As a man from Wisconsin, where Holstein cows roam, House Speaker Paul Ryan should have known better than to put his foot in a cowpat. Now he’s scraping it off his shoes. I’m referring to Ryan’s breathtakingly stupid move to fire the House Chaplain last month – a gambit he ended on May 3rd after a barrage of anger, some of which was political and/or contained an anti-Catholic tint. As the chaplain’s office is now politicized, Ryan should consider having the military provide chaplaincy services, starting with the 2019 Congressional term.
Joanne Butler | All Articles
Is ‘social conservatism’ a ruse to lure the gullible into voting for certain Republicans? Exhibit A: Senator Rand Paul. In January 2016, I was in Des Moines for the candidate debate. Paul was on the ‘undercard’ bill; he trumpeted his social conservative bona fides and his commitment to liberty. Yet, he’s ignored or can’t be bothered with blocking the nomination of a person who has stated that sexual liberty wins over religious liberty.
President Trump has a lot of things on his plate, including being blamed for ballooning the deficit. He should take some practical steps that folks on Main Street will understand to reduce the deficit. Namely, selling off excess, outdated federal stuff.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has declared 'Mission Accomplished' with the tax cut law (as for the bloated spending bill recently passed – nothing to see here people, move on). His 20-year House career is over. Perhaps Eric Cantor is scouting out Wall Street corner-office jobs for his pal. Meanwhile, at the White House, Larry Kudlow, the president’s new chief economic adviser, is saying strange, new, sensible things about trade with China.
By a strange coincidence, my family was vacationing on Cape Cod in 1969 when the Chappaquiddick incident occurred.
While the Trump administration is primed to retaliate against the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for under-pricing their steel exports to America, we don’t have to worry about that now. What will hit your wallet is the rise in interest rates. If you haven’t refinanced your mortgage yet -- that window is closing. Likewise, those zero-interest rate deals on credit card debt transfers are about to die.
While having Larry Kudlow as the head of the White House Economic Council is terrific, I’m cold on his idea about how to stop China from stealing intellectual property rights (IPR).
President Trump’s actions against steel imports have reopened interest in the NAFTA update discussions. But the President should understand that the decades-old agreement is like a mechanical watch, with many interlocking pieces. If one part is changed, will the watch keep working? Secondly, the U.S. has its own subsidy issues, and we don’t come to the negotiating table with completely clean hands.
Years ago, when I was in Catholic elementary school, the nuns would go berserk whenever Billy Graham brought his crusade to D.C. They were afraid Graham was a ‘sheep stealer’ – trying to lure Catholics into becoming Protestants. But I, always the contrarian, was interested in Mr. Graham. While my parents would never let us watch his crusades on television, much less attend one, I was intrigued by the power of one man, in a plain suit, to fill a stadium. No glitz or glamor involved, just forthright talking about Jesus.
While watching Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) squirm during the recent ‘Schumer Shutdown’ of the federal government, it occurred to me: what if Hillary Clinton had kept her Senate seat? She, not Schumer, would be the Senate Minority Leader. And she would be a major player in politics, instead of being reduced to a Tweeter who made a joke about Trump at the Grammy awards broadcast.
The news about VISA using the new tax law to increase its 401(k) match for employees is terrific. Retirement matching is better than a bonus, as it encourages employees to save more for retirement. Bonuses aren’t bad; they just end up in purchases, not savings accounts. Pay raises are better too, considering we’ve been in a long period of flat wages. A pay raise can create more discretionary income, and some of it can go to a 401(k) plan.
Walmart, the largest private employer in the world, just announced an astounding package of new benefits for its employees. Bonuses for employees, minimum pay raises to $11 per hour, paid maternity leave, $5,000 in adoption expense benefits and more. Why now? Walmart says it’s due to the new tax law. Ditto for the approximately 20 other companies that are handing out bonuses (naturally, the New York Times says it’s a publicity stunt). Do the employees know these bonuses and other benefits are due to President Trump’s leadership? If so, will they remember in November 2020?
When financial analysts crow about the low U.S. unemployment rate and, in the next breath, say the Social Security Disability program needs a fix, I have to laugh. Those analysts fail to account for the 8.8 million workers (as of 2016) who dropped out of the work force and qualified for the disability program. If the disability program’s requirements were tightened, the unemployment rate would rise.
This year marks the passing of prolific man: the novelist, playwright, screenwriter, director and actor Sam Shepard. He passed away in July from ALS (also known as Lou Gerhig’s disease) at age 73. During his career he received ten OBIE awards for his writing and directing for the stage. But he’s most famous for his role as test pilot Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film The Right Stuff.
In southern New Jersey over the weekend, I met a man who owned a $325,000 house (1950s ranch) and paid $13,000 in property taxes per year. He wanted to move to Delaware, but New Jersey’s property taxes are an albatross in the real estate market. Meanwhile, a Delaware friend told me how her new neighbor from ‘up north’ was amazed that property taxes were so low they were paid annually -- not monthly! Hint: the new tax reform law curbing state and local tax deductions could be a boon for Delaware and Pennsylvania, if leaders in those states take the right steps.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About The First Ratification Of The U.S. Constitution* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)
The 230th anniversary of the first ratification of the U.S. Constitution occurred on Dec. 7 -- a critical date in American history. The ratifying state was little Delaware, which passed the Constitution unanimously. The stakes were high: Were the states to become mini-countries under an ambiguous confederation, or would they be united under one overarching document?
The first Nobel Prize winner for literature, John Galsworthy, commented on the difference between "everybody knows" and "somebody tells." Today there’s a tsunami of ‘somebody tells’ incidents about sexual harassment. That’s a good thing. Sexual harassment is more than a physical incident; it’s symptomatic of a poisoned work culture. Although I can’t claim to have been harassed, I’ve seen its deleterious effects.
As the House of Representatives and the Senate consider a unified tax reform bill, the most important question remains: Do reforms help the middle class? Or are reforms motivated by the "trickle-down" theory -- tax cuts for the rich will free up money that will create jobs down the line?
In ancient Rome, legislators would determine policy issues by sacrificing an animal and then employing a priest to interpret the signs based on the animal’s entrails. While our Capitol Hill legislators don’t engage in animal sacrifices, they’ve retained their priest-interpreters: the Congressional Budget Office. The result: some House Republicans are proposing limiting 401(k) retirement savings to appease the CBO high priests.