Former Republican County Commissioner calls his party out for a new playbook

The following editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer yesterday. It is called “My GOP needs a new playbook before it’s too late” and is written by Matthew Ridenhour, a former Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner. I pasted it in its entirety, with a link if you wanted to see the official version. It speaks for itself.

“The GOP has a difficult future, and I’m not sure whether the party and its faithful understand this. If we are going to have a successful party — indeed, a party at all in 10-15 years — we need to have an honest look at where we are and determine an admittedly difficult path forward. The GOP has firmly planted its flag in the rural areas of our state and across the country. This has led to many victories at the state and federal level, but it is not a viable long-term strategy. The problem is simple — rural areas are not growing. They may be solidly red, but college grads are moving to cities like Raleigh and Charlotte — not to Mayberry. There have been a multitude of books, research, and analysis around the death of small-town America. Cities will become so blue and populous as to turn red states blue. In 2018, both in Mecklenburg County and across the nation, Republicans lost scores of seats in urban and suburban areas. Many wrote this off as typical midterm election results, but in 2020 Republicans did not fare much better. In four years the GOP lost the House, Senate, and presidency. How do we regain our once-reliable suburban voters?

Our message must match our actions; voters look for authenticity. We purport to be the party of individual liberty, but what liberties do we promote besides the Second Amendment? We say we support our LBTQ+ and Log Cabin Republican friends, but then we attempt to regulate what occurs between consenting adults. We are slow to repeal blue laws. We are hesitant to support even medicinal use of marijuana. We say we support religious liberties, but when we open every meeting and convention with a Christian prayer, is that welcoming to people of other faiths? We say we are the party of fiscal conservatism and limited government, but then pass laws like the Patriot Act, create the Department of Homeland Security, launch the Space Force, and oversee some of the largest periods of government spending in the 21st century. Again, this all comes across as inauthentic and hypocritical. The GOP often states it is a big-tent party, but if voters do not feel they belong in the tent, then is it really? Voters in 2018 and 2020 decided that our tent was not big enough for them. If we continue to lose would-be GOP voters, then we will not gain back the ground necessary for long-term electoral success. We will continue to lose the suburbs, older Republicans, and young people.

Voters in urban and suburban areas talk about issues like affordable housing. Student loan debt. Homelessness. Economic mobility. They do not talk about “God, Guns, and the Constitution,” though they may love all three. This does not mean the GOP should become “Democrat-lite.” Rather, find and promote conservative solutions to issues facing urban and suburban voters. Accept that Republicans engaging on these issues and others are not Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) but instead are Republicans fighting for voters on a very different battlefield than our friends in rural areas. Support the rights and liberties of others, so long as they do not encroach upon our own rights. As Ronald Reagan said: “The heart of conservatism is libertarianism”. Some Republicans will object, and counter that we are poised to take the House, and maybe the Senate, in 2022. I do not disagree, but that will only belie the decades-long voting trends in urban and suburban areas. We must change our message and our course for long-term success. Let’s Make the GOP Big Tent again.”

I agree with this Republican’s comments. Yet, one thing the party can start with is to support those who are telling the truth and calling out those who are purposefully misleading people. Ridenhour will be dismissed as a RINO, which is a shortcut label by a person without a good rebuttal. Yet, he is not alone in saying this among Republicans. He just needs more support in what he is saying.

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/article255097637.html#storylink=cpy

Bipartisan compromise works in North Carolina on energy bill

In an article written by Lucille Sherman and Adam Wagner in The Charlotte Observer called “NC’s governor signs major energy bill, laying the groundwork for a budget compromise,” much needed bipartisan compromise is highlighted. It should be as this is the way things need to happen for lasting changes. Both sides must buy into the agreement.

Here are a few key paragraphs, but the entire article can be linked to below.

“With North Carolina’s top Republican lawmakers standing beside him, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed Wednesday a piece of energy legislation that was years in the making. The long-awaited proposal, House Bill 951, solidifies Cooper’s goal of carbon neutrality in the state by 2050 and gives Duke Energy, the state’s dominant utility, a win it has long sought on multi-year rate-making.

Though some of North Carolina’s businesses and renewable-energy advocates objected to the bill’s passage, the compromise is a win for both the Republican-majority legislature and the governor, and it comes as both parties negotiate a spending plan for the state….

When you’ve had a successful experience in negotiating a deal, it makes the next deal between the same people much easier because you understand each other better and you understand that you can’t get all you want,’ said Senate minority leader Dan Blue, a Democrat serving Wake County.

The energy bill is not the first compromise between the two branches this year. Cooper signed a criminal justice reform bill with bipartisan support and worked with the legislature to create a plan to reopen schools amid the pandemic. But the energy proposal is one of the most complicated compromises between the two branches yet, and lays the groundwork for an even bigger trade-off in budget negotiations.

‘It creates momentum,’ Sen. Paul Newton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, said after a committee meeting last week. ‘Having a bipartisan solution here on energy does help lead to a bipartisan solution on the budget.'”

As with any compromise, there is give and take. But, the key is something tangible and largely helpful got done. This is the way it should be. Getting helpful things done is what we are owed by their efforts. Kudos for making it happen to all involved. Please keep doing it.

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article254959687.html

Letter to my Republican Senators on Debt Ceiling

I posted the following letter on my two Republican Senators’ websites. If you agree with its theme, please feel free to modify and use.

Dear Senator, as a retired business consultant and manager, I am disappointed in the Republican Party stance on the debt ceiling. I am glad eleven Republicans did the right thing and passed a measure to allow it to be raised for several months, yet I was disappointed you were not one of the eleven.

I have long been concerned with our building debt and annual deficit that has gotten worse. We need to address this issue when we discuss spending and revenue, not with the debt ceiling. Our reputation to our creditors is essential. To be frank, as an independent and former Republican, my former party is only concerned with debt ceiling when they are not in the White House. It did not seem to bother the party when it increased under Trump.

Yet, what also concerns me is the hypocrisy of both parties. The GOP passed a tax reduction in December 2017 that raised the debt by $2 trillion, approximately. And, we passed two pandemic aid bills that to me should have been directed at employers to keep people employed and not furlough them, as well as helping folks not working. We missed opportunity and spent poorly.

We need the infrastructure improvements which are ten years overdue. Yet, we must figure out ways to start bringing the debt down before the interest cost approaches the military spend in our budget.

Solving this problem requires data and effort, not sound bites. I have seen the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget do an exercise in Rotary or college groups that ask tables of people to solve the Social Security deficit. Armed with about two dozen ideas and price tags, these tables can solve the Social Security deficit in 90 minutes.

Solving the bigger problem can be done and will take time, but not if we never start to do so.

Grandstanding is not governance – not even close

As someone who follows the news and used to hold most elected officials in higher esteem, I am continually frustrated with the absence of good governance in Washington and various state capitols. Rather than governance, I see grandstanding for sound bytes to beat the other party over the head with. The purpose is to remain or regain power, where they will be in charge of doing nothing to govern.

Several Congressional representatives and Senators have retired or are retiring. The principal reasons are the disillusionment with the open hostility between factions and the fact over 1/3 of their time (some said 40%) is fundraising for the party. Let me say that last part in a different way. We taxpayers are paying for elected officials to hit us up for money between 33% and 40% of the time.

In essence, elected officials are more interested in keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. A further frustration is the number of folks who just don’t bother to reach out to all constituents and only care about their own party. The truth has become a casualty. And, what is sad is those who pay attention to the news know many of these elected officials are lying and know they know they are lying, but they lie anyway.

Grandstanding is a pronounced way of lying drawing attention to the person so doing. To me, it is akin to a gorilla beating on its chest to make an opponent cower and not fight back. Right now, we have an entire party that is OK with the US defaulting on its debts. Increasing the debt ceiling is to address what we have already spent or decided to spend, which the same folks did not seem to mind doing. Or, they cut revenue which also increased the debt.

In fact, many of these same folks voted on a tax bill in December, 2017 that reduced taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals which raised the debt by $2 trillion, approximately. In essence, we added to debt to make a pretty good economy a little better for a little while. Per the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, we must do both – cut spending and raise revenue to address our deficit and debt. The math will otherwise not work.

I have shared with several Senators it is OK to push back on spending to make sure we consider the best investments, but grandstanding on a debt limit that you helped make worse is not the place to do it. Before the pandemic, the US was around $22 trillion in debt with a $1 trillion annual shortfall on our budget ($3.4 trillion in revenue on $4.4 trillion in expenses). After needed pandemic stimulus, we are even worse off on debt and scheduled to be even further behind.

The last time we had a debt limit standoff was about eight years ago, led by Senator Ted Cruz (who by the way voted for the tax bill increase noted above increasing the debt). Our allies pleaded with us not to renege and when the US was within twenty-four hours of defaulting, ten female Senators from both parties told Cruz and others to get out of the pool for an adult swim. These ten women resolved the matter and the US did not default.

Our debt and deficit has been caused by both parties. Do not let either party say it is the other one’s fault as that simply is not true. And, we need for both of them to be involved to remedy this. Unfortunately, no one has the stomach to do what it really takes to resolve this. Any elected official can spend money and reduce taxes. Any elected official. But, that is precisely the problem. We need serious discussion with data and not grandstanding. Grandstanding is not governance.

There she blows…in Texas

The following is a modified comment I made on a recent blog on the need for climate change action. The forward thinking author of the blog and post lives in oil rich Texas, which has a secret that more folks need to hear about.

What is amazing to me is how few people in Texas (and elsewhere) know the state is the fifth largest producer of wind energy in the world and that the industry employs over 25,000 people in the state. This year renewables will surpass coal as the second largest producer of electricity in Texas (see link below).

Two key reasons are the wind blows madly across the state and the state legislature actually passed funding to build power lines to the wind turbines to harness the electricity. Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said about eight years ago in a “60 Minutes” piece, natural gas is buying us time, but the future of energy in the US is wind energy.

And, yet this is all a secret. We need to shout this from the rooftops and do more of it to drown out the naysayers and make a difference.

*Note: The author of the blog is from Iowa, which now gets about 40% of its electricity from wind energy. This transition is happening and just needs to happen faster. By the way, if California were a country, it is the fourth largest producer of solar energy in the world.

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/texas-us-wind-power-renewable-energy/

Thursday thunderbolts

What is happening in Afghanistan is awful, but it is not a surprise. The Taliban taking over was bound to happen no matter when the allies pulled out. Truly, the only surprise is the haste of the change. Afghanistan has long been called the “graveyard of empires” because no invading nation has ever been successful.

The US failed to heed that lesson, even after a reminder of the USSR failure in the 1980s. The opposing force is too distributed and the terrain too mountainous and arid-like. And, the Taliban carries through on its threats against locals who favor the enemy. As a result, the locals are scared to cross them.

Sadly, this failure falls on many presidents, even dating back to Ronald Reagan when Congressman Charlie Wilson helped secretly fund and supply the Mujahideen to drive out the Soviets in the 1980s. What we failed to do is help the country after the Soviets left and the US became more mistrusted and things deteriorated.

But, with George W. Bush authoring the invasion after 9/11, Barack Obama’s continuing push, Donald Trump’s acquiescence to the Taliban and Joe Biden’s decision to honor the agreement to leave, we have shown an inability to solve problems, leaving behind more. Since we dove in, leaving entirely should not have been the answer, as it is like the husband leaving the wife when times got hard. They needed to stay together to make it work. So, now our trustworthiness is even lower than if we never invaded.

Yet, this is not the only problem we let fester because of lack of focus or courage to analyze, discuss and try to solve problems. Reasonable immigration efforts have moved forward on a bipartisan basis, but they fell flat. A pretty good bill passed the Senate in 2013 under the tutelage of a “Gang of Eight,” but the House would not take it up. This led to the Obama DACA executive order which is not the way to govern hard issues.

Both parties talk about the debt and deficit when they are not in the White House, but show little appetite to do things when their party gets there. George W. Bush was actually handed a balanced budget by Bill Clinton and he proceeded to make a tax cut that his Treasury Secretary adamantly said was unneeded (and was fired). Outside of a sequestration approach (which said if we don’t make changes, these cuts will go in place), nothing substantive has come out of Congress to deal with the deficit and debt since Clinton. The debt will soar past $40 trillion by the end of the decade.

Then there is climate change. The naysaying mandate pushed by the fossil fuel industry which has known for several decades about the climate change risks, is appalling. Many do not realize that Dick Cheney, the second Bush VP, came out of the oil industry. Cheney and his old colleagues wrote key language in the 2005 Energy Act to give frackers a hall pass on scrutiny by the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Air Act. In my view, we lost twelve years of more demonstrative action in the past twenty years.

We have other big problems that we have let fester under multiple presidents. But, the above shows what happens when we do not address them. They do not go away. They just build steam like a pressure cooker. We need to do something before they explode.

Infrastructure bill – letter to the editor

I am very pleased the US Senate passed an infrastructure bill. Here is a letter I sent into my newspaper this weekend. Let’s see if they publish it, but I at least wanted to let others see it, in case they do not.

I applaud the sixty-nine US Senators who approved the much needed Infrastructure bill, including the 19 Republicans (Burr, Tillis as well) who voted for it. The bipartisan push for this bill is very encouraging for this independent voter and shows we can remember how to work together.

This bill is about ten years overdue as our infrastructure is of great concern. Many may not realize we did not get the Chicago Olympics because our airport, train, communication and highway infrastructure was severely outdated. And, that decision was made several years ago. Let’s encourage our legislators to do more of this and cease the tribal politicking that will be our demise.

Democrats keep missing a key message

As an Independent and former Republican and Democrat voter, I wish I could have the opportunity to have detailed conversations with MAGA folks. Whether folks like Bernie or not, he is going to take his message to the MAGA world. Some may not like progressive policies, but Bernie tends to speak the truth. To me Democrats have tended to be lousy marketers missing out on a key, data centric message.

Since 1921, there have been thirteen Republican White Houses and going on thirteen Democrat White Houses. Under which White Houses have the most jobs been created? The answer is the Democrat White Houses and it is not even close. I recognize presidents get too much credit and too much blame for the economy, but the data reveals over 2x the number of jobs created in those periods under Democrats. Other measures show the economy and capital markets do better under Democrat White Houses as well.

What is interesting is my anecdotal evidence shows even Democrats think it is the opposite. Democrats should be more aggressive with that message. The former president inherited an economy that was 91 months into consecutive growth with 2 million plus jobs added for six straight years. To the former president’s credit it continued, got a little better for a little while with the sugar rush of the tax cut and then returned to pre-tax cut levels, before the botched handling of COVID-19 by the former president sank it

What still amazes me about the incompetent COVID-19 handling, is the ball was sitting on the tee for the former president to do what he craves, be presidential. But, he whiffed. He proceeded to play up a hoax, endangered his own MAGA followers by holding public events, and then continued to naysay it where many of his followers refuse to consider masks or vaccines. All occurring after he confided in Bob Woodward that he knew of the dangers. And, this is the person some want to return to the White House?

So, Democrats need to seize the message. They are the party of jobs and here is the data. If they don’t, Republicans will paint them with whatever message sells. And, if Democrats don’t believe me, in 2012 Republicans were told in memo form to use the term “failed stimulus” when speaking of Obama’s stimulus package. Even Democrats believed this, but what is funny, the stimulus did not fail. Per six econometric firms included the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus package was accretive to the economy.

My remarks to the NC DOE on the Clean Power Plan (in 2016)

In 2016, the Republican led North Carolina Department of Energy permitted citizens to speak at a conference as they were suing the Obama administration to not develop a Clean Power Plan in response to the Paris Climate Change Accord. Some of this is dated, but is still appropriate as we have moved further down the path of renewables the production cost has become even more favorable and we have passed a tipping point.

Last month, I was given the opportunity to speak to representatives of the North Carolina’s Department of Energy and Natural Resources at a public hearing. Our state is included in law suit against the EPA having the authority to require the states to develop a Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions. In companion to this suit, our state leaders developed a poor attempt, in my view, at addressing the required plan.

Here are my remarks which had to be limited to three minutes.

My name is Keith Wilson. I am an Independent voter and NC taxpayer.

I am speaking to you as both a tree hugger and business person.

I am disappointed in our state’s position on the Clean Power Plan and advocate moving the ball further down the path of renewable energy than the plan is required to do.

I say this as per the 2015 Global Risks Report prepared by the World Economic Forum, the two greatest risks noted by member organizations over the next 10 years are:

(1) Global Water Crisis and

(2) Failure to act on climate change

The need to move to renewable energy is more than a climate change issue, it is a water issue. As noted by the excellent Charlotte Observer series last month, we have global, national and regional water crisis, which will only be made worse by climate change.

Water is the new oil.

In the Observer series, it noted that Duke Energy loses about 1%- 2% of water on a daily basis when creating power from the Catawba River using fossil fuel and nuclear energy. The water is lost through dissipated steam.

At a conference called “Our Water: An Uncertain Future” last month, the director of Duke’s Water Strategy noted that Duke Energy includes climate change impact in their water projection models. He noted that they expect to lose an additional 11% of reservoir water due to more evaporation from climate change.

Per Duke’s projections, the Catawba River cannot support the growth in the Metro Charlotte area without change.

The move from water intensive fossil fuel and nuclear energy to renewable energy is key, as solar and wind energy need not be water reliant to create power.

Man-influenced climate change will only make our water problem worse.

From a business standpoint, there are several reasons why the move to renewable energy is key.

The fossil fuel industry likes to tout jobs and impact on people in poverty as drawbacks to the move. These are shortsighted reasons, as solar and wind energy jobs are growing like gangbusters with double digit growth.  On the cost of energy being higher, that is also shortsighted as well and is using the wrong equation.

The cost of production of renewables continues to fall and wind energy is the most cost effective source in the UK and Germany, right now. But, that is not the right equation.

A total cost equation will look at the present value cost of production,

  • plus healthcare,
  • plus environmental degradation,
  • plus water loss,
  • plus litigation,
  • plus maintenance of coal ash sites.

When these total costs are compared, my guess is the result will easily favor renewable energy.

Further, companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are relocating power intensive data centers to NC due to our solar energy success and incentives. These companies are attracted to innovation.

*************************************************************************************************

So, the tree hugger in me says you better be concerned about our water and what climate change will do to it.

The business person in me says, the better bet is on renewables.

Let me close that this is not just a progressive issue. Per a ClearPath survey of conservative voters, 75% favor a move down the path of renewable energy.

It is time our state and national leaders caught on to this desire. My strong recommendation is to approve the Clean Power Plan and stop wasting taxpayer money on the shortsighted EPA lawsuit.

Water is the real crisis facing us (a reprise)

The following post was written over three years ago, but the increasing prevalence of drought problems made worse by climate change make our water crisis one of greatest issues facing humans. When I used the term shortage in reference to the crisis in a recent comment, another commenter correctly pointed out this is not just a shortage it is an increasing problem with the decline in available water.*

One of the major problems is the current and growing global water crisis. For several years, the World Economic Forum has voted the global water crisis as the greatest risk facing our planet over the longer term, defined as ten years. But, this is not just a future problem, the city of Cape Town in South Africa is in severe water crisis and continues to ration pushing forward their Day Zero as long as they can

Per The Guardian in an article this week, the United Nations warns that water shortages “could affect 5 billion people by 2050 due to climate change, increased demand and polluted supplies, according to a UN report on the state of the world’s water. The comprehensive annual study warns of conflict and civilisational threats unless actions are taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs.

The World Water Development Report – released in drought-hit Brasília – says positive change is possible, particularly in the key agricultural sector, but only if there is a move towards nature-based solutions that rely more on soil and trees than steel and concrete.

‘For too long, the world has turned first to human-built, or ‘grey’, infrastructure to improve water management. In doing so, it has often brushed aside traditional and indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches,’ says Gilbert Houngbo, the chair of UN Water, in the preface of the 100-page assessment. ‘In the face of accelerated consumption, increasing environmental degradation and the multi-faceted impacts of climate change, we clearly need new ways of manage competing demands on our freshwater resources.’

Humans use about 4,600 cubic km of water every year, of which 70% goes to agriculture, 20% to industry and 10% to households, says the report, which was launched at the start of the triennial World Water Forum. Global demand has increased sixfold over the past 100 years and continues to grow at the rate of 1% each year.

This is already creating strains that will grow by 2050, when the world population is forecast to reach between 9.4 billion and 10.2 billion (up from 7.7 billion today), with two in every three people living in cities.

Demand for water is projected to rise fastest in developing countries. Meanwhile, climate change will put an added stress on supplies because it will make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier.

Drought and soil degradation are already the biggest risk of natural disaster, say the authors, and this trend is likely to worsen. ‘Droughts are arguably the greatest single threat from climate change,’ it notes. The challenge has been most apparent this year in Cape Town, where residents face severe restrictions as the result of a once-in-384-year drought. In Brasília, the host of the forum, close to 2m people have their taps turned off once in every five days due to a unusually protracted dry period.”

Here in the states, we exacerbate our drought and other water problems with bad piping and fracking, which waste or use huge amounts of water. But, with our vast agriculture, we need water to produce our and much of the world’s crops. We must manage it better. Two books are very illuminating. “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization” by Steven Solomon is a terrific look back and ahead. He is the coiner of the phrase “water is the new oil.” The other book is called “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn that details the struggles of these professions and two others with climate change and its impact on water and other things they do.

Folks, this is a major problem. We must address it now before we all have our own Day Zeroes. If this is not enough to raise concern, one of the financial experts who forewarned us of the pending financial crisis, has a new concern – water.

*Note: The climate change models make the water problem worse. For example, the city of Miami is “the at most risk” city in the world due to encroaching seas, which already are coming up through street drains. This is called “non-rainy day flooding.” What is less talked about is the Biscayne Aquifer which provides fresh water to the area is protected by porous limestone. As the sea water encroaches further inland, it will breach this aquifer. If that were not enough, Duke Energy produced a report on its concerns for the Catawba River providing sufficient drinking water to the metro Charlotte area as well as helping power two major power stations for the area with its growth expectations. Then this line caught my eye – it is predicted that the levels of evaporation of usable water will be increased by 11% (more evaporation) due to climate change.