Cities • Democrats • Government Reform • Infrastructure • Law and Order • Political Parties

Bill de Blasio: The Anti-New Yorker

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In a local mayoral race that is drawing national media attention, incumbent New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is projected to win in a landslide. Yet at the same time, there is an eerie sense that de Blasio is quite vulnerable and is perhaps about to tumble down a political precipice.

De Blasio, whose radical background includes support for the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and who is a weak, left wing ideologue in the spirit of Barack Obama, presents himself as the successful progressive and touts the introduction of free pre-K education and expansion of low-income housing as the hallmarks of his mayoral tenure. De Blasio never misses an opportunity to boast about New York City’s record-low crime rates, even as he fails to mention that crime rates in the city have been dropping for the past three decades, way before he come onto the scene, and even as he consistently attacks the people, policies, and practices actually responsible for the reduction in crime.

Despite having accomplished little, de Blasio is beloved by the liberal New York press, unions, and celebrities, who don’t question his achievements and who are enamored by his progressive pontifications.

One need not put forth much effort to peel the cheap paint off de Blasio’s mayoral tenure. Underneath the entity is full of rust, corrosion, and sports gaping holes.

Under de Blasio’s leadership, the quality of life in New York City has plummeted, subway crime is shooting up, homelessness has increased by about 40 percent (!), panhandling and public urination are out of control (no hyperlink needed—this writer, who lives in Manhattan, unfortunately can attest to this fact with a simple accounting of his daily observations), people are fleeing the city, businesses are shutting down, and the mayor is doing nothing to address the meltdown of the subway system.

There is plenty more. And with the New York City Council, at the behest of de Blasio and radical-left Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, decriminalizing “low-level offenses” such as public drunkenness, noise making, and public urination—and with Manhattan subway fare beaters no longer facing arrest—law and order are becoming things of the past.

Reflective of the reality and in contrast with de Blasio’s fake news accomplishments, his approval rating is way down; even liberal New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has no confidence in de Blasio.

These are all areas of extreme vulnerability for de Blasio. Yet there is a far more profound and innate reason why de Blasio, regardless of achievements, has no place leading the city and will never succeed as its mayor.

New York is famously known as “the city that never sleeps.” Rather than a designation of chronic citywide insomnia, this slogan describes an enterprise known for its hard and unstoppable productivity.

Such is the history of New York, which became the epicenter of and a global force in the areas of business, education, healthcare, culture, and much more, through superhuman work and incessant striving. Those who built New York were blessed with an insatiable drive to excel and to not be bound by natural limitations. Dreams were huge, and so was the effort invested to realize them.     

When my ancestors arrived (legally) in Manhattan, fleeing persecution and poverty in Eastern Europe, they quickly became fluent in English as they toiled hard in order to pay for their own and for their children’s education. These people had a double schedule, laboring by day to pay for night school, or the reverse. There was no such thing as a 9-to-5 workday. Neither was there such a thing as settling for mediocrity. Sleep was scarce, and hard work and education were craved.

This is the narrative of the millions of New Yorkers who, by the grace of God, were welcomed to these shores a century ago from Ireland, Italy, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere. There were no social welfare programs to rely on; no multilingual education; no cushions. There was the blessing of opportunity for hard work and education, and resultant upward mobility.

It is the “never sleep” work ethic of generations past that made New York into a capital of eminence and prowess. And it is the disregard for and denigrating of this same work ethic that makes Bill de Blasio so unfit to lead.

Sleeping late and then being driven 12 miles in an SUV for a daily gym visit, and arriving at work close to 11 a.m., de Blasio is the antithesis of the Great New Yorker. Being tardy for numerous important events, reportedly taking daily naps at his office, and refusing to ride the subway except for rare occasions—in stark contrast with previous mayors—have alienated de Blasio from the city’s traditions. De Blasio is known for frequent vacations, even to the point of inviting criticism from Governor Cuomo and other fellow Democrats. In short, de Blasio is the anti-New Yorker par excellence, whose absence of work ethic and lack of accomplishments place him at odds with the spirit of greatness of past decades and centuries that built NYC.            

In the Book of Proverbs (24:29-33), Solomon writes,

I will render to the man according to his work. I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

Although there are deep and beautiful layers of Talmudic exposition of these verses, the verses’ plain meaning depicts the man devoid of work ethic and the disastrous results of his lifestyle and attitude. I will stop here and let readers connect the dots and draw their own inevitable conclusions about the mayor.

 

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2016 Election • America • Congress • Conservatives • Economy • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Infrastructure • Obama • separation of powers • The Constitution • Trump White House

Ending DACA is a Win for American Workers

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The battle over illegal immigration just kicked into high gear, as President Trump has decided to scrap Barack Obama’s ill-conceived and unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The administration will, however, delay enforcement for six months, so as to give Congress time to act. This is stellar news—a big win American workers and the rule of law.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday explained the administration’s rationale for ending the program. “To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here,” Sessions said. “That is an open border policy and the American people have rightly rejected it.”

“This does not mean they are bad people or that our nation disrespects or demeans them in any way,” Sessions added. “It means we are properly enforcing our laws as Congress has passed them.”

DACA has long been seen by those vociferously opposed to illegal immigration as Obama’s greatest betrayal of the American people—it is de facto amnesty to say nothing of an unconstitutional overreach of presidential authority. President Trump campaigned in part on ending the program. 

‘Renewable Amnesty’
For those not familiar with DACA, here is the run-down: President Obama signed an executive order in June 2012 that
allowed all illegal aliens who arrived in America before they were age 16 to apply for legal work permits, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and made them eligible for earned income-tax credits. Enrollment must be renewed every two years. Since 2012, nearly 800,000 illegal aliens have taken advantage of the program. Most of them were adults. Essentially, DACA grants participants the rights and privileges normally associated with legal entry into America: it is renewable amnesty. The dangers of DACA are manifold and (should be) self-evident, but they are worth revisiting in light of recent events—if only to strengthen our resolve.

The biggest problem with DACA is that it undermines the rule of law—and not simply the trouble caused by granting legal status to those who have none. The problem is even more fundamental. In signing DACA, President Obama overstepped the bounds of his authority and violated the sacrosanct division of powers laid out in the Constitution. DACA was, and is, a usurpation of legislative power—it is a knife in Congress’ back (though in relieving the pressure lawmakers seem to feel about actually legislating on matters concerning immigration, it appears to be a welcome one).

This republic was constructed according to several axioms, one being that different arms of government have different parts to play, and that each arm checks and balances the others. Congress is the seat of legislative authority. It makes, amends, and repeals laws. Congress also has power of the purse. The office of the president is the seat of executive authority; the president enforces the law and serves as our commander-in-chief (in addition to having a number of atavistic powers inherited from the British Crown for convenience’s sake).

President Obama pushed DACA because Congress was unwilling to legislate on the subject—as was the legislative branch’s prerogative. The president does not have the right to create stopgap legislation like DACA, and the fact the DACA has remained in place this long is a testament to Congress’ weakness. Ironically, even Obama was aware of this, at least theoretically. Obama himself said in 2011, “for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.” That is correct. Trump must scrap DACA to restore some semblance of balance to our government.

Bad Incentive, Bad Precedent
DACA also created an enormous incentive for people to enter the United States illegally—as might be expected with any other form of amnesty. DACA sends a clear message to the millions of poor who would migrate to America: beat our border guards in a game of “Red Rover” and we will (eventually) let you stay.

Amnesty is not a solution, it is part of the problem—it transforms America into a giant lure. The evidence for this is overwhelming: it is no secret that DACA caused an unprecedented spike in youth migration into America. Likewise, recall how the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted 2.7 million people legal status, set off the greatest tidal wave of illegal immigration in U.S. history. At the time, President Reagan said amnesty would be a one-time-only fix. Now compare that to the approach President Eisenhower took when he deported nearly 3 million illegal migrants: no more came for some 30 years.

Incentives matter. DACA is counter-productive: it simply creates more of the problem it is designed to address.

Finally, President Trump is right to scrap DACA on economic grounds. Why? Supply and demand.

Consider the apple market: if the supply of apples increases, what happens? The price of apples goes down. But if a stiff frost kills off most the apples, leading to a shortage, the price of apples rises since there are fewer apples to go around.

Labor markets work the same way: more workers mean lower wages, fewer workers mean higher wages. DACA adds some 720,000 legal workers into the U.S. market—these people compete with American workers, driving down wages and boosting unemployment. This is axiomatic: even the pro-DACA Cato Institute acknowledges this fact, saying that American companies will begin “recruiting, hiring, and training” Americans to fill the void.

Theory aside, the evidence for this fact is overwhelming. Before Hurricane Harvey, President Trump’s crackdown on illegal aliens had already caused wages for construction workers to rise by 30 percent (half of Texas’ construction workers were illegal aliens). In light of recent events, their wages will likely rise even higher—but we can still attribute a significant portion of said rise to labor market constrictions.

Likewise, towns in Maine were forced to hire American workers after the availability of visas for temporary foreign workers declined. What happened? Unemployment decreased, wages increased, and working conditions improved in order to attract American workers—all good things. Illegal labor has completely undermined U.S. labor markets, and hurt millions of American citizens; the only people benefiting are the very rich. Illegal immigration is bad for the economy: this is an empirical fact, not a point of contention.

For five long years, DACA has enshrined the rights of illegal aliens and in effect put them above those of American citizens. It is a slap in the face to Congress, the rule of law, and the common man. President Trump’s decision to scrap DACA, if he follows through, should go down as one of the highlights of his presidency.

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Cultural Marxism • Economy • Infrastructure • Silicon Valley • The Culture • The Left

#Googlegate: The Latest Social Justice Outrage in Tech

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A new martyr for free speech has been born, and his name is James Damore. Damore’s offense is that recently he authored an internal memo at his workplace—Google—that appears, more or less, to have triggered the entire staff. His argument, essentially, is there might be more to “gender gaps” than pure sexist oppression, and he thinks it might be worthwhile to treat differences of opinion as a form of diversity worth protecting.

The horror! The horror! Google officials initially weighed in to say, while they obviously are in favor of the expression of “alternate viewpoints,” such expression “needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.

A few short days later, that bit of principle was flushed down the toilet, and Damore was fired, with no less an entity than Google’s CEO condemning his memo for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

This decision appears to have come after an outcry led by Google’s top SJWs: a freakout we can now observe thanks to leaked excerpts from internal discussions by Google employees critical of the memo, including figures such as Site Reliability Manager Paul Cowan, Software Engineer Sitaram Iyer, Systems Engineering Manager Colm Buckley, and even Engineering Director Dave O’Connor. And as far as the content of this backlash, perhaps the most representative quote comes from Buckley, who writes, “You know, there are certain ‘alternative views, including different political views’ which I do not want people to feel safe to share here. My tolerance ends at my friends’ terror.[…] Yes, this is ‘silencing.’ I intend to silence these views; they are violently offensive.” (emphasis Buckley’s) O’Connor concurs, writing, “These are s—ty opinions. I say this with all my hats on; ally, director, manager, human. They are the antithesis of what we’re trying to do at Google; they are intellectually lazy, biased, and unkind. They have no place here.”

And that’s just within the company. The response from Leftists on the outside has been even more extreme. Take, for example, this reaction from Yonatan Zunger, a former senior engineer at Google, who accused the author of the piece of “creating a hostile work environment,” and of holding views that “are fundamentally corrosive to any organization they show up in,” and which openly fantasizes at the end about being able to fire the (thus far) anonymous author. Or, consider the infuriated response by former Gawker satellite Gizmodo, which calls the document a “screed” which “argues that women are underrepresented in tech not because they face bias and discrimination in the workplace, but because of inherent psychological differences between men and women.” Or, look at any one of thousands of Tweets accusing the author of the piece of being the beneficiary of “white privilege,” or of being a “boy” rather than a man, or of writing “entry-level Reddit MRA board intellectually vapid bulls—t.”

Of these, the Gizmodo attack is probably the most hilarious for a very simple reason: right after smearing the document, it prints it in full. I suppose Gizmodo expects its readers to be too dumb to actually read the thing and check whether the descriptions flying about it are accurate.

Spoiler alert: they are not. For example, here’s what the document says about innate gender differences (emphasis mine).

The distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.

Got that? “May explain.” In other words, the document simply calls for considering the possibility as a check against making faulty assumptions. In fact, later on, Damore says this is a major problem with gender roles:

Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally feminine roles.

And even later, this:

I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).

So let’s review. Damore argued that while biology may play a role in why women don’t seek certain positions, it is also true that sexist gender assumptions exist and, moreover, go both ways, since men are disallowed from being overly “feminine.” Furthermore, he cautions against using any of this as a metric to judge individuals, because that might lead to tribalism and bias.

And apparently, in the eyes of Google employees, both former and current, this was a reactionary document that created an irrevocably hostile work environment and violated Google’s in-house policies simply by existing. This is a document that is supposed to cause “terror” to women and minorities, and which deserves to be suppressed for being “violently offensive.” And, of course, the document is a firing offense. The lesson is obvious: this kind of public shaming and intimidation is what Google does to employees of their own company not for being extreme conservatives (the document openly applauds the fact that scientists don’t lean Right), but for being centrist individualists. That is how far Left the corporate culture at Google is.

The fact is that every day, Google looks more and more determined to subjugate all of us under the same rules used by its HR department and backbiting social justice-obsessed corporate culture. 

This is not just about one company’s insanity. Every conservative, libertarian, centrist, or even moderately liberal consumer should read this with the implicit understanding that this kind of Maoist attitude will be brought to bear on them. If expressing these views is enough to get you treated as a pariah at Google, imagine what ideas further to the Right will be treated like by people designing Google’s search algorithms. Or by their increasingly censorship-happy YouTube team. Unfortunately, we don’t have to ask. The answer also arrived last week, in the form of Google’s brief ban of Christian psychologist Jordan Peterson not only from YouTube, but from his own gmail account.  Public outcry on behalf of Peterson’s many fans saved him, but imagine what will happen to less famous people who have the audacity to share similar opinions. The fact is that every day, Google looks more and more determined to subjugate all of us under the same rules used by its HR department and backbiting social justice-obsessed corporate culture. So much for the company that once fought Chinese censorship of the internet: apparently the only problem there was that Google wasn’t making the rules about what to censor.

So in a sense, Mr. O’Connor is correct: these opinions are “the antithesis of what we’re trying to do at Google.” And what people like Mr. O’Connor are trying to do, is the very thing consumers must stop.

Fortunately, there are mechanisms by which it can be stopped. A similar airing of dirty laundry led to #Gamergate, arguably the most successful consumer revolt in recent memory. Something similar is already beginning to come down the pike toward Google, and it will likely only grow stronger . Speaking for myself, I can suggest a name for this new movement: #Googlegate.

 

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America • Americanism • Asia • Big Media • China • Defense of the West • Donald Trump • EU • Foreign Policy • Greatness Agenda • Infrastructure • Obama • Russia • Trump White House

Understanding Trump’s Geopolitics

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Like many, I was pleased by Donald Trump’s recent speech to the Polish people. Many commentators have lauded (or lamented) the fact that it was interspersed with references to the defense of Western Civilization and called for a rekindling of Christian culture across both Europe and America.

However, few have noted the geopolitical significance of the speech, which, by itself, should be enough to dispel the Left’s narrative of presidential collusion with Russia. Contained within the speech are little gems that, when understood within a broader geopolitical context, illuminate the president’s intention to curb Russian influence in Europe.

Russia, as every passing student of European history knows, has a geography problem. A mostly landlocked country with few warm-water seaports, it suffers from a peculiar geopolitical liability. As a result, Russia has always sought to influence other countries throughout Europe to expand its political power and acquire access to a port city that would improve its defenses on the high seas. In the past this took the form of Pan-Slavism and the Iron Curtain.

Today, Russia uses outright military and economic coercion, as we’ve seen with the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, as well as use of natural gas to render Europe economically dependent on Moscow. Russia’s support of Syria in the fight against ISIS also plays a part; as long as the Assad regime remains in power, Russia has a Mediterranean naval base in the port Syrian city of Tartus.

Russia has gotten away with its bad behavior thanks in large part to the ineptitude of the previous administration, from the unenforced “Red Line” in Syria and the feckless retreat from ballistic missile defense to the tepid condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

Recently, National Review reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to meddle more in the Balkans by bolstering Russian support for a proposed independence referendum for the autonomous Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina, following that country’s formal application last year to enter the European Union.

While Russia’s actions under the previous administration cannot be undone, President Trump could stem the tide of Russian influence in Europe—and in his Warsaw speech points to how.  

“America loves Poland”: This Trumpian turn of phrase may be reminiscent of campaign trail rhetoric, but the sentiment behind it has never been more necessary in Eastern Europe. During the Obama Administration, Poland’s relations with the United States—like those of many other countries—became strained. President Obama in 2010 decided to end a long-standing commitment to build a missile defense shield, significantly weakening Poland in relation to an increasingly ambitious Russia. Not only has President Trump reversed that decision, which allows Poland to purchase the Patriot Missile Defense System, he has now visited the country and delivered a speech there to signal the renewed bond between our two peoples. The president is also sending the message that Poland is the first line of defense against Russian aggression in Europe, and will be bolstered by the United States if it is ever under threat.

“The Three Seas Initiative”: President Trump briefly mentioned this forum comprised mostly of former-Eastern Bloc countries. The group first convened in 2016 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to discuss security and economic growth, among other issues. While most commentators glossed over the president’s reference, the Initiative’s very existence and Trump’s participation in it has serious geopolitical implications.

The idea of a Central-Eastern European federation has been fundamental to Poland’s foreign policy since the end of World War I, when Józef Piłsudski began to pursue a strategy of “Prometheism.” The idea was to weaken the Russian Empire’s influence by supporting nationalist movements among the non-Russian peoples of Eastern Europe, all while pursuing an “Intermarium” federation that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Sound familiar?

Though Piłsudski’s goal never bore fruit, his ideas weren’t forgotten. The Three Seas Initiative is beginning to resemble Piłsudski’s longed for federation in concrete ways. Most notably, the members are planning to build their own natural gas infrastructure, starting with liquefied natural gas terminals at ports in Poland and Croatia. What’s more, four of the initiative’s members—Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia—have all joined together in a separate political union called the Visegrad Group, which responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a “battlegroup” project meant to encourage joint military operations and coordinate defensive procurement and development.

What these peoples understand is that Russia will think little of them if their influence is in jeopardy, for all of them are one generation removed from Communist tyranny. President Trump, in supporting such initiatives is signaling to the international community that America will make good on its promises to protect Eastern Europe from Russian incursion.

“Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival”: We have seen the litany of articles published in the last few weeks about Trump’s defense of Western Civilization, yet when understood within the context as presented here, Western Civilization seems to take on a different meaning. Its invocation, along with frequent mentions of Christianity, mean the struggle against ISIS and radical Islam as a whole. But the president was also talking about the ever present struggle to keep an ambitious Russia at bay.

Vladimir Putin famously said that dissolution of the Soviet Union was the “major geopolitical disaster of the 20th Century.” His goal has always been to resurrect the old Soviet empire, minus the Communism. He seems to fancy himself a quasi-czar.

Yet Putin is running out of time with this new administration. Although President Trump has said that he would like to mend the relationship with Russia, this will occur only under his America First policy of ensuring the United States (and the rest of the West for that matter) protects its interests. Understood in that light, all of the media chatter about “collusion” begins to sound downright silly.

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2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Americanism • Big Media • Cultural Marxism • Democrats • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • Immigration • Infrastructure • Republicans • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Courts • The Culture • The Media • Trump White House

On the Resistance, Building Campaigns, and Filibusters

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In the synagogue business, the few rabbis who are unfortunate enough to practice at one of the few undesirable congregations with grumbling and carping congregants (probably no different from what some similarly unfortunate pastors encounter among those outlier church flocks pocked with sociologically pathological congregants) are told that nothing puts the grumbles to an end like a successful building campaign: Just get everyone absorbed with raising funds and building something—anything:  a wing, an annex, a revamp of the whole building, a re-furnishing of the sanctuary. . . just get them all busy on a project, building something, doing something. Keep them busy with something constructive, and they will stop grousing.

We call it the “Edifice Complex.”

No fair observer can doubt that President Trump is a victim of a merciless witch hunt, with no end in sight until he is back hosting “The Apprentice.” Remarkably, his approval ratings remain steady around 39 percent, the same as they were before “Comey-this” and “Flynn-that,” before head counts at Inaugurations and leaked phone calls to Australian and Mexican heads of government. All the witch-hunting has solidified his base, and it has moved mild supporters into his camp. Recently, Ann Coulter titled her weekly column “Every Time I Try to Be Mad at Trump, the Media Pull Me Back.”    

Amen.

During the president’s recent travels abroad to the respective centers of the world’s three most influential religions and to NATO world leaders, the media followed, seeking to portray him as a rube on foreign affairs, much as they have tried to depict him on domestic matters. There was little doubt that, by the time he returned, the Left- Democrat “Resistance” and their media stooges would be accusing Trump of having sown discord abroad, even as his supporters have exhaled with joy that, finally, a strong voice of American pride traveled overseas to assert American greatness.

Clearly, the Democrats and the media now are on “Andrew Johnson Mode.” The Democrats have not been this angry since the Republicans took away their slaves. They aim to tie up the president with one nonsensical non-scandal after another.

The media loved the Obama model for world leadership. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, send John Kerry to France with James Taylor singing “You’ve Got a Friend.” Obama meeting with Russians, asking them to tell “Vladimir” that Obama will cut sucker deals that hurt America after he gets reelected. Obama going to England and shocking the British public by continuing to ramble into a microphone while the orchestra deferentially played “God Save the Queen” in Elizabeth’s presence. Obama going to Communist Cuba and dancing the salsa in front of Castro. And always, everywhere, apologizing for America and promising to cut America down to size so that we no longer tower over Europe and Asia and Africa and the Middle East.

I prefer a “rube” like Donald Trump who leads from the front, drops a MOAB explosive on an ISIS hide-out and terror base in Afghanistan, and who orders 59 cruise missiles launched into Syria to enforce a red line against poison weapons that he does not even have to warn about.

Now that he is home again, the president should turn his attention to the Edifice Complex. He has done well with Executive Orders and Cabinet-and-Court appointments he’s filled, but he is way behind on filling scores of open federal district judgeships and dozens of openings in the federal judicial appellate circuits. If he would only get those seats filled with the kinds of judges he wants, he and the Republicans actually would start winning more federal-case appeals, and justice would move back from the Obama imbalance.

But the time is now for some solid legislation, some real building. His Administration needs to get moving on some serious legislation. To start building that wing or annex or re-furnishing the sanctuary of his political program, he has to move into that next gear. It is time for legislative initiatives like tax reform. Once he and the GOP start getting some “building campaigns” going—healthcare something-or-other, real tax reform, some construction going on the border, infrastructure work—people will become engaged in that and see “stuff” happening. It works in churches; it works in synagogues. Get started on building some of that wall. There is nothing like a building campaign. Maybe even sell plaques for donors to put their names upon: “This brick is donated by Sadie and Izzy Feldstein.”

Clearly, the Democrats and the media now are on “Andrew Johnson Mode.” The Democrats have not been this angry since the Republicans took away their slaves. They aim to tie up the president with one nonsensical non-scandal after another. They allowed Eric Holder’s “Fast and Furious” to pass without a Special Prosecutor. No Special Prosecutor to investigate Lois Lerner and the IRS targeting of politically conservative associations. No special investigation of the Clinton Bathroom email server, the Huma Abedin emails of secure intelligence to her crazy husband, Carlos Danger, who not only lacked security-clearance to see those emails but was ripe to be extorted for all kinds of mischief. No Special Prosecutor to investigate connections between Bill Clinton’s million-dollar speaking engagements in the Putin universe and the concomitant conveyance of American uranium—the stuff of nuclear weapons—to the Russians. Yet the Democrats—call them the “Obstructocrats”—now repeat their stance towards Andrew Johnson 150 years ago:  impeach the president under any guise, for any reason, and just tie him up defending himself. I cannot recall any time in the Modern era, in any Western democracy, where the losing party declared itself “The Resistance” instead of the “Loyal Opposition.”

In the end, it may take two things to determine whether Mr. Trump ultimately is going to be the president he set out to be and for which we elected him: first, the midterm elections in 2018 and second, finally finishing what Harry Reid started and ending the filibuster rule completely, even as it applies to legislation.

Certainly, the party in power typically sustains midterm losses. If the GOP manages to hold the House with minimal bi-election losses, and gains some of those Democrat Senate seats in red states without losing more than one or two GOP Senate seats, then President Trump will emerge with enormous authority to move forward. It will mean that two years of concerted Democrat obstruction, which seems so successful to them and their media Echo Chamber in D.C., actually will not have advanced their interests. All the more so, the president’s strength will be enhanced if the GOP holds all but one or two of their Senate seats and sweeps a boatload of the red state Democrat Senate seats. It will be a definitive statement that, for all the garbage and “Resistance” and left-leaning op-eds and editorials, the voters outside the Beltway did not buy and are not buying any of the daily character assassinations.  

By contrast, if the Democrats do well in the mid-term House voting, even if they do not recapture the House but merely chart substantial gains, and if they hold most of their red state Senate seats and even scoop a few of the GOP Senate seats, then they will be emboldened to intensify “The Resistance” going into 2020, and the president will be stymied.

Today’s filibusters are not in the spirit of Mr. Smith.

Even so, and even then, it is one thing for voters to tell Quinnipiac and Rasmussen that they are disappointed in or do not approve of President Trump (especially when the survey questions are worded in a way to elicit that response). It’s quite another thing when the same voters are faced with the actual—not theoretical—alternatives: Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, other misfits and public nuisances of that ilk. One remembers back to Richard Nixon being reelected in 1972 by the biggest landslide ever because his opponent was Sen. George McGovern, who was not likable, not impressive, and quite radical by the day’s standards.

With or without “The Resistance,” if President Trump gets reelected in 2020 there will be hell to pay because this man takes down names. By then, he absolutely will be pressed to end the filibuster nonsense, assuming the GOP holds the Senate. There is some value to a filibuster rule when it is used sparingly and judiciously. Moreover, all sober-minded conservatives recognize that politics is cyclical, and one day the Democrats again will hold power. But we also know that the filibuster, which has no basis in the Constitution, never was meant to require that each-and-every bill muster at least a 60 percent super-majority. Rather, it was intended for the one or two moments in a term when a bill of Constitutional moment was on the line, and the rule required the filibustering Senator to hold the floor and speak with actual physical support from colleagues. It never was meant for a “Resistance” to prevent a majority party from getting anything done for eight years.

In the meantime, let’s get some donors to get the building fund rolling.

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Why Republicans Cannot Bear Trump’s Spending Plan in One Easy Lesson

The White House on Thursday released what officials variously described as a “skinny budget,” a “hard power budget,” and—most memorably—an “America First” budget that begins “a New Chapter of American Greatness.” (I’m partial to the last one.)

As flattering as that sounds, the truth is President Trump’s first budget outline is far from “great.” The $54 billion defense component represents only a 3 percent increase over current spending—not 10 percent as the administration says.

Even with the wholesale elimination of programs and double-digit cuts to departments to offset the defense hikes, the plan does remarkably little to reduce the overall $7 trillion in federal spending and has nothing whatsoever to say about the towering $20 trillion national debt.

But as a way to begin chiseling away at the Leviathan State at the margins? Not a bad start.

The Left has responded with its usual irrational exuberance. Everything is vital. Nothing is extraneous. All cuts are “Draconian.” Children and old people will die.

Miles Kampf-Lassin of the hard-Left In These Times called the spending plan, “a cruel and inhumane document that would gut programs that protect the environment, fund medical research, defend workers and help the poor.”

“The administration’s proposals are heartless and prioritize building a border wall over diplomacy and housing the poor,” said U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) in a press release.

And New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof must have felt mighty proud of himself when he tweeted: “Reading through the Trump budget, I feel as the Romans must have felt in 456 AD as the barbarians conquered and ushered in the dark ages.”

Uh . . . huh.

Permit a brief bit of remedial civics. Presidents may propose budgets, but they don’t actually write them. Congress does that. Or at least Congress is supposed to do that. Congress hasn’t really passed a proper spending bill in many years. Appropriations begin in the House of Representatives and are approved or amended in the Senate. The two houses work out any conflicting provisions in a conference committee. Then the president either signs or vetoes the resulting bill.

Again, that’s more or less how it’s supposed to work. Instead, we’ve had a long series of “continuing resolutions,” interrupted by the occasional shutdown, that keep the federal government running, but not in any way James Madison or the framers of the Constitution would recognize as legitimate.

Although the response from the Democratic side of the aisle was predictable, the Republicans haven’t exactly acquitted themselves well, either. Republicans, in truth, have never deserved their reputation as the party of fiscal responsibility. Certain members may boast of their consistent (safe) votes against certain spending bills, and the party’s leadership still crows about the ban on earmarks (even though the pork barreling never really stopped). But in the end, our current batch of Republicans spends as ably and profligately as any ward-heeling Democrat.

Here is just one small but telling example of how unserious congressional Republicans are about ever reining in federal spending.

The Hill newspaper on Thursday published a story purporting to identify a flip-flop in President Trump’s pledge to invest upwards of $1 trillion in infrastructure.

The White House plan would cut $2.4 billion, or 13 percent, from the Department of Transportation. According to the White House, “The Budget reduces or eliminates programs that are either inefficient, duplicative of other Federal efforts, or that involve activities that are better delivered by States, localities, or the private sector.”

Journalists, being clever-minded folk, can clearly see that “minus $2.4 billion” is not “plus $1 trillion.” That must mean something. But what?

The story highlights the proposal to zero-out the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. Republicans are very upset about this for some reason. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee, has vowed to protect the program at all costs. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) says the program has been vital for bridge and road repair in his state.

In case you weren’t aware, TIGER grants are of a fairly recent vintage. They first appeared in the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act of 2009—the $890 billion stimulus loaded with one-time expenditures that somehow turned into sacrosanct spending. The program has doled out around $5.1 billion since that time.

“If [TIGER grants] were to be cut, then it’s big time trouble,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), ranking member on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told The Hill.

“Department of Transportation TIGER grants are something that are considered essential to rehabbing our infrastructure,” he added.

No, they aren’t. But we’d expect to hear that from a Democrat. It makes you wonder how on earth we built or fixed highways and bridges prior to 2009, doesn’t it? Most transportation projects are funded through a combination of federal, state, and local tax dollars and fees. Trump’s infrastructure proposal, which is still in the works, would potentially add hundreds of millions of dollars in private financing to the mix.

Anyone wishing to delve into the grim particulars of why this particular half-billion-a-year discretionary grant program is at once ineffective and perfectly dispensable may find enlightenment in a 2012 report by the libertarian Reason Foundation. There the interested reader will learn all about the program’s “vague metrics,” “inconsistent modal funding,” and “poor documentation,” as well as how—surprise, surprise—“Democratic congressional districts receive more funding than Republican congressional districts.”

The grants also fund local and regional projects that have no obvious national impact. Which sounds an awful lot like “earmarks” by another name. Except instead of legislators tucking special projects into appropriations bills they no longer pass, political appointees in the federal transportation bureaucracy exercise “discretion” to pick winning projects.

Nobody should expect President Trump’s first spending proposal to survive intact and unamended. But nobody can seriously contend that every program is essential, every agency budget is lean, every federal employee is indispensable, or that the disappearance of any them would cause irreparable harm to the republic.

Bear in mind, the TIGER grant program is a $500 million line item in a $18 billion department budget. And prominent Republicans want to go to the wall to save it.

If this is what we get from Republicans, then why bother with the GOP?

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While Democrats Fume, Trump Becomes the Jobs President

It’s the economy, stupid. We’ve heard the phrase so many times over the past 25 years that it has descended into cliché if not outright parody. But it’s been repeated so often because it highlights a basic truth about politics: jobs matter. And since the election, the job growth has been extraordinary.

It’s been so strong that it prompted Jamie Dimon, president and CEO of Chase, the nation’s largest bank, a registered Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, to back President Trump’s economic agenda. Dimon declared it has “woken up the animal spirits” in the United States. His comments came in the midst of a spate of good economic news released this week.

Trump himself tweeted, “Great Again: +235,000” after the Labor Department reported a higher than expected 235,000 new jobs were created in February. This came on the heels of a report earlier in the week from ADP and Moody’s Analytics showing 298,000 new private sector jobs in the same month. Better yet, the Labor Department report showed strong wage growth and that 340,000 workers who sensed better prospects came off the sidelines and re-entered the workforce. This addresses a key critique of the weak Obama era recovery after the 2008 financial panic: namely, that the low reported unemployment rate was misleading because of the large number of working age Americans who stopped looking for work and were therefore not counted in official government unemployment statistics.

This is all good news for the country and for a president who has promised to put wage and job growth front and center in his administration. Trump’s plans on immigration, infrastructure, taxes, regulation, and trade all aim at improving the lives and prosperity of ordinary American citizens If they continue, the results of the past few months will be considered the downpayment on a broader resurgence of American economic might and the reinvigoration of the middle class.

Against the new administration’s ambitious goals, Democrats are stuck with increasingly transparent attempts to undermine the president with phony narratives endlessly repeated by their media surrogates. The stranglehold the mainstream media had on American opinion was broken long ago and Americans understand the game played by the Progressive Left-Democrat-Media opinion complex. And they either look for other sources of news and opinion or they discount for the expected collusion when they hear Democrat talking points repeated as objective fact.

Forget the nakedly partisan attempts to create a media narrative about Russian hacking and so undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of President Trump and his administration. Forget too “the Resistance” which exists more as a social media meme than a real life phenomena—progressive street violence notwithstanding. What matters is jobs, not phony outrage cooked up by professional agitators.

The complaints of D.C. Democrats and their Millennial storm troopers don’t have much purchase with middle America when the economy is growing and people are working. As Loretta Lynn sang in her 1971 classic “One’s On The Way”: “The White House social season should be glitterin’ an’ gay but here in Topeka the rainis a fallin’, the faucet is a drippin’ and the kids are a bawlin’.” In other words, no matter what the powerful and connected think, ordinary people have bills to pay and families to raise and they can only do it with a job. And the fact that there are a lot more jobs than there were a few months ago has significant implications for Democrats who think they can win elections based on stoking resentments based on niche grievances and so-called microaggressions.

This week’s economic reports were so uniformly positive that even financial news titan Bloomberg, a reliable defender of Davos class perquisites, was forced to admit that “America’s labor market is getting better by almost any measure.” They were hard-pressed to give the president any credit, but that hardly matters.

With revelations that the Obama Administration may have taken the unprecedented step of using the nation’s intelligence apparatus to spy on the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign and news that Russia’s largest bank has hired Clinton crony Tony Podesta (John’s older brother) to lobby the U.S. government to end sanctions that Democrats’ Russian hacking narrative is destined to collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions.

Democrats long ago gave up on ideas that improve the lives of ordinary Americans focusing instead on identity politics that pits citizen against citizen in a cynical play for short-term electoral success. Barack Obama did it with skill. Hillary Clinton did not. Obama won the presidency twice even as his policies and rhetoric made the Democrats a regional party with electoral strength on the coasts, in the inner cities, and in college towns where they run political monopolies with predictably baleful consequences. Detroit anyone?

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is forging a new electoral coalition that could reshape American politics. Trump’s collaboration with Dimon looks a bit unusual, but his budding alliance with private sector union leaders is a tectonic shift. It would cement the Republican Party of the middle class not the Davos class, of the bowling alley rather than the country club.

Gone are the days of reflexive Republican union bashing. Conservatives had valid criticisms of compulsory unionism and the sort of managerial capitalism championed by people like Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith a few generations ago. That was the era when intellectuals thought that big government plus big labor plus big business added up to eternal prosperity. But that time has passed. Now AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka says, “Will we partner with him (Trump) to try to rewrite the immigration rules of the country? Absolutely, because those will help workers, it will decrease the imbalance between corporate America and workers.” Elected politicians—especially Republicans—should take notice because this may represent the promise of a generational realignment.

Democrats have abandoned kitchen table issues for identity politics. That’s thin gruel for someone who stopped looking for work during the Obama years because of dismal prospects. Trump is the first Republican in a generation to speak effectively about the issues that matter to middle America. More important, he is acting on his rhetoric.

What Steve Bannon calls economic nationalism is nothing more than jobs, infrastructure, and pro-worker, pro-growth trade and economic policies. That makes sense to most people.

Let the Democrats have their identity politics. Donald Trump is making good on his promise to be the jobs president.

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Deficits Do Matter

When former Vice President Dick Cheney nonchalantly quipped to former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that “deficits don’t matter,” every fiscal conservative and anti-war liberal set their proverbial hair on fire. Under President George W. Bush, a modest surplus left behind by his predecessor was spent away on ill-advised entitlement programs, the mismanaged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a retinue of other policies that should have never been tried in the first place. Budget deficits arise when spending is higher than revenue collected each year (in the form of taxes). The national debt is, in part, the accumulation of those budget deficits.

Under President Barack Obama, federal spending increased to historic levels. Obama spent more than all 43 U.S. presidents who came before him. By Obama’s second term, the national debt came to match the entire U.S. economy. Today, borrowing stands at $19.5 trillion and counting. Compare that to the size of the second-largest economy in the world (according to GDP), China, which tops $9.24 trillion. Not only does our economy outstrip China’s, but our debt burden is also larger than the entire Chinese economy!

 

Think about it this way: U.S. GDP is roughly $17 trillion. Under President Trump, it is expected to grow significantly. Yet, the debt burden will continue to outpace this incredible level unless the Trump Administration does something it has refused to discuss on the campaign trail: address the problems of entitlements and defense spending.

To some on the Right, the U.S. government is nothing but one, big, green military jobs program. There isn’t a job that the Pentagon cannot do and there certainly should not be a cap on what money is spent on the Defense Department. Never mind the endless amount of waste that the Pentagon commits. I suppose we should ignore the positive correlation between the size of the Pentagon bureaucracy and the increase in inefficiency. It’s the image that matters, right? As a friend of mine who works in the Pentagon recently remarked, “The DoD has become nothing more than yet another federal jobs program.” Cuts can—and must—be made there.

For the Left, the welfare state is the holy grail of public policy. It is the primary pillar that the modern Democratic Party is built upon. But that pillar has been slowly crumbling beneath the weight of retiring Baby Boomers (and, since Boomers did not reproduce in sufficient numbers, the subsequent dearth of young workers to make up for the strain that the Boomers, as they retire, are placing on the system).

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid account for 77 percent of America’s spending. Even without the over $1 trillion spent thus far on the Iraq and Afghan Wars, the Big Three entitlement programs are killing America’s economy.

But, let’s face it: the real economic killer is the intensive government spending on non-defense policies.

Donald Trump was the only Republican in the 2016 campaign who refused to attack the entitlement system. This was a smart move. People like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas had made touching the “third rail” of politics a core theme of their campaigns. This had the effect of scaring the elderly and unnecessarily giving the Left ammunition to use against the Republicans (mainly, the Left could convincingly, if erroneously, claim that the Right wanted throw grandma off of a cliff).

Trump’s refusal to offer an open critique of the entitlement system during the campaign enraged his Republican opponents. It also sent chills down the spines of the Left, as the Democrats could not use their preferred attacks against a Republican candidate; they couldn’t pigeonhole Trump as the irresponsible government slasher who was beholden to the wealthy (that was Hillary, actually). This sort of pragmatism should not have been shocking to anyone, though. Remember, Trump aggravated the Right during the primary in Iowa when he took the campaign pledge to ensure that Iowa farmers remained federally subsidized to grow crops for use in ethanol production.

That was smart politics. It kept pressure off of the Trump campaign and allowed the Trump team to continue taking the fight to his critics. Do you remember the famous Tea Party townhalls in 2009 and 2010? Do you remember the much-ballyhooed elderly gentlemen waving the sign, “Keep your government hands off of my Medicare”? While that man was mocked by the elites on both the Right and Left, his statement signified something powerful: that the populist movement taking hold across America, while opposed to Obamacare and excessive government overreach, refused to let go of their benefits from the Big Three entitlement programs.

To these people, it was their right; they had, after all, paid their hard-earned tax dollars into the system. Of course, the system was bankrupted long before those protests began.

If you are an elderly person today and are dependent upon Social Security payments, then you have likely witnessed a serious decline in your standard of living. Why? Because the federal government has routinely pilfered funds set aside for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and used them for other purposes (robbing Peter today to pay Paul tomorrow). This is to say nothing of how Obamacare gutted Medicare, or how the Obama “middle-class tax cuts” drastically reduced the funding for Social Security.

President Trump needs to recognize that no matter how much job creation and prosperity he can foster in the short-term, it will all have been naught should the debt continue increasing at the rate that it has been these last eight years. As the Chinese finance minister warned Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen in 2008, America’s debt has become a strategic liability for the United States (and for any country doing business with us).

The only way that the Trump Administration can avoid leaving a steaming bag of excrement for future generations is to make the case for serious reform in the entitlement system and for responsible defense cuts. What most Americans are paying into these entitlement systems is far higher than whatever they’re going to get in return. This is particularly true of my generation (the Millennials).

No other Republican has the standing required to make this argument with a large chunk of the American people (particularly Baby Boomers, who decide elections and policies in this country). Trump may be the only leader who can responsibly reform entitlement and defense spending. What’s more, Trump not being a typical ideologue means that he can address these problems in a meaningful way. While it is unlikely that he can address these issues in the next six months (he has to focus on Obamacare repeal and tax reform), the Trump Administration must begin orienting itself toward addressing the staggering debt load that this country has created for itself.

Significant reform and cuts to both defense and entitlement spending is the only thing that will reduce our public debt load. Should President Trump simply punt on this issue, I can assure you, resolving it will be untenable. Eventually, that ticking debt bomb will detonate—and all of us end up paying for it. President Trump is the only man who can prevent such a stark future from happening.

Deficits really do matter. They add to the national debt, which, as we’ve seen, is a ticking time bomb. We must, therefore, address deficit spending by reforming the way that the government spends the tax dollars that it collects each year. We’ve put off the reckoning for too long. President Trump has a singular opportunity to make a deal that would lower our deficit, reduce the national debt, and make our entitlement system and Department of Defense actually perform the functions they’re meant to do.

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Trump Revisits Gettysburg

As Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg spoke of America by referring to the four score and seven years that had passed since its birth, President Trump envisioned an America twelve score and 10 from its birth; its 250th birthday, or sestercentennial. That would place us in 2026, a year and a half following an eight-year Trump presidency. Our rendezvous with that year has the potential to indicate an America alive with the revolutionary spirit that began its existence or a doddering nation, content to live in misery and delusion, on life support.

Trump’s theme in this speech before a joint session of Congress was his campaign’s theme: Make America Great Again!  The usual suspect pundits and politicians praised the speech for its tone and patriotism and comparative lack of partisan divisiveness and its alleged distance from the “darkness” of the inaugural address. Even the leftists at CNN, led by Van Jones, declared that with this speech “he became President of the United States of America.”

The uplifting notes nicely disguised the clear partisan (and I don’t use that word as an epithet) purposes, unchanged from his campaign. President Trump showed he can deploy a variety of rhetorical weapons, depending on his audience. One reason for the changed tone is his respect for constitutional forms. Though not a State of the Union message, one mandated by the Constitution, it functions as this constitutional duty to apprise Congress of his intentions and, as such, it should be as an occasion of dignity. This was above all a law and order speech, conveyed to the putative law-making branch of government.

The Founders envisioned the president speaking primarily to Congress, not directly to the people. President Trump’s speech emphasized the executive’s duty to enforce the laws, not only the Constitution and the laws of the land but the natural law upon which America is based.

In that spirit, Trump posed to Congress an unanswerable question that reflected these principles: “To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?” In unity with the Declaration of Independence, Trump maintains that securing “safety and happiness” are the great purposes of legitimate government.

To recover this common-sense moral horizon, the president began his speech with a reference to Black History Month and attacks on Jewish houses of worship and cemeteries. The Jewish Bible is the beginning-point of Western Civilization, and slavery was the original sin of America. How we deal with our origins and our flaws and apply these to our current crises is the challenge Trump poses to Congress.

Slaves in Egypt, slaves in America. We are now free, but our liberty remains threatened. Moreover, all citizens are threatened by the new slavery of the administrative state. Throughout his improbable campaign and into his presidency Trump’s speeches showed he understood that the contemporary threat to freedom is this new Slave Power, abetted by political correctness and shilled for by privileged elites.

It’s no wonder that the lines that stirred the most audible boos were these: “I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. The office is called VOICE—Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.” Trump is a full-throated abolitionist for our times.

This continued his campaign themes. In his October 22, 2016 Contract with the American Voter speech at Gettysburg, Trump reiterated his campaign themes of limiting government to legitimate purposes and restoring the bedrock principle of rule by the consent of the governed. He cast a spotlight on inner city ills early on, in for example his May 26, 2016 speech on energy.

His speech to Congress reiterated his America First foreign policy that would protect America and its interests and reject progressive global diplomacy. “My job is not to represent the world,” he said. “My job is to represent the United States of America.” Earlier, Trump had even quoted then Congressman Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts on the benefits of tariffs.

I believe strongly in free trade but it also has to be fair trade. It’s been a long time since we had fair trade. The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, warned that the “abandonment of the protective policy by the American government… will produce want and ruin among our people.” Lincoln was right—and it’s time we heeded his advice and his words. (Applause.) I am not going to let America and its great companies and workers be taken advantage of us any longer. They have taken advantage of our country. No longer. (Applause.)

The final section of the speech tied these issues together and returned to the theme of his opening lines. They soared to a height in the president’s recognition of the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, killed in action in Yemen.

Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity. For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom—we will never forget him.

We hear strains of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address with its recollection of memory, sacrifice, national identity, rebirth, and world destiny. Trump’s speech brought together devotion to law and the grand themes of western civilization.

Our relationships as citizens are largely those of commerce and utility, but they can flourish and grow into something higher, such as the friendship of virtue that the President and Congress celebrated with Owens’ widow. But politically the higher friendship and its patriotism are dependent on the success of the lower, the prosperity of the country. America cannot project power around the world unless we have a robust economy. Our higher purposes can be realized only if our basic needs are satisfied.

In concluding his address he speculated on what the United States would be like in America’s sestercentennial year of 2026. He recalled the now familiar inventions celebrated on the centenary of the Declaration, such as the telephone. What advances would we see in less than a decade?

The arts and sciences will advance in astonishing ways. But progress in the human condition, the president implies, will always remain dubious. The inner cities might improve, or they might not. Congress may accept its constitutional responsibilities, or it might not. The moral dilemmas and choices abide, as we are always in danger of backsliding into slavery. But the possibility for “a new chapter of American Greatness” is the strongest it has been since Lincoln.

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Looking at Trump as a Turnaround Executive

The 2016 election outcome was an unexpectedly loud declaration by the American people about their dissatisfaction with the direction of the country.

Further, the magnitude of the post-election polarization has ensured the historical habit of “happy talk” promoting the need for bipartisan initiatives that bring us together is absent and not going to happen.

We are in a cultural crisis due to two fundamental and, as yet, largely unaddressed areas of disagreement, disagreements which are so basic that there are no differences to split so we can meet in the middle.

 

Those two areas of conflict are cultural Marxism and the administrative state. Both have spread like invasive kudzu through our cultural and governmental institutions. And each are mortal threats to liberty in America.

Such a crisis creates a clarion call for a turnaround. But turnarounds do not happen without leaders willing to do unpopular things, clarity about the real issues, the building of a large enough coalition, and the ongoing delivery of short-term wins.

Does America have the will to address its deep challenges? How does Donald Trump fit into this picture?

Conventional Wisdom Still Does Not Explain Trump

Many people continue not to understand Donald Trump because they continue to measure him based either on conventional political terms or on conventional ideological terms. Neither approach works. Approaching Trump with conventional assumptions has led nearly everyone to underestimate the impact of his message during all phases of the 2016 campaign.

I believe two themes have emerged that go a long way toward explaining why Trump is unconventional and has succeeded thus far:

  • The Fighting Post-Modern Man:  Part of him is a post-modern man who knows how to match wits with the postmodern Left. He knows how to take them on and beat them at their own game. He knows how to and relishes branding his targets and taking the fight to his opponents, and this quickly set him apart from the GOP establishment politicians of the sort voters had found wearisome and determined were more weak than polite. He has shown himself to be quite clever and has frequently been able to move onto the next skirmish, while the Left finds itself still fighting yesterday’s tired battle. The Left has never had to battle anyone like this before in the public square and it may be that Trump’s skillset is a necessary precondition for neutralizing the Left.
  • The Competitive Businessman: Another part of him is a highly competitive Queens businessman who is used to figuring out how to succeed in the marketplace and then playing to win and this gave him a different mindset from the political elites of both parties. Along the way, he has shown great instincts and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, something business people have to do in a world of transient competitive advantages.

But even these themes do not fully explain Trump and his appeal in this last election and I would like to propose evaluating him through the lens of a corporate turnaround operating executive. Like all analogies, it is an imperfect match but I believe it can provide some missing insights as well as a roadmap to future successes.

Characteristics of a Crisis Situation and How to Respond

I spent an earlier part of my career involved in leading corporate turnarounds and here is what a turnaround executive often finds in a crisis situation:

  • The situation is unstable.
  • Time is the enemy.
  • There is a broken culture that does not talk honestly or openly about what is wrong, about the elephant(s) in the room. This often paralyzes and politicizes an organization.
  • The situation will continue to deteriorate if the status quo remains in place. If that status quo persists too long, it becomes impossible to pull out of the doom loop.

Another characteristic of turnarounds is that many people in the organization know at least something about what is wrong, usually have ideas about what to do, and are blocked from either speaking up or galvanizing action by a leadership team who enabled the broken situation in the first place.

Entering into that cauldron, turnaround executives begin their roles knowing nothing specific, other than that a crisis is present. They have to quickly determine enough about what is going on so they can figure out a plan, build a coalition of people committed to change, and deliver short-term wins that begin to effect a turnaround.

Turnaround executives aren’t paid to be deep thinkers. But they are paid to rapidly identify the problems that will kill the company if left unchanged and to act on them quickly, adapting over time to changing circumstances. They cannot do it by themselves so having some strong colleagues is essential.

Turnaround leaders frequently have different temperaments and management styles from long-term company builders because the nature of their respective leadership challenges are different. Furthermore, turnaround leaders are usually transitory figures because ensuring delivery of significant change often requires major upheaval and a subsequent leader may then be needed to consolidate the restructuring gains.

When I parachuted into companies in crisis, I rapidly took four steps.

First, I interviewed people and asked three questions:

  • What is working?
  • What is not working?
  • If you were in charge tomorrow, what would you do differently?

Then I listened. I found that many of the same themes came up across the interviews. When that happened, I took those comments to be the facts on the ground. Other things might not have been so clear, so I filed them away as “possible facts” to be watched moving forward.

The interviews altered the dynamics in the company. It created subsequent hallway conversations among people where they acknowledged someone was actually listening to them and wanted to hear their ideas. That created hope that change might happen, and hope is something usually missing in a crisis.

Second, I got everyone together and we talked openly about what I had learned from the interviews.

Suddenly it was acceptable to talk openly about the elephant(s) in the room. Now the hallway conversations really exploded about how change felt imminent.

Third, I took the lessons learned from the interviews and group conversation and worked with the team to develop new plans that would stop the bleeding and create the possibility of winning again. These plans made the change real and gave people something tangible to grab onto.

The new goals were then publicized and performance metrics measuring progress against them was publicized on a regular basis. These results meant ongoing change was happening in undeniable ways and short-term wins would begin to follow. The latter is essential to maintaining momentum and hope.

It meant people understood how they could personally make a difference. People like to be part of a winning team. This galvanized the good people to jump in and converted some previous fence-sitters into joining a team dedicated to doing things differently.

I was not shy about firing people who resisted change and openness or who had a bad attitude. The good people already knew who these people were and the terminations only invigorated them more while also removing unnecessary obstacles.

Fourth, I encouraged the formation of non-executive teams to address specific issues close to their work responsibilities.

These teams deepened the personal ownership of change throughout the company, ensuring greater initiative and buy-in to ongoing change.

Finally, a turnaround focuses attention on a limited number of issues that really matter, recognizing that resources are limited and energy cannot be dissipated by tackling too many different initiatives.

America’s Crisis and Turnaround Plan

America needs a turnaround because our crisis is deep and ongoing:

  • We have $20 trillion of national debt, doubling the debt in just the last eight years. We have over $100 trillion of unfunded public sector liabilities for Social Security and Medicare. Those amounts are simply unsustainable, especially given the West’s below-replacement birthrates. Our children and their children will pay dearly for our fiscal irresponsibility.
  • We have also slashed defense spending to pre-World War II levels at a time when many parts of the Middle East have blown up, rogue nations are building nuclear weapon capabilities, and Russia and China are on the move.
  • Radical Islamic terrorism has targeted Western Civilization, creating mayhem in many parts of Europe and creating the possibility of the same here in the United States.
  • Global elites have become dominant, fighting to bring down the cultural identities of nations while many of our citizens no longer know the truth about their own American heritage and have the ability to defend its unique value.

How does knowledge of leading turnarounds impact an assessment of Trump?

Trump’s campaign stops amounted to interviews with the American people. Over time, he figured out what mattered to many Americans who felt marginalized and gave them a voice. In doing that, he accomplished something no other 2016 presidential candidate was able to do, a remarkable accomplishment for a non-politician and another example of how many have underestimated his ability to instinctively grasp what is important. That informed his thinking about what was important and gave them hope that change was possible.

I watched many of Trump’s rallies online as the election drew close and had a distinct sense that his tone had changed and he was connecting to people. He talked openly about the elephants in the room in American society in a way that few others did, challenging the existing political correctness and signaling how he didn’t care about ignoring it. He let people know he had heard and felt their pain and was conveying to them that he understood their plight.

Trump developed many specific plans during the campaign and has been moving on them since his inauguration. Both he and Bannon have said he is laser-focused on delivering on his promises. In a world where politicians lie routinely (and certainly Trump has told a few himself), Trump is treating the delivery of his campaign promises in the same way that a turnaround executive tracks performance against their plans.

But I think the turnaround analogy yields even richer insights when you look more closely at three things Trump has chosen to focus on over the months:

Whether intentional or instinctual, Trump has already grasped and moved on the first two topics and Bannon said at CPAC that the third topic—defeating the administrative state—is critically important to the Trump Administration’s agenda.

As important as a rebirth and recovery of the lost culture is, it won’t happen if these three problem areas are not successfully turned around first. If there is no oxygen, there will be no life. Or, in turnaround lingo, if you run out of cash, it won’t matter how pristine your aspirations for change were.

Much public debate about the administrative state still needs to be led by the Trump team in order to build a societal consensus about how to dismantle it. In parallel, we citizens have to answer two questions that are foundational to constitutional government:  Do we believe in liberty and that our rights come from Nature’s God, not from government? Do we believe in self-government and the personal character required by it?

Building a large enough coalition of people who believe in liberty and self-government, and then regularly delivering short-term wins that free citizens from the clutches of cultural Marxism and the administrative state will determine if America’s turnaround will be successful.

2016 Election • America • American Conservatism • Conservatives • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Environment • Foreign Policy • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Infrastructure • Republicans • Technology • The Constitution • The Courts • The Culture • The Leviathian State • The Media • Trump White House

Trump Needs to be Trump Tonight

Hours ahead of President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress, the usual talking heads are on hand to offer their usual clichéd and conventional political wisdom. Just as they did in the campaign after he won the primary, the legacy media has a unified message to Trump: become “presidential.”

This was the same wisdom they shared with the world on the eve of the inaugural address. It was the same wisdom they offered during the primaries and ahead of the General Election, too. If Trump doesn’t “act presidential,” they warned, he’ll never be president. And yet here we are and here they are offering the same tired and unhelpful advice.For some time now I’ve been wondering: How can these people still not get it?

To say that Donald Trump was an unconventional presidential candidate is putting it mildly. Trump represents a fundamental change from the American political system as journalists who cut their teeth on 20th century politics understand it. He is at once undoing the status quo that Franklin Delano Roosevelt put into place while creating a coalition and paradigm for governing.

 

Think about it: When was the last time a presidential candidate not only lived up to his campaign promises, but didn’t change his demeanor the moment that he assumed office? Recently in an interview with Matt Lauer, former President George W. Bush cautioned the public that the view of the presidency looks a lot different from the campaign trail than from the Oval Office. While this is certainly true, where does it say that the man the people elected must somehow conform to fit stale and outmoded Washington standards? Bush, of all people, ought to know. They didn’t serve him so well, did they?

Trump has so far ignored every single convention that has been put into place in Washington, D.C. since his inauguration. His inaugural address is a case in point. Unlike previous presidents, Trump did not paint a rosy picture. He knew that those who overwhelmingly supported him have suffered—and have been suffering for the better part of 25 years. Indeed, many of Trump’s most ardent supporters have endured what amounts to an economic and social apocalypse.

Trump talked to the voters, not at them. Throughout the campaign and his first month in office, the president has broken through the filter of the entrenched partisan press and found ways to speak directly to the people. He does this every day. His message is clear: things are bad, we cannot keep going in the direction that we’ve been going, and only he (by which he means his identification of the problems, his proposals, and his kind of boldness) can repair the damage. This message has kept his supporters as galvanized for him as they were for him from the day he announced his candidacy.

For Tuesday’s  speech, Trump must continue being real. He should continue pointing out the problems and proffering his unique solutions. Tonight, I would expect the president to redouble his message. As I have said before, the president has no one but his supporters. They are united behind him. But, in order to keep his movement going, Trump must absolutely have some legislative victories. He should continue moving at breakneck speed, in order to keep his adversaries—in both parties and in the media—off-balance. If he lets up, he will not only lose ground politically, but he will lose the trust of his base as well.

In tonight’s speech, the president needs to reiterate that he is just getting started, not finishing. If I were the president, I’d call out Republicans in Congress—as only Trump can—and let the voters know that if they are upset with the speed of the process, it is entirely because of the inertia of the legislative branch. He needs to remind everyone that the Democrats have chosen defeat with the endless national protests and the selection of the radical, Tom Perez, as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Trump needs to keep winning.

Weakening his posture and trying to “reach out” as everyone keeps saying is not a prescription for Trump to keep his momentum going. Trump has what everyone in politics wishes they could have: a galvanized, united, and diverse base of loyal followers. People need to have their faith rewarded. Trump should push Congress to enact the Obamacare repeal and replacement and implement tax reform sooner than 200 days hence. He should encourage lawmakers to meet the expectations of the people.

Trump must be seen to be still championing the cause of the voters. Even if Congress cannot enact his agenda in under 200 days, Trump should remind Congress that he has the power to flood the phone lines of Capitol Hill with committed supporters who won’t let up pressure on their elected leaders in the House and Senate until they get what they want. This is the only way Congress will maintain discipline and continue pushing a Greatness Agenda through in a timely manner.

Fact is, our government has become unresponsive to the will of the people because our elected leaders have insulated themselves behind soft language and an entrenched good ol’ boys’ network that protects its own. Trump, with his constant, direct contact with the voters through social media, his utter disregard of convention, and his continued embrace of the least-expected political strategies cannot waver tonight.

The last thing Trump needs to do is morph into just another politician. If he embraces soft and weak language, he will have let down his followers who have pinned their hopes upon the Trump Administration to stop the bleeding. For Trump to Make America Great during these next four years, he needs to ensure that he keeps his base satisfied. Trump must keep up the pressure on the Republicans in Congress and continue baffling the media.

For Trump to continue being successful, he must be Trump tonight.

2016 Election • America • California • Cities • Economy • Environment • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Infrastructure • Technology

California’s Roads and Highways are Crumbling

Did you hear about the freeway that ate the firetruck? It’s no joke.

The big storm that rolled through on Feb. 17 had most of us nervously eying the damaged spillway at Oroville Dam. But the torrential rains have also played havoc with the roads, with sinkholes and potholes the size of Volkswagens appearing at alarming rates up and down the state.

And so San Bernardino County firefighters watched helplessly the other Friday night as one of their engines tumbled off the side of Interstate 15 in Southern California. They were on scene to assist with a big rig that the freeway had already claimed. I-15, of course, is the main thoroughfare between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

About 90 miles to the southwest in the Los Angeles suburb of Studio City, a 20-foot sinkhole appeared on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, taking two cars and injuring one driver.

This wasn’t the first time recently that the roads have opened up and pitilessly taken a few cars in the process. In July 2015, a bridge along Interstate 10 between Palm Springs and the Arizona state line suddenly collapsed and partly washed away during a freak storm. An investigation later found that the bridge had at least four crucial design flaws that led to its failure.

No doubt about it: Our roads are terrible. Everyone knows this. Crawling or idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day is a fact of life for millions of commuters. A recent study by a private transportation analytics firm ranked L.A. traffic as the worst in the world. (Although, in fairness, the study didn’t include China.)

It’s also the case that California’s roads and highways are crumbling faster than work crews can repair them. Municipal road workers cannot patch and fill quickly enough, even when the weather is congenial.

Fun fact: Caltrans in 2015 received 4,106 claims from motorists for pothole damage. The agency paid just 423 of them. Why so few? Because most of the responsibility falls to cities, which lack the manpower and the money to keep up with demand. For a city like L.A., the tab will run into the hundreds of millions, if not billions.

And statewide? It’s a $500 billion problem. Easily. . . .

Read the rest in the Sacramento Bee