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WHAT IS IMPORTANT? 23 July 2016 PDF  | Print |  E-mail

WHAT IS IMPORTANT?

23 July 2016

Dear Friends and Patriots,

 

          The title of this article is its main theme.  I’ve been thinking for a while that everyone needs to take a step back and understand more about what’s important and what’s not.  We need to do that consideration for ourselves, our families, our communities, our states, our nation, and even our planet.  Sound like a big task?  It’s huge.  I’ve been trying to work through it for a long while.  You might think this is a purely philosophic undertaking, but it’s not.  It’s extremely practical, because if you understand ‘What’s Important’ in every category you can consider, it makes decision-making much easier.  If you are intimately aware of your own hierarchy of values, determining your path through life is a matter of examining events and decisions and making choices consistent with what you already know fits within your value system.

 

          Having pontificated, I care to note that I’m 65 and still working on my own answers.  I have my personal values sorted out.  I think I solidified them a while back, probably five or six years ago.  I have the boxes for family and community considerations checked.   I think I’m to the 95% level on my values for my state.  I’m nearing 80% on the national, and am making good progress on the international, but the calculus there tells me I don’t have enough life in me to figure the world out to a degree I’d be willing to brag about.  Do you think I’m sort of a late-bloomer?  Perhaps I am, perhaps I’m not.  If you wish to judge me, then feel free.  But, realize we all have factors in our lives that make such deeply personal self-examinations difficult at best, and sometimes not at all possible.

 

          There was no “thought mentor” in my life until very late in my game.  I had to figure most of it out on my own, through reading and life experience.  Luckily, I grew up with some pretty strong core values, so it wasn’t like I started from scratch.  I feel a bit sorry for those who wander in the wilderness of life for a couple of decades before they begin to understand the importance of values, and even sorrier for those who live their entire lives in the same wilderness.  That was never my problem, but I was missing the knowledge of how to systematically evaluate and assign values to categories so I could understand how my personal belief system translates to support for policies all the way up to the national and international levels. 

 

          Recently, I’ve been ruminating on the national equation; mulling the political races going on and the various declarations of the candidates.  Something in all of it seems missing. It’s hard to comprehend a pattern to it all.  There’s a lack of philosophic cohesiveness.  It’s unsettling.  It’s more unsettling because I’m still working on it myself, and the knowledge that our next national leader isn’t ahead of me in formulating a national set of values doesn’t add to my own considerations.  I’ve decided this is “Task One” for me; to get busy and formulate those values so I can feel assured I know when things are working according to my own beliefs and needs and when they’re off the rails.

 

          Doesn’t all this sound a bit crazy?  Doesn’t it sound like the ravings of a lunatic?  Ya think?

 

          Here’s my current train of thought.  Read this and then tell me if you think I need Prozac.

 

          We have heard a laundry list of ills that are in need of curing.  Donald Trump states he can cure the scourge of ISIS and radical Islam.  He says he can fix our nation’s sorry trade posture.  He says he can get our military in order as the best and most effective fighting force in the world again.  He says he can get Congress working, and says he can get our foreign policy on an “America First” track that will ensure we aren’t giving away the farm in any international arrangement.  He says he can stop the constant illegal migration on our southern border and that he can bring the $3T of capital our industrialists have stashed off-shore back to American where it can be put to use here.  He says he can bring jobs back to America and that he’ll make “Law and Order” a primary emphasis (shades of Nixon!).  Yes, he says all these things and more.

 

          Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton promises to fix an entirely different set of ills.  She promises to fix the problem of unequal pay for women and all things referred to as Economic Justice.  She promises to fix all the problems that fall under the heading of Social Justice.  She promises to ensure Global Climate Change is a first order consideration in all undertakings of a Clinton administration.  She promises to increase employment and fix the nation’s tattered infrastructure.  She promises to help the entire world heal the sick and ensure the poor never again starve.  She promises all our children will have a future place in a world that cares about them and their welfare.  Yes, she says these things and more.

 

          What we are faced with is one side that promises to apply practical solutions to real-world problems and fix them all.  The other side promises to continue to pursue the promises of Utopia.  Which do you think is the more desirable?  Which do you think is the most feasible?  Which do you think will make you happier?

 

          I bring the current candidate promises into the discussion for a specific reason.  It’s the title of the piece – What Is Important?

 

          In deliberating the question I asked myself, “What is the enabler of all?”  Think about it.  There are a myriad of problems to be solved; an unending series of questions to be answered.  Is there anything common to all of them?  Is there anything that is the wellspring that, if it could be made better, would translate to benefit all problems and all questions?  Well, what do you think?  I think there is, yet I don’t hear the right emphasis from either side.

 

          The Republicans are very issue-focused.  They tend to catalog all problems, then work to create policy solutions for them; solutions that vary in practicality, but still solutions.  The Democrats are very concept-focused.  They paint their canvas with blue birds, rainbows, and flowers of all hues, then tell their flock it can all be theirs if everyone in the land would just stop fighting progress; the progress their party plans for them.  Then, of course, there’s that wealth distribution thing.  According to Democrats the entire country would be far better off if the rich were much less rich.  Both parties give short-shrift to the enabler.  Neither side can obtain their objectives, no matter how worthy, unless that enabler is the nation’s first priority.

 

          The enabler is money, and our nation’s financial situation. We are a nation teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.  Nothing in this world works without money.  It’s the way our ancestors designed it.  We get nothing for nothing.  We only get something if we have something of value to trade for it.   The more you owe, the more limited your options are when it comes to making your own lot better.  There comes a point in debt-loading when your income isn’t sufficient to pay the interest on your debt.  If we’re talking about individual debt, we know there’s a point where working two jobs and selling everything you own may still not be enough to make the minimum payments on your credit card debt.  When you get to that point you are literally bankrupt.  We have laws that can help you, but not without a price.  There’s always a price.  You pay some.  Sometimes your debt-holders pay, too.  It works the same way at the national and international levels.  When you realize you’re getting close to your limits and are in danger of not being able to pay, you first should stop buying anything not needed.  Then you start selling things you don’t need.  Then you stop doing anything that costs money, but isn’t material to your existence.  All those activities come under the heading of fiscal discipline.  If you’ve done all those fiscal discipline things and you still can’t pay your debts, you have to declare it.  Our nation is fast approaching that point.  We are almost bankrupt.

 

          Even though we all know we’re approaching that debt tipping point, our nation’s value system seems not to include any factor that makes it care.  Our politicians mouth words of dismay when pressed.  Our media talking heads will broach the subject once in a while, but not for long.  Talk of finance isn’t sexy.  There’s no blood.  There’s no great noise; no chaos in the streets.  No, there’s hardly anything to compel the nation’s discourse toward a deep, comprehensive discussion of what we intend to do to remain solvent.  This is what is important.  This is the single greatest issue of this year and many to come.  Yet, there’s too little mention of it.

 

          Smart people understand the nation’s financial situation and its national security implications.  Our defense depends on trade.  Trade depends on credit.  No credit means a rapidly diminishing defense capability.  As wealthy as our nation is in terms of raw materials, there are some things we need that just aren’t present in our land.

 

          Those who understand wealth realize our nation has the capacity to recover from our debt.  But, to do so will require restructuring of governmental priorities.  We have to emphasize those undertakings that create wealth, not just tax revenues.  If your nation is creating wealth you don’t need to worry much about the tax revenues.  Arthur Laffer convinced Ronald Reagan of that truth and Reagan too it to the bank.  The entire nation benefitted from increased wealth through better policy initiatives.

 

          Wealth is not the same as money.  Money is a semi-mythical creation of bankers.  We use money as abstract representations of wealth.  Wealth is tangible.  Wealth has intrinsic value.  Money does not.  Wealth is in the ground, in raw materials like oil, coal, gold, magnesium, uranium.  It’s also in the value-added contribution of the countless hands that turn raw materials into consumer products.  All the raw materials and value-added activity create wealth.  When any economy shifts its balance between value-added, wealth-creating undertakings to one of consumerism you can safely bet debt will soon follow.  Our nation needs to understand that our consumer-based economy has to revert to one where more people get dirty and add value to raw materials, sub-components, components, and finished goods.  We have allowed ourselves to buy into the false belief that a so-called service economy can be viable in the long run.  But, how long can minimal value-added activity like “services” be sustained as the primary focus of a national economy without collapsing the entire undertaking.  The answer is – as long as the raw material and value-added undertakings remain strong enough to keep an economy in the “plus column” of the nation’s balance sheet.  We all know it’s been decades since that’s been true.

 

          It’s always bad form to point out problems and offer no solutions.  Acknowledging a problem only to punt it away like a football on fourth down is the epitome of non-value-added activity.  So, I do have some recommendations.  I’ll list them, with a bit of embellishment for clarity:

 

  1. 1.Emphasize raw materialGet the EPA in check so raw material producers can pursue their undertakings and make a profit.  Yes, they should still be obligated to be good stewards of the land, but today the majority of EPA regulations exist more ensure federal control than to benefit the environment.

 

  1. 2.De-emphasize the welfareWhatever legislative language exists that allows entitlement programs to be categorized as “non-discretionary” needs to be removed from the body of law.  The Constitution defines the primary duty of the federal government as protection of the nation and its citizens.  You might think the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security would have budgets in the non-discretionary category, but they don’t.  Section 8 and Head Start are non-discretionary.  The U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard are not.

 

  1. 3.Eliminate several functions of government that have no Constitutional basis toStart with the Departments of Education and Energy; then take apart the EPA.  Disestablish the Federal Reserve System.  Get the government totally out of the retail law enforcement business.  The goal should be to cut the size of the federal government by 50% in five years.  That size includes the multitudes of support contractors that do the majority of dispensable tasks for their government masters.

 

  1. 4.Eliminate the corporate income tax and change personal income tax to a Fair TaxAny first year accounting or finance person understands corporations merely collect taxes.  They remit them, but they don’t pay them.  The truth is the current corporate income tax is an ad hoc ad-valorem.   Under a Fair Tax system corporations would still collect taxes, but they would be doing so with the consumer’s full understanding of the nature of the tax, and not believe the myths of the current system.  Eliminating the corporate income tax at the same time a Fair Tax is adopted could result in a zero-sum reality.  Once the debt is paid off the Fair Tax could be adjusted down and our nation would finally realize the wisdom of the change.  The best and most obvious benefit of this change would be the elimination of the IRS.  Who doesn’t want that?

 

  1. 5.Stop using international tradeMake free trade truly free. Stop using negative trade balances as de-facto foreign aid to nations with which we share no intrinsic interests.  Stop trading with nations known to work against our national interests.  Find non-financial means to incentivize our corporations to do more business with nations with which we do share interests and those with positive trade balances.  Revamp trade policy to eliminate any regulation that has the effect of skimming off the top while adding nothing to the nation’s bottom line or security.  Use tariffs sparingly, but unhesitatingly wherever unfair advantage is determined.  Make trade with America a sought-after, but hard to obtain reality.  Reserve Most Favored Nation status to our steadfast friends only. 

 

  1. 6.Examine all alliances and treaties to determine which benefits the interests of the nation and which doThose that do not – terminate our participation.  Notify the United Nations they may keep their headquarters in New York if they agree to pay rent on the building and hold all diplomats accountable for their parking tickets and crimes. Re-negotiate all security treaties to ensure partner countries are contributing their fair share of the burdens, or terminate the treaties.  Withdraw as the bankroller of the World Bank and other extra-national banking organizations that often work in direct opposition to U.S. national interests.

 

          Allow me to summarize those six points.  1. Take advantage of what we have. 2. Realign budget priorities to comply with the emphasis of the Constitution.  3. Stop doing things we have no Constitutional basis for doing. 4. Adopt the Fair Tax and eliminate corporate income taxation entirely. 5.  Re-structure our national trade policy to benefit Americans. 6. Reconsider all external alliances, partnerships and international combines to ensure we participate only in those dealing with valid interests of the U.S. and we stop being the world’s cash cow.

 

          Financial well-being; that is what’s important.  Not that those other things the two major candidates bloviate upon don’t have their place.  Some do and some don’t.  But none of them are truly achievable unless the nation’s finances are placed on a solid foundation once again.  If the winning candidate, regardless of which party, doesn’t tend to the financial well-being of the nation as the first priority of business you can rest assured your last dime won’t have enough value to bet with.  But, if it did, you could safely bet it on an extremely constrained future for our nation.  Our grandchildren will inherit a second-tier nation, if they’re lucky.

 

In Liberty,
Steve