About Me

In writing the "About Me" portion of this blog I thought about the purpose of the blog - namely, preventing the growth of Socialism & stopping the Death Of Democracy in the American Republic & returning her to the "liberty to abundance" stage of our history. One word descriptions of people's philosophies or purposes are quite often inadequate. I feel that I am "liberal" meaning that I am broad minded, independent, generous, hospitable, & magnanimous. Under these terms "liberal" is a perfectly good word that has been corrupted over the years to mean the person is a left-winger or as Mark Levin more accurately wrote in his book "Liberty & Tyranny" a "statist" - someone looking for government or state control of society. I am certainly not that & have dedicated the blog to fighting this. I believe that I find what I am when I consider whether or not I am a "conservative" & specifically when I ask what is it that I am trying to conserve? It is the libertarian principles that America was founded upon & originally followed. That is the Return To Excellence that this blog is named for & is all about.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

America Can't Afford Not To End DACA & Other Politically Correct Menaces

On September 5 President Trump rescinded BO's 2012 executive order that had authorized the protection from deportation of young adults who had been illegally brought to America as children by their parents – many, if not most, of whom had also entered or stayed in the country illegally.  The program enforced under BO's executive order was known as the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) & the recipients of this leniency had already been known as Dreamers ever since legislation known as the Dream Act (Development, Relief, & Education For Alien Minors) had been introduced in Congress in 2001 where it had stalled for eleven years when BO bypassed Congress replacing their function with his pen & phone. 
 
To apply for DACA, Dreamers had to have come to the U.S. before 2007, been under the age of 16 when they arrived, & younger than 31 when DACA was created in June 2012.  They had to have a clean criminal record, be in high school, or have received a high school diploma or equivalent.  As of September 5 no new DACA applications will be accepted under Trump's executive order.
 
Accordingly, today DACA is not a program primarily for children, kids, or babies as the hostile anti-American media would have you believe. The average DACA recipient is 23 years old with the oldest being 36 – the majority are in their 20s & 30s. 
 
There are about 1.3 million people who meet the above DACA criteria but only about 800,000 of them have applied for DACA protection meaning that half a million people are outside the DACA program & will remain in immigration trouble no matter how this matter is resolved. 
 
Trump's termination of the DACA program, allows the 800,000 young unauthorized immigrant Dreamers who applied to DACA, & have a two year renewable permit, to continue to live & work in America without fear of deportation – but a phase out starts on March 5, 2018 unless Congress appropriately addresses the matter.  The phase out means the program ends for different people @ different times but the last protection from deportation ends on March 5, 2020.
 
DACA Dreamers whose two-year work permits expire between September 5, 2017 & March 5, 2018 had until October 5, 2017 to renew their permits – those who didn't are no longer protected by DACA.  The expiring permits of about 150,000 DACA Dreamers fall into this first six month window & the initial estimate is that between 30,000 & 40,000 DACA permit holders did not renew on time.  It is expected that the Department Of Homeland Security (DHS) will certify how many DACA Dreamers lost their permit protection by failing to renew by October 5.  We will learn a lot about how serious this program is if 30,000 to 40,000 DACA recipients lost their protection in the first step of the process.  There are no more renewal of permits after October 5 under Trump's executive order, unless it is revised to accommodate those who did not comply.
 
The following graphs provide a breakdown of requests for DACA protection by year & the top 10 countries of origin. 
 
The following graph from the Cato Institute gives an illustration of Cato's calculation of DACA renewals & projected expirations as described above.  Source United States Citizen & Immigration Services (USCIS).
 
Now Democrats want the DACA Dreamers legalized & Trump may very well too – but the above described predicament that DACA Dreamers find themselves in provides the framework for immigration negotiations. 
 
On Sunday October 8 Trump sent Congress a list of principles to be included in any legislation that would legalize DACA Dreamers.  Highlights from Trump's list include 1) funding of the border wall, 2) punishing "sanctuary cities" & now presumably the sanctuary state of California, 3) mandating the use of E-Verify by employers to verify the legal status of prospective workers, 4) changing the issuance of green cards to a skilled-based system rather than a family-based system, & 5) detaining asylum seekers while their cases are being considered & making the process of applying for asylum in the U.S. more difficult in order to crack down on rampant fraud & avoid the gaming of the system as an easy means of illegal entry into the U.S.
 
In the meantime DACA Dreamers have lost any sense of gratitude for people who have supported them from the beginning.  Click here to see Pelosi shouted down (with Democrat Barbara Lee no help & silent right behind Pelosi) by a group of confrontational DACA Dreamers who are combative, aggressive, & belligerent toward her for her apparent willingness in September to work with Trump – what they want is not legalization for just the 800,000 DACA Dreamers like themselves but all 11-million illegal aliens in this country.  Notice Pelosi is visibly shaken in the video.
 
Click here to hear Pelosi talk about Dreamers once she regained her composure @ a later date.  Hard to believe she is talking about the same people she walked out on after they shouted her down. 
 
So while the immigration negotiations get ready to begin between Congress & Trump with the goal of reaching a legislative solution before March 5 to @ least the DACA Dreamer situation described above the phase out of the deportation protection of DACA Dreamers will begin as approximated on the above Cato Institute graph.  DACA beneficiaries will not move to the top of ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) enforcement priorities after their work authorization permits expire solely because of the work permit expiration.  Like any illegal immigrant DACA Dreamers with no work permit under BO's executive order will be subject to enforcement action if an ICE agent encounters them in the process of following their enforcement priorities that begins with convicted criminal aliens including raids targeting their parents who brought them here in the first place.  But without DACA work protection rules in place Dreamers will be forced into the black market for jobs which raises their chances for removal when they work under the criminal activity of using a false name or borrowed identity.  
 
Long time readers of RTE know that I have always said that border walls, increased border enforcement, securing our borders or the like are not the first things to be done regarding illegal immigration.  First, we must determine if we want the illegals here – are they beneficial or a hindrance to our continued prosperity.  Certainly the way the DACA Dreamers treated Pelosi in the first video above shows they have developed an overbearing chip on their shoulders that wreaks of arrogance & entitlement meaning they look like more trouble than they are worth.
 
DACA Dreamers had the inside track to winning American sympathies when they said "they were brought here through no fault of their own as children," & if they could have just kept showing both a sincere position of remorse & the least desire for atonement they would be much further ahead than petrifying Pelosi & Barbara Lee out of their wits.  But they sure came here through somebodies' fault & that fault was their parents – people who were prepared to use their own children as pawns in anticipation of this moment when they hoped all family members tied to one illegal entry method or another would be able to stay in America.
 
Frederic Bastiat (The Law – page 62) described this situation exactly, 167 years ago, when he said the law cannot have two missions; liberty & fraternity.  The latter will destroy the former.  If fraternity is legally enforced it will destroy liberty & trample justice under foot.  The simple solution is to enforce the immigration laws that have been on the books for decades & Trump's executive order that phases out deportation protection for DACA Dreamers starting six months after issuance provides a more than fair way to resolve the matter both for the DACA Dreamers & their employers – both of whom took a chance that Hillary Clinton would be elected thereby continuing or expanding BO's executive order favoring not only DACA Dreamers but all illegal aliens.
 
The Federation Of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR) reports that illegal aliens & their kids (including DACA Dreamers when they were kids) cost U.S. taxpayers $135 billion per year including higher & free education & medical & law enforcement costs – see graphs below. 
 
 Click on graphs & images below to enlarge.
 
These costs fall on state & local taxpayers by a 2:1 ratio ($89 billion state & local expenditures versus $46 billion federal expenditures).
 
 
But the taxes paid by illegals go to the federal treasury by a factor of 5:1.
 
 
And such tax payments being outweighed by benefits received by a 7:1 factor ($135 billion to $19 billion). 
 
 
It is estimated that one third of illegals work in the underground or shadow economies & have no income or payroll taxes deducted from their wages – they pay only state sales taxes & the federal embedded taxes that are inherent in every purchase of goods or services made; here is where the implementation of the FairTax would cut tax evasion significantly.
 
An argument can also be made that the FAIR report overstates the taxes received from illegal aliens – wouldn't the taxes have been paid if legal workers had been the ones employed? – in which case the wages would have been higher thereby meaning more than $19 billion in taxes would have been paid.
 
It has always been a problem for me to want to welcome people who sneak into America @ midnight in the trunk of a car – not a good foundation to build a new life on.  BO's DACA executive order also has a foundation built on quicksand in that immigration is the responsibility of Congress not the President – see the Naturalization clause of the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 4. 
 
"Few powers are more fundamental to (a nation's) sovereignty than the control over immigration & the vesting of citizenship in aliens (naturalization)". – The Heritage Guide To The Constitution.   Of course this is why immigration, right after making people totally dependent on government – both financially through taxes & physically through universal healthcare, was BO's highest priority in undermining & trying to destroy America's sovereignty. 
 
During the Constitutional Convention James Madison preferred "to invite foreigners of merit & republican principles among us."  Madison was not referring to illegal aliens whether they came here through no fault of their own or any other means – they had to be invited & vested through the naturalization process that concluded by taking an oath to support the Constitution which is a far cry from the DACA Dreamers who chanted "here to stay" in front of the Capitol last month & then stormed the Dirksen Senate office building looking to protest Trump's executive order in specific senators offices.  See image below.
 
click on image to enlarge
 
But properly handling illegal immigration is just part of the politically correct poison threatening to ruin America that Trump was elected to remedy.  In addition to illegal immigration as described above America is in danger of not knowing right from wrong regarding Black Lives Matters, Antifa, homosexual rights, attacks & distortions by the hostile anti-American media on the First & Second Amendments, the fallacious destructive anchor baby claim to birthright citizenship, settling the incompatible relationship of Muslims who follow Sharia law taking a U.S. citizenship oath, banning people from Muslim countries where terrorism thrives from entering America until we know that immigrants & refugees from these countries are not terrorists, ending sanctuary cities & California's sanctuary state policy, & restoring the enforcement of the nation's immigration laws.
 
The urgency of settling the above list of politically correct matters & reversing the mindset that allowed them to come forth in the first place is far greater than settling issues like tax reform, healthcare, climate change, the national debt, the budget deficit, or even adequate national defense. 
 
In short, we have to start by ending DACA per Trump's executive order while simultaneously ridding ourselves of the other politically correct menaces jeopardizing our futures because we simply cannot afford not to.
 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Two-Train Timing Quiz

 
UKTrainTracks 
 
In deference to the good sports in the readership who enjoy participating in the quizzes I present from time to time, or just like seeing the solutions, the Two-Train Timing quiz below should be enjoyable.
 
In this case the quiz requires a small amount of math but if you set it up correctly it almost solves itself.
 
I found the quiz on the National Museum of Mathematics website (www.MoMath.org) after it appeared in the WSJ.
 
Please let me know how you work the problem.  I will post all correct answers or alternatively will send the solution privately to anyone who requests it if no one figures it out.
 
Two-Train Timing Quiz
 
How long does it take a 1.25-mile-long freight train going 30 miles an hour to pass a 0.25-mile-long passenger train going 60 miles an hour in the opposite direction, from the time that the engines first reach each other to the time that the last cars just clear each other?
 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Premium Support Phase-In Leads To The Solution To America's Healthcare Cost Problems

After the Senate once again failed this past week to repeal ObamaCare with its latest repeal & replace iteration – the Graham-Cassidy bill – ObamaCare will continue as the law of the land until it collapses under its own weight or a Republican president can find a Republican Congress that can successfully fulfill its seven year old campaign promise to repeal ObamaCare which is not likely any time soon.
 
Since it was recognized early on that Democrats would not cooperate with any items whatsoever on the Trump agenda the strategy of the Republican controlled Congress, starting with their first meeting in January, had been to use the Senate process known as budget reconciliation to repeal ObamaCare – actually, more precisely to repeal & replace ObamaCare or in the mind of my Congressman Leonard Lance to repair ObamaCare – the long forgotten original campaign promise was to repeal ObamaCare.
 
Under Senate rules, once legislation being considered qualifies for budget reconciliation it only requires a simple 51 vote majority to pass rather than the usual 60 votes normally required to move legislation forward.
 
In order to use Senate budget reconciliation rules Republicans had to first pass a fiscal year 2017 budget bill (three months after the fiscal year started on October 1, 2016) that instructed two committees to begin work on healthcare reform legislation with the goal of saving federal revenue – this is considered a fiscal goal that qualified any resultant healthcare reform bill to come under the budget reconciliation process, but only for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 – hence Saturday's deadline that lapsed with no repeal of ObamaCare.
 
Senate budget reconciliation rules only allows one legislative priority @ a time to be considered so if the Senate wanted to continue with healthcare reform they certainly could but this effort would preclude the tax reform legislation that will be addressed under budget reconciliation rules once a fiscal year 2018 budget bill has been passed.
 
In summary, the Senate can only consider ObamaCare repeal or tax reform under budget reconciliation – but not both simultaneously.
 
BTW – During the 112th (2011 – 2012) & 113th (2013 – 2014) Congresses the Republican-led House passed 54 bills that would have repealed ObamaCare in whole or in part.  The Senate remained under Democrat control until the 114th (2015-2016) Congress so there was much less repeal activity in the Senate than in the House.  We know from research done in writing previous RTE posts that many centrist Republicans were deceitful & disingenuous when, in January 2016, they supported sending BO a clean repeal-only bill (HR 3762) that they knew BO would veto – Susan Collins is the only current Republican sitting Member of Congress to vote against this repeal-only bill.  But not just these congressional centrist Republicans are the problem - this latest episode, under Graham-Cassidy, repeats the pretense of responsibility when we learn that ten governors, led by aspiring national stars John Kasich (Ohio) & Brian Sandoval (Nevada), sent a letter to McConnell in the heat of debate on September 19 asking the Senate to not consider Graham-Cassidy thereby preventing the possibility of block grant money coming their way that would have given governors, like themselves, the final decision on how to manage healthcare in their states – this after years of calling for block grants to do exactly what Graham-Cassidy specified.  In other words do your own extensive homework before you believe that any elected representative really has your interest @ heart rather than his own cushy job with autocratic authority over everyone & accountability to no one.  See referenced post below for list of congressional names.
 
But while ObamaCare is on the road to collapse with large premium increases & many insurers withdrawing from the exchanges so that 50% of the counties in America will have only one insurance company selling ObamaCare policies in 2018 & another 30% of counties will have only two, the much larger employer healthcare insurance market, that covers about half of Americans, is also seeing large premium increases as well as more & more companies drop coverage for their employees.  See the graph below that shows the healthcare insurance cost portion of employee total compensation is increasing every year explaining why wage growth has been smaller than expected in this tight labor market – employees' healthcare insurance contributions have also been increasing, as shown on the graph below, thereby wiping out much of whatever wage increases are received.
 
As a point of reference – in the 1990s U.S. car companies spent as much or more money on employee healthcare insurance than they did on steel that went into their cars; today the annual premiums cost more than many new cars with the cost split between workers & employers.
 
click on graph to enlarge
 
In 2017, the percentage of small businesses (3 to 49 workers) that offered healthcare insurance dropped for the first time to 50%.  Five years ago 59% of companies in the 3 to 49 worker category offered healthcare insurance.  Source – Kaiser Family Foundation.
 
But a large part of the solution to the nation's growing healthcare cost problem, both employer-sponsored plans & Medicare, that threatens to overwhelm the country's finances & federal budget respectively was also revealed in 2017 – namely, 16% of small businesses that did not provide specific healthcare insurance policies did give their employees some money toward purchasing their own plan themselves.
 
In January 2012 I presented four points (solutions) that highlighted the change in mindset needed to return America to the excellence envisioned & originally followed by our Founders. 
 
The first point pertained to Medicare but can equally be applied to the employer-sponsored market today.
 
The idea is to replace the current Medicare plan with one of premium support where the government provides a demogrant for beneficiaries to purchase private insurance – just like the 16% of small businesses did this year in the open market.  Currently 75% of Medicare Parts B & D are funded by the federal government which compares to 70% of employee healthcare premiums that are paid for by employers as shown on the graph above.
 
In fact it is more than just the one in six small businesses that have started this premium support system.  In 2012 Michigan stopped offering retiree healthcare to new employees but instead, in a form of premium support, contributed an additional 2% of salaries to new employee 401(k) plans with the idea that this money could be used for healthcare needs in retirement.  Michigan's retiree healthcare liabilities dropped about $20 billion since the program started.
 
As of 2015 U.S. states had a combined retiree healthcare shortfall of @ least $645 billion in addition to $1.1 trillion pension liabilities so the sooner the states start with a premium support system the better.  Source of liabilities – Pew Charitable Trust.
 
But most important, ever since the early 1990s many companies, such as IBM, ConocoPhillips, Delta Airlines, & Coca Cola, set ceilings on how much money they would ever pay for retiree healthcare costs.  Younger employees can see that their employers will be providing less & less healthcare benefits each year as inflation keeps increasing their share but not their employers'.
 
The setting of a ceiling approach is the key to applying premium support most efficiently in replacing Medicare.  See graph below that shows the projected cost curves for several scenarios – only the Ryan Plan – Price indexing plan bends the Medicare cost curve down over time.
 
click on graph to enlarge
 
But the premium support Medicare replacement cost curve bends down even faster than the Ryan Plan – Price indexing curve shown on the above graph if the government follows the same approach as IBM & the other companies listed above – namely freezing the demogrant in nominal dollars – unadjusted for inflation into the future.  In this way, just like IBM retirees, future retirees will have time to plan for the changes in cost allocation of the premium support system that replaces the current Medicare system thereby once again bringing their own healthcare decisions under their own control.
 
For the past 40 years Medicare spending per capita has been growing @ twice the rate of our economy – see blue line on above graph labeled Current path, GDP + 2%.  All of the other lines on the graph represent various proposals but all of them, except the one labeled Ryan plan – Price indexing, keep Medicare expenses growing until some point when the cost is unsustainable.  The Ryan plan – Price indexing curve indexes the premium support cost to the CPI which will bend the curve down because the CPI rate is less than the rate @ which Medicare has been growing for decades.
 
Freezing the demogrant @ the start of the replacement premium support program that is figured to be ten years hence will give people under 55 years old (no change in the Medicare program for people over 55) time to adjust to the phase in of the premium support program.  As each year goes by the nominal dollar demogrant will buy less & less insurance or medical treatment so younger people will start to rely on it less & less.  Someone like my 14 year old nephew will not rely on it @ all thereby breaking the dependence on government provided healthcare insurance.  The demogrant freeze premium support curve will bend down faster than the bottom curve shown on the above graph.
 
As explained above many companies have moved to such a premium support type system in providing healthcare assistance for their retired employees.  Retirees receive a set amount of money to do with as they like regarding medical needs including purchasing insurance or otherwise covering medical & dental costs.  Retirees have the ability to make whatever changes they deem necessary in their own personal medical program as their needs change as opposed to a government one size fits all program with government calling all the shots.
 
I have participated in such a premium support system for several years & have seen first hand all the benefits I mention in this post.
 
Reference Posts: 
 
 
 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Surveys Point To Dreadful Understanding Of The Constitution

The anniversary of the signing of our glorious Constitution 230 years ago this past Sunday brought out, among other things, several surveys conducted to find out just what people know about the Constitution.  The two most noted surveys that came to my attention were conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center Of The University of Pennsylvania that surveyed 1013 adults & the Brookings Institute that surveyed 1,500 college undergraduates.
 
The Annenberg survey aptly carried the online headline Americans Are Poorly Informed About Basic Constitutional Provisions & reported that more than a third of the adults surveyed (37%) could not name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment & only a quarter (26%) could name all three branches of government.
 
click on graph to enlarge
 
Only 48% of respondents could name freedom of speech as a right guaranteed by the First Amendment, but unprompted, 37% could not name any First Amendment right.  Naming the other four First Amendment rights dropped off fast as indicated on the above graph.
 
click on graph to enlarge
 
Just a little over a quarter of respondents (26%) could name the three branches of government (legislative, executive, & judicial).  This is a drop from the 2011 Annenberg survey when 38% could name all three.  One third of respondents could not name any of the three branches.
 
The Brookings Institute survey of 1,500 current undergraduate students @ U.S. four-year colleges & universities had a geographically diverse population with respondents from 49 states & DC.
 
John Villasenor, the author of the Brookings survey, wrote "Freedom of expression is deeply imperiled on U.S. campuses.  In fact, despite protestations to the contrary (often with statements like 'we fully support the First Amendment, but . . .'), freedom of expression is clearly not, in practice, available on many campuses, including many public campuses that have First Amendment obligations."  You don't need a physical Antifa presence on every campus to enforce the politically correct mindset that doesn't understand the liberties Americans are losing.
 
Some specifics, in percentage of respondents, from the Brookings survey – questions presented in italics:
 
Does the First Amendment protect "hate speech"?
 
Political Affiliation Type of College Gender
All Dem Rep Ind Public Private Female Male
Yes 39 39 44 40 38 43 31 51
No 44 41 39 44 44 44 49 38
Don't know 16 15 17 17 17 13 21 11
Fewer than half of the respondents in the above table in all three political affiliations correctly believe that hate speech is constitutionally protected. 
 
A student group opposed to a speaker (known for making offensive & hurtful statements) disrupts the speech by loudly and repeatedly shouting so that the audience cannot hear the speaker. Do you agree or disagree that the student group's actions are acceptable?
 
Political Affiliation Type of College Gender
All Dem Rep Ind Public Private Female Male
Agree 51 62 39 45 51 51 47 57
Disagree 49 38 61 55 49 49 53 43
The numbers in the above table indicate that a large percentage of students believe it is OK to silence a speaker they find offensive by shouting him off the stage.  The next question escalates the matter.
 
A student group opposed to the speaker uses violence to prevent the speaker from speaking. Do you agree or disagree that the student group's actions are acceptable?
 
Political Affiliation Type of College Gender
All Dem Rep Ind Public Private Female Male
Agree 19 20 22 16 18 21 10 30
Disagree 81 80 78 84 82 79 90 70
Having ten to thirty percent of respondents being OK with violence to silence a speaker is a good barometer of the state of the campus today.
 
Consider an event, hosted at a public U.S. university by an on-campus organization, featuring a speaker known for making statements that many students consider to be offensive and hurtful. A student group opposed to the speaker issues a statement saying that, under the First Amendment, the on-campus organization hosting the event is legally required to ensure that the event includes not only the offensive speaker but also a speaker who presents an opposing view. What is your view on the student group's statement?
 
Political Affiliation Type of College Gender
All Dem Rep Ind Public Private Female Male
Agree 62 65 62 58 63 60 60 66
Disagree 38 35 38 42 37 40 40 34
Of course the First Amendment does not require any such requirement.  The majority of students may be thinking about good event design in their answers but that has nothing to do with the First Amendment.
 
***
 
In summary, & no surprise to regular readers of RTE, the above results of both the Annenberg survey & the Brookings Institute survey were dreadful & offer very little hope for turning around the intellectually inept politically correct mindset that has gripped the country. 
 
Adults in the Annenberg survey knew nothing about the Constitution itself & a far too large number of students in the Brookings survey see nothing wrong with stifling another's point of view with shouting &/or violence while thinking they should be protected from hate speech as they define the term.
 
"Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are."  - Kathleen Jamieson, Director of the Annenberg Center.  And of course many of the combined 2513 people from the two surveys were clueless on this point as indicated above.
 
Judge for yourself whether the above survey results indicate that America is tending toward socialism, communism, Marxism, fascism or something else; but the survey results, when coupled with recent violent demonstrations across America, point to us being in jeopardy of throwing away the libertarian principles the country was founded on that have produced the greatest wealth & standard of living in human history.