Thursday, February 18, 2016

Jacob Bogle for 2016: An Interview

Out of control spending, crushing debt, an extremely volatile stock market, rising national security threats, and continual attacks on our liberties have left Americans both disillusioned with Washington and afraid for the future of our country.

Clearly the time has come for a real leader, one who is not controlled by the DC machine or sullied by big business interests, to step up and seek the office of President of the United State of America. In this time of great need, I am announcing my....

OK, I'm neither old enough to qualify for president nor experienced enough to run. Having said that, there are six Republicans (down from 17) and two Democrats (down from four) running, along with a several third party candidates. Few of them are offering any substantive alternatives to failed establishment policies. With all of the craziness surrounding this election, and the fact that this election will cement the course this nation takes (and the repercussions) long after the next four years are over, I would like to offer my own views on the pressing matters facing us. After all, everyone else is.

I don't claim to know everything or to have a clip full of magic bullets which would immediately solve our problems, but I do think these ideas would get us back on the right track and set up a path to success. Some of the things I support other real candidates are also promoting, while some of the issues/solutions I'll talk about have barely been mentioned at all. 

I am a small "l" libertarian, but I'm also pragmatic and realize that sometimes compromise is the only way to actually move us toward the perfect solution, where being unwavering in some areas (even if the solution is ultimately the best one) would only cause an immovable obstacle and result in us falling off a cliff.

The format will be that of a mock interview and I will try to answer the "questions" in a fairly succinct but also meaningful and direct way (something the current front runners of both parties have failed to do). The issues aren't in any particular order.

(NOTE: I'm a moderately intelligent, thinking person. I reserve the right to learn more, listen to other arguments, and to update or even change my beliefs based on new information.)

How would you deal with ISIS?
There is a lot of debate over what caused ISIS to develop and rise. Was it America's rapid withdrawal from Iraq, or was it our invasion in the first place? Regardless of which side you're on, the fact is a power vacuum was created and radicals took advantage of a destabilized region. This seems to be a pattern when it comes to our foreign policy, and one that dates back to the 1953 Iranian coup d'etat, during which the US directed the overthrow of the duly elected Prime Minister of Iran. That too ended up leading to a crisis situation, that of a radical Iran seeking nuclear proliferation.

Both major parties have taken part in regime change, most recently Libya and Egypt, and each time we have, we almost always end up with more enemies than we had in the first place. Our foreign policy choices have been made for the benefit of short-term gains while apparently ignoring the long-term possible consequences.

There is no doubt the illegal 2003 war in Iraq (which succeeded the 500,000 civilian deaths of the Gulf War and related sanctions) helped to spur on radicalization. But the actions of the Obama administration have practically handed over half the Middle East to terrorist organizations. Today, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Afghanistan, and several other countries have lost territorial control over large portions of their respective countries to ISIS and associated groups.

The debate over root causes is a long and delicate one, but there can be no mistake that what is happening now must be dealt with. The only question is will we continue making the same mistakes that unleashed ISIS onto the world?

Specifically regarding ISIS, the path to victory has been clear for some time, we have simply lacked leadership from both the President and Congress. The first step is to stop ignoring the Constitution.

1) We must officially declare war on ISIS.

2) Once that is done, we must immediately move to arm and supply the Kurdish fighters, who have long begged for our support, are capable fighters, and have generally been aligned with secular and Western interests. While that action may make some countries unhappy, the long-term fight against radical Islamic terrorism can only be won once the people of the affected countries rise up and destroy it themselves. Until they are willing to fight for their own freedom, no amount of US involvement will succeed - and the Kurds have proven they desire to stop ISIS and are willing to fight (they've been doing it for years).

3) We need to increase our support of Iraqi, Jordanian, Saudi, and Turkish air forces (along with any other regional country engaged in the fight) to enable them to step up their offensive capacity.

4) We ourselves need to dramatically increase the number of air strikes and create a joint US-anti-ISIS coalition that goes beyond the current Combined Joint Task Force-Inherent Resolve, even if that means working with Russia.

5) The focus of the air strikes need to be on command, training, and economic centers. There should not have been a single training base or major oil center left standing in ISIS held territory for France to have to bomb after the brutal attacks in Paris.

6) We must work with Russia and all concerned parties to address the Assad issue. If we take Assad out while ISIS still controls half of Syrian territory, and without having a strong transitional program (along with viable potential successors), we will only be making the same mistake we made in Libya. Even during WWII, despite the fact that Japan attacked us first, we agreed with our allies that our main effort should be against Hitler because he constituted the greatest threat. Likewise, ISIS is currently a greater threat than Assad.

7) We have to seek out everyone who is funding ISIS. They receive a large amount of support from people living in "allied" countries like Saudi Arabia and that must stop.

8) We need to wage an all-out cyber war against them - shutting off their ability to communicate in the open via social media and their publications, and go after their digital infrastructure.

9) We need to pass legislation to revoke the citizenship of any American who goes overseas to train with ISIS or who knowingly provides material or financial assistance to them.

10) Once the back of ISIS has been broken from massive and non-stop air strikes, we need to support a Muslim coalition of ground forces to take back all territory and destroy what's left of ISIS.

After years of sanctions, how should we address North Korea?
Iran has gotten the lion's share of attention when it comes to their nuclear program and terrorism. Iran is undoubtedly a threat to Israel and peace in the region, however there's another country we need to be focusing on. Unlike Iran, North Korea has already produced and tested functional nuclear weapons despite being subjected to the most restrictive and expansive sanctions regime in the world. Their nuclear ambitions go back half a century, they now have a full-fledged ballistic missile program, and they have a long history of funding, arming, and training terrorist groups as well as committing terrorist acts themselves. Intelligence Director James Clapper has recently said North Korea is actually a bigger threat than Iran.

As I wrote about in 2013, the sanctions regime has comprehensibly failed and North Korea has the domestic capacity to build many of the needed components to construct warheads and ballistic missiles. We have basically been doing the same thing over and over for decades, and all that has happened is millions of people starve while their military works toward a functional nuclear arsenal. As recently witnessed with Iran, diplomacy can and does work. Of course, North Korea doesn't actually exist in a vacuum, and without the continued support of China they would be in a much worse situation. However, I subscribe to the policy of President Reagan, that "a hungry child knows no politics." We should not punish a destitute and starving people for the actions of a government they have zero control over. With that said, there are still many pressures China could place on the North Korean leadership and their military, and we should help China see that cooperation with the United States to ultimately achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is in their best interests too.

When we were actively engaging with North Korea, their nuclear program slowed, and for a time, was largely suspended. I would rather us talk to them and help to prevent any further nuclear development (as we did with the Agreed Framework), than double down on policies that have done nothing to stop them, which was made evident once again with a nuclear test in January 2016 and a missile launch in February.

College Debt has become one of the main issue this election cycle. How do you propose helping students?
College debt is one of the biggest threats facing our generation and could result in many in future generations not being able to attend college at all. We have created an environment where getting a college education is both economically and socially required, even if it isn't always the right thing for each individual. This has led to fields being overcrowded with applicants and a devaluation of their degrees, which in turn hampers graduates' ability to pay back any loans they have.

The real problem, however, is the cost of tuition. In its infinite wisdom, the government decided to guarantee student loans. This meant that universities will get paid regardless. That damaged normal market forces and removed the pricing mechanism between cost, ability to pay, and the true value of the degree. In other words, universities were free to hike up tuition costs because it doesn't matter if the student becomes saddled with debt, or if they ever pay a dime - the government has guaranteed repayment. And in the process, the government rakes in billions in profits off the backs of students. The folks over at the National Bureau of Economic Research (which has contributors such as Paul Krugman and Janet Yellen), released a 60-page report in 2015 verifying that tuition costs have risen drastically because of the government.

We need to return control over education back to the student. By allowing the market to reassert itself, costs will decline - as it does in every sector where government interference is at a minimum. We also need to promote college preparation courses in high school and help make vocational/technical training more accessible to students who want to earn a great living but who don't want a degree requiring studies in floral arrangement.

The military budget consumes the largest portion of non-discretionary spending. With the threats facing us, are we spending enough?
Let me make something clear first. Our defense budget is larger than the next 9 top-spenders combined. We have more aircraft carriers, more destroyers, more nuclear submarines, more combat aircraft and tanks than any other country. Instead of freaking out that we have fewer ships than at the end of World War II (when we were fighting for the survival of the planet), we need to be focusing on what the threats are today.

The Pentagon needs a great deal of reform. From procurement to weapons development, we waste and misspend billions every year. It took us nearly $7 billion and many years, just to produce the first 34 F-35 fighter jets, which has been described as a financial black hole. On top of that, it costs $32,000 to fly a single plane for an hour. After spending $2 billion to develop new littoral combat ships, the Dept. of Defense announced they were cutting the program and instead would focus on new variants. Not to mention the $864 million drones that don't work, which makes the new ships useless. Plus, there's the growing debate over the effectiveness and continued need for new, billion-dollar aircraft carriers in the modern seascape of naval warfare. Or the continuing saga of the M1 Abrams tank, for which the Army has asked Congress to stop funding new construction since half our tank fleet sits in storage. But Congress keeps handing out millions to build tanks we don't need and the Army doesn't want.

Instead of spending ever more sums of money while we go deeper into debt, it's time we reassess the entire way we do business. To survive our military, and its bureaucracy, must become efficient. And those who waste money, or contractors who break their contractual obligations, need to be dealt with. Additionally, we need to encourage increased competition between contractors. Relying on a handful of giant companies to develop, build, and supply weapon systems and material decade after decade, only solidifies entrenched special interests and harms our national security by making it more difficult for innovative technologies coming from small firms and individuals to make it to the battlefield where they're needed.

Immigration has been a hot button topic for decades. What are your plans to address it?
Over 80% of non-American Indian descendants trace their heritage to after the Mayflower. My own ancestors came to the Colonies around a century after the Pilgrims, and a vast number of Americans today can't trace their American ancestry back beyond a century. The problem has never been immigration itself, otherwise most of us wouldn't be here. The problem stems from misinformation and fear mongering (like the fix pie fallacy), and from the fact that our government has constantly lied to us.

Immigrants don't steal jobs from citizens. And when someone migrates to the United States, they often end up starting businesses of their own, which creates net job growth. Even the number of illegal immigrants has fallen from 12.2 million to 11.3 and the number of illegals coming from Mexico has also fallen - which means things are slowly moving in the right direction.

There are two main issues: stopping new illegal immigration and what to do with the ones already here.

We don't need new laws; we need to enforce the laws we already have. However, the problem really is huge and since immigration and border control is a legitimate function of the federal government, I propose we streamline the process of immigration, visa enforcement, and deportation, and increase funding to modernize the system and hire enough people to clear the gigantic backlog of cases that we have, as well as finish securing the border.

We also need to address the "magnet". E-Verify needs to be nationwide, laws regarding the hiring of illegals need to be strictly enforced, and no city, county, or state should be allowed to offer "sanctuary". Again, immigration is firmly under federal jurisdiction, and ignoring the law is a crime - even if it's a city doing it. Concurrently, we must focus on deporting every non-citizen, legal or otherwise, who commits serious crimes or has a history of committing crimes regardless of their severity.

Depending on the sector, undocumented workers make up between 10% and 25% of the workforce in food service, construction, and agriculture. Rounding them all up and deporting them would have very bad consequences for our economy, particularly in its current fragile state. Additionally, there are millions who were brought here as kids and have grown up in America, have gone to school, speak English, have American friends, and want to make their adult life here in the US. All of this needs to be taken into consideration. And while many scream "amnesty", that word has an actual definition. Having a path to legal status for those who have earned it, imposing fines, making sure everyone speaks English and assimilates into America, enforcing tax payments, sending them to the back of the line etc., is the opposite of amnesty. However, the border must be secured before anything else.

(Economic snap shot, charts via St. Louis Federal Reserve. Click for larger view.)

It's been 7 years since the Great Recession, but the economy is still lagging. What are some of the solutions you have?

When Obama came into office, the national debt stood at $10 trillion. We were also in a terrible recession and our economy was on the verge of collapse. In the years following, few in government dared voice the idea that the government did indeed have a huge role to play in causing the recession in the first place, thanks to years of meddling and mandates.

Today the debt is over $19 trillion, the labor participation rate is at a 38 year low (falling at its fastest rate for the last 6 years), incomes are stagnant, Social Security Disability is projected to go broke this very year, and other economic indicators are looking poorly as well (like GDP growth). It's clear there is much to be done and there's little time to solve some problems before things get really bad.

We have lost billions on "green investment" and continue to give subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuel companies despite their combined trillions. It's time we end subsidies for all energy. The government doesn't need to be in the job of picking winners and losers, and allowing well established industries to not pay their otherwise required taxes, only adds to our fiscal woes. Public sentiment has been swayed and there are now vast sums of private money going toward renewable research - as it should be.

Americans have been burdened with an insane tax code for far too long. Compliance costs our economy billions and has encouraged special interest groups to fight for their own "carve outs", adding to complexity and removing revenue. It also makes it difficult for the IRS itself to enforce the law, resulting in $21 billion in fraudulent tax returns in 2015. Not to mention the antiquated technologies the IRS uses. Loopholes must be ended.

A lack of regulations wasn't the cause of the 2008 banking failure. And the "solutions" implemented have only made the big banks bigger and resulted in fewer small, local banks. This makes our economy even more vulnerable if and when another major recession happens. Simply demanding fines of those who were responsible doesn't cut it. If I break into your house and steal $1,000, I'll go to prison for years. But if I'm in charge of a bank that stole your retirement fund (and those of countless others), the bank itself pays a fine to the government and I get to retire with a golden parachute. The law should apply to everyone, and those responsible for fraud, illegal activities, and encouraging malinvestment need to be incarcerated, not slapped on the wrist.

Intelligent regulatory reform and holding everyone accountable is the only way we can restore confidence. On the topic of reform, fully auditing the Federal Reserve is long overdue.

Much has been made of income inequality lately, but few seem to realize that thanks to the FED's policies, trillions of dollars have been pumped into the economy - directly into the hands of Wall Street. On top of that, the dollar has lost over 10% of its value since 2009. Under Obama the rich have gotten richer because of government policies! All of this, on top of keeping interest rates low, have added to the stock market's volatility because so much of its value is artificial and no longer tied to production and real economic activity.

Finally, it is time we strongly look into ways of reforming Social Security. The retirement age does need to be raised. This doesn't mean that those who are retiring this year, or even 5 years from now, would have to work longer. It means that those who are a decade away or more from retirement age would need to work a little longer. The current system was designed around shorter life spans. It makes no sense whatsoever for us to stick to that when the avg. American life span has increased 20-30% since 1900. 

Apart from fighting to keep Social Security working for those who are or will become dependent on it, it's important that we consider ways of allowing younger generations to invest in their own retirement without being forced to rely on government. After all, it is their money and their lives.

What are your views on the NSA and using bulk collection for national security?
Cruz, Rubio, Christie, and others have fought to expand the government's ability to collect all of our phone records, emails, and pretty much anything else it wanted. Ted Cruz, after claiming he wanted to stop the practice, bragged that he voted for the USA FREEDOM Act which gave the government the power to access 100% of American's phone records. 

Without the ability to have data on every American, supporters claim, we won't be able to stop terrorists. However, the FBI has admitted that there hasn't been a single attack prevented or major arrest due to bulk collection. On top of that, the government itself has violated the rules surrounding these programs thousands of times. This is the same government those on the right and left decry for overreaching authority, abuse, waste, and attacking political foes. Yet they want to give it even more power?

Some, like Gov. Chris Christie, have claimed that without these programs, the government can't do its job in fighting terrorism and that calls to follow the Fourth Amendment are naive (despite boasting that he was the only one running who has actually filed for warrants and that doing so works). What he should know, perhaps more than most, is that the government already tracks the phones of known terrorists and suspects. There's no need to spy on every citizen when all you have to do is look at who the terrorists are calling - those are the numbers we need to follow up on using search warrants. Instead of treating every American like a criminal and exposing 310 million people to government abuse (or having that massive database hacked by our foes), we can follow the evidence the suspects themselves are creating. 

For all of our intelligence gathering powers and myriad of overlapping defense/law enforcement agencies, the government failed to prevent the Boston Bombing, the San Bernardino attack, and others. What's more unsettling is the amount of evidence the government already had regarding some of those attacks but failed to act upon. 

When we ignore the Constitution and engage in warrantless searches, indefinite detention, or torture, not only do we validate our enemy's propaganda and enable recruiting, but we ourselves walk down the immoral path the terrorists themselves use. We brought the Nazis to trial. We brought Timothy McVeigh to trial. We can reply on our constitutional foundations to keep America safe and defeat our enemies.

Was Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis right in her actions?
The controversy surrounding Kim Davis underscores the level of misunderstanding over the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. The first fact is that it had nothing to do with religious liberty; churches and pastors aren't legally required to marry anyone. In fact, the religious ceremony isn't even required for government recognition of marriage. For most of human history marriage was just a private contract between individuals and families, and in the US it has been a civil, that is, secular institution. When someone works for the government, their job is to execute their portion of the law that their job covers (be it building a road or issuing a marriage license). If your religious views conflict with that law, say, you're not allowed to build an access road to a mosque, then your legal rights gives you the freedom to find a new job. It doesn't give you the right to prevent that road from being built. No one has an inherent right to any specific job, but a representative of government does have an obligation to treat all citizens equally and to provide them with equal legal services and recognition.

The broader issue at hand, however, is that of marriage licensing in the first place. Why should any two consenting adults need to beg permission of the government to commit to living their lives together? Licensing has roots in our dark past of systemic racism. It's time that chapter was closed forever.

Healthcare remains an important issue for Americans and the Affordable Care Act has survived a Supreme Court challenge. Where do we go from here?
America's healthcare system has been in need of reform for a long time. But, it's extremely important to remember that just because Americans generally want reform, that doesn't mean they want a specific policy. Obamacare may have a good idea or two, but as a whole, it's been a nightmare and relies on government force. Despite the Supreme Court's baffling ruling, nowhere in the Constitution does it give the federal government the ability to require purchase of a product.

The only way we can improve the healthcare system is by going after the structural problems, not mandating everyone jump on the train wreck. Solely looking to government to solve the problems it created by creating more mandates and interventions isn't the most logical thing. 

To assist in bringing down costs, increased priority needs to be placed on prevention first, as well as doubling down on cancer and Alzheimer's research, which is a growing economic disaster waiting to explode. Alzheimer's alone costs Medicare over $100 billion a year, and will cost the economy $1.1 trillion/annually by 2050. Innovations in healthcare will play a huge role in keeping Medicaid/Medicare solvent.

Individuals need to be able to buy insurance across state lines and it needs to be portable. The idea that you can lose your insurance when you switch jobs is appalling, and those are problems created by government. The doctor-patient relationship also needs to be restored. Like tuition costs, when patients and doctors have little say in the pricing, there's no real way for prices to match the marketplace and they will keep rising. Patients also have every right to know how much something is going to cost before they ever set foot in an office.

The federal government should get out of the way and allow states to experiment. One-size-fits-all mentalities have never worked. It didn't work in Soviet Union and it isn't working here. Fifty states mean 50 chances for innovation. When Washington DC makes a mistake, 310 million people suffer and those involved usually get promoted. If a state makes a mistake, the citizens have a much better chance of solving the issue and kicking people out of office.

Another area that has been neglected for far too long is the Food and Drug Administration. There is a revolving door between drug companies and FDA leadership. That must stop. The FDA is supposed to be the defender of America's health, not a company's bottom line. Outrageous FDA fees and red tape also plays a role in why new drugs can cost over a billion dollars to develop, which equals high prices for customers. Additionally, it makes it very difficult for smaller companies and universities to discover, develop, and deliver new medicines to patients. On top of that are the patents. There needs to be a standard, limited time period for all patents, after which a drug enters the "generic" market. Darapim is a great example. It was invented decades ago, yet remained under the exclusive control of its various corporate owners. It was government regulation that allowed Turing Pharmaceuticals to raise its price 5,000% and prevented cheap generic versions from being made in the US. The FDA needs reform and its scope limited; it should not be a crime to drink raw milk.

Will more gun control stop mass shootings?
(See my 2012 article on gun control)

Every time a horrible mass shooting occurs, the left goes into overdrive demanding more and more gun control; some even call for an outright ban on the ownership of personal firearms. What they fail to realize is that criminals are criminals, by definition they ignore and break the law. They also seem to be blind to the fact that the cities with the strictest gun control laws are also cities with the highest rates of violent crimes and shootings.

The history behind the Second Amendment, the text of the amendment, and court rulings are all very clear: all citizens have the right to keep and bear personal arms for self-defense and because we are all part of the militia, regardless of military service, as Presser v. Illinois noted.

Everyone has the right to defend themselves and I defy anyone to honestly say that when their house is being broken into or their wife is being sexually assaulted, that they would rather wait anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour for the police to show up than prefer to have the ability to defend their own home and loved ones with a weapon.

The problem of gun violence isn't the gun. It stems from a woefully inadequate mental healthcare system and from a culture that has tried to push guns away, and so most lack respect for the weapon and lack proper training. It also comes from a society that seems to relish in violence and bullying (movies, games, etc.) yet becomes confused and surprised when someone snaps, or when disturbed individuals act out by killing.

Trying to diminish a fundamental right we all have (remembering that rights do not come from government but are inherent) will not solve to the problem. We must, as a unified nation, recognize what the root causes are. Once we recognize that, then we have to put every resource available into assisting those with mental health issues, addiction services, and rebuilding broken families and communities.

--Jacob Bogle, 2/18/16

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