Reflections on the Past and Future

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September 2017 marks the eighth anniversary of “Reflections.” Your responses over these many years has been most gratifying. Thank you for your support and input.

Let’s go down memory lane and reflect on the highs and lows over the last eight years.

Communications

The first issue dealt with the importance of communication.

“When we think of communication, we generally think of speaking, writing, sharing information. How many times have we heard the statement, “He’s a great communicator.”?

“However, there’s another side of communication, and that is listening. How many of us really listen to what a person is saying, or are we merely waiting for our turn to talk? Too many of us have “cement ears” and do not want to listen.”

Today, America is facing significant challenges because we are not communicating with each other. We need to listen more and talk less!

The communication industry—TV, newspapers, radio and the internet—are not serving their audiences well. Their biased reporting and commentary are a disgrace to all Americans. Their comments are filled with hate and misinformation. People are tuning out. In the media’s efforts to destroy others, they are destroying themselves.

Fiscal Responsibility

A common theme in “Reflections” during the last eight years has been fiscal irresponsibility. Neither party has provided fiscal leadership—just the opposite.

The deficit has doubled to $20 trillion and climbing. We can’t continue to spend $4 trillion a year and collect only $3 trillion+ in taxes. This is madness.

Taxing the rich more is not the answer. The solution is reduced spending coupled with tax reform. Let people keep more of their own money and we will have a robust economy which will lead to more tax income.

Obamacare

We have been living with Obamacare for seven years. It has been a disaster!!

Both parties need to solve this problem. Going to a “single payer” is not the answer. It will lead to less health care and more costs.

Energy

One bright spot during the last eight years has been energy development. Thanks to fracking and the expanded natural gas supply, we have become an energy powerhouse again. This has resulted in significantly lower costs for gasoline and natural gas.

The prior government did everything in their power to halt or interfere with our energy development. Private industry made it happen.

Politics

The November 2016 elections were a major victory for the Republican party. They now have a majority in the House, and Senate, plus the White House.

However, many were disappointed with this outcome. These people—both Democrats and Republicans—refuse to accept the outcome. They are committed to blocking the President and his agenda, much to the detriment of the American people.

Civil Disobedience

We have been confronted with all forms of civil disobedience. People marching in the streets, chanting their slogans of hate, coupled with destructive acts of violence. Law officers have been killed and wounded. When will this madness end??

The press has added to the rancor with their biased “reporting.” They should report the facts, not their opinions. Don’t give these hate groups publicity!

Summary

As I have said for these last eight years, America has a choice to make. Stop the actions of self-destruction. Start working together to build America

I urge you to speak out. Communicate with your leaders. Tell them you want results…NOW!!! Tell Congress to stay in session until we solve healthcare and tax reform. Remind them, they work for us!

Regulations and Taxes

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Regulators have become the fourth branch of the federal government.

According to the Heritage Foundation, federal regulation that explicitly restricts business transactions has exploded since 1960.

  • From 1960 to 2015, the amount of taxpayer money allocated to federal regulators increased by more than 1800 percent, from $3.06 billion to $57.05 billion.
  • The 277,000 regulators recorded in 2015 didn’t include anyone from the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Defense Department, or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services-even though these agencies account for roughly one-third of all final rulemaking actions in a typical year.
  • The budget for the Federal Aviation Administration increased from $241 million to $1.36 billion.
  • Since its founding in 1970, the EPA has grown to over 10,000 employees.

These are just a few examples of the federal regulatory juggernaut.

Government Spending

The Heritage Foundation also reports that federal, state and local governments spent an astonishing 37.7 percent of America’s gross domestic product in 2015. That’s over 37 cents for every dollar Americans produced that year.

Taxes

The tax burden on all Americans is too high. Consumers need to keep more of their money. This will improve the economy and help us achieve the desired growth rate of 3-4%. It worked under Ronald Reagan’s leadership and it will again.

Corporate Taxes

We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world at 35%. Reducing it to 15% will make our companies more competitive. This will keep more companies and their jobs in the USA.

In exchange for a lower tax rate, Congress could eliminate all corporate subsidies including green energy. No more special tax breaks for one company vs. others. The government should quit picking winners and losers.

Overseas Earnings

The current practice of taxing overseas earnings needs to be changed. Although a company paid the country tax where it was earned, that company is also taxed by the U.S. government if they bring their earnings to the USA.

The Bush administration provided a one-time opportunity to bring those earnings back to the U.S. with a small surcharge. We have trillions of dollars “parked” overseas that we could and should invest in the USA.

Dynamic Growth Opportunity

If you want to see business in the USA grow at a fantastic rate:

  • Cut corporate taxes to 15%,
  • Bring the trillions of dollars sitting overseas to the USA, and
  • Continue cutting regulations.

Combine these actions with our low-cost energy, and you have a recipe for a growth powerhouse!!!

Summary

The American people are tired of the lack of leadership and results in Washington. We elect people to Congress and the White House to solve problems and make decisions.

It’s time to stop talking and take action. It’s time to enact a strong tax plan that will help us address the opportunities before us.

Just Do It!!!

Together, we can make America Great Again.

Anti-President Fixation Recalls the 60’s

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Our President, Donald Trump, has been in office less than 6 months, yet the attacks on him and his presidency increase!!

Granted, many opposed him and still do. However, 60 million people voted for him and his electoral college victory was decisive.

The first assault on the election outcome was the “recount” in selected states by the Green Party candidate. The effort failed with Trump receiving more votes in the recount.

The next campaign was against the electoral college delegates. They received all kinds of threats demanding they vote their conscience and not for Trump. The results…Hillary lost five votes to Trump’s two.

We have had months of investigations into a so-called Russian collusion. Yet, after hours of hearings and false statements by the press, even some Democrats are acknowledging that no collusion has been found.

Yet, the attacks on Trump continue. Now we have a special council, who already wants to expand their scope of this investigation; essentially a fishing expedition, hoping to find a reason to exist.

If one looks at the history of “special councils” they go on for years with very speculative outcomes. They waste time and money for all concerned.

All of these attacks are designed to keep the President on the defensive, thwarting his ability to carry out his Make America Great program.

The Washington Post and the New York Times continue to feed the attacks with non-confirmed stories. Many of them have been proven to be untrue. Who are the “leakers” that continue to attack the President?? The former head of the FBI leaked his notes from a meeting with the President. Yet we are still waiting to see them and their contents.

The last time America was this divided was in the 60’s, over the Vietnam War. When the Democrats expanded the war, under President Johnson, riots occurred coupled with bombings with fatal results.

Fortunately, the anti-Trump movement hasn’t gone that far, however the attacks against Trump are becoming more bitter. The recent shooting at the Republican baseball practice could have been a major tragedy!

Have we learned nothing from those angry days of the 60’s?? I suggest we all take a deep breath and calm down this extreme behavior. We have real problems facing America:

  • Terrorists want to kill us;
  • Our open borders permit heroin to come into our country. 52,000 Americans died last year with 62,000 more predicted deaths in this current year.
  • There’s an unstable “leader” in North Korea with atomic bombs aimed our way.
  • Healthcare needs to be reformed.
  • Our tax policy needs to be addressed.

The American people want these issues solved. Congress must quit bickering and get to work on behalf of all Americans.

Summary

Mr. Trump is our President. It is time to quick blocking his presidency. To the Republican Leadership, you have a majority in the House, the Senate and you have the White House. Keep Congress in session until you solve healthcare and tax reform.

Let’s work together to Make America Great!!!

Student Loan Crisis – Part 3

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This month’s column is the third in a series on the Student Loan Crisis written by Jim McGraw’s son, Mark.

America is continuing at a dangerous pace; however, there are some signs of hope.

According to Student Loan Hero website:

  • 44 million borrowers owe $1.4 trillion in student loans; that’s $620 billion more than total U.S. credit card debt!
  • The average student loan payment for 20-30 year olds is $351 per month.
  • The delinquency rate (90-days past due or more) is 11.2%.

The New York Times reports:

  • The average borrower leaves school owing $34,000.
  • Five percent of borrowers owe more than $100,000, but they account for one-third of all student loan debt.

While the crisis is still with us, there are signs of improvement:

According to an article in CNN Money, “Indiana University officials say borrowing by undergraduates at the school has dropped 18% since 2012. That’s when the university began sending students annual letters that estimate their total loan debt and future monthly payments, as part of a push to boost their financial literacy. Inspired by the results at IU, Indiana last year began requiring all colleges that accept state aid to send letters. Nebraska followed with a similar law this spring.”

There has also been a positive move on interest rates. According to a recent WSJ article:

  • Interest rates on newly issued federal student loans are down. For example, Stafford loans have a fixed rate of 3.76% compared to 4.66% two years before and 6.8% four years prior.
  • Student loan refinancing has taken off and borrowers are seeing reductions of 2.2% on average than the rate on the initial loan.

Where does the Trump administration stand? Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently reversed an Obama administration plan to consolidate the nine student loan service providers to a single administrator working through an Education Department portal.
The Student Debt Relief website took a shot at what they think might become Trump policy based on comments he has made in the past. Some of the interesting ones:

  • Trump will support a single Income Based Repayment (IBR) program where borrowers will pay 12.5% of their income to repay loans for 15 years after which the loan would be forgiven.
  • Trump has stated the government should not make money on student loans which could lead to lower interest rates.
  • Pressure universities to lower tuition, lower administration costs and spend more of their endowments on students.

The solution to the crisis will ultimately involve reducing the amount of student loans that are issued and a more reasonable repayment scheme. Actions like the Indiana University letters help, but universities need to spend more of their endowments to ensure students leave with a reasonable amount of debt. There should be a cap on the total amount a student can borrow which is especially needed for students attending for-profit colleges and trade schools

Repayment should be done over a longer period of say 30 years, like a home. Coupled with a reasonable Income Based Repayment program, students would be able to repay most or all of their loans with little need for government forgiveness or debt.

The Wall Can Do More

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Many are questioning the wisdom, cost and effectiveness of the border wall being advocated by President Trump and others. There is more than just one issue to consider.

Illegal Drugs

America is facing more than an illegal immigration program. It is estimated 52,000 Americans died from illegal drugs in 2015. Tens of thousands more have seen their lives ruined. This is an epidemic of historic proportions.

This can be stopped—or at least slowed—by controlling the source of illegal drugs; Mexico!

The wall can help. It is estimated that 95% of the illegal heroin coming into the U.S. is via the Mexican border.

History

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 was introduced in Congress on September 13, 2006. Within two weeks it sailed through the U.S. House and Senate. It called for construction of 700 miles of physical fence/barriers along the border.

By January 2010 the project was completed from San Diego, CA to Yuma, AZ. From there it continued into Texas. The fence is 21 feet tall and is buried six feet deep in the ground, cemented in a three-foot wide trench with 5,000 psi concrete. The border patrol prefers a high, see-through fence rather than a solid wall.

The fence has been very effective in controlling illegal immigration, especially in the San Diego area. Illegal drug smuggling has also been slowed.

Other Experiences

Israel built a wall to protect themselves from terrorists. Construction of the barrier began in September 2000. Before the first segment was completed in 2003, 73 suicide bombings were carried out from the West Bank. By the wall’s completion in 2006, only 12 such attacks occurred.

Who Pays for It?

President Trump has said Mexico will pay for the wall. Whether that happens or not, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has another interesting idea. He has introduced a bill calling for the use of $14 billion seized from cartel drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and other drug dealers, to be used to help pay for the fence.

Action Needed

The illegal drug problem is immense. Their low cost and easy availability trap people into using drugs. The user has no assurance about the quality or quantity of the active drug in each unit he or she purchases. With the low cost of the drug, the supplier is more careless when diluting the active ingredient.

This leads to more deaths!

Next Steps

No one wants a member of their family falling victim to low-cost drugs. This should be a non-political issue. We should take all steps necessary to reduce the supply of illegal drugs to our country…including a border fence.

This action, coupled with more border agents to enforce our laws, will slow illegal immigration and help reduce illegal drugs and the death they bring into America.

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

Write your Representative and Senators demanding strong borders. It will lead to fewer deaths from illegal drugs and a safer America for all of us.

Where’s the Leadership in Congress?

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I define “leadership” as the ability to achieve the right objectives, on time, through people.

When we look at the lack of results in Congress, we are seeing a lack of leadership.

The Republicans had seven years to develop a health care bill to replace Obamacare. What happened? They came up with a “replacement” that only 17% of Americans supported.

Granted, healthcare is a complicated issue. There are no quick fixes. After all, healthcare represents 1/6th of our entire economy, and unless it is controlled, it will get larger.

Democrats and other liberals view health care as a “right.” In their view, they want the best care, on demand, with little or no cost. Experience tells us you can’t have all three. It all comes down to “cost.” Little or no cost means someone else is going to pay for it.

A major problem for any reform is that many members of the public have unrealistic expectations on what they should pay for their health care.

Solutions

Any attempt to working out a solution must be bi-partisan. The work must be done behind closed doors, with a commitment to solve problems not score political points. The client is the Citizens of the United States, not the political parties.

Listen

The first step toward a solution is listening to the people. Members of Congress and the White House must understand how a $5,000 deductible policy impacts the user. If your spouse needs an operation, the hospital demands upfront payment prior to surgery. How many people have $5,000 for such a down payment?

Grand Strategy

Forget a “Three-Part Plan” that uses reconciliation as a vehicle for reform. Few Americans trust Congress to pass Phases 2 or 3.

Instead, develop one “grand bill” that includes all phases of healthcare that need to be changed. This will require 60 votes in the Senate. If the bill is a good one, enough Democrats will support it and help pass it.

There is already general agreement among Americans that they want a choice on how they want to be covered. They want to:

  • Purchase insurance across state lines which leads to lower costs;
  • Permit children to stay on their parents’ plan to age 26;
  • Protect themselves against a major illness;
  • Have health savings accounts to cover routine doctor visits and minor expenses; and
  • Have REASONABLE MONTHLY PREMIUMS!

Congressional leaders must sit down together, identify points they can agree on and build from there. The American people demand results!!! We are sick of this endless bickering. We deserve leadership!!!

Summary

Healthcare is a life or death issue. People are rightly concerned that a major health issue could bring financial disaster. Congress must come together and provide the leadership to solve this major issue.

Write your Congressman/woman today and demand results!

A Declaration of War!

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Donald Trump has been President for a little over a month and the Democrats have declared war on his Presidency. Some have gone so far as to suggest impeachment!!

It is hard to understand the animus to this elected President. No one likes to lose an election, however that is no reason to disrupt the leadership of our country for the sake of revenge.

Executive Orders

We have had a series of Executive Orders, many to undo Obama’s executive orders. Some of these have provided clarity of direction while others have prompted confusion.

Obamacare

The President and the Republican Congress want to change Obamacare. The key question is how?

What will the replacement look like? Will it work? Will it be an improvement?

Whatever the new healthcare program looks like, Republicans will “own” the results. The Democrats are already fighting any changes, even though Obamacare is collapsing due to its flawed concept.

A new healthcare program must be developed and agreed upon by both parties. They should gather everyone’s input. Finalize the bill. Then implement it on a bipartisan basis. Healthcare is too important. Don’t make the new plan a political football. Agree, then implement!

Tax Reform

Tax reform is a must. The corporate tax is too high at 35%. Drop it to 15% and industry will be coming back to the USA.

Forget the so-called “Border Tax.” This will only confuse the marketplace. Other countries will respond negatively to it, if imposed.

Again, get agreement of both parties if you can. Make simple but productive changes to the tax code and make it happen!!

Overseas Profits

Overseas profits are taxed in the country where they Are earned. If a company moves those profits to the USA they are taxed again by the government. That is why companies keep their profits overseas.

Our government should grant an opportunity to move those profits to the USA for a maximum surtax of 10%. If that were to happen, it’s estimated there is $2 trillion overseas profits that could be used in the USA. Companies could use those trillions to support investments here at home. This would mean more jobs and plant expansions. Plus, the federal government would collect $200 billion in tax revenue. A win-win for everyone!!

Summary

The Democratic party and much of the news media, have declared war on President Trump and the Republican Party. President Trump has made good choices for his Cabinet and his Supreme Court nominee. They are worthy of everyone’s support.
Let’s think of America first! We must work together and do the right things for a brighter future for everyone!

Business as “Unusual”

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On January 20th, Washington and how it does business changed.

Gone are the days when “behind schedule and over budget” was acceptable. Under Donald Trump’s leadership, the new performance parameters will be:

“On Time and Under Budget.”

President Trump is a businessman with a business acumen. He will be accepting only positive results—no excuses. He has a very high energy level. 24/7 will have a whole new meaning with him in Washington.

Congress will be pressed to get things done on time. Departments will be required to meet their objectives and responsibilities. In short, the President will expect

RESULTS, RESULTS, RESULTS!!!

This business attitude will be opposed by many. The resistance to change and accountability will manifest itself in many ways. We can expect passive resistance to open rebellion.

A recent case history of what we can expect is in Wisconsin. The opposition tried to destroy Scott Walker and his programs. The protests got very ugly…threatening his family and his supporters.

Trump vs. Politicians

The problem with Washington is too many talkers and not enough doers. No one really wants to reduce spending and balance the budget. Why? That would be hard work and favorite programs would have to be cut or eliminated. Politicians love to spend money. Why not? Taxpayers outside Washington have to pay for it.

It is imperative that Washington control spending. Make every dollar count. Republicans have the White House and both branches of Congress. The opportunity to lead is now.

The Cabinet

The cabinet, as selected by President Trump, is a strong one. It is imperative they have clarity of direction on what they must achieve. Focus on the five or six key issues and make things happen. Be strong in your resolve. In time, you will hear the opposition and even some Trump supporters saying, “Let’s be reasonable,” or “Let’s do that later.” The objective of this is to “slow walk” the desired changes until the support for change is lost.

I remind Washington, Trump was elected because people are fed up with the lack of results. We have real problems that must be addressed NOW! We want and expect real solutions!

Summary

The election is over. It’s time to get to work and make things happen.

Our problems are many. They have been discussed ad nauseam. It’s time for action now!

President Trump must be firm. His motto of “On Time and Under Budget” must be the new rallying cry in Washington.

Let’s make America Greater Again!!!

Sore Losers

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The election may be over for President-elect Trump and the conservatives, but it is not over for the Democrats and the liberal press.

The first assault on the election outcome was the “re-count” in selected states by the Green Party candidate; a person who had no standing in any recount by virtue of her lousy results.

The effort failed with Trump receiving more votes in the recount.

The next campaign was against the electoral college delegates. They received all kinds of threats demanding they vote their conscience and not for Trump. The results…Hillary lost five votes to Trump’s two.

The sad note in all of this is that even a few Republicans supported these crazy ideas.

The Future

What can we expect in the coming days? A continuous barrage against Trump and/or his cabinet choices. Plus, legislation—when proposed—will be attacked as well. In short, a continued campaign against Trump and his efforts to “Make America Great Again.”

The Democrats

The Democratic Party is in shambles and denial. Their philosophies are old and worn out. They have failed. If the Democratic leadership continues to oppose Trump and the peoples’ agenda, they do so at their own risk. The voters want positive results…not bickering.

A record number of Democratic Senators are up for re-election in two years. They will pay a heavy price for any extreme actions on their part.

Our Future

Trump has outlined his agenda for America. An agenda, which when implemented, will have a very positive effect for all Americans. The stock market has enjoyed a strong “Trump Bump” with the Dow at or near 20,000. This benefits many workers with IRA’s plus individual investors. A “positive mood” is reflected in America.

Leadership

The campaign talk is now history. America is looking for results:

  • Knockdown those regulatory barriers
  • Implement your tax plan
  • Reduce the size of government by exposing waste and redundancy
  • Secure the borders
  • Deal with Obamacare

In short, take off your ball cap and replace it with a “Make America Great Again” HELMET. You will need it for the coming battles.

Summary

The challenges for America are many. Trump will need all his leadership skills to overcome the opposition.

America is at a cross roads. By doing the right things NOW:

  • Employment will rise
  • The economy will grow at 4% plus
  • America will stand as a role model for success

Together, let’s Make America Great Again!

The Elections are Over!!!

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The American people have been bombarded with election rhetoric for the last 18 months and

We’re Tired of It!!!

The people have voted. Trump won! Although many do not want to accept the outcome, the continued criticism of the winner is not productive for America.

To illustrate peoples’ bitter feelings, our son—who lives in Northern California—was accosted by a woman who yelled at him, “You look like one of those uneducated white males that voted for Trump!” He wisely said nothing and walked away.

Harmony

A key American value has been our ability to work together to solve our problems. Unfortunately, America remains a divided country. The Democratic leadership, and the press, gives no indication of harmony. Just the opposite.

The American people have indicated they want solutions; not flaming rhetoric. Therefore, I offer our President-elect the following thoughts.

Distractions

The press and others will be constantly baiting you with one complaint or issue after another. If you let them consume your leadership, time and talent, little will be accomplished.

Clarity of Direction

You and your team must agree on the five major issues and the strategy needed to achieve them. Then make sure each team member knows his or her responsibilities in achieving the five major objectives. Agree on your time and events for success and demand performance from all members of your cabinet.

In short, Focus…Focus…Focus!

In summary, invest your leadership skills on the five major issues. Don’t be emotionally distracted by minor issues. Let your staff respond to those.

Be Kind

I suggest–at this time of year–we all take a break from politics and reflect upon the many blessings in our life. Let’s commit ourselves to making this wonderful world an even better place for all of us.

Take the time to say “Thank You.”

Tell your spouse how much you love him or her, and how you appreciate all they do for you.

Let your children know how proud you are of their many accomplishments.

At work, take a few extra moments to say “Good morning. Have a nice day,” and really mean it.

Let your associates, clients, vendors and service providers know that you appreciate what they do.

We’re not talking about insincere flattery here. That isn’t kindness; that’s manipulation.

Make a promise to use every opportunity to express your thanks and appreciation. It will add fullness to your life and enrich others. Remember, everyone you meet is facing some kind of challenge.

There’s an old Irish saying: A KIND WORD NEVER BROKE A TOOTH!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

BE KIND!