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26 Nov. 2016


Dear Friends and Patriots,


          Today we are in that strange period of time when the outgoing lame-duck President is struggling to be relevant in his waning days and the incoming new President is struggling to establish his political relevance.  One still has some power and can do either good or ill for our nation.  The other can sense his power increasing by the day and understands between now and Inauguration Day he has more things that need doing than time allows.  Both are racing the clock, but for different reasons and with different emotions and objectives.


          Before I launch into a discussion on the debt, deficit, and budget I want to spend some time thinking about presidential style.  It’s not an overstatement to say style plays a vital role in the success of any President.  Some have failed in that regard.  Richard Nixon was too stiff and never could get people to warm up to him.  Jimmy Carter couldn’t seem to understand we didn’t buy into his simple farmer act.  Lyndon Johnson couldn’t escape the fact that many people thought of him as ruthless and crude.  Those Presidents had style issues that hampered them, and tended to define much of their terms in office.  Conversely, John Kennedy’s tenure was so style-laden it’s often hard to find much discussion of his substance.  Ronald Reagan had a natural westerner style that was unique and that helped win people over.  Bill Clinton had an extremely complex style; folksy at times and very sophisticated at others.   One question today that’s worth asking is:  What will be the hallmark of style for President Donald Trump?


          If I could advise Trump on style, these are the things I’d tell him:


If you are going to continue to Tweet, stop sending negative and critical Tweets.  As the leader of the free world, and possibly the single most powerful human on planet Earth, you need to maintain a positive tone.  Anything not positive can and will be construed as bullying, abrasive, abusive, and embarrassing to those who voted for you.


Cease making negative remarks about anyone, at any time.  Just don’t say anything if you can’t think of something good to say.  You’ll take far less flack if you adopt a positive, forward-looking perspective about everything.  Save your negative remarks for principles and practices you disagree with.  Go negative on crime, corruption, and evil events in the world.  Lighten up on people.  You’ll grow bigger, while your detractors will steadily grow smaller.


If you want to play golf, play golf.  Just don’t play golf every single week.  You don’t want to be the record holder as far as your time playing while the public watches.  You’d do far better trying to emulate Calvin Coolidge and tend to business and play only occasionally.

Stay off my TV.   The last eight years have been difficult enough.  Seeing the current President on my TV every single night has been like rubbing salt in a wound.  No other President thought every word he uttered was worth gold, and you shouldn’t kid yourself that yours are.  Study Reagan’s public face and learn that you should speak publically when it’s necessary, but otherwise not.  We don’t need the daily pronouncement from on high.  We expect you to lead, not to flaunt.


Never be caught wearing shorts, regardless of whether or not you’re wearing socks.   Just saying.


Study our founding documents and the words of our founders.  They are still the best guides on how to run this nation.  When you speak, evoke the principles of our founding and the words of those founders.  Doing so will let everyone understand your promise to “Make America Great Again” means something real.


Travel when you need to.  The last administration abused travel privileges.  Their wasteful ways would be considered criminal if we had any legal constraints.  We don’t, but be mindful the people expect you to work more and play less.  You can’t save the nation if you’re constantly on vacation.   Be mindful of the public’s perception every minute of every day.


Be extremely careful of anyone allowed to get close enough to you to get in a photo.  Make sure your people never allow criminals or hucksters near you.


Don’t do anything phony just to make a point.  Learn the lessons of Jimmy Carter.  Don’t wear a sweater to convey a message of frugality, and don’t every carry an empty suitcase to make anyone think you’re not above totin’ your own load.  If it’s not you, don’t bother.


These are but a few of my recommendations, but I do think if Trump could follow these few, he’ll at least set a good style tone and would be viewed more seriously.


          Now, let’s move on.


          When I was in grad school I took a course on budget formulation.  My professor opened the first class with a statement.  He said a budget is a statement of philosophy.  With your budget you state your priorities and express your will.  No one spends their money on things they don’t believe in.  He then proceeded through the course, pointing out how various aspects of the federal budget reflected things the citizens said they want and didn’t want, and how budget priorities were developed to reinforce those expressions.  It was an interesting concept; one I’d never thought about, but one I had to admit was at least partially true.


          My own notion of the budget is relatively simple.  The money people send to our federal government, via taxation, should be used to help guarantee the rights of the people and protect them from external threats.  If we are budgeting for more than that, we are quite possibly wasting precious resources for the sake of political expediency.  That sounds pretty simple and straightforward, doesn’t it?  But, it’s far from it.


          How does a President understand the will and needs of the people?  That’s a hard one.  Most presidents tend to run for office on a platform and then make a slew of promises.  Those promises usually get translated into policies to implement in order to keep them.   Those policies all have price tags.  The price tags find their way into both legislative and the President’s budget proposals.  In this way, the administration’s philosophies are put forth and also dollarized.


          Today our nation is broke.  That statement isn’t hyperbole, it’s the literal truth.   Our national income, in terms of Gross Domestic Product, is by far exceeded by our debt.  Our national spending far exceeds our tax revenues.  That’s what is meant by our debt and deficit.  Our country borrows each and every day, which is the only reason we don’t notice our fiscal dilemma.  In truth, our debt ratio is on par with Greece’s.  How long can we keep borrowing, given that our debt ratio is so bad?  The simple answer is . . . as long as there are countries willing to buy our debt paper, our treasury instruments.  But, is that wise?  Is it sustainable?  Isn’t it financial suicide?


          One thing you have to understand about our debt is how easy it could be to resolve.  There are two components of it.  One is to rein in spending.  The other is to increase revenues.  I believe we’re on the advent of seeing one, but not the other.  We can see a dramatic increase in revenues if our energy sector is allowed to operate efficiently and effectively.  America is awash in energy resources, but has been hampered by overregulation.   The cost of regulation taxes us all.  The negative effects on the energy production industry taxes us once again.  If Donald Trump keeps his promise to unleash the energy sector, we’ll see a flood of cash coming into our treasury.  It’ll be like 1939 again.   It’ll be like 1912 again.   It may be possible to fund a new Golden Age in America.  Possible, but not probable.


          That other component of our debt and deficit is what truly bothers me.  Spending has to be cut.  Not in an across-the-board fashion; the old “haircut” method.  That way only punishes underfunded parts of our government while hardly affecting others.  It’s an unintelligent way to budget, allowing totally unnecessary functions to continue while risking the viability of real national needs.


          The greatest challenge of the new administration will be to get the budget under control.  The first gauntlet needs to be flung at the feet of Congress.  Congress needs to be challenged to stop being lazy and to do their jobs.  Congress should not be in the business of ceding its responsibilities to executive agencies, then carping about the growing power of the Executive Branch.  Congress makes budget rules, then declares they can’t unmake them.  It’s all balderdash, a scam on the people.  Past Presidents haven’t complained because they sort of like the increase of their own power, but the practice of ceding Congressional responsibilities cannot continue if we are to make America great again.  Those in Congress who enjoy working only 1/3 of the year need to buckle down and start living up to their offices.  They have to gain control over the budget once again and start counting the nation’s pennies.


          One concept above all has to end.  That’s the idea of non-discretionary budgeting.  That whole notion is an artifice that has only one real intent – to limit the liability of individual members of Congress for budget legislation they didn’t want to be accountable for.  But, the idea was always dumb, and we can no longer pay the national price for stupidity.  Think of it in real terms – the non-discretionary budget today is on par with the nation’s total tax receipts.  In other words, anything not in the non-discretionary budget is being paid for with borrowed money.  Yes, my friends, our nation’s defense is being financed by China and all other nations that buy our treasury’s debt instruments.  If they stop buying our debt, the part of our government that will suffer the quickest and greatest is one of the two essential tasks our government does, as defined by our Constitution.   If our debt holders decide to hold us hostage, our national government will not only be in default, it will be unable to comply with the most basic of Constitutional responsibilities – to protect the citizens of our country.  Congress itself is to blame, and must bear that blame.  But, it’s up to the Trump administration to put that blame where it lies, to forcefully make the point that Congress has acted irresponsibly in the way they’ve written laws, and to push to undo all the harm created by devising the scheme of budget segregation.  


          If the battle over budget segregation can be won, all things are then possible.  The president’s administration can then take the results of the bottom-up reviews proposed in Part I of this series and use them to good effect.  In doing the bottom-up reviews it should be obvious there are major parts of several Executive Departments that can be completely eliminated.  They are performing functions that could easily be sent back to the individual states.  Others are doing tasks that work in opposition to the Constitution’s notion of serving the people. 


Policing is not serving.   Policing is policing.  Our founders would roll over in their graves if they knew how much police power our federal government exercises today.  Almost all of it is unnecessary, burdensome, and downright abusive.  Americans today are more afraid of the federal government than they are respectful and admiring.  That’s not how it was intended to be, nor how it should be.  It’s also not the hallmark of a government by the people.  The power dynamic in America is upside down and in need of righting.  If Donald Trump understands anything about what America needs to be great again he needs to understand this one fact.   The people no longer wield the power.   He needs to work tirelessly to fix that.  American exceptionalism is all about people power, not the government.  The Executive Department needs to be purged of as much policing authority and activity as possible to get back to the original intent of serving the citizens.


The bottom-up reviews will indicate departments and agencies that aren’t consistent with the wording or intent of the Constitution.  In many cases, such as the Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Veteran Affairs, and others, the intent may have been honorable.  The intent may have been to normalize service of a need throughout the nation or to establish national standards of performance or care.  But one reality is inescapable; the farther any activity gets from the oversight and control of the citizens the more inefficient, ineffective, and expensive it becomes.  To deal with that reality means the federal government needs to divest from all non-essential functions.  The federal government needs to get back to trying to do its core mission functions well and let the states do far more than they’ve been allowed.   Let the states determine their own educational philosophies, methodologies and goals.  Let the states be in charge of their own energy development, mining, and environment.   Let the states care for their veterans in ways they find right and honorable.  Let the states decide which governmental functions benefit their citizens and which don’t, and to act accordingly.  In other words, let the states be sovereign republics once again, not vassals to an increasingly dominating federal apparatus that’s proven it knows how to waste, but doesn’t know how to succeed.


          While it may seem reasonable to take the meat-axe approach to the bureaucracy, it’s probably not wise.  Even in the worst executive agency there may be some good that can only be performed that the federal level.  The bottom-up reviews should find those functions, highlight them, and make them candidates for reorganization.  There are some functions that may transcend the idea of re-delegation to the states, just by their very nature.


          What we need is a new American Revolution.  Our government grows more intrusive and tyrannical by the day.  The Trump administration must reverse that trend if our nation is to continue and succeed.  The people must be able to exercise their freedom.  The government must re-acquaint itself with the idea that the government is the servant, not the American citizen.  We need this revolution. 


          There is one question that remains. Will Americans once again be forced to bleed in order to be free?  If the Trump administration won’t work for the people, sooner or later one of two things will happen.  We will either collapse under the weight of our debt or we will slowly devolve into chaos as the people grow increasingly tired of having a government that pretends to care for us, while not caring about us.


          Our Constitution tells us the citizen is the boss of our land.  If we believe that, and believe in it, then we better start acting accordingly.  Our time horizon is very short.  As citizens we need to stop asking our representatives and Presidents what they intend to do and start telling them what we want.  If we no longer want a Constitutional Republic, then so be it.  But, if we do, then we better start living up to our own responsibilities and insist our representatives understand who their bosses are.  That starts with President-Elect Donald James Trump.  Is that clearly stated enough?


In Liberty,