Since Connecticut's strict gun control didn't prevent the Newtown horror, policymakers shouldn't impose new restrictions that disarm the law-abiding, says John Andrews in the January round of Head On TV debates. Just do the math, replies Susan Barnes-Gelt, and we'll all conclude too many have died, laws must be tightened. John on the right, Susan on the left, also go at it this month over Colorado proposals to help children of illegal immigrants and shut down death row, as well as the continuing fiscal cliff drama and the Obama-Boehner standoff. Head On has been a daily feature on Colorado Public Television since 1997 and a presentation of Centennial Institute since 2009. Here are all five scripts for January:
1. GUN CONTROL
Susan: Thirteen. Sixty-four. One hundred and forty two. One hundred and thirteen. Two-hundred and fifty. Four Hundred and fifteen. Thirteen years. 64 mass shootings. One hundred and forty-two guns. One hundred thirteen illegal guns. Two hundred and fifty dead. Four hundred and fifteen injured. The Second Amendment? Do the math.
John: The mass violence is unacceptable, Susan, absolutely. We have to address it. America can do better. But my friend, listen to yourself. Most of the guns in those shootings were already illegal. Legislation in Congress or in Colorado must recognize that. When responsible citizens have firearms to protect themselves, crime goes down.
Susan: Thirteen. Sixty-four. One hundred and forty two. One hundred and thirteen. Two-hundred and fifty. Four Hundred and fifteen. Thirteen years. 64 mass shootings. One hundred and forty-two guns. One hundred thirteen illegal guns. Two hundred and fifty dead. Four hundred and fifteen injured. Do the math.
John: The math says more Americans are killed each year by hammers and clubs than by guns, according to the FBI. More Americans are killed by automobiles than guns. Connecticut’s very strict gun laws didn’t prevent the Newtown horror. The problem is the culture, not the weapons. Don’t disarm the law-abiding.
2. COLORADO ASSET BILL (DREAM ACT)
Susan: Colorado voters retained a Democratic Senate and turned over control of the House to the Dems. The economy is uppermost for D’s and R’s, but reduced tuition for undocumented students – the ASSET bill – is high on the agenda. Investment in education for ALL Colorado students is key to the future of this great state.
John: Public policy should not reward lawbreaking. It’s unfair that CU should cost more for Tommy from Kansas, a citizen and the son of citizens, than for Tomas from Mexico, whose parents snuck him into the country as a child. Tomas is not to blame, but neither are taxpayers. Let private charity subsidize his tuition.
Susan: The demographics of Colorado and the entire country are changing – Exhibit 1: November’s election. Kansas Tommy’s future is inextricably bound to Tomas’s skills. Education is not a zero sum game. America’s future depends on an informed, diverse and well-trained workforce.
John: America’s future depends above all on the rule of law, a shared common culture, and patriotic citizens who understand that rights involve responsibilities and cheating has consequences. The Asset Bill or Dream Act disregards all those values with misguided sympathy and a hidden leftist agenda. Don’t pass it.
3. DEATH PENALTY
John: An ancient principle of justice says that if you take a life, you pay with your life. This is not barbaric, it’s reasonable and right. A child-murderer like Austin Sigg or a mass killer like James Holmes deserves the death penalty. Colorado should not abolish it.
Susan: Which testament is it? The ‘eye for an eye’ bible or the theology valuing the sanctity of life? Honestly, I am ambivalent on the issue of the death penalty. I am a pragmatist. Which costs less? Lifetime incarceration or the death penalty? It’s a calculation, not a principle.
John: When lawmakers debate abolishing the death penalty, they will be told it has become impractical with the way the appeals process works today. There’s your pragmatism. Then we should fix that process, not redefine crime and punishment to the vanishing point. Tell it to the Ridgeways and the Aurora theater families.
Susan: I need to be convinced that loss, grief and anger can be assuaged by retribution – the death penalty. Reforming the justice system isn’t the answer, particularly during these hyper-partisan times. Life imprisonment may be more unbearable than death.
4. FISCAL CLIFF & DEBT CEILING
John: With last-minute legislation on January 1st, Obama got his tax increase on the most productive Americans. The minimal added revenue will not nearly solve our trillion-dollar deficits. It merely penalizes success and hurts everyone’s prosperity. Congress must address the spending crisis. Do your thing, Republicans.
Susan: If the D’s and the R’s don’t stop their playground antics – the country suffers. Dems must get serious about entitlement reform. Republicans - about the bloated defense budget. The rest – to quote the Bard, “ Sound and fury, signifying nothing!”
John: Washington is all bloated, but for the record, defense spends less than half the money as entitlements. But it starts with attitude. As the Lincoln movie reminds us, when America faced a cancer called slavery, the president and both parties came together. Why can’t they now, with the cancer of overspending?
Susan: Overspending is merely a symptom of the cancer. The disease is myopic self-absorption where nearly everyone exposed to the DC swamp becomes infected with the perq’s of power, the illusion of control and the obsequious groveling of special interests. It’s a toxic, potentially fatal disease.
5. WHITHER SPEAKER BOEHNER?
Susan: House Republican Speaker John Boehner has a problem: followership. Leaders cannot lead without the consensus of disciplined, informed colleagues who share a common sense of purpose, while disagreeing on tactics. His power as Speaker is hostage to a minority of luddite anarchists.
John: Americans knew what they were doing when they reelected a Democratic President to step on the gas and a Republican House to hit the brakes. It’ll be bumpy, but divided government may create the opening our economy needs to recover. John Boehner is tough as a boot. He’s the right speaker to confront Obama.
Susan: The problem isn’t divided government – a balance of D’s and R’s. The problem is the intransigent myopia of the far right and, perhaps, the far left. Progress in a democracy demands compromise, negotiation and mutual respect. These three characteristics define the Beltway’s endangered list.
John: You didn’t mention the most uncompromising ideologue of them all, our left-liberal President. Dogged John Boehner leading the House majority and crafty Mitch McConnell leading the Senate minority can’t match him on charisma, but they have the people’s best interest at heart to avoid US bankruptcy. Unlike Barack Obama.
Since the voters thought Mitt Romney could not save us from the fix we're in, who's going to do it? The fiscal cliff is just one of many cliffs that has threatened us with a mighty tumble over its edge, and Congress is more nearly the sneak who trips you than the guide who leads you to safety.
Don't meanwhile look for rescue from the White House amateur otherwise known as President Barack Obama. As an example of his helpfulness, this New Year arrives with five new Obamacare taxes that will add painfully to health costs and otherwise bollix up our lives.
Then there's this trick of nominating Sen. John Kerry as secretary of state, and yes, that would be the same John Kerry who returned from the Vietnam War saying our soldiers were war criminals. He also lied about being in Cambodia one Christmas during that war and associated with a radical veterans group that on one occasion voted on whether to assassinate U.S. senators it didn't like.
Remember how, during his 2004 campaign for president, he wanted to risk American lives by having a U.S.-led peacekeeping force save Haiti's dictatorial president from rebels because he had gotten into office through a vote of the people? Well, Adolf Hitler also got into office by a vote of the people, one proof among thousands that the fact of being elected only proves you can fool some of the people some of the time.
A horror of many liberals during that campaign was how Kerry, strutting about as a war hero, was denigrated by veterans of Vietnam Swift Boat operations as pretty much a joke of a soldier. The group's denunciations seem to have been overwrought on some (though not all) particulars, but its TV ads were a mewing kitty cat next to the 2012 TV ads depicting the morally solid Romney as something close to a murderer. Where was liberal angst this time around?
Maybe Kerry as secretary of state would actually get to Cambodia some Christmas, but my firmer conviction is that he would trot elsewhere around the world making a clown of himself and hurting our nation. Senators pretty much give their Cabinet approval to other senators, and my guess is he will get okayed.
But this country will continue to be something other than OK as long as we depend on Washington politicians whose failings could be listed in nothing less than the equivalent of the 356,000-page U.S. code of laws and regulations.
All of which brings me to the states. Maybe that's our way out of at least some of the mess we are in. Wisconsin, under a Republican governor, took on public unions and did get some meaningful measures through the Legislature. More recently, Michigan voted for right to work laws, meaning that unions cannot use the coercive powers of government to keep them in business while simultaneously robbing workers of their rights and the economy of thriving businesses.
There's a great, large fiction in this nation of how unions have forever been the friend of workers when, in fact, there have been all kinds of instances of anti-worker thuggery, theft and economic mayhem at the hands of organized labor. The good and the bad have been mixed for years, even to the point of unions being a major factor in the shutting down of businesses. A real issue is not just high wages vs. low wages, but decent wages vs. no wages.
The problem for the states, of course, is that their constitutionally promised dual sovereignty with the federal government hasn't been respected and that some of them, such as California, are victims of politics as bad as what you find in Washington. In the end, both nationally and in D.C., a wised up electorate will have to make the difference, and maybe, when things get bad enough, that will happen.
(Centennial Fellow) 2012 was filled with many surprises. The re-election of Barack Obama surprised so many because of the poor economic environment that historically escorts presiding Presidents out of office. The US Supreme Court, using twisted logic, decided in favor of Obamacare. Superstorm Sandy claimed 125 lives and exacted a toll over $62 billion. Horrific slaughters in Colorado and Connecticut reminded us that our elementary schools and movie theaters are not safe from evil. A US ambassador was brutally killed for the first time in over 30 years by Islamic terrorists on 9-11-12. Congressional Republicans voted to raise taxes in a last minute collapse to avert a "fiscal cliff." 2012 was characterized by natural, emotional, and political disasters. Will 2013 bring more of the same or will it bring exciting new surprises that restore stability and opportunity to the world's greatest nation?
Herewith is a modest, and altogether dangerous, attempt to predict key trends for 2013. This forecast emphasizes three themes; ongoing economic hardship, continued moral decline, and an array of international crises.
I. Economic Hardship
Slow GDP growth. The consensus forecast for 2013 GDP growth hovers around 2%. The growth in the deficit is growing faster resulting in a higher debt burden on the economy. Higher debt burdens impede growth, increase unemployment, and produce a lower standard of living. Increased regulatory action, e.g., the ongoing march of the EPA, etc. will further suppress economic growth.
Higher public debt. Increasing public debt obligations represented by unfunded liabilities from entitlements to bloated public employee pensions assures that more taxpayer bailouts (or broken promises) is one step closer to reality. The USPS, state of California, and city of Detroit are but a few examples of increasing 2013 distressed economic problems.
Higher unemployment. Unemployment will begin ticking upward as businesses close or cutback due to increased regulations, taxes, and government involvement. The Obamacare implementation accelerates in the second half of 2013, producing uncertainty and frustration as the reality is worse than the expectation.
Lower labor participation rate. The labor participation rate will drop to below 60%, a historic low in the modern era, as millions more leave the workforce due to coercive departure or "early" retirement.
Increased government dependence. Food stamp recipients will exceed 50 million for the first time in US history. Obamaworld is characterized by increased dependence on the state for the declining middle class and increased tax burden on the "rich", a term that will be defined downward in years to come.
Trickle down taxation. Most people have heard of trickle-down economics, usually a pejorative term that characterizes Republicans as wanting to help the rich so as to benefit those who are downstream in income. The reality is that "trickle-down" taxation means that all those who vote to tax the rich will see increased taxation on themselves, both from the government sector as well as reduced growth that attends increased government participation in the economy. In 1911, the total government percentage of US GDP was 8%, fifty years later it was 25% and in 2013 it will exceed 40%. The Lorenz curve, a measure of income distribution will show the gap widening between rich and poor in 2013, in contradistinction to the demagoguery promulgated by the Obama administration. The increase in the payroll tax will also represent a drag on consumer expenditures.
Municipal and state financial challenges particularly in "blue" states. The states that are reforming their labor laws, rejecting the development of insurance exchanges required of Obamacare, and are focused on controlling spending, will emerge as healthier economies. The "blue" states will continue to focus on increased taxation and devotion to government largess, resulting in slow growth and debt burdened economies. In the end, free market economies always outperform government controlled economies.
The arrogance of government will produce further cracks in the nation's foundation. We see some of those cracks regarding slower growth and increased unemployment. We will see additional cracks imposed by economic judgment. This judgment will take the form of an additional credit downgrade, bond wariness attending debt monetization (pressuring interest rates) and may stimulate a renewed interest within the Obama administration to use some parts of private 401(k) and IRA accounts for supporting bond market purchases. Argentina has used this tool in the past. Herb Stein's law states, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." Obamworld is a place where politicians believe reckless spending and increased taxation never hurts and never ends. Stein's law will threaten Obamaworld in 2013.
More storms, earthquakes, and drought conditions leading to increased distressed responses. There is not enough public money available to compensate those who live in high risk areas, whether due to fires, floods, hurricanes, droughts, or earthquakes. Citizens of Obamaworld will discover what moral hazard means from "privatizing the gain and socializing the loss." Moral hazards yield unintended consequences that invoke insurance risk, often taking the form of higher costs than anticipated and lower ability to honor those requests.
II. Increased Moral Decay
2013 will see an increased focus on social justice issues with an emphasis on income redistribution, the hallmark of socialism. This gets reflected in less freedom, fewer property protections, increased taxation, declining opportunities, and elevates the moral problems of envy, discord, and theft.
Emphasis on same sex marriage/ civil unions/ gay rights. The attack on traditional marriage will increase by the media (symbolized by the efforts of multibillionaire and media mogul David Geffen) education, the judiciary, and the government.
Emphasis on gun control. The horrific tragedies seen in our schools, workplace, and private lives will increase the advocacy for gun control despite the irony exemplified in Chicago (where rigorous gun control laws are operative) yet violent crime is exploding. The deceptions will increase regarding what the founding fathers intended in the Second Amendment.
Increased neglect of public financial responsibilities. Debt is, at its root, a moral issue. The federal government is leading the march into debtors hell, with many states and municipalities following. The end of the road is either oppressive taxation or broken promises. Both result in reduced freedoms.
Increased hostility toward affluent Americans. 2013 will not be a time to celebrate wealth. The wealthy have rapidly become the targets of scorn, derision, envy, and contempt. These are attributes of a declining society no longer desirous of freedom, opportunity, rewarding risk takers, and courage.
Privacy issues favor the state. Look forward to elevated domestic surveillance controversies (drones, renewed effort at the next generation REAL ID, and increased preference for security over liberty.) L-1 Identity Solutions, the provider of almost every drivers license, passport, and passport card in the US (now called MorphoTrust USA) is in the process of completing the sale of itself to Safran, a French company that is 30% owned by the French government. L-1 had agreed last year (with the World Bank) to provide biometric identification cards to meet international standards. The international sale of a US company providing critical US citizen information that is 30% controlled by a government (now led by an avowed socialist) has escaped the attention of an increasingly dull American population.
III. International crisis
We are likely to see an increasingly destabilized Syria present foreign policy challenges, accompanied by increased Russian meddling from a leader who is anticipating greater "flexibility" from the American president. 2012 brought some notable international miscues on the part of the Obama administration, most notably the inability to see trouble in the Islamic world., e.g., Egypt Syria, and Libya. We will continue to see foreign policy amateurs struggling to understand reality.
There will be ongoing Middle East unrest with Iran possibly crossing the "red line" (expressed by PM Netanyahu) in 2H13. Iran is a wild card scenario whose dangerous leadership exploits America's leadership weakness. This administration does not understand radical Islam. This blind spot bodes poorly for successfully dealing with the world as it is, not what they want it to be. Benghazi is the hallmark of administration incompetence. This incompetence will certainly appear throughout 2013.
2013 will bring increased pressure on Jordanian stability, a key ally.
2013 will bring increased cyber war including "country on country." Economic cyber war is an "iceberg" issue that more people may come to appreciate as an imminent danger.
Financial instability in Eurozone markets (Spain, Portugal, etc.) will increase, bringing additional unrest and may result in food riots and more demonstrations. The Eurozone still has Germany to stabilize their volatility. America is philosophically following Europe but has no backstop as the Eurozone does. It is hard to believe that America is pursuing a path of self-destruction on purpose.
These predictions do not inspire optimism. Economic hardship, moral decay, and international crises do not make for pleasant outcomes. Any additional shift in power, e.g., a new Supreme Court appointee, could be equally disastrous for freedom in America. The last two attorneys who became President (who were also elected to a second term) were impeached in their second term. Let us hope that President Obama does not follow this trend as this could be highly destabilizing to an already fragile nation.
Despite the foregoing somber reflections, there are several counterweights to this downbeat forecast. American ingenuity historically beats the odds. Despite obstacles, America is still the strongest country in the world. Continued good news regarding energy production and healthy corporate balance sheets can mitigate some of the foregoing challenges. However, a Republican party strategically adrift with no real leader and not much courage needs circumstantial change to re-energize itself before the 2014 elections. America needs a second national voice. This will likely come from Republican governors who know how to run their states effectively without federal intervention. These governors will likely cause an increased rift with the federal government in 2013 while delivering superior results in their individual economies. 2013 will likely produce "redder" red states and "bluer" blue states thereby creating deeper divisions in the American landscape. Although the Obama administration continues its relentless assault on the Judeo-Christian worldview, free market capitalism, and the constitutional republic, it is these same three forces that has produced American exceptionalism. No one can ever count America out when these three make their presence known. Let us hope that these three forces, battered and bruised as they have been over the past four years, return with a vengeance to claim victory come 2014.