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Superpowers past and present


Posted on December 21, 2016

Trophy-toting progressives are destroying the very spirit that made America great.”

“Your empire is now like a tyranny: it may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go.”  Pericles, the last democratically elected leader of ancient Athens, 461 B.C.

Last week I began to address the decline of the United States resulting from this new wave of liberalism in which every child is given a trophy and told that he or she is a winner. Such lies are not good for children and they are not good for the nation.

Most Americans believe that America has a permanent position of global domination when in fact there has been a general decline in the U.S. over the past 25 years. The Peterson Institute for International Economics, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, stated that China’s economy will overshadow America’s in the next 15 years.

The rise and inevitable decline of all superpowers

My interest in superpowers came about by happenstance. In early 1987 my publisher told me he was going to be away and he wanted me to develop and write the upcoming issue.  In my scramble around the city library I found a just-published book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, by Paul Kennedy.*

Kennedy wrote on global competition which with the right circumstances can create a superpower. He argued all powers invariably reach their apex and then begin to decline.

Military loss and societal upheaval  

Two millennia ago, Athens seemed invincible with its unmatched fleet of warships. Pericles, the world’s first democratically elected leader, struck upon the idea of attacking its main competitor Sparta, thus cementing Athens position of dominance.

Such was the reasoning in 2003 when the United States easily conquered Iraq militarily, but foolhardy attempts to occupy it were unsuccessful. The results of both wars were stunning because both America and ancient Athens had overwhelming advantages yet were ultimately defeated. For both it resulted in an unavoidable conclusion by allies and enemies that each had passed their apex.

Pericles said that Athens sailed to war, “with a sort of arrogance and a love of strife.”

Much the same can be said of today’s American neoconservatives who still see an opportunity to conquer and convert other lands to adopt American democracy and values.

And while Athens collapsed in a handful of years, America continues to barely cling to its position of predominance.

In 1947 the U.S. accounted for half of the world’s GDP and was the only nation with an atomic bomb until the Soviet Union duplicated it in 1949.

Over the decades the United States would remain the unchallenged military powerhouse in the world. Economically the United States did not do near so well. Today U.S. federal government debt is almost $20 trillion.

On October 22, 1981, the U.S. federal debt surpassed $1 trillion.  At the time that was an astonishing number so vast it was previously unimaginable. Politicians didn’t feel the same way.

Dead broke

America’s insurmountable debt can never be paid back.  What is certain is that the United States is headed for an economic and societal collapse. That will be the result if hundreds of billions of dollars in Treasury instruments are sold, sending the bond market into a tailspin as interest rates are forced to climb to 10, 20 or even 50 percent just to keep the federal government running.

Several studies estimate that by 2030 China’s share of global economic power will match America and Britain when both countries were at their peak. America’s situation has grown considerably more tenuous during the Barack Obama presidency.

Much of the blame for America’s economic malaise must be put at the feet of Obama, writes the DarienTimes.com on December 15, 2016,:

President Obama has conducted the most deleterious foreign policy of any U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson. This is not due just to a dead ambassador on the streets of Benghazi, a phony red line in Syria which led to 400,000 dead, two million wounded, and two million refugees, losing Egypt to Islamic radicals, or empowering a terrorist regime in Iran. Those developments alone are enough to rank Obama among the worst foreign policy presidents. Obama’s most egregious error is far worse — his inability to grasp the balance-of-power dynamics among the U.S., Russia and China…

A hard-edged realism by Russia and China combined with a lack of realism by Obama has led to the worst possible outcome for the United States…

Most threatening is that in the past ten years, Russia increased its gold reserves 203 percent, and China increased its gold reserves an estimated 570 percent. Such gold accumulations have no purpose other than to lay the foundation for a non-dollar based international monetary system…

And what does Obama do during the sunset of his presidency? He creates even more anger and more dissent — along with Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party that cares far more of their candidate’s loss and the reputation of the United States than a smooth transfer of power where cry baby Democrats are unable to fathom their defeat.

Their caterwauling has grown tiresome. Arnold Schwarzenegger got so fed up that the former governor of California told Democrats to “stop whining” when he was on the show Today last week.

That will not happen as Democrats have turned Russia into the bogeyman responsible for most of America’s problems, real or imagined.  From the butchery in Syria born out of America’s failed occupation of Iraq that created ISIS, to Hillary Clinton’s defeat caused by her inept candidacy, the fault is laid at the feet of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Finding scapegoats is as old as time. When Athens was defeated by Sparta the critic of that war, Socrates, was executed. Times are gentler now. But to speak out against Washington can cost one his job and reputation.

Yours in good times and bad,

— John Myers

*Kennedy, Paul, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, Random Books, New York, 1987

Source: Will County News

It pays to be a contrarian

gold and silver bullionI was taught by contrarians before me that when the press — especially financial press — starts talking about one thing, it’s time to look to do the opposite.

Currently, we’re looking at the great Dow 20,000 headline that has reached every financial publication and constitutes a ‘watch’ on all the financial networks.

People say it’s the Trump Rally. Or simply the fact that Clinton and the Democrats will not be in power anywhere in Washington for at least two more years.

This kind of optimism may play well in the press, but it doesn’t play well in your investment portfolio. Just as everyone is talking about a giant rally and an accelerating recovery, it could all fall flat. Then the press will be talking about some “Great Crash” or the fact that the markets were overvalued all along and this was just a matter of time.

They’re never going to be wrong because they’re telling you what’s happening now, not in the future, and in any case, it doesn’t really matter to them. They’re making money off content, not managing an investment portfolio.

Don’t listen to them. It’s as simple as that.

Instead, think about doing the opposite of what the herd is doing. In this specific case, I’m talking about not buying into this giddy optimism. Sure, it feels good now, but it’s not happening for the reasons you think.

The key reason we’re in rally mode is the money managers and traders are trying to rack up serious gains by the end of the fourth quarter. Their bonuses come out of these results.

Trump might have been elected and he has a Republican House and Senate, but that doesn’t mean everything is going to be awesome.

Politicians are vain creatures and they’re all power-hungry and status-hungry.

With a political newbie in the White House, you can be sure there are going to be significant skirmishes among Republicans trying to control the direction of legislation.

And given Trump’s lack of a record on managing policy issues, we have no idea where he is going to zig and where he will zag. And as you can tell from the current breathless coverage of his every tweet, each real decision he makes will be the subject of numerous news cycles.

The reality is, we are living in world of divergent “facts.” We have record low official unemployment but on the other hand, we have a record amount of people who have given up looking for work, and they’re not counted in official numbers.

We are in the midst of a “recovery” … but productivity and wages are at historic lows.

And while all this is going on, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates, which is not going to help Americans that are already trying to make ends meet and have record amounts of debt.

It’s in these contradictions we get a real view of the world. We’re not on the brink of an economic recovery. Whatever Trump does, it won’t have any significant effect on the economy for at least a year. In Washington, the operating theory is it takes a year or two to get your sea legs as president and then you only have a year to do anything before you have to start your re-election campaign.

Don’t bet on this market, or the politicians in Washington.

Look to what’s out of favor — especially gold and silver. Barron’s recently talked about the bullish prospects for silver in 2017. Industrial demand will drive some of silver’s upside as will the minor fact that major banksters like Deutschebank have admitted to rigging the silver market since 1999, costing investors an estimated $30 billion.

Banks that were in on the fix were making 100 percent annualized gains. And now it’s over (hopefully).

And while the financial press talks about how gold is doomed because there’s no interest in gold as a store of value in the good times we’re in, it’s not a given that we’re in good times. If we see weak GDP growth in the first part of next year, all bets are off on the economy as far as I’m concerned.

Oil prices aren’t going up because of demand, they’re going up because supply is being cut. There’s a big difference there. We’re seeing higher inflation because prices of things related to energy (remember, they took actual energy out of the inflation numbers) are rising, and rents are rising. It’s certainly not because consumers are flush with cash and spending more. Case in point, even if you include the online sales this year, this holiday season has been unspectacular for retailers.

As I said a few weeks ago, gold and silver may look like red-headed step children in all this mania, but don’t believe it. This is when you put your contrarian pants on and buy, while everyone else is selling. If you’re in it for the long term, it’s the smart move.

— GS Early

Source: Will County News

Illinois has highest black unemployment rate in the country

December 13, 2016  Illinois Policy

Illinois has had the nation’s highest black unemployment rate for 15 months in a row.

Illinois has maintained the horrible distinction of having the nation’s highest black unemployment rate for the 15th month in a row, according to a new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, or EPI. Illinois’ black unemployment rate is 14.2 percent, compared to the next highest state, Pennsylvania, at 11.8 percent.

Illinois’ slow economic growth and weak industrial job creation, along with heavy regulations on occupational licensing and poor school options for many minority children have had a pronounced effect on black job opportunities. Ironically, for almost the same duration of time that Illinois has had the highest black unemployment rate, Illinois’ Democratic legislative leaders have insisted economic reforms are unnecessary for Illinois’ economy, putting them at odds with Gov. Bruce Rauner.

House Speaker Mike Madigan, in particular, has painted Rauner’s economic growth legislation as an attempt to decrease the wages and standard of living for middle class Illinoisans. This begs the question of what Madigan considers to be the standard of living for minorities who can’t find work in Illinois at any wage level. With the highest black unemployment in the country, too many Illinoisans are learning first hand about the standard of living they’re condemned to in Madigan’s Illinois.

illinois black unemployment


The difference between the white unemployment rate and the black unemployment rate is greater in Illinois than in any other state. According to the EPI’s study, Illinois’ black unemployment rate is 14.2 percent and Illinois’ white unemployment rate is 4.9 percent.

illinois black unemployment

While policymakers aren’t working to alleviate this problem, Chicago and Cook County have made it worse. Cook County, following Chicago’s lead, enacted an ordinance to raise the county’s minimum wage to $13 per hour and then tie increases to inflation. However, research shows that minimum wage hikes hurt employment prospects, especially for low-skilled and minority communities.

A National Bureau of Economic Research survey of minimum wage studies found that minimum wage increases especially affect the least-skilled workers in the economy. In particular:

the studies that focus on the least-skilled groups provide relatively overwhelming evidence of stronger disemployment effects for these groups.

Cook County is home to 1.26 million of Illinois’ black residents, out of Illinois’ 1.89 million total black residents. That means the minimum wage ordinances passed in Chicago and Cook County affect two out of three black residents in Illinois. These laws effectively ban job opportunities that might otherwise employ young black men and women in the Chicago area.

There are a number of solutions to tackle the unemployment problem. The first solution is to stop digging a deeper hole with minimum wage hikes and roll back the misguided minimum wage hikes in Chicago and Cook County. Black communities would benefit disproportionately from laws allowing for school choice and education savings accounts, along with changes to the criminal justice system to make it easier for ex-offenders to re-enter the workforce. In addition, all Illinoisans would benefit from stronger economic growth and more business investment, especially in blue-collar lines of work like manufacturing and transportation.

Illinois political leaders should be ashamed of the crisis of black unemployment in the Land of Lincoln. This problem should become a top priority for policy leaders, and a reform agenda should be enacted to reverse the trend of black unemployment in Illinois.

TAGS: jobs, unemployment

Source: Will County News

Fake news on offence/ Facebook

Facebook becomes U.S. Ministry of Truth


176894597In George Orwell’s “1984,” main character Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth where he carefully rectifies media to coincide with whatever current positions government holds. If Smith were envisioned in 2016 America, he might find his particular set of skills fit for employment at a social media company.

Facebook on Thursday announced that it is preparing to join forces with establishment-approved fact checkers to rid its site of so-called fake news reports.

The company’s founder Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook intends to “resist the path of becoming arbiters of truth ourselves,” before outlining a series of initiatives that have the potential to seriously threaten alternative views on the site.

He said, via a Facebook post:

Today we’re making it easier to report hoaxes, and if many people report a story, then we’ll send it to third-party fact checking organizations. If the fact checkers agree a story is a hoax, you’ll see a flag on the story saying it has been disputed, and that story may be less likely to show up in News Feed. You’ll still be able to read and share the story, but you’ll now have more information about whether fact checkers believe it’s accurate. No one will be able to make a disputed story into an ad or promote it on our platform.

We’ve also found that if people who read an article are significantly less likely to share it than people who just read the headline, that may be a sign it’s misleading. We’re going to start incorporating this signal into News Feed ranking.

These steps will help make spreading misinformation less profitable for spammers who make money by getting more people to visit their sites. And we’re also going to crack down on spammers who masquerade as well-known news organizations.

Starting out, the company will reportedly take its ques on whether a post is false or misleading from fact checkers working for Snopes, Factcheck.org, ABC News, and PolitiFact.

Time will tell what this means for contrarian viewpoints on the social media site—but the outlook doesn’t look good.

Beyond pointing out blatant falsehoods, fact checking isn’t always a scientific endeavor. In mainstream newsrooms throughout the country, it’s certainly not uncommon for editors to make a judgement call on whether something within a story should be treated as a matter of fact. Sometimes they’re right—and sometimes they’re wrong. When they’re wrong too often, the market usually sorts things out as readers look for information elsewhere.

Arguably, that’s part of the reason alternative media exploded in the first place. Citizen journalists and alternative media organizations with lower operating costs have proven more agile and less beholden to sugarcoating content to please power interests than old media in many cases.

But alternative media consumers know the bargain they get with contrarian content: If something in a story sounds off, it’s a good idea to do a little more research. Most alternative reporters and columnists encourage this, partly because they have never claimed total objectivity.

Under Facebook’s plan, alternative media will likely come under harsher scrutiny than MSM outfits that do claim objectivity. And that’s a problem.

Think of it this way: Is MSM publishes content that looks like outright propaganda and alternative media points it out, guess whose story is more likely to get flagged?

This is fake news on the offense.

Source: Will County News

10 Ways Donald Trump Can Cut Waste

10 Ways Donald Trump Can Cut Waste – Our Advice From OpenTheBooks.com

Donald J. Trump won the presidency by giving real hope to millions of voters that their situation could improve. Now he and Congress have a chance to take action and deliver real results. One way to encourage economic growth is to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on activities that do nothing to create wealth.

At OpenTheBooks.com we believe that in order to make America great again we need to hold government accountable again. Here are ten steps the president elect can take to eliminate wasteful spending and rein in an out-of-control federal government:

WASHINGTON, DC – Many of the debates regarding the future direction of the country under a Trump presidency with Republican control of congress will take place on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

1. Disarm federal regulatory agencies

During an eight-year period, 53 non-military, non-law enforcement agencies spent $335 million on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment. Agencies like Environmental Protection Agency, Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Food and Drug Administration, Smithsonian Institution, etc. sharply increased procurement of weaponry.

The scope of federal power is growing. Today, there are 200,000 federal officers with arrest and firearm authority across 67 federal agencies vs. only 182,000 U.S. Marines. These 67 federal agencies spent a total of $1.48 billion on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment (FY2006-FY2014).

2. Fire EPA lawyers

If the EPA were a private sector law firm, it would rank as the 11th largest. The EPA loves lawyers and employs more lawyers than scientists.

Since 2008, the EPA spent $1.2 billion in salary for over 1,000 lawyers. More money was spent on “General Attorneys” than on chemists, general health scientists, ecologists, chemists, microbiologists, geologists, hydrologists, toxicologists, biologists, physical scientists, and health physicists combined.

When the EPA is sued, the Department of Justice defends the EPA in court. The EPA doesn’t need 1,020 lawyers to harass the private sector.

3. Blockade federal funds for sanctuary cities

Want to clean up sanctuary cities? Issue an executive order telling all federal contractors they have three years to move operations from any city that won’t follow federal law, or lose their contract. Watch how fast the sanctuary cities decide to follow federal statutes.

For example, in Austin, TX, the amount of federal contracting was $900 million. In Chicago, total federal contracting amounted to $2.47 billion (FY2016). In San Francisco, the top twenty federal contractors were paid $18.6 billion last year.

Federal funding is Trump’s biggest stick. He should use it within his constitutional powers.

4. Cut funding for agency self-promotion

One bi-partisan no-brainer would be to severely scale back the $1.5 billion per year spent on PR campaigns designed to convince taxpayers to spend even more taxpayer money on bigger budgets for federal agencies and regulatory schemes.

There’s no public purpose for a phalanx of 5,000 federal public relations officers costing $500 million per year. And it’s an abject waste of resources to spend over $1 billion annually with outside PR firms. We identified these firms charging the agencies up to $88 per hour for their interns, billing $275/hour for graphic designers and $525/hour for their own executives.

Congress should tell the administration how agencies are doing through rigorous oversight. Funding self-promotional agency PR campaigns is absurd.

5. Direct small business funds … to small business

Here’s a novel idea: Lending by the U.S. Small Business Administration should go to small businesses!  We’ve identified $14 billion in SBA financial transactions flowing to anything but small business including some of the most successful Wall Street bankers and boutique investment firms; $200 million in lending to private country clubs, golf clubs, beach clubs and tennis clubs; $142 million into ZIP code 90210 (Beverly Hills, CA); and over a quarter billion to subdivisions of the Fortune 100.


6. Eliminate the Export-Import Bank

We studied the U.S. Export-Import Bank and found a cesspool of cronyism. The number one importer beneficiary ($7.1 billion) was Pemex – the leading oil conglomerate in Mexico, owned by the Mexican government. The #1 export beneficiary ($60 billion) was The Boeing Company, who received one-third of all export activity. In just one of the transactions, Boeing sold nearly a billion dollars of airplanes to the state-owned airline of Angola – a nation whose people are malnourished and frequently starve.

7. Reduce Federal Funding for the Ivy League

The Ivy League doesn’t need taxpayers help. We’ve identified more than $30 billion in government payments, subsidies, special tax treatment, grants and public perks to the eight colleges of the Ivy League.  With an endowment averaging $2 million per undergraduate student and total accumulated assets of nearly $220 billion, the Ivy League now operates like a hedge fund with classes.

Moreover, there are 47 Ivy League administrators earning more than $1 million per year. Over the last six years, the Ivies pulled in direct federal revenues of $19 billion, which rivaled the $23 billion collected in student tuition. In FY2014, tax breaks on their endowment alone totaled $3.4 billion or $60,000 per student.

8. Finish the task of VA reform

During the VA scandal when up to 1,000 sick veterans died while waitlisted to see doctors, the VA added 40,000 new positions to their payroll – yet, only 3,600 were doctors. Today, wait times are at all-time highs with 500,000 sick veterans waiting longer than 30-days to see a doctor. Why? Because there still aren’t enough doctors.

9. Open the books on federal employee pensions

Trump should clarify the following standard: Public employee retirement pensions are public information subject to open records law, not sheltered by privacy law.

Wouldn’t you like to know the pension of your retired congressman? How about Lois Lerner or Julia Pierson?

Even Illinois, where the #1 manufactured product is corruption, has transparency of public pensions.  When two union bosses substitute taught for one-day in public schools and qualified for a $1 million teacher pension, we caught them because of transparency.

Recently, the Obama Administration denied our Freedom of Information Act request for the federal pensions citing “a clear invasion of personal privacy.” We vehemently disagree. Trump should open the books on federal pensions.

10. Cut federal funding to municipalities paying lavish salaries to public employees.

We believe in local control but taxpayers in Maine shouldn’t subsidize excessive compensation packages in California. We’ve identified over 220,000 public employees in California making over $100,000 per year costing taxpayers $35 billion annually.

If Los Angeles County wants to pay a harbor boat pilot $482,000 annually, or $3.7 million to ten pilots, then cut a corresponding amount from their federal subsidies. In FY2016, the feds sent LA County nearly $1 billion in grants alone.

Here’s one framework for a Trump policy:  Any public employee costing over $200,000 per year shouldn’t be subsidized by taxpayers from anywhere else in the country.

We sincerely hope that Trump is serious about economic growth, draining-the-swamp, and the elimination of waste, fraud, corruption and taxpayer abuse. These are non-partisan objectives and we’ll continue to offer constructive ideas to the administration.

Source: Will County News