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Legal immigration balances economics with opportunity

Right Angles column published in Glenwood Springs Post Independent on April 16, 2013 http://www.postindependent.com/article/20130416/VALLEYNEWS/130419919/1083&ParentProfile=1074

The fate of 12 million illegal aliens estimated to be living in the United States is hotly debated in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, the problem is a symptom of beltway politicians’ failure to enforce immigration laws and modernize our legal immigration system. At this point, some form of legal status for many illegal residents is necessary for a practical solution.

But every elected leader has an obligation to ensure America remains the land of opportunity. That means stopping the current tide of illegal entry and residency with improved border security and visa tracking. At the same time, we must reformulate and expedite our legal immigration process with emphasis on American economics instead of border proximity.

Immigration is not a racial issue

Most illegal aliens currently in the United States crossed our southern border. The media gleefully harps that Barack Obama garnered about 70 percent of the Latino vote in the 2012 election. Thus, Democrats see amnesty as the key to a permanent political majority. It starts with legalization of today’s illegal residents and continues with millions that will follow tomorrow and evermore.

The Democrat Party and activist groups like La Raza contend immigration is an Hispanic matter. They are fostering a culture of dependency with public assistance programs and “no strings attached” amnesty, knowing it will bolster their vote count.

In truth, immigration is about people from all nations, races, and cultures. Individuals from all over the world deserve equal treatment in their efforts to live and work in the United States. Legal immigration is vital for the economic sustainability of America. And it ensures that immigrants will have a better future, founded on sustained employment and personal responsibility.

Legal residency requires border security

With this in mind, most conservatives would support some type of green card status (i.e., legal residency) for illegal immigrants, regardless of race, origin or political views. However, this opportunity should require a person to demonstrate years of residency, a history of work instead of public assistance, and a crime-free record. Criteria for a “pathway to citizenship” could then include English proficiency and a citizenship test.

Any legislation to grant legal residency must include comprehensive measures to improve border security. This is important to every facet of American life, from personal safety to the sustainability of Medicaid. It’s not just about halting illegal immigration. Border security, like airport security, is a direct counter-measure to organized crime and terrorism.

Admittedly, border security has tightened since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Still, Homeland Security estimates only 40 to 60 percent of unauthorized entrants are caught. To reduce this number, the U.S. government should install more triple fencing and sensor technology along land borders. It’s also important to pressure Mexico to gain control over drug cartels, which smuggler people and narcotics across the border.

Fixing the legal immigration system

Attenuating illegal entry should coincide with reforms to our legal immigration system. In 2011, around 8 million people applied for immigrant or non-immigrant visas. While this may sound like a large number, the immigration system is unwieldy and unresponsive to domestic demands for foreign workers, skilled and unskilled. Some segments of the American economy, like construction, are labor intensive. Other areas, such as engineering and science, depend on people with high levels of education. Some sort of temporary worker program could couple employer needs with the inflow of temporary and permanent immigrants.

Problems still arise when immigration is legal. Did you know the government has no method to determine whether foreigners leave the country when their visas expire? A fingerprint system to track the departure of foreigners, authorized by Congress a decade ago, was never implemented. This system must be set up, regardless of cost or difficulty.

Legal immigration must become a dynamic process. It makes sense to reformulate our legal immigration system with the flexibility to regulate the influx of people, based on education and work skills. And we need to make sure temporary residents leave when their time is up. This is the only way to balance America’s economic needs with opportunity for immigrants.

The United States needs and wants immigrants. It’s the responsibility of our leaders to ensure that immigration is legal, logical, and ethnically blind. Our nation must remain a place where people can live, work, and prosper. If the rule of law succumbs to political advocacy and racial preferences, American freedom and opportunity will fade for everyone.

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.

Stick solar energy mandates “where the sun don’t shine”

Right Angles column published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on March 19, 2013 http://www.postindependent.com/article/20130319/VALLEYNEWS/130319870/1083&ParentProfile=1074

A growing number of municipalities across the United States are dictating minimum percentages for solar generated energy in residential and commercial buildings. Proponents of mandates, which infringe on private property rights, insist that solar must replace hydrocarbon energy sources like natural gas. Ostensibly, diminished individual liberty is justified by the greater good of economic savings and reduced environmental impacts. Stick these claims “where the sun don’t shine”. Solar energy is not a “magic bullet” substitute for natural gas and should not be forced on American families and businesses.

Current solar technology has practical constraints. Buildings have limited roof space for installation of south-facing panels. And what happens when the neighbors’ trees are taller than your building? Solar advocates’ solution to such problems is forcing building owners to invest in offsite solar power facilities. They don’t mention that it takes about 10 acres of solar panels to produce an average of 1 megawatt of electricity, which can power about 750 U.S. households when the sun is high in the sky.

For comparison, a single natural gas well can easily provide the fuel to generate more than 5 megawatts around the clock. In most cases, solar systems are impractical without backup and supplemental electricity sources. That means natural gas demand will increase proportionally to expanded solar power capacity.

Unlike natural gas, solar energy is only available when the sun is shining. On average, solar systems are fully functional about 6 to 8 hours a day. Even a small-scale solar system that supplies only a fraction of a building’s electricity will probably need 10 to 15 lead acid storage batteries.

Solar energy is not without economic and environmental impacts

Sunlight may be free, but solar panels and battery banks are expensive. On average, the true cost of solar generated electricity is about 3 times that of electricity from natural gas. Solar panel costs have dropped over the last several years, but so have natural gas prices. Hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling technology have made North American natural gas more abundant and affordable than ever.

Solar energy simply can’t compete in the free market without government subsidies from taxpayer dollars. Accordingly, states like Colorado stipulate that power companies must produce a minimum amount of power from “renewable sources”. At the local level, council members are making rooftop solar panels a requirement instead of an option. This makes energy more expensive with negligible effect on the local environment.

Activists in the United States call solar technology green while ignoring what happens in the global supply chain. Solar panels and batteries are constructed of earth minerals that require large-scale mining. Photovoltaic panels contain silver, nickel, copper, and titanium dioxide. Major components of batteries are lithium, cadmium, and lead. These materials are hazardous to humans, as well as nature.

The majority of these rare earth materials come from mines in China, Russia, and South America where regulations are lax. Each ton of mined rare earth material produces about 2,000 tons of mine tailings. The adverse effect on ecosystems, watersheds, and air quality is profound.  In contrast, natural gas drilling and fracking in the United States is highly regulated with a proven record of safety.

Here’s another irony. Mining, manufacturing, and transportation of solar components require vast amounts of hydro-carbon energy. Factories depend on uninterruptable power. Trucks and equipment require fuel. Truth is, affordable solar energy is a function of low-cost natural gas, coal, and oil. Panels don’t get built, delivered, and installed without it.

Perhaps communities in America should be legislating minimum levels of domestic natural gas production. It makes as much sense as solar mandates, but I doubt it will happen. Solar requirements are driven by political agendas, not facts and logic.

Mandating technologies hinders real energy solutions

Natural gas and solar technologies both belong in our nation’s energy portfolio. Natural gas allows solar to increase U.S. electricity production. Expansion of solar energy increases the need for natural gas. These energy sources have the potential to be symbiotic. Mandating the use of either is counterproductive.

Americans should not view natural gas and solar as competitive energy technologies. Every level of government must stop using subsidies and mandates to pick solar as the winner. Allow liberty and free markets to flourish and unbridled American entrepreneurialism will generate hybrid energy solutions that truly save dollars and the environment.

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.

Allowing government infringement on gun rights is a slippery slope

Right Angles column published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on February 19, 2013 http://www.postindependent.com/article/20130219/ARCHIVES01/130219878/1083&ParentProfile=1074

President Obama and Congressional Democrats are engaged in an assault on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Predictably, a majority in the media is softening up resistance, highlighting terrible crimes like the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and the theater in Aurora, Colorado. Politicians and pundits alike assert such mass murders warrant executive orders and Congressional legislation to limit the Constitutional right of Americans to bears arms. If you buy that, you’re sliding down a slippery slope with government tyranny at the bottom.

Constitutional rights shall not be infringed

The Constitution of the United States established a government to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” It is the framework for a government with the power to guarantee the rights decreed in the Declaration of Independence. Yet government is limited to a republic that reflects the will of the people, not politicians or judges. Our Constitution provides for adequate but limited government authority, implemented through a system of separated powers.

Amendment Two of the Constitution clearly states, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Ours being a government of the people, Congress has no authority to write laws that limit the Constitutional rights of citizens. That would be unconstitutional. And the President certainly has no power to issue executive orders that diminish Americans’ liberties.

Notwithstanding, our nation’s founders foresaw that Constitutional amendments would be required from time to time. The procedure for such is stipulated in Article V. Changes to the Constitution must be proposed with support of at least two-thirds of both houses of Congress or requested by legislatures of at least two-thirds of the States. Final approval of an amendment requires supporting votes in a 75% majority of the State legislatures or the consent of Constitutional conventions in at least three-fourths of the States.

By the founders’ intent, it is not easy to amend the U.S. Constitution. Regardless of media spin, the President and his Party are not likely to garner the necessary support to alter gun rights pursuant to Constitutional law. That’s why today’s cast of characters in Washington, D.C. is casting aside founding principles and making up new rules.

Will less liberty save lives?

The beltway elite want us to believe that less freedom for law-abiding citizens will thwart the murderous acts of sick people. The President proclaims that if one life can be saved, his personal agenda of gun control should trump Constitutional law. Well, if government is savings lives, why not plunge down the slippery slope with abandon? Americans should let elected leaders ignore the rule of law whenever lives can be saved.

We could reexamine the First Amendment. It’s time to surrender individual liberty and let government monitor and approve “free speech”. According to consensus of the politically correct, bullying and offensive speech can drive the mentally ill to commit murder with guns. The President could issue an executive order to mandate censorship of speech for law-abiding citizens. That way government will ensure that nobody utters a word that might incite violence by the mentally unbalanced. If at least one life is saved, would it be worth it?

Next Congress could pass legislation to limit the Fifth Amendment. Among other things, it guarantees citizens shall not be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”. That’s outdated. In today’s society, government must mete out justice the way it sees fit. For instance, the parents of mass shooters could be presumed guilty for circumstances that led to the crimes of their murderous offspring. Severe consequences would lead to fewer parents allowing their kids to become killers. If it saves just one life, aren’t we responsible to act?

Something tells me liberals willing to trample on the right to bear arms wouldn’t go for these changes. What’s the difference? From a Constitutional standpoint, there is no difference. But it illustrates that the issue for the left is separating Americans from guns, not saving lives.

Here’s an idea for progressives. Move beyond the Bill of Rights to Amendment 22. Congress could write legislation to give Mr. Obama the chance to run for more than two terms as President. How about getting rid of elections altogether? That would demonstrate the irrelevance of the Constitution. After that, gun control will be a snap.

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.

President and Congress struck a bad deal for America

Right Angles column published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on January 15, 2013 http://www.postindependent.com/article/20130115/VALLEYNEWS/130119936/1022&parentprofile=1077

Praise government! Just hours after the federal bureaucracy went over the “fiscal cliff” on New Year’s Day, President Obama voiced approval for an emergency Congressional bill to save us all. Yes, ailing American families and businesses will pay more in taxes. But that’s what it takes for big government to avoid real budget cuts, for now. As soon as the beltway bandits raise the federal debt ceiling above $16.4 trillion in February, runaway deficit spending can continue unabated. Hallelujah!

All sarcasm aside, American taxpayers are holding the brown end of the stick again. The media wants us to believe this is a good “deal” because it cuts taxes for the middle class. Ignore the propaganda.

Without action by Congress, the lower income tax rates from the Bush era automatically expired at the end of 2012. Congress and the President purposely waited until that occurred before acting. That way they could reinstate 2012 tax rates for certain income levels and call it a tax cut.

Income tax rates for “the rich” certainly aren’t staying the same. Rates for individuals earning more than $400,000 and households with annual income above $450,000 will permanently increase from 35% to nearly 40%. Additionally, estate tax (i.e., the death tax) inflates from 35% to 40% on estates valued over $5 million.

The “wealthy” will finally feel the pain of the 99%, right? That depends on who you’re calling wealthy. Many of the people penalized in the highest income tax brackets are entrepreneurs, business managers, doctors, and attorneys. Besides being typical working professionals, they are job creators. When government confiscates more of their money, the capital for investment, expansion, and new hiring disappears.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that the ultra wealthy are going to pay the full price for government financial irresponsibility. They don’t typically pay income taxes on a salary. Their annual income largely stems from return on investments. Sure, those folks will see an increase in taxes on capital gains and dividends. But so will your retirement accounts.

Americans pay while government spends

Truth is, most American taxpayers will be punished. For instance, there are new limits on tax deductions for those earning over $250,000. Are these the wealthy individuals who haven’t been paying their fair share?

The middle class doesn’t escape either. The payroll tax holiday, in effect since December 2010, was not extended by Congress. That means the average family will see a $1,000 reduction in annual income. Couple that with six new Obamacare taxes and it’s clear that a very bad deal was struck for America.

In total, the Congressional Budget Office calculates the fiscal cliff deal will raise taxes by about $600 billion over the next decade. Meanwhile, federal spending actually increases by $330 billion in 2013 alone. A big chunk of that results from another extension of unemployment benefits and a temporary patch for Medicare.

Overall, the Congressional deal comprises a 10 to 1 ratio of tax increases to government spending cuts. The resulting revenues are a drop in a huge bucket compared to projected budget deficits.

Washington politics trump government spending reforms

Despite political grandstanding by the President, the White House and Capitol Hill refuse to address the real reasons for the U.S. budget crisis. Currently, the entitlements of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (including Obamacare), as well as net interest on the debt, constitute more than half of the entire federal budget. At current tax rates, these liabilities will consume all collected revenue by 2025.

Yet instead of entitlement reform, President Obama signaled more tax increases are still to come. Shortly after Congress passed the fiscal cliff bill, the President declared, “We can’t simply cut our way to prosperity. Cutting spending has to go hand in hand with further reforms to our tax code.”

The fact that the United States just hit the debt limit for the 14th time since 2001 is irrelevant to the big-spending politicians in Washington, D.C. On the contrary, President Obama shirks responsibility for the costs of his agenda. He asserted, “I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether they will pay the bills they’ve already racked up.” He said that with a straight face.

A phony fiscal cliff deal won’t put America back on sound financial ground. So we should probably feel sorry for Mr. Obama as he prepares to take the Oath of Office on January 21th. He’s inheriting a real mess.

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.

The U.S. must challenge China as a global trader

Article published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on December 18, 2012 http://www.postindependent.com/article/20121218/VALLEYNEWS/121219890&parentprofile=search

In less than a decade, China has surpassed the United States as a trading partner for much of the world. While fueling this rise, China morphed into a key player in most major oil and gas exporting regions. The United States is no longer the hegemon of energy markets and geopolitics. China has the clout to set its own rules. To maintain significant global influence, the United States must challenge China in international markets. That requires development of domestic energy resources and resurgence in American manufacturing.

The rising dragon

Nearly two thirds of all nations now engage in more commerce with China than the United States. Some of the notable countries that recently shifted into this category are Australia, Brazil, and South Korea. Chinese trade with African nations will likely exceed $200 billion this year. Commerce with China is also a rapidly increasing component of GDP for most countries in Latin America, the traditional backyard of the United States.

Asia, Africa, and Latin America provide markets for Chinese products while supplying China with much of the oil, coal, iron, cobalt, and copper it requires. Chinese steel mills consume 50% of the iron ore currently mined worldwide. It is projected that 50% of the net increase in oil production of the next 25 years will be consumed by China. With such demand, the Chinese are intent on strengthening their hand in virtually every energy and resource market.

The Chinese have not hesitated to deal with energy-rich rogue nations, such as Venezuela, Iran, and Sudan. China can largely avoid competition with the United States in these markets, which supply more than 20% of its oil imports. In turn, these countries see economic benefits without conforming to global demands on human rights or nuclear proliferation.

China’s presence in America’s backyard

In the past few years, China has turned its attention on North America with a series of energy deals in Canada. Earlier this month, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) was approved for a $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen, Inc., a company with vast holdings in Canadian oil sands. Oil that might flow to the United States via the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline (which has been opposed by the Obama Administration) may now be loaded on tankers and shipped overseas instead.

While political leadership in the United States plays politics with domestic energy resources and thwarts a closer energy relationship with Canada, Beijing is benefiting. They have gained a sufficient stake in North American oil production to influence market prices. An additional facet of the Nexen deal is that  China acquires the technology to tap deep water oil reserves in the South China Sea without outside help.

Access to energy and influence over markets helped Chinese factory exports grew almost fivefold from 2000 to 2008. Since the global recession, China’s trade partnerships, especially with developing nations, have made it more resilient than America. Their exports climbed 7% in 2012 while the United States remained mired in economic stagnation.

The United States must step up to China’s challenge

Clearly, China’s worldwide reach is expanding, arguably at the expense of America. The ramifications range from strengthening rogue nations to environmental degradation. If American ideals of democracy, free-markets, and environmental responsibility are to succeed in this new world order, the United States must be a viable challenger to China.

American manufacturing, with its superior products, must remain competitive in a global economy. That will require access to our vast domestic energy reserves, as well as strong partnerships with Canada and Mexico. Beyond meeting our own needs, the United States has the potential to become a net energy exporter by the end of the decade. This could help us stay on even ground with China.

Additionally, taxes and environmental regulations should not be excessive and prohibitive to American industry. United States diplomacy should focus on China’s objectionable emissions and labor practices, but American strength ultimately depends on energy and unbridled entrepreneurialism at home.

Without products that can compete in a global market, the United States will slip further behind the Chinese juggernaut. A strong and influential America has positive ramifications far beyond our borders. We promote democracy, human rights, and environmental stewardship. That could change as China becomes the most important economic partner for most nations. An industrial America will be the only influence on how China does business.

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.

A mulligan is not a mandate

Article published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on November 20, 2012 http://www.postindependent.com/article/20121120/VALLEYNEWS/121119845&parentprofile=search

The American electorate gave Barack Obama a mulligan. Clearly, I was wrong a few months ago when I wrote that the election was about the economy, health care, social security, and taxes. After months of personal attacks and straw man arguments by the President and his supporters, this election turned into a referendum on social policy. And that’s exactly why the President has no governing mandate for his second term.

With the economy ranked as the top concern for likely voters, pre-election polls indicated that far more people believed Mitt Romney would better handle the economy than Barack Obama. Based on historical precedent and conventional wisdom, the President was a sitting duck.

Annual income dropped $4,300 for the average middle class family during President Obama’s first term. At least 23 million Americans are looking for work and 1 in 6 six people is living in poverty. And 47 million people are on food stamps, a 50% increase, since Obama took office. Such irrefutable facts were irrelevant as the votes were tallied.

Obama’s diversionary tactics worked

To a large degree, President Obama owes his reelection to the mainstream media. With their help, Mr. Obama avoided a critique of his record in office. Among many things, he was not accountable for workforce shrinkage, $6 trillion in new federal debt, a resurgence in militant Islam, or not attempting to prevent the murder of Americans in Libya. Mr. Obama didn’t have to provide answers on Benghazi or offer a real plan to deal with jobs, deficit spending, or energy development.

On the contrary, the Obama campaign was allowed to shift the focus to government-funded birth control, legalized gay marriage, and voter identification. Republicans were cast as villains engaged in a war on women, gays, and minorities. Regardless of what he was trying to say, Missouri Senate candidate, Todd Akin’s, highly-publicized statement about “legitimate rape” lent credibility to such accusations.

The coup d’etat was Team Obama’s characterization of Mitt Romney as a corporate felon with disdain for the 47% of Americans who are beneficiaries of a vast array of government programs. No Democrat argued that the number hadn’t risen to 47% during President Obama’s tenure. They simply shouted, “Yeah, and Romney wants to take all that away from you so he can give tax cuts to the rich!” With media amplification, the message resonated.

A big government nanny state is the new normal

Proof is in the exit polls. Over 40% of those surveyed said Obama would provide the most help for the middle class. About 35% said the same about Romney. This is striking since only 43% believe America’s best days lie ahead as Barack Obama prepares to serve a second term as President. And a post-election survey revealed that less than 25% think today’s children will be better off than their parents. That’s not a mandate.

In truth, the exit poll results illustrate a regrettable response to economic adversity that is spreading throughout the nation. Voters didn’t give President Obama a second term because they believe his ideology of government expansion and reduced individual liberty will grow the American economy.  President Obama was reelected because a majority decided economic stagnation is the new normal and they are better off with a government that provides for them.

The rejection of personal liberty and responsibility

Governor Romney offered a plan for America with an unfettered free market, patient-centered healthcare, sustainable entitlement programs, and lower taxes. Such circumstances would stimulate job creation, reduce reliance on government, and empower individuals to choose and work toward their destinies.

The Romney vision was rejected in favor of the Democrat promise that government will be the great equalizer for the middle class. President Obama’s team convinced a majority of voters that the nation is rigged against them and government dependency is the cure. Not once during the campaign did the President promote individual liberty or the merits of working for the American dream.

It seems the United States of America has reached a crossroads. As it stands, relatively few citizens actually pay for the government they consume. Now half the country voted to send Obama back to the White House to make sure the money keeps coming from the other half of the population. Take a mulligan on that hope and change, Mr. President, and keep spreading the wealth.

As the saying goes, democracy will survive until people figure out they can vote themselves money.

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.

A “conversation” with President Obama

Right Angles column published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on October 16, 2012  http://www.postindependent.com/article/20121016/VALLEYNEWS/121019917&parentprofile=search

Who is Barack Obama? What are his core beliefs? What is his agenda for America? Undecided voters may have tuned into the first Presidential debate with such questions in mind. Mr. Obama’s inept arguments, worn-out talking points, and empty glances around the room simply showed he isn’t an engaged leader.

So who “is” Barack Obama? To find out, I took a cue from Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention, and had my own “conversation” with President Obama.

Kellogg: Mr. President, small business in America is vital for job creation. How will you foster a better economic climate for small business success?

President: Businesses will hire if they can get loans to cover payroll.

Kellogg: So you believe entrepreneurs and businesses should spend lots of money they don’t have?

President: What do you think a stimulus is? It’s spending – that’s the whole point!

Kellogg: As it stands, we face high unemployment, lower wages, uncertain retirement benefits, and a massive national debt. How are Americans, especially our youth, supposed to secure their future?

President: With the changing economy, no one has lifetime employment. But community colleges provide lifetime employability.

Kellogg: People should just acquire new job skills and move on? What about entrepreneurs who took on risk to start businesses? Increased regulations and higher taxes could destroy all they’ve built.

President: If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help… Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Kellogg: American free-enterprise is responsible for more innovation than government bureaucracy. Technology is a prime example.

President: The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Kellogg: Government never envisioned commercial application of an information network. Private sector visionaries developed the internet into a cornerstone of our economy.

President: It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label.

Kellogg: America was built on the principle of individual liberty, not unions. That means people are entitled to keep most of what they earn.

President: I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

Kellogg: You’re promoting wealth distribution?

President: I believe in redistribution.

Kellogg: Let’s shift to energy. Increased domestic energy production will lower energy costs and foster economic growth.

President: Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.

Kellogg: A free-market approach without government subsidies would make energy more abundant and less costly.

President: We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times…

Kellogg: Maybe we should move to foreign policy. Violence and anti-American sentiment is prevalent throughout the Middle East.

President: A crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.

Kellogg: Actually, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in a planned terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9-11. That’s why over 70% of Americans believe we are  at war with Islam.

President: I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

Kellogg: What do you say to conservatives and independents who don’t agree with you? They want a leader who will stand up for American heritage and values.

President: It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Kellogg: Thank you for this revealing “chat”, Mr. President.

Of course, I’ve provided no breaking news. These are the exact words the President uttered himself. That’s who Barack Obama is. Ready to vote now?

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.

Focus on the real issues during the Presidential debates

Right Angles column published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on September 18, 2012 http://www.postindependent.com/article/20120918/VALLEYNEWS/120919885&parentprofile=search

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will debate three times in October. Don’t get distracted when the moderators waste time on fringe topics like Obama’s commitment to abortion rights or the supposed transgressions of Bain Capital when Romney was at the helm.

In this election, four of the most important issues for Americans are the economy, health care, social security, and taxes. When the candidates are questioned on these, dismiss empty statements and political posturing. Listen carefully for specific answers.

The economy

The economy is the top issue for voters. That’s because 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. In less than four years, federal spending has increased 25% and pushed our national debt past $16 trillion. Meanwhile, businesses face the looming threats of higher taxes and increased regulation.

Government is the cause of our economic woes. Restoring the fiscal strength of America is dependent on unleashing the private sector and individual citizens.

According to MittRomney.com, Governor Romney would foster job creation and economic recovery by reducing the federal government size and spending, lowering tax rates on families, and removing excessive regulation from businesses.

On BarackObama.com, the most prominent initiative on jobs and the economy is providing government incentives to manufacturing and clean energy.

Health care

Health care encompasses more than one sixth of the U. S. economy and it ranks second in importance to Americans. If current trends continue, the government will control half of all health care spending by 2020. Spending by Medicare and Medicaid has already surpassed $520 billion and $400 billion, respectively. These programs have trillions in unfunded liabilities.

Obamacare exacerbates this situation by cutting $500 billion from Medicare while adding 25 million more people to Medicaid. It adds a trillion dollars in new health care spending along with a web of regulations, fees, and bureaucrats that trump freedom of choice for individual Americans.

Without transferring authority and responsibility back to individuals and the private sector, the U.S. health care system is destined to become unaffordable and unsustainable. Medicare and Medicaid will be doomed.

Governor Romney’s website promises repeal of Obamacare, more control of Medicaid by states, and options for Medicare enrollees to utilize health saving accounts and vouchers to purchase superior private health insurance.

President Obama’s website touts Obamacare, claiming it will give “free” health services to 47 million new Medicare beneficiaries, prevent private insurance companies from raising rates, and allow government to control “waste and abuses”.

Social Security

Social Security is another top concern for voters. The program is running deficits and seniors face a 25% benefit cut by 2035 if Washington, D.C. fails to enact meaningful reforms now. Raising taxes on the wealthy to save the program is mathematically impossible.

There is no way to save Social Security without gradually raising the retirement age. Those in or near retirement get the full benefits promised, but everyone thereafter must adjust. Additionally, benefits will need to be weighted toward those with the most need.

The Romney website proposes adjustments to the retirement age and benefit structure as part of a solution.

On the Obama website, one can find links to accusations that Romney will destroy Social Security, but no plan from the President to save the program.

Taxes

Most Americans know that taxes will increase at the end of 2012 unless Congress extends the Bush tax cuts. Currently, the top 1% of income earners pay 40% of all federal income taxes. The bottom 40% of income earners actually receive money from the IRS in excess of any potential taxes they might have paid.

In addition to the income tax disparity, the U.S. corporate tax rate of nearly 40% is the highest in the industrialized world. Yet government wants to take more of our money!

The plan on Mitt Romney’s website includes reducing federal spending, maintaining the Bush tax cuts for all income levels, and cutting the corporate tax rate to 25%.

On Barack Obama’s website, the one stated objective on taxes is to make millionaires and billionaires pay more.

Expect Presidential debate questions to venture into the realm of irrelevance. And the candidates may talk in lofty platitudes and abstract statements without providing any real answers. But you can focus on what matters. An informed and discerning electorate is the best chance for a brighter American future.

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.

Trashing private sector business won’t sway voter views on economy

Right Angles column published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on August 21, 2012  http://www.postindependent.com/article/20120821/VALLEYNEWS/120829989&parentprofile=search

The 2012 political season is upon us and the top issue with voters is no surprise. As Democrat campaign strategist, James Carville, once proclaimed, “It’s the economy, stupid!” That’s bad news for President Obama.

Economic indices are not good and 63 % of those surveyed in a new USA Today-Gallup poll view Mitt Romney’s business background is an asset for regaining the nation’s financial footing. About the same percentage said government is intruding in areas that should be left to individuals and free markets. These poll results confirm the President is stuck between disastrous big-government policies and an increasingly skeptical electorate.

Government forays into the financial, energy, and auto industries produced little growth and lots of debt. At this point, Federal Reserve forecasters expect the U.S. gross domestic product to grow at an anemic rate of 2.2 % through the remainder of 2012. The federal unemployment rate is mired at 8.2 % and the Treasury predicts a federal budget shortfall of more than $1 trillion for the current fiscal year.

Shifting blame from government to business

Given the facts, Barack Obama doesn’t have a prayer of running on his economic record. On the contrary, recent surveys by CBS News and the New York Times indicate most Americans are convinced the President’s policies will never improve the economy. And taxing “the rich”, a primary component of Obama’ economic strategy, rates near the bottom of their priority list.

Despite a pending referendum at the ballot box, President Obama refuses to alter his radical ideology. Instead of taking a more centrist position to foster a better business climate, he’s openly asserting his belief that individuals and companies that create jobs in the private sector aren’t the real economic engine of America.

In a stump speech in Roanoke, Virginia on July 13, Mr. Obama asserted, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else (i.e. government) made that happen.”

As far as the President is concerned, American’s owe their shot at prosperity to roads, bridges, and government. In other words, what you’ve earned doesn’t really belong to you, it belongs to government. How else could a tax cut “cost” the government money?

According to the socialist mindset, government benevolence warrants that financially successful people and businesses pay higher taxes and submit to more regulation. Anything less is construed as greed. President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” assertion is an unveiled assault on American individualism and earned success. But it’s the only arrow in the campaign quiver.

The politics of diversion

Team Obama is desperate to divert voters’ attention from endless spending, incompetence, and intrusion by government. If “wealthy” entrepreneurs and businesses can be cast as cheaters who don’t “pay their fair share”, then it follows that they bear responsibility for our nation’s debt and job losses. In that regard, Democrats want us to see Governor Romney as Public Enemy No. 1.

Instead of producing a plan to grow the U.S. economy or passing at least one federal budget, the President’s supporters are saturating the news with false accusations and ridiculous charges against Mitt Romney. These include:  Romney’s millions were made by shutting down companies and laying off workers; Romney is a felon who hasn’t paid his taxes; and Romney is responsible for the death of a woman who had cancer. What happened to hope and change?

The lofty platitudes of Candidate Obama in 2008 have been chased away by economic stagnation and government expansion. People feel the pain of lower household incomes and higher grocery bills and gas prices. Thus, beltway Democrats are striving to transform the 2012 campaign into a string of circus sideshows.

Americans want a leader

The problem for the President is that too many citizens understand the monumental nature of the problems our country faces. Reliable polling consistently shows the vast majority of likely voters believe the United States is headed in the wrong direction. They’re weary of politicians who point the finger of blame awhile avoiding meaningful action on tough issues like entitlement reform.

Americans want a President who is a leader and a champion of the entrepreneurial spirit. No doubt, many Obama voters hoped they elected such a person four years ago. By running from economic reality and voicing contempt for the private sector and free markets, Mr. Obama demonstrated he’s nothing of the sort. Business people all across America are not likely to make the same mistake twice.

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.

The Supreme Court undermined individual liberty with Obamacare ruling

Right Angles column published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent on July 17, 2012 http://www.postindependent.com/article/20120717/VALLEYNEWS/120719906&parentprofile=search

Everybody with a pulse probably knows the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28th. What many people don’t realize is that four of the justices accurately identified the entirety of the legislation is an unconstitutional power grab by Washington, D.C. Notwithstanding, the other five lawyers dressed in black robes turned the Constitution of the United States upside down.

The four liberal Justices and Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that the individual mandate (i.e., requirement to buy qualifying health care coverage) component of Obamacare stands because the penalty for not complying is simply a new type of tax. Under a manufactured pretense, government will now force all American citizens and legal residents earning at least 133 percent of the poverty level to pay a “tax” if they fail to purchase qualifying health care coverage.

This stunning and unprecedented Supreme Court decision is a direct assault on individual liberty. If your’re not concerned with this, you need to wake up. In effect, the Court granted Congress and the Presidency an egregious expansion of power. They are now free to use taxes to penalize those individuals who fail to engage in any economic activity the government decides to regulate with legislation. With the Obamacare decision, the Court decreed that the authority of the federal government over citizens is nearly limitless.

The Constitution is a limit on government power

Pursuant to the Tenth Amendment, the federal government has no power beyond those expressly stated in the Constitution. In simple terms, if the Constitution doesn’t say the government can do something, then government can’t do it. The Supreme Court decision reversed this fundamental principle of law. At the core, the ruling opines that powers not expressly prohibited by the Constitution are fair game for government to assert control over the people.

Powers of the federal government to levy taxes are specifically enumerated in the Constitution. These include capitation, excise, and income taxes. There’s plenty of Court precedent that taxes must fall into these categories. No previous Court decisions support the authority of government to lay a selective tax on individuals as a means to regulate economic “inactivity”.

A new legal precedent on taxes

The Supreme Court sidestepped all this. In authoring the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts agreed that government cannot regulate economic inactivity, but he declared it can “tax” economic inactivity. This is a ridiculous statement. Clearly, taxing economic inactivity is a means to regulate it.

Though the Chief Justice defined the individual mandate penalty as a tax, he was unable to idenitfy the Constitutional basis of such a tax. It’s obviously not a capitation tax on the individual apportioned per the population of a state. There’s nothing like a sale or consumption of a commodity to justify it as an excise tax. And it’s not a tax on earned income. So what is this tax? The Chief Justice’s response is, “let’s stop fiddling around with labels.”

The Court’s basis for upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is undoubtedly rooted in activism. The law was never sold as a new tax by any proponent. Along with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the President insisted ad nauseam that the individual mandate was not a tax.

During litigation, not a single district court or federal court said the individual mandate constituted a tax. In oral arguments before the Supreme Court, lawyers for Obamacare never argued that the individual mandate should be upheld as tax. Supreme Court justices didn’t ask for briefs in this regard either.

Saving American liberty

Now Americans have lost another piece of freedom to government. Yet, we’re all supposed to applaud the Court for not overturning President Obama’s signature legislation on “political” grounds. Notice that presumption is never applied to the four unwaveringly leftist justices.

Politically, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains unpopular. Rasmussen polling indicates 53% of likely voters want the law repealed. Less than 40% think Obamacare should remain. And on election day, there’s almost always a price for politicians who raise taxes.

Most Americans are infuriated by continued government usurpation of individual liberty and implementation of an unwanted big-government health care system that will inflate cost while eroding quality and availability. It’s up to the citizens of this country to reinstitute the fundamental principle that government power over the people must be limited. We will start by electing a new President and Congress in November.

James D. Kellogg is a professional engineer, the author of the thriller novel E-Force, and an outdoor adventure enthusiast in western Colorado. Visit JamesDKellogg.com to learn more.