Category: Jon N. Hall

NeverTrumps and Fox News


Although the truly florid lunacy concerning the Trump presidency is confined to the political left, we can’t forget the other breed of anti-Trumpism on the political right: the #NeverTrump movement.  These folks are the conservatives, the libertarians, and (especially) the establishment Republicans who were staunchly against Trump from the moment he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 to announce his candidacy.

NeverTrumps got heavyweight support from the February 15, 2016 issue of National Review, the cover of which was emblazoned with “Against Trump.”  Since “never” means never, there seems to be no assuaging these folks, many of whom are the stars of conservatism – i.e., intellectuals whom many right-wingers admire.  Here’s a list of well-known NeverTrumps.  Some NeverTrumps, however, may be faux conservatives.

During most of the 2016 campaign, I was not a Trump-supporter, as I thought Trump would do nothing less than take down the whole Republican Party with him.  In fact, I wrote maybe 15 articles for American Thinker urging primary voters, convention delegates, party committees, and anyone interested to back someone else.  I my-damn-self voted for Ted Cruz in the Missouri primary, and not because I was hot and heavy for Sen. Cruz, but because I feared ruination of the party.  And if primary voters didn’t do as I urged, then I wanted them to be ignored by delegates.  Even so, in the first of those 2016 articles calling for the GOP to go with someone else, I indicated that I would vote for Mr. Trump if he were the nominee, and that I did.  So this kid was never a NeverTrump.

On Dec. 29, 2017, the New York Times ran “Why I’m Still a NeverTrumper” by Bret Stephens.  Stephens starts his column well and even acknowledges the several successes of Trump’s first year.  But he then admits that he still wishes Hillary Clinton were president and wonders whether he’s really a conservative.  (My dear Bret, you seem to have gone over to the Dark Side.)

Some of President Trump’s most visible and vocal supporters are on FNC, the Fox News Channel.  Because Fox News has long been the bête noire of the radical left, when NeverTrumps rail against Fox News, they need to be aware of whom they’re getting in bed with.

On March 30, the Washington Post ran “Why I left Fox News” by Colonel Ralph Peters.  The article seems to have created a stir.  When one Googles the first sentence of the article, 992,000 hits come back.  The article was also run in McClatchy newspapers.  Col. Peters is not a regular at the Post, but he does have his own column (archive) at the other Post, the New York Post, Alexander Hamilton’s old newspaper, which happens to be owned by News Corp, a Rupert Murdoch company, as is 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox News.  (Let’s hope the good colonel doesn’t burn all his bridges.)

Over the years, I’ve appreciated Col. Peters’s appearances on Fox News, but this article has problems.  Peters trots out Fox’s attacks on institutions as though there are no problems with America’s institutions.  Don’t pretend there’s nothing wrong with our institutions, Colonel; they’re the problem.  Peters also talks about “Fox’s assault on our constitutional order” but provides no examples of such.

What probably provoked Peters’s article was the March 20 BuzzFeed leak of his Fox News resignation email, which was followed the next day by an article in the Post by Max Boot: “A conservative commentator revolts against Fox News.”  But whereas Peters showed some grace and equanimity in his article and even thanks his Fox colleagues, Boot isn’t so nice.  The last paragraph of Boot’s article contains one of the more deranged statements I’ve encountered by a NeverTrump (italics added): “Fox News’s creation in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was one of the most damaging developments in modern American history.”

It’s a pity that there are no editors at the once decent Washington Post charged with protecting their writers from making fools of themselves.  Incidentally, you can find Mr. Boot on the list of NeverTrumps above.  He supposedly endorsed Hillary Clinton (and yet he thinks he’s a conservative).

The reason Boot might have it in for Fox is because he didn’t acquit himself well there in July of last year when he appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight, which you can watch at RealClearPolitics.  That appearance was the day after Col. Peters had appeared on the same show; watch the whole exchange at RCP, or just the fiery moments on Twitter.  Tucker may be the most gentlemanly host on cable news, but don’t call him a Nazi, a quisling, or a Putin accommodationist unless you’re ready to rumble.

The reason some NeverTrumps have it in for Fox News is not because the company hired Tucker Carlson to take over the time slot of Mr. Big (i.e., Bill O’Reilly).  Mr. Carlson isn’t a Trump apologist (I can make that assessment because I watch the guy every night).  Rather, the reason NeverTrumps have their panties in a bunch over Fox News is the guy who follows Carlson: Sean Hannity, who refers to the MSM as the “Destroy Trump Media,” which he promises never to be.

Democrats and the radical left have put their hopes for getting rid of Trump in the Mueller probe. But that all seems to be boomeranging; what the Democrats have accused Trump of doing is what they actually did.  For months now, Hannity’s program has doggedly focused on Democrat scandals, and they hate him for it.  Hannity’s show may well be the tip of the spear in uncovering wrongdoing in the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.  And it’s the loons of the left whom NeverTrumps are now grouped with.  The NeverTrumps are more concerned about possible crimes that candidate Trump may have committed than with the demonstrable undeniable crimes committed by candidate Clinton.  They care more about getting Trump than cleaning up the corruption, the institutional rot, at the top of the FBI and the Department of Justice.

What happened in the 2016 general election still seems a miracle, especially when one factors in the GOP’s success on the state level: Trump had coattails to burn.  A cogent case might be made that the most important thing Trump did was to save us from the Dragon Lady.  Had Mrs. Clinton won, it’s doubtful that any of what we’ve been learning on Fox News about the DOJ, the FBI, the FISA court, the Steele dossier, etc. would have come to light.  America will cease being America if we continue to have a two-tiered justice system.  Mrs. Clinton, her campaign, and all Deep State malefactors need to face the music.

Trump could denuclearize North Korea, could get the economy humming along at 4-percent growth, turn water into wine, and many NeverTrumps would persist in their disdain of The Donald.  Why?  Could it be a deep fear of not being taken seriously, of being irrelevant?  Perhaps they’re more concerned about being shown to have been wrong than about everything blowing up.

A wise old defense secretary once said, “You go to war with the army you have.”  Well, you run a country with the president you have.  If Trump has some deficiencies, then let us work to help him.  He’s done some fine things since he’s been in office, some very conservative things.  Even Bret Stephens admits it.

Without Fox News, America would be much deeper into socialism than she already is.  Fox News is all we conservatarians have on the boob tube.  If Rupert’s son decides to lurch left in the programming on Fox News, it’ll be enough for this kid to finally “cut the cord.”

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.

Although the truly florid lunacy concerning the Trump presidency is confined to the political left, we can’t forget the other breed of anti-Trumpism on the political right: the #NeverTrump movement.  These folks are the conservatives, the libertarians, and (especially) the establishment Republicans who were staunchly against Trump from the moment he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 to announce his candidacy.

NeverTrumps got heavyweight support from the February 15, 2016 issue of National Review, the cover of which was emblazoned with “Against Trump.”  Since “never” means never, there seems to be no assuaging these folks, many of whom are the stars of conservatism – i.e., intellectuals whom many right-wingers admire.  Here’s a list of well-known NeverTrumps.  Some NeverTrumps, however, may be faux conservatives.

During most of the 2016 campaign, I was not a Trump-supporter, as I thought Trump would do nothing less than take down the whole Republican Party with him.  In fact, I wrote maybe 15 articles for American Thinker urging primary voters, convention delegates, party committees, and anyone interested to back someone else.  I my-damn-self voted for Ted Cruz in the Missouri primary, and not because I was hot and heavy for Sen. Cruz, but because I feared ruination of the party.  And if primary voters didn’t do as I urged, then I wanted them to be ignored by delegates.  Even so, in the first of those 2016 articles calling for the GOP to go with someone else, I indicated that I would vote for Mr. Trump if he were the nominee, and that I did.  So this kid was never a NeverTrump.

On Dec. 29, 2017, the New York Times ran “Why I’m Still a NeverTrumper” by Bret Stephens.  Stephens starts his column well and even acknowledges the several successes of Trump’s first year.  But he then admits that he still wishes Hillary Clinton were president and wonders whether he’s really a conservative.  (My dear Bret, you seem to have gone over to the Dark Side.)

Some of President Trump’s most visible and vocal supporters are on FNC, the Fox News Channel.  Because Fox News has long been the bête noire of the radical left, when NeverTrumps rail against Fox News, they need to be aware of whom they’re getting in bed with.

On March 30, the Washington Post ran “Why I left Fox News” by Colonel Ralph Peters.  The article seems to have created a stir.  When one Googles the first sentence of the article, 992,000 hits come back.  The article was also run in McClatchy newspapers.  Col. Peters is not a regular at the Post, but he does have his own column (archive) at the other Post, the New York Post, Alexander Hamilton’s old newspaper, which happens to be owned by News Corp, a Rupert Murdoch company, as is 21st Century Fox, which owns Fox News.  (Let’s hope the good colonel doesn’t burn all his bridges.)

Over the years, I’ve appreciated Col. Peters’s appearances on Fox News, but this article has problems.  Peters trots out Fox’s attacks on institutions as though there are no problems with America’s institutions.  Don’t pretend there’s nothing wrong with our institutions, Colonel; they’re the problem.  Peters also talks about “Fox’s assault on our constitutional order” but provides no examples of such.

What probably provoked Peters’s article was the March 20 BuzzFeed leak of his Fox News resignation email, which was followed the next day by an article in the Post by Max Boot: “A conservative commentator revolts against Fox News.”  But whereas Peters showed some grace and equanimity in his article and even thanks his Fox colleagues, Boot isn’t so nice.  The last paragraph of Boot’s article contains one of the more deranged statements I’ve encountered by a NeverTrump (italics added): “Fox News’s creation in 1996 by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was one of the most damaging developments in modern American history.”

It’s a pity that there are no editors at the once decent Washington Post charged with protecting their writers from making fools of themselves.  Incidentally, you can find Mr. Boot on the list of NeverTrumps above.  He supposedly endorsed Hillary Clinton (and yet he thinks he’s a conservative).

The reason Boot might have it in for Fox is because he didn’t acquit himself well there in July of last year when he appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight, which you can watch at RealClearPolitics.  That appearance was the day after Col. Peters had appeared on the same show; watch the whole exchange at RCP, or just the fiery moments on Twitter.  Tucker may be the most gentlemanly host on cable news, but don’t call him a Nazi, a quisling, or a Putin accommodationist unless you’re ready to rumble.

The reason some NeverTrumps have it in for Fox News is not because the company hired Tucker Carlson to take over the time slot of Mr. Big (i.e., Bill O’Reilly).  Mr. Carlson isn’t a Trump apologist (I can make that assessment because I watch the guy every night).  Rather, the reason NeverTrumps have their panties in a bunch over Fox News is the guy who follows Carlson: Sean Hannity, who refers to the MSM as the “Destroy Trump Media,” which he promises never to be.

Democrats and the radical left have put their hopes for getting rid of Trump in the Mueller probe. But that all seems to be boomeranging; what the Democrats have accused Trump of doing is what they actually did.  For months now, Hannity’s program has doggedly focused on Democrat scandals, and they hate him for it.  Hannity’s show may well be the tip of the spear in uncovering wrongdoing in the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.  And it’s the loons of the left whom NeverTrumps are now grouped with.  The NeverTrumps are more concerned about possible crimes that candidate Trump may have committed than with the demonstrable undeniable crimes committed by candidate Clinton.  They care more about getting Trump than cleaning up the corruption, the institutional rot, at the top of the FBI and the Department of Justice.

What happened in the 2016 general election still seems a miracle, especially when one factors in the GOP’s success on the state level: Trump had coattails to burn.  A cogent case might be made that the most important thing Trump did was to save us from the Dragon Lady.  Had Mrs. Clinton won, it’s doubtful that any of what we’ve been learning on Fox News about the DOJ, the FBI, the FISA court, the Steele dossier, etc. would have come to light.  America will cease being America if we continue to have a two-tiered justice system.  Mrs. Clinton, her campaign, and all Deep State malefactors need to face the music.

Trump could denuclearize North Korea, could get the economy humming along at 4-percent growth, turn water into wine, and many NeverTrumps would persist in their disdain of The Donald.  Why?  Could it be a deep fear of not being taken seriously, of being irrelevant?  Perhaps they’re more concerned about being shown to have been wrong than about everything blowing up.

A wise old defense secretary once said, “You go to war with the army you have.”  Well, you run a country with the president you have.  If Trump has some deficiencies, then let us work to help him.  He’s done some fine things since he’s been in office, some very conservative things.  Even Bret Stephens admits it.

Without Fox News, America would be much deeper into socialism than she already is.  Fox News is all we conservatarians have on the boob tube.  If Rupert’s son decides to lurch left in the programming on Fox News, it’ll be enough for this kid to finally “cut the cord.”

Jon N. Hall of ULTRACON OPINION is a programmer from Kansas City.



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Delinquent Debt in America: To Forgive or Not to Forgive


Back in the 1800s in Great Britain, those who couldn’t pay back their loans would be sent to “the workhouse,” AKA debtors’ prison, where they would be forced to work off their arrearage – i.e., their delinquent debt.  Consequently, taking on debt was a serious undertaking back in jolly old Dickensian England.  But then it was a more serious age than ours, with more serious people.

In today’s America, the gravity of debt no longer tugs at us as it did back in the 19th century, when we had debtors’ prisons.  Attitudes toward debt have changed.  Some even think their debts should be “forgiven.”  Interesting term, that.  It suggests that going into debt is sinful.  Indeed, in the various versions of the Lord’s Prayer, “debt” is synonymous with “sin” and “trespass” and is therefore in need of forgiveness: “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  We should hope the term “forgive” will continue to be used in the context of loans, because too many Americans aren’t taking debt seriously enough.

Be that as it may, when it comes to delinquent debt, what’s actually sinful is when it’s forgiven.  That’s because when debts are written off, someone must take a loss, and it’s often not the party that extended the loan.

One large group of Americans that believes in debt forgiveness is college students, as they have racked up some $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.  Their idol, Senator Bernie Sanders, wants all student debt forgiven.  But who’s to take the hit?  I’d say it should be the colleges that have admitted so many students who can’t afford it and who really shouldn’t be in college anyway.  Let the colleges pay off the kids’ delinquent loans.  That would force colleges to be more careful about whom they admit, as well as work to moderate the price of tuitions.

Debts are incurred in loans.  Loans are contracts.  When considering any contract, one should be clear about what happens when one of the parties reneges and the contract is broken.  One area where the new attitudes towards debt have been fairly well “institutionalized” is in bankruptcy, when a contract that is a loan is broken.  In a bankruptcy, one’s debts are “discharged”; one’s slate is wiped clean; one gets a new lease on life; one is – forgiven.  And if one acts responsibly enough for a while, one can eventually start running up debt again.

A bond is a type of loan.  From a legal standpoint, bondholders are the first in line to get the proceeds of a corporate bankruptcy.  But that didn’t happen in the 2009 auto bankruptcies.  The bondholders and other creditors got shafted, and the assets that should have gone to them went to shore up union pensions.

In 2012, the Cato Institute ran “The Truth about the GM and Chrysler Bailouts,” an incisive little blog post by Randal O’Toole, who wrote (italics added):

Under bankruptcy laws, stockholders would have lost the value of their stocks, but bond owners – who have first claim to company assets and profits – would have been paid off, if not in whole than at least in part.


Instead of letting the companies declare bankruptcy, Obama decided to “bail them out” by taking them over.  Once the administration had control of the companies, it had them file for bankruptcy, just as they would have done without the government takeover.  Stockholders still lost everything, but so did Chrysler’s bond holders.  Instead of renegotiating union contracts, the administration gave the unions greater say over the companies.  In other words, the administration didn’t bail out the companies; it bailed out the unions at the expense of (in Chrysler’s case) the bondholders.

The treatment of bondholders in the auto bankruptcies should alarm us.  It was theft perpetrated by the government, and it should repel all Americans who care about the rule of law.  Giving the proceeds of the bankruptcies to unions is not at all different from if Obama had paid off the stockholders at the expense of the bondholders.  Are we still a nation of laws?

Bankruptcy in America is insane.  All a bankruptcy should do is this: stop the debtor from taking out more loans so he can’t pile up more debt, and then reset interest rates and payback schedules so that loans can be paid back over a longer period of time.  Debts should stay with debtors until they’re paid off; they should never be forgiven.

In February of 2016, the National Legal and Policy Center ran “After Original Bondholders Stiffed, GM Issues New Debt” by Mark Modica: “GM announced last week that it will be offering an estimated $2 billion of unsecured debt to help prop up underfunded pensions.”  (“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”)  One wonders if GM autoworkers feel any remorse about Obama giving them what he stole from the bondholders.

It’s not only in debt forgiveness that someone else gets hit and must pick up the tab; it also happens when government borrows and future taxpayers must pay for today’s spending.  But that doesn’t seem to gnaw at many of today’s Americans; they want their “free stuff” from the government, and right now.  Future generations will just have to tough it out.

Of course, debt delinquency isn’t an issue with the federal government because the feds can roll over their debt again and again.  The federal debt hasn’t been paid off since Andrew Jackson, and it is rarely even paid down.  One might say the entire national debt is delinquent.

The feds have deliberately conditioned the citizenry to accept indebtedness.  The feds are like an obese person urging you to eat more dessert so you can share in his “sin.”  The federal government has done nothing less than corrupt us.

In February of 2018, the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Frontpage Mag ran “The Progressives’ Legacy: Debt, Deficit, and Entitlement” by Bruce Thornton, who addresses how government has corrupted us:

[The Founders] knew that dependence on others corrupts character and accustoms people to getting something for nothing.  And they saw the dangers in a people who have grown used to taking “the property of their neighbors,” who will not brook a diminishment of those transfers, and who will punish any politician who suggests that they can no longer expect such largess. …


Imagine what will happen in the lean years that are coming ever closer and closer.  If we think we’re polarized now, wait until the hard choices will have to be made on diminishing the transfers of wealth which we have been trained to believe are sacred rights to which we are “entitled.”

Maybe America should bring back debtors’ prisons, especially for those who have run up the biggest debt in the history of the universe: the U.S. Congress.  But not only could we throw members of Congress into debtors’ prison; we might also imprison their families, including their grandchildren as yet unborn.  After all, Congress has condemned our unborn grandchildren to being debtors.  So when Congress begs for mercy, tell them this: we are not in the forgiving mood.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer from Kansas City.

Back in the 1800s in Great Britain, those who couldn’t pay back their loans would be sent to “the workhouse,” AKA debtors’ prison, where they would be forced to work off their arrearage – i.e., their delinquent debt.  Consequently, taking on debt was a serious undertaking back in jolly old Dickensian England.  But then it was a more serious age than ours, with more serious people.

In today’s America, the gravity of debt no longer tugs at us as it did back in the 19th century, when we had debtors’ prisons.  Attitudes toward debt have changed.  Some even think their debts should be “forgiven.”  Interesting term, that.  It suggests that going into debt is sinful.  Indeed, in the various versions of the Lord’s Prayer, “debt” is synonymous with “sin” and “trespass” and is therefore in need of forgiveness: “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  We should hope the term “forgive” will continue to be used in the context of loans, because too many Americans aren’t taking debt seriously enough.

Be that as it may, when it comes to delinquent debt, what’s actually sinful is when it’s forgiven.  That’s because when debts are written off, someone must take a loss, and it’s often not the party that extended the loan.

One large group of Americans that believes in debt forgiveness is college students, as they have racked up some $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.  Their idol, Senator Bernie Sanders, wants all student debt forgiven.  But who’s to take the hit?  I’d say it should be the colleges that have admitted so many students who can’t afford it and who really shouldn’t be in college anyway.  Let the colleges pay off the kids’ delinquent loans.  That would force colleges to be more careful about whom they admit, as well as work to moderate the price of tuitions.

Debts are incurred in loans.  Loans are contracts.  When considering any contract, one should be clear about what happens when one of the parties reneges and the contract is broken.  One area where the new attitudes towards debt have been fairly well “institutionalized” is in bankruptcy, when a contract that is a loan is broken.  In a bankruptcy, one’s debts are “discharged”; one’s slate is wiped clean; one gets a new lease on life; one is – forgiven.  And if one acts responsibly enough for a while, one can eventually start running up debt again.

A bond is a type of loan.  From a legal standpoint, bondholders are the first in line to get the proceeds of a corporate bankruptcy.  But that didn’t happen in the 2009 auto bankruptcies.  The bondholders and other creditors got shafted, and the assets that should have gone to them went to shore up union pensions.

In 2012, the Cato Institute ran “The Truth about the GM and Chrysler Bailouts,” an incisive little blog post by Randal O’Toole, who wrote (italics added):

Under bankruptcy laws, stockholders would have lost the value of their stocks, but bond owners – who have first claim to company assets and profits – would have been paid off, if not in whole than at least in part.


Instead of letting the companies declare bankruptcy, Obama decided to “bail them out” by taking them over.  Once the administration had control of the companies, it had them file for bankruptcy, just as they would have done without the government takeover.  Stockholders still lost everything, but so did Chrysler’s bond holders.  Instead of renegotiating union contracts, the administration gave the unions greater say over the companies.  In other words, the administration didn’t bail out the companies; it bailed out the unions at the expense of (in Chrysler’s case) the bondholders.

The treatment of bondholders in the auto bankruptcies should alarm us.  It was theft perpetrated by the government, and it should repel all Americans who care about the rule of law.  Giving the proceeds of the bankruptcies to unions is not at all different from if Obama had paid off the stockholders at the expense of the bondholders.  Are we still a nation of laws?

Bankruptcy in America is insane.  All a bankruptcy should do is this: stop the debtor from taking out more loans so he can’t pile up more debt, and then reset interest rates and payback schedules so that loans can be paid back over a longer period of time.  Debts should stay with debtors until they’re paid off; they should never be forgiven.

In February of 2016, the National Legal and Policy Center ran “After Original Bondholders Stiffed, GM Issues New Debt” by Mark Modica: “GM announced last week that it will be offering an estimated $2 billion of unsecured debt to help prop up underfunded pensions.”  (“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”)  One wonders if GM autoworkers feel any remorse about Obama giving them what he stole from the bondholders.

It’s not only in debt forgiveness that someone else gets hit and must pick up the tab; it also happens when government borrows and future taxpayers must pay for today’s spending.  But that doesn’t seem to gnaw at many of today’s Americans; they want their “free stuff” from the government, and right now.  Future generations will just have to tough it out.

Of course, debt delinquency isn’t an issue with the federal government because the feds can roll over their debt again and again.  The federal debt hasn’t been paid off since Andrew Jackson, and it is rarely even paid down.  One might say the entire national debt is delinquent.

The feds have deliberately conditioned the citizenry to accept indebtedness.  The feds are like an obese person urging you to eat more dessert so you can share in his “sin.”  The federal government has done nothing less than corrupt us.

In February of 2018, the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Frontpage Mag ran “The Progressives’ Legacy: Debt, Deficit, and Entitlement” by Bruce Thornton, who addresses how government has corrupted us:

[The Founders] knew that dependence on others corrupts character and accustoms people to getting something for nothing.  And they saw the dangers in a people who have grown used to taking “the property of their neighbors,” who will not brook a diminishment of those transfers, and who will punish any politician who suggests that they can no longer expect such largess. …


Imagine what will happen in the lean years that are coming ever closer and closer.  If we think we’re polarized now, wait until the hard choices will have to be made on diminishing the transfers of wealth which we have been trained to believe are sacred rights to which we are “entitled.”

Maybe America should bring back debtors’ prisons, especially for those who have run up the biggest debt in the history of the universe: the U.S. Congress.  But not only could we throw members of Congress into debtors’ prison; we might also imprison their families, including their grandchildren as yet unborn.  After all, Congress has condemned our unborn grandchildren to being debtors.  So when Congress begs for mercy, tell them this: we are not in the forgiving mood.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer from Kansas City.



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The Dollar: Lionel Shriver on Ruin


Could the U.S. dollar ever be ruined?  Other currencies, like the German mark in the 1920s, have been ruined, so why not the dollar?

Recently, I wrote a book review of The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, a novel by Lionel Shriver that deals with the demise of the dollar due to a default on the national debt.  The novel’s default is a response to outside pressure – namely, the creation by foreign powers of the “bancor,” a new currency meant to supplant the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.  Adding insult to injury, the creators of this new currency demand that U.S. debt be repaid in bancors and that “American bonds sold to foreign investors must henceforth be denominated in bancors.”

Upon the debut of the bancor, the dollar plummets in value.  But America doesn’t accede to the foreign demands and makes it a felony for Americans to hold bancors, even abroad.  Then, in a speech to the nation, the president announces the renunciation of the national debt, whereby all U.S. Treasury securities are declared “null and void.”  (Don’t try this at home, kids; the feds are pros.)

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bancors

In keeping with the creeping Latinization the novel sees for America, the feds soon replace the dollar with the dólar nuevo.  But the “new dollar” moves beyond specie and paper money and becomes totally cashless – i.e., electronic, digital.  Ultimately, however, the feds cave and sign on to the bancor.  Adiós, U.S. dollar.

Shriver imagines one way by which the Almighty Dollar could be ruined and die.  A different type of currency death might be possible – one would be due not to foreign actions and the federal government’s (chosen) responses to them, but instead to the gradual erosion of the value of the dollar through inflation.  Inflation is what’s been happening to the dollar for the last century or so.  In this alternate scenario, the dollar limps along until it buckles, falls to its knees, and expires, rather like riding a horse to death.

This second scenario, the slow death, would make for a rather different novel from Shriver’s.  The feds would just keep borrowing and printing money until they could no longer do so because the sheer size of the debt becomes unmanageable and the currency becomes worthless.

However, one wonders if the second scenario is as plausible or as probable as Shriver’s.  For will the world allow the U.S. to continue down the merry path we’ve been on, borrowing and printing dollars?  Or will the world intervene and establish a new monetary world order, ending the Bretton Woods system we’ve had for seventy-four years?  Shriver’s “intervention” seems the more likely scenario.  (By the way, the idea for a supranational currency was floated back in the 1940s by J.M. Keynes, who called it, uh…oh, yeah, the “bancor.”)

But if a consortium of foreign powers sought to strong-arm America, even in such an insulting high-handed manner, would we actually renounce our debt and choose default?  Defaulting on the debt by way of renunciation would consign America to “pariah nation” status.  Also, much of the debt is held by Americans.

If reneging on the national debt would not be the “proper response” to Shriver’s scenario, what would be?  The proper response might be to remind holders of U.S. debt that they made a deal, as did the U.S. Treasury, and that America will keep its side of the deal by repaying maturing debt in precisely the manner stipulated.  That is, they’ll get their money back just as promised – in U.S. dollars.

Bust a Deal, Face the Wheel

But what’s the difference between losing your money from default and getting your money back when its value has been inflated away?  Holders of our debt wouldn’t want repayment in a worthless currency.  In order to stay in the good graces of the nations that have been buying our debt, the U.S. would need to demonstrate a new course of action.  What would that be?  The only thing that would suffice is to stop borrowing, which would entail balancing the federal budget immediately.

And just how would we do that?  Assuming we wouldn’t disband the military, the only way to immediately balance the budget would be to cut entitlements and welfare programs by hundreds of billions of dollars.  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare – all of it would need to be pared back, if not ended.  If we wanted to save our currency and remain in the community of nations as a member in good standing, nothing else would do.

In Shriver’s 2029 America, however, the government is controlled by Democrats.  And her Democrats would rather risk ruining the currency and risk America becoming a pariah than touch the welfare state and entitlements, which is entirely plausible if one looks at today’s Democrats.  Indeed, Democrats should be urging spending cuts on the welfare state now.  The reason Democrats would rather bust a deal and default on the debt is because they don’t want to renege on their other “deals,” primarily their promises to America’s old folks.

These Horses Need Rest

This is one of the big takeaways from The Mandibles: those who fare best in the novel are old folks, retirees.  As Americans struggle in Shriver’s post-default depression, folks look forward to old age: “People used to dread being put out to pasture.  Desperate to qualify for entitlements, these days everyone couldn’t wait to be old [p. 322].”

In a 2009 article at MacLean’s, Mark Steyn presaged Shriver:

[F]or the political class, it’s easier to default on foreign debt and risk unknown consequences than to renege on social commitments and ensure the certainty of violent insurrection.  As attractive as it might be to tell ingrate geezers to go eat dog food, it’s not politically feasible[.]

Should what’s “feasible” and “easier” for politicians be the determining factors here?  Defaulting and ruining the currency would be far more painful than cutting back on social programs.

In April of 2017, Ms. Shriver appeared on The Mark Steyn Show to discuss The Mandibles.  The two quickly wade into the possibility of the collapse of the dollar.  At the 5:45 point, Steyn observes:

Everyone assumes, they look out the window, they see the skyscrapers, they see the fancy restaurants – the assumption of permanence underlies almost everything we do in our lives as we plan.  And the great thing about the book is the almost dizzying speed with which a prosperous Western society unravels.

(Those who know Mr. Steyn only for his appearances on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News or as a guest host for El Rushbo will see a different side of the Canadian.  It’s a master class in what talk shows should be.  The courtliness of his interview reminds me of Dick Cavett.  The interview was shot in London, and one has a nice view of the Thames in the background.  The video quality is excellent.  It starts at the two-minute point and goes on for 32 minutes.  I highly recommend it.)

If the U.S. dollar ever were ruined, the agent of that ruin would almost certainly be the federal government.  If so, the heartache, loss, and degradation flowing from the destruction of our currency would be caused by the refusal of Congress to control its spending and by its run-up of the debt.  So are we going to ride the dollar to death?  Or are we going to grow up and start paying our way?

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City.

Could the U.S. dollar ever be ruined?  Other currencies, like the German mark in the 1920s, have been ruined, so why not the dollar?

Recently, I wrote a book review of The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, a novel by Lionel Shriver that deals with the demise of the dollar due to a default on the national debt.  The novel’s default is a response to outside pressure – namely, the creation by foreign powers of the “bancor,” a new currency meant to supplant the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.  Adding insult to injury, the creators of this new currency demand that U.S. debt be repaid in bancors and that “American bonds sold to foreign investors must henceforth be denominated in bancors.”

Upon the debut of the bancor, the dollar plummets in value.  But America doesn’t accede to the foreign demands and makes it a felony for Americans to hold bancors, even abroad.  Then, in a speech to the nation, the president announces the renunciation of the national debt, whereby all U.S. Treasury securities are declared “null and void.”  (Don’t try this at home, kids; the feds are pros.)

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bancors

In keeping with the creeping Latinization the novel sees for America, the feds soon replace the dollar with the dólar nuevo.  But the “new dollar” moves beyond specie and paper money and becomes totally cashless – i.e., electronic, digital.  Ultimately, however, the feds cave and sign on to the bancor.  Adiós, U.S. dollar.

Shriver imagines one way by which the Almighty Dollar could be ruined and die.  A different type of currency death might be possible – one would be due not to foreign actions and the federal government’s (chosen) responses to them, but instead to the gradual erosion of the value of the dollar through inflation.  Inflation is what’s been happening to the dollar for the last century or so.  In this alternate scenario, the dollar limps along until it buckles, falls to its knees, and expires, rather like riding a horse to death.

This second scenario, the slow death, would make for a rather different novel from Shriver’s.  The feds would just keep borrowing and printing money until they could no longer do so because the sheer size of the debt becomes unmanageable and the currency becomes worthless.

However, one wonders if the second scenario is as plausible or as probable as Shriver’s.  For will the world allow the U.S. to continue down the merry path we’ve been on, borrowing and printing dollars?  Or will the world intervene and establish a new monetary world order, ending the Bretton Woods system we’ve had for seventy-four years?  Shriver’s “intervention” seems the more likely scenario.  (By the way, the idea for a supranational currency was floated back in the 1940s by J.M. Keynes, who called it, uh…oh, yeah, the “bancor.”)

But if a consortium of foreign powers sought to strong-arm America, even in such an insulting high-handed manner, would we actually renounce our debt and choose default?  Defaulting on the debt by way of renunciation would consign America to “pariah nation” status.  Also, much of the debt is held by Americans.

If reneging on the national debt would not be the “proper response” to Shriver’s scenario, what would be?  The proper response might be to remind holders of U.S. debt that they made a deal, as did the U.S. Treasury, and that America will keep its side of the deal by repaying maturing debt in precisely the manner stipulated.  That is, they’ll get their money back just as promised – in U.S. dollars.

Bust a Deal, Face the Wheel

But what’s the difference between losing your money from default and getting your money back when its value has been inflated away?  Holders of our debt wouldn’t want repayment in a worthless currency.  In order to stay in the good graces of the nations that have been buying our debt, the U.S. would need to demonstrate a new course of action.  What would that be?  The only thing that would suffice is to stop borrowing, which would entail balancing the federal budget immediately.

And just how would we do that?  Assuming we wouldn’t disband the military, the only way to immediately balance the budget would be to cut entitlements and welfare programs by hundreds of billions of dollars.  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare – all of it would need to be pared back, if not ended.  If we wanted to save our currency and remain in the community of nations as a member in good standing, nothing else would do.

In Shriver’s 2029 America, however, the government is controlled by Democrats.  And her Democrats would rather risk ruining the currency and risk America becoming a pariah than touch the welfare state and entitlements, which is entirely plausible if one looks at today’s Democrats.  Indeed, Democrats should be urging spending cuts on the welfare state now.  The reason Democrats would rather bust a deal and default on the debt is because they don’t want to renege on their other “deals,” primarily their promises to America’s old folks.

These Horses Need Rest

This is one of the big takeaways from The Mandibles: those who fare best in the novel are old folks, retirees.  As Americans struggle in Shriver’s post-default depression, folks look forward to old age: “People used to dread being put out to pasture.  Desperate to qualify for entitlements, these days everyone couldn’t wait to be old [p. 322].”

In a 2009 article at MacLean’s, Mark Steyn presaged Shriver:

[F]or the political class, it’s easier to default on foreign debt and risk unknown consequences than to renege on social commitments and ensure the certainty of violent insurrection.  As attractive as it might be to tell ingrate geezers to go eat dog food, it’s not politically feasible[.]

Should what’s “feasible” and “easier” for politicians be the determining factors here?  Defaulting and ruining the currency would be far more painful than cutting back on social programs.

In April of 2017, Ms. Shriver appeared on The Mark Steyn Show to discuss The Mandibles.  The two quickly wade into the possibility of the collapse of the dollar.  At the 5:45 point, Steyn observes:

Everyone assumes, they look out the window, they see the skyscrapers, they see the fancy restaurants – the assumption of permanence underlies almost everything we do in our lives as we plan.  And the great thing about the book is the almost dizzying speed with which a prosperous Western society unravels.

(Those who know Mr. Steyn only for his appearances on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News or as a guest host for El Rushbo will see a different side of the Canadian.  It’s a master class in what talk shows should be.  The courtliness of his interview reminds me of Dick Cavett.  The interview was shot in London, and one has a nice view of the Thames in the background.  The video quality is excellent.  It starts at the two-minute point and goes on for 32 minutes.  I highly recommend it.)

If the U.S. dollar ever were ruined, the agent of that ruin would almost certainly be the federal government.  If so, the heartache, loss, and degradation flowing from the destruction of our currency would be caused by the refusal of Congress to control its spending and by its run-up of the debt.  So are we going to ride the dollar to death?  Or are we going to grow up and start paying our way?

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City.



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The Real Issue in Government Shutdowns


Before “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer caved, the most recent skirmish over the federal government shutting down was about an issue that is entirely unrelated to keeping it open. But that’s usually the case. In 2013, the shutdown was about ObamaCare funding, this year it was all about the so-called DACA “Dreamers” and their desire to obtain legal status, which is even more unrelated. One wonders how many Americans know what Congress has always done to avoid or to end a shutdown. What Congress has done each time to end these spats is: raise the “debt ceiling,” also called the “debt limit.”

In past shutdown debates, some have raised the possibility of “default” if Congress were to not raise the debt limit. The webpage for Debt Limit at Treasury is mainly a bunch of links to government documents going back seven years, but it does have three short paragraphs of text, including this one:

Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences. It would cause the government to default on its legal obligations — an unprecedented event in American history. That would precipitate another financial crisis and threaten the jobs and savings of everyday Americans — putting the United States right back in a deep economic hole, just as the country is recovering from the recent recession [italics added].  

That’s loose talk, don’t buy it, Congress has shut down the government several times and the republic still stands. On Dec. 20, Forbes ran “10 Things You Need To Know About The Debt Ceiling And Potential Government Shutdown” by Jeffrey Dorfman, and item #3 on his list is: “Not raising the debt ceiling does not mean a default or not paying our debts.”

Default is when you can’t meet your “legal obligations,” such as paying the interest on U.S. debt, and paying government contractors and suppliers. What default would not be is an inability to pay for government programs that are not contractual. Yet, the Treasury’s webpage treats spending the same:

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments [italics added].

Treasury doesn’t seem to know what a “legal obligation” is. If Boeing delivers a fleet of fighter jets to the military, there’s a legal obligation to pay Boeing. Not paying Boeing would signal default. Paying interest on the debt is also a legal obligation. But paying Social Security benefits isn’t a legal obligation. In fact, Congress could end Social Security today and there’s nothing that SS recipients could do about it, because it’s not a contractual obligation. Yet the Treasury webpage lumps all expenditures together.

On Jan. 22, Bloomberg ran “Get Rid of U.S. Government Shutdowns Forever” by Ramesh Ponnuru. The short article outlines a 2013 bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman which is designed to avert shutdowns. It involves 1 percent cuts in spending when appropriations haven’t been passed. Portman’s bill was appropriately titled the End Government Shutdowns Act.

Also on the 22nd, Mother Jones ran a response to Ponnuru: “Ban Government Shutdowns? Maybe We Actually Need More of Them” by Kevin Drum, who writes: “If the government were put on automatic autopilot in the absence of a budget agreement, the incentive to pass a budget would shrivel even further than it already has.” Mr. Drum compares Ponnuru’s idea with the changes made to the filibuster half a century ago. His counterproposal to Ponnuru’s is worth considering; you might read it (despite it being at Mother Jones.)

What’s fairly certain is that neither Ponnuru’s nor Drum’s solutions will be in place in time for the next shutdown showdown on Feb. 8, (which was scheduled by the continuing appropriation H.R.195 on Jan. 22). And, if there’s again wrangling about the Dreamers or any other issue unrelated to the debt limit, then you’ll be witnessing government at its most cynical. The minority will be holding America “hostage” unless the majority gives them their “ransom.”

Congress could agree to never again use the debt limit to “take hostages,” and agree to raise the debt limit every time they bump up against it. But if Congress keeps borrowing money, they’re liable to bump up against something almost as horrific as default, and that’s high interest rates.

With soaring interest rates comes soaring inflation, and with soaring inflation comes a debased currency. And when a currency has been debased, debauched, and degraded, who wants to buy sovereign debt denominated in that currency? (Are you in the market for some nice Venezuelan bonds?) Inasmuch as interest on the debt is an item in the federal budget, it would seem that it must be paid for with tax receipts, not money created by the Federal Reserve. If so, then high interest rates crowd out other spending.

In 2010, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said: “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” It’s easy to think that all the brouhaha about government shutdowns is a ruse, a way to divert the public’s attention away from the real issue: the fact that every time they hit the debt ceiling, Congress invariably raises it, and gives itself permission to take America ever deeper into debt.

But there’d be no need to raise the debt limit if Congress were running a balanced budget. The Treasury webpage, however, seems to be assuming that Congress will never again balance the budget. Balancing the budget could perhaps be easier than we think; read on:

In 2016, total federal revenue was $3.267T, an all-time high (see Table 1.1). The latest year for which that revenue would have been enough to cover all federal spending was 2008, when total spending was $2.982T. And in 2009, the year with still the biggest deficit ever (-$1.412T), 2016’s revenue would have been just $250B short of covering all of 2009’s massive spending: $3.517T.

Despite that, Congress just can’t bring itself to make the spending cuts that would balance the budget and keep us Americans from going further into debt. Yet all the media can talk about is the Dreamers. But hey, we’re all “dreamers.” And some of us dream of a balanced budget and an end to debt. Dream on.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

Before “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer caved, the most recent skirmish over the federal government shutting down was about an issue that is entirely unrelated to keeping it open. But that’s usually the case. In 2013, the shutdown was about ObamaCare funding, this year it was all about the so-called DACA “Dreamers” and their desire to obtain legal status, which is even more unrelated. One wonders how many Americans know what Congress has always done to avoid or to end a shutdown. What Congress has done each time to end these spats is: raise the “debt ceiling,” also called the “debt limit.”

In past shutdown debates, some have raised the possibility of “default” if Congress were to not raise the debt limit. The webpage for Debt Limit at Treasury is mainly a bunch of links to government documents going back seven years, but it does have three short paragraphs of text, including this one:

Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences. It would cause the government to default on its legal obligations — an unprecedented event in American history. That would precipitate another financial crisis and threaten the jobs and savings of everyday Americans — putting the United States right back in a deep economic hole, just as the country is recovering from the recent recession [italics added].  

That’s loose talk, don’t buy it, Congress has shut down the government several times and the republic still stands. On Dec. 20, Forbes ran “10 Things You Need To Know About The Debt Ceiling And Potential Government Shutdown” by Jeffrey Dorfman, and item #3 on his list is: “Not raising the debt ceiling does not mean a default or not paying our debts.”

Default is when you can’t meet your “legal obligations,” such as paying the interest on U.S. debt, and paying government contractors and suppliers. What default would not be is an inability to pay for government programs that are not contractual. Yet, the Treasury’s webpage treats spending the same:

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments [italics added].

Treasury doesn’t seem to know what a “legal obligation” is. If Boeing delivers a fleet of fighter jets to the military, there’s a legal obligation to pay Boeing. Not paying Boeing would signal default. Paying interest on the debt is also a legal obligation. But paying Social Security benefits isn’t a legal obligation. In fact, Congress could end Social Security today and there’s nothing that SS recipients could do about it, because it’s not a contractual obligation. Yet the Treasury webpage lumps all expenditures together.

On Jan. 22, Bloomberg ran “Get Rid of U.S. Government Shutdowns Forever” by Ramesh Ponnuru. The short article outlines a 2013 bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman which is designed to avert shutdowns. It involves 1 percent cuts in spending when appropriations haven’t been passed. Portman’s bill was appropriately titled the End Government Shutdowns Act.

Also on the 22nd, Mother Jones ran a response to Ponnuru: “Ban Government Shutdowns? Maybe We Actually Need More of Them” by Kevin Drum, who writes: “If the government were put on automatic autopilot in the absence of a budget agreement, the incentive to pass a budget would shrivel even further than it already has.” Mr. Drum compares Ponnuru’s idea with the changes made to the filibuster half a century ago. His counterproposal to Ponnuru’s is worth considering; you might read it (despite it being at Mother Jones.)

What’s fairly certain is that neither Ponnuru’s nor Drum’s solutions will be in place in time for the next shutdown showdown on Feb. 8, (which was scheduled by the continuing appropriation H.R.195 on Jan. 22). And, if there’s again wrangling about the Dreamers or any other issue unrelated to the debt limit, then you’ll be witnessing government at its most cynical. The minority will be holding America “hostage” unless the majority gives them their “ransom.”

Congress could agree to never again use the debt limit to “take hostages,” and agree to raise the debt limit every time they bump up against it. But if Congress keeps borrowing money, they’re liable to bump up against something almost as horrific as default, and that’s high interest rates.

With soaring interest rates comes soaring inflation, and with soaring inflation comes a debased currency. And when a currency has been debased, debauched, and degraded, who wants to buy sovereign debt denominated in that currency? (Are you in the market for some nice Venezuelan bonds?) Inasmuch as interest on the debt is an item in the federal budget, it would seem that it must be paid for with tax receipts, not money created by the Federal Reserve. If so, then high interest rates crowd out other spending.

In 2010, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said: “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” It’s easy to think that all the brouhaha about government shutdowns is a ruse, a way to divert the public’s attention away from the real issue: the fact that every time they hit the debt ceiling, Congress invariably raises it, and gives itself permission to take America ever deeper into debt.

But there’d be no need to raise the debt limit if Congress were running a balanced budget. The Treasury webpage, however, seems to be assuming that Congress will never again balance the budget. Balancing the budget could perhaps be easier than we think; read on:

In 2016, total federal revenue was $3.267T, an all-time high (see Table 1.1). The latest year for which that revenue would have been enough to cover all federal spending was 2008, when total spending was $2.982T. And in 2009, the year with still the biggest deficit ever (-$1.412T), 2016’s revenue would have been just $250B short of covering all of 2009’s massive spending: $3.517T.

Despite that, Congress just can’t bring itself to make the spending cuts that would balance the budget and keep us Americans from going further into debt. Yet all the media can talk about is the Dreamers. But hey, we’re all “dreamers.” And some of us dream of a balanced budget and an end to debt. Dream on.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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How to Prevent a Roy Moore-Doug Jones SNAFU


What should conservatives conclude from the recent special election that sent Doug Jones, a Democrat in all things, to the U.S. Senate to represent Alabama, one of the reddest of red states?

One takeaway should be that Alabamians haven’t been very well served by their past legislatures, as Alabama’s election laws were insufficient to handle this situation.  Vann R. Newkirk II reported on this in “How Alabama’s Election Laws Keep Moore on the Ballot” on Nov. 15 at the Atlantic: “[a] complicated labyrinth of Alabamian election laws makes it difficult to force Moore out or replace him with another Republican candidate.”

I’m no expert on Alabamian election laws, but I think the relevant language is to be found in Title 17, Chapter 6, Article 2, Section 17-6-21(b), where we read (italics added):

Any amendment filed after the 76th day before a primary or a general election shall be accepted by the judge of probate or the Secretary of State but shall not be cause for reprinting of the ballots. The name of a candidate who is the subject of the amendment and who is disqualified by a political party or who has withdrawn as a candidate shall remain on the ballot, not be replaced by the name of another candidate, and the appropriate canvassing board shall not certify any votes for the candidate.

What that means is that there’s no way to “correct” the results of a primary when late-in-the-game accusations come to light.  And if a candidate dies, becomes incapacitated, or goes to prison in the final 75 days before an election, sorry, but we accept no substitutions.

The Roy Moore-Doug Jones mess wouldn’t have arisen if we still selected U.S. senators by state legislatures, the way the Constitution originally stipulated.  Going back to that would require repealing the 17th Amendment, a heavy undertaking (but maybe someday…).  In the meantime, how can a political party protect itself from the likes of Roy Moore, and how can a state protect itself from being represented by someone like Doug Jones who is out of step with its values?

The 17th Amendment doesn’t say anything about how candidates are chosen; it doesn’t stipulate that in “the several States,” candidates must be “elected by the people thereof” – that is, in a primary election.  It’s the primary system that gave Alabamians a GOP candidate who appeared unacceptable and unfit for office.  Rather than by a primary election, the states should use the caucus to select their candidates for the U.S. Senate.  And the caucus members should be chosen solely by a state’s party apparatus, such as Alabama’s GOP committees.

The caucus system has advantages over the primary system.  For example, party caucuses wouldn’t cost a state any money.  Voter participation in primaries is low to begin with, and that may be especially true for special election primaries.  But the main reason to supplant primaries for U.S. Senate with party caucuses is that the primary system allows problem candidates like Moore to run.  Party insiders are in a much better position to decide against such candidates than the voter.

A caucus of GOP committee members would probably have chosen a more electable candidate than Roy Moore.  But if the Alabama Republican Party had tried to take Moore off the ballot, primary voters might well have been outraged.  To avoid such outrage, don’t have a primary; have a caucus instead.  And a caucus could accept input from the state legislature, which would get us a little closer to the original Constitution.

Roy Moore doesn’t seem to have ever been particularly popular in Alabama, and he never received all that many votes in his various runs for office.  Maybe he’s more trouble than he’s worth; maybe his deficits outweigh his assets.  But over the last decade, primary voters in Missouri, Nevada, Delaware, and Indiana have been selecting U.S. Senate candidates who fail in general elections that any decent Republican should have won.  And it’s all because of the primary system.

Now, Doug Jones may be a decent man, and a cut or two above Chuck and Nancy (who isn’t?).  But as a Democrat, he’ll “caucus” with Shutdown Schumer and other progressive Dems on many issues.  Not good for Alabama.

If the caucus system is good enough to select presidential candidates in Iowa, shouldn’t it be good enough to select candidates for other jobs?  I don’t believe that any of the states uses the caucus to select its U.S. Senate candidates.  So Alabama could serve as a model for all the other states by being the first state to replace primary elections for U.S. Senate candidates with caucuses.

At the very least, Alabama should change its election laws to allow the parties to make replacements on the ballot much closer to Election Day.  Otherwise, you have a situation where the Titanic has left port and her rudder has been locked in position and can’t be changed.  If an iceberg just happens to be sitting in your path 75 days later…well, good luck.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City.

What should conservatives conclude from the recent special election that sent Doug Jones, a Democrat in all things, to the U.S. Senate to represent Alabama, one of the reddest of red states?

One takeaway should be that Alabamians haven’t been very well served by their past legislatures, as Alabama’s election laws were insufficient to handle this situation.  Vann R. Newkirk II reported on this in “How Alabama’s Election Laws Keep Moore on the Ballot” on Nov. 15 at the Atlantic: “[a] complicated labyrinth of Alabamian election laws makes it difficult to force Moore out or replace him with another Republican candidate.”

I’m no expert on Alabamian election laws, but I think the relevant language is to be found in Title 17, Chapter 6, Article 2, Section 17-6-21(b), where we read (italics added):

Any amendment filed after the 76th day before a primary or a general election shall be accepted by the judge of probate or the Secretary of State but shall not be cause for reprinting of the ballots. The name of a candidate who is the subject of the amendment and who is disqualified by a political party or who has withdrawn as a candidate shall remain on the ballot, not be replaced by the name of another candidate, and the appropriate canvassing board shall not certify any votes for the candidate.

What that means is that there’s no way to “correct” the results of a primary when late-in-the-game accusations come to light.  And if a candidate dies, becomes incapacitated, or goes to prison in the final 75 days before an election, sorry, but we accept no substitutions.

The Roy Moore-Doug Jones mess wouldn’t have arisen if we still selected U.S. senators by state legislatures, the way the Constitution originally stipulated.  Going back to that would require repealing the 17th Amendment, a heavy undertaking (but maybe someday…).  In the meantime, how can a political party protect itself from the likes of Roy Moore, and how can a state protect itself from being represented by someone like Doug Jones who is out of step with its values?

The 17th Amendment doesn’t say anything about how candidates are chosen; it doesn’t stipulate that in “the several States,” candidates must be “elected by the people thereof” – that is, in a primary election.  It’s the primary system that gave Alabamians a GOP candidate who appeared unacceptable and unfit for office.  Rather than by a primary election, the states should use the caucus to select their candidates for the U.S. Senate.  And the caucus members should be chosen solely by a state’s party apparatus, such as Alabama’s GOP committees.

The caucus system has advantages over the primary system.  For example, party caucuses wouldn’t cost a state any money.  Voter participation in primaries is low to begin with, and that may be especially true for special election primaries.  But the main reason to supplant primaries for U.S. Senate with party caucuses is that the primary system allows problem candidates like Moore to run.  Party insiders are in a much better position to decide against such candidates than the voter.

A caucus of GOP committee members would probably have chosen a more electable candidate than Roy Moore.  But if the Alabama Republican Party had tried to take Moore off the ballot, primary voters might well have been outraged.  To avoid such outrage, don’t have a primary; have a caucus instead.  And a caucus could accept input from the state legislature, which would get us a little closer to the original Constitution.

Roy Moore doesn’t seem to have ever been particularly popular in Alabama, and he never received all that many votes in his various runs for office.  Maybe he’s more trouble than he’s worth; maybe his deficits outweigh his assets.  But over the last decade, primary voters in Missouri, Nevada, Delaware, and Indiana have been selecting U.S. Senate candidates who fail in general elections that any decent Republican should have won.  And it’s all because of the primary system.

Now, Doug Jones may be a decent man, and a cut or two above Chuck and Nancy (who isn’t?).  But as a Democrat, he’ll “caucus” with Shutdown Schumer and other progressive Dems on many issues.  Not good for Alabama.

If the caucus system is good enough to select presidential candidates in Iowa, shouldn’t it be good enough to select candidates for other jobs?  I don’t believe that any of the states uses the caucus to select its U.S. Senate candidates.  So Alabama could serve as a model for all the other states by being the first state to replace primary elections for U.S. Senate candidates with caucuses.

At the very least, Alabama should change its election laws to allow the parties to make replacements on the ballot much closer to Election Day.  Otherwise, you have a situation where the Titanic has left port and her rudder has been locked in position and can’t be changed.  If an iceberg just happens to be sitting in your path 75 days later…well, good luck.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City.



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The Trump Tax Cuts and the Obamacare Mandate 'Repeal'


The new tax bill is now law; it’s on the books; it’s an addition to the U.S. Code.  But unfortunately, the new law doesn’t have a very catchy title.  Its original title was the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017,” which is most excellent.  However, due to punctilios in the Senate, the name had to be changed, and in the rush to get the thing passed, congressmen settled on “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.”  That’s not so catchy.  I don’t know if it can be retitled, but because titles matter, I’d wager that the new law will simply be called the “Trump Tax Cuts.”

Conservatives should be relieved that Republicans in Congress finally passed a big piece of legislation.  We were beginning to think they were incapable of coming together.

One of the pleasant surprises in the new law is the so-called “repeal” of Obamacare’s individual mandate.  But inasmuch as Obamacare is still “on the books,” just how did Republicans accomplish this repeal?

Okay, let’s look at the law.  One place to find the text of the Trump Tax Cuts is at congress.gov.  The copy there has hyperlinks, and in the section on the mandate, there is a single link, on “Section 5000A(c).”  But it doesn’t seem to have page numbers to navigate with, unlike the copy at the Government Publishing Office.  On page 101 of the PDF at the GPO, we come to PART VIII, which deals with the mandate, and it spans two pages.  Because I’m a nice guy, I’ve spliced together two screen grabs from the GPO copy for your convenience:

You can scour the rest of the text, but I don’t think you’ll find any other mentions of the individual mandate.  Notice at the bottom that the effective date is after this year, so folks still need to have health insurance in 2018 or pay the penalty.

The method by which the mandate was repealed is interesting: they merely zeroed out the penalty for noncompliance.  In the ACA, it’s called a penalty, but the Supreme Court ruled it a tax.  So the “tax” now has a rate of “zero percent” and a bottom levy of “$0.”  But because Obamacare is still on the books, some future Congress under Democrat control could easily raise the tax or penalty back to where it was, or even higher — and use reconciliation to do so!

Those who think Obamacare is bad law, bad economics, and grossly un-American won’t rest easy until the whole misbegotten mess is repealed (dashed to Hell, whence it came).  The snag in repealing the entire law is the soft hearts of some Republican senators who “don’t want to hurt anybody.”  That’s a fine and decent concern.  But there’s a simple solution to continuing with help for seriously ill Americans with “pre-existing conditions” currently getting Obamacare subsidies to buy private insurance: put them all in Medicaid.

The presence of these ill people in the tiny Non-Group market (the individual market) has caused premiums to soar, even reaching triple-digit increases.  It’s unfair for the smallest cohort to have all the sick, poor folks dumped into their pool.  By putting them into Medicaid, the costs can be shared by all Americans.

The individual mandate has been called the “linchpin” of Obamacare, but it really affects only the Non-Group market.  The Non-Group market could die (and it very well may), and the rest of Obamacare would continue.  We’d still have all the other taxes; the subsidy program; the expansion of Medicaid; the myriad demands on insurance companies to cover everything for everybody, regardless of what policyholders need.  Therefore, when some say the “repeal” of the mandate is really a repeal of Obamacare, they’re mistaken.

Perhaps the reason we haven’t heard a lot of caterwauling from the Dems about the “repeal” of the mandate is because the Non-Group market never was the primary focus of Obamacare.  Rather, the true aim of the ACA was to put a government imprimatur on an entire sector of the economy.  It was a fascistic power-grab.  The Non-Group market, only 4 percent in 2013, was just window dressing.  The real aim was all the new requirements on what health insurance policies must cover, the expansion of Medicaid, bringing “the several States” to heel, etc.

The entire “repeal” of the individual mandate takes up 77 words.  Because of that brevity, Republicans missed an opportunity, for they could have inserted some justification in it, perhaps even a little philosophy.  Compare PART VIII of the Trump Tax Cuts with Section 1501 in Obamacare on page 242 of the PDF (also see pages 907-910 for amendments to 1501).  This is where we find the Democrats’ justification for their “requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage,” aka the “individual mandate.”

Throughout Section 1501, we’re treated to the Democrats’ reasoning for requiring Americans to buy health insurance.  It rests on the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.  The thing is, their justification was overridden by the Supreme Court in NFIB v. Sebelius.  So it would have been terrific if the “repeal” had included some justification and had echoed the dicta in NFIB that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the authority to command Americans to buy stuff.

Republicans need to recognize that come 2019, their “repeal” of the mandate is going to seriously affect the Non-Group market.  If healthy young folks exit the Non-Group risk pool due to their new freedom, insurance premiums for those who remain in the pool should soar even higher.  Does the GOP want to get blamed for the further destruction of the Non-Group market?

Also, because Democrats can so easily undo the “repeal” of the mandate, Republicans need to be thinking about making it invulnerable.  The way to do that is to repeal the ACA in its entirety and replace it with something better.  Democrats will not help Republicans do this, even if the health care system were roiling.  That means Senate Republicans need to be prepared to end the filibuster.

With the Trump Tax Cuts, Majority Leader McConnell and GOP senators may have thought they were out of the woods and wouldn’t need to again consider ending the legislative filibuster.  But how likely is it that Chuck and Nancy will allow their caucus to cooperate on any big bills this year?  I’d guess not very.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City. 

The new tax bill is now law; it’s on the books; it’s an addition to the U.S. Code.  But unfortunately, the new law doesn’t have a very catchy title.  Its original title was the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017,” which is most excellent.  However, due to punctilios in the Senate, the name had to be changed, and in the rush to get the thing passed, congressmen settled on “An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.”  That’s not so catchy.  I don’t know if it can be retitled, but because titles matter, I’d wager that the new law will simply be called the “Trump Tax Cuts.”

Conservatives should be relieved that Republicans in Congress finally passed a big piece of legislation.  We were beginning to think they were incapable of coming together.

One of the pleasant surprises in the new law is the so-called “repeal” of Obamacare’s individual mandate.  But inasmuch as Obamacare is still “on the books,” just how did Republicans accomplish this repeal?

Okay, let’s look at the law.  One place to find the text of the Trump Tax Cuts is at congress.gov.  The copy there has hyperlinks, and in the section on the mandate, there is a single link, on “Section 5000A(c).”  But it doesn’t seem to have page numbers to navigate with, unlike the copy at the Government Publishing Office.  On page 101 of the PDF at the GPO, we come to PART VIII, which deals with the mandate, and it spans two pages.  Because I’m a nice guy, I’ve spliced together two screen grabs from the GPO copy for your convenience:

You can scour the rest of the text, but I don’t think you’ll find any other mentions of the individual mandate.  Notice at the bottom that the effective date is after this year, so folks still need to have health insurance in 2018 or pay the penalty.

The method by which the mandate was repealed is interesting: they merely zeroed out the penalty for noncompliance.  In the ACA, it’s called a penalty, but the Supreme Court ruled it a tax.  So the “tax” now has a rate of “zero percent” and a bottom levy of “$0.”  But because Obamacare is still on the books, some future Congress under Democrat control could easily raise the tax or penalty back to where it was, or even higher — and use reconciliation to do so!

Those who think Obamacare is bad law, bad economics, and grossly un-American won’t rest easy until the whole misbegotten mess is repealed (dashed to Hell, whence it came).  The snag in repealing the entire law is the soft hearts of some Republican senators who “don’t want to hurt anybody.”  That’s a fine and decent concern.  But there’s a simple solution to continuing with help for seriously ill Americans with “pre-existing conditions” currently getting Obamacare subsidies to buy private insurance: put them all in Medicaid.

The presence of these ill people in the tiny Non-Group market (the individual market) has caused premiums to soar, even reaching triple-digit increases.  It’s unfair for the smallest cohort to have all the sick, poor folks dumped into their pool.  By putting them into Medicaid, the costs can be shared by all Americans.

The individual mandate has been called the “linchpin” of Obamacare, but it really affects only the Non-Group market.  The Non-Group market could die (and it very well may), and the rest of Obamacare would continue.  We’d still have all the other taxes; the subsidy program; the expansion of Medicaid; the myriad demands on insurance companies to cover everything for everybody, regardless of what policyholders need.  Therefore, when some say the “repeal” of the mandate is really a repeal of Obamacare, they’re mistaken.

Perhaps the reason we haven’t heard a lot of caterwauling from the Dems about the “repeal” of the mandate is because the Non-Group market never was the primary focus of Obamacare.  Rather, the true aim of the ACA was to put a government imprimatur on an entire sector of the economy.  It was a fascistic power-grab.  The Non-Group market, only 4 percent in 2013, was just window dressing.  The real aim was all the new requirements on what health insurance policies must cover, the expansion of Medicaid, bringing “the several States” to heel, etc.

The entire “repeal” of the individual mandate takes up 77 words.  Because of that brevity, Republicans missed an opportunity, for they could have inserted some justification in it, perhaps even a little philosophy.  Compare PART VIII of the Trump Tax Cuts with Section 1501 in Obamacare on page 242 of the PDF (also see pages 907-910 for amendments to 1501).  This is where we find the Democrats’ justification for their “requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage,” aka the “individual mandate.”

Throughout Section 1501, we’re treated to the Democrats’ reasoning for requiring Americans to buy health insurance.  It rests on the authority of Congress to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.  The thing is, their justification was overridden by the Supreme Court in NFIB v. Sebelius.  So it would have been terrific if the “repeal” had included some justification and had echoed the dicta in NFIB that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the authority to command Americans to buy stuff.

Republicans need to recognize that come 2019, their “repeal” of the mandate is going to seriously affect the Non-Group market.  If healthy young folks exit the Non-Group risk pool due to their new freedom, insurance premiums for those who remain in the pool should soar even higher.  Does the GOP want to get blamed for the further destruction of the Non-Group market?

Also, because Democrats can so easily undo the “repeal” of the mandate, Republicans need to be thinking about making it invulnerable.  The way to do that is to repeal the ACA in its entirety and replace it with something better.  Democrats will not help Republicans do this, even if the health care system were roiling.  That means Senate Republicans need to be prepared to end the filibuster.

With the Trump Tax Cuts, Majority Leader McConnell and GOP senators may have thought they were out of the woods and wouldn’t need to again consider ending the legislative filibuster.  But how likely is it that Chuck and Nancy will allow their caucus to cooperate on any big bills this year?  I’d guess not very.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer and analyst from Kansas City. 



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Unless Changed, the Tax Bill Should Die


Since the financial crisis of 2008, the federal government has been borrowing and spending money like there’s no tomorrow. In November, I reported about the new rollover regime we just entered, in which the feds will be refinancing the debt run up during the Obama era. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the $8.388T debt the feds will be rolling over in the four years that started on Oct. 1, 2017 is more than the debt incurred during the eight years of Obama, which was $8.096T, (that’s the Public Debt from Jan. 20, 2009 to Jan. 20, 2017). So, we must redeem the Obama era debt in half the time it took to run it up!

A single $1T deficit in fiscal 2009 during the crisis might be acceptable, even warranted, but four trillion-dollar deficits in a row are unforgiveable. Those four deficits were so large that despite lower deficits in his second term, they gave Obama an average deficit of more than $1T a year for his eight years. The Public Debt, which is the real debt, went from $6.3T to $14.4T while Obama was in office. What did we get for all that debt and all that spending?

For years after the financial crisis the federal government and the Federal Reserve took extraordinary actions. What money the feds didn’t borrow, the Fed created, “out of thin air” as they say, through QE, “quantitative easing.” The Fed is now poised for a drawdown of its $4.5T balance sheet, and has already changed ZIRP, its “zero interest-rate policy,” slowly raising its funds rate. Now, add to all this the new tax bills under consideration that will cut revenue and raise deficits and we have uncertainty. Markets don’t like uncertainty.

Having looked at the House and Senate tax bills, there’s not much to like in them. It would be better to have no new tax legislation than this. And I write that having advocated tax reform for years. But there’s no real reform in these tax bills, and they raise the deficit at the worst time, (see above). As a Republican voter, I hate to write those lines, it pains me, but in their major legislative efforts this year the GOP Congress has been disappointing. They need to fix that soon.

The tax bill needs to be revenue-neutral; the feds need to be taking in at least as much money in the first year of its implementation as in the previous year. One reason for this is that Congress doesn’t seem to be able to cut spending. Also, in certain areas, like Defense, Congress needs to spend more than it has been. For example, there’s been a lot of news lately about our military readiness; some airplanes must be cannibalized to keep other planes operational.

One unacceptable change in both the House and Senate bills is the elimination of the AMT, the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT was instituted to ensure that earners with hefty incomes pay at least some income tax; it was a check against the excesses of Congress in their creation of exemptions, write-offs, and preferences like the “carried interest” loophole. Guess we’re headed back to the good ole days when some high-income earners paid no income tax.

One of the more daft things about fiscal legislation is the 10-year projections that lawmakers make. They need to stop that. Congress cannot bind a future Congress. If Dems get control of everything again, they’ll be able to dash the GOP’s tax law to smithereens, and they’ll end the legislative filibuster to do it. Dems will undo the GOP’s handiwork, and taxes in America will continue to be “a disgrace to the human race.”

What Republicans should be doing is forging a tax law that is so efficient, so sane, so just, so simple, and so popular that Democrats would be afraid to tinker with it. But that’s not what the GOP Congress is doing; they’re just rejiggering the same rickety mess, looking for “pay-fors” to offset rate cuts. There’s very little creativity in these tax bills, and at a time when creativity is sorely needed.

The big disappointment with the two tax reform bills is that the more important reform is being held hostage to the less important one. That is, corporate income tax reform has been yoked to personal income tax reform. Republicans are even selling their bill as a “middle-class tax cut,” when most middle-income Americans already have very low effective rates. They’re even telling personal income taxpayers that they’ll be able to file their taxes on a postcard, (presumably so others can see what their incomes are).

Since Congress isn’t likely to come up with sensible personal income tax reform before the end of the year, they should focus on just the corporate income tax, which is the tax that economists think is the bigger drag on the economy.

Some Republican members of Congress are saying that the GOP must pass tax reform or they’re toast in next year’s midterm elections. If they pass anything like the two bills before us, the opposite may actually be the case. In “The GOP’s Tax Plan: Paving the Way to a Democratic Majority” at The Corner, Andrew Stuttaford writes: “Even if we forget about their impact on the deficit (and we shouldn’t), the Republican tax plans have been characterized by extraordinarily sloppy thinking.” He then details proposed changes to formerly untouchable tax expenditures that the GOP had best rethink.

Republicans members of Congress need to pull back from the brink. What they ought to do in the waning hours of 2017 is repeal not only ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which the Senate bill proposes, but the employer mandate as well. And that needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. They should then tell Americans that those repeals are actually tax cuts, which would be true. And then GOP members should set the corporate income tax rate to 30 percent. That also needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Although modest, the above changes would give GOP members of Congress a measure of credibility — they will have delivered some tax relief and partially made good on their promise to repeal Obamacare. That credibility would allow congressional Republicans to then proclaim that they intend to make additional changes to the tax system in 2018, which might be made retroactive to Jan. 1. Among the changes should be real simplification, especially for business, so that the cost of compliance can be cut.

Considering their historic victories last November, congressional Republicans seem intent on giving a bright new meaning to “screw the pooch.” However, there’s still enough time in what remains of 2017 for them to redeem themselves and demonstrate that they do have the “right stuff” after all.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the federal government has been borrowing and spending money like there’s no tomorrow. In November, I reported about the new rollover regime we just entered, in which the feds will be refinancing the debt run up during the Obama era. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but the $8.388T debt the feds will be rolling over in the four years that started on Oct. 1, 2017 is more than the debt incurred during the eight years of Obama, which was $8.096T, (that’s the Public Debt from Jan. 20, 2009 to Jan. 20, 2017). So, we must redeem the Obama era debt in half the time it took to run it up!

A single $1T deficit in fiscal 2009 during the crisis might be acceptable, even warranted, but four trillion-dollar deficits in a row are unforgiveable. Those four deficits were so large that despite lower deficits in his second term, they gave Obama an average deficit of more than $1T a year for his eight years. The Public Debt, which is the real debt, went from $6.3T to $14.4T while Obama was in office. What did we get for all that debt and all that spending?

For years after the financial crisis the federal government and the Federal Reserve took extraordinary actions. What money the feds didn’t borrow, the Fed created, “out of thin air” as they say, through QE, “quantitative easing.” The Fed is now poised for a drawdown of its $4.5T balance sheet, and has already changed ZIRP, its “zero interest-rate policy,” slowly raising its funds rate. Now, add to all this the new tax bills under consideration that will cut revenue and raise deficits and we have uncertainty. Markets don’t like uncertainty.

Having looked at the House and Senate tax bills, there’s not much to like in them. It would be better to have no new tax legislation than this. And I write that having advocated tax reform for years. But there’s no real reform in these tax bills, and they raise the deficit at the worst time, (see above). As a Republican voter, I hate to write those lines, it pains me, but in their major legislative efforts this year the GOP Congress has been disappointing. They need to fix that soon.

The tax bill needs to be revenue-neutral; the feds need to be taking in at least as much money in the first year of its implementation as in the previous year. One reason for this is that Congress doesn’t seem to be able to cut spending. Also, in certain areas, like Defense, Congress needs to spend more than it has been. For example, there’s been a lot of news lately about our military readiness; some airplanes must be cannibalized to keep other planes operational.

One unacceptable change in both the House and Senate bills is the elimination of the AMT, the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT was instituted to ensure that earners with hefty incomes pay at least some income tax; it was a check against the excesses of Congress in their creation of exemptions, write-offs, and preferences like the “carried interest” loophole. Guess we’re headed back to the good ole days when some high-income earners paid no income tax.

One of the more daft things about fiscal legislation is the 10-year projections that lawmakers make. They need to stop that. Congress cannot bind a future Congress. If Dems get control of everything again, they’ll be able to dash the GOP’s tax law to smithereens, and they’ll end the legislative filibuster to do it. Dems will undo the GOP’s handiwork, and taxes in America will continue to be “a disgrace to the human race.”

What Republicans should be doing is forging a tax law that is so efficient, so sane, so just, so simple, and so popular that Democrats would be afraid to tinker with it. But that’s not what the GOP Congress is doing; they’re just rejiggering the same rickety mess, looking for “pay-fors” to offset rate cuts. There’s very little creativity in these tax bills, and at a time when creativity is sorely needed.

The big disappointment with the two tax reform bills is that the more important reform is being held hostage to the less important one. That is, corporate income tax reform has been yoked to personal income tax reform. Republicans are even selling their bill as a “middle-class tax cut,” when most middle-income Americans already have very low effective rates. They’re even telling personal income taxpayers that they’ll be able to file their taxes on a postcard, (presumably so others can see what their incomes are).

Since Congress isn’t likely to come up with sensible personal income tax reform before the end of the year, they should focus on just the corporate income tax, which is the tax that economists think is the bigger drag on the economy.

Some Republican members of Congress are saying that the GOP must pass tax reform or they’re toast in next year’s midterm elections. If they pass anything like the two bills before us, the opposite may actually be the case. In “The GOP’s Tax Plan: Paving the Way to a Democratic Majority” at The Corner, Andrew Stuttaford writes: “Even if we forget about their impact on the deficit (and we shouldn’t), the Republican tax plans have been characterized by extraordinarily sloppy thinking.” He then details proposed changes to formerly untouchable tax expenditures that the GOP had best rethink.

Republicans members of Congress need to pull back from the brink. What they ought to do in the waning hours of 2017 is repeal not only ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which the Senate bill proposes, but the employer mandate as well. And that needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. They should then tell Americans that those repeals are actually tax cuts, which would be true. And then GOP members should set the corporate income tax rate to 30 percent. That also needs to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Although modest, the above changes would give GOP members of Congress a measure of credibility — they will have delivered some tax relief and partially made good on their promise to repeal Obamacare. That credibility would allow congressional Republicans to then proclaim that they intend to make additional changes to the tax system in 2018, which might be made retroactive to Jan. 1. Among the changes should be real simplification, especially for business, so that the cost of compliance can be cut.

Considering their historic victories last November, congressional Republicans seem intent on giving a bright new meaning to “screw the pooch.” However, there’s still enough time in what remains of 2017 for them to redeem themselves and demonstrate that they do have the “right stuff” after all.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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The Moore Affair Is in the Hands of Alabama


The allegations of sexual improprieties with minors against GOP senatorial nominee Roy Moore have created tumult in Republicans circles. Several sitting U.S. senators have opined that Mr. Moore is unfit to serve. We’ve even heard some wonder whether Moore, if elected, should be seated.

The issue of whether the Senate can refuse to seat a new senator was explored back in January of 2009 in a scholarly paper by Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation: “The Constitutional Requirement to Seat the Senator from Illinois: Upholding the Rule of Law.” It’s so scholarly that it has 22 endnotes, but it’s eminently readable. You might want to read the pristine PDF version, as the main page has suffered some formatting problems, but the print version might be more to your liking as its endnote numbers are clickable. What Spakovsky addressed was the seating of Sen. Obama’s replacement:

The refusal of the United States Senate led by Harry Reid to seat Roland W. Burris fails that test. Burris was appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich under the authority of the 17th Amendment to replace outgoing Senator Barack Obama.[1] It is clear from a review of the applicable constitutional provisions, Supreme Court case law, and the history of the Constitutional Convention and the Constitution’s subsequent ratification that the Senate does not have the constitutional authority to exclude Burris. There are no political or other objectives that the Senators opposing his seating could possibly have that would in any way justify such a stark and direct violation of the Constitution.

Mr. von Spakovsky made a solid case that the Senate does not have the authority to deny any duly elected senator his rightful seat. He also asserted that “certain Senators are not even questioning the ‘qualifications’ of the designee but the qualifications (and actions) of the executive who appointed him as a Senator”; the Illinois governor was having a mess of legal problems. In any event, Sen. Burris was sworn in on Jan. 15, 2009, Mark Kirk succeeded Burris on Nov. 29, 2010, and Gov. Blago was convicted in 2009 and remains imprisoned to this day.

If the U.S. Senate were to not seat Moore, it would surely set off a constitutional contretemps between the feds and a state, and the Senate would ultimately lose. However, the Senate does have the authority to expel its members, and expulsions are final, not appealable.

Of course, Congress rarely expels its corrupt members. For instance, if Sen. Bob Menendez is found guilty of his current corruption charges, you can be sure that few Democrat members would vote to expel him. (Even if Menendez is acquitted, the Senate should make its own judgment about the senator’s guilt and then decide whether he really should be in Congress, as an acquittal could be another case of jury nullification or some other miscarriage of justice.)

If I were an Alabaman and Roy Moore were the GOP nominee, I’d vote for Moore and hope the Senate would seat and then expel him. But expelling Moore would require Democrat votes, and Democrats might not want to cooperate. Dems might want to hang Moore around the necks of Republicans. After all, if they voted to expel, Democrat senators would be fairly certain that a more suitable Republican would soon show up without the baggage of Roy Moore.

Alabama Republicans shouldn’t beat themselves up about their “mistake,” as voters in other states have done the same thing. GOP voters in Nevada erred in 2010 when they chose Sharron Angle, which gave Harry Reid another term. Primary voters in my state of Missouri messed up with Todd Akin, whose comment about “legitimate rape” led to Claire McCaskill, who’s out of step with most Missourians. There are many other examples of primary voters choosing badly, so Alabamans shouldn’t fixate on Moore. (Republican voters in all the states could benefit from a Nov. 10 National Review article by Jonah Goldberg.)

Recently, American Thinker ran “Repairing the U.S. Senate” by yours truly. For you states’ rights folks, the article also appeared at the Tenth Amendment Center under a more provocative headline. The good citizens of Alabama might take a look at my short piece. You see, the Senate is not what it was intended to be.

And that’s because of the dang 17th Amendment, which established the popular election of U.S. senators. With popular elections, a candidate “owns” his nomination. Moore refuses to step aside because he won the primary; the nomination “belongs” to him. And if elected in the general, Moore will “own” his senatorial seat, not the people of Alabama.

If state legislatures still chose U.S. senators, as they did for most of our history, Alabama might not be having her Moore problems. America should repeal the 17th Amendment and go back to having state legislatures choose U.S. senators. Not only that, the repeal should stipulate that senators hold their jobs only at the pleasure of their state legislatures. In other words, state legislatures could sack senators at any time. U.S. senators should be seen as ambassadors of states to the central government in D.C. But with the 17th, they’ve gone rogue, and have forgotten why they’re in D.C., which is to represent the states.

The great state of Alabama is one of the reddest of red states. It would be a pity if she were represented by someone as out of step with Alabama’s culture as Doug Jones, who would immediately become a lackey of “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer. It is now left to the government of Alabama to fix this problem. That might mean getting “creative.”

Alabamans should take a cue from someone Roy Moore has derided: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Conservatives were grateful to McConnell when he sat on Obama’s third nomination to the Supreme Court, which resulted in America getting a strong conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch. I suggest that Alabamans “pull a McConnell” and sit on this thing. Postpone the general election, repeatedly if need be, refuse to sign papers, pass new laws, do whatever you have to do to stretch things out, be” creative” in delay. With Luther Strange, Alabama already has a decent man in the U.S. Senate who’s supporting President Trump’s agenda. Let him stay there, Alabama.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

The allegations of sexual improprieties with minors against GOP senatorial nominee Roy Moore have created tumult in Republicans circles. Several sitting U.S. senators have opined that Mr. Moore is unfit to serve. We’ve even heard some wonder whether Moore, if elected, should be seated.

The issue of whether the Senate can refuse to seat a new senator was explored back in January of 2009 in a scholarly paper by Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation: “The Constitutional Requirement to Seat the Senator from Illinois: Upholding the Rule of Law.” It’s so scholarly that it has 22 endnotes, but it’s eminently readable. You might want to read the pristine PDF version, as the main page has suffered some formatting problems, but the print version might be more to your liking as its endnote numbers are clickable. What Spakovsky addressed was the seating of Sen. Obama’s replacement:

The refusal of the United States Senate led by Harry Reid to seat Roland W. Burris fails that test. Burris was appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich under the authority of the 17th Amendment to replace outgoing Senator Barack Obama.[1] It is clear from a review of the applicable constitutional provisions, Supreme Court case law, and the history of the Constitutional Convention and the Constitution’s subsequent ratification that the Senate does not have the constitutional authority to exclude Burris. There are no political or other objectives that the Senators opposing his seating could possibly have that would in any way justify such a stark and direct violation of the Constitution.

Mr. von Spakovsky made a solid case that the Senate does not have the authority to deny any duly elected senator his rightful seat. He also asserted that “certain Senators are not even questioning the ‘qualifications’ of the designee but the qualifications (and actions) of the executive who appointed him as a Senator”; the Illinois governor was having a mess of legal problems. In any event, Sen. Burris was sworn in on Jan. 15, 2009, Mark Kirk succeeded Burris on Nov. 29, 2010, and Gov. Blago was convicted in 2009 and remains imprisoned to this day.

If the U.S. Senate were to not seat Moore, it would surely set off a constitutional contretemps between the feds and a state, and the Senate would ultimately lose. However, the Senate does have the authority to expel its members, and expulsions are final, not appealable.

Of course, Congress rarely expels its corrupt members. For instance, if Sen. Bob Menendez is found guilty of his current corruption charges, you can be sure that few Democrat members would vote to expel him. (Even if Menendez is acquitted, the Senate should make its own judgment about the senator’s guilt and then decide whether he really should be in Congress, as an acquittal could be another case of jury nullification or some other miscarriage of justice.)

If I were an Alabaman and Roy Moore were the GOP nominee, I’d vote for Moore and hope the Senate would seat and then expel him. But expelling Moore would require Democrat votes, and Democrats might not want to cooperate. Dems might want to hang Moore around the necks of Republicans. After all, if they voted to expel, Democrat senators would be fairly certain that a more suitable Republican would soon show up without the baggage of Roy Moore.

Alabama Republicans shouldn’t beat themselves up about their “mistake,” as voters in other states have done the same thing. GOP voters in Nevada erred in 2010 when they chose Sharron Angle, which gave Harry Reid another term. Primary voters in my state of Missouri messed up with Todd Akin, whose comment about “legitimate rape” led to Claire McCaskill, who’s out of step with most Missourians. There are many other examples of primary voters choosing badly, so Alabamans shouldn’t fixate on Moore. (Republican voters in all the states could benefit from a Nov. 10 National Review article by Jonah Goldberg.)

Recently, American Thinker ran “Repairing the U.S. Senate” by yours truly. For you states’ rights folks, the article also appeared at the Tenth Amendment Center under a more provocative headline. The good citizens of Alabama might take a look at my short piece. You see, the Senate is not what it was intended to be.

And that’s because of the dang 17th Amendment, which established the popular election of U.S. senators. With popular elections, a candidate “owns” his nomination. Moore refuses to step aside because he won the primary; the nomination “belongs” to him. And if elected in the general, Moore will “own” his senatorial seat, not the people of Alabama.

If state legislatures still chose U.S. senators, as they did for most of our history, Alabama might not be having her Moore problems. America should repeal the 17th Amendment and go back to having state legislatures choose U.S. senators. Not only that, the repeal should stipulate that senators hold their jobs only at the pleasure of their state legislatures. In other words, state legislatures could sack senators at any time. U.S. senators should be seen as ambassadors of states to the central government in D.C. But with the 17th, they’ve gone rogue, and have forgotten why they’re in D.C., which is to represent the states.

The great state of Alabama is one of the reddest of red states. It would be a pity if she were represented by someone as out of step with Alabama’s culture as Doug Jones, who would immediately become a lackey of “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer. It is now left to the government of Alabama to fix this problem. That might mean getting “creative.”

Alabamans should take a cue from someone Roy Moore has derided: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Conservatives were grateful to McConnell when he sat on Obama’s third nomination to the Supreme Court, which resulted in America getting a strong conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch. I suggest that Alabamans “pull a McConnell” and sit on this thing. Postpone the general election, repeatedly if need be, refuse to sign papers, pass new laws, do whatever you have to do to stretch things out, be” creative” in delay. With Luther Strange, Alabama already has a decent man in the U.S. Senate who’s supporting President Trump’s agenda. Let him stay there, Alabama.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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The Big Mistake in Obamacare Replacement Plans


When Democrats were peddling ObamaCare to an unsuspecting America, they told us that the price of health insurance would go down by thousands of dollars. But the opposite happened, and it continues to happen. The way that real insurance works is that policyholders get lower premiums if they are less likely to file claims and thereby cost their insurance companies money; that is, if they pose less risk. Insurance companies set premiums by using actuarial science to calculate risk.

But ObamaCare policies don’t price for risk, everyone pays the same regardless of risk due to the ACA’s “community rating” policy. However, there’s another way to keep the price of premiums down and that’s for policyholders to agree to pay some of the costs of the medical treatment incurred in their claims, i.e. deductibles and copayments — the lower the premium, the higher the deductible.

So, ObamaCare tried to make premiums affordable by having much, much higher deductibles. But some folks who file claims with ObamaCare can’t pay their deductibles. ObamaCare took care of those folks through CSRs, cost sharing reductions, where government pays the policyholder’s deductible.

Unlike its premiums, the ACA did not provide automatic funding of the CSRs. Instead, Congress must regularly approve the funds for the CSRs, and Congress hasn’t been doing that. This back-loaded little aspect of the ACA has been driven home recently by President Trump’s executive order to stop payment of CSRs. Democrats and their stooges in the media are wailing that the president’s order is “arson” and “sabotage.” They caterwaul that without the CSR payments the price of ACA premiums will, surprise, surprise, shoot up even higher. They seem to think that the ACA should be exempt from the “Laws of Insurance.”

On May 12, 2016 in House v. Burwell, a federal judge found that the payments of CSRs are unconstitutional because Congress hasn’t been appropriating the funds. Law Professor Timothy Jost has written much on the case (archive); here’s what he wrote on the day of the decision. Though Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 is quite clear in requiring that money cannot be “drawn from the Treasury” without an appropriation from Congress, Democrats seem to think that the president should just keep on lawlessly spending money, just as Obama did.

The media has been rather careless in reporting this story; they often refer to the CSRs as “subsidies.” But there’s another ObamaCare subsidy that one receives when the government helps to pay for one’s health insurance premiums. That is the main subsidy, and it has complicated folks’ income tax returns. Unlike premiums, which must be paid every month, the CSRs are subsidies that would never need to be paid if no one filed a claim. But policyholders do file claims, so the true cost of ACA policies needs to include the $7B that the CSRs are costing taxpayers. That’s the same $7B Democrats think Pres. Trump should be spending without congressional authorization.

Congress has the power to appropriate the funds for the CSRs, and recently Sens. Alexander and Murray have reached a deal to do just that. However, the deal is for a two-year appropriation, which Republicans should reject for a much shorter funding period, should they be inclined to vote for this deal. Not only that, Republicans should get some concessions, too:

Just minutes before Alexander announced the deal, White House legislative director Marc Short emerged from a Senate GOP lunch saying that “a starting point” in exchange for restoring the cost-sharing payments “is eliminating the individual mandate and employer mandate” — the central pillars of Obamacare.

But the mandates aren’t “the central pillars of ObamaCare.” ObamaCare made inroads into several huge areas of health insurance, and most of ObamaCare would still stand if the individual mandate were repealed. What would be affected by the elimination of the individual mandate is the Individual Market.

Because most Americans receive health insurance through their employer or through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Obamacare trained its corporatist sights on the Individual Market. It is this group that receives all the media attention, but it is by far the smallest sector. Before the implementation of the ACA, the Individual Market, which is also called the “Non-Group” market, comprised just 4 percent of the population.

Repeal of the individual mandate would likely result in throngs of healthy young Americans choosing not to buy health insurance, which would indeed doom the Individual Market under Obamacare. But that should happen anyway. You see, government needs to get completely out of the Individual Market; Congress needs to let the Individual Market be totally private.

But what we’ve seen with the various Republican repeal and replace plans is that they retain government involvement in the Individual Market. Continuing the government’s involvement in the Individual Market with the individual mandate and subsidies is the Republican’s “Big Mistake” in their replacement plans.

Here’s a question that should be asked of all congressional Republicans: Will you vote to repeal the individual mandate? Any GOP congressman who is for the repeal of the individual mandate cannot also be for the federal government’s continued involvement in the Individual Market, because that market depends on that mandate. In their repeal and replace plans, Republicans are sabotaging themselves by being for contradictory things.

With ObamaCare you get both high premiums and high deductibles. But ACA premiums would have been even higher had Democrats structured ObamaCare like real insurance with reasonable deductibles. The people ObamaCare hurts the most are those who pay the full price for health insurance at the exchanges.

If people don’t have the funds to pay the full price for health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays, then they need to be put into Medicaid. Congress should especially be putting ACA subsidy recipients with pre-existing conditions into Medicaid. All taxpayers should be helping to pay for those very sick poor people, rather than having a disproportionate amount of it paid by those in the Individual Market.

Besides being incoherent, the Supreme Court decision to uphold the individual mandate was a rewrite of the ACA. The Court did not defer to Congress when it saved Obamacare, it legislated. Congress should resent the Court’s usurpation of its power to write law. If the high court will not strike down bad law, then it is left to Congress to do so.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

When Democrats were peddling ObamaCare to an unsuspecting America, they told us that the price of health insurance would go down by thousands of dollars. But the opposite happened, and it continues to happen. The way that real insurance works is that policyholders get lower premiums if they are less likely to file claims and thereby cost their insurance companies money; that is, if they pose less risk. Insurance companies set premiums by using actuarial science to calculate risk.

But ObamaCare policies don’t price for risk, everyone pays the same regardless of risk due to the ACA’s “community rating” policy. However, there’s another way to keep the price of premiums down and that’s for policyholders to agree to pay some of the costs of the medical treatment incurred in their claims, i.e. deductibles and copayments — the lower the premium, the higher the deductible.

So, ObamaCare tried to make premiums affordable by having much, much higher deductibles. But some folks who file claims with ObamaCare can’t pay their deductibles. ObamaCare took care of those folks through CSRs, cost sharing reductions, where government pays the policyholder’s deductible.

Unlike its premiums, the ACA did not provide automatic funding of the CSRs. Instead, Congress must regularly approve the funds for the CSRs, and Congress hasn’t been doing that. This back-loaded little aspect of the ACA has been driven home recently by President Trump’s executive order to stop payment of CSRs. Democrats and their stooges in the media are wailing that the president’s order is “arson” and “sabotage.” They caterwaul that without the CSR payments the price of ACA premiums will, surprise, surprise, shoot up even higher. They seem to think that the ACA should be exempt from the “Laws of Insurance.”

On May 12, 2016 in House v. Burwell, a federal judge found that the payments of CSRs are unconstitutional because Congress hasn’t been appropriating the funds. Law Professor Timothy Jost has written much on the case (archive); here’s what he wrote on the day of the decision. Though Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 is quite clear in requiring that money cannot be “drawn from the Treasury” without an appropriation from Congress, Democrats seem to think that the president should just keep on lawlessly spending money, just as Obama did.

The media has been rather careless in reporting this story; they often refer to the CSRs as “subsidies.” But there’s another ObamaCare subsidy that one receives when the government helps to pay for one’s health insurance premiums. That is the main subsidy, and it has complicated folks’ income tax returns. Unlike premiums, which must be paid every month, the CSRs are subsidies that would never need to be paid if no one filed a claim. But policyholders do file claims, so the true cost of ACA policies needs to include the $7B that the CSRs are costing taxpayers. That’s the same $7B Democrats think Pres. Trump should be spending without congressional authorization.

Congress has the power to appropriate the funds for the CSRs, and recently Sens. Alexander and Murray have reached a deal to do just that. However, the deal is for a two-year appropriation, which Republicans should reject for a much shorter funding period, should they be inclined to vote for this deal. Not only that, Republicans should get some concessions, too:

Just minutes before Alexander announced the deal, White House legislative director Marc Short emerged from a Senate GOP lunch saying that “a starting point” in exchange for restoring the cost-sharing payments “is eliminating the individual mandate and employer mandate” — the central pillars of Obamacare.

But the mandates aren’t “the central pillars of ObamaCare.” ObamaCare made inroads into several huge areas of health insurance, and most of ObamaCare would still stand if the individual mandate were repealed. What would be affected by the elimination of the individual mandate is the Individual Market.

Because most Americans receive health insurance through their employer or through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, Obamacare trained its corporatist sights on the Individual Market. It is this group that receives all the media attention, but it is by far the smallest sector. Before the implementation of the ACA, the Individual Market, which is also called the “Non-Group” market, comprised just 4 percent of the population.

Repeal of the individual mandate would likely result in throngs of healthy young Americans choosing not to buy health insurance, which would indeed doom the Individual Market under Obamacare. But that should happen anyway. You see, government needs to get completely out of the Individual Market; Congress needs to let the Individual Market be totally private.

But what we’ve seen with the various Republican repeal and replace plans is that they retain government involvement in the Individual Market. Continuing the government’s involvement in the Individual Market with the individual mandate and subsidies is the Republican’s “Big Mistake” in their replacement plans.

Here’s a question that should be asked of all congressional Republicans: Will you vote to repeal the individual mandate? Any GOP congressman who is for the repeal of the individual mandate cannot also be for the federal government’s continued involvement in the Individual Market, because that market depends on that mandate. In their repeal and replace plans, Republicans are sabotaging themselves by being for contradictory things.

With ObamaCare you get both high premiums and high deductibles. But ACA premiums would have been even higher had Democrats structured ObamaCare like real insurance with reasonable deductibles. The people ObamaCare hurts the most are those who pay the full price for health insurance at the exchanges.

If people don’t have the funds to pay the full price for health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays, then they need to be put into Medicaid. Congress should especially be putting ACA subsidy recipients with pre-existing conditions into Medicaid. All taxpayers should be helping to pay for those very sick poor people, rather than having a disproportionate amount of it paid by those in the Individual Market.

Besides being incoherent, the Supreme Court decision to uphold the individual mandate was a rewrite of the ACA. The Court did not defer to Congress when it saved Obamacare, it legislated. Congress should resent the Court’s usurpation of its power to write law. If the high court will not strike down bad law, then it is left to Congress to do so.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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The Escalating Costs of Higher Edumacation


On October 8, the Kansas City Star ran an editorial on its website that appeared in print the next day under the headline “Lower college costs or face extinction.” Though its byline was the Kansas City Star Editorial Board, you might wonder if some outsider wrote the thing, because the Star has been decidedly left-wing for some time now. The paper no longer seems to have any more-conservative voices, like E. Thomas McClanahan, Chris Lester, Jerry Heaster, and George Gurley Sr. of not so distant days gone by. In any event, if one is interested in the soaring inflation we’ve seen in college in recent years, the Star’s short editorial might be worth reading; it even has some links.

The main takeaway from this editorial is that a growing number of Americans no longer think that a four-year college degree is a good investment. Young folks can go tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt just to get a bachelor’s degree and then can’t find a job. Fifty years ago, one could work one’s way through college or work during the summer, and obtain a bachelor’s degree debt-free. And back then, there was the “perma-student,” i.e. permanent student, who just liked to learn stuff or liked the college life or didn’t like the idea of moving on into the “real world,” and so stayed in school for years. It used to be, fifty years ago, that having a four-year “vacation” before you entered the real world wasn’t so huge a decision; so what if your degree didn’t really prepare you for anything specific, college didn’t cost all that much. But today, with the cost of college having risen so steeply, most youngsters need to have a plan and be taking courses that will pay off with job opportunities.

The editorial notes that total student debt now exceeds $1.3T, which is larger than credit card debt, but space limitations prevent the editorial from diving very deeply into the causes of inflation in higher education. So just why does college cost so much; what has driven higher education’s monstrous inflation?

One reason is demand. Progressives have drilled into our heads that everyone needs to go to college Consequently, America sees masses of young folks going to college who really shouldn’t be, and they’re borrowing tons of money to attend. The federal government became an enabler in this folly by guaranteeing student loans. Such loans are not supposed to ever be forgiven, unlike other debt. But then along comes socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders who tells us that student debt, all nearly $1.4T of it, should be written off, forgiven. You see, this crazy old fart thinks that “free” College for All is a “right,” and that government should pay for it.

With high demand, which includes foreign students, there’s little reason to cut prices for tuition and such. Higher education has a fairly assured stream of revenue. And some of that revenue comes from state legislatures which make annual gifts from state treasuries to state universities courtesy of taxpayers, some of whom can’t afford tuition.

Another type of inflation is bloat, and America’s colleges and universities have become quite bloated. They’ve created bureaucratic sinecures for armies of new administrators, as in offices of Diversity and Inclusion, which require their own vice chancellors to ensure that federal mandates, like Title IX, are adhered to. And there’s the bloat of the new “disciplines,” such as Gender Studies. America wouldn’t have split the atom nor gone to the Moon with such graduates, nor will they help us compete with the Chinese. And there’s the bloat of the new amenities colleges offer, like fancy health spas. If you know that all you want is to just become an electrical engineer and go to work for Intel or AMD, sorry kid, you gotta help pay for the bloat first.

Another type of inflation is grade inflation. Employers claim that too many of today’s graduates are barely literate, and can’t function well at their jobs. Nonetheless, graduates have all the correct opinions on race, gender, how the country should be run, etc. They’ve paid through the nose with nothing to show for it but being nicely indoctrinated with all the latest political psychobabble. One might actually graduate from college a worse person than one was before entering. In recent years we’ve had ample evidence of this in the treatment of guest speakers at various colleges. Why aren’t these student hooligans being expelled?

Students are ignorant, that’s why they’re in school, to rectify that sad condition. But their “tenured radical” professors tell them they know more than their elders and should protest the appearances of conservatives and libertarians, like David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, and Charles Murray. If these students would just shut their ignorant yaps and listen, not only could they learn something from these guest speakers, but they might also have a few laughs. Time was when odd, edgy, outrageous speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos would have been warmly welcomed by students. It seems that curiosity has been bred out of today’s “snowflake” college kids.

I was once told by a college English professor that college isn’t a business. Well then, why do they advertise? And why do they tell their recruits how much more money they’ll earn if they just get one of their degrees?

There’s a new trend for four-year liberal arts colleges to start calling themselves “universities,” even though they still don’t have medical, dental, and law schools. Nor do such “universities” have graduate programs in much of anything, except maybe the odd MBA. Such relabeling is false advertising. (Maybe junior colleges will start thinking they’re universities.)

Just as government screwed up the market for health insurance, it has also screwed up the market for higher education. Government needs to quit throwing money at colleges. Congress should end federally-backed student loans. At the very least, taxpayers shouldn’t be backing loans for degrees in the touchy-feely majors, like literature, art history, and music. Those are areas that most of us, including me, revere. But the feds can’t afford to subsidize them any longer. Also, such studies aren’t in the “public interest” in the way that engineering, medicine, and science are. Besides, America really doesn’t need any more bartenders with degrees in philosophy.

Ending federally-backed student loans would surely create a scramble in academia to adapt. But only by turning off the money spigot will colleges be forced to reorganize, cut bloat, reduce staff, and operate more efficiently so that prices for an education might be reasonable.

Perhaps the dearest cost of college is in having a generation of young Americans seriously in debt before they even start out in life.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

On October 8, the Kansas City Star ran an editorial on its website that appeared in print the next day under the headline “Lower college costs or face extinction.” Though its byline was the Kansas City Star Editorial Board, you might wonder if some outsider wrote the thing, because the Star has been decidedly left-wing for some time now. The paper no longer seems to have any more-conservative voices, like E. Thomas McClanahan, Chris Lester, Jerry Heaster, and George Gurley Sr. of not so distant days gone by. In any event, if one is interested in the soaring inflation we’ve seen in college in recent years, the Star’s short editorial might be worth reading; it even has some links.

The main takeaway from this editorial is that a growing number of Americans no longer think that a four-year college degree is a good investment. Young folks can go tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt just to get a bachelor’s degree and then can’t find a job. Fifty years ago, one could work one’s way through college or work during the summer, and obtain a bachelor’s degree debt-free. And back then, there was the “perma-student,” i.e. permanent student, who just liked to learn stuff or liked the college life or didn’t like the idea of moving on into the “real world,” and so stayed in school for years. It used to be, fifty years ago, that having a four-year “vacation” before you entered the real world wasn’t so huge a decision; so what if your degree didn’t really prepare you for anything specific, college didn’t cost all that much. But today, with the cost of college having risen so steeply, most youngsters need to have a plan and be taking courses that will pay off with job opportunities.

The editorial notes that total student debt now exceeds $1.3T, which is larger than credit card debt, but space limitations prevent the editorial from diving very deeply into the causes of inflation in higher education. So just why does college cost so much; what has driven higher education’s monstrous inflation?

One reason is demand. Progressives have drilled into our heads that everyone needs to go to college Consequently, America sees masses of young folks going to college who really shouldn’t be, and they’re borrowing tons of money to attend. The federal government became an enabler in this folly by guaranteeing student loans. Such loans are not supposed to ever be forgiven, unlike other debt. But then along comes socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders who tells us that student debt, all nearly $1.4T of it, should be written off, forgiven. You see, this crazy old fart thinks that “free” College for All is a “right,” and that government should pay for it.

With high demand, which includes foreign students, there’s little reason to cut prices for tuition and such. Higher education has a fairly assured stream of revenue. And some of that revenue comes from state legislatures which make annual gifts from state treasuries to state universities courtesy of taxpayers, some of whom can’t afford tuition.

Another type of inflation is bloat, and America’s colleges and universities have become quite bloated. They’ve created bureaucratic sinecures for armies of new administrators, as in offices of Diversity and Inclusion, which require their own vice chancellors to ensure that federal mandates, like Title IX, are adhered to. And there’s the bloat of the new “disciplines,” such as Gender Studies. America wouldn’t have split the atom nor gone to the Moon with such graduates, nor will they help us compete with the Chinese. And there’s the bloat of the new amenities colleges offer, like fancy health spas. If you know that all you want is to just become an electrical engineer and go to work for Intel or AMD, sorry kid, you gotta help pay for the bloat first.

Another type of inflation is grade inflation. Employers claim that too many of today’s graduates are barely literate, and can’t function well at their jobs. Nonetheless, graduates have all the correct opinions on race, gender, how the country should be run, etc. They’ve paid through the nose with nothing to show for it but being nicely indoctrinated with all the latest political psychobabble. One might actually graduate from college a worse person than one was before entering. In recent years we’ve had ample evidence of this in the treatment of guest speakers at various colleges. Why aren’t these student hooligans being expelled?

Students are ignorant, that’s why they’re in school, to rectify that sad condition. But their “tenured radical” professors tell them they know more than their elders and should protest the appearances of conservatives and libertarians, like David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, Ben Shapiro, and Charles Murray. If these students would just shut their ignorant yaps and listen, not only could they learn something from these guest speakers, but they might also have a few laughs. Time was when odd, edgy, outrageous speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos would have been warmly welcomed by students. It seems that curiosity has been bred out of today’s “snowflake” college kids.

I was once told by a college English professor that college isn’t a business. Well then, why do they advertise? And why do they tell their recruits how much more money they’ll earn if they just get one of their degrees?

There’s a new trend for four-year liberal arts colleges to start calling themselves “universities,” even though they still don’t have medical, dental, and law schools. Nor do such “universities” have graduate programs in much of anything, except maybe the odd MBA. Such relabeling is false advertising. (Maybe junior colleges will start thinking they’re universities.)

Just as government screwed up the market for health insurance, it has also screwed up the market for higher education. Government needs to quit throwing money at colleges. Congress should end federally-backed student loans. At the very least, taxpayers shouldn’t be backing loans for degrees in the touchy-feely majors, like literature, art history, and music. Those are areas that most of us, including me, revere. But the feds can’t afford to subsidize them any longer. Also, such studies aren’t in the “public interest” in the way that engineering, medicine, and science are. Besides, America really doesn’t need any more bartenders with degrees in philosophy.

Ending federally-backed student loans would surely create a scramble in academia to adapt. But only by turning off the money spigot will colleges be forced to reorganize, cut bloat, reduce staff, and operate more efficiently so that prices for an education might be reasonable.

Perhaps the dearest cost of college is in having a generation of young Americans seriously in debt before they even start out in life.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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