Tag Archives: second district

On Daydreaming About the American Dream: Radio Essay for September 24, 2011

I read a very disturbing article this week about a “Lost Generation” of American children. It sounds quite chilling, as if some macabre science fiction movie were being released about alien abductions and zombies gone wild. The reality is actually much scarier than any Hollywood thriller. Richard Freeman, a Harvard economist, coined this phrase to describe the growing number of recent college graduates who have entered the workforce since this great economic downturn only to find themselves underemployed, unemployed, still at home and more likely to be in poverty than at any time since World War II.

It gets worse. Today’s young people are continuing to delay marriage and purchasing homes, the bedrock of starting a life together. They are more prone to have children out of wedlock for reasons that escape me since fully 20% of them live in poverty. For this ever growing number of 20-somethings, the dream is fast becoming a nightmare. The promise of a meaningful career based upon a college degree has faded but their debt has not. Never before have the cost of education, and the subsequent debt that accrues, been more onerous and the prospect of obtaining relevant employment been more distant. The debt to opportunity ratio is approaching zero as wave after wave of young graduates come ashore each May.

For them, their fortunes have reversed. The stereotypical way of paying for tuition was to get a job as a waitress or barista. Now the young graduate is just as likely to be settling for such a job after graduation in order to pay off the college loan. Employment among those 16-29 is a mere 55.3 percent; teenage employment is only a startling 30 percent.

If this were a short term thing, a normal business downturn, it would be an insignificant blip on the radar. Instead, this protracted poor performing economy is likely to forever alter the job prospects of these graduate classes on the shoreline. Some will settle to be forever underemployed or sidetracked from their careers by their own choice. Others still will find themselves edged out by the fresher graduates several years down the road. Imagine the questions that employers will ask: how did you allow yourself to take your degree in sociology and parlay that into a gig at Starbucks? Hiring managers have short memories and unshared experiences.

Already, the calculus of the hiring equation is askew. The longer this downturn persists, the lower starting salaries will become and the slower will be the accumulation of wealth. It will take longer for couples to scrape together the down payment for their first home. Families will be smaller. Worse yet, expectations will be forever diminished.

In short, those of Generation Y will likely have a better chance of living the American Dream by daydreaming about it in the comfy confines of their parents’ home than by seeking to make their own way in the world.

There is another twist to the equation. The number of immigrants- legal immigrants- in this country continues to increase. So does the number of illegals. In any case, the majority are unskilled. Let’s put aside the debate of whether or not their presence takes jobs away from Americans. The fact is that a bad economy is an equal opportunity squelcher of unrealized expectation. If our native born population cannot find work, those who cross the border in any manner will only add to the misery of those struggling to find meaningful work.

The true irony is that there exist in this country more than 2 million job openings that cannot be filled because of a growing mismatch of skill-sets versus opportunities as our educational system is not producing the correct mix of graduates for the workforce and our immigration policies favor the unskilled over the skilled.

There is work to be done in Washington. Just this week there is news about unscrupulous government spending: $600 million in Social Security paid to dead people; $500 million paid to SOLYDRA even though the Obama administration knew the company was hemorrhaging cash; $107 million in tax credits to a leading Missouri Obama fundraiser; and surely others too heinous to mention.

It is not about Left vs. Right. It is about right vs. wrong. Government can be the solution to our problem only if government stands aside. Please, you’ve done enough to help. In one respect, President Obama was correct in pointing out that many of the proposed remedies in his jobs program have been supported at one time or another by each party but throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks is not a solution.

Here is your solution: reform the tax code, focus regulatory burdens on safety and shared national interest, cut the growth in government spending and borrow less money. The economy will rebound and the revenues will increase to fund whatever society we wish to create.
In the meantime, there is a Lost Generation of Americans depending upon action in Washington, my children included. They are looking for leadership in Washington. Does anybody have the courage to lead?

Press on.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay

The Tom Wesley and John Weston Review: September 17, 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay, uStream

On the Rising Tide: Radio Essay for September 17, 2011

A year divisible by four is usually a leap year but is always a Presidential election year. We find ourselves on the cusp of both. It won’t actually be 2012 for a few more months but you could hardly tell given all the rhetoric and the posturing. We are knee deep in the Presidential season now and we cannot pull back from the edge even if we wanted to do so. Correct me if I am wrong but no matter on what side of the political divide you may fall, I bet you cannot wait for November 2012 to come. I do not normally wish away time but this beauty contest is going to go down to the wire and not much is likely to happen in the intervening months to make much of a difference to the average American citizen when it comes to the great economic calamity we face. I believe the Presidential decision in November 2012 will be between a semi-conservative and ultra-liberal. All things considered a pretty clear choice. And given events of recent days, I learn towards the conservative side prevailing.

If you were born in the year 1923, you would be 88 years old. Imagine what you would have experienced: the Roaring 20’s and the boring 50’s; Charles Lindberg in the Spirit of St. Louis and Neil Armstrong at Tranquility Base; the Stock Crash of 1929 and the Stock Crash of 2008; the Dustbowl and the Super Bowl; fascism and feminism; defense war bonds and Gary US Bonds; Jackie Robinson and Mrs. Robinson; Rosa Parks and Rosie O’Donnell; Osama in the dog house and Obama in the White House. There are a lot of unforeseen events that changed our society. But one thing that has not been seen since 1923 is a Republican Representative in what is now the Ninth Congressional District of New York.

Bob Turner is not a household name and may never become one. He is the newest Republican to enter Congress after the Awakening of 2010. If New York hacks have their way, his district will be gerrymandered out of existence before the next election but I think it will not matter.

My children and I used to play a game on the beach we called “castling.” We would build elegant sand castles along the ocean’s edge and attempt to forestall the inevitable rise of the tide with elaborate berms of sand and water diverting channels and even the use of the occasional prone body. The tide always won. And it will continue to win. Mr. Turner’s victory is a harbinger of discontent in the land. Mr. Turner is a retired businessman not a career politician.

Is anybody listening? Special elections are a unique breed of election. They disrupt the natural order of things. Open seats elections are sought after since the power of incumbency is neutralized. Nothing is at stake for a career politician challenger since they do not have to relinquish any seat they may hold. But special elections are often “come-as-you-are” affairs since they are unplanned and provide a chance for opportunistic wannabees. They have the ability to provide a snapshot of the body politic. It does not allow for the machine to fully get into gear. Funding is off cycle. They provide a rare glimpse into “pure” politics.

If we have learned one thing from the New York ninth it is this: stand by for heavy rolls. The electorate is mad-as-hell –and-won’t-take-it-anymore. “Take what,” you say? Business as usual. No one is immune from the wrath of the electorate. The true electorate are the people who vote, by the way. They are not the people who get polled by the New York Times or CNN. They are the people who work and pay taxes and wonder how they are going to meet next month’s bills in the face of declining income, impending unemployment, diminishing savings, and all sorts of uncertainties that the Political Class in Washington have not a clue about. Employment security for incumbent Congressmen is being called into question.

If I have to handicap the election 14 months out, the edge goes to the Republicans, especially those new ones who were elected within this decade. For anyone in their 10th term or beyond, in either party, it is time to justify ones existence. A wave of new citizen legislators is upon us. A careers worth of experience in politics is no longer an asset. It is a liability. Look for “career politicians” to humanize themselves and tell you that they feel your pain.
They don’t. It is your pain. Only someone who has walked a mile in your shoes can understand that. If you have been employed by Uncle Sam in Congress for 20 years, you do not qualify.

Press on.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay

On Remembrance: A Radio Essay for September 10, 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay, uStream

On Remembrance: A Radio Essay for September 10, 2011

It was not until the afternoon of September 11, 2001, that I was able to gather my family together in our home and begin to explain what was happening. Nobody could yet make sense of the event but I wanted to tell my children one thing: this horrible event which was unfolding before our eyes was going to dramatically change the world as we knew it. Their childhood sense of innocence was to be forever corrupted. We held hands, said a prayer and like hundreds of millions of others, watched the television.

In less than one month our military forces were to engage the Taliban in Afghanistan and in March 2003 begin a war in Iraq. We are still fighting. My son was 8 years old in 2001, just an ordinary boy in third grade. He is eighteen now. I am his father and he is my son. This past weekend he also became my brother-in-arms. As I did 38 years ago, John took his oath of office as a Midshipman in the United States Naval Reserve and swore his allegiance to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and to well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which he was about to enter, so help him God.

And so, our War on Terror and terrors’ war on my family has come to this. My son has joined a long line of soldiers and sailors who await their turn to defend our country. Every generation in the past century has had their war: The Great War, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Afghanistan and Iraq in less than 90 years.

This war on terror is breaking all of the rules. We approach our tenth anniversary of Operation Enduring Freedom. We are painfully aware of the protracted conflict visible on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq but less so in the other areas of the world. Operation Enduring Freedom has taken us to the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, Trans-Sahara Africa, the Caribbean and Central America and Kyrgyzstan. Perhaps there are more.
The battle lines of the War on Terror were drawn long before they were made more visible by 9/11. We were in battle against the threat of Muslim extremists. The Foreign Policy Research Institute has complied a comprehensive litany of terrorism. The first World Trade Center car bombing in 1993 was masterminded by Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric. In 1994, the Algerian Armed Islamic Group hijacked an Air France flight possibly intended to fly into the Eiffel Tower. In June 1996 Saudi Hezbollah car bombed the Khobar Towers where Americans stayed. In 1997, Abdel-Rahman’s Islamist group attacks at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt. In 1998, the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. In October 2000 Al Qaeda carried out a suicide bombing on the USS Cole while in port in Yemen.

There is an inescapable observation here that the principal perpetrators of violent terrorism against the United States and the West are radical Islamic extremists. And yet, I do not subscribe the theory of guilt by association. I have met many wonderful practicing Muslims in my life and respect their faithfulness. I know Muslims from Egypt and Pakistan to Indonesia and Malaysia. Some of those I know live here in America. I have broken bread with them and call them friend. Those I know share the dream of working hard to achieve much and respect me for what I am and what I believe.

We know, though, from the brutally hard evidence of terror on our soil, that not all Muslims share the tolerance of my friends. We must remain constantly vigilant and committed to keep that threat in check. We cannot control the entire world but we can control our sovereign territory. And that starts at our borders. We cannot afford to be selective of who we choose to challenge. If our borders are porous for one, they are porous for all and we are less secure for the indifference. If we tolerate the lawlessness of those who would cross our borders without permission, we cannot separate those who may be seeking a better opportunity from those who wish to do us harm.

I believe we are still digesting the lessons of 9/11 and worldwide terrorism but this much we know. Our sovereign territory is our last refuge in a complex and interconnected world. We must control the ports of entry from all who would enter without permission. No one would argue that we should permit terrorists to enter into our country illegally. But some argue that others should be free to come and go as they please. Who can tell the difference?

Consider this. The threat of terrorist inspired violence touching your life pales in comparison with the threat presented by gang and human trafficking related violence. With all of our sophistication, we have not developed a device to determine intention. Our best defense is keeping those who have no legal right to be here on the other side of the border. In the meantime, my son, and brother-in-arms, will stand his post, along with several million more just like him, in a war that his generation has inherited so you may sleep a bit more securely tonight.

Herman Wouk famously wrote that, “The beginning of the end of war lies in remembrance.” So we do remember and we must remember with honor and reverence what happened 10 years ago and beyond.

Press on.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay

The Tom Wesley and John Weston Review: August 27, 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay, uStream

On Perspective: Radio Essay for August 27, 2011

This past week has been one filled with all the anticipation of a school boy awaiting a field trip as I made my way to the scene of the most significant battleground of the Civil War: Gettysburg. In preparation, I even read a chronicle of the Gettysburg Campaign written by Shelby Foote. You might remember him from the Ken Burns series on the Civil War. I had hoped to broadcast this morning from Cemetery Ridge, in sight of the hallowed ground of Pickett’s Charge where General Armistead breached the Union line but fell amid 6500 of his men who lay dead or wounded; or from the summit of Little Round Top where Colonel Joshua Chamberlain turned away five charges of the 15th Alabama Regiment, preserved a Union victory and earned the Medal of Honor.

A close friend of mine reminded me that the day doesn’t know what history will bring. In life, despite the long rumination of strategic thinking, we are frequently handed unique opportunities that must be acted upon in an instant. We react to the vision in our minds eye on instinct and intuition. In Gettysburg that hot and humid week in July 1863, leaders emerged from the crucible of conflict. Some were expected to lead and could not, others seized the moment and served to rally morale and exhort the most noble and courageous performance from their troops. All were expected to make a decision when minutes counted.

In the three day battle, over 50,000 Americans were killed, wounded, captured or missing. There is no period in American history outside of the Civil War that rivals the scale of human carnage. I was reminded that more than 620,000 soldiers died in those four years, nearly 2% of the US population. Today, such a percentage would claim 6 million lives. Gettysburg is a place to which all Americans should make a pilgrimage to begin to appreciate the sacrifice that Americans are willing to make for America.

This essay is not intended to be a lesson in military history. It is intended to remind us of two things as far as American history is concerned. First, all challenges must be placed in proper perspective. Those at Gettysburg were fighting to preserve a way of life and were willing to place their destiny firmly in the hands of their leaders. Secondly, the most notable leaders emerge amid the great and desperate challenges laid before them. They place country before self.

Let’s fast forward a century and a half to now. Given the headlines that define our current events, one might think that our Union was under siege. Bond ratings are downgraded; the stock market is volatile; we are engaged in foreign conflicts on the far side of the world; our Congress appears impotent; we can’t balance our budget; foreign potentates could call our stifling debt; unemployment is high; and our moral compass seems to be spinning.

All of these maladies afflict us, this is true. But it fails the test of perspective. Ours is a country that has proven in our short but splendid history to be capable of weathering tumultuous storms. In the past 150 years we have witnessed repeated financial scandals, political assassinations of multiple Presidents and civic leaders, two World Wars, a Great Depression that still dwarfs our current economic crisis, a continued quest for civil rights that set cities ablaze in the 1960’s and reflected shame upon our national soul, a war in a far away jungle that tore apart generations, a Presidential resignation and a Presidential impeachment. Need I go on?

We must apply the test of perspective to today’s problems. They are neither historic nor intractable. They were created by us and can be solved by us. There is no genie to come out of a bottle to magically snap a finger to resolve our problems. We don’t need one.

We must demand from those in leadership positions just that: leadership. Our country’s heritage is rife with examples of people who, when confronted with unexpected challenges under crushing pressure, rose to the occasion when called to perform and did so at the precise moment of need. That is all we need right now. Our problems of today do not need a Lincoln to solve.

We have figuratively quartered the horses in Washington to lead the country but do they have half the horsepower and courage as those who spilled their blood on the battlefield of Gettysburg to lead us through the muck and mire of our nations’ challenges? We often speak of the courage of our Founders who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to birth a nation. That creation has been buttressed four score and seven years plus seven score more by patriots who held true to the noble cause of freedom and who traded their youth that the Union may be preserved.

The day does not know what history will bring. The time for leadership to emerge in Washington is now. Who knows what real problems are in the offing? We owe it to our ancestors and our posterity to place country above politics and to advance this noble experiment called the United States of America.

Press on.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essay