Deep concerns

Is it possible that escalating erosion of trust in our federal government is causing Democrats and Republicans, joined by independents, to find common ground in a nation seen as deeply divided? Perhaps even irreparably divided.

A new Monmouth University Polling Institute poll indicates that the entrenchment of a shadowy, post-Obama era “deep state” bothers those who embrace President Donald Trump as much as those who would cheer for a President Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

The poll, as reported by left-leaning The Hill, found that “74 percent of respondents believe in a ‘deep state’ when it is described as a collection of unelected officials running policy.”

“We usually expect opinions on the operation of government to shift depending on which party is in charge,” Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray said in a statement. “But there’s an ominous feeling by Democrats and Republicans alike that a ‘Deep State’ of unelected operatives are pulling the levers of power.”

Who are these operatives? They are everywhere. Former Congressional senior analyst Mike Lofgren, who toiled a total of 28 years on Capitol Hill, is author of The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, which lays out chilling insights.

Most significantly, “the Deep State does not consist only of government agencies,” Lofgren writes.

“In a special series in The Washington Post called ‘Top Secret America,’ Dana Priest and William K. Arkin described the scope of the privatized Deep State and the degree to which it has metastasized after the September 11 attacks. There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government.

“Seventy percent of the intelligence community’s budget goes to paying contracts. And the membrane between government and industry is highly permeable: The (former) Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, is a former executive of Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the government’s largest intelligence contractors. His predecessor as director, Admiral Mike McConnell, is the current vice chairman of the same company; Booz Allen is 99 percent dependent on government business. These contractors now set the political and social tone of Washington, just as they are increasingly setting the direction of the country, but they are doing it quietly, their doings unrecorded in the Congressional Record or the Federal Register, and are rarely subject to congressional hearings.”

A vast majority of the American media is complicit in concealing the machinations of the Deep State. In fact, the media is, in reality, a Deep State appendage. This explains why it is so diligent in its efforts to make villains and “threats to national security” out of benign characters in the Trump orbit such as Carter Page, Jared Kushner and George Papadopoulos.

Deep staters surely must chuckle at all of this from the shadows.

 

Dem delusion ‘revealed’

A reader of this blog kindly drew our attention to a content-rich web site, Constitution.com, operated by Atlanta-based editor Onan Coca, who oversees multiple digital platforms covering politics. His sites draw contributions from an extensive roster of writers and scholars.

One of Coca’s latest posts addresses that which is top of mind for both political parties, but especially Republicans — the 2018 midterm elections. His piece reviews all of the historical reasons why Republicans might/should lose majorities in the House and Senate. He points to the added Trump factor, which refers to fierce opposition to the President within his own party, along with the reality that “the GOP is incredibly unpopular” when the public is surveyed.

Finally, Republicans must contend with an increasingly biased (and corrupt) mainstream media, which has become an unapologetic appendage of the Democrat party in the age of Trump.

The grim tone of the dispatch, however, is presented under the sarcasm-laden headline, Secret Democrat Strategy for 2018 Discovered. The so-called “strategy”, Coca unveils, is rife with the ability to do widespread damage to the Dem’s 2018 prospects. In other words, Republicans must remain vigilant and determined to get out the vote, but should do so with less wrist wringing. Here’s why:

Just as the Republicans spent much of the last 25+ years shooting themselves in the foot and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the Democrats seem poised to be their own worst enemies come November 2018.

  • Gun “control”. Almost always a losing prospect for Democrats, Coca writes, and while many Americans may be unhappy in the wake of the Douglas High School shooting (in Parkland, Fla.), they’ve not necessarily shown any appetite for the Democrats extreme gun control proposals.
  • The Democrats just released their $1 TRILLION TAX HIKE plan that they hope America will support in November. It’s almost as if the Democrats think Americans hate it when the economy is doing well.
  • Illegal immigration policy. Democrats are moving away from any pretense of desiring to stem the tide of illegal immigration. In fact, their new united front, and with a sense of urgency, is centered around the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Democrat rock star, Sen. Kamala Harris (CA), was quickly rebutted across social media for merely suggesting that ICE plays an important role.

Democrats, perhaps more impacted than anyone imagined by Trump Delusion Syndrome, are planning to unleash a “blue wave” in 2018 thusly:

Gun Control, Tax Hikes, abolishing ICE and opening our borders. I cannot imagine a more disastrous platform to run a campaign on, but I’m not a Democrat, so I have a difficult time thinking of terrible ideas. It honestly seems as if the Democrats are trying their best to lose the 2018 midterm election, but that can’t be right. Can it?

 

Tariffs 101

By Harold Mendelson

It seems a lot of so called knowledgeable people are upset with President Donald Trump’s imported steel and aluminum tariffs. The general viewpoint is the tariffs will start a trade war and the U.S. economy will collapse.

Is it true the tariffs will destroy our economy? Well it is true that businesses generally hate tariffs, because they drive up the cost of imported materials used to make their products. If that is so, why would President Trump want to upset the economy?

If you look at the tariffs he has imposed, you will see there’s is a vagueness to his tariffs. Mexico and Canada are exempt for the time being. Why? President Trump wants to renegotiate NAFTA. NAFTA was the brainchild of then-President Clinton. It was designed to build up free trade between the U.S. and its North American neighbors. In the past 20 years, what has it accomplished? It certainly expanded trade between the nations of North America. It also allowed American companies to move manufacturing jobs off shore, where lower labor costs reduced manufacturing costs and raised net profits. The areas around Detroit and the rest of the rust belt states were turned into ghost towns. Auto plants and steel mills shut down. Supporting industries such as logistic companies shut down as well. You can’t make steel with the coke made from coal. NAFTA was a treaty that was much more beneficial to countries outside the U.S. So what can be done to fix the the disadvantages of NAFTA so the American economy isn’t hurt by the treaty? One way is to renegotiate NAFTA. Up to this point Mexico and Canada have been slow to agree to reopen the talks. After all, both nations realize any changes made to NAFTA will hurt their their economies. So President Trump is using the tariff as a bargaining chip. The same holds true for the rest of our international trading partners, including China. Most of the treaties the U.S. has entered into since NAFTA have put the U.S. at a disadvantage. President Trump has said these treaties were bad for the U.S. and pledges to renegotiate those treaties.

As for China, it has done it’s best to promote its economy at the expense of other nations’ economies. It manipulated its currency; it has been dumping steel and aluminum on the world markets for years. Ratan Tata, an Indian billionaire who made his money in the steel and aluminum industries as well as the auto industry, a number years ago reopened steel plants in the UK. Late last year he announced he was shutting down his UK operations because of the artificially low prices of steel exported from China. President Trump instituted these tariffs to equalize the prices of steel and aluminum coming from China and others nations that have been dumping their exports on the world market. He has publicly announced the tariffs will be ended when these imbalances are eliminated, and when product dumping ends and NAFTA is renegotiated.

Why impose tariffs and risk upsetting the world recovery? Because it puts the U.S. in a position of strength and influence. At long last.

Doer-in-Chief

While corrupt media outlets such as CNN promote their “White House in crisis” narratives 24/7, basking in the Mueller “investigation”, cheering Jared Kushner’s reduced security clearance status and Hope Hicks’ resignation, and staging town halls to exploit grieving and angry high school students from Parkland, Fla., Heritage Foundation staffers have been following an undeniable trend.

Working with Congress when possible (on tax cuts, principally), or through regulatory guidance, the Trump administration “had an extraordinarily successful first year.” That is the assessment of the Foundation’s Thomas Binion, director of congressional and executive branch relations.

The Heritage Foundation, a public policy think tank with a well-deserved reputation for holding politicians accountable, sets a high bar for incoming Presidents. It is known as the “Mandate for Leadership”, and it debuted in 1981 when Ronald Reagan launched his two-term presidency.

The Trump mandate is comprised of 334 unique policy recommendations, nearly two-thirds of which (64%) already have been adopted by Trump and his administration. Reports The Washington Examiner:

At this stage of his presidency, Reagan had completed 49 percent of the Heritage policy recommendations. “We’re blown away,” Binion said in an interview. Trump, he said, “is very active, very conservative, and very effective.”

While not all of the adopted policies received the fanfare of across-the-board tax cuts, or the successful nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States, they are squarely on Heritage Foundation’s radar. These are the major achievements, according to the Foundation:

  • Leaving the Paris Climate Accord: In August 2017, Trump announced the U.S. was ending its funding and membership in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
  • Repealing Net Neutrality: In December 2017, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission chairman proposed ending the 2015 network neutrality rules.
  • Reshaping National Monuments: Heritage’s recommendation to prohibit Land Acquisition (Cap and Reduce the Size of the Federal Estate) was adopted by Trump when he issued two executive orders effectively shrinking the size of national monuments in Utah.
  • Reinstating the Mexico City Policy: This executive order prevents taxpayer money from funding international groups involved in abortion and ending funding to the United Nations Population fund. On Jan. 23, 2017, in his first pro-life action, Trump signed an executive order today reinstating the Mexico City Policy.
  • Increasing Military Spending: Trump’s budget calls for a $54 billion increase in military spending to improve capacity, capability, and readiness of America’s armed forces.
  • Reforming Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF):The Trump administration adopted and is in favor of strengthening existing work requirements in order to receive benefits.
  • Allowing Development of Natural Resources: The Trump administration opened off-shore drilling and on federal lands. Executive Order 13783 directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to commence federal land coal leasing activities.
  • Reforming Government Agencies: Trump tasked each of his Cabinet secretaries to prepare detailed plans on how they propose to reduce the scope and size of their respective departments while streamlining services and ensuring each department runs more efficiently and handles tax dollars appropriately.
  • Withdrawing from UNESCO: In October 2017, Trump announced he was putting an end to U.S. membership in the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

These are but a few examples of what former Trump deputy assistant and strategist Sebastian Gorka characterizes as the Trump “revolution” playing out before our eyes. If Republicans will continue to embrace Trump’s ambitions to steamroll reform through Congress and deliver for his supporters, Gorka forecasts a dismal November 2018 for Democrats in the mid-term elections. Writing for The Hill, Gorka opines:

If Republicans understand just how revolutionary and system-smashing an event like the election of Trump was, and they hitch their future to his brand of anti-establishment leadership, there will be no hope for the Democrats come November.

Donald Trump has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to learn at the wheel. Now the question is, have the professional politicians learned and internalized just how revolutionary the times we are living in actually are?

 

Courting judicial overreach

North Carolina is one of six states facing uncertainty as to how federal court influence could change traditional procedures through which district maps — Congressional and state legislative — are drawn or re-drawn.

The outlook for 2018 is that no significant upheaval looms in our state, owed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s restraint in weighing in on lawsuits related to map redrawing with a mid-term election approaching. Yet, in three other states, SCOTUS rulings are expected to complicate voting dynamics in the short term.

This is but the calm before the storm. Writes NPR’s Domenico Montanaro: “By June, the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to decide three major redistricting cases — out of Wisconsin, Maryland and Texas — that will lay some of the foundation for what the maps will look like, not just this year, but after the 2020 census that could affect control of Congress for the next decade.”

Democrats are convinced that activist judges can help them dominate gerrymandering into perpetuity. Courts are increasingly seen as willing policymakers by the left.

The Wall Street Journal, in a February 21 editorial, forecasts the ominous trend:

While the U.S. Supreme Court has held that partisan gerrymanders may violate the U.S. Constitution, it has been unable to articulate a precise legal standard. Democrats are now trying to tempt the Supreme Court into intervening in the intrinsically political redistricting process with social-science methodology that purportedly measures proper representation.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently not only was tempted, but defiantly struck down, with a 5-2 liberal majority, a Congressional map drawn by that state’s GOP legislature in 2011. “With the help of Stanford University law professor Nathan Persily they drafted their own new map (Feb. 19) for use in the May primaries after (Democrat) Governor (Tom Wolf) and the legislature failed to agree,” The Wall Street Journal explained.

And what does Pennsylvania portend? Writes the Journal editorial board:

Pennsylvania will be the future in every state if the Justices decide that judges should be redistricting kings.

 

 

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.