Trump Puts His Own Economic Agenda in Danger
Much has happened over the last week. It's worth considering where we are now.
The week started off very badly for Donald Trump when Congressional testimony by the NSA, the FBI, and Trump's own DOJ finally laid bare what we already knew: his wiretapping claims were fabricated. He followed this testimony with a string of dishonest and/or misleading tweets, which served only to compound the problem for his administration. Then the apparent source of his "information" on wiretaps, Andrew Napolitano, was suspended indefinitely from Fox News--because of his false wiretapping claims. To make matters even worse, the FBI director not only indicated that Trump's tweets were fabricated, but he also publicly confirmed (for the first time) that Trump's campaign is under a criminal investigation.
The situation had become so one-sided that Representative Nunes tried to throw Trump a little cover by claiming that Trump's team's communications had, in fact, been picked up by intelligence surveillance, an assertion that ran into trouble almost immediately. Nunes himself acknowledged that these collections were both "legal" and "incidental." The next day he found himself apologizing for handling the situation as he did, and the day after that, he walked back his comments overall. Now he just looks partisan and ridiculous.
Aside from the fact that Trump ought to apologize to all of us for wasting so much time with this, the bottom line is that the allegations were false, and the Trump administration needed a success--badly. That's not what happened though.
The most notable event--and probably the most consequential one as well--was the failure of Trump and establishment Republicans to replace Obamacare. The messaging that followed the bill's demise hasn't boded well for the future either.
I was furious that this situation was handled as it was because I deeply believe that Obamacare MUST be replaced. Obamacare did nothing to address the rampant fraud in, especially, Medicare. By the Obama DHHS's own admission, it has raised health care costs above where they would otherwise have been. It levies additional taxes, and it locks millions of Americans into appallingly high premiums that are rising at an even more appalling rate. Replacing the Affordable Care Act (which, ironically, makes healthcare even more unaffordable for many) was and is a high priority of mine.
The replacement bill needed to be one that took care of those who purchased health insurance on the ACA exchanges. It also needed to lessen the impact of our government's health care spending on our national debt. It had to protect those with pre-conditions, address fraud, and eliminate single-state monopolies. To accomplish lofty goals like this, two things were needed above all else: compromise and skilled negotiation.
Unfortunately, neither of those occurred. An element of the modern Republican Party views any compromise with Democrats as weakness and borderline un-American, which ensures that any substantial reform we undertake faces a very up-hill climb to passage. They've forgotten the wisdom of the greatest modern Republican President (and one of the greatest overall), Ronald Reagan: he famously said that he'd be happy to get 70 or 80 percent of what he wanted and just come back for the rest later.
In a further blow to Trump, who is a self-proclaimed "brilliant" negotiator, negotiation over the bill's contents went absolutely nowhere. It appears that Trump's idea of negotiation was to make only token changes to the bill and then to have Steve Bannon threaten, twist arms, and otherwise try to force Tea Party-style Republicans to vote for his flawed, establishment bill. (This is quite an empty threat coming from a President with fewer legislative achievements--none--than any other President at this point in a Presidency [even though his party controls both houses of Congress] and the lowest approval rating ever recorded for a President so early in a Presidency--37%.) The result was predictable: Trump and the establishment were defeated by the very strain of the Republican Party that worked to elect Trump in the first place, a result made all the more likely by Trump's demand that voting on the bill tax place on Friday before all potential avenues to reconciliation had been pursued.
Trump's response in the aftermath has been, honestly, appalling. First, he blamed the Democrats, which is odd since the Democrats don't have enough votes to stop bills in the first place. Then he blamed Republicans, even though he himself is a Republican who was involved in crafting this bill. (Interpretation: "Everyone who isn't named Donald J. Trump is at fault. Everyone who is named Donald J. Trump is not at fault.")
His position right now is to simply give up and stick with Obamacare. Really? Stick with Obamacare? Yes, his "great" plan now is to simply keep Obamacare "until it implodes" so that he can blame it on Democrats. Aside from the fact that it's difficult to imagine a more partisan position, it's even harder to imagine an outcome that would hurt more Americans or add more to our national debt than an Obamacare implosion. Our President is not paid to watch policies crash and burn. He is paid to proactively get ahead of problems and to fix them before they "implode." He and Republican Congressional leadership should role up their sleeves and get to work on a serious replacement bill right now.
Instead, they say that they are going to tackle tax reform. I am on board with this as well. The national debt is my top issue, but tax reform is a close second (besides, the two are closely linked). The first step down this path was Trump's budget submission, yet much to Democrats' delight, his budget included no entitlement reform--none! What kind of conservative declines to try to reform entitlements? This amounts to trying to cut tax rates at the same time you're trying to increase spending. No thank you. We should be cutting both tax rates AND spending.
I agree with the writer of the Bloomberg article I just shared here: when Trump was first elected, I felt that perhaps the best thing that would come of it is serious tax reform. I was confident about that. After observing what I have observed over the last two months--and especially over the last week--I must admit that my confidence in our enacting more-than-nominal tax and spending reform is no higher than 50%. Trump is not coming into that challenge from a position of strength. Nor, for that matter, is the GOP overall. This is crucial though, and I will remain hopeful.
I'm sure that many Democrats stand ready to excoriate me for this last bit, but there are two positive developments that are worth mentioning. Voter ID laws, which I firmly support, appear to be making a comeback, most recently in Arkansas. Trump's DOJ is helping to facilitate this. Additionally, more than 500 companies are expected to bid on Trump's border wall--another policy of his that I support. (I may write more on these two policy items later, but before anyone rushes to tell me how hateful and discriminatory I am, perhaps you could ask first why I feel as I do--if I've not yet written a post about them, that is.)
So maybe all isn't lost. Time will tell. Still, if we cannot reform our tax system or our spending, then I'm not sure how much the rest is worth anyway... One can hope.
Countable posted a new video today titled, "Impeach the President!" Rhetoric or Reality? Embedded below.
Following in the footsteps of the media's 'Hysteria over Everything' campaign, calls to impeach Trump are bubbling up in the media. The push for impeachment is a political tool to tarnish the reputation of the sitting president because it serves multiple functions.
First, it reinforces the confirmation bias in half the nation who voted for the other guy/gal. Everything the other team does is evil and the presence of the Impeach Trump headline reinforces them that they are the correct team, the moral team.
Secondly, it allows for political opposition to create their Lists of Evil. Every President has had this. Compare:
If you opposed George W Bush you could easily rattle off:
Both presidents lined the pockets of the military industrial complex. Both destroyed individual civil liberties. Both increased the size and scope of government. Both doubled the national debt.
If you naturally agree with one list and resist the other maybe it's time to 'diversify your portfolio' and find more outlets of information. Neither party is interested in the behavior of the President unless he belongs to the opposing party. In the political spectrum, there is not much difference between Democrats and Republicans, despite the common belief that they are the only two choices and polar opposites.
This cognitive dissonance is reinforced by our news sources and partisan commentary. Most people don't get their news from actually reading Bill texts, policy papers or hear multiple sources from differing viewpoints. This becomes evident when they attempt to make their voices heard. As you read, you can hear the talking points relentlessly drummed out since November, mostly conjecture, assertions and falsehoods.
Here are a couple gems from real citizens whose vote has the same equal voting power as yours:
One citizen is delusional enough to think there is a pathway to impeachment and restoration of Democratic Party rule:
The writer’s proposed solution is that everyone simply agree with the writer.
Unfortunately, our biases have reinforced the influence of the two-party system. Until we shake out cognitive dissonance and re-examine events and policies, we will continue to get the leaders we deserve. The true solution to escaping the influence of the opposing political party is limit the government so that the politicians that do slither into office can't impact our lives as easily. Instead of a system where you are trying to force someone to live by your desires, and half your life suffering from their policies, the system needs to limit the power of every part of government.
Instead of Left and Right, a better critique focuses on Liberty. Both parties have expanded the government and increased taxes, regulations, and passed laws that limit your liberties. These policies limit your freedom, your choices, your behavior and your power as a citizen. Ask if the bill your representative is writing is going to make life easier, ask what the cost will be, examine the impact that similar laws have had. Focus on the content, and not the originator. A government should not be about one group winning while another loses. In focusing on liberty, we aim for the win-win in politics.
In contrast, the hyperbolic calls for impeachment are about a person, not an office, not an idea, and not a policy. Such calls stop dialogue, stop negotiations, and widen the divide as people take sides instead of meeting in the middle.
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Just because the President is from the 'other team' doesn't mean you should act hysterical in response to his every action. Doing so just makes you a hack.
Before one starts typing a post on Facebook, the field says "What's on your mind?" How very fitting: that's exactly the question I want to answer right now.
President Barack Obama's historic Presidency came to its conclusion this past month. He boarded Marine One (temporarily "Executive One") for the last time and flew directly over My wife and I. I must admit that, as I watched his helicopter fade into the distance, mixed feelings washed over me.
On the one hand, I felt cautiously hopeful. I did not vote for Obama in 2008, nor did I vote for him in 2012. Politically, I am conservative; thus, Obama and I harbored deeply divergent policy positions. I opposed Obamacare, opposed his enormous fiscal deficits, opposed many of his immigration measures, and so forth. I felt that, from a policy perspective, it was time for change in Washington, D.C. I was--and remain--ready for a conservative approach to governance. Uncertainties about his successor notwithstanding, this is why I felt cautiously optimistic.
On the other hand, feelings of what I can only describe as remorse also welled up in me. As I said, Obama's Presidency was historic, and he came into office on a wave of, for many, hopeful optimism. To this day, the 69 million votes he received is a record. His Electoral College victory margin was substantial, and the 10 million votes that separated him and John McCain easily represent one of the top-ten largest popular margins ever. He received more opposing-party votes than anyone since Ronald Reagan. His second inauguration was the second largest in history--second only to his own first inauguration, which drew more people to D.C. than Donald Trump's, both of George W. Bush's, and one of Bill Clinton's added together. His "movement" remains the largest in recent memory.
I think that when he came into office he was a bit naïve and idealistic, believing that he could change more than a President actually can. He did eventually grow into the Office's constraints, however, and adopted a more pragmatic approach to governing during his final years in office--especially in matters of foreign policy. (This has nothing to do with his policy positions; rather, it's a statement about his approach.)
This is a long preamble leading into why I felt a bit of remorse. Barack Obama was subjected to some of the most withering criticism I've ever heard. I've heard much criticism of Obama's policies, and I largely agree with it. Unfortunately, I've also heard unbelievable personal insults hurled his way. I've heard people criticize him and even his family because of the color of their skin. I've heard fellow conservatives say that they "hate" him. (This sentiment appears to still be running strong: during Trump's inaugural parade, I heard several of his supporters telling each other that they "literally hate Hillary Clinton.") I've heard him called the anti-Christ. I've heard Obama's opponents accuse him of selling out his country. I've even observed conservatives openly rooting for him to fail--more times than I could ever count. (In my view, this last issue is both immoral and unpatriotic.)
This underscores a reprehensible inability on the part of many to separate "Obama the policy setter" from "Obama the man." In my view, "Obama the policy setter" was not a total success. I simply do not believe that liberal policies are in the best interest of this country, but that is where my disapproval of him ends: my differences with him are purely matters of policy--nothing more.
"Obama the man" is above reproach; I genuinely believe that he is a very good person and that he set a wonderful personal example for all Americans. He harbored and displayed a deep devotion to his family, appearing at all times to have been a committed and proud husband and father. Obama conducted himself professionally and always had a calm, even hand on the tiller. He did not deserve the vicious venom hurled at him, but he handled it with grace and dignity. Admirably, he did not respond by leveling the same type of insults at his detractors. He is simply a good, nice person. The way in which he comported himself is an example of which all Americans should be proud. Indeed, we should thank him for it.
So I'll admit that I actually feel a bit badly about it--sad even. He and his family devoted eight years of their lives to the service of our country. They received unbelievably raw, personal insults for the duration, yet all of them appear to have taken the high road every time. I don't delight in hating people, so I see the Obamas for who they were: good, well-intended people who, misguided though their policies frequently were, arrived on the White House front steps on January 20, 2009 sincerely hoping to make a positive difference for our country.
For that, I thank them. For the ugly insults, I apologize to them. I wish President Obama nothing but the best in his well-deserved retirement.
It's no secret that even though I am a proud Republican and a genuine conservative, Donald Trump was far from my first choice. That said, I choose to give him a chance. What other option is there really? I remain hopeful that we will now have effective, pragmatic, conservative governance--effective, pragmatic, conservative governance that benefits all Americans, that leaves no one out.
Going forward, I hope that everyone will consider what I've said here and will consider separating the President's character from the President's official actions. If both deserve condemnation, then condemn them. If they don't though, then do not conflate the two simply because it feels good to your baser side.
Give our leaders and their families--no matter their political positions--the same respect you would ask for yourself and for your families. If you're still attacking the Obamas, then you're wrong. If you're burning trash cans and cars in the street, then you're wrong. We must change the tone in this country, and we conservatives must admit that our own conduct and words have not lived up to the ideal. It is incumbent, starting right now and regardless of the past, on both sides of the political divide and on our entire electorate to commit ourselves to a more respectful approach to dialog--even if it appears that our efforts are not reciprocated.
I think that all too often we feel so disconnected from our President and so passionate about our political positions that we forget that the President isn't just the President. Just like us, he is also a father, a husband, a friend, and a human being with feelings, hopes, dreams, and so forth. From now on, let's try to reacquaint ourselves with the Golden Rule.
DEAR MR. REPUBLICAN: We are spending far, far too much time talking about executive orders, whether temporary travel bans are legal, who the Secretary of the Army should be, and so forth. I'm ready to hear policy discussion about some of the truly major issues facing our country. If Republicans are going to make dramatic changes in areas of truly fundamental consequences, then time is not on our side.
Among these issues are...
(1) THE NATIONAL DEBT
Our debt load now exceeds the size of our entire economy and is, for all intents and purposes, not possible to pay off. It is still possible to manage, though, again, time is definitely not on our side on this one. In my opinion, this is the most important and urgent issue facing the United States: our national debt is weeks away from topping $20 trillion BEFORE interest--an amount that no human being can truly wrap his mind around. This still is not being addressed, but the tangible impacts of it are already being felt, especially in Federal Reserve rate planning.
Obamacare should be repealed and replaced--not just repealed. You cannot repeal legislation like Obamacare without a plan for replacing it, and you MUST ensure that those who've spent their own hard-earned dollars purchasing insurance through the exchanges are taken care of. This is now the most expensive sector of our economy, and its costs have accelerated in the wake of the Affordable Care Act's passage in 2010. We keep hearing that action will be taken. The only problem is that we still have no evidence of this action or even a rough idea as to the strategy.
(3) JOBS AND WAGES.
Work force participation remains at near-record lows. Millions of people simply are not looking for jobs. Part of this problem is wages: They started to rise somewhat two or three years ago, but the rate of increase was always too slow. Now wage growth appears to have slowed once again. There are solutions to this problem, and Republicans have good ideas here. What is the hold-up?
(4) TAXES AND REGULATION.
Our corporate tax code is the most noncompetitive on the entire planet. Our individual tax code, though not quite as noncompetitive, is insanely complex, extremely expensive to comply with, and impossible for any one person to understand in its entirety. The number of regulations is absolutely ballooning and is now having a negative material impact on entrepreneurialism--the very bedrock of our economy and the number 1 pillar underlying "the American Dream." Campaign promises by both Trump and GOP members of Congress to enact reform in these two areas were frequent and loud. What's happened? Trump signed an executive order requiring two regulations to be eliminated for every new one enacted--an order so vague and ham-handed that it probably will have no effect at all. Arbitrary executive orders won't solve this problem. It's time for Congress to wake up from its continuing decade-long slumber and send true reform legislation to the Oval Office for a signature.
(5) GENERAL GOVERNMENT INEFFICIENCY.
It remains far too difficult to fire federal employees who underperform. (To my federal employee friends, in no way do I intend to imply that most federal employees under-perform, though when it happens, we all know that not much can be done about it.) There remains far too much redundancy; a Congressional study found that hundreds of agencies were doing the same jobs as other agencies. Changing policies can take many years. Government technology and software is always out of date--sometimes decades so. In short: we are not efficient, and we are not nimble. That wasn't a major problem in the pre-high-tech world. In the dynamic, fast-paced, high-tech world of the 21st Century, however, that is absolutely debilitating. Where's the reform?
Perhaps rather than the national debt, I should have said that this issue is the most urgent one. Why? Well, it prevents our being able to solve these other issues--including the national debt. Trump and Congressional members of the GOP said that they would govern "for everyone" and that they wanted "unity." I've seen no evidence of this in practice. By the same token, Democrats have been almost impossible to work with during confirmation hearings (the only area in which they've had much impact so far). It's not clear that if the GOP extended an olive branch to them now, they'd take it. Bipartisanship is a two-way street, though it was to start somewhere. I'm happy to have it start with Republicans. Unfortunately, I can't even say that this is a stillborn hope because it doesn't appear to even have been conceived.
This post is not an attack on Donald Trump. In reality, most of these are issues on which Congress must take action. In order to truly solve any of them, Congress is indispensable. Where are they? At this point, it seems as though Congress is like government, only with frequent nap times, copious recess, and interminable bloviating. It is, however, incumbent on Trump to help set a policy direction, and it is important that Democrats engage themselves constructively as well. In short, blame can be cast all around--on both sides of the aisle and on all three branches of the federal government.
I'm tired of partisan bickering over minor, short-term issues though. I'm ready to tackle major issues. I'm ready to tackle long-term issues. I'm ready to work together. After all, a government that works well works for all. A government that doesn't work well, works only for a precious few entrenched interests. Let's make it work well.
On my Twitter feed the other day, someone posted a photo of a page in a textbook he was forced to use in college.
"If you are a libertarian or an anarchist who believes states are a threat to freedom, you should consider moving to Somalia." That's the first sentence on the page.
(The offending book, if you're curious, is The Good Society: An Introduction to Comparative Politics, by Alan Draper and Ansil Ramsay.)
Here we have an academic textbook literally urging libertarians to move to Somalia if they hate states so much -- in other words, it's written at the level of "You like carrots? Why don't you marry one" from third grade. Seriously, this is exactly the same dumb-guy argument I might encounter on Twitter.
"Without a state," we read, Somalia under statelessness descended into a Hobbesian "state of nature where life is nasty, brutish, and short."
Then, after two whole paragraphs on the situation in Somalia, we get study questions. If you look really, really closely, you may detect a very slight bias in these questions.
VERY SLIGHT, I tell you.
"1. Which is preferable, bad government or no government?"
"2. Why hasn't Somalia without a state become the paradise that libertarians anticipate?"
Now for one thing, was there ever a libertarian who predicted that a stateless Somalia -- or a stateless anywhere else -- would be a "paradise"?
More importantly, if we're going to get a picture that's worth anything of life in Somalia without the state, the correct comparison to make is not between Somalia and the United States (the comparison most writers like this are implicitly making), but between Somalia and comparable African countries.
And on that front, Somalia during its stateless period comes out pretty darn well. In most metrics of living standards it held steady or improved.
In the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization in 2008, Professor Benjamin Powell and his colleagues wrote:
"This paper’s main contribution to the literature has been to compare Somalia’s living standards to those of 41 other sub-Saharan African countries both before and after the collapse of the national government. We find that Somalia’s living standards have generally improved and that they compare relatively favorably with many existing African states. Importantly, we find that Somali living standards have often improved, not just in absolute terms, but also relative to other African countries since the collapse of the Somali central government."
Economist Peter Leeson, in Anarchy Unbound (Cambridge University Press), reports similar findings -- yes, Somalia ranked low in some categories during the stateless period, but that's where it ranked before statelessness, too, and if anything it made progress in those categories (life expectancy is up, for instance, and infant mortality is down).
Does our textbook cite any of this? The question answers itself. The only person quoted in the book is a New York Times reporter.
I think I'll take Ben Powell and Pete Leeson.
Of course, smashing p.c. textbook propaganda is what we specialize in at my Liberty Classroom.
Prepare yourself for some truth bombs:
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"Even more damaging are comments that impugn the tens of thousands of Americans who are at work every day of the year, many in great physical danger, to protect us and to provide our national leadership — regardless of political party — with the best information possible," Schiff said Saturday.
"Perhaps, once he has taken office, Mr. Trump will go to the CIA and look at the rows of memorial stars in the lobby — each representing a fallen officer — and reflect on his disparagement of the intelligence community's work," he said.
I'm no Democrat--not by a long shot--but the Democrat who made that statement is exactly right. His words do not apply only to Donald Trump; they apply equally to those of you I've heard trashing the CIA and the broader intelligence community and even personally insulting those who work in that capacity.
Many of you who say these things are quick to realize the sacrifice made on your behalf by those who are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, yet you fail to realize that the same sacrifice has been made on your behalf by many in the intelligence community.
Their sacrifices may not be memorialized in Arlington, but they have their own solemn memorial in the stars on lobby wall in the CIA's headquarters. They are there without names and without recognition.
Never forget the good work that our intelligence officials do protecting you and this country--even when you insult them and portray them as the true threat. It takes a true hero to work long hours for too little pay in order to defend people who do not appreciate it and who have no idea of the sacrifice involved.
You'd do well to remember that these people are your fellow Americans. They are largely good, patriotic people with families they wish they could see whenever they wanted. They aren't playing politics; they're playing a game of life or death because they believe in this country and in your cause.
Some in the Intelligence field also believe in the principles that we espouse here: Peace, Tolerance, Free Markets, Individualism and Limited Government.
MORE FROM LIBERTYLOL:
Tomorrow marks the start of a new year. I've seen a large number of posts on Facebook about the supposedly uniquely horrible nature of 2016. Though it certainly seems that 2016 had its fair share of unfortunate events, the truth is that every year has its highs and lows: very few are uniquely anything. The year that's drawing to a close is no different.
Even so, I try not to dwell in the past. "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme." It's important to learn from the past and to incorporate those lessons into our future decision making, but since history doesn't necessarily repeat itself, we shouldn't get bogged down in the past. What's more is that frequently the "uniquely horrible" events of one year cannot be truly labeled "uniquely horrible" until well after that year has ended.
The best way to commemorate passing years is to draw "lessons learned" and then to focus on coming years. The years past are in the past; they cannot be changed. The years to come are the ones that will affect each and every one of us. Thus, those should be more the subject of discussion than should the unchangeable past.
Plus, why spend time dwelling in a prior year when the coming year appears to have its own set of substantial challenges to discuss? During 2017, our country and our world will face a large number of daunting challenges, and a plan for addressing them isn't clear. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have fully delineated plans for tackling our most substantial challenges.
(1) The U.S. healthcare system remains deeply flawed, including steep costs and disparities in care that range from the best on Earth to barely acceptable even by the lowest of Western standards. (Plan to address: Murky)
(2) Our national debt, which is the only true existential threat we face, will continue to balloon. This imperils not only American prosperity but also that of the entire Earth. (Plan to address: None)
(3) ISIS has seen much of its territory seized, has experienced drops in funding and in manpower, and is being pressured on all fronts. Even so, the group remains dangerous, and many more ISIS-inspired and/or -directed attacks should be expected over the coming year. (Plan to address: None)
(4) America's educational system will continue to struggle mightily by most metrics. This impacts everything from standard of living to life expectancy to general economic health. (Plan to address: None)
(5) The effect of emissions is beginning to have an impact both on the climate and on people's health around the world (lung cancer, etc.). The health and economic costs will continue to mount. (Plan to address: None)
(6) Enormous numbers of American workers are unemployed. An even larger number are under-employed. Millions haven't seen a pay raise in years. (Plan to address: Murky)
(7) China is challenging American interests in the Pacific Ocean as no country has since Japan during World War II. (Plan to address: None)
(8) Russia's Vladimir Putin is increasingly emboldened. From coercing American allies in Europe to meddling in American elections to developing the ability to attack American infrastructure, Putin is a problem for the United States as never before. (Plan to address: Murky)
(9) Government spending (especially federal government spending) is completely out of control. The size of our budget is larger than the GDP's of all except three countries. (Plan to address: None)
(10) Britain will shake the foundations of Europe by formally initiating negotiations for leaving the European Union. The effects of this action, whether good or bad, will be felt here in the U.S. as well. (Plan to address: Still being developed)
Our country faces these challenges without clear direction or planning. We face it more divided than we've been in at least several decades. If this isn't enough to force your focus from the past year to the next one, then I'm not sure that anything could.
Furthermore, even though our government appears, on the surface, to be more united than it has been in a very long time (Republicans control two branches outright and may soon control all three), that too goes only surface deep. Republicans lost ground in Congress in 2016 and do not have a filibuster-proof majority. Thus, compromise with Democrats will be required on some issues.
Republicans ourselves are divided. Congress and the incoming administration will not see eye-to-eye on every issue (this is already clear). Thus, the White House and Congress will have to compromise even within their own party. All of this adds an additional degree of uncertainty.
One thing that should unite us is this though: the success of our government directly impacts the success of each of us individually. Our government(s) regulates our economy, defends our nation, protects us from terrorism, administers our schools, and more. It behooves all of us to pray for the success of our leaders. Let us pray that in 2017 our leaders are wise, thoughtful, and informed. Let us pray that they are willing to compromise when it's prudent and able to stay the course when it isn't.
The United States of America is the world's greatest economic, diplomatic, military, and intelligence power (by wide margins in all cases). Here's to doing everything we can to help our leadership protect and expand our strengths over the coming year and beyond.
Dear Mr. Republican is a guest post. LibertyLOL does not believe that a Chinese challenge of our 'interests' in the Pacific, Putin 'hacking an election', and global climate-changing emissions are outside of where our principles lie for future American Prosperity.
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Since Congress and our Intelligence Agencies have little to no credibility amongst the public, Reason.com urges them to heed Justin Amash's call for transparency in the matter.
Reason.com notes "The stories, however, are based on anonymous sources from groups whose records of obfuscations, mistakes, and screw-ups are legendary."
Specifically, the Washington Post reports:
"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. "That's the consensus view."
"The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now "quite clear" that electing Trump was Russia's goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters."
Neither Amash or Reason.com's skepticism is out in left field here. Let's look at a quick report card of lies told by the CIA and repeated by the New York Times which ultimately led to war.
Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam)
Questions about the Gulf of Tonkin incidents have persisted for more than 40 years. But once-classified documents and tapes released in the past several years, combined with previously uncovered facts, make clear that high government officials distorted facts and deceived the American public about events that led to full U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
The Washington Post, now claiming Russian hacking led with this headline on Aug. 5, 1964: “American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New Aggression”. That same day, the front page of the New York Times reported: “President Johnson has ordered retaliatory action against gunboats and ‘certain supporting facilities in North Vietnam’ after renewed attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin.”
But there was no “second attack” by North Vietnam — no “renewed attacks against American destroyers.” By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War.
Babies dumped out of incubators in Kuwait (Gulf War)
The Nayirah testimony was a false testimony given before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990 by a 15-year-old girl who provided only her first name, Nayirah. Her tear-jerking story included "312 premature babies at Kuwait City's maternity hospital who died after Iraqi soldiers stole their incubators and left the infants on the floor," and of "babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor." The testimony was widely publicized, and was cited numerous times by United States senators and President George H.W. Bush in their rationale to back Kuwait in the Gulf War.
In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah's last name was al-Ṣabaḥ and that she was the daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. Furthermore, it was revealed that her testimony was organized as part of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait public relations campaign which was run by American Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government. Following this, al-Sabah's testimony has come to be regarded as a classic example of modern atrocity propaganda.
Iraqi WMD (2003 invasion of Iraq)
The United States and the UK asserted that Saddam Hussein still possessed large hidden stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in 2003, and that he was clandestinely procuring and producing more. Inspections by the UN to resolve the status of unresolved disarmament questions restarted between November 2002 and March 2003, under UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which demanded Saddam give "immediate, unconditional and active cooperation" with UN and IAEA inspections, shortly before his country was attacked.
The CIA later declassified the document that supposedly proved our involvement in Iraq, one that persists after 12 years with no end in sight. But its contents are not what top Bush administration officials said during their campaign to sell the war to the American public. Those officials, citing the same classified document, asserted with no uncertainty that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear weapons, concealing a vast chemical and biological weapons arsenal, and posing an immediate and grave threat to US national security.
Fake CIA videos of beheadings in Syria (Not technically on this list as it failed to get Boots-on-Ground)
A 2010 Washington Post article authored by former Army Intelligence Officer Jeff Stein features a detailed account of how the CIA admittedly filmed a fake Bin Laden video during the run up to the 2003 Iraq war. The article, which includes comments from multiple sources within the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group, explains how the agency had planned to “flood Iraq with the videos” depicting several controversial scenarios.
“The agency actually did make a video purporting to show Osama bin Laden and his cronies sitting around a campfire swigging bottles of liquor and savoring their conquests with boys, one of the former CIA officers recalled, chuckling at the memory,” the article states. “The actors were drawn from ‘some of us darker-skinned employees.’”
If you recall, after a fierce pushback of public outrage at the thought of intervening in Syria, the beheading videos turned the tide of US Interventionism. There are no believable reports at this time that the CIA was directly involved with the fake Foley beheading videos though it's been proven the beheadings we fake and this ia a tool in their toolbox.
Don't you think maybe skepticism and investigation are in order?
Some have already thought aloud of the possibility that the CIA is hoping to raise enough doubt to change electors from casting faithful Trump votes. There's irony for you. In an attempt to ensure 'Russian Hackers' from affecting our election, Electoral College voters cast votes against the will of the people for an apparent criminal.
In its continuing coverage, The New York Times notes that the new revelations aren't even based on new evidence:
"The C.I.A.'s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency's briefing, said on Sunday. Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence—evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments—that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome.
It is unclear why the C.I.A. did not produce this formal assessment before the election, although several officials said that parts of it had been made available to President Obama in the presidential daily briefing in the weeks before the vote. But the conclusion that Moscow ran an operation to help install the next president is one of the most consequential analyses by American spy agencies in years."
We should demand transparency. And as long as we're demanding transparency, let's get it as well for Soros donations and for foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation, just in the unlikely event that any of that affected the election. That won't happen though because there was a day where getting information on political people (Nixon) would get you a Pulitzer, these days releasing the truth gets you threats of prison.
Finally, the CIA is the masters of the universe whose foreign policy Hillary exemplifies, and Trump potentially threatens. Conflict of interest exists to say the very least. The FBI is denying that there is any evidence that Russia hacked the DNC or the RNC. But why don't we start with the CIA and see their evidence. Then, don't stop there. Release information on all the Foreign Elections we have rigged as well. Like this one in Russia:
I've been thinking about this for a while: I'd like to write a bit about why I take the positions that I do. Over the last couple of years, I've heard much support and agreement with what I've posted. On the other hand, I know that my posts have angered and annoyed many as well - especially, ironically, some of my fellow conservatives.
Today's post won't be about a specific issue. The political climate has calmed from a boil to a deep simmer, and I think that this is a good time to simply explain my thinking and the reasons that I've taken the positions that I have.
To begin, most Americans believe that the two major parties leave them with a poor option and a poorer option. Very few firmly believe in the parties - even in their own party. Republicans should be especially aware of this as we survey the carnage of the primary season. This is failing. Call me ridiculous, but failure is not good enough.
It is not good enough to simply be "not as bad as the other side." I have heard Republicans say something like, "We are bad, but hey...at least we aren't the Democratic Party." That is not an acceptable state of affairs. Americans should have parties in which they can believe and of which they can be proud, not ones that are merely tolerable if both nostrils are pinched closed.
Conservative economic, security, tax, and spending policies are sound and should not have merely conservative (narrow) appeal. These are policies that would work for most Americans, yet most Americans do not support the party that espouses them - and haven't supported that party since, shockingly, the 1980's.
In fact, the GOP now loses the popular vote nearly every single election cycle by generally-growing margins. This happens because we frequently lose women and always lose blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and so on.
We lose every large American city. Of our four largest states, we consistently lose two (California and New York), occasionally lose another (Florida), and, for the first time in modern history, have seen the fourth (Texas) be labeled "purple," not red. (For a Republican, there is no path to the White House that does not run through Texas, so this should be truly disconcerting.)
We can reliably count only on the rural vote - this in a country that is urbanizing. We can reliably count only on the white male vote - the only major demographic that is declining as a percentage of the population.
Some argue that 2016's election results should soothe these fears. I disagree. This year, Republicans maintained control of both houses of Congress, but we now have smaller margins in both. (Yes, we lost ground in both.)
A Republican won the White House, but he did so against an incredibly unpopular challenger and after losing the popular vote by a record margin (for a winner of the Electoral College, at least). We should not be lulled into a false sense of security by these "paper tigers." The Democratic Party is 11 million members larger than the Republican Party, and the long-term demographic and overall public opinion fundamentals in this country remain decidedly against us.
We must not make excuses for all of this. That does no one any favors, least of all ourselves. We must not blindly blame American society, the "liberal media," or any other outside factor. Sure, there are external challenges, but we cannot control those, so it is irrational to concern ourselves only with those.
Let's be honest: there are legitimate problems with the Republican Party itself that push potential voters away. Those are problems that we can influence, and they are where our attention should rest for the time being. We must reform our own party - it's platform, it's message, is messengers, it's strategy, and more.
Unless we want to eventually cede permanent control of the White House to an increasingly liberal Democratic Party, we must find a way to get our own Republican house into order. There is no structural reason that American cities could not support us. There is no structural reason that the black community could not support us. These are not laws of nature. It is time for us to broaden our appeal geographically and demographically. It is time for us to be the party that makes people proud to be members and proud to be American. We should not set limits for ourselves or for this country.
That is why I have taken the difficult, self-critical positions I have: I want the 21st Century Republican Party to be the "New Republican Party," one that draws the support of broad swaths of American society and that can put conservative principles to work for all Americans. It should be an open and welcoming party. There is room under the conservative umbrella for everyone except for those who don't think there's room under the umbrella for everyone.
It is true that there is plenty within the Democratic Party worth criticizing. We Republicans cannot impose change on their party though. We can, however, impose change on our own party, and that is precisely what we should do. The surest way to reform the Democratic Party is to increase Republican appeal. If the Republican Party reformed itself and became the party of choice for Americans, I assure you that the Democratic Party would take notice.
We don't do this by being unwilling to compromise. (It's ironic that as much as many Republicans talk about "what the Founders wanted" while also refusing to compromise at all, they fail to acknowledge that the Founders were incredibly proud of their ability to reach compromises with each other. Compromise defined the founding of this nation.)
We must sincerely look within ourselves and within our own party and remove everything that should not be there. If you believe that "any of ours are better than any of theirs," then you're very partisan and are not being realistic. (For example, do you think that "any of ours were better than any of theirs" back when Ronald Reagan was a Democrat?)
If you think that the Republican Party takes a better position on every single issue than does the Democratic Party, then, again, you're very partisan and are not seeing the true, objective nature of the issues.
If you think that the Republican Party is more open and more tolerant than is the Democratic Party, then you're wrong. The truth of the matter is that there are certain demographics that the Democratic Party simply doesn't tolerate well. There are, however, several "classes" of voters that Republicans simply do not tolerate either. Anyone who was "on the edge" as to which party to vote for in this last election and who visited conservative forums online would have found ample reason to doubt the willingness of many Republicans to tolerate differences of opinion, culture, etc. Let's not be hypocritical about this.
It is time for critical thinking, balanced information, and objectivity to prevail. We Republicans love to complain about the "liberal media." To be sure, "the media" do tend to the Left. Let's be honest here too though: most Republicans get their news only from Drudge Report, Fox News, The Washington Times, Townhall, Lucianne, and even Breitbart (when we're not simply getting it from late night talk shows and Facebook, a shortcoming that we share with the Democrats). All of those are conservative - not balanced - media outlets. So while the media overall tend to be liberal, we see the problem as even more pronounced than it actually is because we compare it to the sources I just mentioned - sources whose clear objective is to cater to a conservative audience. I
think that those sources (except Breitbart) play an important role in the national dialogue because the Right needs to have a voice as well. We should not let ourselves believe that they are fully objective either though. They aren't. During the recent elections, many Republicans were so determined to believe everything they heard and agreed with, that they were willing to accept even stories planted in our media by a hostile foreign power (Russia). Please, let's not be hypocritical here either.
We have to be able to acknowledge that ANY source that leans one way (whether conservative or liberal) is not a fully objective source. We should be watching news and taking our information from a set of sources that stretches across the mainstream political spectrum and should then use research and critical thinking to genuinely consider why we disagree with some of what we hear and why we agree with some of the rest.
We are every bit as guilty as are the Democrats of seeking out news outlets with which we generally agree and immediately allowing them to confirm our opinions without further question. We are every bit as guilty as are the Democrats of labeling any news source with which we do not generally agree as "biased" and/or as "bought by the" other side.
(***As an aside, I'd like to inject one tangential opinion here. I'm very tired of hearing fellow Republicans whine about the "liberal media" and unfair treatment for conservatives. Yes, the media are largely liberal. Yes, conservatives are frequently given a raw deal. That's life though. Politicians campaign for some of the most important and most difficult jobs in the world. If they cannot handle the American media, how then can we expect them to handle hostile foreign leaders? Sure, it's unfair - but it's a whole lot cleaner and fairer than what will be dealt to us by people like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Whining about the media on the part of the GOP is making excuses for failing to resonate with Americans. Do you know who else wasn't treated fairly by the media? Ronald Reagan. He still found a way to communicate his message to the American public and to deliver results. Rather than worrying with the media bogeyman, worry with delivering results. If the GOP takes care of results, then the media will take care of themselves. The votes will come.***)
It's time for all of us to be able to see where the other side is right and where we are wrong and to learn from their successes and failures. It's time for us to be able to reach across the aisle. It's time for us to take the initiative - to be very proactive - in healing our nation's divisions. (Yes, we should do this even when we believe that the other side is at fault. Deadlock and division serve the interests of none of us regardless of who is at fault. On the other hand, healing all of this serves all our interests regardless of who makes the "first move." So why not us? Why not the GOP?)
Some might wonder why I am being so "partisan": why spend so much time and effort on a party? After all, isn't the country far more important? Indeed it is, and I would love for there to be no political parties at all. One-party rule, however, is not good for anyone except for those who are running that one party, and I am not willing to let us cede more and more ground to the Democratic Party. It would not be good for America if the Democratic Party were the only dominant party just as it would not be good for America if the GOP were the only dominant party. We need competing ideas and choices, and thus America needs the GOP to be viable and to present compelling alternatives. So I see ensuring the long-term health of our parties as helping to ensure the long-term health of this great "experiment in democracy."
It is time for us to stop having an "us or them" mentality. It is time for us to stop seeing politics as a zero-sum game. (It is neither zero sum nor a game.) It is time for us to stop allowing another's beliefs to color our impression of that person as liberal or conservative. Policies are what matter.
For example, whether someone believes that global warming is real does not determine whether that person is liberal or conservative. Instead, policies - how a person wants to respond to global warming - is what makes that person conservative or liberal. If that person wants to respond with cap and trade, then that's liberal. If that person wants to respond with targeted tax incentives and certain types of entrepreneurial assistance, well, that's a conservative position. This is but one of many examples, but we must stop simply making quick judgments as to who's on "our side" and who's on "their side" based purely on one's beliefs. That's not enough. It's time for us to get back to discussing and understanding policy. After all, policy - not beliefs - is the job of our elected leadership.
Policy should be what influences our opinions, and we should be able to critically analyze policy proposals.
I'm conservative and am proud to be a Republican, but I'm also well informed and am very willing to see the faults in my party, to call them out, and to address them. It was Thomas Jefferson who said that institutions should change with the times. The Republican Party is an institution. We must change with the times. Many people have cursed at me online and/or deleted me from their Facebook because of my positions.
These are Republicans who are simply looking for confirmation of their beliefs and who are unwilling to tolerate differences, and persisting on this uncompromising and intolerant path will eventually lead to the GOP's inability to compete successfully for the White House. Why don't you instead try engaging me and understanding why I feel that way that I do? I assure you that it is all with the best of intentions.
There is no reason that conservative principles can't appeal broadly. We have to make it so though: we are not entitled to votes. It is not the job of the American people to come to us. Rather, it is our job to go to the American people. I envision a nation with two well-intended parties that respect each other but that simply disagree about matters of policy. I envision an electorate that informs itself and can intelligently discuss matters of politics without personally insulting the other side. Nothing could stop the United States of America if those were the case. Nothing. So why can't it start with us?
If we want to make the United States everything she can be for every single citizen, then we must be everything we can be for every single citizen. We don't do that by being exclusive and "not as bad as the other side." We do it by being inclusive and by being effective in our own right. That's my goal, and that's why take the positions that I do.
It's time for us to have a party that sees everyone as American first and foremost. Many people "like" statements like this but quietly associate it with being liberal. How many actually incorporate that into their thinking, their posts, their voting, and more? Let it start with us.
In short, I take the positions I do because I take the long-term view, not the short-term view. I want the best for our party and our country. That's why.
-Dear Mr. Republican
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If you ask what worries me about the incoming Trump Administration, I’ll immediately point to a bunch of policy issues.
Others, though, are more focused on whether Trump’s business empire will distort decisions in the White House.
Here’s what Paul Krugman recently wrote about Trump and potential corruption.
I’m tempted to ask why Krugman wasn’t similarly worried about corruption over the past eight years. Was he fretting about Solyndra-type scams? About the pay-to-play antics at the Clinton Foundation? About Operation Choke Point and arbitrary denial of financial services to law-abiding citizens?
He seems to think that the problem of malfeasance only exists when his team isn’t in power. But that’s totally backwards. As I wrote back in 2010, people should be especially concerned and vigilant when their party holds power. It’s not just common sense. It should be a moral obligation.
But even if Krugman is a hypocrite, that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. At least not in this case. He is absolutely on the mark when he frets about the “incentives” for massive looting by Trump and his allies.
But what frustrates me is that he doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion, which is that the incentive to loot mostly exists because there’s an ability to loot. And the ability to loot mostly exists because the federal government is so big and has so much power.
And as Lord Acton famously warned, power is very tempting and very corrupting.
Which is why I’m hoping that Krugman will read John Stossel’s new column for Reason. In the piece, John correctly points out that the only way to “drain the swamp” is to shrink the size and scope of government.
As you can see, Stossel understands “public choice” and recognizes that making government smaller is the only sure-fire way of reducing public corruption.
Which is music to my ears, for obvious reasons.
By the way, the same problem exists in many other countries and this connects to the controversies about Trump and his business dealings. Many of the stories about potential misbehavior during a Trump Administration focus on whether the President will adjust American policy in exchange for permits and other favors from foreign governments.
But that temptation wouldn’t exist if entrepreneurs didn’t need to get permission from bureaucrats before building things such as hotels and golf courses. In other words, if more nations copied Singapore and New Zealand, there wouldn’t be much reason to worry whether the new president was willing to swap policy for permits.
Republished from Dan Mitchell's blog.
Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
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