Saturday, September 1, 2012

When the Choice is Placed Before You - CHOOSE WELL

From time to time I hear apocalyptic predictions of America's demise due to the overhang of our national debt. To be sure, it is out of control, and it must be reduced. However, we still have time to take action before it is irreversibly too late and we won't be able to do much about it.

I also hear those who would have you believe that we are "owned" by China because they hold all our debt. This is simply not true. The sad reality is that the U.S. Treasury (that means us as taxpayers) holds the lion's share of the $16 Trillion U.S. debt.

As a world region, Asia owns only 20 percent of U.S. federal debt, with China holding less than 10 percent ($1.3 trillion) and Japan owning approximately 6 percent ($882 billion).

American citizens and now, unfortunately, the Federal Reserve are the primary holders of U.S. federal debt. The U.S. urgently needs to get its fiscal house in order. It has too much debt, period. The relatively minor share of it owned by China is not the problem.

I took careful note this last week for signs of the approaching financial apocalypse. I heard nothing but hope and optimism for the future from Mitt Romney. Please take a minute to read the full text of his acceptance speech here. Paul Ryan offered a sober warning that time is running out. That was about it. The reason there is still time is that America is still the last best hope for stability in the world. Where else would the world invest? Our debt instruments are still relatively cheap, and that's why the obligations to pay keep piling up. When there are no buyers left for our debt offered at auction each week, the Federal Reserve will be the last buyer standing and it scoops it up and tucks it away for a future day of reckoning. We've just got to reverse that trend before the clock runs out. I've said it before, and I will continue to remind us that we do not have a debt problem as much as we have an unrestrained spending problem.

We simply must resolve to stop spending money we don't have. Economic growth will solve the problem, so that's why you've been hearing that the American economy will come roaring back to life when the right policies are put into place by the next Romney/Ryan administration.

What are the right policies? Here are some side by side comparisons to get us started:

Asia accounts for more than half the world’s population. Ironically, in that part of the world freedom and tyranny live side by side. So do economic prosperity and poverty. It isn't much different there than it is right here in America in that regard.

East and South Asia have some of the best places in the world to do business. Conversely, they also have some of the worst. Within the United States, the same is true also. Some states are more "business friendly" than others. Utah increasingly is seen as one of the best places in America to do business. Why? Because of its policies to encourage business development.

Asia is home to some of the most unstable, dangerous nations in the world, like North Korea. But it is also home to some of the most steady and reliable, like the "real" Korea.

It is also home to the only country in the world capable of emerging as a peer competitor for global American influence – the People’s Republic of China.

Here's what the debt picture looks like in reality today:

Given this current snapshot, we must ask ourselves what the "right policies" are for America to move forward. That's the Obama campaign slogan - "FORWARD." However, nothing this administration has done for the past four years suggests it will take us forward in the next four.

Here are some things to think about what it will take to restore America to its leadership role in the world:

We're down to about two months left in this presidential election season. Americans are facing a historic moment in time. The contrasting choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama could not be more well-defined and clear. Only the American people have the power to change the trajectory of the next few years. They will decide in this election what the role of the federal government will be in their individual lives, and they DO have that power.

The Republicans gathered in Tampa last week to begin framing their desire to have that debate with the Democrats who will gather in Charlotte this coming week. They raised a number of issues screaming for definitive solutions and policies that will impact us for years to come. You heard story after story last week about how up from nothing Americans realized the hope of their existence and prospered under the hope offered by the American dream.

Energy: America needs to stop talking and start doing to end energy subsidies and restore a free market in the energy sector. We can and we should develop our own domestic energy resources in an environmentally responsible way. There are literally trillions of cubic feet underground begging to be tapped to end our dependency on foreign oil.

School choice: Chris Christie said it well, I thought - "They are for teachers' unions, we're for teachers." The federal government needs to get out of the union business, and start focusing on the students by offering them and their parents more choices. The best way to serve the needs of a diverse population is to give families the freedom to choose a school — public, private, charter, or home school — a choice that best fits their children’s needs.

Free trade: The best way to create high-quality jobs in America is to promote free trade among nations. A free flow of goods, services and technology investments across national borders enhances our ability to compete in the world, and that starts with providing markets for our best and brightest to compete in overseas and here at home.

The federal budget: There might be no one in America today better equipped than Paul Ryan to tackle the federal budget. It is complex, tricky and in every sense a balancing act among a vast array of programs and entitlements begging to be addressed, but by picking Ryan, Mitt Romney has signaled he is ready to take it on and get it under control. To preserve the American dream requires reforming major entitlement programs, permanently balancing the budget, and reducing the national debt.

Tax reform: Here again, a major overhaul of tax policy has been discussed for decades, but little progress has been made. This, like no other policy, has been a historical stalemate. Control of the Senate and the House is paramount in achieving meaningful reform in this area. America’s families and small businesses need predictable and permanent tax relief. The uncertainty must be eliminated. A tax cut here and there isn’t enough; we need fundamental tax reform. A tax system that is simple and fair would spur economic growth and protect those at the bottom of the income ladder. Lots of proposals have been floated. Now is the time to pick a few of the best and act upon them.

Repealing Obamacare: The Heritage Foundation lays out five well-reasoned positions on why it needs to be repealed. Obamacare doesn’t stop with government intrusion into your relationship with your doctor. It also raises taxes, adds to the U.S. deficit, and attacks religious and personal freedoms. Forget for a moment the stated reason it was first enacted - to give everyone in society access to affordable medical care. The hard truth is that Obamacare CANNOT and will NOT deliver on that promise because the math is unsustainable and now that we actually know what is in the bill it is nothing more than a massive tax increase at a time in our history when we can least afford it.

Reforming Medicare: Medicare reform is not just a desirable goal. It is an absolute necessity. The sleight of hand imposed upon Americans for years about its sustainability is nothing more than a magician's accounting trick and it is bankrupting not only the Medicare program but American itself. Ryan's proposal is simple in its context - to keep the promises we've made to seniors it was designed to help by giving them more choice and control over their health care decisions and guarantee better access to quality care. To do that, workers younger than age 55 will have to be introduced to the reforms of the program in order to sustain it. That will mean higher premiums for them and a reduction in benefits. Means testing will also likely be introduced. Those are the hard facts associated with Medicare that the leaders of both political parties have been loathe to discuss with taxpayers. Paul Ryan is the man for these times.

In Charlotte next week, the Democrats will attempt to muddy the waters on these direct and forthright policies. They will beg America for "just four more years" so their policies (or lack thereof) can get them through one more election cycle. They will not be successful in winning that argument with the American people, who are ready and willing to have the adult conversation about their future as Americans.

I am a terrible prognosticator when it comes to predicting which way the political winds will blow, but I've got a feeling. That feeling tells me this election will be not only a turning point in American history. It will be a sea change with major implications on the future we will choose by the leaders we elect in November.

Even 82 year-old Clint Eastwood sees it coming. Among the other things he said that garnered more commentary in the media, were these words to remind us of who WE are, an appeal to everyone in America who will wield a ballot on November 6th:

"I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen. Something that I think is very important. It is that, you, WE - WE own this country.


"WE - WE own it. It is not you owning it, and not politicians owning it. Politicians are employees of ours.


"And - so - they are just going to come around and beg for votes every few years. It is the same old deal. But I just think it is important that you realize that you’re the best in the world. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or whether you’re libertarian or whatever, you are the best. And WE should not ever forget that. And when somebody does not do the job, WE got to let them go."

Either the leaders we elect in November will guide the country even further down the unsustainable path of  "progressivism," thus assuring our eventual demise by continuing the ruinous agenda of borrowing and deficit spending, or we will choose leaders who can begin the necessary work along the long, slow path leading to a turnaround to invigorate the principled policies of our American founders. I don't know how I could lay it out more succinctly than that. We are standing at the proverbial fork in the road and we must choose one path or the other. There is no longer a middle of the road approach.

I believe the first step toward reducing our dependency upon government is to unleash the engines of economic productivity and growth. Everything else will follow in natural succession. The Reagan model of the early eighties works. We heard testimony after testimony about that this last week from successful governors who applied the model to their individual states.

  • There is little doubt we will hear nothing but empty rhetoric coming out of the DNC next week. 
  • Their convention will offer a stark and contrasting path forward over the cliff leading to oblivion. 
  • Their failed policies of the last four years are ample testimony enough. 
  • They have presided over a federal government that has acted without constitutional limits, without restrictions, and fueled solely by political expediency and fewer and fewer budgetary constraints. 
  • To do what they have done without a budget for four years is not only reckless, it is patently unconstitutional. 

It appears the only day of reckoning they will face will have to be before the harsh tribunal of the disillusioned voters who put them in power in the first place. The contest boils down to about 100 counties in six or seven states, who voted in 2008 for President Obama in the glare of the bright lights, the soaring rhetoric and the glossy promises that could never be realized. They didn't know it then, but they surely must know it now.

I've already made up my mind and I'll cast a ballot for the Romney/Ryan ticket the minute my early voting ballot arrives in the mail. For me, it can't come soon enough. In its essence it boils down to who has the right policies. It has nothing to do with Mitt Romney's religion, nor Barack Obama's ethnicity. Romney summarized it best about his Mormon religion being a non-factor: "We were Mormons and growing up in Michigan; that might have seemed unusual or out of place but I really don’t remember it that way. My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to." And similarly, opposing Obama's policies does not make one a racist.

There are some who say they still don't know Mitt Romney and wonder if they can trust him. At the RNC he let others do the talking about his quiet deeds of kindness, compassion and caring for others, but they were not broadcast in prime time. For those stories you had to do a little digging, but here are a few. In that comparison Mitt Romney wins by a landslide. It isn't even close.

So now we are finally down to the policy discussion. This time around, we can only hope and pray the residents of those 100 counties get it right, for a simple reason:

In America today we must begin anew voluntarily, or the consequences of our indecision will be thrust upon us.

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