We Tried

We heard the same thing over and over . . . sure, we'll donate, but only to a "viable" candidate.

"Viable," we have learned, means that you are attracting enough donations to convince someone they aren't "wasting" campaign dollars.  

So to be viable you need to have donations, and to get donations, you need to be viable.

I spent as much of my own money as I can trying to get our message to catch fire, and I don't have any more to spend on this.  There's nothing more I can do, so I have notified the Federal Elections Commission that I have withdrawn from the race.  

I don't think I wasted my money, because I was pushing as hard as my finances permitted to get a message out that I thought was important for the American people to hear.  I hope it got out there enough to make a difference.

Thank you to all who helped, who donated, and who listened.


Solving campaign finance, term limits and helping with the debt - all at once

When Pat Tiberi finally got around to resigning after 17 years in office representing our district, he had more than six million dollars in his campaign account. Had he chosen to ride things out indefinitely, he could easily have financed another four hotly contested races to retain his seat without raising another dime.

And he hasn't had a hotly contested race for more than a decade.  Why?

Because he had six million dollars in his account.  For that reason, he has quietly sat on the Ways and Means committee presiding over America's headlong pursuit towards financial ruin.

The only fiscal responsibility in Pat Tiberi's office has been in his own campaign account.

Tiberi's complacency highlights two huge issues in American politics, for which the American people demand action but which our elected officials have been unwilling to impose on themselves:  meaningful campaign finance reform and term limits.

We can't tackle these two problems separately.  Even if we radically alter the way campaigns are financed tomorrow, those who have been in office for any length of time have amassed so much money that they will be able to cruise along with slick, well financed campaigns for years or even decades to come.  If we imposed term limits, since there are no restrictions on how these politicians spend the money they have already accumulated, a well-seasoned politician can simply run for a different office with a campaign that is already paid for.

In Tiberi's case, had he carried out his plans to run for the U.S. Senate, he would have had a $6 million head start over any competitor.

I have a simple and dramatic first step to fix this.  At the same time, we can ease the debt crisis these politicians have created.

I propose legislation that would require all candidates for Federal office to close their campaign accounts within 30 days after their campaigns are over - and make their checks payable to the United States Treasury, to be applied directly to the debt.  This would not be budgeted income, and would not be subject to mandatory or discretionary spending: it would be applied directly to the debt.

This proposal will have an immediate, direct and positive impact on American politics. 

On the campaign finance side of the equation, donors will be less likely to contribute more to a campaign than will actually be needed to finance that election - and if they do, they will know that every penny of surplus will go towards the good cause of reducing the debt our leaders have proven themselves unable to manage.

This will also have the practical effect of limiting terms in office without having to impose them by Constitutional amendment, and I think it is a better way to approach the issue.  If a member of Congress has performed well in the service of our country, he or she should be able to run for reelection and will no doubt have little difficulty securing adequate donations to do so.  If he or she has failed to do what attracted donors the last time, there will be no financial cushion on which they can depend to cruise on to a return trip to that office.

And any candidate who scurries to spend every penny in their account so they don't have to pay anything towards the debt will be remembered . . . not fondly . . . by their donors in the election cycle.

Everybody runs.  Nobody cruises.  A valuable member of Congress is not prohibited from running again, but a terrible member of Congress will have a much more difficult time convincing voters to make the same mistake again.

You have my pledge that this is what I will do when my campaign ends, hopefully when I have convinced the people of the 12th District to send me to Washington.  In this election and every other Federal election in which I run.

And any Federal candidate who truly loves our country should do the same.


Overcoming The PBS Effect: How Congress Can Balance the Budget

Nobody wants to be mean to a Muppet.

Congress has been systematically spending the United States Government into oblivion since 2001.  As I detailed in a recent article ("The Debt Crisis: The Most Important Issue for 2018"), we have reached the point in American history at which we need to make difficult choices in order to eliminate the deficit and reduce the debt - or else confront the mathematical reality that our Federal government will financially collapse within a decade.

Yet our leaders appear to remain oblivious to the growing problem, which leads us to question how and why they have allowed our financial condition to deteriorate to this point and are STILL utterly incapable of restraining themselves when it comes to spending. 

In the case of funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, all it takes is Kermit shedding a few tears and the next thing you know, it's funding as usual.  It's what I call "The PBS Effect."

Before I go any further, I wish as much as anyone else that our Federal government had the resources to pay for everything, and I enjoy programming that is aired by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  I grew up on Sesame Street, too.  The reason I'm singling out PBS is because this periodic budget scuffle best illustrates how the beneficiaries of each and every line item in our budget play the game in order to preserve their little slice of Federal funding.

In March, 2017, President Trump proposed to cut funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which received $445 million in the preceding year's budget and provides about half of the funding for PBS.  A frenzy of protest ensued, accusing the President of putting Big Bird in his crosshairs.  Some even suggested that the President wanted to cut funding as a means of censoring what he perceives as a liberal media outlet (even though the Trump administration is not the first to propose funding cuts to PBS); most stressed the virtues of commercial-free, publicly supported programs. 

But the crown jewel of every pro-PBS argument has been this:  cutting a measly $445 million from something that does such wonderful things wouldn't reduce spending significantly enough to make any real difference.  After all, it's only $1.35 per person, they argued (click here to watch it).

And, at least for the time being, the Trump Administration seems to have backed off.   

This is how each recipient of Federal funding is marching the United States Government closer to its "Death by a Thousand Cuts."  No, funding for PBS will not by itself be fatal; however, every time one of these battles for funding succeeds, it's one small step closer in that direction.  The "Death by a Thousand Cuts" analogy is perfect in this case, since the continuing stability of our Federal Government going forward will be "Survival by a Thousand Cuts" - cuts of a different kind.  

There is a way these same weak-willed politicians can succeed in making a thousand cuts when they lack the stomach to make just this one.  Congress will balance the budget when it accepts and embraces the fact that we now need to prioritize our spending in order to survive.

This will provide our leaders with a weapon they have not used before in spending debates.  We can demand that instead of telling us only that a federal program is valuable, that we be told why their program is more valuable than something that has been included in the budget.  No pro-PBS argument asserted that funding for PBS is more important than, for example, health insurance for children.  Nobody claimed that commercial-free episodes of Sesame Street are more valuable than security checkpoints at our airports.  Is airing a rerun of NOVA more important than funding a week of cancer research?  We should let the cancer researchers and the PBS pundits battle that out among themselves, not with the American taxpayer.

If we establish how much is a reasonable amount that we have available to spend, and we allocate how that money will be used, there will necessarily be a lot of line items that will need to be reduced or defunded.  Forcing those who want Federal funding to compete with each other for our tax dollars will have many positive effects:

1. The debate will no longer assume unlimited resources and allow us to prioritize our spending.

2. Since no single program is targeted for cuts, no proponent of a defunded program can claim to have been singled out as a way to apply pressure to weak-willed politicians.

3. Those who want to squeeze into the budget will reduce their funding demands as much as possible.

4. Those who are likely below the threshold of necessity will start cultivating private sources of revenue.

The last of these points is why I call the problem "The PBS Effect."  Everyone is familiar with the voiceover at the end of so many shows on PBS:  "Paid for by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting . . . and Viewers Like You."  If we as taxpayers quit paying the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, it will be viewers like us alone who will decide the fate of PBS.  If we the people believe PBS is as important as it claims to be, PBS should trust us to dial in our pledges, break out our checkbooks and donate enough to ensure the survival of such a valuable commodity. 

If PBS can't survive without Federal funding, it will be because PBS is not providing something that the public, rather than a few politicians with weak wills and loose wallets, have decided is worth the price.

That is a free market.  


The Debt Crisis: The Most Important Issue for 2018

Whatever my stance is on any other issue won't matter if we don't take care of this one:  the national debt.  I have a plan to avoid the coming crisis; however, we need to act now to implement it, as our window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

This chart, from the Congressional Budget Office, illustrates exactly where we are at this point in our nation's history (I added the "we are here" with an arrow):

Since 2001, the last time we had a budget surplus in this country, our debt as a percentage of our GDP (gross domestic product) has skyrocketed to levels we haven't seen since World War II, and the projections according to the Congressional Budget Office are for things to get worse on their current course. 

Much worse.

We've all heard all of the doomsday predictions concerning what will happen if the United States Government defaults on its obligations.  We've also heard from many sources, both within and outside the government, that our spending is "unsustainable."

What neither party is telling us is that a default is mathematically inevitable within the next ten years -- less if the rest of the world loses confidence in the American dollar before then.  What's causing this?  Lets start with the CBO's 2016 "Infographic," an annual cartoon that the office has been publishing for the last few years:

That doesn't look so bad, does it?  The spending doughnut is only a little bigger than the revenues doughnut, right?  So what's the big deal?  First, the difference between the two, according to this chart, is $600 Billion - more than half a trillion.  That figure represents our deficit for 2016, which is added to the $20 Trillion in debt.

It's as if the government is trying to make it look like an anvil falling on our heads isn't so bad by putting Wile E. Coyote underneath it.

But there's a lot this happy little drawing isn't telling you.  That spending doughnut is going to be almost twice as big in ten years if we do not act NOW.  There are three things that will cause this:

1.  Interest on the debt. 

Did you notice that brownish grey section on the spending doughnut?

It may look small, but there's two problems with that:  first, it's a big fat lie.  Second, it will be nearly four times bigger than what you see here in ten years.  Here's the real numbers, according to the White House and the Congressional Budget Office:

That number is actually $429 billion for 2016, when you include interest being taken from trust funds such as social security and a few other line items.  In 2027, that figure will be $984 billion.  We will be paying out almost a third of all our revenue in 2016, just to make our interest payments on the federal debt.  Note that almost all of this increase is due to interest paid on Treasury debt securities - T-Bills.

I don't think this chart reflects another critical variable that makes matters even worse:  interest is a function of risk.  Historically, interest rates on Treasury Bills have been very low, since Treasury Bills historically have been such a sound investment.  As it becomes increasingly unlikely that our Federal government will be able to meet its financial obligations, one of two things will happen:  (a) people will quit buying T-bills (and if you think that isn't already starting to happen, look at what Bitcoin futures did in 2017), which means we won't have that revenue stream to fund our deficit, forcing a shutdown and default, or (b) the Federal Reserve will be forced to dramatically increase interest rates in order to attract investors to an increasingly risky investment, triggering a large increase in the amount of federal interest, as well as inflation and an economic slowdown.

The United States is entering a financial death spiral over the issue of Federal interest.

We must do whatever we have to do to stop and reverse increases in the amount of interest on the national debt.  In order to do that, we must end the deficit now, and we must maintain enough of a surplus to begin paying down that debt. 

2.   Social Security must be made self-sustaining.  Now.

It is no secret that Social Security is running out of money, and all sources indicate the trust fund will be completely depleted by 2033.  Here are the official projections for social security over the next ten years, from the same chart in which I found the projections regarding Federal interest:

In this case, the 2016 "Infographic" above was dead on as far as mandatory spending.  According to this chart, Social Security spending will increase from $916 Billion in 2016 to $1.7 Trillion by 2027.

That increase is bigger than the increase we can expect in Federal interest.

Protecting benefits for those who have paid into the system should be our first priority.  Social Security was originally designed as a pension substitute, funded entirely by payroll taxes, which would guarantee some income in retirement to those who have paid into it.  However, there is another portion - the unfunded entitlement portion - which writes checks to people who have not paid into the system (or in the case of those who have qualified for disability after working for a few years, have paid only a tiny portion of what they are taking from it).

If we have to choose between giving Social Security to those who have paid into it and those who have not - and I believe we are at the point where we do have to make that choice - I choose to give Social Security to those who have paid into it.

Notice that the bulk of the added cost of Social Security, though, is going to come from old age and survivor benefits, not from disability insurance.  We as a nation need to face a simple mathematical reality:  if we are to continue paying benefits at current levels, we need to make adjustments.  I see two ways that we could accomplish this, and I think we need to do both:

a.   Increase the age at which people become eligible.  The closer I get to the age of 62, the more I realize that this age is far too young to assume a person will no longer be able to work and will be dependent on the Federal government to get by.

b.   Increase or eliminate the ceiling for deducting employment taxes.  Currently, Social Security is not withheld once an employee reaches $107,000 or so.  Imagine all the people who make more than $107,000, and what 15 percent of that amount could do to put Social Security back on track! 

These two variables can be altered in a number of ways - the higher the age of eligibility for benefits, maybe the lower the ceiling needs to be for withholding Social Security taxes; and vice versa.  I would favor maintaining eligibility as close to the current age as possible, and grandfathering in anyone who has already qualified.

3.  We must freeze the amount we pay for Medicare and Medicaid at 2000 levels.  Now.

Before you get out your pitchforks, ask yourself one question:  who will actually be hurt if we reduced and capped our spending on these programs?  Will it be the old, infirm, and those needing care?  Or will it be those who have been selling them services and products at artificially high prices because our government has been paying them?

I believe no one will quit providing health services if our government pays less for them.  I believe health care providers and pharmaceutical companies will be (and should be) forced to charge more reasonable prices if they want to remain in business at all.

AND THEY DO.

Our largest industries in this country, by far, are the health care and pharmaceutical industries.  For decades we have wrung our hands and tried to figure out how to pay the skyrocketing costs these two industries continue to charge. 

What we should be doing is asking why these costs are skyrocketing.  It's time for a correction.

Why are nursing home bills going through the roof when they still pay their help barely more than minimum wage?  Why are pharmaceutical companies charging more for products sold in the U.S. as opposed to the products they export?

Why is nobody looking at this?  The answer is simple:  look who contributes to the campaign funds of your local representatives and senators.

The answer is not demand - it's supply.  Our Federal government is paying too much for these services, and these two industries know that they can't charge different prices for private pay than they do for taxpayer pay. 

What will a nursing home which has profited so handsomely on Medicaid charge if Medicaid will only pay half as much?  Will they convert to private pay?  In all likelihood not - because if they could get private individuals to pay those rates, they already would have done so.  Will a pharmaceutical company stop creating and selling lifesaving drugs if the Federal government pays less for them?  Absolutely not - they will either reduce their prices or they will sell fewer drugs.

We are all in this together.  The Federal Government has done more than its fair share to take care of an aging population.  It's time for those who have benefited most from this arrangement to start acting charitable - or, should they choose to continue their aggressive business practices, they should be subjected to the same consequences for price-fixing and profiteering as any other for-profit industry.

CONCLUSION

In future articles, I will be detailing plans to overhaul other areas of our Federal budget.  There is much we can and should do with our national defense and in other areas which we can and should do to further stabilize our financial future . . . and guarantee the survival of the great experiment that is America.

 


The Debt Crisis: The ONLY Issue That Matters in 2018

Whatever my stance is on any other issue won't matter if we don't take care of this one:  the national debt.  I have a plan to avoid the coming crisis; however, we need to act now to implement it, as our window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

This chart, from the Congressional Budget Office, illustrates exactly where we are at this point in our nation's history (I added the "we are here" with an arrow):

Since 2001, the last time we had a budget surplus in this country, our debt as a percentage of our GDP (gross domestic product) has skyrocketed to levels we haven't seen since World War II, and the projections according to the Congressional Budget Office are for things to get worse on their current course. 

Much worse.

We've all heard all of the doomsday predictions concerning what will happen if the United States Government defaults on its obligations.  We've also heard from many sources, both within and outside the government, that our spending is "unsustainable."

What neither party is telling us is that a default is mathematically inevitable within the next ten years -- less if the rest of the world loses confidence in the American dollar before then.  What's causing this?  Lets start with the CBO's 2016 "Infographic," an annual cartoon that the office has been publishing for the last few years:

That doesn't look so bad, does it?  The spending doughnut is only a little bigger than the revenues doughnut, right?  So what's the big deal?  First, the difference between the two, according to this chart, is $600 Billion - more than half a trillion.  That figure represents our deficit for 2016, which is added to the $20 Trillion in debt.

It's as if the government is trying to make it look like an anvil falling on our heads isn't so bad by putting Wile E. Coyote underneath it.

But there's a lot this happy little drawing isn't telling you.  That spending doughnut is going to be almost twice as big in ten years if we do not act NOW.  There are three things that will cause this:

1.  Interest on the debt. 

Did you notice that brownish grey section on the spending doughnut?

It may look small, but there's two problems with that:  first, it's a big fat lie.  Second, it will be nearly four times bigger than what you see here in ten years.  Here's the real numbers, according to the White House and the Congressional Budget Office:

That number is actually $429 billion for 2016, when you include interest being taken from trust funds such as social security and a few other line items.  In 2027, that figure will be $984 billion.  We will be paying out almost a third of all our revenue in 2016, just to make our interest payments on the federal debt.  Note that almost all of this increase is due to interest paid on Treasury debt securities - T-Bills.

I don't think this chart reflects another critical variable that makes matters even worse:  interest is a function of risk.  Historically, interest rates on Treasury Bills have been very low, since Treasury Bills historically have been such a sound investment.  As it becomes increasingly unlikely that our Federal government will be able to meet its financial obligations, one of two things will happen:  (a) people will quit buying T-bills (and if you think that isn't already starting to happen, look at what Bitcoin futures did in 2017), which means we won't have that revenue stream to fund our deficit, forcing a shutdown and default, or (b) the Federal Reserve will be forced to dramatically increase interest rates in order to attract investors to an increasingly risky investment, triggering a large increase in the amount of federal interest, as well as inflation and an economic slowdown.

The United States is entering a financial death spiral over the issue of Federal interest.

We must do whatever we have to do to stop and reverse increases in the amount of interest on the national debt.  In order to do that, we must end the deficit now, and we must maintain enough of a surplus to begin paying down that debt. 

2.   Social Security must be made self-sustaining.  Now.

It is no secret that Social Security is running out of money, and all sources indicate the trust fund will be completely depleted by 2033.  Here are the official projections for social security over the next ten years, from the same chart in which I found the projections regarding Federal interest:

In this case, the 2016 "Infographic" above was dead on as far as mandatory spending.  According to this chart, Social Security spending will increase from $916 Billion in 2016 to $1.7 Trillion by 2027.

That increase is bigger than the increase we can expect in Federal interest.

Protecting benefits for those who have paid into the system should be our first priority.  Social Security was originally designed as a pension substitute, funded entirely by payroll taxes, which would guarantee some income in retirement to those who have paid into it.  However, there is another portion - the unfunded entitlement portion - which writes checks to people who have not paid into the system (or in the case of those who have qualified for disability after working for a few years, have paid only a tiny portion of what they are taking from it).

If we have to choose between giving Social Security to those who have paid into it and those who have not - and I believe we are at the point where we do have to make that choice - I choose to give Social Security to those who have paid into it.

Notice that the bulk of the added cost of Social Security, though, is going to come from old age and survivor benefits, not from disability insurance.  We as a nation need to face a simple mathematical reality:  if we are to continue paying benefits at current levels, we need to make adjustments.  I see two ways that we could accomplish this, and I think we need to do both:

a.   Increase the age at which people become eligible.  The closer I get to the age of 62, the more I realize that this age is far too young to assume a person will no longer be able to work and will be dependent on the Federal government to get by.

b.   Increase or eliminate the ceiling for deducting employment taxes.  Currently, Social Security is not withheld once an employee reaches $107,000 or so.  Imagine all the people who make more than $107,000, and what 15 percent of that amount could do to put Social Security back on track! 

These two variables can be altered in a number of ways - the higher the age of eligibility for benefits, maybe the lower the ceiling needs to be for withholding Social Security taxes; and vice versa.  I would favor maintaining eligibility as close to the current age as possible, and grandfathering in anyone who has already qualified.

3.  We must freeze the amount we pay for Medicare and Medicaid at 2000 levels.  Now.

Before you get out your pitchforks, ask yourself one question:  who will actually be hurt if we reduced and capped our spending on these programs?  Will it be the old, infirm, and those needing care?  Or will it be those who have been selling them services and products at artificially high prices because our government has been paying them?

I believe no one will quit providing health services if our government pays less for them.  I believe health care providers and pharmaceutical companies will be (and should be) forced to charge more reasonable prices if they want to remain in business at all.

AND THEY DO.

Our largest industries in this country, by far, are the health care and pharmaceutical industries.  For decades we have wrung our hands and tried to figure out how to pay the skyrocketing costs these two industries continue to charge. 

What we should be doing is asking why these costs are skyrocketing.  It's time for a correction.

Why are nursing home bills going through the roof when they still pay their help barely more than minimum wage?  Why are pharmaceutical companies charging more for products sold in the U.S. as opposed to the products they export?

Why is nobody looking at this?  The answer is simple:  look who contributes to the campaign funds of your local representatives and senators.

The answer is not demand - it's supply.  Our Federal government is paying too much for these services, and these two industries know that they can't charge different prices for private pay than they do for taxpayer pay. 

What will a nursing home which has profited so handsomely on Medicaid charge if Medicaid will only pay half as much?  Will they convert to private pay?  In all likelihood not - because if they could get private individuals to pay those rates, they already would have done so.  Will a pharmaceutical company stop creating and selling lifesaving drugs if the Federal government pays less for them?  Absolutely not - they will either reduce their prices or they will sell fewer drugs.

We are all in this together.  The Federal Government has done more than its fair share to take care of an aging population.  It's time for those who have benefited most from this arrangement to start acting charitable - or, should they choose to continue their aggressive business practices, they should be subjected to the same consequences for price-fixing and profiteering as any other for-profit industry.

CONCLUSION

In future articles, I will be detailing plans to overhaul other areas of our Federal budget.  There is much we can and should do with our national defense and in other areas which we can and should do to further stabilize our financial future . . . and guarantee the survival of the great experiment that is America.

 


Who Am I?

I was born in the Beechwold area of Columbus, Ohio in 1967.  I am the oldest of two sons born to a mother and father who were both teachers.  We moved to north Columbus, just off Karl Road, in the early 1970s, then relocated to Westerville in the mid-1970s.  I was class valedictorian when I graduated from Westerville South High School in 1986.

I have lived in the 12th Congressional District ever since, except for the years when I attended Ohio University (graduated 1989) and The Ohio State University (Law School class of 1992).  On graduation, I accepted a position in private practice at a law firm in Newark, Ohio, became a partner in the firm in 1998, and left the firm in 1999 to start my own firm.   A large part of my practice is devoted to real estate law, so I formed Jonathan Properties, Ltd. in 2000 and have invested in real estate.  I never missed a payment during the recession.

I have been married for 23 years, but not all to one woman.  My wife Janet was born and raised here in Newark, and we are celebrating our tenth anniversary in November, 2017.  She has one child and I have two, all of whom are grown.  Her son and his wife are expecting their second child any day now.


Why I'm Running For Congress

I believe you have the right and should have the freedom to do whatever you like, as long as you are not hurting someone else. 

I believe that government is a necessary evil, and the only reason it exists is to protect our freedom. That means whenever government is unnecessary, it is only evil.   

There's a lot of evil in the United States Code.

For most of my voting life, I have been a Republican, but in recent years I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the party's obsession with religion and family values and its utter failure to reduce the size of the Federal government, even with a Republican controlled Congress and a Republican President.

When I was confronted by someone a few years ago who said I wasn't a "real" Republican, I agreed -- but I sure as hell knew I wasn't a Democrat, either.  

I supported Gary Johnson in 2016, because he shared many of my core beliefs.  However, the Libertarian Party has two problems:  it isn't recognized in Ohio, and it has its share of Anarchists, and they tend to be the most vocal elements of the party, with their mantra of "all taxation is theft."
I am not one of those.
I call myself a Constitutional Libertarian.  I believe that our Constitution enshrines our rights and liberties, but we have gradually allowed our federal government to steer us away from those principles.  I believe our federal Constitution is a treaty between independent states, and we have allowed the federal government to violate that treaty by intruding heavily into the internal affairs of my state of Ohio.  Whenever we have allowed our federal government to expand, we as Ohioans have seen ourselves subjugated to the will of more populous states.
I have always believed that we the people have the power to reverse course, but when Pat Tiberi announced that he was resigning from office, I saw a unique opportunity to take an active role in guiding our nation back to what it was and should be.  If a Republican congressman cannot make progress, in a Republican-controlled Congress, with a Republican President . . . why should we elect another one?  And how would electing a Democrat make things any better?
The time has come for a fresh voice, and there has never been a better opportunity for our 12th District to have that voice.  I pledge, at every opportunity, to reduce the size, power and influence of the Federal government and work to return it to providing only those core functions necessary to protect our freedoms.