Americans Support America First Agenda

A quick Saturday night post:  a Harvard/Harris Poll (PDF), according to Breitbart, suggests there is substantial support for an “America First” agenda.  Such an agenda places the government’s priority as protecting American citizens first and foremost, and includes enforcing immigration laws, pushing for fairer trade via tariffs, and ending open-ended foreign wars.

I’ve written about the rise in economic nationalism before, including a detailed case study from BreitbartTucker Carlson’s 3 January 2019 monologue is probably the best defense of an “American First” agenda I’ve ever heard.

Economic nationalism dovetails with immigration in that enforcing immigration laws—and deporting illegal immigrants—would drive up wages for workers domestically.  I would also argue that a moratorium on most legal immigration for at least a decade would probably be prudent, to facilitate assimilation.

And, as painful as they would be, mass deportations of any illegal alien, regardless of criminal record, would do much to remove the un-assimilated, and to dissuade further incidences of border hopping.

It seems a good portion of Americans agree with at least some of these assessments.  Here is a quotation from the Breitbart piece on the poll:

Across racial lines, the vast majority of white Americans, 79 percent, and black Americans, 75 percent, said they would support a candidate who said they wanted an immigration system that benefited American citizens, rather than foreign nationals.

Similarly, more than 6-in-10 voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate in an election that spoke of the national “emergency with the savage MS-13 gang” that has been largely due to the country’s mass illegal and legal immigration system that has been supported by Republicans, Democrats, the open borders lobby, Wall Street executives, and corporate interests.

It’s encouraging to see solid support for an America First agenda, even if that doesn’t always translate to love for President Trump himself.  It does suggest, however, that if he sticks to his original campaign promises—as he has largely done—he is poised to do well in 2020.

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More Good News: Tom Rice on the State of the Economy

My Congressman, Tom Rice of SC US House District 7, laid out the incredible impact President Trump and the Republican tax cuts have had on the American economy.  It’s worth taking five minutes to watch his testimony to the Ways and Means Committee of Congress, in which he discusses how dramatically the economy has improved in two years—after ten years of moribund “recovery”:

Congressman Rice gives a shout-out to Florence-Darlington Technical College and its diesel mechanics program, as well as Horry-Georgetown Technical College.  Our education system is a complete mess, but if we can get over our fixation on sending everyone to college, we’re poised to train skilled workers for high-tech manufacturing jobs, which are exploding in demand for qualified employees.

Most notably, he points out that Marion County—the poorest county in South Carolina—has seen its unemployment rate fall from ~9% to a little over 4% in two years.  Marion County is ~56% black, so that directly benefits the quality of life of black Americans in the county.

It’s little wonder that a recent Rasmussen poll put President Trump at a 52% approval rating.  President Trump’s reforms—passing tax cuts, fighting for better trade deals, and slashing regulations—have energized the American economy dramatically.

Tucker Carlson’s Diagnosis

A recent monologue from Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program is blowing up the right-wing blogosphere, and understandably so.  Carlson has been a vocal critic of the neoliberal deification of economic efficiency at all costs.  I used to be a member of this cult, until the candidacy of Donald Trump (and lived experience) knocked the idealistic scales from my eyes.

Normally, it bugs me when people send me video clips to watch.  If they’re cutesy videos of the variety that drive clicks—think cats playing piano, or Goth versions of Christmas songs—I usually ignore them, no matter how hyped they are.  That’s not some virtue on my part; I just don’t want to take the time to watch them, especially on a cell phone (a pet peeve:  someone making me watch a video on their cell phone; I will refuse).

That said, I’m indulging in some hypocrisy:  you must watch this video as soon as you’re able.

For those of you that don’t want to take the time, here are some highlights:

  • Elites care only about maximizing economic efficiency, regardless of the human costs to individuals, families, and communities
  • That lust for efficiency drives income inequality, particularly benefiting the technology sector/Silicon Valley
  • “We are ruled by mercenaries, who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule”—a key idea; I’ve read a similar analysis from controversial blogger Z-Man, in which he argues that leaders in a democracy are, inherently, renters rather than owners, and therefore are heavily tempted towards asset-stripping while in office, rather than building and maintaining a nation:  http://thezman.com/wordpress/?p=15929
  • Because of the hollowing out of American manufacturing and declining wages (again, due in part to the quest for efficiency), men struggle to find employment or to improve their wages
    • Because of that, rural parts of the country are dominated increasingly by healthcare and education, female-dominated fields
    • While better wages for women is fine, Carlson claims that—whether or not they should—women are less likely to marry men who earn less than them, therefore

These are just some of the most interesting insights, but Carlson sums up in fifteen minutes what would take a legion of hack bloggers like me hours or weeks to explain.

Again, I urge you to watch this videohttps://video.foxnews.com/v/5985464569001/?playlist_id=5198073478001#sp=show-clips

America’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Scott Rasmussen, writing for Ballotpedia, reports that 62% of American adults say their dream job is owning their own company.  That’s encouraging news, as it suggests that, despite decades of welfare state decadence, Americans still possess our entrepreneurial spirit.

That spirit has been with Americans going back to the colonial period.  Textbooks tend to focus on the Puritan planting of the Plymouth colony, which was certainly important, but the first permanent settlement in colonial British North America was Jamestown.  That settlement, and the entire colony of Virginia, was founded as a commercial enterprise, the efforts of joint-stock company in England.

French aristocrat and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in Democracy in America (1840) over two centuries later (during the height of the Jacksonian Era), noted Americans’ keen interest in commercial matters, and the pulsing energy and enthusiasm of always hustling.  He also noted the positive effect of trade upon liberty:

Trade is the natural enemy of all violent passions. Trade loves moderation, delights in compromise, and is most careful to avoid anger. It is patient, supple, and insinuating, only resorting to extreme measures in cases of absolute necessity. Trade makes men independent of one another and gives them a high idea of their personal importance: it leads them to want to manage their own affairs and teaches them to succeed therein. Hence it makes them inclined to liberty but disinclined to revolution.

Despite enthusiasm about the idea of starting a business, Rasmussen’s findings show that only 5% of Americans are “very likely to start their own business” in 2019, while 11% are somewhat likely.

Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see that the desire to hustle is prominent among Americans.  The economic mojo of the Trump economy no-doubt improves Americans’ optimism (although I should note that many Americans started businesses during the Obama stagcovery, albeit for a different reason—they couldn’t find work).  That optimism likely fuels some desire to get in on the action.

On a personal note, I will say that even I, a high school teacher—teaching being a job uniquely suited to the risk-averse in general—have caught this bug (don’t worry, loyal readers—I’m not going to try to sell you massage oils with untested healing properties).  I’m excited to expand some of my side-hustles in 2019, including writing, performing live music, and teaching private lessons.

Regardless of how those pan out, the thrill of applying effort towards ones passions is exhilarating.  What could be more American?

2018’s Top Ten Posts

2018 was a good year for The Portly Politico.  I relaunched the blog back over the summer, when I had more time to write multiple pieces a week.  With the South Carolina primary elections, it’s not surprising that some of the most traffic hit during June.

Just like the 2016 election, I was unable to dedicate the time necessary to covering the 2018 midterm elections; perhaps my greatest deficiency as a blogger is the inability to post regularly during the school year, a function of both a lack of time and focus (and, very likely, a lack of discipline).  While the blog has not gained the traction I’d hoped for six months ago, it’s been an entertaining way to put some of my thoughts to “paper,” as it were, and get some interesting feedback from you, my small coterie of loyal readers.

All navel-gazing aside, here are 2018’s Top Ten Posts, as determined by the number of views:

10.) SC Primary Run-Off Election Results – the title says it all!  I think some wayward Googlers boosted this one into the top ten.

9.) #MAGAWeek2018 – George Washington – during the Fourth of July week, I kicked off what will become an annual observance:  MAGA Week.  Each day featured an essay about some figure or idea that had made America great in his or its own way.  While I’m most proud of my lengthy overview of the career of John Quincy Adams, the post on George Washington gained the most traction with readers—a deserved victory for America’s most influential Founding Father.

8.) A Discourse on Disclaimers – I got so sick of endlessly qualifying every statement, I wrote this protesting post.  One thing the Trump presidency has taught us is that you’re never going to appease the progressives, so you’ve gotta fight back.  You’re never going to able to mollify an emotional, inherently violent beast with an appeal to decency and reason, so why bother?

7.) SCOTUS D&D – one of the lighter works of the Brett Kavanaugh character assassination, this post linked to another author’s attempt to place the Supreme Court justices on the legendary Dungeons and Dragons alignment chart.  Very fun.

6.) Progressivism and Political Violence – one of my best pieces, I would argue.  This post detailed the strong link between the progressive ideology and violence, be it the official use of state violence to enforce its way, or street-level thuggery when it’s been systematically denied the levers of power.  If Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg kicks the bucket in 2019 and President Trump and the Republican Senate successfully appoint and confirm a conservative justice to replace her, I shudder to contemplate the hysterical bloodshed that will result as masked Antifa goons and hipster black boots take to the streets.

5.) #TBT: It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle – the only “Throwback Thursday” post to make the top ten, this was a reposting of the old blog’s 2017 Thanksgiving post, which I wrote with a freshly broken left wrist.  We all have a great deal to thank God for this year.

4.) America Should Expand into Space – one of my early pieces during the 2018 relaunch argued that the United States should make a concerted effort to continue expanding into outer space.  Why get our precious rare-earth metals from China when we can mine them from asteroids?  Speaking of…

3.) Breaking: President Trump Creates Space Force – I whooped with joy when President Trump announced the creation of Space Force.  Apparently, many readers were excited about it, too.  It’s a commonsense move:  space is the next, and final, frontier.  Why cede dominance—military, economic, cultural, or otherwise—to the ChiComs?  Make America Space Again!

2.) 4.8% Economic Growth?! – one of the first posts upon relaunching the blog, this little piece drew a good bit of attention (and probably benefited from the initial curiosity traffic).  Let the good times roll!

1.) Run-Off Elections in SC Primaries Today – this post blew all others away, with (at the time of this writing) 101 more views than its next competitor.  I was shocked, but the blog showed up in several online search results as South Carolinians sought out information about the primary run-off elections this past summer.

So there you have it!  My personal favorites didn’t always gain the traction I hoped—and some of my better essays were nowhere near the top ten—but that’s the fun of blogging:  you never know what’s going to catch readers’ attention.

Thank you all for a wonderful 2018.  Here’s looking forward to bigger and better things in 2019!

God Bless, and Happy New Year!

–The Portly Politico

Global Poverty in Decline

Regular readers know that I frequently cite pollster Scott Rasmussen’s #Number of the Day series from Ballotpedia.  I do so because a.) his numbers often reveal some interesting truths about our world and b.) blogging is, at bottom, the art of making secondary or tertiary commentary on what other, smarter, harder-working people have thought, written, and done.

Yesterday’s #Number of the Day dealt with global poverty; specifically, Americans’ ignorance to the fact that global poverty has declined substantially over the last twenty years.  Indeed, global poverty has been reduced by half in that time.

I’ll confess I was ignorant of the extent of this decline, too, although it makes sense that poverty has decreased, especially when you consider the rise of post-Soviet market economies in Eastern Europe and China’s meteoric rise since the 1980s.

I suspect that the perennial culprit of the Mainstream Media is to blame, in part, for this ignorance, coupled as it is with progressive politicians.  The rise of “democratic socialist” candidates—as well as the lingering effects of the Great Recession—would have Americans believe that the global economy is in terrible shape, and that “underprivileged” parts of the world labor in ever-worsening poverty (so, let’s just move them all here—that’ll solve poverty!).

It’s refreshing to see that capitalism is working its economic magic, and people all over the globe are lifting themselves out of poverty.  If representative republicanism and strong civil societies can take root and flourish in more places, the ingredients will be in place for continued economic and cultural growth.

Democrats Favor Socialism

Republicans and conservatives have long understood that many Democrats [not-so?] secretly harbor a love for socialism, and that socialistic policies are their end-goal.  As I wrote in “Democrats Show Their True Colors,” “democratic” socialism has been growing in popularity in the Democratic Party, and the party has tapped into its progressive roots and lurched violently to the Left.

Scott Rasmussen’s #Number of the Day today backs this trend up with hard numbers.  He writes that 57% of Democrats have a positive view of socialism, while only 47% have a positive view of capitalism.  That 47% figure is down from 56% just two years ago.

71% of Republicans, on the other hand, view capitalism positively, while 16% of RINOs view socialism favorably.  I don’t understand how any Republican can view socialism favorably; I suspect they view “socialism” as “limited government-run enterprises,” like the Tennessee Valley Authority or the Department of Motor Vehicles.  I can’t imagine many of them support true, complete government ownership of property and the means of production.

These trends toward socialism on the Left make Republican victory—as unlikely as it might be—in the 2018 midterm elections all-the-more crucial.

Progressivism and Political Violence II: Candace Owens Attack and the Deficiency of Decorum

A small part of me really believed that the insanity of post-election 2016 and pre-and-post-Inaugural 2017, while still simmering at a low boil, had largely shifted back to the fringes, with the real threats to liberty returning to online flame wars and techno-corporate elites deplatforming anyone to the right of Joseph Stalin.  Sure, Antifa—the ironically-named organization of hooded, masked Millennial fascists—is still around, and entitled behemoths still kneel during the National Anthem, but the street-level thuggery seemed to have quieted down.

As with many things in life, I was, unfortunately, wrong.  Candace Owens—the intelligent black conservative who inspired Kanye West’s Twitter lovefest for President Trump earlier this summer—was attacked in Philadelphia by a group of noodle-wristed soy boys and their pansexual, transgender lesbian besties while trying to enjoy a breakfast with Charlie Kirk. the founder of Turning Point USA.

I should have listened to my own analysis—and remembered very recent incidences, like White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s expulsion from a restaurant because her mere presence made gay employees uncomfortable (I know they’re drama queens, but, c’mon—can we stop indulging gay men like they’re fragile children?)—rather than engage in unfounded optimism.

The attack on Owens—who was forced to leave the restaurant because of the disturbance, and who endured cries of “F*ck White Supremacy” (remember, she’s black)—is merely the latest in a long stream of Leftists attacks on the Right.  Some, like yesterday’s deplatforming of Alex Jones and InfoWars—are non-violent, but hurt economically and socially by reducing or eliminating traffic to websites.

What the Left cannot achieve through social or economic coercion—through its dominance of institutions like academia, media, the arts, corporations, etc.—it will gladly do through physical violence (thus the “by any means necessary” mantra so beloved of Communist revolutionaries).  I suspect that a number of seemingly respectable cultural and academic figures on the Left, while publicly tut-tutting their street fighters, secretly thrill at the violent upheaval their radicals-in-arms create.

Indeed, this is no mere speculation.  Remember the television executive who scoffed, after the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay shooting, that most of the victims were probably Republican Trump supporters, anyway?

Aging counterculture revolutionaries—now firmly entrenched in their tenured ivory towers and emeritus seats, forever addicted to the false god of youth—live dreamily, vicariously through the antics of young street “toughs” who emulate the very professoriate that idealizes their destruction.

Now more than ever, the Right must come together.  Remember the meteoric rise and swift fall of Milo Yiannopoulos?  For years, conservatives dreamed of a funny, popular figure who would help break us out of National Review and Weekly Standard stuffiness and show that we don’t hate gay people or minorities (we just hate annoying people in general).  When he finally came, Conservatism Inc. rejected him out-of-hand because he made mean jokes on stage (the same objection, I’m sure you’ve realized, they’ve made about Trump).  Milo can be a little much sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard him state a fact that was incorrect.  Hyperbolic in delivery, yes; factually inaccurate, no.

My point is this:  we’ve got to give the decorum thing a rest.  I’m not saying we should go out and diss every non-conservative we ever meet, or to engage in street fights with Antifa (except in self-defense)—we should try to be cordial and peaceful whenever possible—but if the other side is going to punch you while you’re trying to have a rational discussion, then, well, your fists have gotsta do the talking for you.

Again, I am not condoning or attempting to incite anyone to violence.  I’m just saying that we need to back off figures like Trump, Milo, Candace Owens, Gavin McInness, etc., who are making the tough, real sacrifices in this culture war, and who are exposing themselves to real physical danger.  So what if they get a little rhetorically saucy or say something mean but funny?  Decorum has its place, but it seems to be a luxury we can ill-afford at present.

HSAs are A-Okay

My Congressman, Tom Rice, sends out little e-mail updates on a regular basis.  In his latest newsletter, the South Carolina US-7 representative included a link to a video (below) of his statements before Congress about expanding Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs.

The gist of the proposal is to expand health-savings accounts to allow account holders to contribute more to them.  The current legal annual contribution (in FY2018) for a single individual is $3450, up from $3400 last year and $3350 the year before.  That comes out to $287.50 a month, which can be contributed pre-tax directly from an account holder’s paycheck.

The way the law is currently written, HSAs are excellent both to cover medical expenses before reaching your deductible (and, naturally, most HSA-compliant plans are high deductible ones) and to save and invest for retirement.  You can accrue a qualified medical expense today—say, a visit to the emergency room—and you can submit that receipt in a decade (or longer—there’s no apparent time-limit) to take out that amount.

To give a hypothetical:  let’s say you have a medical bill for $3000.  Yes, your annual contribution to your HSA could cover that.  But, let’s say you’ve built up a good emergency fund, and elect to pay the bill out-of-pocket through that fund.  In, say, five years, you need to tap your HSA funds for some reason.  If you’ve kept the receipt (and credit card statements help, too), you can file that with your HSA and withdraw the $3000.

Why go through the trouble?  Because many HSA administrators—including my own, HealthSavings Administrators—allow you to invest in mutual funds with your HSA contributions.  If you’re making an 8% annual return on those contributions, that $3000 today will be worth around $4100 in five years (investment math folks, please check my numbers; regardless, you get the point—money grows).

Alternatively, if you don’t tap that money for decades—and keep contributing—you’ll have a very nice retirement account growing tax-free for all those years.

My current health insurance carries a $6550 deductible—which I didn’t even come close to hitting in 2017 when I broke my left wrist, although it was still expensive—but I’ve accrued enough of an emergency fund that I could meet that expense should the need arise (I pray it doesn’t).  If my emergency fund were sunk into something else—say, a new car, or a less flood-prone house—then I could tap into my HSA contributions from the past few years.

And here is the other benefit of HSAs, the one that I’m sure Congressman Rice as in mind:  they help you reach your deductible, and bring some market forces to bear on healthcare costs.

I suspect that one of the culprits of high healthcare costs is the lack of transparency—no one knows how much anything costs, and everything is fungible.  When I broke my wrist, I received a hefty ER bill (about $3000) about four months after the fall (I don’t understand the delay on that; it seems like they could just tally it all up and print it out at the time of the accident).  I called the hospital, and they told they were “running a special”—if I paid in full that day, they’d knock HALF of the cost off the bill.  Because I’m an extreme budgeter and have an emergency fund, I could do it, and leaped at the “special.”

Most people don’t have enough money saved up to even meet a $500 emergency, but an HSA makes it more doable.  Even without an emergency fund, if an account holder were making monthly contributions, he’d be able to take advantage of such price reductions.

HSAs aren’t a magic bullet to bringing down healthcare costs, but they would go a long way to addressing the problem.  If we lived in a pre-Obamacare age, you’d be able to get a high-deductible, HSA-compliant plan for probably $50-100 a month, depending on age and health.  Even if you didn’t want to manage the money in various investments, the incentives to save—namely, the pre-tax benefit—are enough that many Americans would likely take contribute to their HSA.

When Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was running for president in 2015-2016, he proposed transferable, minimally-funded ($5000 at birth, I believe) HSAs be issued for all Americans.  The ability to transfer funds between family members and to grow that wealth over time would be huge.

Similarly, President George W. Bush proposed giving Americans the option to contribute their Social Security contributions into personally-managed investment accounts.  That would reduce the astronomical costs of that federal boondoggle and give Americans much greater returns on their investments.  Naturally, Democrats rejected that plan out of hand, and accused Bush of hating old people.  Yeesh.

The takeaway is this:  whether it’s in healthcare or retirement savings, the American people know best.  Yes, we’d need some additional financial education—which we desperately need anyway—but, c’mon, are you going to continue running the same inefficient, wasteful systems just because a small percentage of people won’t adequately manage their money?

Liberty works in nearly every arena, and it would work in healthcare and health insurance, too.  HSAs are the wave of the future, and I’m glad to see Tom Rice is championing them.