A nonpartisan and knowledgeable voice on US debt and deficit concerns

From the desk of Maya MacGuineas of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. I will offer no additional comment as it speaks for itself.

“Today, the Treasury Department announced that it has begun engaging in a set of accounting tools known as “extraordinary measures” to avoid breaching the nation’s $31.38 trillion statutory debt limit. Those measures are expected to delay that breach until at least early June and possibly later.

The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

Without qualification, the debt limit must be increased or suspended, and it should be done so as quickly as possible. Ideally, we would return to the practice of lifting the debt ceiling without relying on extraordinary measures – which have become all too ordinary – and refrain from making the increase anything close to a last-minute showdown.

The debt ceiling is too important to turn into a game of chicken, and default should never be suggested by those with a fiduciary responsibility to govern the nation. Politicians who are rightly worried about the nation’s unsustainable borrowing path should take a hard stance against new borrowing and oppose legislation that would add to the debt while offering specific solutions to control the debt already on the books, rather than threatening not to pay the bills on borrowing that has already been incurred.

The debt ceiling does offer the opportunity for all lawmakers to pause, assess the fiscal situation of the nation, and take action as necessary. And it is necessary. The debt as a share of GDP is at near record levels. We are on track to begin adding $2 trillion per year to the debt by the end of the decade. Interest payments are the fastest growing part of the budget and are projected to start costing $1 trillion annually in only a few years. The Social Security and Medicare Hospital Insurance trust funds are headed toward insolvency. And last year alone, Congress and the President passed bipartisan legislation that added nearly $2 trillion to the projected national debt. This is an urgent problem that is not getting the attention it needs.

An ideal solution would be for Congress to lift the debt ceiling as soon as possible and at the same time put in place measures to improve our fiscal trajectory. This could include specific policies or processes such as a fiscal commission.

Attaching fiscal reforms to the debt limit was common practice in the past when both policies and processes to improve fiscal responsibility were included as part of a deal. More recently, in a jaw-dropping act of fiscal irresponsibility, politicians in both parties pivoted to support debt ceiling increases along with legislation that made the debt worse. Under President Trump, the debt ceiling was lifted three times with bipartisan support and included legislation that added in total a stunning $2.1 trillion in new borrowing to the debt.

Congress should return to the past model of a debt ceiling increase, legislation to improve the fiscal situation, and a broad based understanding that the debt ceiling must be increased in a calm and timely manner. We must not threaten default. The cost is simply too high.“

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No delusions – poor governance in action

In case you had any delusions that the new majority in the US House would offer up good governance, please note:

– Returning Congress representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar have been seated on Committees by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, after being removed in the last Congress for their inflammatory and inane remarks. When I think of Greene and Gosar, the words reasonable and collaborative are not top of mind.

– New Congressman George Santos, the one with the highly fabricated resume, will be seated on two Committees by Speaker McCarthy. Instead of advocating for his being censured or even removed, Santos gets two Committee assignments. I guess the Speaker holds lying in higher regard than most people. Either that or he needed his vote to remain Speaker and will put up with anything.

– Numerous bills have been proposed to restrict voting. As an independent voter, the greater problem in America is not enough people voting. So, these bills are the opposite of what is needed, in my simple view. It is highly disappointing that people have been led to believe that there is a huge voter fraud problem. There is not. Yet Republicans seized on this issue because the former president has too shallow an ego to admit he lost and they must have cheated him.

I have stayed away from a key policy difference which is how to go about reducing first our deficit and debt. Once again, the Republicans have pretended to care about the deficit when not in the White House by trying to alter our credit limit not our pocketbook cash flow. The expenditures have already been made, so we need more money and less outflow. The last time our debt limit was held hostage by Senator Ted Cruz, he would later go on to vote for a tax reduction to increase the debt by about $2 trillion, so he obviously did not care that much about it.

I have called the Speaker again to share my disappointment with the three committee assignments. We need serious-minded people to discuss our issues and possible solutions in a serious manner. These three folks have not shown an ability to do that. As for the voting restrictions, if you have to manage turn out to win, then maybe it is your message.

A solution to US debt – listen to Maya MacGuineas

I have long said anyone can promote a tax cut. Actually, in the right crowd I may use a couple of more descriptive words to define how easy it is. In truth, it is not hard to sell. Same goes with beating on the IRS. No one likes the IRS (or your country’s version of it), but it performs a necessary service. Our government cannot function without revenue. So, tax cuts and being critical of the IRS appears to be, but is not necessarily good governance. Often it is just the opposite.

With our US debt the way it is fast approaching $30 trillion and building toward more than $40 trillion, some poor president is going to run on raising taxes and cutting expenses and last only one term if he or she delivers on that needed promise. Think of what happened to the Greece president who put them in an austerity program to avoid them going belly-up a few years ago.

If that happened in the US, the president will have done a great service, but will be fired for it. So, what we need is a person with smarts, diplomacy, and chutzpah. We need someone who has the respect of many across party lines.

I have just the person for the job. Her name is Maya MacGuineas who is the Director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. She is held in high regard by leadership of both parties. I would love to see her help set in motion the resolution to the problem.

MacGuineas is a Northwestern University graduate with a masters from Harvard University.

Per Wikipedia, “MacGuineas served briefly at the Brookings Institution early in her career, then spent two years at Paine Webber as an equity analyst on Wall Street. She also advised the 2000 presidential campaign of John McCain on Social Security.

She became a senior fellow and director of the Fiscal Policy Program at New America (organization)] At New America, she oversaw its work on the federal budget, entitlement programs, and taxes.

In 2009, she did a stint on the editorial board of The Washington Post. She previously served on the Board of Directors of Common Cause. She also served on the Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force.

She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Penn-Wharton Budget Model. She is Co-Chair of the National Budgeting Roundtable.

MacGuineas also serves on the Economic Strategy Group of the Aspen Institute. In addition, she is a Member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

MacGuineas has served as president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan public policy organization dedicated to fiscal issues, since 2003. The Committee has been described as a “budget watchdog” by The Hill (newspaper). In 2018, she noted that she is a political independent and that the Committee is critical of both parties.

Under her leadership, the Committee grew in stature as it became a prominent voice for tackling rising national debt that is projected to reach record levels as a share of the economy in the years to come. A Roll Call article stated, “the previously obscure organization, a home for former federal budget officials, has been pulled into the spotlight, speaking to what its members and supporters argue is the overriding fiscal issue of the time.”[15]

In 2012, she became head of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a project of the Committee that seeks a comprehensive and bipartisan approach to addressing rising national debt. Business leaders, economists, and budget experts became involved with the Campaign, as well as thousands of grassroots supporters.

She has testified before congressional committees on several occasions. A Wall Street Journal piece described her as an ‘anti-deficit warrior.

We have a serious problem with our debt and it will get worse. The solutions must include tax increases and spending cuts. The math will not otherwise work. Do not let anyone tell you it will. They are blowing smoke at you. Both are needed. Let’s give her the job of president and tell the folks in Congress to listen to her guidance. She wields a data-driven set of approaches that will help if done in concert.

New study raises the heat on Exxon’s climate research

In an article from ScientificAmerican by Shannon Hall, called “Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago,” it is clear that Exxon has known about the risks for years and has purposefully obfuscated that truth when they went into the denial phase. Below are just two paragraphs, but please take the time to read the whole piece below or from one of the many other venues where it is published.

“Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.

Experts, however, aren’t terribly surprised. ‘It’s never been remotely plausible that they did not understand the science,’ says Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard University. But as it turns out, Exxon didn’t just understand the science, the company actively engaged with it. In the 1970s and 1980s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own ambitious research program that empirically sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research.”

As you read the above and the attached, please note this is not news. Exxon scientists used to make speeches and lectures about global warming for years. They were forerunners of the research. Yet, in the late 1990s, the management decided to move into a denial phase engaging a PR campaign to discredit the science. The purpose was to make sure the cash cow of fossil fuels continued for as long as possible. It should be noted is part of this PR campaign was to rebrand global warming as the less threatening sounding climate change.

What I also found interesting is that Shell Oil even did a video back in the early 1990s of the concerns of global warming. So, it was not just Exxon that knew what the future held. Ironically, when Exxon continued to be insufficient in their actions, their shareholders reacted. The day before the Trump White House announced the US was pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord in 2017, Exxon’s shareholders voted that management must report to them what they are doing about climate change on a recurring basis.

Again, this story really is not news, but it more clearly defines what Exxon failed to do when they knew better.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/exxon-knew-about-climate-change-almost-40-years-ago/

Tell me why?

The chorus to the popular Beatles’ song “Tell me why?” goes:

“Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me
Tell me why you cried
And why you lied to me”

I have been a broken record on the need to ask more “why” questions of politicians. In so doing, maybe their “undergarments of untruths” might begin to show from beneath their outer appearances. And, if they evade answering, ask it again. Politicians do not want their lying to be discovered. Plus, some lie so much, they don’t know where the truth stops and the lies begin.

Here are few questions to help bare those undergarments of untruths.

  • Why did the new Republican majority in the US House vote to defund a recent request to increase funding to the IRS on the very same day (per CNN) that “Allen Weisselberg, former President Donald Trump’s long-time chief financial officer, was sentenced by a New York judge to five months in jail for his role in a decade-long tax fraud scheme after testifying as the state’s witness against the Trump Organization.” No one likes the IRS, but they perform a needed function and this request was to make improvements and restore funding that the previous president took away. I believe his name is Trump, and his organization will be sentenced later in the week.
  • Why do Republicans only care about the deficit when a Democrat is in the White House? And, why is that same former president making hay over the debt and deficit when he did absolutely nothing about it for four years. In fact, he made it about $2 trillion worse with his tax cut that mainly benefitted the wealthy and corporations per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Republicans touted this tax cut would pay for itself, but that line of thinking has been horse excrement for a very long time and still is. Democrats could be much better at addressing the debt and deficit, but they are better at it than Republicans.
  • Why do people follow so-called leaders who have the most shallow of egos? Whether their name is Kim Jung-Un, Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump et al, why do these supposed strong acting men act like babies when they don’t get their way? Jung-Un’s bio reads like a Greek God’s citing all of his Olympian conquests and successes. It may even say his excrement has no odor. Neither Bolsonaro and Trump can tolerate losing which shows abysmal failure of fortitude. And, Putin has screwed up royally with his Ukraine invasion and continues to add gasoline to the fire rather admit such.
  • Why are books being banned when people can easily download them from online sources? (Note: This question is courtesy of our friend Scottie’s blog). There is an old line if you want to get more people to read or watch something, ban it. My favorite banning story was I believe espoused by Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz wanted to ban “Fahrenheit 451” which is a book about banning and burning books, with the title indicative of the temperature at which a book would burn. Ironically, Cruz once did a fillibuster by reading “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate. This fossil fuel proponent was reading a book about protecting the environment.
  • Why does anyone follow some of the inane and mean-spirited acting people who are now in the halls of legislature, including the US Congress? Gerrymandering has created safe districts where people who should not be in these positions can find themselves elected, as so few people vote in primaries. These folks are rather overt in their comments and actions and it should cause a lot of head scratching. I want civil discourse with folks using actual facts when they are doing our business. So, we should ask these folks to explain themselves when they denigrate opponents and untruthfully opine. Direct questions like do you really believe that or you just saying it would help?

Maybe we should change the lyrics to “Tell me why you MAKE me cry and why you lie to me?”


Bell weather examples of what is most important to the Republican Party

Having been a member of the Republican Party over twenty years before becoming an Independent voter around 2008, an observation looking back is more than half of the Republican Party is voting against their economic interests and have little idea they are. The reason is the underlying mission is masked from its members, as a means of gaining their vote. Democrats are not perfect, but I find you see their shortcomings in a more overt way. The Democrats are also lousy marketers on what they do well.

Here are two bell weather examples which illustrate this point about the Republican Party. These are not the only or even the biggest examples, but they reveal a propensity not to look after those who are not the wealthy donors or business owners.

The first is the consistent attack by many Republicans on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is designed to protect people. Why? Banks don’t like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as it fines banks, credit card and loan companies for screwing their own customers. So, they fund politicians to try and hobble the CFPB. Please note, I carefully chose the word “screwing” as it seemed to be most apt. Bankers used to be a very trusted profession, but the leadership of these companies threw that trust out the window.

Former Republican Congressman and Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was put in charge of said CFPB by the previous president to do that very thing. He could not kill it though and the CFPB just fined Wells Fargo $3.7 billion for setting up fraudulent accounts for its customers without their permission to make bonus targets. But, Wells Fargo is not alone, as companies like Bank of America, American Express, JP Morgan, Citibank, et al have also been fined for their aggressive and, at time unethical or fraudulent, marketing practices.

The second is the more obvious example of a misguided mission. For several years, a new regulation was crafted to require all investment advisors to be considered fiduciaries. In other words, these advisors should be obligated to put their investors’ interests ahead of their own.

Per the Los Angeles Times in 2019, the “Trump administration abandoned a regulation designed to protect U.S. savers from conflicted investment advice. Known as the fiduciary rule, it would have required more brokers and insurance agents to disclose when they’re getting paid to steer people into certain investments. It also would have banned the sale of certain retirement products when they aren’t in savers’ ‘best interest.’

It should be noted the sale of illicit products increased after these fiduciary regulations were abandoned. The investment advisors made more money via transactional sales, but the investor may or may not have benefitted. This abandonment of such an essential requirement makes me ill. Using that “screwing your customers” term again, it allows investment advisors to act with impunity as they make more money. It should be noted that most investment advisors make money off sales of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc., so there is a tendency to push customers to sell rather than buy and hold investments.

Understanding and managing financial products is complex. But, they become even more complex if the actors in the process are not held accountable or responsible. To not require an investment advisor to be a fiduciary is malfeasance in my view. Full Stop. To not require and penalize banks, credit card and loan companies to market fairly and truthfully is also malfeasance. Yet, that is precisely what the Republican Party tried to hobble.

People need to know this. Yes, Democrats could improve on some things, but to me these two examples are bell weather ones that speak volumes about the mission of the Republican Party. Sadly, there are others I could have used. Look beneath behind the curtain at the Wizard to see what is really happening.

A few more musings before year-end

To me, a few good things have happened and are happening this year to get us back between the white lines on the highway. In no particular order:

  • Jair Bolsonaro lost his bid for reelection in Brazil. As expected, he is pulling a Trump saying the election was stolen from him, but everyone else, including party leadership, are moving on. “But, I won by a huge margin,” he can be heard saying in Portuguese to the departing caravan of people.
  • Boris Johnson was shown the door in the UK as Prime Minister. The only good thing about Johnson’s tenure is he got to oversee the Brexit mess he helped create before succumbing to a series of unforced errors, as they like to say in tennis.
  • Not to be outdone, I was told before she was appointed by the Tories as new Prime Minister, that Liz Truss was not the best of replacements. She proved the author of this concern correct, lasting only 45 days in a mistake-filled tenure.
  • In Australia, apparently climate change, environmental concerns and paid child leave are important as Conservatives who passed on these issues, were swept out of office over the summer with the new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese taking the oath. Between the wildfires and depleting barrier reef, rising temperatures is not a friend to the country/ continent.
  • In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is realizing what happens when someone stands up to a bully. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has shown what leadership looks like, while Putin has shown what autocratic rule looks like. Fortunately, Russians are starting to see what the world sees and his days may be numbered.
  • And, at long last, with the Tax Fraud conviction by a jury of the Trump Organization and the investigation and released Executive Summary by the House Select Committee, the former president is starting to get his come-uppance as he truly spirals out of control blasting anyone who dares criticize him or not genuflect enough. Plus, there are other legal matters in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Mar-a-Lago that he needs to contend with.
  • Joe Biden is far from perfect, but he has shown that things can get accomplished to help the greater good. I am very pleased the Respect for Marriage Act, some gun governance and an infrastructure and climate change bill were passed. Sadly, neither party seems to care about the debt and deficit, so some poor soul will have to get the blame for doing what is needed – raising revenue and cutting expenses – as the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan concluded, when the debt was about 1/4 the total it is now.

Have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas. Stay warm and travel safe.

A few SWAGs for 2023

For people who have been in business, a term that gets floated around by accountants and controllers is WAG, which is short for Wild Ass Guess. Now, a SWAG has more perceived veracity as it comes from an experienced source or uses a little bit of data. It stands for a Sophisticated Wild Ass Guess.

Not that I am experienced, but I do try to pay attention to reputable news sources. So, with this in mind, here are a few self-anointed SWAGs for what may happen in 2023. After reading them, you may say these are just WAGs, as they have little sophistication involved. That is more than OK, but please feel free to share with me your thoughts.

With supply troubles continuing and the inability for some industries to keep a full labor force, my guess is inflation will remain with us throughout the year. Everything seems to cost more. And, it should be noted that there are some companies who are taking advantage of uncertainty, by adding premiums to their prices. This is a form of price-gouging that I hope customers witness and act upon when they can.

We may have certain regions of the world that will see some recession. Our friends in the UK will continue to see recessive woes from Brexit, as they were forewarned of even before the vote. And, Ukraine continues to be compromised on its ability to provide the same level of food production given the Russian invasion. Of course, the invasion also impacts Russia’s distribution of oil and natural gas to others. Given Russia’s economic woes, invading Ukraine continues to appear to be a monetary drain.

The Republican party in the US will continue to find it difficult to corral its elected officials into a common purpose. There are too many strident thinkers who got elected over the last few years due to surgical gerrymandering and support of the wishes of a strident base of voters beholden to the former president. While Trump will eventually become even less relevant this year, Trumpism will survive but it will likely never be confused with good governance.

I believe the GOP leaders in the House will make a huge mistake if they start doing a series of non-important investigations. But, it won’t stop that train. They like to point to the January 6 Insurrection House Committee as a reason, but this one was important as it was trying to look into the insurrection on the Capitol building fueled by the former president. The GOP leadership made a huge mistake by not offering people who would be good candidates for the Committee. At least two of the nominated GOP folks had conflicts of interest as they were persons of interest.

Trump will become increasingly irrelevant over 2023. He will be an embodiment of the Shakespeare quote as he fumes and fusses as people pay him less attention.

“Life … is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

My guess is in an attempt to garner more attention, he will threaten to run as an independent. Some Republicans will fear him doing that as he would take the party down with him, but I think the right response to that is “knock yourself out.” He needs money to run and funders want to back a winner. Funders will see that they have a better chance without him, so he will fume and fuss some more.

And, that may be the easiest prediction of them all. The former president will do a lot of fuming and fussing in 2023.

Desalination of sea water using renewable energy marries two issues

An important article on two of the planet’s major issues called “Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund” by Aidan Lewis appeared in Reuters this week. A few paragraphs are noted below with a link to the full article at the end of the post.

“CAIRO, Dec 1 (Reuters) – Egypt plans to award deals next year to build 21 water desalination plants in the first $3 billion phase of a programme that will draw on cheap renewable energy, the CEO of the country’s sovereign fund said on Thursday.

Egypt, which recently hosted the COP27 U.N. climate talks and is trying to boost lagging investment in renewables, also aims to start production at a series of proposed green hydrogen projects in 2025-2026, Ayman Soliman told the Reuters NEXT conference.

Egypt depends almost entirely on the Nile for fresh water, and faces rising water scarcity for its population of 104 million. The desalination programme aims to generate 3.3 million cubic metres of water daily in the first phase, and eventually reach 8.8 million cubic metres daily at a cost of $8 billion.

So-called green or clean hydrogen is produced using electrolysers powered by renewable energy to split water from oxygen. It is seen as a potential future power source that could reduce emissions, though to date it is largely limited to experimental projects. Analysts say challenges facing its growth include high costs and energy inputs, as well as safety concerns.”

This fund is set to pump money into two needed concerns – the worsening water crisis and the needed use of renewable energy to power the effort. The global water crisis matches climate change in terms of risk to our planet and has for several years. Climate change actually makes the water crisis worse through evaporation. Duke Energy noted in a report that its projections of water evaporation from its water sources to power the Charlotte metropolitan area will be 11% worse with climate change. When water levels get to low, Duke has to cut power production or use more water from the river sources which exacerbates the water crisis.

Marrying these two crises, we have too much salt water and too little fresh water. Efforts to use the former to replace the latter may start out as more expensive, which is why it has not been used as much before, but has to be part of our equation to help our planet and people. As with other efforts, over time the process will get more cost effective.

https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/egypt-build-21-desalination-plants-phase-1-scheme-sovereign-fund-2022-12-01/

We do well when we all do well – a repeat performance

I wrote the following piece eight years ago and it still resonates today, although in some places we have done some of what is suggested. Our friend Erika reminded me yesterday that Eleanor Roosevelt had her own place in history along with her presidential relatives. FDR saw his wife and cousin as one of his trusted advisors, always willing to tell him the unvarnished truth.

Beginning tonight, Ken Burns’ documentary series called “The Roosevelts” will be aired on PBS. The series highlights the impact President Teddy Roosevelt, President Franklin Roosevelt and Teddy’s niece and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had on America and the world. While all three were “to the manor born,” they each took up the cause for the marginalized and disenfranchised people in America, even while Teddy was a Republican and FDR was a Democrat. But, Eleanor could hold her own and her influence and ambassadorship to those in need spoke volumes as she is noted as our greatest First Lady.

On CBS Good Morning, Burns was talking about the forthcoming documentary and he quoted a line which embodied their mantra – “we do well, when we all do well.” This line is so very pertinent and is one which I believe to my core. It also shows that the time of greatest growth in our country occurred when more of us did well and were out buying goods and services, moving into our homes (not necessarily estates), and living a heretofore idealized version of the American dream.  It also reveals why our recovery has not benefitted everyone equally, with the top 10% of our country doing quite nicely, but everyone else treading water or sinking below. Since we are not “all doing well” fewer goods and services are bought, so our recovery is not quite as strong.

It should be noted that both Roosevelt presidents are known for eco-energy measures and protecting our environment. Teddy is known as our greatest “water” president, by buying up land for national parks and watersheds and overseeing the construction of the Panama Canal, which is a heavy contributor to US naval power and sea trade prominence. FDR constructed more dams on his watch as part of the New Deal which helped provide jobs and infrastructure. FDR’s infrastructure investments were carried forward by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower which helped contribute to the aforementioned period above.

It is for these reasons we need to move forward down a path of doing more of what made America great. Investing in ourselves, our infrastructure and our future. This is the key premise in Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s book “That Used to be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How it Can Come Back.” This book highlights the co-investment in America’s infrastructure between private and public funds to maintain, restore, rebuild, and build anew our infrastructure to support business development and job creation. But, as history has shown us, we need to do more to help those who seem to get lost in the future growth or never get the same opportunities. Our history has also shown us the “haves” will take advantage of the “have-nots” to move ahead.

So, clearly we need to invest in ourselves and our future. Even while we cut expenses elsewhere, we need to invest in our infrastructure and development. But, we need to do some or all of the following, as well:

– Raise the minimum wage. Going to $15 an hour is a pipe dream, but following the recommendation to phase up from $7.25 to $10.10 is doable and has bipartisan support. It will create more spending and lessen pressure on public assistance programs.

– Invest more in education, not less and make sure after school programs are robust to attract kids and keep them engaged. Also, we need to improve access to pre-K reading programs which have shown to be impactful. But, most of all listen to teachers and not politicians. For example, teachers have noted the ideal class size is between 18 and 24 students. More voices can be heard and break out groups are easier with those sizes.

– Clamp down on pay-day lending who prey upon who Jesus called the “least of these.” Pay day lenders also prey upon our military families. Please know that pay-day lenders are a form of usury and they are one step above leg breakers. They also fund a lot of politicians who are blinded by the money to recognize what they do to poor people.

– Limit for-profit colleges who also prey upon people using government funding. People may find of interest the graduation rates from for-profit colleges are abysmal and they spend more money on marketing than teaching. And, when one area of funding was tightened up, they moved over to follow the pay-day lenders lead and are preying upon veterans and military people who have financial benefits since coming home.

– Educate people on what state lotteries are. They are a regressive tax taking a disproportionate share from people in poverty. Too many people throw money they need away on something extremely unlikely to happen. Ten lottery tickets per week may increase your chances by tenfold, but it is still a 10 out of 10 million probability, which is a likelihood of .000001

– Invest even more in our community college systems who are more geared toward career retraining and development. The former Clemson University president partnered with area community colleges as they knew how to reach out to industry better to help train the new work force. The President deserves credit for some of this, but we need more.

– Finally, per the lead in and the Roosevelt’s legacy, invest in our infrastructure and assets. Asset Based Community Development should be enhanced  and incented.

The Roosevelts’ legacy is significant on America. We are better as a country because of them. I look forward to seeing the series. Please join me as it may spur some more ideas. Some or all of the above would make us better and give us each more opportunity. We do well, when we all do well.