The China Challenge

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Guest Article by Bill Musgrave

For years, our “leaders” have been mired in political disputes over everything from healthcare, to the environment, to taxes, and more. All the while, a major threat has been steadily growing in the East.

Paying homage to the ancient Silk Road trade routes, China created the “Belt and Road Initiative” to expand trade and its influence around the world. If successful, many experts believe China could become the dominant economic, military and political global force.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer recently told Congress, “When it comes to China, the bottom line there is the checkbook,” he said. “Not only in the dollars and cents that they are writing to support their military expansion and their technological work, but what they’re doing around the globe…weaponizing capital.”

“Their open checkbook keeps me up at night,” he added.

U.S. negotiators–led by Robert Lighthizer– are renewing talks with China over tariffs, intellectual property rights, dumping of steel and other issues. Lurking in the background will be the immense impact China is making around the world, particularly in Africa and other third world regions. With virtually unlimited amounts of money and manpower, China is financing vast military, transportation, hydropower, and other infrastructure projects in strategic locales.

For example:

In Africa, China is lending billions to build railways, dams, bridges, oil refineries, mining operations, highways and more. Their “no-strings-attached” lending policies mean human rights abuses by totalitarian regimes are overlooked. China says this is all in the name of economic development. Critics call it neo-colonialism. Is this a debt trap that will bind these third world countries to China forever? Time will tell.

Closer to home, China is building:

• 12,000 km freight rail line from eastern China, through the country’s industrial belt on through Russia, Poland, Germany, France and ending in London. An 18-day journey.

• A $54 billion highway plus infrastructure improvements to connect China with the Gulf of Oman and its Middle Eastern shipping lanes.

• Four pipelines to carry natural gas from Kazakhstan and other nearby regions to China.

• Many more projects to enhance trade and commerce. To learn more visit the South China Morning Post website—www.scmp.com.

• China is also devoting trillions of dollars to upgrade its military into a global fighting force by 2050, capable of defending not just its homeland, but its growing interests around the world, according to Pentagon reports.

Clearly, the impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative is world-changing. A report by the Brookings Institute states, that “with China’s enhanced role in Africa is the reality that the U.S. is being increasingly edged out of the continent politically and economically. To compete with the Chinese presence and to counter the negative consequences of China’s approach, the U.S. must become more engaged in Africa with effective strategies.” 

That may be true, but with our divided government and a consistent lack of support for “foreign aid” we may be in for a seismic shift in global relevance, unless our “leaders” and policy makers can convince the American people to look beyond our own parochial interests.

America is still a great country.

But we must always work to keep it that way.

Happy New Year

Posted on Posted in Reflections

When one reflects on 2018 and its many successes, we have much to be thankful for. A few highlights:

Economy

Our economy is booming. Record low unemployment levels…by most standards we have full employment. If you want a job, you can find one. You see “Help Wanted” signs every place; on the sides of trucks, billboards, in store windows.

Energy

We Achieved Energy Independence in 2018!!!

This was accomplished via American know-how, in spite of liberal opposition. The result of this success is low energy costs across the board, including natural gas and gasoline. This means more money in the customer’s pocket.

Contrast this with France with their $7 per gallon price on fuel due to their anti-energy agenda.

The Tax Cut

The impact of the tax cuts is being displayed in many ways:

  • Employers passing out significant bonuses to their workers.
  • $1,000 to $2,000 more take home pay per worker.
  • More optimism in the economy.

Regulations

Excessive regulations have had an oppressive impact on business and life in general. Thanks to Washington leadership, this is changing for the better.

For example, the Brookings Institution’s Center on Regulation and Markets lists about 150 Trump administration deregulation initiatives completed or under way affecting the environment, telecom, finance, housing, health, agriculture, labor and education.

Supreme Court

Two excellent choices have been made to the Supreme Court plus hundreds of lower court judges as well. This will have a long-term impact on the future and the importance of following the Constitution. We want our judges upholding the Constitution, not writing legislation from the bench.

Attitude

Most Americans have a positive attitude about our country. We believe in our future and what we can accomplish by working together. Unfortunately, this attitude is not reflected by much of the media. They try to find fault with each success that is made.

My suggestion to all of us is to maintain a positive attitude. Johnny Mercer, the song writer, expressed it well:

“We must accentuate the positive,  Eliminate the negative and don’t mess with Mr. in between.”

Summary

Great things are happening in America. The economy is booming. People have more money to spend. Couple that American “Can-Do” attitude with strong leadership and we have a winning formula for continued success.

Let’s keep America great!

2018 Year in Review

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The year 2018 is drawing to a close as the fighting between Republicans and Democrats continues. As a result, many key issues are not resolved…immigration, “The Wall” and excessive debt…to name a few.

The press, and their distorted news coverage from all sides, continues to shield our citizens from the truth. Sad! We have real problems that need to be solved by both parties.

Mueller investigation

This committee–all 15 of them–continues to look for a crime. To date, there are no tangible results linking the President to the so-called Russian election collusion. According to the legal experts, “collusion” is not a crime even if it occurred, which it did not.

2019

The Democratic House has proposed more hearings including impeachment of the President. The American people are tired of disputing election results in the courts and endless non-productive hearings.

Kavanaugh hearings

The Kavanaugh hearings were an embarrassment for the Senate and the American people. The Democrats paid a heavy price in the Senate elections. I hope future “hearings” will be more productive.

Tax bill

We are now seeing the results of the tax cuts. People have more money to spend for their families. Congress now needs to make these changes permanent.

Forest fires

For years, the federal government has run its ad campaigns featuring Smokey the Bear. “Only you can prevent forest fires,” he says.

Unfortunately, this is only partially true. They forget the impact of state and federal governments’ role in preventing forest fires. Proper forest management has been under assault for the last 50 years. The results have been tragic with loss of life and fires that have had a major impact on our environment.

Urban areas are vulnerable to uncontrolled fires, ala Santa Rosa in 2017. The whole city could have gone up in flames. We have the opportunity to minimize future loss of life and damage by permitting state and federal governments to pursue strong forest management programs. Even the environmentalists finally agree that action must be taken to reduce risks.

Summary

We have real problems facing our country. They can only be solved by working together and doing what’s right for all Americans. We have a right to expect Washington to do its job and solve the problems we face.

Be Kind!

As we enter a new year we need more kindness and less partisan bickering. Let’s all of us take this opportunity to better understand other peoples’ challenges. In short, be kind!

Take the time to drop a note to an old friend, call them up, wish them a Happy New Year. Time goes by quickly. Use your time wisely.

America is a great country. Let’s make it even greater!

Reflections on the Election

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The mid-term election outcome was consistent with many voters’ expectations. The Republicans added more seats to their majority in the Senate. The Democrats now have the majority in the House of Representatives.

There is considerable speculation on what the Democrats will do with their new majority.

Will they LEGISLATE OR INVESTIGATE?

This is the key decision for them. If they launch a series of vindictive hearings, this will not go well by the people who elected them. Many Democratic party leaders have gone on record wanting to impeach the President, with no basis for their actions.

The “so-called” Russia probe has led nowhere. Unfortunately, many in the Democratic party are looking for headlines and not facts. The Democratic Speaker will have to provide leadership or risk voter revolt.

Election Thoughts

America’s 50% voter participation rate is dismal and disappointing. With so many critical decisions needing action, why are so many Americans sitting on the side lines?

In contrast, Australia requires its citizens to vote and they have a 90% turnout.

Election Process

Election processes are run by state and local governments. Too many make it a challenge to vote. We need more early voting, not less.

Some voting districts, including the entire state of Oregon, have adopted mail-in paper ballots only to speed up the process. Regardless the method used, election results should be available within hours, not days. Florida’s Broward County is a chronic offender in “finding” ballots after the voting is over. Why is this?

Voter Attitude

When surveyed, 50% of voters say they have lost confidence in our electoral system. Why?

With our current abilities to capture and convey data, why is our election process tied to outmoded methods that are susceptible to fraud?

Washington, DC

President Trump calls for “draining the swamp.” Indeed, it needs draining.

Our so-called leaders have forgotten the voters they serve. Thanks to the abundance of media outlets, we see one grandstanding politician after another spewing their opinions labeled as facts. Then, when they leave office, they stay in Washington to become high-paid consultants and lobbyists earning millions from the special interests.

Summary

With the election behind us, I urge both parties to SOLVE PROBLEMS!

Don’t just talk about problems.

It’s time to LEGISLATE INSTEAD OF INVESTIGATE!

We have a great country. Let’s build it up rather than tear it down!

The Circus is Over

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It was hard not to be exposed to the recent Supreme Court hearings.

There were very strong opinions on both sides. I am not intending to favor one side or another, however, I would like to share some “process issues” that provoked a lot of comments, feelings and opinions.

Civility

There was little civility shown in the hearings. Just the opposite. Too many comments showed strong political bias rather than a search for the facts. Too much grand standing; little sincere questioning.

Presumed innocence

Too many Senators tried to make the case that we must change our philosophy of “innocent until proven guilty to “Guilty until proven innocent.” This is a very dangerous thought that could have far-reaching outcomes. We must not change our concepts of fairness for a short-term political benefit.

Public vs. private hearings

Many make the case that private hearings would reduce the grand-standing of some Members. However, this would deny citizens that right to know the candidate or the issues. Public hearings provide information to be shared, provided more decorum is exhibited by the Senators. The chairman must have the right to control the Members if their comments become too politically motivated.

Term limits

The actions of many Senators make a strong case for term limits. How many years should one serve in the Senate? Is 12 years or two terms enough?

The founders’ model was to serve the government and then to return to civilian life. They did not want it to be a full-time job forever. Food for thought!

Demonstrations

The ability of citizens to assemble, protest, and to make their wishes known is a vital American right. However, one must be orderly and respectful of opposing points of view. No one has the right to destroy property and/or injure others in their zeal.

Interiors of governments buildings should be off limits. Hearing rooms and the Senate chambers aren’t the place for emotional out-bursts. No one has the right to accost government officials or impede their passage.

Believe in your cause but respect other view points as well.

Summary

  • We must respect the opinions of others and act with civility to all that are involved.
  • We must maintain the standard of “innocent until proven guilty.”
  • In short, believe in your cause but also remember and respect our American value system.

We have the greatest country in the world. Let’s keep it that way.

Be Kind—Be Civil—Be American.

We Must Stop Illegal Drugs

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The use of illegal drugs is a tragedy for America. Deaths continue to increase dramatically year after year.

The problem is not going away. The major drug—heroinis now being supplemented by Fentanyl, a more powerful opioid. A dangerous form of synthetic marijuana is now available with tragic results.

We must stop this flow of illegal drugs now.

Here is one solution that works!

The bulk of illegal drugs come into our country via our southern border. In practice, we have an “open door policy” for drugs and people entering the U.S. We must secure our borders. This is the number one issue for most voters. They want action. The problem is growing!!

Why can’t we get something done?

Politicians would rather have the issue as a talking point. However, what we need is action.

Thousands are dying each week, while Congress looks the other way. This lack of leadership must stop…NOW!

President Trump has provided strong support for a barrier on our southern border plus more border agents. Why can’t we get something done???

Republicans talk about doing something about our border, but nothing happens. Why? They want cheap labor.

The Democrats oppose strong border control because they feel the bulk of the illegal immigrants will vote Democratic when they become citizens.

History

At one time both parties supported a physical border fence. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was introduced in Congress on September 13 of that year. It passed within two weeks. It called for construction of a barrier from San Diego to Yuma, AZ. The fence has been effective in controlling illegal drugs and immigration, especially in the San Diego area.

The current limited barrier needs to be upgraded and expanded to be effective.

Summary

We have a drug epidemic in our country. People are dying by the thousands. Millions more are affected by the scourge of illegal drugs. The supply of cheap illegal drugs must be stopped.

A border wall, plus more border guards, will be a potent force to cut off supply while also helping stem the tide of illegal immigrants.

Write your Congressman and Senators. Demand that they take the necessary steps now to control our borders. To ignore this solution for political purposes Is beyond comprehension.

Socialism Doesn’t Work

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There seems to be a wave of socialism sweeping the country. Bernie Sanders had a strong showing in the last presidential election. As a result, the Democratic party risks being hi-jacked by the ultra-liberal left.

Richard W. Rahn recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-proclaimed socialist, won the Democratic primary for a congressional seat in New York. Why would a sane person advocate a political movement that was responsible for well over a hundred million deaths in the last century, as well as untold misery?

I find it difficult to understand who would want to embrace socialism. Just look at Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Who in their right mind would want to trade America’s capitalist success story for the failures of socialism?

Can you think of one socialist experiment that worked in the last several hundred years?

I define socialism in two simple sentences: Socialists always like to spend other peoples’ money. This “works” until you run out of other peoples’ money.
Some believe the lack of clear thinking about socialism can be traced to our education system. The benefits of capitalism are not taught in our colleges nearly as much as the supposed benefits of socialism. Our students hear that capitalism is not “fair.” Why? Because some people are more successful than others. They earn more money. They have a better life.

America is the greatest country in the world; providing abundant opportunities for success. In spite of government interference, people start companies in their garages, growing them into successful enterprises employing thousands of people.

This doesn’t happen under socialism. In fact, just the opposite occurs. Socialist governments confiscate companies. Venezuela is a prime example. There the government took over the oil industry. The bureaucrats can’t run it and today the entire industry is in shambles. Thousands of jobs and billions in economic benefit are lost. In spite of the gigantic wealth of natural resources, Venezuela’s people are starving and fleeing the country. The country’s elections are a joke and the ruling Socialists refuse to acknowledge their failure.

Some in the news media imply that America’s young people are embracing socialism. I acknowledge some are, however they are in the minority based on my observations.

I live in the heartland of America, and I interact with college students all the time. I share my thoughts on Leadership, Empathy and the Power of Persuasion with business schools in our region. I have found these students eager to learn and to be firm believers in capitalism.
These smart young people are anxious to start their careers, learn a trade, create new companies and make a successful life for themselves. In other words, they are embracing the American dream.

Summary

Socialism is an economic disaster! It has been a failure whenever it has been tried.
Most Americans do not embrace it, despite what the media or ultra-liberals might imply.
America’s great success proves that capitalism works!

Happy Birthday America!

Posted on Posted in Reflections

We share many blessings in America…freedom of choice, freedom of speech, a dynamic economy where opportunities abound.

Unfortunately, too many Americans take these blessings for granted.

When one watches television, reads the paper or gets on social media, we witness vicious attacks and angry viewpoints. Open discussion has been replaced with divisive commentary and accusations. For example:

A television personality posts pictures of herself holding the severed head of our President;

The President’s wife and their 12-year-old son are verbally harassed and threatened;

The President has been called out with one vile attack after another.

What prompts this incivility? Have we no respect?

I suggest we take a deep breath and ask ourselves, is this the way adults should act?

My answer is NO!!! Instead of inflamed rhetoric, we need discussion and understanding of the challenges our nation faces, and there are many.

We must work together to solve our problems. Talk is cheap. We need action.

Immigration

We have serious problems with our current immigration policies. Rather than one omnibus bill, Congress should identify what we can agree on and pass it one step at a time. It’s time to get something done!

North Korea

We have a major opportunity for peace with North Korea. Six months ago, we were worried about ICBM’s hitting Hawaii. Now, we are sitting at a conference table talking to each other. What will the outcome be? No one knows but at least, let’s give it a chance. I suggest we offer positive support to the process. Let’s not defeat it before it starts.

Economy

Our economy is booming; growing at 4% and climbing. Wages are increasing as well. Last month’s Reflections covered this success story.

Yet, we continue to hear from the Democratic leadership that if they are elected they want to increase taxes and bring back job killing regulations. This is not the Democratic party I knew under President Kennedy. He cut taxes and we saw the economy boom.

Summary

We must replace incivility with respect for other peoples’ viewpoints. And let’s eliminate the foul language in the media; it offends and distracts from the real issues.

I hope Americans can find common ground where we can do the right things and remember that

All of us will be judged on what we do and not by Who we criticize.

Despite all the criticism, we have the greatest country in the world. Our forefathers gave us the framework for success. Our responsibility is to build our country and not destroy it by doing dumb things!

Let’s work together to make America stronger.

Help Wanted. Business is Booming!!

Posted on Posted in Reflections

Employment numbers are setting records. Federal and state income taxes are exploding with dramatic increases over prior years. In short, the new tax bill is working!!!

This, coupled with reduced regulations, are favorably impacting the workplace in many ways. For example:

  • I’m seeing more and more “help wanted” signs when I’m shopping.
  • A local plumber is advertising a $5,000 signing bonus on the sides of his trucks.
  • Trucking firms are offering cash signing bonuses, too.

In short, workers have more choices, and this results in higher wages.

If you’ve been watching some of the media, you might have missed this “good news.” Why? They’re too busy trashing the President. For instance, the New York Times has at least one story a day attacking the President. Why is this?

Sixty-three million people elected Trump. He is our President. For those who don’t like him, vote a new candidate into office in two years. In the meantime, the President’s nominees should be voted on by the Senate. Let him have his team!

Democratic Party

I cannot understand the Democratic Party and its strategy of “NO!”

Not one Democrat voted for the tax bill. In contrast, their strategy was to attack the bill and its many benefits. This makes no sense. Why can’t the two parties work together and do what is best for all Americans?

The Democrats have convinced themselves they will take over the House and Senate with this “NO” approach. I think the voters will say NO to the Democrats come election day.

Americans respect “doers” and achievers. That is what Trump is doing. The progress he has made is staggering, and the voters will remember in November.

North Korea

We may have a breakthrough with North Korea. Will the Korean’s be rational and work out a deal for peace and prosperity? Only time will tell. Is it worth a try? I say yes!!

North Korea has much to gain by bringing capitalism to its country. What a success story it would be if we could end the Korean War with prosperity for all.

Let’s present a united front in the peace talks. We need to be firm on the nuclear weapons issue and eliminate this threat to peace.

Summary

Americans admire and welcome achievers. America was built on a “can do” attitude. We want our leaders to get things done…solve problems. That is the test of true leadership and that is what Trump is doing!

The Democrats would be well-served by working with him. America would be the winner.

Be Prepared!

Posted on Posted in Reflections

Mark McGraw, a frequent contributor to Reflections on the student loan crisis, has prepared a comprehensive document on emergency planning for families. With the tornado and hurricane seasons fast approaching, I felt the Reflections audience would be well-served by sharing it with you. Below is Mark’s article, “Be Prepared.”

­—Jim McGraw


Hurricane Katrina changed by life. I saw a total collapse of society into chaos in a matter of hours. At that moment, I decided that I needed to be prepared for an emergency.

The most likely disaster scenario we may face is the loss of electricity for an extended period of time. This could be due to a storm or other disaster that takes out the electrical grid. Things can get even worse if you lose water, natural gas, have flooding or need to evacuate.

If you are forced to leave your home, make sure you:

  • Know how to shut off your electric, natural gas and water supplies in your home.
  • Know how to drain your plumbing in case you lose heat.
  • Know the escape routes from your home in case you need to evacuate.
  • Keep your vehicles full of gas.
  • Know ahead of time what  you will take;
    key documents, laptop and key hard drives, passports, etc.
  • Have a plan for your family on where to get together and how to communicate.

It’s also vital to have the necessary supplies with you. FEMA is a pretty good source of information, especially www.ready.gov/build-a-kit. In addition, here are the things I recommend

  • Battery powered or hand crank radio with AM/FM/NOAA bands. Plenty of extra batteries.
  • Good flashlights for every member of your family, again with lots of extra batteries.
  • 30-60-day supply of non-perishable food.
  • Solar charger for your mobile phone and other hand-held electronics.
  • Water. FEMA recommends a gallon per person per day.
  • Camping equipment including propane cook stove, lanterns, heater, sleeping bags, etc.
  • First aid kit plus dust masks, plastic sheeting and duct tape.
  • Toiletry kit with items like soap, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, contact lens solution, etc.
  • Two gallons of Clorox bleach for cleaning and purifying water.
  • Toilet paper, diaper wipes, zip lock bags and trash bags.
  • CASH, in small bills.
  • If you have babies or pets you will need supplies for them as well.

Some of these items may have a limited shelf life so check them periodically.

Hopefully you will never have to use any of this advice, but as the Boy Scouts remind us, “Be Prepared.”

Summary

Thanks to Mark for sharing these important emergency planning tips. I hope you find them useful. As they say, “better safe than sorry.”