Saturday, March 13, 2021

Bill to make blocking a highway a felony and provide immunity to drivers who unintentionally injure or kill someone blocking a highway advances.

by Rod Williams, 3-13-2021 - During the summer BLM-Antifa insurrection we saw the insurrectionist repeatedly use the tactic of blocking highways to call attention to their cause.  

Blocking a highway can cause severe disruption to people's lives such as missed weddings, missed doctor's appointments, missed airline flights, missed picking up children from school and missed important work.  It can also cause death if someone is about to have a baby or rushing a sick relatives with chest pain to the doctor, or if police, fire and ambulances responding to emergencies are stuck in traffic. 

Liberals generally approved of the tactic of blocking roadways and liberal city governments, including our own Nashville government even helped the protestors in blocking traffic. This outraged me and many Americans. There were a few instances where people protesting in the roadway were hit by motorist.  Sometimes it was an accident and charges were not filed, sometimes the motorist was charged with a crime.  While purposely running down someone who is blocking traffic is not justified, my outrage is primarily reserved for those who block traffic.  One should not play in the street and blocking traffic should not be a form of protest that is abetted. 

A bill that would address this, HBO513, is working its way through the Tennessee General Assembly. It would make obstructing a highway a felony and it would also grant immunity to drivers who unintentionally injure or kill someone blocking a highway. The bill has advanced through the House Criminal Justice Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. In the Senate, the bill has passed Second Reading and been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Currently obstructing a highway or street is a Class B or C misdemeanor, This would make it a Class E felony punishable by up to six years in prison and would also impose a mandatory $3,000 fine. I support this bill. It needs to pass. 

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Update: Why the lights went out in Texas. It wasn't just because of windmills. It wasn't even mainly because of windmills.

by Rod Williams, March 2, 2021 - When the hard freeze, snow, and ice hit Texas in mid February and the lights went out, some, almost gleeful, climate change skeptics said, "See, see, windmills don't work."  My Facebook page was full of these type comments and memes.

Some windmills in Texas did freeze up, but that was only a minor part of the problem.  Even where there was a windmill failure in Texas that does not prove that windmills are a failed technology, as many of my Facebook friends wanted to claim.  In Texas, windmills are not designed to withstand days of sub-zero temperatures and freezing rain. Below about 4 degrees and they shut down. There is a reason why wind turbines in New York keep working in bitter cold weather unlike the ones in Texas. If you care to know why, follow the above link.

In less detail than the story linked above, the Wall Street Journal, explains it more succinctly: "Given the state’s normally warm climate, not all of Texas’ power plants are fully equipped with winterization measures—protections plants use to prevent freezing of pipes, sensors, motors and other components. In northern climates, many winterization measures are permanent and plants are housed within entire building structures for protection from the cold. But experts said that because of Texas’ summer heat, plant operators need to keep components exposed."

The same reason windmills failed in Texas is the same reason a nuclear power plant failed and natural gas failed.  They were not designed for that kind of weather. Actually, natural gas, not wind turbines, was the main driver of the Texas power shortage.

In Texas a lot of things happened to cause the power system to fail. A system that was not designed for days of below zero weather was a major part of the problem and not only windmills failed but so did one of Texas' two nuclear plants and natural gas plants.  Also, however, there was a more complex reason, involving having the wrong financial incentives in place for utilities and an inadequate power grid and regulatory failure. It is explained fully for anyone who wants to actually read an article rather than just consume individual factoids that support one's predetermined opinion or someone who wants to dig deeper than simply have their prejudices reinforced by a cute meme. 

Anytime, I post anything that looks at the nuances of a policy or disagrees with what Rush Limbaugh or some other dogmatic conservative talk show host has said on a subject or something Donald Trump may have said, I am denounced as a liberal or a RINO.  What happened to conservatives?  I know there are ideologically-driven, close-mined, and even conspiracy-believing people on the left, but I think the right end of the political spectrum, has them beat.  I used to think conservatives were so much more rational and reasonable than liberals; not so much anymore.  I don't think it is me that has changed; conservatives have become the know-nothing party of stupid people.  My friend Mark Rogers the other day said of something conservatives were arguing as, "crazier than a gang of QAnon worshipers trying to play Trivial Pursuit."  I love that and think it describes a lot of conservative reasoning these days.

If I reference a source other than one of the new simpleton right wing media publication, the source is rejected. If it is a mainstream source, forget it.  The Washington Post or New York Times or any other liberal mainstream source is simply dismissed as "fake news."  Even long established respected conservative journals are dismissed as "establishment," "RINO," "never Trumpers," "neo-con," or simply "liberal." The other day I referenced an article that appeared in Reason, and a commenter called Reason a liberal publication.  I often disagree with the editorial position of Reason. They are libertarian and I am a mainstream conservative, but they do publish well researched, thought-provoking articles.  I am afraid many opinionated Trump-type populist conservatives don't know the difference between "libertarian," and "librarian." 

Back to the topic at hand. Below are four articles that explain what went wrong in Texas. There are two articles from the Wall Street Journal and one from National Review.  These should be sources conservatives trust.  The other is from The Economist, which you may not know.  They have a more liberal position on some issues than I do, but they are rational, very data-driven, and provide deeply detailed in-depth reporting.   Rather than a journal of opinion, they are a weekly news magazine for people who want to be well-informed.  They are my favorite source for just hard news.

WSJ: Texas Spins Into the Wind

WSJ: The Texas Freeze: Why the Power Grid Failed  

National Review: Ask an Engineer

The Economist: The freeze in Texas exposes America’s infrastructural failings

3/13/2021 update: Here is another source that is essentially a conservative or libertarian trustworthy source explaining why there was a power failure in Texas.  For the new brand of know-nothing, don't-confuse-me-facts populist-conservatives, this will not matter.  They would prefer to trust a cute meme rather than a well-reasoned informed analysis. For everyone else, this confirms what is reported in the other sources and expands on that with additional detail.

Cato Institute: Some Preliminary Thoughts on the Texas Electricity Meltdown

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Tennessee Bill Could Limit Unlawful Restrictions Placed On Churches During Emergencies

Rod's Comment:  This is one of those issues about which I honestly am not sure how I feel.  I guess that is why I make a poor pundit.  I often don't have certainty about an issue. Not everything is a case of black and white.  I see a lot of shades of gray. Sometimes my view develops over time and sometimes I even change my mind after reaching a first conclusion.  However, here is my thinking on the issue:

First of all, I believe the Covid-19 is a real and a serious health hazard. It is not just like the flu.  I wear a mask and take reasonable precautions.  I am not one who thinks wearing a mask is submission to government and wearing a mask marks me as someone who would willingly get in the boxcar. 

Secondly, however, I am bothered by the authority of the government to exercise the kind of authority exercised to close restaurants and retail establishments and bars and concerts and sporting events.  A reading of the right of the government to quarantine looks like it is a right to quarantine sick people, not healthy people.  However, enough scholars have argued government has this authority that I cautiously accept that assertion. Also, while I am a constitutionalist and a strict constructionist, the constitution is not a suicide pact. If to avoid a pending catastrophe, at times it may be necessary to take bold action and then determine the constitutionally of the action later, then I am OK with that.   

Thirdly, however, the authority of government to control religious activity or the power of religious institutions to control government action is different in kind than the power of the state to close a bar or sporting event.  The conflict between church and state is a different category than other conflicts that may seem similar. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights recognizes this relationship between religion and state by stating, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."  And, it looks to me like prohibiting church gatherings are, "prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Fourth, however, this is the first time this situation arose.  Previously use of the power to quarantine was exercised against sick people.  During the polio scare of the 1950's pubic swimming pools were closed and there may be rare instances of where for health reasons, gatherings were prohibited but we have had nothing on this scale before.  This is the basically the first time we have had this situation.  If may never arise again.  If it does, it might be another hundred years before it does and it appears this period of government mandated quarantine is coming to an end.  If those who content the government exceeded their authority by closing churches have a case, let them take that case to court.  However, before they get far in the courts the ban on church gatherings will probably be lifted and the court is not very likely to consider a case in which the issue has already been resolved.

So, in conclusion,  this is one of those issues in which I would be in favor of "kicking the can down the road."  Put if off a year and see if there is still any passion around the issue. If not, then put it off until the issue comes up again. Not every issue has to be solved.  Sometimes, an issue can just be deferred and left for someone to deal with in the future.  I know that is not an inspiring "call to arms."  However, some issues can be deferred without any ill effects, especially when it is an issue that has resolved itself is unlikely to arise again anytime soon. So, send this bill to send to summer study.

Tennessee Bill Could Limit Unlawful Restrictions Placed On Churches During Emergencies 

The Tennessee Conservative – A new bill proposed by Representative Rusty Grills, from the 77th district, would limit the authority of county health officers in Tennessee if passed. 

On March 9, the Civil Justice Subcommittee voted to send the house bill forward to the full committee for another round of voting. The goal of the bill is mainly to keep the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency from imposing unlawful restrictions on churches during emergencies. 

A companion bill in the state Senate proposes the same thing. If passed, the bill “limits the present law authority of county health officers to order quarantines to protect the public health from an epidemic, and closures of public establishments by prohibiting county health officers from issuing an order that closes or limits the lawful operations of a church or religious organization and declaring any such order that it issues to be void and unenforceable.” (continue reading)

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Victim Of Stalking & Violent Crime Shares Her Harrowing Story In Support of Lifetime Protection Bill

Rod's comment:  This is a powerful statement of a horrify real life experience that speaks to the need of this legislation.  

Victim Of Stalking & Violent Crime Shares Her Harrowing Story In Support of Lifetime Protection Bill

By Nikki Goeser, The Tennessee Conservative The Tennessee State Senate unanimously passed the Lifetime Order of Protection Bill this week. The final vote will take place on Monday, March 15th on the House Floor. This bill is to help prevent victims of violent crimes from being re-victimized. 

My situation is only one example of why this legislation is needed here in TN. Unfortunately, there are other victims of horrific crimes in our state who need help also. 

On April 2, 2009, my life was turned upside down. Completely Shattered. My husband Ben was murdered in front of me by a man who was stalking me. This man’s name is Hank Wise. My husband and I were inside a restaurant and my stalker showed up out of nowhere. My husband had already asked him to leave me alone about a month prior. I realized at that point that I was being stalked. I asked management to remove him from the establishment. 

When management confronted him and asked him to leave, he pulled a .45 from under his jacket and came up behind my husband, shot him in the head, then stood over Ben and continued to fire 6 more rounds into him. In front of myself, 50 witnesses and security cameras. He put the gun back under his jacket and started to walk out like no one would know he was the shooter. 

I knelt beside my husband in a pool of his blood wishing his life back into him, but it was no use, Ben was dead. The horrific scene will be with me for the rest of my life. (continue reading)

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Bold Patriot Institute presents part 5 of the History Channel video series, "The Revolution."


On Monday, February 8th, The Bold Patriot Institute started their journey through the History Channel special series called - "The Revolution." This is a series of 10 great video presentations with excellent narration and reenactments that delivers a very exciting learning experience. The series began in Boston in 1765... The 2nd presentation began with the battle at Lexington / Concord and covered the period up to the Declaration of Independence. The third session covered the writing of the Declaration of Independence. The fourth session covered the period from the retreat from New York to the battle of Trenton - roughly the second half of 1776. 

Monday's presentation is the fifth in the series and covers the period following the Battle of Trenton to the aid from France in mid-1777. These presentations have been particularly interesting and we urge everyone to be there.  These presentations are by The Bold Patriot Institute which is sponsored by the Bold Patriot Brewing Company, 410 39th. Avenue North, Nashville.

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Council puts a halt to the closing of Knowles Home.

by Rod Williams - Finally, last year Metro closed the Bordeaux nursing homes. If Metro would have continued with its plan to close Knowles,  Metro would have finally been out of the nursing home business, but the Council intervened and stopped that from happening.  Now, a new ordinance requires a resolution by the council before discontinuing operations at Knowles Assisted Living facility. 

My view is that we should never have gotten in the nursing home business to start with and after the passage of Medicare which gave poor people health care choices, we should have closed our charity hospital.  Unfortunately, once government starts providing a service, it is very hard to discontinue it even if it is inefficient and no longer needed. 

Read more about this development at this link

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Want a history lesson with that beer? Bold Patriot Brewery is here to serve.

The Tennessean - West Nashville neighbors Mark Rivers and Wayne Castor have a new place to hang out Monday nights to learn about history and talk politics over freshly brewed beers. 

They call it a "safe space." 

The new Bold Patriot Brewery is giving weekly early-American history lessons led by co-founder and ardent history buff Galen Walker. His grandson is the brewer and sometime-bartender. 

"If you don't learn history, you'll repeat it," Rivers said. "You're better off coming to a place like this to discuss opinions in a civil manner." Flintlock muskets decorate the door handles and taps, and the walls are covered in American Revolution-themed murals. 

... Like many people fleeing California, they found a welcome lower-tax haven in Nashville. (link)

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Tennessee Historical Commission votes to remove Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from Capitol

by Rod Williams - The Tennessee Historical Commission has voted to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the Tennessee Stat Capitol and I don't care much one way or the other.  If I had a vote and was convinced that this bust was deeply offensive to our Black brethren, I wouldn't block its removal.  This however is something that I do not get worked up a lot over either way.  The history of Nathan Bedford Forrest is mixed.  Some say he was a racist through and through responsible for the Fort Pillow massacre and was a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.  He also, however, ordered the Klan dissolved and spoke in favor of racial harmony and was undeniably a brave and talented cavalry officer.  

During the BLM/Antifa rebellion and riots of the summer we saw a large number of statures and monuments toppled or vandalized. The people doing the destruction were kind of indiscriminate and toppled any classical looking statures. Even statues of those who had nothing to do with the civil war or slavery and some who were even pro-emancipation were toppled.  Also in the woke spirit of the times, some places stripped the name of American founders such as Washington, Jefferson and Madison off of street signs, school buildings and place names because they had once been slave owners. 

While I don't feel strongly about the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, I do approve of the methodical deliberative manner with which the decision was made.  It was not a rushed decision reached in response to an iconoclastic frenzy.  

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Proposed Constitutional amendment changing the way we select the Attorney General passes the Senate.

 By Rod Williams - SJR0001, the bill that proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to change the way the Attorney General is selected, passed the Senate by a vote of 25-7 on Monday and now goes to the House for consideration a second time.  It has already passed the house once but must now pass the house by a two-thirds majority.  If approved by the House then the proposed amendment would be on the ballot for consideration of the public at the next gubernatorial election.  

Currently in Tennessee the state's chief law enforcement official, the attorney general, is appointed to an eight-year term by the Supreme Court, behind closed doors in secret session. This is the way it has historically been done. However, for most or our history, the Supreme Court was elected or at least faced a yes-no retention election.  This at least resulted in some degree of making the process of choosing the AG democratic. Since 2014, the Supreme Court has been appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State legislature however, yet the process of selecting the attorney general has not changed. 

Tennessee is the only state that has the Supreme Court select the Attorney General. Attorney generals are elected in 43 states and appointed by the governor in five states and in Maine, the attorney general is chosen by the state legislature.

Under the proposed constitutional amendment, the Supreme Court would make the appointment to a six-year term but it would be made in open court with a recorded vote. Then, the appointment would be subject to confirmation or rejection by the state legislature within 60 days of the appointment.

I approve of this change. The job of Attorney General is not simply administrative or prosecuting crimes, but has a dimension of making policy. The AG determines law enforcement priorities and represents the State in lawsuits and offers legal opinions to the State legislature. In my view, the position should not be elective.  I do not want the chief lawyer for the state to have to pander to the popular sentiment of the moment. On the other hand, making the AG selected in secret by the Supreme Court makes the AG too independent of public sentiment and too obligated to the Supreme Court.  This proposal is a good compromise and strikes the right balance between an independent AG and yet an open and democratic process. 

The "no" votes came from Akbari, Campbell, Robinson, Yarbro, four of the Senate's six Democrats and from Republicans Lundberg, Stevens, and Walley,  For more on this issue follow this link

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Tuesday, March 09, 2021

MNPS gives no-bid $18 million contract to Meharry Medical Group

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — In the name of emergency, Metro Nashville Public Schools quickly awarded Meharry Medical Group a contract worth up to $18 million for just four-and-half months of work. The work includes testing and monitoring protocols, creating a vaccination plan, and data transfers, all for the eye-opening sum of almost $1 million per week. 

“Don’t tell me there aren’t other people that are capable of doing this for less money,” said Metro councilman Steve Glover. The problem is, with no other bids, we don’t know. We don’t know if someone would have done it for $5 million or $50 million, because all we have is this one bid, unchallenged and blindly accepted by MNPS. (read more)

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by Rod Williams- I recently posted an essay explaining why the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill was a disaster and puts our nation at risk. I don't want to sound like an alarmist but this is alarming.  This may be "the straw that breaks the camels back."  If this does not turn into a disaster, it is because we dodged a bullet and bad things that could happen, just didn't happen.  We have no margin of error in order to avoid a disaster. We cashed in the insurance policy. We only avoid a disaster if none of the several things that could go wrong, don't happen.  If someone is not concerned, they are not paying attention.

I am amazed that not a single Democrat senator was concerned about the consequences of such a move and voted against it. These are I assume, for the most part, educated and smart people. I find it hard to believe that they can be so at peace and unconcerned about the step they have just taken. Maybe they really do believe in modern monetary theory that debt doesn't matter.  It is hard to believe most would even know of this fringe theory, let alone embrace it. 

Remember when their used to be "blue dog Democrats," who advocated fiscal responsibility?  There weren't many of them, and even then they didn't often vote the way they professed to believe, but they at least paid lip service to fiscal responsibility. Even a recognition that we need to be fiscally responsible  has been tossed out the window.

This spending bill is different than anything else we have done before.  Not only because of how large is the price tag but because the circumstances in which we passed it are different than times at which we have engaged in massive spending before.

I am not sure on a personal level what one should do to protect themselves. For all of those who talk of buying gold and burying in the basement, I am not there yet, but they don't sound as crazy as I once thought they were. 

We may have an economic collapse that in turn leads to civil war and massive deprivation. We may live to experience a post apocalyptic world.  More than likely, we will have a declining economy, gradually lessening of economic growth and then no growth and a shrinking economy and more and more people falling into poverty. Instead of America being near the top as one of the wealthiest nations on earth, we will likely fall to the middle of the pack.  Without America's leadership, the threat of the ascendancy of aggressive authoritarian regimes grows. Famine and pestilence is likely in increase.  The future is not bright.

There is a lot of wealth in America and for maybe a generation we can live off of accumulated wealth.  Parents with assets will pass those assets onto their children, and government can tax wealth for a while.  Those without accumulated wealth will fall further behind. A shrinking economy along with wealth redistribution policies will overtime cause the accumulated wealth to diminish and our standard of living will fall and generation after generation will have it worse than the previous generation.

Even if Republicans can regain control of Congress in 2024 and the presidency in 2026 or 2030, I am not very confident that we can restore the economy to vibrancy and our country to solvency. The money is already spent.  If there was the will, a sizeable amount of it could be impounded and spending cancelled, but that would require a change in attitude of the American people.  Unfortunately, the Republican electorate is just as likely to elect populist who stroke resentment against "elites," as they are responsible economic conservatives.

Just as we cannot spend ourselves into solvency or prosperity, we cannot tax ourselves into solvency or prosperity or tax-cut ourselves into it either.  Democrat policies could make the coming collapse even more likely and sooner and Republican policies could slow the decline and maybe, over time, reverse the downward trajectory but we have rough sailing ahead, even under the best of circumstances.

The below from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and explains why the debt matters:



None of us can say what the next major test of our nation will be — whether it’s an economic downturn, a national security threat, a climate disaster, another pandemic, or some other crisis. But as a wealthy nation, and with people’s lives and livelihoods in the balance, we must do more to prepare for the unexpected. 

Preparedness includes determining national priorities — and finding ways to pay for them. It means making smart investments that benefit our economy over time. It means investing in our national security so that we can address new global threats, like cyber attacks. It means having stockpiles of essential supplies, so we are prepared for the unexpected. It means strengthening our safety net to help support and sustain the most vulnerable in society. 

The truth is that we can’t adequately prepare for the future without a solid fiscal foundation. A sustainable budget will ensure that we have sufficient resources, in good times and bad, to meet the needs of our citizens and cope with whatever future challenges we may face.


Today's debt threatens tomorrows economy. America’s fiscal health and economic strength are inextricably linked. We can’t have a strong economy over the long run without a stable fiscal foundation. Debt already exceeds the size of the entire economy and is on track to grow far out into the future, reducing our ability to invest in areas that provide the jobs and growth that define the middle class. 

Right now, we’re spending nearly $1 billion every day on interest on the debt. Over the next ten years, the interest tab will grow to total nearly $4 trillion—and it will more than double every ten years thereafter. So in many ways, instead of investing in our future, we’re paying for the past. Rising interest crowds out priorities like education, infrastructure and scientific research—key engines of growth and prosperity for our nation. 

A sustainable fiscal outlook is an investment in our future economy, supporting vibrant growth over the long term, with rising wages and greater opportunity, productivity and mobility. Putting our nation on a sustainable fiscal path creates a more positive economic environment, with increased access to capital, more resources for future public and private investments, improved consumer and business confidence, and a stronger safety net. 


A moral obligation to the next generation. The next generation will know debt like no other. Personally, they are burdened by record student debt. But they are also entering the workforce during a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty, in a nation with crumbling infrastructure, a climate in crisis, rising inequality and racial injustice. 

At the same time, they will inherit an unwelcome and costly legacy in the form of America’s $27 trillion — and rising — national debt. We are morally obligated to ensure the next generation is able to define their own path, to control their own destiny and choose their own policies, without the burden of forever paying for our own current needs. 

A just and moral America is founded on the principle that we leave the next generation better off — with the financial freedom to decide how to direct their own future resources in the most effective, equitable and prosperous way. Our fiscal capability is the foundation that creates opportunity for the next generation. 

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Sunday, March 07, 2021

How will the $1.9 Trillion stimulus plan be paid for?

by Rod Williams, 3/7/2021 - The Senate passed the $1.9 Trillion stimulus bill yesterday with only minor changes from the House version. By anyone's calculations, $1.9 trillion is a lot of money. I contend the bill passed is not really a stimulus bills and not near that much is needed and that the bill is laden with pork that has nothing to do with the pandemic and may in fact, delay the recovery.  I explain my opposition to the bill in a  post you can read at this link.

This post is not to reargue points made in the previous post.  I am not arguing the merits of what is in the bill this time but attempting to explain how a $1.9 trillion price tag could be a disaster for our economy and drastically change the nature of America. This is pretty elementary economics, so if it this is too elementary for you and will bore you, you can move along.

Tax revenues are the primary source of funding for governments.  However, just like a household wants things it cannot afford with current income, government does to.  To have those things, like households, governments borrows money.  They borrow to build roads, fight wars, provide welfare, cover payroll, and lots of other things.  Any government spending not covered by tax revenues is financed by borrowing. Borrowed money, of course, is called debt. Debt is not free. When government borrows money it has to repay it. (This is mostly true, The exception is monetizing the debt.)  Issuing debt today means we will have to pay for it in the future.  When those who are critical of government debt say things, like "we are stealing from our children and grandchildren," that is what they mean.  

Deficits and Debt: Before going further it is time to clarify some terms.  The government runs a deficit anytime it spends more money than it takes in. Usually when the deficit is mentioned it is for a single fiscal year, but doesn't have to be; it could be any period.   Debt is the amount of total money the government owes.  The total of all of the budget deficits add up to the debt.

The total debt of the US government now is about $27.9 trillion dollars.  If one takes the total debt of the United States and divides by the number of people that comes to $84,683. To pay off the federal debt, would require each man, women and child paying $84,683

The debts is paid back though collected taxes for the most part.  Paying off the old debt or just paying the interest on the debt is called "debt service."  Put simply, that is money earned or received today to pay on debt previously created.  Think of a household with credit card debt.  Each month, part of that household income goes to pay credit card bills.  So, paying today for money you spend in the past means you do not get to spend that money now.  Often households and governments keep borrowing more to pay for past borrowing. Currently interest on the federal debt paid out of current revenues takes about 10% of current revenue.

Some will say, "This is nothing new. When Trump was doing it, Republicans were fine with it."  To a certain extend that is justified criticism.  I was critical of spending under Trump but most Republicans were not.  However, Trump wanted his last stimulus bill to contain a $2000 per person payment and Republicans cut it back to $600.  Republicans did not stand up to Trump often enough, but they were for the most part more fiscally responsible than Trump. Trump was not a fiscal conservative. 

During Trump's time in office, the National debt shot up $7.8 Trillion.
The Trump deficit was the third largest relative to size of the economy in our nations history. The Trump Tax cut was a contributing factor.  The tax cut was never going to pay for itself.  Some ideologues object to use of the terminology that "a tax cut pays for itself,"  but it is useful.  A tax cut "pays for itself" when the new lower tax rate, by putting money in the hands of consumers, spurs economic growth resulting in the lower tax rate bringing in as much revenue as the old higher rate.  The Trump tax cut did spur growth but not enough.  Economist who studied the issue said it wouldn't.  The tax cut combined with spending cuts could have been at least revenue neutral but Trump had no appetite to push for cutting spending. Trump ballooned the deficit. Part of this was spending in response to the Covid-19 pandemic but part was simply misstatement and no appetite for cutting spending.

Allowing that there is truth to the criticism that Republicans only recently rediscovered fiscal responsibility, that does not justify unconcern with what adding $1.9 trillion will do to the deficit and debt. If you are a houshold trying to balance a tight budget and the wife goes out and spends an enormous amount of money on hair care and beauty products, it is not wise to go out and spend money on a new fishing rod, just to get even.  

 Look at these numbers: 
  • Federal Budget Deficit for January 2020: $33 billion
  • Federal Budget Deficit for January 2021: $163 billion 
  • Cumulative Budget Deficit through January FY20: $389 billion
  • Cumulative FY21 Deficit through January 2021: $736 billion 
We are in much worse shape now than in the past.  Since we already have a year-to-day, as the end of January, deficit of $736 billion, spending $1.9 trillion will be all deficit and debt.

So how big is the debt? What do those numbers mean? The Congressional Budget Office recently said that sometime this year, the total federal debt will exceed the size of the entire U.S. economy. If nothing changes, before adding another $1.9 trillion, we are headed for for the second worst deficit since the wartime spending of 1945. If you take the total value of every single item produced in the county and ever service provided, the total value would not pay off the national debt. This is kind of a measure of a country's fiscal responsibility.  When the World Bank looks at helping out some poor country, this is a figure they consider in determining if the country is fiscally responsible. 

But we have had huge debt before, have we not? Because we survived the only other instance of when the total debt exceeded the GDP, some think there is nothing to worry about.  Coming off of WWII was not comparable to coming out of this pandemic. In WWII, we had stopped domestic production of cars and lots of other things and we had rationing of even lots of foodstuff.  There was enormous pent-up demand.  Also, we were the only major wealthy country that had not been destroyed by the war.  Another factor is that we did not have Medicare and Social Security that gobbles up a large share of available revenue.  The situation at the end of World War II does not provide insight into the current situation. 

Who owns our debt? So what is the threat of so much debt? First of all, look at who owns the debt. A lot of people think it is China and China holds enough of our debt to be a concern, but only a little over $1 trillion. Japan holds the most at $1.26 trillion, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Switzerland add up to about $7 trillion of America’s debt. 

Part of the debt is "intragovernmental debt" where the government borrows from other agencies. This comes to about $6 trillion.  Most of that is money borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund. Some people sensationalize this as saying the government raided social security.  The debt of the United States is a concern, but the concern is the debt, not that the Social Security Trust Fund has its savings in the form of instruments the equivalent of U. S. bonds. 

Social Security is not a retirement system like a pension but a transfer payment system like welfare.  Current retirees get their money from current workers who are paying into the system. Social Security is projected to grow at a rate greater than the GDP for the foreseeable future. The Social Security Trust Fund will run out of money in 2031 and then, if only revenue funds the system instead of revenue plus money in the trust fund, social security payments will have to be cut by about a third.  People will not stand for that and politicians will not allow massive cuts of that magnitude to Social Security. That is a problem and will put more pressure on the Federal government to run even higher deficits but that is an issue of the structure of Social Security and is not relevant to the current discussion beyond noting who owns the debt and the pressure for more debt. The balance of our national debt is held by individuals, pension funds and the Federal Reserve. 

So what is the problem?  One, has already been mentioned.  As we borrow more, it takes more of current revenue to pay interest on the debt.  If there is any bright side to this much debt, it means there is less debt availability to fund things like Medicare for All or The Green New Deal.  Also, however it means there is less available funds to modernize our crumbling infrastructure and engage in other desirable spending. 

 It also means there is less to modernize our military to confront a growing Chinese threat and keep the peace. In hearings before Congress members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and foreign policy experts routinely say the national debt is one of the major US security concerns. China is on an aggressive policy of expanding their influence in Asia as well as Africa and other places in the world.  We are slow to counter this threat.  India is being neutralized and Taiwan is under greater threat. Allies such as South Korea and the Philippines are nervous. South East Asia is kowtowing.  At a time when we need to be showing greater strength and showing  greater resolve to keep the peace, we are failing.  Some, isolationist and Pollyannaish pacifist may be pleased if we withdraw from world affairs and give up our leadership role.  I see it as a disaster if we do so.

Another problem with this level of debt is that when savers, either pension funds or individual investors or foreign governments, buy American government debt that is money that was not invested in new technologies, and research and development, and job growth.  Government debt pulls money out of investments that would grow the economy.  For a long time America has been the richest county in the world and a leader in economic growth.  We are slowing.  If we someday envy the economic vitality of countries that are out performing the US, our debt will not be the only thing to blame but lack of investment due to government debt squeezing out investment in the private sector will be one of the major causes.

Another problem is that debt held by our adversaries weakens us in relationship to them. If China were to dump the American debt they hold onto the market, US bond prices would drop and this would force the government to increase yields. That would make borrowing more expensive for the government. That would also make loans for US corporations and private borrowers more expensive, slowing US growth. That means lost jobs of course, but also less revenue for the government.  If is not wise to let your adversary have that kind of control over you. 

The last reason for concern is the big one. There may be a catastrophic event that causes a debt spiral and an economic collapse. Now, savers world wide view the US as a safe place to put their money.  We may be the wellest man in the sick ward, but by comparison we look pretty strong.  Now, the world believes America is the safest place to keep its money. Assume something happens like the financial crisis of 2006, or assume a combination of things happen like the financial crisis of 2006, a pandemic out of control, and a 9/11 type terrorist attack.  We have already eaten up our debt capacity. Debt greater than GDP is already a sign of unhealthy borrowing.  That is what sick countries do that the World Bank puts on an austerity diet. With a cataclysmic financial event, we would have to greatly increase interest rates to attract new investors and that would increase debt service and we would have to borrow more just to meet payroll and keep the lights on.  This is not far-fetched. It is hard to predict but we have no margin. We have already cashed in the insurance policy. The next time we need debt to meet a crisis the cost will be much higher. 

This essay purposely simplified things and I did not talk about what happens when we borrow from the Federal Reserve which is called "monetizing the debt," or sometimes euphemistically called "printing money."  That carries its own risk of higher interest rates and slower economic growth and the risk of run away inflation if it is a practice in which we overindulged .  It is not a solution to the problem of a large national debt. 

For some of the source material and to learn more, see these links:  linklink, link, link, link.

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