That which can’t continue, doesn’t

The fiscal day of reckoning may be close at hand for the United States:

According to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Debt Management, the U.S. government is just five years away from the point where every new dollar it borrows from the public will go toward funding interest payments on the national debt.

That is the main takeaway from the Debt Management Office’s Fiscal Year 2019 Q1 Report, which featured the Office of Management and Budget’s latest projection of the U.S. government’s borrowing from the public…

Net interest on the national debt has become one of the fastest growing segments of federal spending. When the national debt reaches the point where all newly borrowed dollars must be used to pay this mandatory expenditure, the U.S. government will have passed the event horizon that marks the boundary of the national debt death spiral.

Cities and territories in the United States that have crossed that crisis point have either gone through bankruptcy proceedings or their equivalent, or they have implemented major fiscal reforms that reversed their fiscal deterioration, wherein the best-case scenarios, they acted to restrain the growth of their previously out-of-control spending to restore their fiscal health.

Interest on the national debt is going up quickly for two reasons.  Obviously, the government continues to spend waaaaaaaaay more than they squeeze out of the economy (us) through taxation, adding to the total amount it owes.  More importantly, however, the many record deficits recorded over the past 10 years were done so at historically low interest rates (engineered by the Federal Reserve, which in the process robbed productive citizens of some of the proceeds they would normally have earned through their savings).  Inevitably, those rates have begun to climb again.  It may seem incremental on a chart, but keep in mind that just one percent of $22 trillion is $220 billion.

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Tariffs and national self-interest

Patrick Buchanan provides a succinct summary of why Trump’s emphasis on tariffs in the relationship with China is hardly unprecedented.  In fact, one could say it’s a return to the policies that once made a young nation great:

A tariff may be described as a sales or consumption tax the consumer pays, but tariffs are also a discretionary and an optional tax. If you choose not to purchase Chinese goods and instead buy comparable goods made in other nations or the USA, then you do not pay the tariff.
China loses the sale. This is why Beijing, which runs $350 billion to $400 billion in annual trade surpluses at our expense is howling loudest. Should Donald Trump impose that 25% tariff on all $500 billion in Chinese exports to the USA, it would cripple China’s economy. Factories seeking assured access to the U.S. market would flee in panic from the Middle Kingdom.
Tariffs were the taxes that made America great. They were the taxes relied upon by the first and greatest of our early statesmen, before the coming of the globalists Woodrow Wilson and FDR.
Tariffs, to protect manufacturers and jobs, were the Republican Party’s path to power and prosperity in the 19th and 20th centuries, before the rise of the Rockefeller Eastern liberal establishment and its embrace of the British-bred heresy of unfettered free trade.
The Tariff Act of 1789 was enacted with the declared purpose, “the encouragement and protection of manufactures.” It was the second act passed by the first Congress led by Speaker James Madison. It was crafted by Alexander Hamilton and signed by President Washington.

As Buchanan mentions, tariffs were once an integral part of an economic policy that became known as “The American System” — a policy so successful that other nations emulated it.  It’s worth noting the Federal government undertook its first infrastructure projects with almost no other source of funding other than tariffs (land sales being the main exception).  I’ll admit: I’m not a fan of the Federal government doing public works projects.  But the limited revenue stream tariffs provided kept such activity modest in the early republic, and for the most part it’s easy to see the wisdom of such projects as lighthouses, postal routes and the Cumberland Road.

Still, public works projects were controversial, even then.  Many in the South believed tariffs disproportionally benefitted northern industrial interests through protectionism and infrastructure.  Tariffs sparked the Nullification Crisis in South Carolina, and was cited as one source of discontent as States left the Union after Lincoln’s election in 1860.  Sectionalism aside, the nature of tariffs as a voluntary tax that promotes national self-reliance and internal growth recommends it as one of the best ways to fund a limited government.  Certainly, the explosive growth of Uncle Sam after institution of the Income Tax is evidence of that.  I’ve said before that a national sales tax would be preferable to an income tax (provided it didn’t result in both being in effect).  Many of the same reasons apply to tariffs.

Buchanan rightfully points out that abandoning so-called “free trade” for a tariff system that enforces fair trade will be painful in the short term, much like a junkie getting over their addiction.  American wages have been stagnant in inflation-adjusted terms since the 1970s.  The only reason we appear to have a higher material standard of living is the influx of overseas goods that appear cheap on the price tag, but which in reality take a heavy toll on the nation in terms of lost industries, disappearing jobs and a growing economic dependency on outsiders.  That doesn’t even take into account that many of the reasons goods made in places such as China are ‘cheaper’ is that they lack protections for workers and the local environment — impacts we considered so important here that we willingly added them to the economic burden of production.  In short, “free trade” as it’s currently practiced is an apples-to-oranges comparison that hides or downplays the negative aspects of globalism.

The Enemy doesn’t get to define us

One thing about the Trump era: it’s caused a lot of people to confront the misplaced notion that Christians are supposed to be all about inoffensive sweetness and niceness, and only support politicians of that variety:

There are innumerable examples of people who are wonderful but unaccomplished just as there are many notable examples of people with serious personal failings who nonetheless have excelled in other parts of their lives: artists, scientists, parents, and even politicians.

And yes, I’m not so subtly making a point about President Trump. His private failings have been made very public prompting some Christian pundits to say that not only do those failings disqualify Trump from office, but they are so egregious as to make supporting him sinful for Christians.

It should be obvious that support for a political candidate does not mean a blanket endorsement of every aspect that candidate’s life. It is merely an endorsement of that person’s policies and an assessment of his ability to perform in office. What’s more, it’s often not even a blanket endorsement of that, it’s a practical decision that Candidate A, while imperfect, is preferable to Candidate B…

The question is, by what standard should a Christian judge a candidate or an officeholder? Part of the answer is that the Christian and non-Christian ought to judge in the same way: what can the candidate do to protect the peace and prosperity of the nation and its citizens? Christians would add that they require political leaders that will protect the right of the Church to worship freely and its members to practice their faith in peace.

If personal sin were disqualifying, who could lead? Christians in particular, for whom recognition of indwelling sin is both a predicate and a sustainer of faith, should know this. I suspect what the Frenches really want is a prophet, a priest, and a king to rule in this secular age, a political leader in which they can invest their highest hopes. But in doing so, they are placing upon liberal politics a weight it cannot hope to carry and are headed for disappointment.  The good news is, if they want a prophet, a priest, and a king, they already have one . . . in Christ.

As a presidential candidate in 2012, [Mitt Romney] was weak and ineffectual, letting Barack Obama walk all over him and run away with the race. But vote for him because he’s polite and he doesn’t curse!  Voters, many of them Christians, decided that the time for beautiful losers is over.

Exactly.  As I watch my country overrun by uninvited invaders, beset by hostile ideologies growing within and enemies gathering without, I am really not concerned with parlor games and political pleasantries anymore.  It’s no exaggeration to say our birthright freedoms are in a fight for their very survival.  In such a situation I’ll take a committed patriot with the manners of Genghis Khan over a manicured globalist who’s a disciple of Ann Landers; a Patton, not a Pope.

And as for Christianity requiring a milquetoast demeanor… our adversaries would have us forget that Our Lord’s example includes such pleasantries as flipping tables, driving people with whips, calling deceivers ‘vipers‘ and children of Satan, and calling down woe on feckless leaders more interested in themselves than in those they were called to lead.  Christ isn’t just the Lamb… He’s also the Lion of Judah.  “Not a tame lion,” either, as C.S. Lewis once pointed out.

So despite his many past moral failings, maybe… just maybe… Trump’s on to something here.  I’ll certainly never confuse him with Christ.  But Twitter aside, regarding the manner in which he is governing I’ll say he is more Christ-like than many of the false-faced Wormtongues who surround him in Mordor.  It’s amusing: the Left always screeches that Christian faith should never influence public policy.  But faced with Trump, who has committed the unpardonable sin of actually trying to govern as he campaigned, the Left — which recognizes no restraints of civility on its own quest for power — is more than willing to use a watered-down, denatured vision of the Christian walk to try to shame people out of supporting him.

I mean it literally when I say “to hell with that.”

Keep the pressure on

President Trump’s re-election campaign communications director throws the gauntlet down to the misleading mainstream press (click to enlarge):

I find the use of the phrase “reckless statements” to be interesting.  I don’t know that it’s the intent, but the phrase immediately brought libel law to mind.  Generally speaking, public figures have a harder time bringing libel suits than average citizens.  But libel has a very specific definition: “…making of defamatory statements (false and reckless) in a printed or fixed medium, such as a magazine, newspaper or online such as a website or a social media site like Twitter.”

The memorandum cites specific examples of various Deep State critters repeating the “collusion” and “treason” mantra, having claimed before the release of the Mueller Report that there was “clear evidence” of such.  Now that the report is out, the false and reckless nature of these claims would seem apparent.  Could it be Trump’s team is putting the Mainstream Media on notice that continuing to facilitate these fevered conspiracy dreams might result in expensive legal action taken against them?  If that’s the case, I say it’s long overdue.  Having a free press means it’s free to follow the facts wherever they lead, and to express opinions that are presented as such.  It should not mean freedom to build a public echo chamber of propaganda that lacks any semblance of evidence to support it.

The Left has had it rough the past few days: the Mueller Report, the arrest of Michael Avenatti, the Justice Department concurring with a Federal Judge that Obamacare is unconstitutional…  I pray it’s only the smallest beginning of a much needed reckoning.  And if it seems like I’m merciless in my current calls for vengeance, it’s only because the other side has clearly shown they will give no quarter in their pursuit of power.  All well and good, then: let’s hoist the black flag and get to work.  The Left must be destroyed.

TSA Shutdown? Yes, please

Regular readers of this blog know that I absolutely loathe the Transportation Security Administration. It’s a monstrous, unconstitutional abomination that should not exist in any society that considers itself “free.” What’s more, it is demonstratively unable to meet its primary purpose: detecting and intercepting potential threats to travelers.  Perhaps the ongoing “shutdown” of the Feral Government will give Americans — and the TSA Employees themselves — a chance to rethink how ‘essential’ this function really is:.

Nobody wants to work for an employer who holds off on cutting paychecks until a more convenient moment, and that’s just what the federal government is doing during its “shutdown”—a spectacle that almost seems crafted to demonstrate how easy it is to live without the leviathan in Washington, D.C.

Understandably, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees are no more enthusiastic about working when their paychecks are delayed than is anybody else on the planet. That’s why they’ve been calling-in sick in increased numbers—some to seek temporary work elsewhere in order to pay their bills—as the more-theater-than-reality “government shutdown” drags on.

Not that there’s any point to all of that [TSA] groping beyond the purely recreational aspect. Undercover investigators were able to smuggle weapons and explosives past TSA agents 95 percent of the time, according to a 2015 Homeland Security Investigator General report. Maybe that’s because agents are relying on dowsing rods or Spidey sense—they’re certainly not depending on the expensive equipment they make travelers and baggage file through.

“Because TSA does not adequately oversee equipment maintenance, it cannot be assured that routine preventive maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use,” The Inspector General office also noted.

“Security theater” is what security expert Bruce Schneier, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of government, calls most of what the TSA does. They’re “measures that make us feel safer without improving security… I’ve repeatedly said that the two things that have made flying safer since 9/11 are reinforcing the cockpit doors and persuading passengers that they need to fight back. Everything beyond that isn’t worth it.”

But, isn’t this an opportunity for us all? Given that the world is a better place when TSA employees and other government minions don’t do their jobs, and some are already seeking alternative employment, what a great opportunity to shut down their agencies, shrink the government, and make everybody’s lives a little better!

If it isn’t worth it, why pay for it?

Especially when the cost is measured in civil liberty as much as it is in dollars. It’s long past time we reevaluate just how “essential” large parts of the Feral Government really are. We pay for more government than we should want, and yet get less return on those payments than we need.  As for the “shutdown,” let’s keep a little perspective:

shutddown

Mitt Romney disapproves this message

Trump shows again his mastery of Twitter:

trump tweet warren

In case you don’t get it, click here.

While this is a brilliant poke at Warren, I’m sure there are many, Mitt Romney especially, who are holding their noses and saying “that’s not presidential.”

Wrong.

The simple fact is that if Romney had been 1/2020th this willing to dig at Obama’s smug overestimation of himself, we might have avoided a second Obama term.  Not that it would have meant much, since Romney is the epitome of “RINO” (Republican in Name Only), mouthing small government platitudes but doing nothing to actually advance that agenda.  Do recall that Obamacare was advertised as a logical extension of Romney’s own prior government intrusion into healthcare in Massachusetts.

But wait!  There’s more!  Romney is now a Senator from Utah.  Huh?  That sounds like a Hillary move, suddenly becoming a New Yorker to get into the Senate.  What’s more, Romney had plenty of use for Trump in 2012 and 2018, when he sought the man’s endorsement for president and senate, respectively.  But now he wants to bite the hand that supported him:

It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not.

I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not. I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.

Well, Mr. Romney, it’s well known a lot of us conservative patriotic Americans didn’t have you as our first choice in 2012, and wish Trump had told you to pound sand when you asked his help into the Senate last year.  Anyone should have seen you would take on the mantle of a McCain or a Flake, sniping at your party from the inside, where you can do the most damage.  You’re not interested in supporting the public’s agenda, only ensuring you are applauded by “all the right folks.”  You know, the ones praising your recent op-ed, but at the time said you were literally Hitler when you dared to run for president as a Republican.  Have you really forgotten?

I admit I wish the president would reign in some of the more gratuitous sniping, and show a little more message discipline.  But to all the “never Trumpers” out there, scratching your head and wondering why Americans could support someone like Trump, it’s simple:

You chatter.  He fights… and gets things done.  Patriots are tired of alleged leaders who will only fight in prim accordance with the Queensbury Rules while our adversaries routinely punch below the belt.  Reversing this country’s disastrous heading is a massive undertaking.  Those who are afraid of getting their hands dirty or their positions criticized by the legacy media are of no use.

****

UPDATE: Hey, Mitt — got any thoughts about expectations for the behavior of Congresscritters while you’re at it?  I know… if you criticize her you might lose face with the swamp elites you run with.  Rashida Taleb has already overturned two centuries of tradition so she can wear a symbol of Islamic oppression of women on the floor of the House of Representatives.  Will she also be allowed to make that kind of foul public language standard there, too?  Before you play the moral equivalence game between her and Trump, consider this: at a minimum, the difference is she hates everything traditional America stands for.

Substituting factions for faith

A person’s life is meant to have meaning, and for that meaning to derive from a relationship to their Creator.  It’s no surprise, then, that those who reject God are driven to seek meaning anywhere they believe they can find it.  Some turn to self-destructive vices in an ever-more-vain pursuit of moments of perceived happiness.  Other alternatives, though, while not as immediately and physically destructive, ultimately lead to the same futility.  One important current example is in our political climate.

Seduced by scientism, distracted by materialism, insulated, like no humans before us, from the vicissitudes of sickness and the ubiquity of early death, the post-Christian West believes instead in something we have called progress — a gradual ascent of mankind toward reason, peace, and prosperity — as a substitute in many ways for our previous monotheism. We have constructed a capitalist system that turns individual selfishness into a collective asset and showers us with earthly goods; we have leveraged science for our own health and comfort. Our ability to extend this material bonanza to more and more people is how we define progress; and progress is what we call meaning…

But none of this material progress beckons humans to a way of life beyond mere satisfaction of our wants and needs. And this matters…

[S]ocial-justice ideology does everything a religion should. It offers an account of the whole: that human life and society and any kind of truth must be seen entirely as a function of social power structures, in which various groups have spent all of human existence oppressing other groups. And it provides a set of practices to resist and reverse this interlocking web of oppression — from regulating the workplace and policing the classroom to checking your own sin and even seeking to control language itself. I think of non-PC gaffes as the equivalent of old swear words. Like the puritans who were agape when someone said “g–damn,” the new faithful are scandalized when someone says something “problematic.” Another commonality of the zealot then and now: humorlessness.

The same cultish dynamic can be seen on the right. There, many profess nominal Christianity and yet demonstrate every day that they have left it far behind… This is why they could suddenly rally to a cult called Trump. He may be the least Christian person in America, but his persona met the religious need their own faiths had ceased to provide. The terrible truth of the last three years is that the fresh appeal of a leader-cult has overwhelmed the fading truths of Christianity.

This is why they are so hard to reach or to persuade and why nothing that Trump does or could do changes their minds. You cannot argue logically with a religion — which is why you cannot really argue with social-justice activists either. And what’s interesting is how support for Trump is greater among those who do not regularly attend church than among those who do…

And so we’re mistaken if we believe that the collapse of Christianity in America has led to a decline in religion. It has merely led to religious impulses being expressed by political cults… And this is how they threaten liberal democracy. They do not believe in the primacy of the individual, they believe the ends justify the means, they do not allow for doubt or reason, and their religious politics can brook no compromise.

I found these to be interesting thoughts, particularly coming from a writer who seems to believe he can reconcile his Roman Catholic practice with being an openly gay political pundit.  One of my first thoughts is that perhaps the Spirit is getting through to him.  I hope that’s the case.  He is correct about politics replacing theological faith as a source of meaning in our culture.  He is also correct about the effect of that on both Left and Right.  I supported Trump in 2016 because I thought that, even with his personal baggage, he’d do less damage than Her Hillariness.  I still hold a modest hope that he’ll be able to enact long-lasting reforms in some critical areas.  But unlike other Trump supporters I’ve encountered (who’ve made me very uncomfortable at times), I do not see him as America’s secular messiah, and I remain well aware of his flaws.

Sullivan may or may not have grasped the deeper point of his ponderings.  Reading the entirety of the piece, I’m not sure.  He compares the “Great Awokening” of modern times to the “Great Awakening” of old.  Only if we have another “Great Awakening” will our people once again channel their energies toward pursuing Christ.  And it is that pursuit that produces the fruit which previously sustained our society.  May God grant us revival, from “Awoke” to “Awake.”  As we’re painfully finding out, finding our identities in anything other than Him is a very poor substitute indeed.