Our nation has been deeply divided for some time and that division is growing even deeper. Much of this division has occurred because our political leaders have untethered our laws, policies and regulations from the law of the land, our Constitution.
But as bad as this rejection of our Constitution has been by Congress and the President, We the People have still possessed the ability to hold our politicians accountable to our founding document and principles, every two or four years.
But there remain two threats to the rule of law beyond the Executive and Congressional branches. One obvious. Another not so.
In many banana republics around the globe, cruel and unjust dictators are oftentimes deposed via a military coup d’etat — an armed overthrow of a government. It’s interesting to look at the meaning of this French word. According to Wikipedia, coup d’etat is sometimes translated as “blow of the state” or “hit of state” but the literal translation is “stroke of the state” — as in the wiping or stroke of a sword.
To date our nation has never faced a military coup d’etat. This first threat, while a potential, has never been considered a likely one in our Constitutional Republic.
A Judicial Coup d’etat
The second threat though, is not only a real one, but this week it was realized. No shots were fired. No swords were drawn. But as the definition of coup d’etat makes clear, a “blow to the state” took place when unelected citizens in black robes thumbed their nose at the Constitution and law and figuratively arrested America’s duly elected President, placing legal handcuffs on the authority he clearly possesses.
The Ninth Circuit Federal Appeals Court circumvented well established law and precedent that affirmed the authority of President Trump, in his position as Commander in Chief, to administer the immigration laws of our land. One such law, the Immigration and Nationality Act, states in Section 1182(f):
“Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate”
The net effect of the courts decision was that these three unelected judges wrestled the authority for the safety of our citizens from Trump with the stroke of a pen. Sixty-three million citizens elected Donald Trump to protect our nation from a clear and present danger stemming from the loose and dangerous refugee immigration policies of the Obama Administration. The danger posed by radical Islam has been unleashed time and time again in Europe and America over the last couple years. But the court’s decision undermined a duly elected President and left him powerless, for all practical purposes. At least for the time being.
With the stakes growing ever higher, and the willingness by the left to embrace whatever tactic they can devise to block Republicans from governing, rest assured that nothing will be left off the table. Whether it’s the riots and violence in the streets as I wrote about earlier this week, the abuse of long established rules in Congress, or the seizing of authority by the judicial branch that it does not possess, there will be no end to the intimidation, abuses, and other nefarious activities by Democrats and their allies.
And it will only grow worse as unelected and unaccountable men in black establish their superior rule… from the bench.
For the last several years I have watched in utter disgust as a steady stream of liberal groups have acted out violently in cities across our nation. Whether it was the Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, or most recently the anti-Trump “protesters,” there is a common thread to all these anarchist-type leftists. While some of their grievances may have merit, what might begin as organized protests soon turns to threats, rioting, vandalizing, destruction, and assaults. Common to many of these violent events are clashes with police, tear gas, arrests, and injuries. Sadly, some of these criminal leftists have even killed those we entrust our safety to — our men and women in blue.
The media is quick to cover for these radical extremists, often comparing them to protests by the tea party movement on the right, as if there is some moral equivalence. But this comparison could not be more distorted, and intentionally fraudulent, by a media that is hell-bent on uplifting the radical leftist groups and marginalizing and misrepresenting peaceful conservative protests.
I founded the Chattanooga Tea Party in early 2009, and was present at the inception of the modern tea party movement. I’ve been engaged in this worthy and impactful conservative movement every step of the way. Our group in Chattanooga, just one of thousands across our nation, began as a protest rally on April 15, 2009 with patriotic songs, prayers, inspiring speakers, and more than 2,500 local citizens. The family-friendly protest was peaceful and consisted of mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, professionals, blue-collar, white, black, hispanic, elected officials, clergy and more. As was the case in all of our rallies, we consistently left the locations we rented, as clean or cleaner than when we arrived. And not once did we have any clashes with authorities.
In the fall of that same year, more than a million tea party members and conservative groups traveled to Washington DC to protest the policies of our government. The protest was peaceful, patriotic, respectful and not one violent clash with authorities or citizens. In 2013, I had the opportunity to speak at the Audit the IRS Rally on the grounds of our Capitol in Washington DC. Many tens of thousands of tea party patriots attended and again there were no clashes, violence or destruction.
Most of us who led in the founding of the tea party movement had never participated in a grassroots political effort, particularly one that was focused on expressing the frustration and anger that had been simmering for many years. But while tea party members had little experience in leading protests, there was a common thread of love of country, respect for the law, and regard for our fellow citizens, even when we disagreed. Furthermore, our strategy was to use the power of citizen lobbying, persuasion and ultimately the ballot box, to affect change; not intimidation, violence and rioting.
To be clear, the tea party is not a perfect movement. We have had our share of struggles and some of our members have not represented us well. But those are the rare exceptions. And even in those instances, they do not include rioting, violence or worse.
But not so with many of our fellow citizens on the left side of the aisle. The record is one of consistent and regular rioting and violence over the last several years. Here are just a few examples of their detestable criminal activity, but there are literally dozens and dozens:
Black Lives Matter
While certainly there are millions of Democrats and liberals who would never protest by picking up stones, bottles or even guns to vent their anger, the truth is there are millions who would and tens of thousands who have. There is a quote that states,
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak.”
There’s a deafening silence from many Democrats/liberals as the behavior of many in their party can only be characterized as criminal. Most agree that our nation is deeply divided. But there is no doubt that the continued silence of the left when their own engage in violent acts, will only worsen the deep divide. So I call on my fellow Americans who may not identify with a conservative ideology, or even the unorthodox style of our new President, to reject the path of violence and anarchy. Protest if you feel the need, but do so in a peaceful and respectful manner. Convince your fellow Americans of the soundness of your views and values via your ideological arguments, not your violent acts. Only then can we hope “to form a more perfect union.”
This week, with the talk of many in our nation focusing on Trump’s latest Executive Order, which temporarily halts refugee resettlement, liberals and their funded activists are up in arms and taking to the streets. Even some Republicans are raising concerns over both the content of the EO’s and the way in which they were implemented.
However, lost in all the turmoil is one aspect of our nation’s refugee program that is seldom discussed but should be of great concern to anyone who has ever worked through a budget, whether in your family or business. Here’s one thing we can all agree on. If your budget doesn’t have a surplus or at least balance, then you look closely at the line items of your spending, with an eye towards either reducing your expenses and/or increasing your revenue.
So I thought it might be helpful to understand the fiscal impact of our refugee resettlement program on our nation’s budget. As we look at that cost, we should remember the points made in my previous article about The National Debt. Specifically, our nation’s spending is creating over a half-trillion dollar deficit every year. Additionally, in another of my articles, $10 Trillion New Debt, we are projected to average nearly a trillion dollars in deficits every year over the next decade.
Given these alarming multi-trillion dollar deficits, it’s safe to say that America has no excess funds to allocate. PERIOD. This fact should be weighing heavy on the minds of our political leaders. But the truth is that you never, ever, hear them speaking of the fiscal impact of the 85,000 refugees that were brought into our country last year; or the 50,000 that Trump’s policies would continue to bring in annually.
The Fiscal Impact
There are several reports that I’ve studied about the cost of the refugee program. But the report from Center for Immigration Studies is in my view the most complete, and the excerpted facts below reveal the disturbing fiscal impact of our nation’s refugee program:
America has a long tradition of caring about those beyond our own shores. Whether it’s sacrificing our own young men and women to bring freedoms to some distant land, or offering aid and relief to those less fortunate than us in remote areas of the world, our actions reveal our heart. And ours is a generous one.
But there is a fundamental principle of charity or generosity, and it is that one can only give from what one has. In order to give, one must possess. And to possess, one must be fiscally wise, if not conservative. For too long America has not only been fiscally liberal, but worse, we have been irresponsible and foolish. We have feigned generosity to those less fortunate, both here and abroad. But that “generosity” has come at the expense of enslaving our children, grandchildren and future generations with an indebtedness beyond a level ever known to any prior society throughout history.
Consider for just a moment the example of a family of great wealth. The resources the parents own and manage are significant. But despite their assets and current income, their outflow far exceeds their inflow. But to subsidize their obsessive spending, they begin to mortgage their assets, rather than scrutinizing their spending. This continues over the course of many years. Soon, the amount of indebtedness surpasses their own income, future income and even the value of their assets themselves. What was once presented as a tremendous opportunity to pass on a legacy of wealth and good to their children has become a matter of horror and great indebtedness. And why? Because the leaders of this family were unwilling to face the reality that their spending spree over the course of many years completely depleted their resources and enslaved those they loved the most.
America is like the family above. And those “parents” are our political leaders as well as those of us who continue to give those same leaders the reins of our nation, election cycle after election cycle. On this one issue, refugee resettlement, what is meant for good by many, is in fact contributing to a reckless cycle, year after year, of mounting more and more debt, to the point that someday it will all come crumbling down. And those refugees that we intended to help will be enslaved along with our own children, to an indebtedness that will burden their lives in such a drastic and oppressive manner.
Were Americans of all political persuasion thinking through this matter logically and without their political biases, these numbers would cause our populace to take to the streets to demand our political leaders put our fiscal house back in order. But I don’t expect such sanity to prevail, given the highly fractured and partisan age we live in along with the apathetic attitude of citizens.
But at least now YOU know that there is another aspect to the refugee crisis that no one is mentioning. And it’s greater than the humanitarian aspect, or at least it should be, given our own fiscal crisis that few are willing to confront.
The only question now is will you care? Will you demand of your elected officials that they rein in our spending, both in the refugee resettlement program and across all areas of our government? And will you share these facts with others?
With the inauguration of our new President just hours away, our nation is approaching new, unchartered water. Of course, the same could be said of the era we were entering eight years ago. But just as there were troubling reasons why Obama was elected then, so there are gnawing explanations as to why Trump was elected in November.
As George W. Bush was quick to sacrifice many of the values that historically characterized conservative orthodoxy, his popularity plummeted and contributed to the election of the most “progressive” President to ever lead our nation. And with the election of Barack Obama, the political polarization that gained steam during the Bush years skyrocketed under Obama.
But as Republicans over the last eight years continued to say one thing and do another, particularly when they controlled both houses of Congress, voters grew more and more frustrated with the Party of Lincoln. Consider that while there were 17 Republican candidates for President, ultimately the 16 “Party-faithful” candidates were rejected in favor of Trump, someone whose political credentials were questioned by many. One could ask then whether the victory in November was that of a Party or a personality? And will the coming Trump era see Party, Principle or Pragmatism prevail?
As someone who has consistently voted for Republican candidates, I have always favored principle over party. So in 2009, as the tea party movement was launched, I took an active role, with millions of other Americans, in expressing my grievances with both parties. Since then, while certainly much of our movement’s protests were focused on Obama’s policies, a considerable amount of our ire was directed towards Republicans as well. The party of conservatism had, for the most part, lost its compass.
But then Trump appeared.
And everything changed…
The truth is there is little evidence that Trump is a conservative Republican, in the purest definition. Not only does his multi-decade track record affirm this reality, but many of the policies he campaigned on are at odds with long-standing Republican positions and orthodoxy. I won’t take the time to recite the myriad of examples but these articles here and here reference several of his most glaring departures.
What we do know about Trump though, is that since his Presidential announcement in June 2015, the billionaire candidate attracted: 1) Republicans disgusted with the Republican Party, even though they had consistently supported the GOP, and
2) Democrats tired of the failed policies of the Democratic Party, for which they had voted for in prior elections.
So with Trump’s rise to the Presidency we witnessed a powerful new constituency, the Pragmatic voter. No longer was Party the driving factor for many. Nor was Principle the overriding variable for others. Rather, Pragmatism ruled the day.
But with the election now over, and Trump stepping forward to lead, versus merely tweet, his words will soon morph into policies, laws and regulations. As this occurs, it will be telling to see if the millions of voters who supported Donald Trump will remain enamored, enthused and engaged.
More specifically though, I am eager to see how tea party members will respond to our new President. As a movement that has for the most part been known for its allegiance to Principle and the Constitution, will its members continue to overlook Trump’s policies that might violate both? Will the tea party devolve into simply a pragmatic political force? Or will the movement that became the rallying cry and impetus for one of the greatest political victories in the modern era, embrace the spirit of the original Tea Party in 1773, standing on principle first and foremost?
“On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Thomas Jefferson
As Donald Trump readies to take the oath of office next week, he will not only assume charge of the most powerful nation in the world, but he will also oversee the world’s largest economy. And Trump will be aided in his oversight of our economy by a Congress controlled by a Republican Senate and Republican House.
It’s been ten years since our nation was led by a Republican-controlled trifecta (Presidency, Senate & House). The last time this occurred George W. Bush was President. When the “conservative” Bush left office in 2009, with Republicans having controlled the Senate and House for half of Bush’s eight years in office, our 43rd President had doubled the national debt to just over $10 trillion with his deficit spending policies.
Eight years later though, as Barack Obama is leaving office, our published national debt is on the verge of surpassing $20 trillion. (I say “published” debt since our unfunded liabilities exceed $100 trillion, a topic that I discussed in my previous article, American: The Point of No Return?) If ever there was a financial house that is spinning out of control, it is ours.
Many in America are hopeful with our new President about to take office. Trump’s no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is attitude attracted tens of millions of voters to support him. His willingness to say what many were thinking no doubt won him the election. Further, Trump’s 50 year track record in business convinced many voters that he was the man to turn around our economy and create a thriving, fiscally sound America.
Donald Trump: The $10 Trillion Man?
But this last week, Senator Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to rail against his own Republican colleagues as seen in this powerful video. According to Paul, under the plan to repeal Obamacare, Republicans will likely be voting in favor of a budget that would increase the nation’s debt by another $10 trillion over the next ten years, matching Obama’s own dismal performance. This slide from Paul’s presentation illustrates the point the Senator was making.
Senator Paul began his speech with the famous lines, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” And he could not be more accurate. For all the talk of “draining the swamp” in Washington, what may stay the same, based on Republican’s track record, is the unwillingness of Republican politicians to stem the growth of our dangerous national debt. (To be fair, some are suggesting that this “shell” budget will be replaced with a second one in the not too distant future, which will bring spending down and ultimately balance our nation’s budget. But that remains to be seen and should be viewed with extreme skepticism.)
Republicans were fond of lobbing threats of government shutdowns, making incessant demands for balanced budgets and excoriating Obama and Democrats for their own deficit spending during the Obama era. And rightly so. But now that they are in the drivers seat, is it actually possible that Republicans will do no better? Will they maintain the fiscally ruinous course upon which our nation is set?
Where are the Tea Party & Fiscal Conservatives?
Eerily silent as the Republicans take control of Washington, are the groups that heretofore have been the voices of fiscal reason, and have historically led the way in demanding that our elected officials spend no more than they collect in revenues. And their silence is deafening.
The tea party movement, of which I have been an active part since its founding in 2009, all but abandoned its defense of fiscal soundness, during the general campaign in 2016. Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s preeminent coalition of tea party members and groups, and many other conservative watchdogs, said nothing about Trump’s calamitous economic plan. This despite the fact the new President’s plan could add up to $20 trillion to our nation’s debt, according to a recent study by Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Their report revealed that our nation’s federal debt would soar to $39.5 Trillion by 2026, double the current debt.
But now the day has arrived and Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been handed Washington to them on a silver plater by frustrated and angry voters. Those voters elected Trump because of their disdain for politicians who consistently promise one thing but deliver something altogether different.
A Call to Action
We’ve all been told, “it matters who governs.” But it will only be true if grassroots Americans do more than simply vote. They… or we must remain engaged. Our voices must be heard in an unprecedented, unmistakable, and unambiguous manner! Trump and our Senators and Representatives must know that they were not elected to maintain the fiscal status quo.
The Tea Party, and all fiscally conservative Americans, must, like Rand Paul, call out Republicans and Donald Trump. We must warn them that they were not elected to put the final nail in our fiscal coffin.
Trump cares not about the media, the social elite, the Hollywood snobs, or the connected wealthy, as he once again reaffirmed this week in his most recent press conference and barrage of tweets. But I do believe there is one demographic to whom Trump will listen: the grassroots, the blue collar workers, the forgotten middle class, and the traditional American, who still believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will be rewarded.
So it is incumbent on you and me to reach out… once again, to an elite ruling class. It is necessary for us to remind them that we sent them to Washington to repudiate the status quo by restoring fiscal responsibility; honoring the Constitution; and empowering the free market. Reestablishing these three pillars, which are the core values of the tea party movement, will enable our great ship of state to slowly but surely reset its course in the direction of real prosperity, the kind that our Founding Fathers envisioned. But as we do the work to reshape our nation, let us never forget that fiscal prosperity will only flow from men and women of decent, moral character. And we will only “Make America Great Again” if we first Make America Good Again, as I discussed in my previous article of the same title.
So will you join me in engaging with our elected officials? Will you pick up the phone and call, or fire off an email to Donald Trump, your Senators & Congressman to express your views about the upcoming budget battles? I trust you will. (Click on the highlighted links for their contact info.)
With the election of Donald Trump, roughly half of Americans are hopeful, while the other half are dejected, if not alarmed and angry. While that may be a slight overgeneralization, we can probably all agree that the campaign leading up to the Presidential election was one of the nastiest in recent history, characterized by intense personal attacks, with little attention given to the many challenges our nation is facing. One such challenge is our exploding national debt and its dire implications for you and me.
As someone who has been a fiscal conservative all of my adult life, I was sorely disappointed to see such little attention given to the financial welfare of our nation. With our nation approaching $20 trillion in current debt, it should come as no surprise to anyone that a financial storm, like none we have seen, is likely in our future. Yet, neither Trump nor Clinton spoke much of our debt. When it was mentioned, it was simply noted in passing, with no plan by either candidate to halt, much less reverse, the current course we are on.
While it’s understandable that neither candidate was interested in tackling America’s festering cancer, what is alarming is the fact that many of the organizations who have typically decry our national debit, remained silent during the campaign. As the founder of the Chattanooga Tea Party, our organization locally, along with the national tea party movement, has consistently focused on fiscal issues over the last seven years. Likewise, the Republican Party has historically been the party of fiscal responsibility, if not in action, at least in words.
Yet nationally, both the Tea Party and the Republican Party said very little about the silence of both Hillary and Trump concerning our fiscal nightmare.
With reference to our national debt though, the old adage, ignorance is bliss, does not apply. In fact, choosing to ignore what is certain to cause calamitous events in the not too distant future, is akin to knowing one has cancer, yet discussion of the illness is avoided, hoping it will somehow go away.
So just how bad is our fiscal cancer?
Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, the following three charts illustrate the magnitude of our $19.5 trillion debt. To be certain the terms are understood, deficits are the annual differences between what our government takes in versus what it pays out, or spends. The gross debt is the cumulative sum of those annual deficits.
Chart #1: The Gross Public Debt from 1980 – 2016
Chart #2: The Federal Deficit from 1980 – 2016
Chart #3: Trillion Dollar Deficits Return by 2024
As the charts depict, for decades our nation has been spending well beyond its means. In fact, during the last two Presidential administrations, the US incurred an approximate $15 trillion of new debt, with nearly two-thirds of that amount being added during the Obama era.
According to an article at Visual Capitalist, our national debt is:
Larger than the 500 largest public companies in America.
Larger than all the assets managed by the world’s top seven money managers.
25x larger that all the global oil exports in 2015.
155x larger than all the gold mined globally in a year.
Larger than the sum of the world’s physical currency, gold, silver, and bitcoin combined.
But as troubling as this should be to any American, the future looks even worse according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, as presented by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. CRFB is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact.
To quote CRFB, “under CBO’s current law baseline, annual deficits will return to trillion-dollar levels by 2024. Under a more pessimistic Alternative Fiscal Scenario in which policymakers fail to pay for new spending and extended tax cuts, trillion-dollar deficits return to 2021 and reach $1.5 trillion — a nominal-dollar record — by 2026.”
Despite the magnitude of our debt, there have been some who have suggested that our soaring debt is no big deal. Rather, they have asserted that debt is good, particularly when interest rates are at historical lows.
In contrast to that view though is that of Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who in 2011 stated,
“the single, biggest threat to our national security is our debt, so I also believe we have every responsibility to help eliminate that threat. A nation with our current levels of unsustainable debt… cannot hope to sustain for very long its superiority from a military perspective, or its influence in world affairs.”
Every budget is finite, even one as large as our federal government’s, which is now approaching $4 trillion per year. So as certain components of that budget increase, they either crowd out other line items or they demand greater borrowings to meet the shortfall caused by deficit spending.
Our nation has enjoyed historically low interest rates for a number of years. But when those interest rates invariably rise, so will interest costs. In fact, the CBO projects that those rising interest rates over the next ten years will increase the federal interest costs from $223 billion in 2015 to $839 billion in 2026. This will lead to fewer dollars available for other essential government programs, including the military, Medicare, Social Security, infrastructure and more.
Chart 4: Projected net interest expense, in billions of dollars & as a % of total outlays
So just how does a government that has an insatiable appetite for spending, and has shown no restraint to borrowing funds, affect ordinary citizens like you and me? Here are just a few of the ways:
Economic growth is threatened as national debt increases.
Wages are depressed and the availability of jobs is minimized.
The stability of Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid is jeopardized.
Personal costs of living increase as interest rates on individual credit ratchet up.
Burden for repayment of nation’s overspending today will be heaped on our children and grandchildren tomorrow.
As debt increases and spending accelerates, likelihood of another financial crisis increases, endangering personal wages, jobs, and investments.
As I mentioned at the outset, half of Americans are hopeful and even optimistic about what a Trump Presidency portends for the days ahead. But with great opportunity comes great responsibility. So as Republicans maintain control of both houses and gain the White House in January, how will they behave? Will they move the country forward in a manner that acknowledges the threat of our growing debt? Will Republicans guide our government and nation back in the direction of fiscal solvency? Or will their new found status in Washington reveal what they have done for too long now, campaign on grandiose promises that fall short on delivery?
Time will tell. But one thing is for certain, the longer our fiscal cancer is ignored, the more likely the ultimate diagnosis will be one from which we may never recover. If you care to weigh-in on this matter, be sure to let your Congressman and Senator know that you expect them to support plans that will move away from deficit spending and toward a balance budget. While it cannot be done overnight, the road back to fiscal responsibility must begin in 2017 under a Trump administration.
Addendum: While this article focused on the current portion of our national debt, there is a much larger amount that receives very little attention, referred to as the nation’s “unfunded liabilities.” These amounts total in excess of $100 trillion and represent the sum of the various obligations that will come due over the next several decades, predominantly made up of Medicare and Social Security, as the demographics of our nation continue to age out and draw more heavily on these programs. To find out more about this avalanche of debt, google “unfunded liabilities.”