Monthly Archives: July 2016

Hillary’s Economic Plans Are Rhetoric, Not Reality

At their convention, the Democrats emphasized their view that under President Obama, the U.S. economy has improved, and that their candidate, Hillary Clinton, will continue and expand upon that record.

The facts work against them.

Unlike prior post recessionary periods, America’s economy has failed to adequately recover. This is evident both in broad terms such as the Gross Domestic Product, and in personal terms such as the status of the middle class.

In news that came at the worst possible time for Clinton’s floundering candidacy, both GDP and home ownership statistics favored the Trump view that the progressive policies of the past eight years have damaged the U.S.

Bloomberg reports that America’s economy, already suffering exceptionally anemic growth, (far less than what would be normal following a recession) will endure an even lesser uptick than previously anticipated. Sho Chandra reports that “The U.S. economy expanded less than forecast in the second quarter after a weaker start to the year than previously estimated as companies slimmed down inventories and remained wary of investing amid shaky global demand. Gross domestic product rose at a 1.2 percent annualized rate after a 0.8 percent advance the prior quarter, Commerce Department figures showed Friday in Washington. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 2.5 percent second-quarter increase.”

Bloomberg also found that that a key indicator of middle income health also continued to fall to worrisome levels. “The U.S. homeownership rate fell to the lowest in more than 50 years as rising prices put buying out of reach for many renters. The share of Americans who own their homes was 62.9 percent in the second quarter, the lowest since 1965, according to a Census Bureau report Thursday. It was the second straight quarterly decrease, down from 63.5 percent in the previous three months.”

The Democrat Party’s enthusiasm for more anti-poverty programs (that have cost American taxpayers $22 Trillion dollars since the 1960s without accomplishing any significant decrease in the poverty rate) and other costly programs is a necessary component of its strategy to retain the support of its base.  However, as the U.S. national debt reaches $20 trillion, half of that figure being added during the Obama Administration, it is abundantly clear that there is no conceivable way the price tag can be paid.

The standard response to that dose of reality is that taxes on businesses or the wealthy will be increased.

That ignores two key factors.

First, America’s excessive corporate tax rates have already driven companies out the nation, taking their jobs, their investments, and their tax revenue with them. Hiking them further will only expand and accelerate that problem.

Second, increasing taxes on the rich will not provide the revenue necessary. Indeed, even if the entire income of the rich was taxed at 100%, it wouldn’t put a dent in the nation’s annual deficits, let alone its crushing debt.

A Forbes review of this concept noted “If the IRS grabbed 100 percent of income over $1 million …Our national debt would continue to explode… Progressives say it’s wrong for the rich to be “given” more money. The New York Times ran a cartoon that showed Uncle Sam handing money to a fat cat. But that has it backward. Money earned belongs to those who earn it, not to government. Lower taxes are not a handout. Progressives want to take more money from some—by force—and spend much of it on programs that have repeatedly failed…”

Of course, long before the government could collect, the rich would stop their income producing activities and move their domicile elsewhere. Those types of solutions, along with the massive increase in substantial regulations on the market Democrats have favored, move the United States more towards the failed examples of other nations that have adopted centralized economies.

However, what will not work in terms of actually solving the nation’s dilemma may well work in getting a candidate elected. As an entire generation suffers under the burden of excessive tuition without anywhere near an adequate number of jobs to provide a means of repayment, free tuition and government aid sounds like a lifeline. To the vast numbers of Americans who have lost well-paying jobs and must survive on lesser paying, benefit-less positions,(partially a result of Obamacare’s mandates)  any government handout is attractive. But these are illusions. They will not solve America’s problems. It will not restore to the middle class the prosperity they once enjoyed before the massive growth of government programs unbalanced the nations’ finances. They certainly will not promote the creation of decent paying jobs. It will, in fact, continue and expand upon the very policies that devastated the U.S. economy.

But they will get candidates elected.

Continued: U.S. loses High Tech Edge; China Moves Forward

The U.S. has been slipping in its world leadership in high technology. Poor decision making on the part of the Clinton Administration aided China’s rise in this crucial realm.

Shortly before leaving office, President Clinton also agreed to permanent normal trade relations with China. An Economic Policy Institute study  found that “The Administration has proposed to facilitate China’s entry into the WTO at a time when the U.S. already has a massive trade deficit with China. In 1999, the U.S. imported approximately $81 billion in goods from China and exported $13 billion – a six-to-one ratio of imports to exports that represents the most unbalanced relationship in the history of U.S. trade. While exports generated about 170,000 jobs in the United States in 1999, imports eliminated almost 1.1 million domestic job opportunities, for a net loss of 880,000 high-wage manufacturing jobs. China’s entry into the WTO, under PNTR with the U.S., will lock this relationship into place, setting the stage for rapidly rising trade deficits in the future that would severely depress employment in manufacturing, the sector most directly affected by trade. China’s accession to the WTO would also increase income inequality in the U.S. Despite the Administration’s rhetoric, its own analysis suggests that, after China enters the WTO, the U.S. trade deficit with China will expand, not contract. The contradiction between the Administration’s claims and its own economic analysis makes it impossible to take seriously its economic argument for giving China permanent trade concessions.”

The sale of a supercomputer and the major growth in China’s economy resulting from Clinton’s acts allowed China to move rapidly forward in high-tech areas, both civilian and military.

A 2010 Harvard Business Review paper   found that “almost unnoticed by the outside world, over the past four years China has been moving toward a new stage of development. It is quietly and deliberately shifting from a successful low- and middle-tech manufacturing economy to a sophisticated high-tech one, by cajoling, co-opting, and often coercing Western and Japanese businesses…the government is forcing multinational companies in several sectors to share their technologies with Chinese state-owned enterprises as a condition of operating in the country. This is fueling tensions between Beijing and foreign governments and companies, and it raises the critical issue of whether the Chinese brand of socialism can coexist with Western capitalism.… Our studies show that since 2006 the Chinese government has been implementing new policies that seek to appropriate technology from foreign multinationals in several technology-based industries, such as air transportation, power generation, high-speed rail, information technology, and now possibly electric automobiles. These rules limit investment by foreign companies as well as their access to China’s markets, stipulate a high degree of local content in equipment produced in the country, and force the transfer of proprietary technologies from foreign companies to their joint ventures with China’s state-owned enterprises. The new regulations are complex and ever changing. They reverse decades of granting foreign companies increasing access to Chinese markets and put CEOs in a terrible bind: They can either comply with the rules and share their technologies with Chinese competitors—or refuse and miss out on the world’s fastest-growing market. Just as securing natural resources often drives China’s foreign policy, shifting the origination of leading technologies to China is driving the country’s industrial policy.”

While China moves ahead, the U.S. has been slipping. A study by Extremetech.com
notes that “Looking back 50 years, you’ll find that R&D spending accounted for just about 12 percent of the total U.S. budget. Now, that has dropped to a bit more than three percent.”

What Beijing did not get through trade agreements or influencing politicians, it stole through espionage, a practice it continues to engage in. In February, notes The Diplomat the Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, delivered his annual threat briefing to the Senate Armed Forces Committee noting that China remains engaged in malicious activities in cyberspace against the United States, despite a U.S.-Chinese bilateral agreement to refrain from conducting or knowingly supporting commercial cyber-espionage.’China continues to have success in cyber espionage against the U.S. government, our allies, and U.S. companies,’ Clapper emphasized. ‘Beijing also selectively uses cyberattacks against targets it believes threaten Chinese domestic stability or regime legitimacy.”

U.S. loses High Tech Edge; China Moves Forward

It has long been a tenet of faith that both America’s economy and its national security depend to a significant extent on superiority in science and technology.

Increasingly, however, the U.S. is losing its leadership in the areas so crucial to its prosperity and defense. A number of factors are responsible. U.S. schools, despite high rates of spending, are not producing students who are even on a par with their counterparts in many nations in science and math skills. There has been a reduced emphasis during the Obama Administration on high tech efforts such as the manned space program and certain aspects of military technology.

Kimberly Amadeo, writing in About.com reports that “China has the world’s fastest supercomputer, the National University of Defense Technology’s Tianhe-2. It has 109 of these high-performance systems, up from 37 just six months ago. The United States has 200, its lowest level since 1993.”

Amadeo also notes that the math skills of American students lag behind that of pupils in a number of nations across the planet. “U.S. students…are falling behind many other countries, such as Japan, Poland and Ireland, which have greatly improved. In fact, U.S. test scores are now below the global average. The U.S. scored at 481, below the average of 494. That’s well below the scores of the top five, all of which are Asian: Shanghai (613), Singapore (573), Hong Kong (561) South Korea (554) and Japan (536).  In fact, U.S. scores are closer to the bottom six: Sweden (478), Turkey (448), Mexico (413), Brazil (391), Indonesia (375) and Peru (368). American students also slipped in science (from 20th to 24th), and reading (11th to 21st). These low scores means U.S. students aren’t as prepared to take high-paying computer and engineering jobs, which often go to foreign workers. Ironically, Silicon Valley is America’s high tech innovation center…An economist from the Hoover Institution, Eric A. Hanushek, estimated that the U.S. economy would grow 4.5% more in the next 20 years if our students’ math and science skills were as good as the rest of the world’s. [China] graduate[s] 200,000 engineers per year, compared to 60,000 in the U.S.”

China’s extraordinary rise in economic prowess and military-related technology is a particularly worrisome factor. Part of the reason for Beijing’s success can be traced back to the Clinton Administration. In 1993, the Baltimore Sun reported,  “In a good-will gesture toward China, the Clinton administration has agreed to sell it a sophisticated $8 million supercomputer, senior administration officials said yesterday. The decision is part of the administration’s strategy to embrace, rather than isolate, China despite disagreements over human rights, weapons proliferation and trade…Even more significant for American business, the administration has also decided to lift the ban on important components for China’s nuclear power plants, such as generators, senior Commerce Department officials said. That could mean billions of dollars in sales for General Electric Co., which has begun to break into the burgeoning nuclear power market in China. But the decision to go forward with the supercomputer sale is strategically more important because it signals the willingness of the Clinton administration to sell high-technology equipment to Beijing.”

The decision continued to raise suspicions long afterwards, particularly when it was revealed that China had contributed funds to Democrat campaigns.  The New York Times reported in 1998 that “Johnny Chung, the former fund-raiser, had told Federal investigators that a large part of the nearly $100,000 he gave the Democrats in the 1996 campaign came from China’s People’s Liberation Army through Liu Chaoying, a Chinese lieutenant colonel and aerospace executive. The Democratic National Committee subsequently returned the money to Mr. Chung, who began cooperating with investigators after he pleaded guilty in March to campaign-related bank and tax fraud…”

The incident raised the question of whether the funds influenced President Clinton to ease sanctions on technology transfer to China. The Times reported that “The Administration’s decision to waive sanctions and ease the export control process allowed Loral and another aerospace company, the Hughes Electronic Corporation, to export satellites to be launched atop Chinese rockets…Mr. Clinton did not directly mention the policy on satellites. But he suggested that the decision to move the authority for exporting the devices from the State Department to the Commerce Department was unanimous within his Administration.”

The Report continues Monday

Delusional Thinking in Domestic Affairs

America in 2016 is, in many ways, a nation that has failed to address key issues due to the delusional thinking on the part of government. Yesterday, the New York Analysis of Policy and Government reviewed international affairs. Today’s column examines domestic matters.

The core domestic issues affecting the United States include:

  •  a crippling national debt made worse each year by annual deficits,
  • The dramatic growth of the Executive branch and federal bureaucracy at the expense of Congressional authority,
  • the lack of adequate numbers of middle income jobs, and
  • a failed educational system.

A quick glance at those selections may raise eyebrows, because nowhere in them can be found the headline-grabbing topics that so frequently top the evening news.  The reality is, however, that without resolving these fundamental challenges, the financial and intellectual resources to resolve the myriad problems that do gain more frequent attention will be unavailable.

The stunning national debt of the United States, estimated at the time this article was prepared is closing in at $19,400,000,000,000. This prevents many subsidiary problems from being easily or rapidly resolved.  America’s infrastructure certainly needs repair, but state and local resources are already stretched thin (in many ways, thanks to mandates from the federal bureaucracy) and Washington is already mired in a financial hole of its own making.

The story of the national debt is a telling sign of the delusional thinking of the past eight years. There are frequently good reasons, for families or governments, to accumulate debt. Buying a house and securing a college degree are two good examples.  But the near doubling of the national debt over the past eight years was the result of spending that was the equivalent of blowing the mortgage money at the race track.

Vast sums were spent, (including an over $800 billion “stimulus” program, and hikes in assistance programs) with almost no results.  Consider: As the national debt doubled, America’s infrastructure needs remain unaddressed, the military has been cut to dangerously low levels, taxes remain high, poverty has not been reduced, and Social Security is still heading towards bankruptcy. Other examples could certainly be added.

Despite gimmicks such as the Sequester,  the problem is not getting better.  The Sequester, which reduced some federal spending, itself was an example of delusional thinking.  It didn’t adequately discriminate between spending on frills and spending on vital necessities.

Indeed, the prospects for the future are grim.  Delusional thinking has played a key role.  Spending on welfare-type programs such as the 41% increase in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, rather than emphasizing job creation, created a fiscal dead end.  The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) emplaced significant disincentives to hire full time workers, while accumulating significant new amounts of expense. Middle class jobs, already under stress from a number of factors, received yet another body blow.

Speaking of traditional middle class jobs, the challenges of controversial environmental regulations (promulgated in some cases unconstitutionally by President Obama’s executive action rather than by legislation) which devastate many well-paying jobs, trade deals (particularly that signed by President Clinton in 2000) that allowed manufacturing jobs to migrate overseas, and America’s extremely high corporate tax rate have all worked together to devastate opportunities in the workplace.

Much of the harm, through excess spending and disincentives to create businesses and hire workers, comes from a disregard for the legislative process, which would have illuminated the potential harm from bureaucratic actions.

The delusion behind all these factors is that the rules of the marketplace can be ignored, and that Washington can simply print money to cover the losses. Poverty can only be resolved by providing opportunity, not handouts. The War on Poverty, commenced in the 1960s, has stretched for half a century, consumed $22 trillion, and failed to make any dent in the poverty rate. The Heritage Foundation  notes that “Adjusted for inflation, that’s three times the cost of all military wars since the American Revolution.”

These delusional actions on the part of the federal government have not provoked the level of outrage that would be expected. And that is why the failure of America’s educational process is so important.

For far too long, when discussing government and economics, the previously standard, fact based curricula of our schools, from elementary to graduate levels, has been replaced by an ideologically-driven agenda which ignores common-sense reviews of economics and how the U.S. Constitution works. Absent this knowledge, the delusional policies that currently dominate do not raise the vitally needed objections that could motivate a return to realism.

Delusional Thinking in Foreign Affairs

There is little so unproductive, and frequently dangerous, as the power of a delusion that has taken such a strong hold that reality never has the opportunity to intrude. When government adopts delusional policies, the potential danger is enormous. When the press shares the delusion, the prospect of a reasonable discussion to allow the facts to come to light is only a faint prospect.

Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention was a dark and depressing analysis of the current status of the United States. Unfortunately, it also happened to be accurate.  While there can certainly be a debate about the best way to address the challenges facing the nation, the unsavory truth is that America has not been in worse condition since before the middle of the last century. To avoid admitting that is to ignore reality.

Abroad, the unprecedented military power of the Russian-Chinese alliance presents the greatest threat the nation has ever faced. At home, the continuing descent of the middle class, the failure of the war on poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and the stunning downturn in race relations all demand a harshly honest examination, and significant and viable responses.

Today’s review looks at foreign affairs.

It is deeply disturbing that Obama continues to maintain that the world is in generally good order.  During his remarks at last week’s Global Development Summit,   the President stated: “it is worth reminding ourselves of how lucky we are to be living in the most peaceful, most prosperous, most progressive era in human history…the world has achieved incredible advances in development and human dignity… the world has never been less violent, healthier, better educated, more tolerant, with more opportunity for more people…”  As Debra Heine of PJ Media points out, this isn’t the first time the President has delivered an extremely optimistic—and unrealistic– viewpoint. Almost exactly two years ago, he made a virtually identical statement: “The world is less violent than it has ever been. It is healthier than it has ever been. It is more tolerant than it has ever been.”

To an extent, Mr. Obama is correct. Since the adoption of the U.S. Bill of Rights in 1787, human rights have been on an upward trajectory. Advances in science, as well as the widespread acceptance of capitalist economics, and the military power first of the British then the United States navies (which the President at times appears profoundly uncomfortable with) to safeguard commerce have provided more opportunities for more people than ever before.

But the harsh truth is that all those wonderful attributes are in immediate and significant danger of quickly being swept away, facts the White House continues to ignore. Indeed, the U.S. Administration has taken steps which actually diminish those accomplishments.

Personal safety as well as the upward thrust of human rights and gender equality has been severely blunted by Islamic extremism, which the current administration finds hard to discuss, let alone address. Headline Politics notes: “It’s an understatement to call President Obama ‘delusional’ when it comes to his ISIS non-strategy. After all, the man once referred to them as the ‘JV team’ and twice said that he had no working plan to defeat the terrorist group, after he had already introduced a plan that didn’t work.”

From the deserts of the Middle East to the Jungles of Africa, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the cities of the world, freedom from violence, and the safety of women to share equal rights have been jeopardized as never before. The evidence is extensive, growing, and omnipresent. Almost every month brings another attack resulting in mass civilian casualties, and authorities appear to be floundering in seeking a means to stop the threat.  Adherents of Sharia, which harshly speaks of denying rights to non-Muslims, Muslims who do not conform with extremist orthodoxy, and all women, are intent on spreading that philosophy across the planet.

But the Obama Administration adheres to its delusion, and the media harshly attacks those that seek to bring a realistic view to the forefront. The one medium that has provided the greatest forum for exposing atrocities against human rights, the internet, is scheduled, thanks to the President’s own initiative, to be opened to censorship by some of the very nations that are engaging in these acts.

Other problems abound.

Within the Americas, the adoption of socialist policies by several nations, most significantly Venezuela, have introduced the possibilities of famine and chaos to the New World.

The threat of another world war continues to rapidly develop. American and European progressives continue to advocate spending less on defense, based on a delusional and oft-repeated mantra that large wars are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, Russia and China have taken advantage of the delusion. Putin is moving diligently to restore the Soviet Empire, which was defeated thanks in large part to Ronald Reagan’s realpolitik approach of building a massive military. The Russian strongman has overcome the prior western lead in nuclear arms, and built a fearsome conventional armed force even as the U.S. and its allies have allowed their deterrents to substantially deteriorate.

In Asia, China has, thanks to a rate of increased spending that has surpassed anything either the USSR or the US ever did at the height of the Cold War, built a dominant military. It openly claims vast swaths of oceanic areas to which it has no legal right, and uses it massive might to overcome any international law objections.

Irrational and openly belligerent regimes, such as Iran and North Korea, move swiftly and surely, despite the existence of international agreements, to build and deploy advanced weapons of mass destruction.

A clear case can be made that the threats facing the entire planet are more severe now than they were even during the WW2 era, since, unlike Germany and Japan, the Russian-Chinese axis has geographical, industrial and population advantages that Hitler and Tojo never attained.

Tomorrow: Domestic Delusions

Clinton Offenses Challenge Media Bias

Journalists are, of course, human, and all humans have their own points of view, and their own biases. But there are times when professional reporters and media executives need to at least partially put aside their personal support and provide some semblance of fairness and objectivity in their reporting. For many, that is becoming an extraordinary challenge in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Most of the media tilts heavily Democrat . That’s not an opinion or allegation; it is an established fact. Many reporters have not been shy or subtle about their leanings.  To cite just one example, in a nationally televised 2012 presidential campaign debate, moderator Candy Crowley  acted more as a partisan for President Obama than an impartial referee. The contributions of major media companies tilt heavily Democrat.

The candidacy of Hillary Clinton poses a unique and extreme challenge. Never before has a presidential candidate, not even Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, had such massive and solid evidence of both major personal incompetence and deeply significant personal wrongdoing on several levels than Ms. Clinton. Her part in matters such as the devastating “reset” with Russia, the attack in Benghazi, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq that led to the empowerment of ISIS are key examples.

Those dire failures are accompanied by equally worrisome ethical violations. Perhaps the most extreme example comes from the devastating evidence that Ms. Clinton personally profited from the massive sale  of uranium—the basic ingredient in nuclear weapons—to the Russians, despite overt and intense evidence of Moscow’s militarization and aggression.  That incident alone would have instantly disqualified any other individual who sought the presidency.

Even Bernie Sanders, who, despite his competition for the Democrat nod, soft-pedaled his criticism of Clinton, stated  “Do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of State and a foundation run by her husband collects many, many dollars from foreign governments — governments which are dictatorships?…Yeah, I do have a problem with that.”

But that major violation was eventually followed by revelations that, while serving as Secretary of State, Ms. Clinton was, to put it as mildly as possible, negligent in the handling of classified information, in a manner that was overtly against regulations and law. Indeed, other individuals who committed offenses of this nature that represented only a fraction of the scale committed by Clinton were indeed punished and drummed out of government positions.

Ms. Clinton, however, not only avoided liability, but did so in a manner that was, in of itself, illegal.  Husband Bill Clinton inappropriately met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch shortly before the decision not to indict was made public. This was followed by Ms. Clinton’s remark that she would consider retaining Ms. Lynch as Attorney General should she win the White House.  The fix was in, and no penalty was assessed.

Ms. Clinton’s misdeeds were not restricted to her role as secretary of state. They also took place in her campaign for the nomination. Much of this category in the long list of Clinton’s ethical violations directly ties into her incestuous relationship with a media that increasingly appears to be less involved in the business of journalism than it is in being a shill for her campaign, and the fiduciary and possibly criminal misdeeds of the Democrat National Committee in heavily tilting the primary competition in Ms. Clinton’s favor.

WikiLeaks provides numerous examples.  Among the most salient, as outlined by The Gateway Pundit :

There are clear abuses of law, regulation, ethics and decency, some of which—the uranium sale to Russia and the negligent handling of classified material—clearly led to substantial harm to U.S. interests. Nevertheless, expect most of the media to downplay these deadly offenses in their inappropriate partisan relations with the Clintons.

 

Obama’s Strange View of Who the Enemy Is

Is the Obama Administration incapable of effectively fighting Islamic extremism because it continues to view it as a lesser threat, when compared to its harsh view of Americans who merely oppose its policies?

In 2014, after ISIS captured Fallujah and clearly become the most powerful terrorist organization in existence, President Obama likened the organization to a “JV” team in a discussion with New Yorker editor David Remnick.  His views were supported by his prior Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in a 2015 discussion with the Council on Foreign Relations, as being appropriate “from the perspective of what they had accomplished at the time.” Even at the time of Obama’s statement, however, ISIS had accomplished far more than any prior terrorist organization ever had.

The refusal to acknowledge the reality of Islamic extremism and its growing threat has been evident in numerous actions the Administration engaged in, and the policies that followed. The President still has not adequately explained why he supported “Arab Spring” movements which were dominated by extremists, in their bid to overthrow regimes which opposed terrorist organizations such as the Moslem Brotherhood, ISIS, and al Qaeda.

Key questions about the President’s actions in Iraq, Egypt and Libya remain unanswered.

Whatever one’s views of the Iraq war were, the reality was that in its aftermath, Iraq, despite extensive challenges and unrest, was becoming more democratic, thanks to the stabilizing influence of U.S. troops based there.  The President’s withdrawal of American forces allowed ISIS to fill the vacuum and literally tore the nation apart.

Another unexplained move was made in Egypt. Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was a trusted U.S. ally, and followed the path begun by his predecessor Anwar Sadat in promoting regional peace. He generally supported American policies in the Middle East.  However, with little regard to this, President Obama supported his overthrow by a Moslem Brotherhood movement.  When the new regime, led by Mohamed Morsi, increased repression of Egypt’s Christian minority, centralized power, opposed U.S. policies, and acted in a manner that threatened peace in the area, the Obama Administration turned a blind eye. However, when the descent into extremism was halted by Morsi’s overthrow, the Obama Administration opposed the move.

Libya proved to be another disaster for the U.S. that was attributable in part to Mr. Obama’s actions. Muammar Gaddafi had a despicable past, including acts of terror and a budding nuclear program. However, he had abandoned both efforts, and now sided with the West against ISIS, al Qaeda, and the Moslem Brotherhood. Despite this reformation, Obama actively aided in his oerthrow. The result, similar to his Iraq action, was chaos and the dramatic growth in inflience of terrorist forces in the nation.  When those forces attacked the U.S. facility in Benghazi and killed a U.S. Ambassador and other Americans, the President and then-Secretary of State Clinton blatantly lied to the U.S. public, the families of the fallen, and the United Nations by blaming a video that played no role in the attack. The U.S. military was not allowed to respond either during the attack or in its aftermath.

While both the President and Ms. Clinton have been extremely reluctant to even use the phrase “Islamic extremism,” they have been particularly harsh in their descriptions of fellow Americans who merely have differing views.

In 2009, President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security stunningly called returning U.S. veterans a threat to national security. In the aftermath of the San Bernardino shootings, rather than cite the extremist philosophy and terrorist ties of the perpetrators, Mr. Obama lectured the nation on American gun ownership and what he described—without any substantial supporting evidence–as bias against Moslems in the U.S.

The distrust and evident dislike of the President towards his own constituents can also be seen in the words and actions of his appointees. Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson, despite the horrors of Orlando, San Bernardino and Fort Hood (which the Administration strangely labelled “workplace violence”) remains more concerned over what he terms “right wing extremism” than the attacks by Islamic forces, and wants to use DHS to enforce anti-gun ownership provisions.

The Administration continues its opposition to appropriate funding for the U.S. military, continues to fight for legislation limiting the Second Amendment, and continues its rhetoric casting Republicans and Conservatives as the enemy.

There are legitimate concerns about whom President Obama considers the true threat: Islamic extremists, or his own constituents who merely have differing views.

Have Universities Harmed America?

For decades, a college education was a means to enhance earning ability, for those with the aptitude to utilize what they were taught, in a gainful career. But as the “college for all” mantra took hold throughout the American educational establishment, a college degree essentially took the place of high school degrees in times past.

As tuition skyrocketed, that meant that students and their families were going deeply into debt to gain a degree that, for many, led to jobs that in the past could have been obtained for the free cost of a public high school education.

Stunning tuition cost hikes have outpaced price increases in just about every other area. U.S. News reported in 2013 that “According to data from the Labor Department, the price index for college tuition grew by nearly 80 percent between August 2003 and August 2013. That is nearly twice as fast as growth in costs in medical care, another area widely recognized for fast-rising prices. It’s also more than twice as fast as the overall consumer price index during that same period.” During that time period, college tuition increased 79.5%, while the Consumer Price index increased only 26.7%, medical care, 43.1%, food and beverages, 31.2%, and housing 22.8%.

The money hasn’t gone into improving the educational experience of students, and it hasn’t gone into the salaries of professors. A Washington Monthly review  found that “as colleges and universities have had more money to spend, they have not chosen to spend it on expanding their instructional resources—that is, on paying faculty. They have chosen, instead, to enhance their administrative and staff resources. A comprehensive study published by the Delta Cost Project in 2010 reported that between 1998 and 2008, America’s private colleges increased spending on instruction by 22 percent while increasing spending on administration and staff support by 36 percent. Parents who wonder why college tuition is so high and why it increases so much each year may be less than pleased to learn that their sons and daughters will have an opportunity to interact with more administrators and staffers… Over the past four decades…the number of full-time professors or “full-time equivalents”—that is, slots filled by two or more part-time faculty members whose combined hours equal those of a full-timer—increased slightly more than 50 percent. That percentage is comparable to the growth in student enrollments during the same time period. But the number of administrators and administrative staffers employed by those schools increased by an astonishing 85 percent and 240 percent, respectively.”

Liz Peek, writing in The Fiscal Times, found that “Between 2000 and 2010…The portion [of students] receiving federal aid skyrocketed from 31.6 percent to 47.8 percent, and the average award nearly doubled. In addition, the percentage taking out student loans climbed from 40.1 percent to 50.1 percent, and the average borrowing rose 76 percent. The ramp-up in loans to students has not only driven up costs but has undermined the value of a college degree. Some 30 percent of people ages 25 to 29 are college graduates today, up from 12 percent in the 1970s…Richard Vedder, economics professor at Ohio University, has written that we have one million retail sales clerks and 115,000 janitors with college diplomas. At the same time, one fifth of the country’s managers say they can’t find skilled workers to fill job openings.”

The Huffington Post asks, “A college degree is great, but is it necessary for everyone, and at what cost (literally) are we willing to pay for this social experiment? …We overhyped a college education and as a result we may have destroyed the American Dream…Millennials have contributed $1 trillion to the national student loan debt [Bloomberg]Millennials are the most educated generation in human history, yet they have the highest share of people who are unemployed in the last 40 years [USA Today] 48% of employed college graduates have jobs that do not require a four-year degree. [Forbes]…When you compare the student loan crisis to the mortgage crisis that triggered The Great Recession, at least the government and lenders had something tangible they could take to sell. In that instance it was property. You can’t take and resell knowledge from the brains of college graduates or college drop-outs…Once the student loan bubble bursts, we will be in a world of trouble.”

Consumer Reports study found that 45% of people with student loan debt said that college was not worth the cost. The detrimental impact on the U.S. economy has been dire. 44% of those in tuition debt have cut back on daily expenses, 37% have delayed saving for key financial goals, 28% delayed buying a house,  and 12% delayed marriage. “Step by step, one law after another has been enacted by Congress to make student debt the worst kind of debt for Americans—and the best kind for banks and debt collectors…and in one of the industry’ greatest lobbying triumphs, student loans can no longer be discharged in bankruptcy…”

Donna Rosato, also writing in Consumer Reports, notes: “To put the growing education debt crisis into perspective, many attendees at the conference drew parallels to the housing market bubble of the mid 2000s.  Rohit Chopra, [special adviser to the Department of Education and formerly the top student financial services regulator at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] pointed out that both going to college and owning a home are goals that people strive to reach. But when something good, like owning a home, involves toxic mortgages, it can quickly becomes a bad situation. Chopra says that we may now be at a similar point with student debt.”

But the problem looms beyond finances.

The American Association of University Professors notes that  “…even as colleges and universities have become the focus of increased attention from the general public and policy makers alike, these institutions themselves seem to have lost their focus on a mission of preparing an informed citizenry for participation in democracy and expanding knowledge for the benefit of all. Without a doubt, higher education still provides a transformative experience for the millions of individuals who take part in its many activities. Behind the scenes, however, American higher education is changing in ways that detract from its potential to enhance the common good.”

The Daily Beast nworries that  “This Orwellian climate of intimidation and fear chills free speech and thought. On college campuses it is particularly insidious… Campus censors don’t generally riot in response to presumptively offensive speech, but they do steal newspapers containing articles they don’t like, vandalize displays they find offensive, and disrupt speeches they’d rather not hear. They insist that hate speech isn’t free speech and that people who indulge in it should be punished…On today’s campuses, left-leaning administrators, professors, and students are working overtime in their campaign of silencing dissent, and their unofficial tactics of ostracizing, smearing, and humiliation are highly effective. But what is even more chilling—and more far reaching—is the official power they abuse to ensure the silencing of views they don’t like.”

As colleges become completely dominated by left-wing academics, (see the New York Analysis of Policy and Government study  which reported that Democrats outnumber Republicans by a greater than 10 to 1 ratio, and at many elite universities there was not a single registered Republican on staff) traditional, core beliefs in the unifying principles of America, especially respect for the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as adherence to an empirical method of thinking, diminished, reducing the ability to logically review and resolve national challenge.

There is, indeed, an increasingly incestuous relationship between the Democrat Party and the university establishment.  Rather than calling for a halt in excessive tuition rates, (a concept espoused by Democrats in many other pricing areas) Democrat presidential candidates are calling for “free tuition,” meaning that taxpayers would bear the burden. This, of course, would have the net effect of allowing colleges to continue raising rates, in a manner similar to the way that medical costs skyrocketed after third-party payments became commonplace.

The Great American Experiment in College for All, at devastating costs to all, has financially crippled students and their families, and is leading to a financial crisis that may make the housing bubble recession of 2007—2008 look mild. In return for all that burden and risk, a generation has endured significant unemployment and has been indoctrinated into acceptance of views that diminish the accomplishments and merits of their nation, and has inculcated them into acceptance of limitations on their freedom of speech.

Major reforms are needed.  Colleges should be required to explain to applicants and current students what the tuition costs pay for, in detail, with particular emphasis on how much is spent on non-educational salaries and activities.   There should be full disclosure of the percentage of graduates who obtain jobs that make use of a college degree. No federal support should go to institutions that charge excessive rates. Washington should get out of the tuition loan business, and the same consumer protections that apply to other debts should apply to tuition loans. State education departments should provide high-quality alternatives paths to careers that do not require college degrees, including vocational degrees in much-needed (and frequently lucrative) professions such as electricians, plumbing, carpentry, and mechanical fields.

Campaign 2016: Real Policies, Not Platitudes, Needed

The Republican convention has concluded, and the Democrat equivalent is about to begin. After viewing the speeches and balloons, the voters need the candidates to concentrate on viable proposals to address the serious issues facing the nation.

Generalities and platitudes will not be acceptable.  2016 finds the United States in deeper peril abroad than it has faced in well over half a century. At home, Americans face an unprecedented declining of the middle class, an extraordinary lack of good jobs, and an economy mired in the doldrums. The ability to address challenges in either sphere is severely hampered by a $20 trillion national debt, a figure that nearly doubled during the Obama Administration with nothing gained for all that spending.

There has been a troubling lack of accountability on the part of elected officials for America’s rapid descent during the past nearly eight years. Eight years ago, America was the “indispensable nation,” the most feared and respected country. But continuous disinvestment in the U.S. armed forces, an estrangement of allies, and a refusal to respond with any effectiveness to the aggression of Russia in Europe and China in Asia has eroded that position.

Terrorists have had unparalleled success, controlling more territory than ever in the Middle East, regaining strength in Afghanistan, and moving into vast new territories on the African continent. Terrorist acts in the West are no longer confined to single, horrible events that occur at long intervals; they have become part of everyday life. The failure to forcefully attack ISIS, and the lack of any retaliation for Benghazi have encouraged this trend.

These events in Europe, Asia, and the Islamic World did not occur in a vacuum. They are the direct, specific end products of dramatically mistaken policies. America’s unilateral cuts in nuclear and conventional strength and its reluctance to confront, even with substantive diplomatic responses, aggression gave a clear signal that it was open season for hostile acts.

The weakness in the U.S. economy is not the result of a cyclical downturn, an unexpected disaster, or even the recession of 2007—2008. Major handicaps have prevented what was once the world’s most dynamic marketplace from maintaining its traditional strength. Some of these were in place long before the current Administration.  The Clinton Administration’s transfer of advanced technology to China, and its move to give Beijing virtually unrestricted access to American consumers had a dire impact. The continuation of America’s highest-in-the-developed world corporate tax rate absolutely encourages an exodus of jobs from the U.S. The rising impact of regulatory control over private business, and disincentives to hire over the past several years (especially those in the Affordable Care Act) have had an extremely detrimental impact.  So, too, has the transfer of vast sums from the private sector to unproductive government spending. Whatever the motivation or rationale, hikes in welfare-type entitlements and the so-called “stimulus” package which spent over $800 billion without producing any positive impact on the economy were a major drawback.

This is not an ordinary election year due to the harsh conditions facing the nation. The candidates need to provide specific, realistic, and viable solutions.  Each have their own weaknesses.

Donald Trump needs to provide consistent responses that contain specific actions he will take. He  describes the problems, and has begun to detail some responses.  More must be done.

Hillary Clinton’s statements to date are troubling. She promises to essentially continue President Obama’s domestic, military and foreign policies.

In international matters, that is not unexpected since in her role as his Secretary of State she had a substantive role in both developing and carrying them out.  But those choices led to a disastrous downturn in America’s national security, and an increase in danger both from other nations and terrorists.

The politically popular but financially untenable positions she has taken in policies such as the promise of free college tuition are equally distressing.  It is painfully obvious that a nation with a $20 trillion debt which continues to grow year after year, an economy that cannot encourage businesses to stay, and a woefully inadequate middle class job market cannot sustain further giveaways. It is inevitable that committing funds to those ideas will come at the expenses of more urgently needed programs, such as Social Security.  It is not coincidental that as the Obama Administration spent vast sums on his unsuccessful stimulus, his 41% increase in food stamps, and other new expenses, seniors had to endure an unprecedented lack of social security cost of living increases, and veterans and active duty service members saw their needs go unmet.

Americans face major challenges, some unprecedented in the history of the nation. Platitudes and unfulfillable promises have no place in this election.