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Economy

We can’t afford sacred cows

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We cant afforded afford sacred cows

In my last piece I pointed out how the Republican tax plan simply nibbles around the edges. It doesn’t provide any real tax relief, and it certainly doesn’t reform the corrupt system. More importantly, the GOP is clearly no longer interested in cutting spending now that Barack Obama is no longer President, and Democrats are suddenly concerned about the deficit.

Spare me.

The fact is we need MASSIVE spending cuts and nothing can be off the table. I mentioned the other day that one of the problems with cutting spending is that everyone is in favor of it, as long as you don’t touch “my” stuff. Everyone has their sacred cows in the federal budget, and we can’t afford them anymore.

The biggest one for the GOP has long been defense spending. Democrats point to “unnecessary wars” as the biggest reason for our national debt. Well, it’s not the biggest reason, and even if it was that’s a crap complaint. National defense is a power specified in the Constitution for which the federal government can raise and spend money. Social programs are not. However, the Democrats are not entirely wrong that defense spending is out of control.

I’ve been both a military officer fighting a war and I’ve been a working civilian trying to make ends meet. Here’s what I know for certain from both of those perspectives:

  1. As taxpayers we owe it to our military men and women to make sure they have the best training, facilities, equipment, and weapons in the world. We have been succeeding at this for decades.
  2. Military Officers and the civilians that work for the military have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayers to make certain that their money is being spent efficiently. Right now, they are failing at this and in the most egregious ways possible.

Now, before you get your knickers in a twist, this isn’t a hit piece on the military. I was in the military for 10 years and nothing I ever do, except being a father, will be as meaningful. Yet if we’re going to talk about cutting spending we have to look at our sacred cows, and that’s means facing some hard truths. I have solutions, not just rhetoric, and I have personal experiences to back up my thinking on this, so bear with me.

Solution 1) Change the military spending culture

When I was a young Captain, I sat in a staff meeting at Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. I was the operations officer and we were going over budget requests. After going over the requests, many of which were superfluous at best, the colonel looked at everyone and asked if there were any others. He said, “I know higher told us to do better on spending money but I want to spend all our money and all theirs too.”

My eyes went as wide as saucers as I looked at the man I worked with, a civilian contractor who was a retired lieutenant colonel. He knew what I was thinking and we discussed it later back at our office. We couldn’t very well complain about potential cuts to defense spending when this was the attitude about how to spend money. He even agreed with me, but he advised me there was little a captain could say to a colonel about it.

At is point it was 2011. The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) had been going on for 10 years with no end in sight. Money was nearly limitless for those operations and any operation even vaguely connected to them, which is to say, the entire US military. That kind of spending is addictive and many officers, especially those of my generation, had no concept of a military on a strict budget. However, having grown up in the military, raised by an officer who did, I understood these principles.

Solution 2) Change the way the military issues contracts

For decades the US military has issued contracts to the lowest bidder, and almost invariably has them run into cost overruns before the project is complete. It’s just the way it’s done. When my father was put in charge of renovating a dental clinic at Ft. Meade, MD, the contractors came to him expecting more money, as was routine. Not to be, as COL Wilhelm reworked the contract to make it fit within budget.

This should be the way all military officer conduct business with contractors. If contractors can’t do the project that they are bidding on for the amount that they bid, then they shouldn’t bid on the contract for that amount in the first place. Contractors have to be broken from the idea that there will always be more money, so they don’t have to worry about cost overruns. Some contractors blame the military for changing the orders, and I have no doubt this is sometimes the case, which leads me right to….

Solution 3) Change the way the military plans for the future

John Kerry isn’t exactly one of the great minds of the last 50 years, but during his campaign against George W. Bush in 2004 he did have (to me) one memorable line. When speaking about cell phones he said “I really think they should finish inventing these things before they sell them.” I chuckled at that one. It was funny because it was true.

In the same way, the Pentagon has a tendency to put the cart before the horse. They ordered the USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of the Ford-Class aircraft carriers, even though several key components of the new ships hadn’t even been designed yet. Though the Ford has been delivered, it was far over budget and won’t be ready for deployment for several years. Its arresting gear, which allows aircraft to land on the short airfield that is its deck, doesn’t currently work, and needs major changes to be made to work.

The Navy wants a next generation aircraft carrier to handle 5th generation aircraft? Makes sense. It doesn’t make sense if the technology hasn’t been invented yet. It also doesn’t make sense if the 5th generation aircraft in question have themselves become a costly boondoggle that never should have been in the first place. The Joint Strike Fighter project, which has now become the Lockheed F-35A/B/C Lightning II, has been a nightmare of cost overruns and failing systems.

The F-35 was supposed to eventually replace several different aircraft across the DOD. The traditional “A” model would have theoretically replaced 4th generation fighters for the Air Force like the F-16. The “B” variant would have replaced the iconic Harrier jump jet for the Marines, as it is supposed to have the same short take off and vertical landing capabilities as the Harrier. The “C” variant was supposed to be designed for the rigors of landing on an aircraft carrier like the USS Ford, the under constructions USS John F. Kennedy, or the 3rd Ford-class carrier, the USS Enterprise.

I have a family member who is a former aerospace engineer for Boeing and worked on the competitor for the F-35. Even from my meager military flight training, it seemed to me that trying to make three very different aircraft from one airframe was a fundamentally flawed idea from the state. I posed this supposition to my family member. He agreed wholeheartedly. This was never a good idea to begin with and never should have been adopted.

Solution 4) Time to start leaving some behind

In the military we live by the creed “leave no one behind.” Well, this became a bit of a joke at the Army Medical Department at Fort Sam Houston. We called it “No Sergeant Major Left Behind” or “No Colonel Left Behind.”

Why? Because these sergeants major and colonels would create high-paying civilian jobs, doing exactly what they were doing in the military and then retiring and sliding right into those jobs, thereby double dipping, their retirement PLUS a well-paying government civilian job. Did the jobs need to be done? Mostly. But they largely could have been done by someone making less money or in the military. Instead, you have military officers using the system to enrich themselves by staying on the government gravy train. This is a systemic problem that must be addressed.

The Takeaway

I could write a book about how expensive things are in the military, and how much casual waste there is. I could spend two chapters just on how sick it made me seeing how little the big-wigs in the Pentagon care about such things. Maybe I will someday. But for the purposes of this article, let me just point out that there are a LOT of ways that spending can be cut even in the DOD. It’s a lot easier to talk about cutting unnecessary spending in social programs when we’ve made the military more efficient, and believe me, the Pentagon could use a good house cleaning.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of James Mattis as the Secretary of Defense. There was no doubt in my mind he could do the job. He certainly had the military credentials. But in my mind the most important issue of the last decade is a massive government out of control and runaway spending. General Mattis wasn’t going to fix this, and it doesn’t appear that he has. It CAN and SHOULD be done though.

We can and should provide our service members with the best of everything, but that doesn’t mean we just throw money at every problem. We need that money to be used efficiently, and that is a concept of which the current crop of officers and civilians at the Pentagon doesn’t have the slightest understanding. You would hope that a well-known and successful businessman as commander-in-chief would put the DOD on the right path. However, based on the latest Trump Hotel closing, anyone paying attention knows that the persona of “great businessman” is more of a myth than anything when it comes to Trump. It would be nice if he took a look and realized we need to cut spending everywhere, but it seems unlikely the self-proclaimed “king of debt” will make strong moves toward that anytime soon. Otherwise, he’d be rejecting this horrible tax plan the GOP congress has put forward and come up with one of his own.

Benjamin Wilhelm served as a commissioned officer in the United States military for 10 years, serving one combat tour in Afghanistan. He is a recipient of the Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge among other military awards. Ben has worked in a variety of private sector businesses both large and small. He is a former military and civilian firearms instructor and an advocate for veterans issues. Ben is a strict Constitutionalist who sees the Federal government as an out of control leviathan, and the federal debt as a burden that will break the country. Ben is a divorced father of two boys.

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Culture and Religion

Video: You’re Not A Liberal!

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A Truth Revolt Original from Bill Whittle that succinctly explains why Leftists aren’t Liberal.

Published on Oct 10, 2014

The 4:20 minute mark in the 6 minute video has its most important point:

The founding fathers were the True Liberals because they believed in Liberty – with both words having the same origins.

They believed in individual Liberty, private property, limited government and the common sense civil rights of free-speech and armed self-defence. They believed in the freedom to be left alone.

The point of the video is that the collectivists of the nation’s Socialist-Left do not meet the definition of the word Liberal. They believe in collective rights, Collective ownership of property, unlimited government, limitations on speech and gun confiscation.

Those of that mindset (Leftists) are not Liberal by any stretch of the imagination.

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Economy

On corn dogs and continuing resolutions

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Confession: I was a fat kid.

You don’t need to know how fat, but it was enough that my mom had to establish strict limits on how much of any given food I could eat per meal, and I couldn’t surpass that amount without her express permission.

My family well remembers one such occasion when I was maybe seven years old where I got a little, shall we say, excessive.

I had maxed out for the day on my allotted two corn dogs — my favorite food at the time — but I was still hungry. My mom wasn’t home, so I asked my dad if I could have two more corn dogs.

He approved and I had two more, but I still wasn’t satisfied, so I asked my dad again if I could have two more corn dogs, which he authorized, and so on.

All told, I ended up consuming eight jumbo corn dogs in one meal. And I felt fantastic.

In fairness to my dad, given that each of my requests couldn’t have come more than five minutes apart (I tend to inhale my food), he probably thought I was referring to the same two additional corn dogs each of the three times I petitioned his consent.

Moreover, when my mom found out, there wasn’t much that could be done; I had clearly overeaten, but I hadn’t technically disobeyed procedure.

Believe it or not, congressional budgeting is a lot like an overweight seven-year-old downing corn dogs.

Periodically, despite gouging the American people trillions of dollars already, Congress runs out of money, maxing out on its corn dog limit, as it were. Congress is then faced with two options: 1) a continuing resolution, wherein the legislature passes an appropriations bill and thereby authorizes government funding at the same levels as previously established by that year’s budget until either a specified date or a regular appropriations bill is passed; or 2) a government shutdown until appropriations can be passed.

Since October, when the 2018 fiscal year began, we have seen four continuing resolutions from Congress, two of which materialized only after a government shutdown — the most recent one occurring early Friday morning for approximately eight hours.

This means that Congress has eaten its two corn dogs and gone back to ask for two more corn dogs four times in the last four months. They have now consumed ten corn dogs, which is even more than a certain hefty seven-year-old.

The latest continuing resolution, which put an end to Friday’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shutdown, outlines two years of spending and absolutely blows out the deficit to the tune of $1.2 trillion. And while it’s true that the continuing resolution only extends to March 23 in order to allow for time to iron out all the details, the legislature has bypassed any threat of government shutdown or continuing resolution in the near future.

You see, the traditional two options listed above — a resolution or a shutdown — only trigger due to the debt ceiling, which prohibits spending past a certain point without specific authorization from Congress, who holds the power of the purse. But what would happen if that limit didn’t exist? The government could spend whatever it wanted with or without a budget, with or without a deficit, and with or without any accountability to the American people. Essentially, it means Congress can write itself a blank check.

Unsurprisingly, Congress has vied for this third option, suspending the debt limit until March 2019 in order to free up legislators to focus on reelection in 2018 and avoid the negative publicity of a government shutdown. To avoid a shutdown, Congress has made itself too big to fail.

And that means that no matter which issues arise, be it DACA, welfare, military, education, or healthcare, Congress will undoubtedly take advantage of its liberty to spend-up the wazoo.

Where there is no accountability, there is no progress. After all, once you grant the obese seven-year-old inexhaustible access to unlimited Foster Farms jumbo corn dogs, he’s not getting any skinnier.

Richie Angel is a Co-Editor in Chief of The New Guards. Follow him and The New Guards on Twitter, and check out The New Guards on Facebook.

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Economy

The GOP: The Party of Fiscal Conservatives?

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The GOP, led by President Trump, recently passed the most massive tax reform bill in decades. One of the biggest pieces of that bill dropped the corporate tax rate down to 21% from 35%, which had previously given the United States the largest corporate tax in the industrialized world. So cutting this tax and cutting individual taxes was a job well done for fiscal responsibility. It was a CRITICAL first step, but it was only a first step.

The second step was to cut the bloated federal budget. Last night’s budget deal not only failed to do this but in fact increased spending to the deficit levels of the Obama and Bush eras. Liberals claim this is due to the tax cuts, but Senator Rand Paul demonstrated clearly that this has to do entirely with the expensive high Congress gets from spending taxpayer money as well as placing an unconscionable burden on our children.

Republicans made a big to do about deficits and the debt while Barack Obama’s was in power, even coming up with the sequester during the latter half of the Obama Presidency. However, now that they control both houses of Congress and with Trump in the White House, they suddenly have no inclination to cut spending.

“When the Democrats are in power, Republicans appear to be the conservative party, But when Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party. The hypocrisy hangs in the air and chokes anyone with a sense of decency or intellectual honesty,” said Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) who attempted to block the bill last night.

Others in the party also demonstrated their displeasure at the lack of leadership by the GOP on this issue. Missouri Senate Candidate Austin Petersen’s campaign released this statement:

“The spending deal approved late last night, and supported by both Missouri Senators McCaskill and Blunt, was an absolute travesty. The American people are already $20 trillion in debt, and the deficit for the current fiscal year is estimated to be an additional $1 trillion. This is just plain nuts! And it’s a great example of why Austin is in this Senate race: because like many Missourians, he’s sick and tired of sending politicians to Washington who, break their promises. The truth is we don’t just need another Republican elected to the United States Senate — we need a true constitutional and FISCAL conservative — someone who’s going to stick to their guns, stick to their principles, and most importantly, keep their promises. “

Konstantinos Roditis, Republican candidate for California State Controller said, “Hope of a budget with a modicum of fiscal responsibility from D.C. is laughable. The likelihood a fiscally responsible budget will see the light of day in D.C. is as likely as Trump winning California in a landslide in 2020. Here is a perfect example why I say, I’m a Conservative that happens to be a Republican, instead of a Republican that happens to be a Conservative.”

California GOP Senator candidate Erin Cruz had this to say… Those in the House and Senate work for the American people and should put forth a fiscally responsible budget, one which does not put an undue burden on the taxpayer and future generations. Heavy cuts should be made in the area of foreign aid, as well as pet deals congressional members tuck into these bills known as pork. The taxpayer is the boss and they want big change in government, namely reduction in size and scope of government as well as cuts to unnecessary spending. The budget passed is not reflective of what the American people voted into office. Actual change is coming, patriots like myself are standing up to the call to serve the people, there will be a big turn in how D.C. operates. Americans live by budgets and within their means, Congress should as well. Midterms can’t come soon enough for all Americans. Americans must push for a high turn out at the polls this year.

A disappointment for many conservatives is that standard-bearer Ted Cruz (R-TX) “reluctantly” voted for the spending bill, giving away any credibility he might have in the future on this issue. It should be noted that Cruz has filibustered spending in the past, famously reading to his children from the Senate floor.

In stark contrast, there was no surprise that the other Texas Senator, John Cornyn, was vocal about his annoyance with Rand Paul’s efforts to derail the budget process, saying this was an “emergency” while failing to make mention Congress hasn’t had a non-emergency spending effort in years.

It would be easy for some to lay the blame for all this on the self-proclaimed “king of debt,” President Trump. However, those who have actually read the Constitution know the power of the budget comes from Congress. Sure, Trump could lead a bit more on this issue, but at no point has Trump ever made over-spending a priority.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is the former chairman of the House Budget Committee, seems most to blame. Of all people he should know how to cut spending, and yet has failed to do so.

The political fallout will likely be negligible. The average American, when asked, will say they are concerned about the debt, but often not enough to change their vote. And so both major parties keep passing this issue back and forth like a hot potato. The party that will be hurt by the debt is whoever is in power when the economy comes crashing down due to debt. Time will tell on that one.

A couple of months ago I wrote about how we can’t afford our sacred cows, including increased defense spending, and yet we’re increasing defense spending through the roof. You can refer back to it here.

The thing I can tell you for certain is we can’t keep doing what we’re doing. Spending on credit will eventually lead to default as more and more of our budget is eaten up by paying interest on our debt and it leases to Greek-style austerity. We need new leadership with ACTUAL fiscal conservatives.

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