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.

NC leads on free speech

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and fellow state Republicans go into 2018 with considerable momentum, owed to last year’s numerous legislative victories and despite ever looming veto threats and lawsuits courtesy of Democrat Governor Roy Cooper.

In a December 31 op-ed for North State Journal, Forest summarized legislation that originated in his office in 2017. In particular, he heralded adoption of a Campus Free Speech Act by the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina system, which “helps restore and preserve free speech on our public university campuses.”

While this objective might strike some as common sense and overdue, the law places North Carolina and its public universities squarely in a position of national leadership at a time when disrupting campus speech — in classrooms and in public forums, or by forcing speakers to be “disinvited” — has emerged as a core tactic in the left’s so-called “resist” movement. As the Democrat party moves further left and pursues an ever more radically progressive agenda, college campuses are devolving into battlegrounds, thick with tension.

The NC law (HB527), sponsored by Rep. Chris Mills (R-Pender), inevitably will become a substantive pillar on which Forest can campaign in his likely run for the Governor’s mansion in 2020, especially if Forest is forced to contend with a field of other Republicans — Phil Berger, Pat McCrory, or U.S. Senator Thom Tillis — for the nomination. When he hits the campaign trail, Forest would be wise to repeat the words he wrote in his North State Journal op-ed last month.

The job of government and our universities is not to shield individuals from speech they might find offensive, but to commit to the principles of free speech, including spontaneous demonstration and access to campus consistent with the First Amendment.

Forest and fellow Republicans also have a golden opportunity to remind voters — often — that the bill passed into law without Cooper’s signature. His inaction was not unintentional. Cooper didn’t forget to sign it. So what was his underlying message to Democrats in North Carolina and beyond?

In its reporting on the bill’s passage, Generation Opportunity state director Anna Beavon Gravely told Carolina Journal that it appears Cooper supports campus environments “where unelected employees of state government are able to intimidate into silence the views that are not their own.”

If the sitting Governor of North Carolina believes that, it is never too early to begin working to unseat him. Let it begin now.

 

Tired of winning yet?

The Washington Examiner unwrapped an early Christmas present today, publishing a list of 81 major victories by the Trump administration in 12 categories since President Donald Trump was inaugurated last January 20.

Jobs and the economy

  • Passage of the tax reform bill providing $5.5 billion in cuts and repealing the Obamacare mandate.
  • Increase of the GDP above 3 percent.
  • Creation of 1.7 million new jobs, cutting unemployment to 4.1 percent.
  • Saw the Dow Jones reach record highs.
  • A rebound in economic confidence to a 17-year high.
  • A new executive order to boost apprenticeships.
  • A move to boost computer sciences in Education Department programs.
  • Prioritizing women-owned businesses for some $500 million in SBA loans.

Killing job-stifling regulations

  • Signed an Executive Order demanding that two regulations be killed for every new one creates. He beat that big and cut 16 rules and regulations for every one created, saving $8.1 billion.
  • Signed 15 congressional regulatory cuts.
  • Withdrew from the Obama-era Paris Climate Agreement, ending the threat of environmental regulations.
  • Signed an Executive Order cutting the time for infrastructure permit approvals.
  • Eliminated an Obama rule on streams that Trump felt unfairly targeted the coal industry.

Fair trade

  • Made good on his campaign promise to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Opened up the North American Free Trade Agreement for talks to better the deal for the U.S.
  • Worked to bring companies back to the U.S., and companies like Toyota, Mazda, Broadcom Limited, and Foxconn announced plans to open U.S. plants.
  • Worked to promote the sale of U.S products abroad.
  • Made enforcement of U.S. trade laws, especially those that involve national security, a priority.
  • Ended Obama’s deal with Cuba.

Boosting U.S. energy dominance

  • The Department of Interior, which has led the way in cutting regulations, opened plans to lease 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling.
  • Trump traveled the world to promote the sale and use of U.S. energy.
  • Expanded energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline snubbed by Obama.
  • Ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
  • EPA is reconsidering Obama rules on methane emissions.

Protecting the U.S. homeland

  • Laid out new principles for reforming immigration and announced plan to end “chain migration,” which lets one legal immigrant to bring in dozens of family members.
  • Made progress to build the border wall with Mexico.
  • Ended the Obama-era “catch and release” of illegal immigrants.
  • Boosted the arrests of illegals inside the U.S.
  • Doubled the number of counties participating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement charged with deporting illegals.
  • Removed 36 percent more criminal gang members than in fiscal 2016.
  • Started the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program.
  • Ditto for other amnesty programs like Deferred Action for Parents of Americans.
  • Cracking down on some 300 sanctuary cities that defy ICE but still get federal dollars.
  • Added some 100 new immigration judges.

Protecting communities

  • Justice announced grants of $98 million to fund 802 new cops.
  • Justice worked with Central American nations to arrest and charge 4,000 MS-13 members.
  • Homeland rounded up nearly 800 MS-13 members, an 83 percent one-year increase.
  • Signed three executive orders aimed at cracking down on international criminal organizations.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions created new National Public Safety Partnership, a cooperative initiative with cities to reduce violent crimes.

Accountability

  • Trump has nominated 73 federal judges and won his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
  • Ordered ethical standards including a lobbying ban.
  • Called for a comprehensive plan to reorganize the executive branch.
  • Ordered an overhaul to modernize the digital government.
  • Called for a full audit of the Pentagon and its spending.

Combatting opioids

  • First, the president declared a Nationwide Public Health Emergency on opioids.
  • His Council of Economic Advisors played a role in determining that overdoses are underreported by as much as 24 percent.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services laid out a new five-point strategy to fight the crisis.
  • Justice announced it was scheduling fentanyl substances as a drug class under the Controlled Substances Act.
  • Justice started a fraud crackdown, arresting more than 400.
  • The administration added $500 million to fight the crisis.
  • On National Drug Take Back Day, the Drug Enforcement Agency collected 456 tons.

Protecting life

  • In his first week, Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy that blocks some $9 billion in foreign aid being used for abortions.
  • Worked with Congress on a bill overturning an Obama regulation that blocked states from defunding abortion providers.
  • Published guidance to block Obamacare money from supporting abortion.

Helping veterans

  • Signed the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act to allow senior officials in the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire failing employees and establish safeguards to protect whistleblowers.
  • Signed the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act.
  • Signed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, to provide support.
  • Signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017 to authorize $2.1 billion in additional funds for the Veterans Choice Program.
  • Created a VA hotline.
  • Had the VA launch an online “Access and Quality Tool,” providing veterans with a way to access wait time and quality of care data.
  • With VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin, announced three initiatives to expand access to healthcare for veterans using telehealth technology.

Promoting peace through strength

  • Directed the rebuilding of the military and ordered a new national strategy and nuclear posture review.
  • Worked to increase defense spending.
  • Empowered military leaders to “seize the initiative and win,” reducing the need for a White House sign off on every mission.
  • Directed the revival of the National Space Council to develop space war strategies.
  • Elevated U.S. Cyber Command into a major warfighting command.
  • Withdrew from the U.N. Global Compact on Migration, which Trump saw as a threat to borders.
  • Imposed a travel ban on nations that lack border and anti-terrorism security.
  • Saw ISIS lose virtually all of its territory.
  • Pushed for strong action against global outlaw North Korea and its development of nuclear weapons.
  • Announced a new Afghanistan strategy that strengthens support for U.S. forces at war with terrorism.
  • NATO increased support for the war in Afghanistan.
  • Approved a new Iran strategy plan focused on neutralizing the country’s influence in the region.
  • Ordered missile strikes against a Syrian airbase used in a chemical weapons attack.
  • Prevented subsequent chemical attacks by announcing a plan to detect them better and warned of future strikes if they were used.
  • Ordered new sanctions on the dictatorship in Venezuela.

Restoring confidence in and respect for America

  • Trump won the release of Americans held abroad, often using his personal relationships with world leaders.
  • Made good on a campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
  • Conducted a historic 12-day trip through Asia, winning new cooperative deals. On the trip, he attended three regional summits to promote American interests.
  • He traveled to the Middle East and Europe to build new relationships with leaders.
  • Traveled to Poland and on to German for the G-20 meeting where he pushed again for funding of women entrepreneurs.

 

Amazon-mania

Amid frenzied speculation about Amazon’s search for a so-called “second headquarters” (HQ2) beyond its mothership in Seattle — 238 cities and/or regions are bidding — the data point emphasized repeatedly is 50,000. As in 50,000 Amazon jobs materializing to boost the economy of the winning applicant. (Charlotte, Hickory, Raleigh and the Triad are North Carolina’s candidates).

But job creation is only one variable in the high stakes scenario. The quest to win over Amazon requires far more than producing slick chamber-of-commerce video presentations. The corporate welfare phenomenon, nothing new, is about behemoths shamelessly plunging cities and states into a cash incentivizing orgy, which is precisely why organizations like Generation Opportunity cast a skeptical eye on Amazon mania.

GO’s North Carolina state director, Anna Beavon Gravely, in an op-ed published by North State Journal, does the math on the Amazon gambit:

Away from the spotlight you will find the losers of corporate welfare: the small businesses struggling to stay afloat, the young entrepreneurs who can’t compete with established interests, and the taxpayers who are forced to pick up the tab.

Gravely notes that under the first-year administration of Gov. Roy Cooper, North Carolina has handed out $125 million as suitors of insurer AXA and financial giant Credit Suisse, among others. Cooper (and governors nationwide) are quick to give themselves credit for thousands of incoming jobs, 1,200 at Credit Suisse and 550 at AXA. But the financial incentives that brought them here makes the creation of one job a very pricey investment. A single job created at Credit Suisse’s Raleigh campus cost taxpayers $33,500 because it received $40.2 million worth of incentives.

Corporate welfare enthusiasts like Cooper will always try to justify it as “creating jobs.” But as we’ve seen here in North Carolina, lowering and simplifying taxes for everybody does far more to create jobs than special handouts for the few.

Just look at the extraordinary progress our state has made in recent years. Since 2011, the General Assembly has lowered personal and corporate income tax rates, eliminated the estate tax and simplified other business taxes. This year, lawmakers overrode Cooper’s veto to enact even more tax cuts for North Carolinians, which will result in $476.4 million in savings for businesses over the next five years.

Amazon is the standard bearer of no-hassle e-commerce deliveries, but it’s proving to be more than capable of receiving. New Jersey has offered Amazon a mind boggling $7 billion across the next decade. Irvine, Calif., took a straightforward approach. Amazon estimates HQ2 will cost $5 billion, so Irvine suggested its taxpayers underwrite the entire project.

Gravely and her colleagues at Generation Opportunity believe future economic growth will be driven by millennial entrepreneurs, who are launching new businesses at twice the rate of their parents’ generation. If Amazon decides that North Carolina is an ideal place to go forward with HQ2, roll the red carpet but not at the expense of small businesses, the engines of the state’s booming economy.

Small business 101

Writes one Lowell Simon of Seven Lakes, NC, in a letter published by The Pilot in its Dec. 10 editions, “Can someone please point me to a third-party source that says the GOP tax plan will help small businesses?”

Our gut reaction is to answer his question with one of our own. Can someone please identify a third-party source that says a GOP tax reform bill will hurt small businesses, or for that matter, corporations or individual taxpayers? One third-party who explained this concisely came quickly to mind. He had this to say about cutting federal taxes, in general:

An economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenues to balance our budget — just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits. Surely the lesson of the last decade is that budget deficits are not caused by wild-eyed spenders but by slow economic growth and periodic recessions.

This third-party message was delivered in December 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The Democrat Party JFK was affiliated with was so dramatically more centrist than today’s far-left Democrat Party, surely we now can accurately identify JFK as a third-party voice.

Mr. Simon might agree or disagree with this premise, but we’re fairly certain as to what he’d ask next. “What does this philosophical viewpoint have to do with tax reform helping small businesses entering 2018?” Answer: It has everything to do with an improved economic outlook for small business owners, employees and customers, which is what the pending tax reform bill being debated by Congressional Republicans will accomplish over time.

Small business owners are essentially self-employed individuals. Their income is not taxed as if they are an entity, such as a corporation. Their profit is their income and is taxed at individual rates, known as pass-through taxation, within their household federal tax return. Unlike an independent contractor (such as a lawyer or tax advisor), small business owners contemplate their after-tax income more broadly. If it’s a start-up small business, the owner often contemplates allocating some of his income back to the business. Perhaps a new piece of equipment is needed. Perhaps he wants to launch a radio ad campaign to raise awareness of the new business. Most small business owners do not think of a tax break as the government “lining their pockets”.

So, back to the question, how do the GOP tax reform bills (one passed by the House; the other passed by the Senate) help small businesses? Without getting into the weeds of when or if a small business owner qualifies for pass-through taxation (assume the mom-and-pop businesses and franchised stores you frequent in your community do), here is a third-party overview by the Director of Investment Planning for The Motley Fool, Dan Caplinger:

The Senate decided to give small businesses a tax break by offering their owners a deduction on a portion of the income that passes through to their individual tax returns. Under the final proposal, qualifying business owners will be able to deduct 23% of their pass-through income on their tax returns, subject to a limit of 50% of wage income in order to prevent potential abuse.

Rather than offering a deduction, the House suggested changing the tax rate that applied to the business income that pass-through businesses generated. A maximum tax rate of 25% would have applied to pass-through income, but limitations would have treated 70% of income as wages at the full ordinary tax rate unless a business could prove that a different percentage was appropriate. An even lower rate of 9% would apply to businesses earnings less than $75,000. Professional services companies, such as those operated by lawyers and accountants, would have been excluded from the preferential rate entirely.

It is obvious, to some, that either approach would be a welcome benefit to the small business owner, who heretofore might have seen his total household income (business income plus, as an example, a spouse’s income as a school teacher) taxed at 35%.

We mention that help being contemplated for small businesses is obvious to some because yet another third-party report on the subject, by the polling agency SurveyMonkey, finds that small business owners who identify as Democrats dispute the merits of the tax reform bills:

For those small-business owners who identify as Republicans or who lean toward the GOP, tax reform couldn’t come soon enough. A huge majority (85 percent) supports the passage of the tax reform. These data come from the newest CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, conducted Nov. 20–Dec. 4 among 2,043 small-business owners.

Democratic-siding small-business owners take a harder line. Eight in 10 (80 percent) oppose the tax reform proposals, and they do not mince words when asked about their thoughts. “Unfair” is the most frequently mentioned single-word response, but “rich” and “wealthy” come up frequently in longer responses, as in, “It’s not a reform, it’s a tax cut for the wealthy.”

The ideological polarization that defines 21st Century America apparently is so entrenched that even some small business owners would forgo tax relief in order to stop “big (evil) corporations” from seeing relief from burdensome taxation as well.

So misguided is this logic that we must harken back to the words of American economist Walter E. Williams, cited by this blog in October. Wrote Williams, explaining the crippling impact of our nation’s 38.91% tax on corporate earnings (proposed to be reduced to 20% by both pending bills):

If a tax is levied on a corporation, it will have one of four responses or some combination thereof. It will raise the price of its product, lower dividends, cut salaries, or lay off workers. In each case, a flesh-and-blood person bears the tax burden.

 

 

Taxing distortions

In a Twitter post, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis this week called out a Washington Post reporter’s visit to Burlington, NC, where he sought to demonstrate that pending Republican legislation to cut taxes and liberate businesses offers little relief to the little guy. The premise of the Post report is that the state’s tax cutting endeavors have done next to nothing to help small business so, by extension, federal tax relief is likely to have minimal impact going forward.

The Post obviously assigned the reporter to find a rural business owner who is, for whatever reason, an unhappy camper in a state where many businesses are thriving, and into which new businesses are relocating.

The extremes to which the Left is going to stop the unleashing of the full potential of the American economy is not limited to the corrupt mainstream media. It is seeping into our own community.

Apparently, it is the policy of our local liberal house organ, The Pilot newspaper, to allow a reader to submit a letter-to-the-editor that does little more than regurgitate extreme Left Wing talking points. There is scarcely a thread of truth in this missive by the misinformed Ms. MeNeish. She laments over “a few years of tiny (tax) cuts”. About half the U.S. population pays no federal or state taxes, thus can not be granted a “cut”. The highest producers (in the 39.6% bracket) are not likely to see a federal tax cut, even a tiny one, and some very high earners might find themselves in a new 45% bracket, pending the final terms of the bill. The author also claims tax reform will “make it harder for young people to go to college”. This obviously is drawn from warnings by people such as University of North Carolina President Maragaret Spellings who oppose the removal of tax deductions for private giving (to schools such as UNC). But why does she assume that, for example, a UNC alum who owns a successful business, would not give more to the school as his tax burden declines, even absent a deduction for his charitable activity? This seems to suggest that her alums care little about the institution but give only to add a deduction to their filings. Quite an insult. How, you ask, does the elimination of private giving deductions “make it harder for young people to go to college”? Because the Left accepts that tuitions must continue to skyrocket and, thus, youngsters will need academic scholarships more than ever. Left unsaid is that many of these scholarships go to students who are not U.S. citizens.

Ms. MeNeish also wrings her wrists about tax reform burdening “our children and grandchildren with more than $1 trillion in addtional federal debt.” This is based on models that are typically inaccurate and on the smear campaign now being waged by billionaire investor Tom Steyer, who writes this week in the Wall Street Journal that tax cuts for “the wealthy” will be “paid for with money taken out of the pockets of working Americans and their children.” This outlook defies the outcomes of the economic impact of the last sweeping reform, under President Reagan in 1986, which handed President Clinton a booming economy throughout the 1990s. Projected debt increases under the current government spending trajectory — apart from tax reform becoming reality — far exceed $1 trillion over the next decade (the Congressional Budget Office estimates $10 million). Easy to dismiss, apparently. But, worse, her misgivings also conveniently ignore the $9 trillion in federal debt added during the eight unchecked years of spending under President Obama. Are her children and grandchildren somehow unscathed by Obama’s reckless legacy?

Tale of ‘The Tape’

The markets referred to daily in the financial press are composed of Wall Street trading on regulated stock exchanges, less formal Over the Counter (NASDAQ) markets, organized commodity exchanges worldwide, and specialized trading in major financial centers across the globe.

Old timers often refer to price reporting as “the tape”, a reference to a 19th century telegraphic system that reported individual security transactions. By extension, one “fighting the tape” meant going against factual trends (i.e., the markets are poised to remain positive) because he presumes to be better informed. This also would be known as a contrarian.

In a vast industrial sector, price levels are indicative of anticipated corporate performance. Recent markets that have risen to record breaking levels have given huge thumbs up to GOP economics and the leadership of President Donald J. Trump.

High speed electronic data transfers have sent Edison’s ticker tape to museums. Modern trading desks are where authority to assume billions of dollars of risk is granted to alert young people who may not have reached their 30th birthdays.

Many believe the free market performance in a competitive marketplace driven by perfect competition is the most reliable indicator of future pricing of equities and commodities. Perfect competition is defined as the situation prevailing in a market in which buyers and sellers are so numerous and well informed that all elements of monopoly are absent, and the market price of a commodity is beyond the control of any single individual buyer or seller. It is a classical economic theory.

The world’s trading in wheat, crude oil, strategic metals and international markets for a nation’s currency, provide spot pricing (today) or a fixed future price defined by delivery at distant point of time. A user of cotton, for example, will set his raw material cost by purchasing a given amount of the commodity at a fixed price for future delivery. Sellers of cotton, farmers for example, eliminate market risk by selling their anticipated production for future delivery.

There are many investors who enter the market as speculators and their risk is their own capital based on an individual analysis of market conditions. Publicly traded stocks anticipate corporate earnings and dividends and a rising equity price indicates belief in an enterprise’s growth over time. Collective wisdom, many economists believe, has a superior predictive capability.

So, today’s “tape” is saying that tax reductions, less regulation and decentralization of decision making is good for most Americans. Anticipated growth seems to be a more laudable goal than redistribution, espoused by the left.

Let’s turn to the anti-Trump political climate that emanates from believers in progressivism. They believe so strongly in government control they are unrealistic in their analysis of public data. They are fighting the tape.

The Trump assertive leadership, while something new to Washington, has found favor among Americans. Wall Street performance says so and all the tales of gloom and doom from the disciples of the FDR New Deal and the Johnson Great Society are clearly backward looking using faulty economic logic. Similarly flawed logic was expressed, ahead of Trump’s election, by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who predicted that a Trump victory would trigger an economic collapse from which the United States might never recover.

Current Democrat party leadership has adopted a policy they have called “The Resistance.” This is proving to be not very useful thinking to combat international threats stirring in North Korea and Iran to world peace and prosperity. It is a policy risk that is devoid of constructive thinking at a time when it may be clear to voters that policy changes are urgently needed.

The party of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), California Gov. Jerry Brown, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is not the party of FDR, Kennedy, or even Barack Obama. It offers no ideas about production and preaches consumption with fairness predicated on a system that buries individual responsibility.

American success is due to creative individuals who shoulder responsibility, show up on time and take pride in a job well done. Collective performance leads to collective prosperity. Yet the Democrat Party continues fighting the tape.

– Walter B. Bull, Jr.