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On China and American Moral Leadership: Video Essay for February 4, 2012

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On China and American Moral Leadership: Essay for February 4, 2012

Traveling as do, I have literally circled the globe a couple of times each year over the last several decades. In fact, travel has taken me overseas for three of the last four weeks to Asia and Europe to conduct business; doing my part in growing the business of a large multi-national corporation. It is an experience that has produced a world view that is seasoned and uniquely mine.

The United States is an island nation. Our east coast abuts the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Heading westward, as our pioneer ancestors did, brings us to the vast Pacific. America has been blessed with abundant natural resources that, for most of our existence, made us self-sufficient and blissfully isolated in a world that long ago relied upon delicate interdependencies and alliances. We avoided colonial aspirations and fiercely resisted entering global conflicts in Europe and Asia until dragged in by grievous circumstance.

And when the dust settled after the Second World War we were still standing. The industrial might of the nations of Europe was destroyed and Japan laid waste by nuclear attack. The Arsenal of Democracy became the Factory of the World. The Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe and MacArthur oversaw the rise of a democratic Japan, each dominated by American industrial might.

Ironically, we created the monster that ate the American factory. Our efforts to restore stability and prosperity to a war torn world led to great infrastructure improvements. Germany and Japan built new factories and highways that were more efficient than the aging behemoths in the United States that just a few short years earlier produced the war material that defeated the Fascists and the Nazis. Taiwan and Korea built ships that Henry Kaiser, the father of the Liberty ship, would envy. Year by year, the newly industrialized world nibbled at the heels of American industrial dominance.

Slowly but steadily, American businesses grew weaker. Large industrial employers began to ship production elsewhere for better efficiencies and labor costs; first to the Sun Belt, then abroad. In 1960, 9 of the top 10 employers in the United States were industrial companies. Today, 7 of 10 are service providers. Here’s the rub: the job multiplier for industrial companies, such as automotive and steel, are much higher than for service industries such as retail or healthcare. For every 1000 jobs created in the steel industry, an additional 11,000 jobs are created elsewhere as a direct result. In retail, the same 1000 jobs create only an additional 240.

The bottom line effect is that losing 1000 steel workers has an impact that cannot be offset by creating 1000 jobs at Wal-Mart. Not by a long shot. America needs to retain, create and repatriate industrial jobs in order to preserve the post-war economy that ushered in the era of Pax Americana. And it needs to do so fast.

The erosion of domestic American business accelerated once Most Favored Nation status was conferred upon the People’s Republic of China in 1999. Since then, foreign direct investment has grown geometrically as a vast low cost labor market became available. Our balance of payments deficit has ballooned from $89 billion in 1999 to a level three times higher today.

And with all the wealth sprung from wildly successful businesses built in newly built cities in China, more than one third of the 1.3 billion Chinese live on two dollars a day. Human Rights and Workers Rights have not kept pace with the pace of change. Environmental respect long ago yielded to unbridled development. The cost of environmental stewardship is not passed along to producers.

These factors greatly enhance the competitiveness of Chinese businesses. They are not likely to change unless the world cries out for change. And we are held hostage by the addiction we have to low, lower, lowest cost manufacturing and the consumerism that drives consumption in America. We have failed to hold China accountable for their lack of responsible leadership in the face of the dynamic change their society is undergoing.

We can talk about leveling the playing field against unfair tariffs, product dumping and currency manipulation but until we begin to exert pressure on the Communist regime to act in a responsible way towards their society and our environment, the United States is a willing co-conspirator in our own industrial demise and the erosion of our moral leadership.

President Hu will shortly be visiting the United States. Who in our government will exhibit the courage to lead against this nascent economic giant? And in so leading, do we not gain a chance to reclaim a stronger economy in the process. The whole world should be watching.

Press on.

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On the State of My Union: Essay for January 28, 2012

As Article II Section III of the Constitution mandates, President Obama gave his State of the Union address earlier this week. It ran over 60 minutes and covered a wide range of topics. I hereby offer my own State of the Union to you on several of the essential topics Mr. Obama covered. I will keep it to about 5 minutes.

Ladies and gentlemen, the state of the Union is strong. We may have seen better times but we are in the 236th year of a tremendous experiment in representative democracy. We have weathered the storms of great national calamity, war, natural disaster, terrorist and fascist threats and economic depression. We have witnessed great things: the emancipation of slaves; women’s suffrage; the dawning of civil rights. Some might say that these times are bleak but I say we are a nation of survivors. We are nation of optimists. We are a nation of transformational souls who have demonstrated time and again our penchant for leading ourselves and civilization; for making the world a better place in which to live. And so it is today.

We are in economic hard times born, perhaps, in a different era; of a different administration. That matters little. We are where we are and we have the power and the means to propel this great nation and this potent economy into a much higher gear. It is in our hands to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

What has worked for America ‘lo these many years is not shared sacrifice but shared commitment. We are in the boat together and we pull the oar together. We have been around long enough to know what does not work: blaming businesses for the ills of society; inciting an increasingly punitive regulatory environment that seeks to punish rather than promote; imposing a tax structure that only the well connected understand; and devising an educational system that rewards political correctness at the expense of discovery and inquisitiveness.

We can keep American jobs in this country by making the playing field level; not for some but for all. Set a goal to reduce the corporate tax rate by half this year and to zero within five. American entrepreneurs and businesses are intelligent enough to determine where to place their bets on the next hot product. They do not need government to tell them where to invest their money. Remove the unseen but heavy hand of lobbyists and special interests who peddle their influence in the halls of Congress. Eliminate industry specific tax breaks. Let American business compete with one another so that the best ideas emerge.

We must recognize that too frequently, our desire to expand regulatory oversight stems from a desire merely to increase power and authority in the Washington bureaucracy. Such expansions may stoke egos inside the beltway but they serve to extinguish the flames of creativity that can yield the next breakthrough in science or technology. It is time for the Department of Commerce to act to defend commerce in America. I propose that department review and approve regulatory actions that would hamper business activity as an advocate of American enterprise before the regulations have the force of law. They would serve as a Regulatory Board of Appeals for business.

God has blessed America with spacious skies and amber waves of grain. And our maker has also blessed us with ample reserves of oil and natural gas. We must balance the environmental concerns of well intentioned environmental interests, me included, with the needs of a growing population in a globally competitive world. The benefit of energy independence is not merely a lower price for gas at the pump: it is a lower cost for policing the actions of nations and rouge actors who use unfettered access to energy as a weapon for the destruction of civil societies.

All of our God-given resources, oil and gas, coal and wind, solar and nuclear, must be part of the equation. Onshore and offshore resources must be developed and judiciously used. Green energy is coming but it is not yet viable. When it becomes viable, it will take its rightful place alongside our traditional sources of energy.

Finally, there is no investment more important to make for the long term destiny of our nation than education. Learning must be a lifelong endeavor. What the pace of technological innovation has taught us is that skill sets must be firmly established in our young and then constantly refreshed throughout a lifetime. Our schools must return to the basics, to the so-called STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. We do not have nearly enough people trained in these areas and we must have more in order to compete in a world full of degree holders. The role of the Federal Government must be to encourage and set the bar high. Incentives should be reserved for the students in the form of scholarship in exchange for service. Local school boards know how to make curricula. The role of government should be to ensure that our graduates have the skills that our businesses need when they graduate. And government should foster a business climate that seeks new hires.

I have spent a lifetime traveling this world. Let no one say to you that the Age of America has past. The world looks to America for political leadership, moral leadership and economic leadership. The American way of life is still the envy of the world. The role of the President of the United States of America is to ensure that the union endures.

Ladies and gentlemen, I say to you once again: the State of the Union, our Union, is strong. Let no one doubt our resolve. May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.

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On Political Armageddon: Video Essay for January 14, 2012

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On Political Armageddon: Essay for January 14, 2012

We have endured no fewer than 15 televised debates in the Republican quest for the Presidential nomination. In addressing the remedies to the many ills that have befallen this republic has anyone of the candidates really told the truth? The Republic is in danger and neither single person nor sound bite can bail us out. Any realistic remedy will require sacrifice in the form of less government largess that extends to all of us. No one is exempt from the downsizing that government aspirations must surely endure in order to restore fiscal balance. To borrow an expression from my Great Depression-era father, we have champagne tastes with a beer pocketbook.

The status quo is simply not sustainable. We cannot spend like there is no tomorrow because there must be a tomorrow. Any person who thinks that their personal special interest can escape the budget ax is either kidding themselves or is fiendishly selfish. Perhaps both. To be sure, a strong economic recovery can serve to mask the deficit but it cannot mask spiraling government spending.

The duopoly of the Republican and the Democrat Parties and the Political Class they have created has lulled us into a false sense of security that we can fix everything without living within our means; without saddling future generations with debt that they cannot possibly relieve. We have heard each of the Republican candidates offer their version of economic nirvana: We can grow our way out of debt if we could only fix the economy; we can stem the spending tide if we could only erase one third of government spending; we can end entitlements if we make people more independent and get them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps; we could end terrorism if we could only get foreign governments to think as we do.

It is not working out for America.

Constant bearing, decreasing range. In nautical terms, that spells collision. That is where the Captain of our Ship of State, President Obama, is navigating us. With Mr. Obama at the helm, our heading is on autopilot. The radar target up ahead is a rocky shoal that can’t change its’ position. We must alter our course or catastrophe is imminent.

Here is my fear. The Republican Presidential Class of 2012 is not going to make a significant difference in the course the nation is taking. They might reduce speed but that will only serve to delay the inevitable. Circumstances demand bold action and I am not certain that our Republican candidates are up to the challenge. Scarier yet, I am not certain our electorate is up to that challenge. The electorate may ask for change but for the other guy, not for them.

This is the crux of the argument of the Tea Party and, oddly enough, the unwitting message of the Occupy movement: the parties are not up to the challenge of the moment. And that is why we must be patient but not too patient.

The election of 2010 brought sweeping change to the US House of Representatives. To that august body were added some 65 members who described themselves as outsiders. They sleep in their offices; they vote their conscious; figuratively speaking, they have lain across the tracks of the status quo. And what thanks have they gotten? The final verdict is still out but they have not captured the imagination of the unions, the special interests, the political class and least of all, the Republican establishment. Witness the recent squabble on Capitol Hill over the 2 month extension of the Social Security tax rollback. Republican leadership does not understand the position of the newest members of their own caucus, the Tea Party; they do not understand the clamor of the populace.

This is why the election of 2012 has such importance. It may be the last two-party election. It’s now or never for the Republican Party. If the Republicans are to ever lead the recovery of our worldwide position of leadership, political, economic and moral, they must first preserve the gains of 2010 and expand them in 2012. But it is not enough to expand the margin in Congress if the lessons learned through victory are diluted by the mantra of the past.

The Republican Party is the last best hope for our Republic but only if it embraces the message of change for which the people of this country are clamoring: bring common sense logic to Washington; don’t make us beg you to actually lead.

If the Republican Party misses this opportunity to capture the aspirations of the mainstream of the American people in this election, there will be a real third party challenge in American politics. It will be organized and it will pull from both parties but will come at the greater expense of the Grand Old Party. And it will be of a consequence of failure to read the obvious tea leaves of the tea party: the old way is leading our nation to ruin.

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On the Prize: Radio Essay for January 7, 2012

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On the Prize: Essay for January 7, 2011

The New Year has turned and we have officially entered into a year divisible by four. In other words, it is a Presidential election year. We have just finished Week 1 and already he have had the first caucus and in a few short days the first primary of this election year.
The candidates spent about $12.5 million on advertising in Iowa. Considering there were less than 125,000 votes cast in the caucus that comes down to about $1000 per vote. In the meantime, some 3 million Cornhuskers had to endure mind numbing and incessant ads day and night. Mitt Romney won Iowa by a scant 8 votes, capturing just over 30,000 votes.

Let’s put this in perspective. One hundred twenty five thousand votes are enough to win a Congressional election. Thirty thousand votes in an entire State is nothing. Most of the losing Congressional candidates in Massachusetts earned three times that many in 2010. It is not a mandate: it is a snapshot. There will be 125 million votes cast in November. What those votes represent is the crucible of challenge.

It is said that primary challenges make for better candidates. I believe that is true to a point. This beauty pageant has been a long and tedious one so far with ten candidates in the limelight and another ten candidates, mostly fringe, lingering in the shadows. Some candidates, people like Buddy Roemer, have not caught fire because of lack of exposure; others with exposure, like John Huntsman, have not caught fire. Go figure.

The American electoral process may be described as a play in three acts. Act I is the ritualistic mating and vetting dance where each candidate auditions and elbows the others for time. We have just entered Act II, the primary stretch to determine the nominee. It resembles the first Act but only for a short while. Victories yield momentum and donations, losses yield nothing but unfulfilled expectations and suspensions of campaigns. Act III is the head-to-head competition between the two party nominees. Will this year bring a third party candidate, too? I hope not.

Ironically, there are three factions in the Republican Party at this moment. There is the evangelical conservative, now led by Rick Santorum; the libertarian side, headed by Ron Paul; and the conventional, establishment side, headed by Mitt Romney. What amazes and disturbs me now is just how heated and divisive the interactions between these factions have become at the grassroots level.

If Facebook is any guide at all, there is very angry debate going on amongst conservatives who are seeking the anti-Obama. By necessity, they congregate in the Republican camp because there is no place for them amongst the Democrats. But it does not mean that all is well in that expanded Republican circle. These factions are in conflict right now. Each has their own candidate for the moment but the real test will be if they can coalesce once the three candidates whittle down to one. And that decision can come fast if Mitt Romney can keep his head of steam.

Romney has the national footprint and the broad financial base. He will be difficult to overcome because he has played the game according to the standard rules. He has been at this for years and the organization and discipline shows. But it is just that discipline and mastery of the established rules that have labeled Mitt as an establishment candidate in the eyes of the libertarians and less than effervescent in the eyes of the evangelicals.

Here is my suggestion for the anti-Obama forces: get together. There is only one chance to remove Barack Obama from office before damage is done to this country that we cannot begin to imagine. He cannot kill this country and he cannot kill our spirit but he can do us harm.

Too many people are seeking a sweeping victory that will not only reverse the damages wrought by Mr. Obama, but of The Great Society, The New Deal and Wilsonian Progressivism. It is a bridge too far. As in first aid, you must immediately stop the bleeding. Once that is done, you can deal with each malady as it presents itself.

The November elections will be a referendum and an opportunity to flip the rudder hard over. Like an aircraft carrier, this ship of state will take a few miles to perceptively change course. The first step is a Republican victory in November by the candidate who is the Republican nominee, no matter who it is. It is time to circle the wagons around the candidate, yes, but then on the party, too. The party needs fixing to be sure, but the country needs our help first. That is the prize. Let us keep our eyes upon it.

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