Harry Reid and the UFO Program

A number of publications now report that the federal government appropriated over $22 million of my money, spread out over five years, to study UFO’s.(1) I have no problem with ordinary citizens that believe that aliens from outer space are infiltrating our skies, and I have no problem with independent organizations that use private funds to conduct research into proving it. I don’t even have a problem with a private organization seeking government grants for such research in an open and transparent manner. When a sitting U.S. Senator devotes my money to something like this, in such a covert manner, the first thing we citizens should do is question that Senator’s motives.

The motive, we skeptics opine, is that the former head of the Senate, Democrat Harry Reid, initiated The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program as a creative way to send a chunk of our money to his friend, government contractor, and a major Harry Reid campaign contributor, Robert Bigelow and Bigelow’s company Bigelow Aerospace.

The reports from these publications state that the program’s leader, Luis Elizondo, resigned declaring that the program “was not taken seriously enough.”(2) If Elizondo was being honest, as opposed to attempting to avoid the scrutiny he might face for participating in this sham, we skeptics ask, on what basis should we take such a program seriously? If, as Elizondo infers, we should be on guard against a worst case scenario from flying saucers, such as an attack on the homeland, our response should be, “Based on what?” If you, Luis Elizondo believe we should study UFO’s in a preemptive manner that’s fine, do it on your own dime, collect a number of like-minded investors, or apply for a grant in an open and honest manner, so voters can hold those that acquiesce to such a request accountable. (Editor’s note: Various reports report that Mr. Elizondo is now participating in just such a quest that doesn’t appear to have government funding attached to it.) To suggest that the government should be required to use my money, however, to prepare a defense against a threat that most taxpayers don’t believes exists, without facing open scrutiny, suggests to me that some of the players involved knew this was an elaborate sham to cheat taxpayers. If they weren’t co-conspirators, on the other hand, they enjoyed the fruits of it.

If this worst-case scenario were to occur, I’m guessing that 99% of the population would be empathetic to those government officials that declared, “We didn’t prepare for this disaster, because, well, how does one prepare for such a thing?”

Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye, and Alaska Republican Ted Stevens were two Senators that secretly joined Reid in his bid to send this money to Bigelow, but these three Senators did not inform any other Senators of their actions. For those readers that make note of the fact that a Republican that joined in on a Reid’s scheme to funnel money to one of his major contributors, they should also note that Citizen’s Against Government Waste often targeted the former Senator, Ted Stevens, for his creative ability to spend taxpayer’s money to the benefit of his Alaskan citizens.

“I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program) going,” Mr. Reid said in an interview in Nevada. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”

The first response that pops into mind when reading this quote is, if it was one of the good things he did while in the Senate, where are the results? When publications report on this particular program, they include various videos, though they do not note if these videos were part of the program’s findings. Even if they were, however, the videos feature the typical, oblique videos of flying objects that have been around, on various sites, for decades, and there are some oblique testimonials from those that were there, but these findings do not provide more definitive information than what we had before the program. If there is such information, it has an all too convenient Top Secret label on it. Other than the points, we should probably give Harry Reid credit for finding a creative way to reward a financial contributor to his campaigns, I can’t think of any good this idea did for the country.

As for the “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry” comment, Harry Reid has a history that suggests he was not easily embarrassed or shamed throughout his career. He stated that most of the people that are not him smell. (3) He has also all but admitted that he lied when he stated, from the floor of the Senate albeit, that 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn’t pay any taxes over the past decade. When pressed to account for this lie, Reid responded with a smirk, “Romney didn’t win, did he?” The Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza characterized the lie, the refusal to apologize, and the subsequent glee Reid displayed in the CNN interview as “both remarkable and remarkably depressing”(4). More recently, Harry Reid added, “If I had to do it over again, I’d do it again.” (5)

The point in establishing Reid’s less than stellar record of honesty, and lack of any shame, is that when he says that the $22 Million that was devoted to the program was black money that means that only he and the other two Senators above knew about it, and he was not willing to endure any “open and honest” scrutiny for his action. When Reid says that he is not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry for what he did, his record suggests that maintaining integrity was never a driving force for him. The point is, also, that while Reid did nothing illegal in his pursuit of funneling this money to a contributor, his actions did not live up to the 2006 promise Democrats made of being “the honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history”.

As has been proven over the last half century, various members of the American public have been willing to invest millions of dollars of their own money, and a large percentage of their lives, to explore a truth about big foot, the Loch Ness Monster, and UFO’s. Why would a venture, such as this one, need government funding? The answer, it didn’t. As Reid himself stated his act of rewarding a campaign contributor was unprecedented, in that no politician in government ever did it before. Is this because no previous politician had the stones to face scrutiny from the public for such a move? If that’s the case, Reid didn’t allow his program to face scrutiny. My personal belief is that no politician has attempted funnel the taxpayer’s hard-earned money to a major campaign contributor in such a way, because no politician has been as shameless as former Democrat Senator Harry Reid was before. If there has been, and I’m not aware of it, they weren’t so proud of it that they didn’t mind it becoming a part of their historical legacy.


Historical Inevitability

The idea that history is cyclical has been put forth by many historians, philosophers, and fiction writers, but one Italian philosopher, named Giovanni Battista Vico (1668-1744), wrote that a fall is also an historical inevitability. In his book La Scienza Nuova, Vico suggested that evidence of this can be found by reading history from the vantage point of the cyclical process of the rise-fall-rise, or fall-rise-fall recurrences, as opposed to studying it in a straight line, dictated by the years in which events occurred. By studying history in this manner, Vico suggested, the perspective of one’s sense of modernity is removed and these cycles of historical inevitability are revealed.

To those of us who have been privy to the lofty altitude of the information age, this notion seems impossible to the point of being implausible. If we are willing to cede to the probability of a fall, as it portends to a certain historical inevitability, we should only do so in a manner that suggests that if there were a fall, it would be defined relative to the baseline of our modern advancements. To these people, an asterisk may be necessary in any discussion of cultures rising and falling in historical cycles. This asterisk would require a footnote that suggests that all eras have had creators lining the top of their era’s hierarchy, and those that feed upon their creations at the bottom. The headline grabbing accomplishments of these creators might then define an era, in an historical sense, to suggest that the people of that era were advancing, but were the bottom feeders advancing on parallel lines? Or, did the creators’ accomplishments, in some way, inhibit their advancement?

“(Chuck Klosterman) suggests that the internet is fundamentally altering the way we intellectually interact with the past because it merges the past and present into one collective intelligence, and that it’s amplifying our confidence in our beliefs by (a) making it seem like we’ve always believed what we believe and (b) giving us an endless supply of evidence in support of whatever we believe. Chuck Klosterman suggests that since we can always find information to prove our points, we lack the humility necessary to prudently assess the world around us. And with technological advances increasing the rate of change, the future will arrive much faster, making the questions he poses more relevant.” –Will Sullivan on Chuck Klosterman

My initial interpretation of this quote was that it sounded like a bunch of gobbeldy gook, until I reread it and plugged the changes of the day into it. The person that works for a small, upstart company pays acute attention to their inbox, for the procedures and methods of operation change by the day. Those that have worked for a larger company, on the other hand, know that change is a long, slow, and often grueling process. It’s the difference between changing the direction of a kayak versus a battleship. 

When transformational changes we have experienced in the last ten years could be said to fill a battleship, occurring with the rapidity of a kayak’s change of direction, how do we adapt to them at such a breakneck pace? Those that are 40 years-old and older often react slowly to change, particularly technological change, but teens and early twenty somethings are quicker and more eager to adapt and incorporate the latest and greatest advancements, regardless the unforeseen, and unintended consequences.

Had the rapid course of change over the last 10 years occurred over 100 years, it would’ve characterized that century as one of rapid change. Is it possible for us to change as quickly, fundamentally, or is there some methodical lag time that we all factor in?

If we change our minds on an issue as quickly as Klosterman suggests, with the aid of our new information resources, are we prudently assessing these changes in a manner that allows us to examine and process unforeseen and unintended consequences before making a change? How does rapid adaption to technological change affect human nature? Does it change as quickly, and does human nature change as a matter of course, or does human nature require a more methodical hand?

These rapid changes, and our adaptation to them, reminds me of the catch phrase mentality. When one hears a particularly catchy, or funny, catchphrase, they begin repeating it. When another asks that person where they first heard that catchphrase, the person that now uses the catchphrase so often now that it has become routine, say they don’t remember where they heard it. Even if they began using it less than a month ago, they believe they’ve always been saying it. They subconsciously adapted to it and altered their memory in such a way that suits them.  

Another way of interpreting this quote is that with all of this information at our fingertips, the immediate information we receive on a topic, in our internet searches, loses value. One could say as much with any research, but in past such research required greater effort on the part of the curious. For today’s consumer of knowledge, just about every piece of information we can imagine is at our fingertips. 

Who is widely considered the primary writer of the Constitution, for example? A simple Google search will produce a name: James Madison. Who was James Madison, and what were his influences in regard to the document called The Constitution? What was the primary purpose of this finely crafted document that assisted in providing Americans near unprecedented freedom from government tyranny, and rights that were nearly unprecedented when coupled with amendments in the Bill of Rights. How much blood and treasure was spent to pave the way for the creation of this document, and how many voices were instrumental in the Convention that crafted and created this influential document?

Being able to punch these questions into a smart phone, and receive the names of those involved can give them a static quality. The names James Madison, Gouvernor Morris, Alexander Hamilton, and all of the other delegates of the Constitutional Convention that shaped, crafted, and created this document could become nothing more than answer to a Google search. Over time, and through repeated searches, a Google searcher could accidentally begin to assign a certain historical inevitability to the accomplishments of these otherwise disembodied answers. The notion being that if these answers aren’t the correct answers, another one could be.

Removing my personal opinion that Madison, Morris, Hamilton, and those at the Constitutional Convention the composed the document, for just a moment, the question has to be asked, could the creation of Americans’ rights and liberties have occurred at any time, with any men or women in the history of our Republic? The only answer, as I see it, involves another question: How many politicians in the history of the world have voted to limit the power they wield, and any future power they might attain through future endeavors? How many current politicians, for example, are likely to vote for their own term-limits? Only politicians who have spent half their life under what they considered tyrannical rule would fashion a document that could result in their own limitations.   

How many great historical achievements, and people, have been lost to this idea of historical inevitability? Was it an historical inevitability that America would gain her freedom from Britain? Was the idea that most first world people would have the right to speak out against their government, vote, and thus have some degree of self-governance inevitable? How many of the freedoms, opportunities, and other aspects of American exceptionalism crafted in the founding documents are now viewed as so inevitable that someone, somewhere would’ve come along and figured out how to make that possible? Furthermore, if one views such actions as inevitable, how much value do they attach to the ideas, and ideals, created by them? If the answers to these questions attain a certain static inevitability, how susceptible are they to condemnation? If an internet searcher has a loose grasp of the comprehensive nature of what these men did, and the import of these ideas on the current era, will it become an historical inevitability that they’re taken away in a manner that might initiate philosopher Vico’s theory on the cyclical inevitability of a fall?

I’ve heard it theorized that for every 600,000 people born, one will be a transcendent genius. I heard this quote secondhand, and the person that said it attributed it to Voltaire, but I’ve never been able to properly source it. The quote does provide a provocative idea, however, that I interpret to mean that the difference between one that achieves the stature of genius on a standardized test, or Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test, and the transcendent genius lies in this area of application. We’ve all met extremely intelligent people in the course of our lives, in other words, and some of us have met others that qualify as genius, but how many of them figured out a way to apply that abundant intelligence in a productive manner? This, I believe, is the difference between the 1 in 57 ratio that some have asserted is the genius ratio and the 1 in 600,000 born. The implicit suggestion of this idea is that every dilemma, or tragedy, is waiting for a transcendent genius to come along and fix it. These are all theories of course, but it does beg the question of what happens to the other 599,999 that feed off the ingenious creations and thoughts of transcendent geniuses for too long? It also begs the question that if the Italian philosopher Vico’s theories on the cyclical nature of history hold true, and modern man is susceptible to a great fall, will there be a transcendent genius that is able to fix the dilemmas and tragedies that await the victims of the next great fall? 

“Cracker Barrel” America and the 2016 Election

“If every Republican is a misogynist, then no Republican is,” Kirsten Powers wrote in a November 10, 2016 editorial, an editorial that was published shortly after the presidential election. Powers went on to write that, “These same voters have watched as every Republican candidate in recent memory has been accused of “waging a War on Women.” If Democrats are going to claim that Mitt Romney and John McCain hate women (and Democrats did make that claim), then (Democrats) shouldn’t be surprised when (those same) voters ignore them when they say Donald Trump hates women.”

downloadThose of us who watched the McCain campaign, and the Romney campaign, couldn’t believe that this “War on Women” charge stuck. Neither of these campaigns did anything, as far as we were concerned, to insult, denigrate, or belittle women in any way. The charge seemed unfounded, and most of us believed that clear-minded voters would see the charge for what it was eventually. They didn’t of course. The campaign to denigrate those campaigns as anti-woman proved wildly successful.

Part of the 2016 campaign to elect a Democrat president was based on the idea that the Republican candidate for president, Donald J. Trump, hated women, and candidate Trump did say some things during the 2016 campaign that Democrats used to suggest he did. Even the biggest Trump supporter would admit that some of the quotes that Donald Trump said as a citizen, in the years preceding the campaign, should have sunk his campaign. If Democrats had been able to avoid the temptation of using this effective charge in 2008 and 2012, when it was unwarranted against the Republican presidential candidates in question, it might have proven to have more impact in 2016. Yet, the campaigns to elect a Democrat to the presidency were so similar in these three presidential campaigns that “Cracker Barrel” Americans may have viewed the 2016 use of the charge as nothing more than another campaign tactic.

To explain the characterization of some Americans as “Cracker Barrel” Americans, Kirsten Powers cites a study done by a Dave Wasserman of The Cook Political Report that points out “that Donald Trump won 76% of counties with a Cracker Barrel but only 22% of counties with a Whole Foods, a 54-point gap. Yet in 1992, when Bill Clinton won the presidency, the gap between those same counties was only 19 points.”

“Cracker Barrel” Americans, we can infer from the language used in the column, are those Americans that live in flyover country. These Americans are either so busy, or so disinterested in the minutiae of politics, that they don’t see the stitches on the fastball that a politician, or political party, is throwing at them. As anyone that has ever tried to hit a fastball can attest, however, even the most mediocre hitter can catch up to a fastball if it is delivered in the exact same manner, enough times.

Ms. Powers is not suggesting that the charges made against Trump were unfounded or unduly influenced by the media. Listening to some of her commentary, over the course of the campaign, suggests that she may have believed some of the charges made, but in this particular column I believe she is stating that these charges have been made so often, and in some cases unwarranted, that Democrats became a victim of their own success. As stated in the next quote from Ms. Powers, the last eight years have been littered with one accusation after another, regarding the changes that “Cracker Barrel” Americans have been forced to not only accept, but that they have been forbidden to openly oppose.

“It’s not hard to see how accusations against Trump as a racist and misogynist would be met with eye rolls and knowing murmurs of “political correctness” by people who have had their worldview constantly caricatured and demonized by the cultural elites in academia, media and politics.”

Ms. Powers illustrates this by citing a quote from her friend and liberal commentator Sally Kohn, in a debate on  free speech:

“If [conservatives on campus] feel like they can no longer speak against positive social change, good.”

“This is a paradigm,” Ms. Powers states. “Where honest disagreement about abortion makes one a woman-hater, holding orthodox religious views on marriage equates to gay-bashing, and refusing to cop to white privilege –even if you are a working class white person struggling economically– defines you as a racist.”

It’s often difficult for any individual, that is a true believer, to welcome opposing views with open arms. We believe that we are right, and we find some comfort in the belief that anyone who disagrees is either woefully uninformed, or they have ulterior motives for believing the way they do, but when The Silencing becomes so ubiquitous, and so effective, the push back can lead to what some may consider shocking effects.

It was a shock to many that anyone, much less a woman, would vote for Donald Trump after he said the things he did, and did the things he did, that some could interpret as similar to statements that led to a number of election losses four years ago. As I wrote, even the proponents of Trump would admit that they thought the 2016 presidential election was over several times, when opposition research unearthed some quotes, and videos, that played into the narrative some in the media were building on Trump, but those same people may have identified with Trump in a manner that suggests that voters had grown tired of being told that honest opposition to the liberal agenda meant that they were awful people in varying ways.

As comedian, and podcaster, Adam Carolla often says on his Podcast:

“This is the best time in America to be a racist. If you are charged with racism, those that hear the charge may yawn now and dismiss it as politically correct nonsense. Even if the person making that charge has actual proof, and the person they are making the charge against is an actual racist, no one takes it as seriously as they once did.”

The ploy of labeling those who have an honest disagreement with some piece of legislation, a proposal, a movement, or an idea with a career ending name of some sort was wildly successful, in the short-term. During the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, there was this sense that an opponent could not openly oppose the ideas that were being floated about the country without being branded as a racist. There was also this sense that if we complained about that situation, and we stated that we felt intimidated by it, we received a, ‘you know what, good’ type of response, similar to the one Sally Kohn offered Kirsten Powers in a debate on free speech.

Barack Obama successfully used such tactics, openly and subtly, to fundamentally transform this nation. As most Congressmen feared openly opposing his administration, lest they be called a racist. Members of the media were afraid to openly scrutinize the legislation and ideas of the administration, and most open debate among citizens was shut down for fear of causing tension. There was also this sense that there would never be a price to pay for silencing opposition in this manner, until the 2016 Democrats made it clear that they thought such charges were an antidote to ever losing another presidential election, and they found that a surprisingly large swath of the electorate had grown immune to them.

Anyone that knows the story of The Little Boy who Cried Wolf knows that no matter how unfounded a charge is, if it is repeated often enough people will start to believe it. Republicans found this out the hard way in 2008 and 2012. Yet, as the lesson of that story suggests, if those same charges are repeated too often, people will start to ignore them. Democrats found that out the hard way in 2016.

Trickle-Down Economics or Trickle-Down Government?

““Trickle-down economics”, also referred to as “trickle-down theory”, is a populist political term used to characterize economic policies as favoring the wealthy or privileged.” –Google definition.

I appreciate the idea that one of the primary duties of a search engine is to provide concise definitions for their customers. I do not fault Google for what I consider an incomplete definition. To my mind the ideal definition of the term would be the following: ‘Trickle-down economics’, also referred to as ‘trickle-down theory’, is a populist political term used (primarily by opponents) to characterize economic policies (with which they disagree) as favoring the wealthy or privileged.’ (Those that helped to write the definition of the term, for Wikipediahave included the first (primarily by opponents) parenthetical addition.)

(Credit: Center for Media and Democracy)

I realize that, in some ways, these additions might result in the perception that the search engine is taking a side in the argument, but as economist, Dr. Thomas Sowell, writes in his book Basic Economics, the term “trickle-down” is not a proper characterization of the laissez-faire, supply-side economists view that favors freeing up markets. Their goal, attained through a lowering of regulations on business, a lower capital gains tax, and a lower corporate tax rate, would not provide benefit specific to the wealthy or privileged, as much as it would all enterprising risk takers, regardless of their income.

One of the biggest myths that those overwhelmed by the intricacies and complexities involved in understanding economic theory buy into is that an increased tax rate always leads to more revenue for the government. It seems like simple math to suggest that if the government taxes a corporation one percent on 100 million of their profit, the government will receive one million dollars, two percent equals two million, and the higher the tax rate the more a government receives to then redistribute accordingly. This is what supply side economist Arthur Laffer has characterized as an “arithmetic effect”.

What the arithmetic effect does not account for is the effect high taxes have on the amount of taxable activity that occurs. Economist Arthur Laffer points out that everyone knows that if you tax a corporation 0%, the government will receive 0% in revenue. What may not seem as logical on the face of it is, if the government taxes a corporation 100%, the government will also receive 0% in revenue, because the taxed individual, or corporation, will begin to lessen their activity to avoid greater taxation.

What this illustrates, by means of exaggeration, is that there are points in between at which companies, and individuals, decide that it doesn’t make good business sense to continue to engage in taxable activity, at full capacity, if the tax rate on that activity is too high. There is a point in between, suggests Laffer, a point that some now call the Laffer Curve, that suggests that there is a sweet spot in the tax rate that encourages greater taxable activity, broadens the tax base by encouraging greater employment, and can end up resulting in greater revenue for the federal government.

If the supply-side argument were solely concerned with a “trickle-down” effect, one would think that they would be obsessed with the rich keeping more of their money. If that were the case, the supply-side argument might suggest that the tax rate should be as low as possible. They might even suggest that the tax rate should be 0%, or a single-digit tax-rate. That is not the argument that Laffer, Sowell, or any supply-side economists put forth. Rather, they call for a tax rate that encourages greater economic activity that they believe will result in more taxable activity that they believe should result in more revenue for the government. If they directed their sole focus at the rich keeping more of their money, their arguments would also focus more on the federal income tax rate. What they are more concerned with is lowering the corporate tax rate, the capital gains tax, and lessening burdensome government regulation to allow for a more stratified economy by encouraging more middle class investment and risk taking. The middle class risk takers comprise a large percentage of employers of our society, and most of them are not successful in their efforts, much less wealthy. The politicians that raise these taxes often talk about how they need to create jobs, but if the supply side economist theories are to be accepted, these politicians do more harm than good to those that employ. 

Warren Buffett and the Already Wealthy

Ask any wealthy, or privileged, individual about paying taxes, and they will inform the inquisitive that they don’t mind paying taxes, that they’re not paying enough in taxes, or that they think they should be paying more. The listener cannot help but consider such an answer to be wonderful, altruistic, and patriotic. What Warren Buffett will not add is that paying more in taxes will not hurt him, because he already has his money, and he doesn’t mind paying as many taxes as he could possibly pay, until the IRS tries to collect those taxes, and Warren Buffet takes them to court and succeeds in keeping more of his millions.

A person like Warren Buffett may have been for lower taxes, decreased regulations, and a lessened role of government in the economy when he was starting out, but it no longer benefits him in the manner it may the enterprising risk taker that deigns to compete with one of the blue chip companies in which Warren Buffett owns stock. The already wealthy and privileged few –like Warren Buffett– would be more apt to encourage federal regulators to regulate and tax the industries of the companies from which he has shares. In doing so, a wealthy and privileged type like Warren Buffet hopes the government can help him diminish current competitors and drive away any future risk takers that might aspire to compete with a Wells Fargo, IBM, Coca Cola, or any of the other big, blue chip companies in which he owns shares. Yet, any time Warren Buffet appears on TV, everyone is surprised to hear him sound more like Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan did. Why wouldn’t he, it benefits him to do this, and he already has his.

The Straw Man Argument

Some trace the term “trickle-down economics” to the humorist, Will Rogers, and his attempts to demonize the policies of President Herbert Hoover for the benefit of the Franklin D. Roosevelt campaign. Those, in certain circles, use the term now to voice opposition to such theories, as a straw man argument of what the other side believes. 

As Thomas Sowell writes in his book Basic Economics:

“No recognized economist of any school of thought has ever had any such theory (Trickle Down) or made any such proposal. It is a straw man. It cannot be found in even the most voluminous and learned histories of economic theories.

“What is sought by those that advocate lower rates of taxation or other reductions of government’s role in the economy is not the transfer of existing wealth to higher income earners or businesses but the creation of additional wealth when businesses are less hampered by government controls or by increasing government appropriation of that additional wealth under steeply progressive taxation laws. Whatever the merits or demerits of this view, this is the argument that is made – and which is not confronted, but evaded, by talk of a non-existent ‘trickle down’ theory.

“Whether in the United States or in India, and whether in the past or in the present, ‘trickle down’ has been a characterization and rejection of what somebody else supposedly believed. Moreover, it has been considered unnecessary (by opponents) to cite any given person who had actually advocated any such thing.

“The real effect of a reduction in the capital gains tax is that it opens the prospect of greater future net profits and thereby provides incentives to make current investments that create current employment.”

If one were to corner me in a supermarket and ask me about supply side economics, based on the curve that Arthur Laffer reintroduced to the world, that opponents call trickle-down economics, I might have conceded to the idea that those that formed the economic theory intended it to favor the wealthy and industrial types first. I believed that those who espouse the theory state intend for the fruits of this process to pinball its way down. Even back then, back when I thought it was a decent theory on its face, I didn’t think it made sense. How does one answer for the argument that in a trickle down economy, the idea of greed counters the idea that the money will ever find its way to the worker.

The answer is that our economy is more stratified, and a stratified economy calls for the success of the businesses across all classes, and when the government steps in with its invisible hand to determine winners and losers, it messes up that dynamic by crushing the little guys first. Thomas Sowell would say that even that is a fundamental misreading of the manner in which economic processes work.

“Economic processes work in the directly opposite way from that depicted by those that imagine that profits first benefit business owners and that benefits only belatedly trickle down to workers.

“When an investment is made, whether to build a railroad or to open a new restaurant, the first money is spent hiring people to do the work. Without that, nothing happens. Even when one person decides to operate a store or hamburger stand without employees, that person must first pay somebody to deliver the goods that are being sold. Money goes out first to pay expenses and then comes back as profits later – if at all. The high rate of failure of new businesses makes painfully clear that there is nothing inevitable about the money coming back.

“Even with successful and well-established businesses, years may elapse between the initial investment and the return of earnings. From the time when an oil company begins spending money to explore for petroleum to the time when the first gasoline resulting from that exploration comes out of a pump at a filling station, a decade may have passed. In the meantime, all sorts of employees have been paid – geologists, engineers, refinery workers, and truck drivers, for example. It is only afterwards that profits begin coming in. Only then are there any capital gains to tax. The real effect of a reduction in the capital gains tax is that it opens the prospect of greater future net profits and thereby provides incentives to make current investments that create current employment.”

The ignorance of the many (myself included) of the complications inherent in economic theory allows opponents of that economic theory to frame and fragment that economic theory in such a way that they are able to reduce it to a misleading soundbite: Trickle-down economics. I do not think I’m alone when I write that even though Dr. Sowell has a talent for making the complex understandable, the quotes I’ve provided here lead to  irritable cerebral digestion for which rereading is the only cure. In the midst of such confusion, opponents step in to provide relief from this confusion, and arduous reading, by giving us a ‘benefit the wealthy and privileged’ soundbite.

The Big Corporation and Big Government Relationship

One of the methods novices can use to try and understand a complex economic theory, such as that espoused by Dr. Sowell and others, is to understand what it is not. What is the opposite of lessened regulations, and lower business specific taxes? Some call it Keynesianism economics. Keynesian economists often call for government intervention in times of crisis (i.e. recession or depression). Keynesians often call for “work ready jobs”, and what others call “shovel ready jobs”. Opponents characterize these jobs as one group of employees digging a hole, while another group covers that hole. The short-term purpose of such jobs is to get us over the short-term, temporary, bump of a failing economy. The problem that results from these temporary, short-term resolutions is that when government establishes a role in the economy, for emergency purposes, it rarely rolls those temporary measures back when the emergency has been resolved, as most politicians will not concede that an emergency, which voters elect them to fix, is ever resolved.

This ends up establishing a greater, and more accepted involvement of the government in the economy. Big Corporations hire accountants and lawyers to teach them how to survive in such an environment, until a mutually beneficial relationship is established. The mutually beneficial relationship is realized when Big Corporations learn how to not only survive, but thrive in such an environment, until an incestuous relationship develops to create a climate some call crony capitalism. Some may find this hard to believe, but Warren Buffett, his blue chip companies, and all of those listed in the Dow actually favor more regulations, higher corporate tax rates, higher capital gains rates, and a larger role of federal government in their respective industry.

‘Why would a Big, greedy Corporation call for more taxes, more regulations, and more complications within their own industry?’ some might ask. ‘Doesn’t that affect their profit margin?’ The answer lies in fine print of the reason that there are now more millionaires in Washington D.C., per capita, than in any other place in the United States. It is also the answer to the question how an indicator of the health of an economy, such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), can continue to grow at an anemic rate while the stock market soars to record levels. Crony capitalism results in Big Corporations (and their lobbyists) joining hands with government officials (and their agencies) to pass onerous regulations and high corporate tax rates on an industry. The result is that the rich companies in that industry get richer and the poor get poorer, and this creates a truer form of what could more appropriately call trickle-down economics with the government and big corporations holding hands at the top.

When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently passed regulations on E-Cigarettes, or Vapor cigarettes, for example, they did so in a manner that should have shocked those who loathe corporate America and favor regulating Big Corporate America in a way that they believe, somehow, benefits everyone else. The FDA regulations actually ended up favoring the Big Three Corporations in the smoking industry, or those that have the means, and the set aside money, to comply with all of the FDA regulations and the resultant applications. The Little Guys who attempted to establish brand names in the industry, and carve out their own niche in the industry, will eventually be unable to afford these expenses and still turn a profit on the product, so the Big Three will be the only ones left that can afford to sell and distribute E-Cigarettes and Vapor cigarettes. Why would these Big Three corporations do this, if they are already in the E-Cigarettes segment of the market, but not dominating it yet, or if they are not already in the market, but they have plans to be? They were utilizing Big Government regulation and taxation to crush the little guys in their industry. The very definition of what some politicos call crony capitalism.

Some may say that the FDA’s regulations in the E-Cigarette, or Vapor cigarette, industry may have inadvertently helped the Big Three in their plans to dominate this segment of the industry. They would add, however, that the primary goal of the FDA was to help the consumer understand that E-cigarettes and Vapor cigarettes either contain toxins that are harmful to their health, or that the companies in the industry must prove that they don’t, and they must warn the public if they can’t. In the case of this particular FDA regulation, however, Michael Siegel writes that there were alternatives to protect the consumer in the ways the FDA stated that these regulations would, but that the FDA chose the most the route most beneficial for the Big Three. One could deduce, based on the particulars of the regulations listed in Siegel’s piece that the FDA acted in a manner that the Big Three’s lobbyists called for, as these regulations helped the Big Three crush the little guys in the segment in such a manner that will leave the Big Three as the sole competitors.

Long story short, a bunch of little guys gathered and carved out a niche in an industry that the Big Three had some difficulty dominating. The Big Three grew weary of the competition in that industry, and they “secretly negotiated” with advocacy groups and lobbyists to help form the legislation. 

As a spokesman of Altria, the biggest of the Big Three, Brian May, stated: 

“(Altria) did support FDA extension of authority over e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. Our goal is to be a leader in vaping space.”

“In terms of what they’re trying to do, (tobacco companies) want to limit competition and encourage the cartelization of their markets,” Jonathon H. Adler, the author of the “Baptists, Bootleggers” article, wrote in an email. “They want regulation of e-cigarettes because it lessens the competitive threat to traditional cigarettes and because it makes the remaining e-cigarette market something that’s easier for them to dominate.”

Some are also suggesting that the manner in which the Big Three in this industry conspired with the government to take over the E-cigarette segment of the business, lays a road map for how they will take over the marijuana industry if that product achieves legalization in the United States.

So the next time a powerful politician suggests that “trickle-down economics” does not work, remember that is in their best interests to mischaracterize the supply-side economic theory, without informing their audience of the particulars of that theory. Also, keep in mind that if their theory on economics continues to prevail, the government will remain atop the various industries in this country. The politician will be in a seat of power that will continue to allow that politician to “trickle-down” benefits in all the ways listed above, and in the form of taxpayer subsidies, bailouts, and no-bid contracts that benefit the corporations that meet the politician’s political bullet points.

Also, remember if supply-side economists had their way with the government’s economic policies, the regulations and tax code would have appeal that is more comprehensive for those individuals (little guys) that aspire to take a risk in our economy. The intended result would be greater prosperity among all economic classes. The method of doing so would involve removing the roadblocks that Big Corporations hire accountants and lawyers to help them avoid. The intended result would also involve freeing up of middle class risk takers in a manner than should result in a broader tax base, more diverse forms of employment for individuals across economic classes, and it should end up resulting in more money in the coffers of government.

The opponents have learned, however, that the best way to pettifog an issue is to get out in front of it, and proactively define the debate in question. When a person defends their personal motivations on an issue by saying it’s not about the money, the first thing the listener knows is that it’s all about the money. On a similar note, when a politician allocates tax payer’s hard earned dollars –in the form of tax payer subsidies– to one company in an industry, and they say it’s not about picking winners and losers, the listener can be assured that it’s all about picking winners and losers. That particular company just managed to hit most of the politician’s political bullet points, and he or she began transferring wealth to the company in a form of trickle-down economics in which the politician was standing alone at the top of the pyramid flexing their muscles for the rest of corporate America to witness.

I don’t know what the goals of other side of supply-side economics were hoping to accomplish in their end game, but I would guess that most honest businessmen now find it disgusting to watch their fellow businessmen panhandle government officials into drowning their competition in legal red tape, onerous regulations, and tax rates. I would think that most honest businessmen would, at least consider the practice unethical. I’m quite sure that the other businessmen –those declared to be unethical by their peers– would turn to their friends and say something along the lines of, ‘To succeed in this climate, you need to learn how to operate within it. It’s called crony capitalism.’

Figurers Figuring and Getting Fact

“Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” —Mark Twain

“The whole American economy is built on a series of lies,” cynical types say when the conversation switches to matters they know nothing about. They may have heard something from someone they trust, and some of what they heard may have had some half-truths in it and some figures that provided enough anecdotal evidence to make a claim. More often than not, these claims are made to appeal the confirmation bias of the audience, and they have little basis in fact.

The reason such claims appeal to to the cynics is that they’ve never had skin in the game, and they’ve always been a little bitter about that. Rather than come right out and tell you that, they suggest that there is a very specific reason why they won’t play the sucker game that you do, and it all boils down to the fact “The fact I tell you!” that the whole game is rigged.

bailoutAs usual with such hysterical rants, there is a grain of truth to what they say, for if they didn’t have some attachment to the truth, they might be too embarrassed to launch in the manner they do. The truth is that the assessments made about the American economy are built on a series of figures, and those figures are not lies, but nestled within that truth are some partial truths, cloudy figures, and accounting gimmicks that suggest a relative truth to keep measurements, such as the all-important consumer confidence index, high.

Economists, with no skin in the game, will tell you that a true assessment of the economy can no longer be found in some of the official facts and figures that are considered standard measurements of an economy. Some figures, like the Dow Jones Industrial rate, and the unemployment rate, can be spruced, fluffed, and spanked into a satisfactory report that leads information gatherers to report that all is well. If that is the case, are the reports on the American economy nothing more than a series of little, white lies from the various sectors of our economy that figurers figure to keep us quiet and happy?

Some apolitical economists that pour through data to make their determinations on the health of the economy, now look to one indicator to determine the state of the economy: the real wage index.

The real wage index, put simply, measures the average consumer’s wage against their purchasing power and the resultant effects of inflation. The more complicated algorithm used to determine real wages can be found here and here.

Political economists, with skin in the game, will provide a number of indicators that suggest that economy is booming. They will often do so by keying in on two indicators, the unemployment rate and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. These indicators have been regarded as standard indicators for so long that those of us that know little-to-nothing about economics have accepted these reports as a time-honored method of revealing the health of the economy. The dirty little secret is that these figures, and others, are malleable and subject to interpretation.

When political reporters and political economists list the unemployment rate, they provide the American public the U3 rate. The U3 rate is the rate you know, as it has been declared the official unemployment rate for longer than most of us have been alive. As the Macrotrends website displays, in charts, actual unemployment figures are a bit more complicated than that, and even though the two other employment rates are not as widely reported, and not considered as official, they are just as illustrative of the state of the economy. One of the reasons that the other two rates haven’t been widely reported over the years might stem from the fact that they tend to fall in line with one another, and the chasm between the two is often not very wide. Over the last nine years, however, this gap has widened to a degree that the other two rates should now be reported in conjunction with the U3 rate. One of the other rates is the U5 rate that includes “discouraged workers and all other marginally attached workers” in its calculation. The U6 rate “adds on those workers who are part-time purely for economic reasons. The Illinois Policy website also states that the U6 rate includes “unemployed people who haven’t looked for work in the past four months but have sought employment in the past year.” The current U3 rate for the nation is listed at 5.1%, the U5 rate is 6.2%, and the U6 rate is currently listed as 9.8% for the month of October 2015, according to Macrotrends.

In a similar manner, the scaled average of the Dow Jones Index can provide a sense of false security that keeps the consumer confidence index high and leads to greater consumer spending, more investing, and it can also lead to consumers voting for the party in power, a party that the consumer believes created the climate for the booming economy.

As of this date, November 19, 2015, the Dow Jones is currently listed at around 17,500. It’s been as high as 18,200, and it’s been as low as 6,600 in the last fifteen years. It’s not recession proof, in other words, and it can still be used as an indicator of an overall economy. There are, however, so many legal accounting gimmicks, reporting practices, and maneuvers that individual companies can use to inflate their numbers, to attract future investors, that many apolitical macro-economists avoid using the Dow Jones as a benchmark in their final determinations on the state of the economy.

The Dow Jones is nothing more than a stock market index of thirty large stocks over varying industries that those in charge of the Dow Jones index declare to be representative of market conditions. As such, the Dow Jones is simply a scaled average of investor activity. Or, as Investopedia defines an index “an assessment of those people that invest and their general attitude toward companies of all different sizes and from varying industries.”

The quintessential method some learned investors, and some novices, use to purchase shares from a company is to study the profit figures that a company is required to report on a quarterly basis, otherwise known as the quarterly earnings report. Even most learned investors don’t have the knowledge, or the time, to examine the fine print of a quarterly report, so they look for the headline, the Earnings Per Share (EPS) figure, and they compare it to where the various stock analysts assumed (guessed!) those figures should be.

A company’s EPS number is derived from taking a company’s profits, or earnings, or operating cash flow, and dividing it by the number of shares available to the public.

buybacks_diagramSome would say that although EPS is listed as the standard form of measurement by the investment community, it has been manipulated so often that Investopedia states that the practice of manipulating the EPS number might be the world’s second oldest profession. As a result of this, they suggest focusing on the company’s operating cash flow portion of the EPS equation. One of the reasons for this is that some companies have manipulated the other side of the EPS equation by “buying back” a number of available shares on the open market to lessen the total number of shares available in the EPS equation, thus driving the EPS number up.

The reason that this is important, even to those that have no plans to invest in the market, and care little about it, except what it may detail for the American economy, is that as more investors clamor for a stock on the false premise of a high EPS number, the higher the Dow Jones goes, and the better the world thinks the U.S. economy is.  One could say that it is the equivalent of a completely legal, accounting shell game.

If a company has the profit necessary to purchase more shares in their company, shouldn’t that be a statement of confidence that they have in their company? Yes, but the counter-point from a novice investor might be why doesn’t the company put more of that profit into their research and development, better employees, etc.? Such an investment in the company, it would seem to the average investor, would be a more long-term investment in the company, and a buyback would satisfy investor concerns for one quarter.  The answer is that both investments are a statement of confidence, but there is a specific reason why a company would opt to buyback more shares rather than invest in other ways.

The difference, according to a Wall Street Journal quote from a managing director at investment firm Mellon Capital Management Corp., named Warren Chiang, is that:

“Executives are compensated [based] on EPS.  EPS growth is the primary reason they do buybacks.”

Gregory Milano, chief executive of business consulting firm Fortuna Advisors LLC, said that companies that avoid buybacks usually outperform those that embrace them over the long term.

“It’s kind of like a kid in school. A lot of kids are motivated by getting the best grades they can; other kids are focused on learning as much as they can,” he said. “While the child with better marks might have a leg up entering the workforce, the kid who understands (the subject matter) better has a better career.”

A buyback may be a useful tool for a company experiencing a temporary bad quarter to pursue, as it creates the illusion that the profit (or earnings) for that quarter is higher versus the number of shares available in the EPS formula, but the question those of us that are just now learning the specifics of this tool are wondering is how much of this type of stock price manipulation is already baked into the current price per share, can this practice continue ad infinitum, as long as there are some shares available, and some profit available with which to purchase it?  How much of the price per share currently listed is based on artificial manipulations, and how will this practice affect the price going forward, if at all?

“A segment of investors, both retail and institutional, believe that buybacks are financial engineering, where the purpose is largely to create wealth in the form of stock-based compensation for management,” says a Ben Silverman, vice president of research at InsiderScore, an institutional research firm that tracks buybacks and legal insider trading.

Ben Silverman is also quoted in the Wall Street Journal article as saying:

“We think in some cases that buybacks are a tool used by managers and boards that don’t know what else to do with the cash.  They’re either not creative or not growth-oriented. There’s always something to invest in, no matter what kind of company you are.”

As more and more large companies begin to pursue such smoke and mirror practices –some articles have it that one in four companies are now engaging in buybacks as a regular practice at this point– it increases the overall profit of a sector, and the market, until consumer confidence begins to increase, and the illusion that an economy is vibrant becomes such an agreed upon assessment that board members, CEOs, and state and federal politicians get re-elected, but the question that some of us now wonder is, is it possible that our cynical friends, and their trusted sources, are closer to the truth than they even know, and will all this legal deception one day lead to a sort of buyback crash?

It’s possible that this may never occur, as these companies are using profits in these buyback purchases, just not as much profit as those that look at EPS numbers for their answers are led to believe. It’s also possible that some of the highest flyers in the market have, as Ben Silverman suggests, managers and boards that don’t know what to do with all their profit.

My cynical friends may have fallen backwards into a truth, but that doesn’t suggest that the whole American economy is built on a lie.  The American economy is built on facts, and facts don’t lie, but as a prominent statistician, named Carroll D. Wright, once said of the figures that form those facts:

“The old saying is that “figures will not lie,” but a new saying is “liars will figure.” It is our duty, as practical statisticians, to prevent the liar from figuring; in other words, to prevent him from perverting the truth, in the interest of some theory he wishes to establish.”

The current consumer confident index would inform Mr. Wright, and mr. cynical with his trusted sources, that their fears have proven unfounded. The figuring figurers have found a way to have their cake and eat it too. Had Mr. Wright heard the line from Seinfeld “A lie in not a lie, as long as you believe it” he may have re-figured his thoughts to suggest that record growth in the stock market and low unemployment rates are possible under any theory, as long as the perversions of truth are collective. And even if the particulars of the economic theory “He” wishes to establish results in some perversions of truth that prevent cynical types from ever getting ahead, we can put economic mechanisms in place, such as prolonged low interest rates, Quantitative Easing measures, corporate buybacks, and something called Dodd-Frank to foster a sense of confidence that economic collapse is no longer possible in the world today.

CEOs Have a Job, Not a Vocation

In an October 2, 2015 column for The New York Times, on The Hypocrisy of ‘Helping’ the Poor, Mr. Paul Theroux reveals his bias in the first sentence.

“Every so often, you hear grotesquely wealthy American chief executives announce in sanctimonious tones the intention to use their accumulated hundreds of millions or billions, “to lift people out of poverty.” (Emphasis mine.)

One would assume that a writer that has achieved the privilege of being published in The New York Times would have moved beyond the need to use various versions of -ly words to persuade a reader. One would also think that that writer’s research would provide enough substantive material for the reader that the writer wouldn’t have to characterize the subject of their scorn, as Mr. Theroux’s does with his use of the words “grotesquely” and “sanctimonious tones”.  Some writers, however, don’t want to leave anything to chance.

Mr. Theroux doesn’t deny that these grotesquely wealthy Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) may do some good with their money, but he believes they are hypocritical when they do so.

“Here’s the funny thing,” he writes.  “In most cases, they (the CEOs) have made their fortunes by impoverishing whole American communities, having outsourced their manufacturing to China or India, Vietnam or Mexico.”      

1Mr. Theroux spends the rest of the article detailing the areas of America hardest hit by outsourcing manufacturing jobs and globalization.  He states that the Deep South has been devastated by these actions, but he writes that some “work has trickled in”.

“Most of (these) workers are nonunion, and, owing to robotics, the workforce is relatively small.”

Theroux laments that while some of the efforts automakers have made at keeping manufacturing jobs in America, have re-energized parts of the Deep South, BUT he writes:

“None of these automakers have said it is their intention to life people out of poverty, or taken the Bill Gates, Warren Buffet “giving pledge.””

“The strategy of getting rich on cheap labor in foreign countries while offering a sop to America’s poor with charity seems a wicked form of indirection.  If these wealthy chief executives are such visionaries, why don’t they understand the simple fact that what people want is not a handout along with the uplift ditty but a decent job?”

After spending a majority of his article bashing the heartlessness of these American corporations, and their chief executives’ “wicked form of indirection”, he arrives at his point that if the “CEOs of these American corporations were to invest in the Deep South, by paying their workers “fairly”, they may not end up as multibillionaires, but they wouldn’t have to provide charity to lift Americans out of poverty.”

The gist of Theroux’s complaint is this, if these CEOs would give citizens jobs, they wouldn’t have to be charitable with their own money on the backend.  He states that most American citizens don’t want charity.  They want jobs, and they want a livable wage.

It is not the job of any Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to get anyone out of poverty, or to sign a pledge to do so.  If they do make such a pledge, on their own time, and on their own dime, that is up to them, but their job, as the CEO of a company, is to maximize their corporation’s profit margin by any means possible.

If that CEO does not perform this fundamental task in his job requirements, the corporate board will replace them with someone that is not afraid to explore every possibility at their disposal to appease shareholders and attract future shareholders.  One measure Mr. Theroux may want to consider is to have shareholder satisfaction government mandated.  This would allow CEOs much more latitude in their decision making.

As opposed to what Mr. Theroux’s emotional appeal would lead you to believe, a CEO does not act in an autonomous manner, and they are not playing around with their money when they make corporate decisions to “impoverish American communities”.  It may appear to those that have no experience in the private sector that the face of a corporation, its CEO, is equivalent to a king in that corporation, but they are not.  They are answerable to their bosses: the corporate board, the shareholders, and the analysts that will help that corporation attract new shareholders.  They are accountable to bottom line, profit margins, and when they appease their bosses, they are awarded with a bonus.

If they then make the “hypocritical” pledge to help the poor with that bonus, or salary, they do so with their own money.  It may appear hypocritical to one that doesn’t try to understand how business works, but when one attempts to view this dilemma in an objective manner, a renewed appreciation for what these individuals –that happen to be CEOs– are attempting to do, can be gained.

A CEO is also not given the latitude to hire new people, at a livable wage, “just cuz’”.  We can be sure that the human beings, that are CEOs, feel for the plight of the average worker in the Deep South, and it may cause them sleepless nights to know the devastation that their decisions will wreak on their community, and the schools of their children, when they are forced to lay employees off, relocate, and outsource jobs.

My contention, as a person that has never owned a business, never been in a management position, much less a CEO position, and may be less informed than Mr. Paul Theroux, is that I don’t believe that any CEO would want to move their manufacturing operations offshore, so much as it’s a necessary evil they are forced to explore to escape the burdensome government regulation, taxation, and the union demands some corporations experience.

“Either you move operations off shore,” is the ultimatum some of these CEOs face, “or we will find someone that will.”

In another part of the article, Theroux writes that citizens state that “they’d be happy to make Nike shoes, if they were paid a livable wage.”  The reader reads this and thinks it’s great that they say that, but the obvious rub in that statement is that the citizens cannot dictate to their bosses how much their work is worth.  At this point in America, no one can force a corporation to pay an employee a specific amount, save for the government’s mandated minimum wage, and a union that may attempt to force a specific wage based upon an agreement that is reached with the employer.  Most employees deem the minimum wage unlivable, and most corporations deem the union’s demands unfeasible.  Thus, all parties involves are forced to abide by what Mr. Theroux may consider a grotesque system that allows a corporation to determine what each employee’s contribution is worth.  And if that work is determined to be worth less than the minimum wage, those employees are replaced by robotics, or computers, or their jobs are moved offshore where there is no mandated minimum.

This system that Mr. Theroux implies is grotesque, is called capitalism, and every corporation in this system has been created, and continues to prosper, based on its desire to attain profit.  A CEO is required by his corporation, the corporate board, the shareholders, and the analysts that write reports on the corporate profit sheets to attract new investors to do whatever he, or she, can to maximize the profit that corporation will incur.

This article is not intended to garner sympathy for multimillionaire, or billionaire, CEOs, but to suggest that there is another side to the argument about how the system works that Mr. Theroux either hasn’t considered, or chooses not to represent in his article.  This system may end up squashing the little guy, and that is an awful thing.  It is incumbent upon the little guy to figure out how the system works when he, or she, is the little guy. They can complain about the system, and if they have some sort of outstanding talent, such as those that are recognized by the New York Times, this talent could lead to them being paid to complain about the system.  For the hundreds of millions of us that don’t have such talent however, there is a need to figure out how the system works, and how we can succeed in it.

We all know the the types of CEOs that Mr. Theroux would prefer to run these companies … and they are in the movies.  In the movies, a Bruce Wayne-type CEO runs a company for the benefit of mankind, and he eschews the grotesque need for corporate profits.  It’s a wonderful sentiment, and I’m sure most CEOs would love to be more like Bruce Wayne, but I’m quite sure if a real life CEO were faced with the question: “Why can’t you be more like Bruce Wayne,” they would inform the questioner that what works well in comic book plot lines, and Paul Theroux columns, doesn’t work as well in corporate boardrooms.  “We have a name for CEOs that are permitted to do such things … We call them actors.”

Anchor Babies: Trump v. Llamas

On August 22, 2015, 2016, Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, was asked by ABC’s Good Morning America reporter, Tom Llamas, to stop using the term anchor babies:

TRUMP: “You mean it’s not political correct and yet everybody uses it.”

LLAMAS: “Look it up in the dictionary.  It’s offensive!”

Trump: “You give me a better term and I’ll use it.”

Llamas: “The American-born childs [sic] of undocumented immigrants.”

TRUMP: “I’ll use the word anchor baby.  Excuse me!  I’ll use the word anchor baby!”

mqdefaultSome would argue that Trump won this exchange by focusing on the reporter’s call for more sensitive language, and that Trump was implying that this issue is about more than language.  Others worry that it is not enough to imply such a thing, as some will not read into the response to determine what the speaker meant, and that by doing so, the candidate leaves himself open to others’ interpretations.  Watching this exchange from another perspective, could lead one to believe that Trump was suggesting that he’ll use the language that he wants to use, no matter who it might offend.  To those that have paid attention to Trump over the years, this does seem plausible.  Trump may not be a seasoned politician, but he is a business man, and one has to believe that he’s been the victim of manipulation a time or two in his career.  He should not have left this matter to chance.

Those of us that have paid attention to Trump over the years, and of late, would’ve appreciated more clarity, and he could’ve clarified the matter without losing standing in the exchange, or the race.  He could’ve said something along the lines of:

“Okay, so my language is insensitive.  I’m not going to stop using these words, but I’ll allow you to characterize me in this fashion, as long as we don’t lose focus on this issue.  If you will ask Hillary Clinton, and all of my Republican opponents what they plan to do about “The American-born childs [sic] of undocumented immigrants”, being born on our shores for what I deem ulterior motives, I’ll allow you to call my language brutish and insensitive.

“This, right here, mr. reporter, is why America is losing, and why my plan to “make America great again” is winning,” I would add here, if I were Trump, attempting to speak in Trumpisms.  “We allow people like this guy here to add confusion to the issue.  Everybody gets upset at the language used, and no one ends up doing anything.

“What do you plan to do about it mr. reporter,” I would’ve then asked.  “I’ll summarize your ideas on this issue for you: nothing.  You just want to call me a brute, and insensitive, for the words I’ve used, so you can win a Peabody.  What does the Congress plan to do about it?  What does the current president plan to do about it?  I’ll summarize: nothing.  I’m not going to say that every Congressman has opted to do nothing.  There have been proposals, and some of them are very good, but they get lost in committees, as language guys see to it that they never make it to the floor.

“Here’s what happens in this reporter’s PC world,” I would continue.  “Candidate A comes out with a proposed solution.  Reporters, politicians, and talking head guys scour that proposal for inartful language.  They capitalize on a word, or a series of words, and they badger the candidate about it.  Candidate A apologizes, and the entire issue gets swept under the rug, and we all get back to the business of doing nothing, and less-than-nothing I might add.

“Build a ten foot wall,” people that share this reporter’s mindset say with a snarky smirk, “and the illegal immigrants, looking to enter our country by the thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions, will just build an eleven foot ladder.”  They’re never asked for an alternative proposal.  They just scoff and call those that propose such solutions, brutish and insensitive.

“Go ask Hillary for an alternative to the current policies we have that Harry Reid considered insane,” I would’ve said.  The reporter may have been shocked by this and called me out on the specifics of this Harry Reid quote.

“I have it right here.  1993, from the floor of the Senate, Harry Reid, Democrat, Nevada, eventual Senate Majority Leader said, “If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant?  No sane country would do that, right?

“Senator Reid then proposed something called the Immigration Stabilization Act of 1993,” I would add, “which died in committee.  Harry Reid went onto say “Is it any wonder that two-thirds of the babies born at taxpayer expense in county-run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?”

“Now Harry, being a good Democrat, has changed his position on the issue, but the level of insanity on this issue hasn’t changed.  Some watchdog groups have it that our foreigner nationals give birth to a child in America, to the tune of about 400,000 of these “American-born childs [sic] of undocumented immigrants” a year.”

If the reporter took umbrage with this number and stated that he’s dubious that it’s that high, I would ask him if he knew that eighty-four hospitals in California alone, have been forced to close their doors due in part to the unpaid bills of illegal aliens, coupled with the fact that Medicaid has been unable to reimburse these hospitals for unpaid illegal alien delivery bills.

I would add that I “agree with most of the industrialized countries around the world, that such a law would only invite foreign nationals, unhappy with their current country, to try to take advantage of the best country in the world’s lax laws, or interpretation of such laws, on this subject.  I agree with most Americans that we shouldn’t allow these foreign nationals to fly here, at eight and a half months pregnant, stay at a special maternity hotel until they’re ready to deliver, then after they deliver their child on our shores, they fly home to wait for a call from those kind-hearted, family-reunification proponents that ask them to come to America to parent their children.”

If the reporter called me out on the idea that the whole “anchor baby, family reunification process” is not as simple as I’ve drawn out, I would ask him if he’s quibbling over words again, or if he’s saying that the practice does not exist?  I would ask him if he’s ever heard the term birth tourism?  If he agreed, to some extent, that it is happening, but that he doesn’t care for the language I used to characterize it, I would ask him if there is an advantage to gaining citizenship, for those 400,000 foreign nationals a year, on average that do this every year?

“Tell Hillary, and all of the candidates that lined the stage in the most recent Fox debate, that the reason Trump sits atop the poll is based on the idea that he might do something here, and if that something doesn’t work, that he has promised to do something else, until all we find something that does work.  Tell the candidates that Trump wouldn’t be so popular right now if the focus of the electorate’s concern was on selecting the politician that can best the other candidates in PC language.

“The language is not the problem mr. reporter.

“What we’re doing right now is making fun of proposals to build a wall, the drone proposal, the armed guard proposal, and the proposal to deport all twenty-to-thirty million illegal immigrants, and all of that laughter has permitted Congress people, and the president to say that because those proposals are so foolish that it’s better to do nothing, say nothing, and propose nothing.  As Thomas Sowell has opined: “One of the most lame excuses for doing nothing is that we can’t do everything.”

“We’ve been doing nothing for, at least, thirty years, and we’ve had two presidents, over the last fifteen years that have been very careful about the words they’ve used in regards to this matter, and no foreign national –that plans to give birth in America for the reward it promises– has been made to feel the least bit uncomfortable giving birth to what watchdog groups say averages 400,000 “American-born childs [sic] of undocumented immigrants” a year.  My proposal to the American people is that we try to make these people a little uncomfortable by doing something.

“Do the American people want another president that is careful to gauge his words before speaking, lest he offend those that are taking advantage of an insane system, or do they want someone that is willing to do something, and if that fails, something else, until we find something that works?  Vote Trump 2016!”

Whether or not you think Donald Trump should be our president in 2016, we should all be outraged at the way things are done in Washington.  We should be outraged that a member of the media doesn’t challenge a candidate’s stance on the issue, he informs the candidate to soften his language so as to prevent people’s feelings from getting hurt.  That reporter doesn’t give a hoot about the people in question, he seeks to discredit the candidate, and his issue, until we’re back to doing nothing, because “we can’t do everything”.  Even if you’re one that laughs at The Donald, you should appreciate the fact that his politically incorrect campaign on this issue might influence Republicans and Democrats to get something done.  It’s their inability to get anything done on this issue, after all, that has opened up a hole for The Donald to become the most popular Republican, to date, running in the primary.