steve Kroft on the topic, which 2nd Amendment antagonists distill as follows: far right, gun packing rural hicks versus reasoned, intellectual elites who desire a permanent ban on firearm possession by our citizens and confiscation of previously registered guns.

Enter our Congressman, Richard Hudson (NC-8), who authored and championed the bill all the way to the finish line. It passed in the House 231-198 last Dec. 6 and is in the U.S. Senate pipeline. During a tense moment in their taped interview, Kroft barely contained himself while scolding Hudson’s comparison of a reciprocal concealed carry permit to a driver’s license, which is valid in every state.

“It’s not like a driver’s license!” Kroft shouted, insisting that licensed drivers must demonstrate minimum proficiencies. Kroft is unaware, apparently, or deliberately ignores that H.R. 38 would grant concealed carry reciprocity exclusively to legally registered firearm owners who “would have to follow the laws of the state, county and municipality in which they are carrying concealed.”

Remarkably, Hudson’s retort was not edited out of the segment. He did not blink. “But, driving is a privilege,” he said. “Owning a firearm is a Constitutionally protected right. So there is a difference.”

Make no mistake, this was a hit piece from beginning to end, but not merely an attack on Rep. Hudson’s bill, or Tim Schmidt, founder in 2003 of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (also interviewed by Kroft). The objective of 60 Minutes producers and Kroft was obvious: to demean and belittle the “folks” in the red(neck) states who, unlike their educated blue state fellow citizens, are trapped in a time warp in which guns, as Kroft put it dismissively, “are woven into the culture.” They are, in other words, dangerous, exceeded only by the Constitution itself as a threat to society.

Kroft’s segment was not so much a “report” on an issue of the day as it was a televised op-ed. Two examples. In the first, he characterizes a Constitutional right as an idea:

The central tenant of Concealed Carry Reciprocity is that the 2nd Amendment gives people the right to carry guns anywhere they want. But that idea is more aspirational than factual.

In the second, Kroft despairs that he and his New York-based arbiters of 21st Century America can not disenfranchise an enormous swath of our population (the inference being that the people who elected Donald Trump are alive and well):

Whether people like it or not, that world (where guns are carried and concealed) already exists in many parts of the country, where people are quite happy with it. And so are their representatives in Congress.

Kroft’s parting shot at Rep. Hudson was to dismiss the core assertion behind the necessity of concealed carry as having been “refuted by numerous studies”, but without detailing these so-called “studies”, or who conducted them. Hudson stood his ground, which is not easy to do amid the glare of the famously intimidating 60 Minutes entrapment sessions.

I can tell you that in the last 20 years you’ve seen a huge uptick of gun ownership, you’ve seen a huge uptick in concealed carry, and, at the same time, you’ve seen violent crime drop. If you look at states with concealed carry, you’ve seen violent crime drop.

 

 

 

NC: A pension fund model

The North Carolina Retirement Systems, the nation’s tenth largest public pension fund, experienced a 13.5 percent gain in assets in 2017. Those assets were valued at $98.3 billion, reports State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell. The performance of the fund’s investments exceeded projected annual growth of 12.8 percent.

On its face, this is great news. But the real strength of the state’s pension system is the extent to which these burgeoning assets cover pension liabilities. Literally dozens of states find themselves drowning in pension liability, and continue to spiral in the wrong direction despite years of dire warnings.

The fact that North Carolina is largely excluded from studies exposing the looming pension crisis across the country is a point Republican candidates for state legislative and U.S. House seats should hammer home on the trail in 2018. It is a tribute to sound fiscal policy, spending restraint and the absence of money starved unions.

Consider the alternative, outlined in this nearly incomprehensible report by The Rand Corporation’s Dan Grunfeld:

California leads the nation in pension underfunding. The numbers are staggering. Currently, the state government has approximately $464.4 billion in unfunded liabilities — the difference between resources that will be available in the state’s pension fund and what will be owed to retiring employees. … Nationally, state and local governments are carrying $4 trillion to $6 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities. That exceeds the combined military expenditures for every war, save World War II, fought by the U.S. since 1775.

Another way to gauge the financial health of a state’s pension fund is by examining funding ratios, the gap between funds on hand and projected pension payments. The higher the ratio, the lower the gap. North Carolina ended 2017 with a 45% funding ratio, fifth best in the nation, according to data gathered by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The national average is a woeful 33.7%. Wisconsin is the runaway leader with a 61.5% ratio; New Jersey (25.7), Mississippi (24.2), Illinois (23.3), Kentucky (20.9) and Connecticut (19.7) bring up the rear. New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut have been governed by Democrat majority rule for decades, while Kentucky and Mississippi have had divided legislatures with a gradual shift toward Republicans since 2000.

According to ALEC’s December 2017 report:

The funding ratio is the most important measure of a pension fund’s health. Applying the estimated risk-free rate of return to the actuarial assets and actuarial liabilities reported by pension plans generates a more realistic estimate of each state’s funding ratio.

Another instructive way to understand a state’s fiscal health relative to its public pension liabilities is as a measure of per-capita liability. North Carolina also ranks highly in this category. An individual taxpayer in North Carolina technically is “on the hook” for $10,944. That’s the amount each taxpayer would owe if and when the state’s pension funds come up short. NC ranks fifth behind Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana and Tennessee, according to ALEC’s analysis. The dubious distinction club on the opposite end is made up of Illinois ($30,336 per taxpayer), Ohio ($30,538), Connecticut ($35,731) and Alaska ($45,689).

Population size skews these numbers, which is why California, despite owning the largest collection of unfunded liabilities, has its citizens on the hook for less than the cellar dwellers at $25,166, but still the 39th highest per-capita liability.

It is hardly a coincidence that states where pension funding negligence is most acute are the same states from which folks are fleeing and finding refuge in North Carolina.

 

A $5.7m windfall

Christmas is arriving early in 2018. About 11 months early, to be precise. On Thursday, January 25, North Carolina retirees began receiving their monthly state retirement benefit payments.

According to the office of North Carolina State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, payments to retirees have increased by a total of $5.7 million this month. The windfall was triggered by two developments. One is the very well publicized federal tax reform signed by President Donald Trump after Congressional Republicans came through with a bill late last year.

The other development flew under the radar. An obscure state entity, the Retirement Systems Division (RSD), simply did its job beating the clock on an IRS deadline that was set after Trump signed sweeping tax cuts into law.

Among those cuts are federal taxes deducted from 2018 benefit payments to North Carolina retirees and benefit recipients. The RSD Operations Team within the N.C. Department of State Treasurer was able to update the tables ahead of the IRS’s deadline.

“I’m very proud of our team for taking the initiative so quickly after the new tax law was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. While we are in the check delivery business, it involves more than just buying ink and stamps,” said Treasurer Folwell. “This is a testament to the outstanding job that our career public servants do to serve government workers.”

More than $500 million is paid out each month to more than 312,000 retirees and benefit recipients.

“Our team, led by Tom Causey and Susan Fordham, decided not to wait until February to enact this increase in our members’ benefit payments,” explained Steve Toole, Executive Director of RSD. “By updating these tax schedules sooner, our members will see larger January benefit payments.”

Supreme timing

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday (January 18) suspended a lower court ruling that should eliminate drama and confusion leading to this November’s U.S. House of Representatives races across North Carolina.

Reports North State Journal, the SCOTUS’s decision “reduces the chance that the current district lines will be altered ahead of the November mid-term Congressional elections.”

The action voids a ruling earlier this month by a three-judge federal panel that imposed a January 24 deadline on North Carolina. This was the date by which legislators would have had to submit re-drawn maps for U.S. House districts. The lower court’s panel alleged that the state’s existing maps were unfair to “non-Republican” voters.

Re-districting committee chairmen Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) thanked the SCOTUS for giving potential candidates clarity as to filing and campaigning in the months ahead.

“We are grateful that a bipartisan U.S. Supreme Court has overwhelmingly halted the lower court’s 11th-hour attempt to intervene in election outcomes, restored certainty to voters, and ensured that, in the coming days, candidates for office can file in the least gerrymandered and most compact Congressional districts in modern state history.”

Beyond politics

Does everything have to be political? Does it always have to be about waging the battle to protect and, perhaps, save American values and Constitutional principles? Conservative Republicans can never give up the fight, not in an age that finds the Democrat party lurching toward unabashed socialism.

But, to answer the original question: No, party affiliation is not exclusively about political identity. We elect fellow citizens to serve the greater good, to help those in need and to keep our homeland safe. These are bipartisan objectives, or at least they should be. The most vicious lie perpetrated by the Left is that those of us across the aisle are heartless (thus, tax cuts “are for the rich” and real healthcare reform “takes your healthcare away” because “they want Granny to die, fast”).

Thus, we never can become indifferent toward whom we elect to make and uphold our laws — the fabric of our republic. But we also must support the unsung heroes in our communities, who serve the greater good by helping the many in need. Here in the Moore County Sandhills, citizens seeking no accolades wake up every morning committed to making a difference in these lives.

Aiming to broaden awareness of these people and the organizations they support, the Moore County Republican Party is proud to sponsor local radio vignettes produced by Connie Lovell for Community in Action. One recent segment describes how Southern Pines-based Bethany House provided a clean, sober living environment for a young woman named Jessica after she struggled for years with drug addiction. Today, Jessica is a nursing student at Sandhills Community College after residing in Bethany House for 11 months and liberating herself from the shackles of addiction.

This is Jessica’s story.

Community in Action introduces local agencies that offer assistance that builds opportunity. Spots air at 10:20 a.m. Saturdays on 102.5 FM, and at 12:50 p.m. Saturdays on 550 AM.