But I learned something invaluable from that strange sign in India. Things change. Booms go bust. What works, sooner or later, stops working. There is only one solution.
You have to re-invent yourself. The same rule applies to countries too. The United States needs to re-invent itself to succeed in this new, inescapable, high-tech global economy.
I saw this in the 80's when a Fortune 500 company I worked for had a division that made tools, but the imports sold for less than our own cost to make them. They sold it to Asia. Then they focused on more high-end products, like the "electrostatic precipitators" which took me to China as a solution for their coal fired power plants.
From there, I was laid off. After losing all my personal possessions, I fell into the world of chaos and shortages and uncertainly. Yet, I realized I still had the most valuable possession of all -- a creative brain that had a global skill set. How could I put it to use in a falling economy when even the Governor had gone broke? I had to fire it up into warp drive to think myself out of my dire economic situation.
The true test of character and success is someone who, starting without possessions or riches, uses his or her brain and ingenuity to succeed.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were broke when they started their billion dollar enterprises, unlike Mr. Trump, who inherited millions. Anyone can succeed with that kind of stake--a million dollars at 10% interest is $100,000 a year, no sweat. That's more than most people make at manual labor. A person starting out with millions has no idea what it is like being poor or broke; they know nothing of the pain in choosing between paying the rent or buying food or having the power cut off. Pick someone who knows that pain as your representative is my advice.
The challenge to America today is that people in other countries are acquiring skills that are equal or exceed our own workers. For example, the skills need to assemble a car or dig coal are so simple any worker from Mexico to China can perform just as efficiently for less money and live well. Yet those assembly skills are not good enough run a computer machine tool which would pay a worker $70,000 or more. That is where our future is. Not competing for jobs offering the lowest wages, but for the highest skills for the highest wages.
Our national strategy should be upgrading our skills --and our infrastructure-- so we can lift all boats, both low skill and high skilled people. That should be a national priority as vital as the Marshal Plan was to rebuilding Europe after World War II. In the old days a man with a high school diploma could make, say, $25 an hour on an assembly line, putting the same part on all day every day; today, skilled foreigners will do that job for the same or less. And robots are replacing them, casting the low skills people into a worse situation.
Only by upgrading our skills will we avoid that black hole and upgrade income. Only by embarking on massive infrastructure replacement of our rusted-out, rusted-out bridges and roads can we also employ the low skilled and give the economy some rocket fuel that would also put us in a competitive position with China, which is about to become the No. 1 economy in the world. Our competition in the 21st century will be China and India, countries I wrote about in "Better Times Ahead April Fool" and my experiences in those totally unique worlds.
On the campaign trail we are hearing two different visions for America. Which one is the vision needed by our people not to perish? Which is a true vision and which is pure fantasy or pixie dust, or just plain Bullshit?
One vision is that we invest in America and its people, its education and skill levels, to retrain people and invest in the infrastructure that we depend on that is now over a half century old and falling apart. Why build roads in Afghanistan but not new pipes in all of the Flint Michigan's in the USA?
The other side claims as its vision one of fear that blames economic stagnation on people of color and immigration instead of poor education, lack of training and skills, and tax policies that have stripped wealth from the middle class to redistribute wealth to the top one percent. On that side, people from Mexico are "rapists" and "assumes" some are good people. On that side, woman are fat pigs and play "the woman card" since obviously women must be happy to get paid 77 cents for doing the same job a man gets paid $1 for.
Nor do they blame our economic situation on an obstructionist Congress that slows growth when it shows up only 111 days a year for a full time paycheck, and refuses to do its job passing timely budgets and bipartisan transportation bills -- failing to even vote on court nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court as required by the Constitution they swore to uphold.
Can we move to the next level by gutting education funding when there are 3 million available high tech jobs open in America, but we don't have Americans with the training and skills to fill them?
Can we reach the next level and create millions of jobs when we have 58,000 bridges old enough to qualify for social security and are near collapse; yet Congress refuses to invest in their replacement, which would create tens of thousands of new JOBS and safer roads for our people?
How do we succeed if our kids in countless places like Flint Michigan with aging water pipes are exposed to brain-damaging lead poisoning from 50 year old pipes? Why can't we undertake a "Marshal Plan" to replace them with new ones, which would also create tens of thousands of NEW jobs?
That is what I hear Hillary Clinton saying -- a major investment in American infrastructure that will create jobs for those on the edge and the training needed for America to lead in the global high tech economy as well.
I hear Donald Trump saying "put coal miners to work" which ignores the fact that natural gas competition is putting coal out of work and we need to convert their skills to the new, renewable energy economy and help retrain them for those jobs. Why should miners face black lung disease and a premature death to put food on the table for their families?
It's based on my knowledge negotiating for decades on behalf of American companies (large and small) to sell their products worldwide--products made here in America which creates jobs right here in America. I rode strapped in to the saddle on countless global flights, giving me unique insight how America stacks up in the world, seen from my own eyes over the last 30 years (which exceeds that of any candidate for President save one; I will get to that later.)
Here is where we are in 2016:
Today there are more renewable energy jobs in just California alone than all employment in the entire coal industry. Coal is a dying industry just as the carriage makers at the turn of the last century became a dying industry when the automobile was invented. Your job can't be saved by rejecting the new technology, only by adopting it. Coal miners could be working on wind farms and building solar panels. When the computer came along we either learned to operate it or became technological cavemen with no connection to the new world.
Many of the supporters of Mr. Trump without an advanced education are not going to be employed digging coal when natural gas plants are cheaper to operate and sun and wind are rapidly taking over because they are cost competitive and don't pollute. Trump himself is reported to have used un-documented workers on his projects; his expensive "Trump" clothing line was "Made in China" so that should tell you his claims of "creating jobs" means jobs overseas. We have to prepare his supporters and people with limited skills for the jobs of tomorrow, not the jobs of yesterday.
We need a vision an “Agenda for Greatness” to regain the success we have had in the past. Without a common sense plan that accounts for the reality of the global competition we face and willingness for greatness we are doomed to slip into mediocrity and has-been status faster than most people realize. Walls won't boost our economy. Trade wars won't boost our economy. The Great Depression was made worse by trade wars and tariff increases like the ones proposed by Mr. Trump. It took FDR's "New Deal" programs to pull us out of the economic black hole it put us in.
That is why I wrote Better Times Ahead -- my time warp journals written in cold hotel rooms and dusty roads half way across the planet --and show how those same nations went from behind us to challenge us today in key technologies, infrastructure, education, etc.
In 2000, America was No. 1 in education. By 2008, America had fallen to No. 17 in the world in education, depending on whose calculation you use. Obviously, the trend was in the wrong direction. OECD ranking in 2013 put our students at No. 36!
My question to you is “How do we lead a high tech world with dismal score like that?
If they did it would drop our unemployment rate even more so. Chinese workers have those skills. Indian (as in India) workers have those skills. Americans don’t – so the jobs either go overseas or to foreigners coming here on special visas. We are in serious trouble unless America develops the skills and education levels needed to win the 21st Century global, space age century.
And another key point: as an international legal negotiator I know that jobs can go overseas without a trade agreement! Take China for example, Walmart forced its suppliers to shut down U.S. production and go to China -- and we don't have a trade agreement with them.
We are already seeing the rise of China and India – the rise of ASIA that will make it a focus of the 21st century. They will also competing with us for limited fossil fuels as China alone adds more than 170 million more cars the next five years!
Many Americans may not be aware of this and the status of our global competition because of a simple fact: Only one in five Americans has a passport! That means that they haven’t traveled internationally. That means they have little idea what the world is really like.
That lack of exposure to reality of other global neighbors can lead to dangerous assumptions by our citizens and our Congress representatives that can lead to disastrous results – like the invasion of Iraq. I know because I was a 911 terrorism analyst warning against an invasion of Iraq because I had been in the Middle East and knew what was going on. Anyone who had not been involved would have made assumptions that proved to be false - like the Iraqis would welcome our invasion.
The economic winner in this 21st century will not be the country with the biggest military, but the country with the best educated people creating the best technologies with a skilled workforce that leads the world. It’s a techno-global race we can’t afford to lose, but we are fumbling the ball away.
This will be difficult (but not impossible) because the average age of American schools is 40 years! Texas, for example, cut billions from its education budget and now ranks towards the bottom of the U.S.
Of the 172 democracies in the world, the United States ranks 139th in voter participation. Barely a third of Americans can name the three branches of government. More than half of college seniors recently flunked a civic literacy exam. And in half of US states, civics education isn’t even required in high school. Texas has revised its history textbooks to mask the truth about slavery and to proclaim “Moses” as a major influence on the founders of America.
Life expectancy at birth for American men was 75.6 years and 80.8 for women in 2007― 36th and 33rd in the world! In Texas, 25% of our residents do not have health insurance, the worst rankings in the U.S.
Our infrastructure is No. 23. Meanwhile, China will have a new Space Station in orbit in 2020 when ours is due to be retired and dumped into the ocean. It has the world’s first “MagLev” train that runs over 260 miles per hour from the Shanghai airport to the city. (Magnetic Levitation – magnets cause the train to hover over the track, avoiding the friction of steel rails and the prospect of running a high-speed train over steel rails warped in a summer’s heat or winter’s ice.)
China now leads the U.S. in seven key 21st Century technologies. One of them is this 265 mph MagLev (Magnetic Levitation) train that I rode into Shanghai airport last October. I made a 7 minute video of the ride, which is linked to Youtube at the end of this article.
So, what about the REST of the world’s trains? Surely we beat or match them right?
As of 2013 China is the largest car market in the WORLD. It will add another 170 million more car the next 5 years! All competing for the same gasoline we are -- a scarce resource which costs $6 gallon in China and $8 in Europe. Feel better? Americans don’t know how cheap gas has been for us versus other people, but it is a finite resource and it will run out. Those still relying on it will be walking while those in electric or other powered vehicles will still be moving at car speed.
“Are we looking at Better Times Ahead for America?” Or are we “April fooling” ourselves? That depends on us as Americans, individually and as a nation.
After I was laid off during the great Texas oil bust in the 80’s (the one before the latest oil bust), I had to re-invent myself several times after losing my globe-trotting job. My Better Times had become April Fool. It was tough. I resisted the change but when I made changes it all worked out, even better once I acted. Even with a successful company, I still find it true that changes continue to be necessary to continue to thrive.
America will have to do the same to prosper in the complex, unpredictable times that we live in, a world where strange names like ISIS and Ebola have upset in our lives. Others like it will arise in the future and intrude upon our daily routines of work, school, soccer and football practice whether we want it or not and whether we like it or not. It is how the world works. We didn’t ask for a Hitler or Pearl Harbor or 911, but they came anyway. That’s why global awareness is vital for our prosperity and security.
Since 2000 we wasted trillions on useless military adventures that built roads in Afghanistan and Iraq but didn’t fix potholes or crumbling bridges in Texas or other states. The reckless fiscal actions of the Bush administration in passing tax cuts that were not paid for and pursuing two wars with borrowed money discarded two centuries of American creditor nation status and left the world’s financial power in the cold hands of old men in China who care not for democracy.
China financed our deficits and manufactured our goods as our companies sent manufacturing and jobs to China at the urging of companies like Walmart. In the end China ended up with over $3 trillion in foreign reserves and the United States ended up with another $10 trillion in debt and an economy that collapsed in 2008. Add to that wealth inequality in which the top 1% controlling 48% of wealth and a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour that buys less than $1.60 an hour did in 1968 and you have a recipe for disaster. That $1.60 an hour in 1968 would be over $10 an hour today if cost of living adjustments were made.
I have been involved with the global economy for over 30 years when I went from living on an Iowa farm to flying the world, negotiating in over 50 countries. Then I was laid off and personally felt the sting of unemployment and the hopelessness it can generate as the money dries up. Yet I turned that into becoming a terrorism analyst who predicted 9/11 and that led to founding a company that grew 500% despite the worst economy in 70 years. The Great Texas Oil Bust I describe in the 80’s was the model of what the 2008 Great Recession. People have been dashed hard upon the rocks economically, like a car with no oil in the engine and no gas in the tank.
Agenda for American Greatness is a roadmap back to American leadership and a greater prosperity for those left on the bottom and for our country as a whole. It’s how we start adding oil to the economic engine and putting gas in the tank so people can get moving again. It’s about America getting back to No. 1 again. It’s “now or never” if we are to survive as a leading democratic nation.
I was one of the first Americans sent into China soon after President Nixon's historic opening between America and China. Nixon’s trip in the 70’s breached the “Bamboo Curtain” and opened trade negotiations with China for the first time since it formed in 1949. On this trip in 1982, I was the lead (and only) attorney involved for a Fortune 500 company, Dresser Industries. I was sent numerous times to India, the largest democracy in the world! I worked in Europe, South America, Asia, selling American products overseas (which creates jobs here in America.)
The China I saw in 1982 had nothing. It was a poor country that was trying to buy manufacturing technology. By 2013—a mere 30 years later -- China had shot ahead of America in 7 key technologies of 21st Century advanced technology, from supercomputers to alternative energy, nuclear and high speed rail. It plans to have a new space station commissions just as our own International Space Station is 20 years old and due to be retired, with no replacement in sight. China could soon be the only country with a functional space station looking down on us, with all the advantages that platform provides.
China has the fastest train in the world – a MagLev that no other country in the world has. It hovers on magnets and hits speeds over 260 miles per hour!
Americans say phrases like “we are the best” and “America is No.1″ -- often uttered with deep conviction by citizens who have never set foot outside their country or state, and therefore lack a direct comparison. “Better Times Ahead April Fool” and “Agenda for American Greatness” shows you exactly what has changed in the world, what we are up against today -- and what we need to do to get back to No. 1 again.
For example, here is a photo I took in the middle of Tiananmen Square of traffic in 1982:
China passed the U.S. in 2013 as the largest car market in the world! It's economy is now No. 2. They just landed a rover on the moon and plan to have a Moon Base in a few years.
For another technology comparison, the next photo is one of a train I took in China in 1982:
China’s Bullet trains are not China’s fastest train! That title goes to the only MagLev in the world. It runs into Shanghai airport and hits 265 miles per hour!
The recent events with ISIS and Ebola should be yet another reminder that the world is not going to go away and leave us alone. What happens on the other side of the planet can and does impact Americans, like it or not. For example, the war in Syria resulted in millions of refugees fleeing death from ISIS, which has overwhelmed all the European countries from Greece to Belgium. Unstable countries has led to greater instability for Europe. It has also given ISIS a training ground so they could send fighters back to their home countries in Europe, as we have seen in the bombings and shootings in Paris, Brussels, etc.
Yes, it makes us develop new vaccines to fight new diseases and new allies to fight the bad guys determined to kill us. The entire world can be reached in one eight-hour flight, by anyone sick or well, good or bad. The idea that we can “seal the borders” is a fantasy an unrealistic. We did build a wall at the Mexican border (show me a 15 foot wall and I will show you a 16 foot ladder) but what stopped most immigrants was a better economy in Mexico.
Stopping the gang killers in Honduras and El Salvador would drop illegal immigration even more since people are fleeing certain death, just as they are fleeing Syria and Iraq and ISIS and jumping into small boats to cross the Mediterranean to places like Greece and Italy.
Did you think we can defeat these problems by not investing time and resources into resolving them? If it isn’t Ebola, it will be another disease. Before ISIS it was Al Qaida. After ISIS, it will be another threat. The world doesn’t just stop so we can get off, watch football and not deal with it before it bites us on the butt when we aren’t looking.
Our country needs global awareness so we can develop the best strategy to “win the future.” We can’t win by repeating the mistakes that got us into this mess. We can’t win by believing in voodoo economics. We can’t win by having representatives who are clueless about the world around us at one of the most critical times in our history.
Settling for anything less than No. 1 is national suicide my fellow Americans. This is not a choice. We have to stay on top or lose all that our founding fathers granted to us. It won’t be easy, quick or cheap but do you wish you children to inherit second class world status because we didn’t invest in their future?
Texas is now a majority minority state. America is a diverse country which, like Texas, will soon become a "majority minority" country. Hispanics are predicted to be the majority in Texas by 2020. Our country’s population looks like the world. We have a system that should be copied by all, but we don’t help ourselves by starving our education engine of investment. How many of the disadvantaged poor and minority youth can become the next Edison or Einstein or Stephen Hawkings of the world if we give them the education they need? I was a farmer and became an international expert without the necessity of going to a Harvard or Yale. Anything is possible in America – if we keep the dream alive for everyone including those at the bottom of the economic food chain.
China is also becoming a space power and plans to have a new space station in 2020 when our International Space Station is like our bridges -- old and in need of replacement. We are abandoning the "high tech high ground" to China.
Spies in China and Russia no longer have to come to the U.S. to steal secrets, they can do it from their desks in Shanghai and Moscow. Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management lost over 20 million sensitive personnel records to hackers because it had failed to encrypt the files! Even the head of the FBI had his information compromised. Congress has refused to even pass a cyber-security law that would have prevented this from happening.
Despite China’s staggering infrastructure investment in high speed rail, roads, etc., America has failed to invest in its crumbling roads and bridges. Our leaders wait for 50-year old bridges to fall before our leaders act to repair them, like the one that fell into the Mississippi River killing many when Governor Pawlenty (R) was in office. We have over 77,000 bridges that are considered “derelict and dangerous” by engineers. Our roads are falling apart yet we do nothing, invest nothing, while believing we will lead the world anyway as our 60 year old gas pipelines explode from old age and half century old water mains leak millions of gallons of water.
Another example is the I-10 bridge over Lake Charles. It is 70 years old and the local Republican Congress rep, Charles Boustany, told me that it vibrates so much from traffic that replacement light bulbs quickly break. It is so rickety that two of the four lanes have been closed. Yet he has been unable to get his fellow Republicans to pass an infrastructure bill to replace it. Will Congress wait until it collapses before approving repairs? The delay is costing us billions in lost time and productivity.
Photo Above: I 35 bridge over Mississippi in Minnesota collapsed,
We have millions of people who could be employed fixing our failing infrastructure if we put our mind to it―fixing old bridges and pot-holed roads while providing jobs at the same time. Our Transportation Bills are normally bipartisan bills that fund repairs and infrastructure replacements for five year periods. This is not rocket science but apparently that is too deep of a thought for this Congress, which delayed action for months on the Transportation Bill in 2012 as unemployment hovered over 8%, then belatedly passed a tiny two year bill at the last minute that will do too little to fix anything or employ anyone. It was a trick designed to let the GOP claim the Senate and blame the President instead of doing what's right for the people and the economy.
How do you pay for it?
By doing what our people have done in the past when faced with the Great Depression and World War II, and what Ronald Reagan did when he realized he had cut taxes too much – he raised them over eleven times. We could accomplish the same thing today by reforming our tax code and closing loopholes for the privileged one percent who use them to get deductions for moving jobs overseas. Rich, profitable oil companies get $4 billion in subsidies they don’t need, instead of our using those funds to develop the next generation of renewable, clean energy sources we need to reduce our dangerous carbon emissions and power our country in the 21st century.
There is over $2 TRILLION dollars in corporate profits that are stashed overseas, paying zero taxes. This should be changed so the money can go into our infrastructure such as aging water pipes like Houston's, which loses almost 1/3 of it from leaks. All cities face the same problem.
The world has changed dramatically in the last three decades from my first visits to China and India. India, with 1.3 billion people is the largest democracy in the world. It was a government-controlled, stagnant economy in the 1970s and ’80s when I first traveled there. It became a market-driven economy in the ’90s and is now growing over 8% per year and producing more engineers than the United States. Add China’s 1.2 billion people and these two Asian giants account for 40% of the world’s population of 7 billion. China went from a poor country where everyone made $30 month to a rich country with 300 million people in the Middle Class and more billionaires than any country but the U.S. – all in just the last 30 years.
Both of these countries will dominate the 21st century global economy. Recently China replaced Japan as the second largest economy behind the U.S. and may actually be the world’s largest economy any day. It became the third country to put astronauts in space and plans to complete its own space station in 2020, just as the International Space Station is nearly the end of its lifespan. China just put its first woman astronaut in space along with two men to test their first space station module.
China is becoming more militaristic as it has grown more rich. It is even building its on islands in the South China sea to capture more offshore resources, despite claims to the same area by other countries. This will pose greater challenges to us as China becomes the No. 1 economy with a bigger military (despite our military being larger than the next 8 countries combined).
Despite its pollution, or perhaps because of it, China has also taken the lead in the green economy, which is the next major growth sector. It invested $20 billion in solar panel production, which caused solar prices to fall 40% in the U.S. That is what destroyed Solyndra and took it into bankruptcy after getting a $500 million government loan. In 1995 the U.S. had 40% of the solar panel market. Today it is 6%! In 2005, China had 6% of the solar market. Today they have 54%! That is why Solyndra could not survive. It was already doomed by American failure to invest enough to remain a leader in the technology. That failure is costing us millions of jobs. Perhaps that is why some politicians don’t seem to believe in science.
According to Clean Technica, “China, Japan, and South Korea will invest about $509 billion in clean tech over the next 5 years (starting from 2011), whereas the U.S. (even with our greenest president in decades, maybe ever) is only expected to invest $172 billion (about a third as much)—this is assuming the climate and energy legislation in Congress passes.” Clean Technica goes on to say: “Asia’s rising ‘clean technology tigers’―China, Japan, and South Korea―have already passed the United States in the production of virtually all clean energy technologies, and over the next five years, the governments of these nations will out-invest the United States three-to-one in these sectors.”
The report’s conclusion: “This could jeopardize America’s economic recovery and its long-term competitiveness while making it even more difficult to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. The U.S. will lose jobs, tons of money and much of its economic presence globally. Hopefully, policy makers will wake up to the urgent need for greater investment and stronger, more coordinated policy around clean technology (regarding energy, transportation, and other sectors.)The economic future of the U.S. depends on it.”
That is an amazing and true analysis of our situation. Certain elements (aka “tea party”) in our Congress seem to sneer at “green energy” and “green jobs.” Imagine that same attitude as the first computers came on the market or at the start of the Internet. The green economy represents trillions of dollars in future sales and job growth. It is the “next big thing” as we advance into high technology and the space age, in which over 40 nations are now competing for the high ground. Whoever wins that high ground will dominate the 21st century. The U.S. is at risk of losing it, because of our low educational levels.
Simply put, we haven’t invested enough to remain market/technology leaders. Did you know that U.S. businesses make more profits in Europe than anywhere else, twenty times more than in China? Or that 179 of the world’s top companies are European, compared with 140 that are American?
Mexico has also signed 44 free-trade agreements with other countries (NAFTA being just one), more than any other country in the world. Mexico exports more than the rest of Latin America combined! When Mexican companies lost out to China in the 1990’s (about the time I drove through Mexico as described in "Better Times Ahead") it realized it had to become more productive. Their political parties have signed a pact to deal with the big energy, telecom and teacher monopolies that have held it back. It’s opened its energy sector to foreign investment for the first time in its history. Texas companies are about to begin piping oil to Mexico.
Mexicans have always thought “we should have our parties behave like the United States.” They are no longer thinking like that. Our political dysfunction has been damaging our image as a “can do” nation as well as our economy.
We must either embrace the job-creating potential of the Green Economy, “Clean Tech,” and the technologies of the 21st century―or watch China and the rest of the world embrace these technologies and blow past us.
As I stated earlier, China had nothing when I made my first trips there in the early ’80s. Everyone made $30 a month and wore the same drab clothes. When we had meeting we would have to give them a pencil and paper because they didn’t have any. Then they embraced a market economy.
Now, in three decades, China has become the world’s No. 2 economy, after it passed Japan, with growth rates of 10% a year for 30 years running. It will soon pass America’s economy by 2020 unless we invest in education and our national infrastructure instead of borrowing money to fight 10-year wars where American taxpayer money is used to build roads in Afghanistan instead of here at home.
With climate change now threatening our coasts and food chain, we need a "moon shot" on renewable energy.
For the past 30 years, a U.S.-based magazine, International Living, has compiled a quality-of-life index based on cost of living, culture and leisure, economy, environment, freedom, health, infrastructure, safety and climate. France tops the list for the fifth year running. The United States comes in 7th! We can do better. We must do better.
The Space Shuttle was 30 years old when it was retired on orders of President Bush in 2004. At that time we didn’t have a replacement ready because no one had made the commitment, with funding, to invest in a replacement vehicle―which takes at least ten years to produce. No one was thinking ahead. So now America has to rely on Russian rockets to ride to the International Space Station. This is just one example of many where we haven’t been investing in our future—or thinking ahead to be prepared for it.
Fortunately, some of the gap will be filled by private space companies like SpaceX which President Obama has encouraged to take over the mundane space activities like sending astronauts to and from the space station, while preserving NASA’s cutting edge focus on exploring places like Mars and hunting for city killer asteroids like the one that blew up over Russia in 2013. However, when NASA started using commercial launch services, Congress failed to fund it sufficiently to start sending astronauts to the space station in 2015. They will have to wait to 2017.
The U.S. is NOT the only player in space: 44 countries have space programs! We either lead or fall behind.
American students keep falling lower in math and science skills―the drivers of the inescapable, global high-tech 21st century. However, China and India have millions of students who do have those skills. We could be teaching Americans those skills. Congress should be paying attention to it and helping make it happen as a national priority as states continue to slash education funding which is sabotaging our future. There is no global prize for knowing all about celebrity trivia and nothing about running computerized aircraft machine tools.
We have a choice: either upgrade our education and technology skills or lose forever our status as global leaders.
Today China has over one million millionaires. It has over 300 billionaires, and adds more every year. It has over $3 trillion in cash reserves and has used that financial strength to buy up rare earth minerals needed to make things like missiles and jet aircraft. It has invested in green energy, high tech, thousands of miles of high-speed rail, and on and on. Chinese architects want to build a mile-high building, one that would loom over a city like New York. They have the mojo America used to have.
We have replaced the vision of our forefathers who built the Interstate Highway system and NASA with “tea party” mentality that doesn’t believe in repairing our roads or honoring our debts or educating the next generation. Remember the proverb “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Raising the minimum wage to at least $10 (to $15) would help correct that inequality and benefit the economy at the same time – since 100% of the extra money earned would go back into the economy in the form of rent and car payments, and food. This would be the boost a lot of unskilled people supporting Mr. Trump need but the GOP opposes.
I made the minimum wage of $1.60 per hour with a high school degree in 1968. That is the equivalent of over $10 an hour today! The bottom has fallen behind and Congress is to blame. Major corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart that pay minimum wages cost the federal government over $6 billion a year to help their employees survive. Why should the American taxpayer subsidize rich, profitable companies? No one can support themselves on a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
While U.S. wages are too low we are also running short of another vital resource: water! About 97.5% of the earth’s water is salt water. Only 2.5% is fresh water, and 70% of that is locked up in polar ice caps. That leaves less than 1% of fresh water for human use. We can live without oil―think electric cars―but we can’t live without water!
Texas discovered that in the drought of 2011, when 10% of our trees died. Animals were under severe stress. We had the worst fires in our history. Lakes became mud pits. Failure to fund a water plan has increased the cost of securing our water resources by tens of billions of dollars, and those costs grow with every year of delay. Today California in the worst drought of its history and faces a water crisis that will get only worse as wildfires have become nearly year round events. Desalination of sea water is extremely expensive but may become vital to our survival. Texas went from too little water to too much as the floods of 2015 killed dozens and caused billions in property damage. The climate has turned hostile and swings from one extreme to another.
One fracking expert I heard recently claimed that there is enough “shale gas” to last us another 175 years! The problem with that claim is that each well requires over six million gallons of water. In short, the water needed to frack will run out within the next decade. Then what? Can you drink oil?
Our weather extremes are getting more extreme. In 2014 the Pacific Ocean was hotter than the Atlantic and produced a series of the largest hurricanes (Typhoons) ever recorded. January and February 2016 were the hottest months on earth in recorded history! In the last two years the Pacific Ocean hurricanes have been record CAT 5 monsters - we even had two of them at once! One storm was so big that it exceeded the scale - it would have been a CAT 7 based on wind speeds, if there was such a category! We must take action.
When the Atlantic is as hot, the United States will feel the impact of storms that have battered countries like India, China and Japan in 2014 and 2015. In January 2016 I flew back to the U.S. from Spain. Two passengers got sick but our plane could not land in the Azores to drop them off --because of a hurricane Alex, the earliest one on record in the Atlantic in over 73 years! That doesn't bode well for our coming storm season.
Our failure to act on climate change threatens the future of our children if we do nothing. Even the Pentagon sees climate change as a national security threat. Those opposing climate change argue that it would damage business but if we kill our planet by overheating it, there won’t be any business to worry about.
Already there is evidence that tropical fish are migrating towards the poles because the tropical waters are getting too hot for them to survive as the oceans absorb the excess heat we are putting into the atmosphere. Bees that pollinate our food crops are stressed by the heat (and pesticides) and are dying off. No bees. No food. Simple as that.
If you have children they will pay a terrible price for our neglect and lack of foresight. Did you have another planet to move to when this one is toast? This isn’t like moving to the suburbs to escape crime. We are on track for the extinction of our own species!
We are frantically searching for the last of the fossil fuels instead of using our brains and diversifying our energy sources to include as many renewables as possible, which would avoid future damage to our fragile planet and move us closer to energy independence.
Even our military has found that using solar panels for energy in Afghanistan is better than paying $400 for each gallon of gas it ships in (that’s the cost by the time it arrives on a truck from Pakistan that the Taliban didn’t blow up). Yet there are those in Congress, especially the “tea party” types that oppose the military using this “green” technology! It defies logic and common sense. In 2013 Texas is facing power shortages – yet it has not approved the building of solar farms that would generate the most electricity during the peak load demands during the hottest times of the day.
China and India are building for tomorrow while our Congress and fiddles and can hardly pass a budget or look beyond their internal political battles to see the economic threats of a European economic disaster caused by their obsession with austerity or an Asia technology race. The U.S. imports wind turbines made in Europe and Asia. Why?
Because Congress failed to pass a tax credit for a 5 year term, so the manufacturing went offshore! (An owner cannot build a factory based on Congress doing 1 year extensions on tax laws).
In the last 30 years, wealth in the United States has become concentrated so that we look more like the old Mexican economy, where a few people at the top control the wealth and everyone else has nothing. In the last 30 years, our middle class has been squeezed so that now one per cent of the American population controls 33% of all wealth now in the U.S. The top 10% of the population now control 56% of the wealth!
The top 20% control 84% of the wealth! That means the other 80% of us have to fight over 16% of the remaining wealth. The middle class has been squeezed at the expense of the wealthy who hire the lobbyists to get special tax breaks ordinary people don’t. Ironically, Mexico has been working to grow its middle class by breaking up the monopolies that have stifled growth and opportunity.
American tax policies under Presidents Reagan and George W Bush favoring the top 20% have given the lucky few at the top over 84% of the total U.S. wealth!
Our economy has become like old Mexico’s and stopped producing middle class jobs for the same reason. (Ironically, our lack of jobs has cut illegal immigration drastically because no one wants to come here if there isn’t work; it’s cheaper to stay in Mexico!)
To his immense credit, Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, said “Quit coddling the rich like me.” He said that he pays a lower tax percentage than his secretary who works for him. “It's unfair,” says Buffett.
He’s right. The Bush tax cut was weighted deliberately to give the top earners the biggest break, not the middle class. That has fed the wealth concentration: corporations that get tax breaks to ship jobs overseas; billionaire hedge fund managers who nearly bankrupted the world with phony credit default swaps pay 15%, while their driver and housekeeper–and the rest of us―pay twice that amount.
In 2012 GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid about 13% on his income tax return. The rest of us pay about 30%. Unlike most Americans he deducted $77,000 for his pet show horse, a deduction greater than most Americans’ annual pay!
In 2016 nothing has changed. All the Republican economic plan calls for more tax cuts for the wealthy, which will explode the deficit even more. They would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka “Obamacare” which would cost each senior citizen an additional $600 a year that the ACA pays for the Plan D “donut hole.” Over 40% of Americans have pre-existing conditions and would be denied coverage – which is prohibited under the ACA. If you got sick, insurance companies could go back to canceling your insurance – and terminating coverage once you hit the lifetime limit of your policy. The ACA would prohibit that from happening.
Ironically, those in Congress who have voted against the Affordable Care Act have government paid insurance! Yet they oppose Americans having the same protections they have.
Texas is 34th in the U.S. in education. In 2011 Texas lawmakers voted to cut its education budget $5.4 billion from what we needed to cover education costs in a growing state that is adding over 70,000 more students every year. How does this prepare our state or country for a global, high-tech century? It doesn’t. Our Texas Board of "Education" has rewritten textbooks to dumb them down and claim slavery wasn't a reason for the Civil War and nonsense like that. Our leaders deny climate change even as Texas gets hit by unprecedented 27 inch rains and hurricane-force winds caused by a hotter planet.
That’s why Texas has mainly minimum-wage jobs. In 2013, with a better national economy and a huge surplus in its “rainy day fund,” Texas lawmakers put back about $2.6 billion of the $5.4 shortfall—still leaving it short and calling it “good enough.” This doesn’t even account for the additional investment needed for the 80,000 new students Texas gets every year! In 2015 the “Rainy Day Fund” has grown even larger. So where is Texas putting that money? Roads! Education was left on the short side.
Yes, we need to invest in roads but not at the expense of undermining our kids’ future which is derived from a quality education needed in today’s complex world.
To figure out how to get out of this mess we need to recognize how we got into it. The financial mismanagement that put us into this situation flipped us from the world's No. 1 creditor nation to the No. 1 debtor nation in under four years. Then we can address solutions based on reality.
It started with the 2001 tax cuts under President Bush, who had been handed a $350 billion surplus by outgoing President Clinton. It was the only balanced budget by any president in the last thirty years. It was as if he was handed a shiny new Cadillac with cash stuffed in the glove box.
The 2001 Bush tax cuts created an instant $1.2 trillion deficit. Revenues were far short of our fixed expenses―about 40% short, requiring increases in our debt ceiling. From 2000 to 2008 our national debt doubled. In 2003, they cut taxes a second time. Over $6 trillion in new debt was added by the GOP controlled Congress and President Bush 43 to cover the cost of two wars that were unpaid for. Plan D for prescription drugs was not paid for and neither were two tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. It took 200+ years to get America to $5 trillion in debt, but that debt was more than doubled in a mere eight years under Bush. Then in 2008 the economy collapsed, cutting tax revenues and running up even higher deficits.
America went from the world’s No. 1 creditor nation to No. 1 debtor nation in less than four years under the Bush administration. Instead of investing billions in emerging technologies like solar panels and “Clean Tech,” we invested over $1 trillion in war equipment for Iraq and building roads in Afghanistan that do not produce a return like China gets from its manufacturing investments or its high-speed rail network and new roads. When you look at war torn Afghanistan and Iraq today, was it worth it?
That’s a huge difference. A total of $6.1 trillion in debt was acquired during George W. Bush's eight years in office, $1.9 trillion in Ronald Reagan's, $1.5 trillion in George H.W. Bush's four years, $1.4 trillion in Clinton's eight years and $2.4 trillion during the first three years Obama's administration, much of it spent trying to pull us out of recession, just as FDR did to get us out of the Great Depression in the ’30s.
Yet under Obama, total federal spending has been lower than any President in the last thirty years! You seldom see this reported in the news. Under Obama, the deficit in 2015 has dropped to its lowest amount since 2001! Over 10 million jobs have been created since 2009 when he took office.
In 2009, Obama inherited the “empty bank account stuffed with IOU’s and a wrecked, smoking economic ship of state.” Obama faced a $1.3 Trillion deficit his first day on the job, plus trillions in piled up IOU's from two unpaid for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It takes time to fix a ship that has run aground, just like the Exxon Valdez, especially when there is no cooperation across the aisle in Congress. On his first day on the job, before he had done a thing, the GOP declared they would oppose everything he proposed. And they have – even rejecting GOP ideas that President Obama adopted, like the health insurance mandate the Heritage foundation had recommended.
That trend has continued after Obama’s re-election. Politics and power has been more important than jobs for millions of out-of-work Americans. In 2014, running for re-election Mr. McConnell said he wants to “repeal every word of Obamacare” yet supports Kynect, which is the Kentucky exchange set up under Obamacare! People in Kentucky support Kynect and think they are two different things but Kynect wouldn’t exist without the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama—something no President had accomplished in over 100 years. Ironically, in the rest of the world, healthcare is a right not a privilege, even in Mexico.
Had the GOP and Candidate Romney had their way, the U.S. would have allowed Detroit’s automakers to go bankrupt, which would have cost over 1 million jobs and killed America’s car manufacturing business. Today, because of the stimulus and bridge loans from President Obama, GM is once again a leading auto manufacturer in the world, producing cars and jobs right here in the USA. Even Ford Motor Company’s President said that if GM had gone down, it would have also bankrupted Ford since both companies rely on the same suppliers for parts.
Voodoo economics almost cost America its economic lifeline. Political sabotage has been the reason too many Americans who are not seeing economic gains because the GOP has refused to pass any bill that would create jobs, including the highway bill which has been traditionally bipartisan. Congress is allowing bridges to fall apart in order so it could take control of the Senate (which it did in 2014), so it can then set about gutting Obamacare so you can, once again, lose your insurance for a preexisting condition and be denied coverage by the whim of the insurance industry. How is that progress? Healthcare is a right of citizens of any civilized country, not a privilege for only those who can afford it. How is denying healthcare considered to be “pro life”?
Had Obama followed the GOP advice and done nothing to stimulate the economy as President Hoover did during the Great Depression, or followed Europe’s Austerity hysteria, we would have had unemployment approaching 20% or more –like what has happened in Spain, England and countries in Europe following the “austerity” plan. In 2014 Europe is still struggling. They are realizing that they need to stimulate their economies to avoid negative growth in 2016.
Austerity created 50% unemployment for Europe's youth, including young Muslim men in places like Brussels and Paris, who then are easily turned into recruits for a "promised land" or caliphate because they have nothing, and nothing to lose.
Austerity cuts jobs; it doesn’t create them. Greece in 2015 is Exhibit A. Youth unemployment is over 50%. The stimulus passed right after President Obama took office pulled us out of the worst case scenario –we were facing massive bank runs and panic in the streets. The stimulus action brought our unemployment down substantially while Europe in 2015 is still stagnating under the austerity policies they have clung to rigidly. Had more of Obama’s stimulus been directed at building roads and bridges instead of giving block grants to states like Texas -- which used it to cover its budget shortfall instead of investing in our roads and schools, we would have gotten even more bang for the buck.
Taking smart action to improve the economy should be a common American priority, not playing politics to get back into power. Thomas Friedman recently put it aptly this way: “We have only a decade to set up a good century for our people, but if we don’t, Americans will face a bleak century.” Right now, prospects of that happening are bleak.
Cuts to CDC and National Health Institute prevented work on vaccines for Ebola that would have given us a weapon against it and avoided the panic of 2014 when Ebola turned up at a Dallas, Texas hospital and no one knew what to do about it.
The 2008 financial collapse wasn't fatal, but it could have been if banks had been allowed to fail along with General Motors, which would have caused massive runs on banks just like in the Great Depression. This is not to say that some bankers should have gone to jail or that we need to get rid of “too big to fail” – they should have. We still need to reduce the risk of a big bank going under and taking the economy with it.
None of our GOP Congress reps from Texas are talking about improving our people’s jobs skills to compete in high tech jobs. Instead, the GOP has voted 50 times to repeal “Obamacare” without offering any alternative. They refuse to pass any meaningful infrastructure bill. They refuse to change our immigration laws. Under our current laws students can come here to get advanced degrees – then we make them leave so they start a foreign company compete against us instead of helping an American company compete against the world.
Our immigration law is so broken that we don’t even allow enough skilled workers into the country to fill the jobs that Americans aren’t yet qualified to do. How does that make sense? Then, once we educate a foreign student, our law makes them leave so that their skills benefit our competitors and any jobs they create will be in another country.
Above: Compare how much the USA pays for its Pentagon versus other countries - it is more than the rest of the world COMBINED.
So, what do we do to start turning the job machine back on?
It's going to take a series of steps: improving education, upping our job skills, and investing in rebuilding our crumbling bridges and roads. It was the investment in the Interstate Highway System by President Dwight Eisenhower that provided the infrastructure that was a major factor in America's growth. It improved our nation’s productivity and made transport faster and better. Now those roads are in desperate need of repair. Upgrading the old is vital, as is investing in the new technologies that create 21st century jobs.
Recently water pipes broke in one of the buildings housing U.S. Senators due to age. It is a symptom of a Congress that refuses to invest in our aging infrastructure. Houston, for example, is losing millions in dollars because its water pipes are so old that they are leaking billions of gallons of much-needed water at a time we are in the worst drought in our state’s history. Our gas lines are exploding across the country because they are so old.
carbon power for U.S. Energy Independence
The Pentagon has a $26 billion space budget larger than NASA’s! It has so much money that it recently gave NASA two space telescopes it didn’t need! Poor NASA doesn’t even have the funds to launch them. NASA is still using space suits that are 35 years old! They are so old that one almost drowned an astronaut when it started leaking water into his suit. How to we lead a space race with 30 year old Shuttles, 35 year old spacesuits and an International Space Station nearing the end of its life cycle? The components on the space station were warrantied for only ten years, and it is already 15 years old and will be 24 by the time its retired – with no replacement in sight.
Or do we watch the Chinese do it instead?
Planning ahead and investment are important! As I said, China is building a vast network of new roads, high-speed rail, power plants, etc. while Congress does nothing but insist on allowing millionaires to pay half the taxes the rest of us pay, bickers and cuts funding for Pell grants that students need to obtain 21st century skills. Russia and China are now planning a high speed rail link between their countries, linking them economically and politically as each vie to compete with the United States in technology and control of the seas and space. NASA astronauts are riding Russian rockets into space while Russia’s Putin is grabbing territory from Ukraine and Russian leaders laugh about us using a trampoline to get into space.
But NASA is not the wisest in its decisions. In awarding a private contract to send astronauts to the space station, it picked SpaceX which has demonstrated its technology works, and Boeing which has not even done a test of its system. Further, NASA gave two thirds of the $6 billion contract to Boeing! It also put all its eggs in one basket by choosing capsules only – NASA’s Orion is a capsule. Boeings vehicle is a capsule and so is SpaceX’s. NASA left out Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser, the only vehicle that could take off and land on a runway and provide faster turnarounds than capsules which are half century old technology that require recovery in the ocean! But then it changed its mind, and Dreamchaser may yet get to fly.
Equality, fairness and justice have always been American traditions. But not in this empty minded Congress.
Above Photo: China has become the third country to put astronauts in space. They plan to build their own space station, which will be new in 2020 when our ISS is ready to retire – without a replacement! The Chinese have just put a rover successfully on the moon and India put a satellite around Mars for 10% of the cost of a NASA mission. It cost as much to make the movie "Gravity" as it took India to go to Mars. The Chinese also plan to build a Moon Base.
NASA's SLS launch system has no mission - it could be set to work sending BIGELOW-type inflatable units to the Moon for research and testing of components needed for a Mars mission. We could mine the moon.
Students: In Norway and Germany, college is free, even to foreign students. Meanwhile our student debt is piling up. I propose that we invest in our future by making college affordable to American students as well – the return on the investment will come from higher earnings from students with advanced education who are not burdened with student loan debt for decades. Obama has proposed making two years of junior college free. It is a step in the right direction. Hillary Clinton has a plan to make college affordable. Bernie Sanders proposes free college but our current tax rates don't support it without raising taxes on everyone. Nevertheless, providing higher education and skills training for our people will pay dividends in higher earnings and higher taxes received from the future earnings.
President Obama also wants us to double our exports – that would also boost jobs. Each $1 billion in exports creates 25,000 jobs right here in America. It would diversity our economy instead of relying solely on consumer spending. We should export products, not jobs. Instead, Congress let the Ex Im bank charter expire, despite that it makes a profit of $1 billion and helps produce over 150,000 jobs! It was finally restored but a Congress that can't see the benefits of getting America's products to the world is dangerously naive and stupid.
Maybe that is why Mitt Romney parked money in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands! How many Americans do that? No President in history has had a Swiss bank account (Switzerland is popular because it keeps the account holders secret).
Mr. Trump has had foreign dealings and probably has money stashed overseas because that's what you do with foreign operations to duck taxes. I saw it from the inside as a young Fortune 500 attorney. He talks about imposing a 45% duty on foreign goods. Americans don't realize that would make the items they are about to buy 45% more expensive! That $100 item is suddenly $145. Who wants that? Even if you raised the minimum wage a 45% price increase would be like getting a pay cut!
We need new revenues to finance our education and high-tech training needs, and to replace rusting bridges and schools where ceiling tiles are falling on the children. We can do that by making the tax system a level playing field where special interests don’t get special deals that the ordinary American doesn’t get.
Bernie Sanders claim that we had become Europe overnight with universal health care in a GOP controlled Congress and without a plan to pay for it is "pie-in-the-sky" and not going anywhere. Like McGovern in 1972 and Mondale in 1984, he represents the most liberal fringe, which ended up losing the Democratic party 49 states in those years. Sanders has said that he will raise taxes, like Mondale said on the stage debating Reagan. Mondale lost in a landslide in 1984. Google it. Sanders idea is that even middle class people would face higher taxes up to $4,700 more a year. That would be a disaster.
We should reform our tax code to bring down the top rate but also eliminate many of the deductions that allow companies to pay zero taxes on substantial profits. General Electric, for example, paid zero taxes on billions in profits.
We could eliminate the foreign tax credit which lets companies get a credit on their U.S. taxes—instead of a deduction—for paying a tax overseas. The foreign tax credit should be turned into a deduction. Corporations’ worldwide earnings should be taxed, just like they are for American individuals, even if they leave it parked in a bank overseas. No corporation should get a tax deduction for shipping jobs overseas. Instead they should get a tax incentive to bring jobs to the U.S.! We definitely need to reform the tax system. While the state corporate tax rate sounds high, the net rate is quite low, as low as ZERO.
OR, a special law could be enacted to bring back those trillions at a lower tax rate that we then invest in infrastructure building, retraining, etc.
I know how the international tax system works because I was an international attorney for the Fortune 500 for nearly a decade, setting up international contracts and foreign operations. I was sent to over thirty countries in one five-year period―from China to Brazil to Europe and the Middle East—negotiating agreements with other large entities.
I’ve now negotiated in over 50 countries. Part of the job meant I had to know international law, tax law and tax treaties—not to mention local culture and the unwritten rules in places like India. I know how the global business game is played. Global business is vital to our future, especially exporting products. Americans don’t realize how much trade between countries creates jobs right here in America. International business generates jobs and income worldwide, both here and overseas. But it has to be a fair and equitable system. Our present one is not.
Today, say it’s Halliburton or a Noble Drilling based in Texas, can send a couple of people to Dubai, and suddenly they are no longer an “American” company and not subject to U.S. taxes on their income, even though the company building -- and 99% of its employees -- are still sitting in Houston! However, their employees still here can’t claim an exemption from their taxes. That tax loss means less for the cities and counties need for roads and schools needed to compete in the global economy. General Electric made billions, yet paid ZERO taxes.
America contains five percent of the world's population, yet we use one third of the total energy. Energy efficiency projects like weatherization of our houses and offices would employ vast numbers of Americans and cut our energy use enough to forego the need to build three of four power plants that would otherwise be needed. Congress used to provide a tax credit up to $1,500 to homeowners for making these improvements, but phased them out. They should bring them back. Energy saved is energy we don’t have to burn and dangerous carbon that doesn’t go into the atmosphere, adding to climate change. At the same time we could "harden" the building envelop to prepare for the more common hurricane-force winds we get even without hurricanes!
This is an area where small businesses could prosper and serve the American market – installing everything from weatherization materials to solar panels on rooftops. Installing radiant barriers in attics would cut solar heat. Forty percent of a building's energy is lost through its windows, the weakest link of every building.
Installing newer technologies like security window film would save up to 30% of a building's energy consumption -- and at the same time provide protection from break-ins by burglars and window breach by increasingly powerful tornadoes and hurricanes that lead to roof loss and costly internal damage that can leave a building uninhabitable for months. Substantial jobs would be created. Insurance claims could be drastically reduced, which would lower premiums. Less down time for repairs would boost our productivity. It’s another win-win for America and our future success!
Unfortunately many Americans are global virgins, afraid to travel far and wide globally like our fathers and grandfathers did during World War II. How do we lead a world we know nothing about? If you don't go see what China and Europe are doing, how do you know where America and Americans really stand in the competitive world of technology and global business trends?
We had presidential candidates running for 2012 who were stumped by questions about Libya, which had been in the news all year. We had presidential candidates state that the U.S. Supreme Court had eight judges (the real answer is nine, since tie decisions are bad on a court). We had GOP candidates who said they would cut $5 trillion from the U.S. budget, which was only $3.7 trillion. One 2012 presidential candidate stated that HPV vaccines would cause “retardation” because the candidate heard it from a person she met on the campaign trail―without any research to find that wasn’t true.
In 2016, we have seen a hate-mongering campaign on the GOP side that is staggering. First it was "young black men." Then it was about "Mexicans who were rapists" coming across our border (even though net migration is now zero). Then it was barring "Muslims" from America. We have seen a presidential candidate actually encourage violence at his campaign rallies against protesters. It's bizarre, like a chapter from fascism in the past. It's all about fear without a solution in sight. "Believe me" is not an economic plan. It's snake oil.
America is a diverse country while the GOP has become a party of one (color) that is dying and being replaced by a new America of different colors and religions.
One GOP presidential candidate said it wasn’t important that he know about the world “because he would have advisers for that.” Trump said that he was his own adviser "because I have so many thoughts." It sounds like a chapter from "Alice in Wonderland." So what happens when those advisors disagree, as they always do? Guess? That kind of guessing cost America over $1 trillion dollars in a “pre-emptive” war with Iraq to eliminate weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. It cost thousands of American lives and left our country poorer as a result.
The outlook for the 2016 Presidential race isn’t much better. The top GOP contender Donald Trump, who has said Mexico is sending us murderers, fails to point out that almost every illegal is simply looking for work or escaping death gangs in Honduras and Central America.that make young boys join or die, and girls get even less choice. The rest of the field seems to want to make America governed by a religious government – which is exactly what Iran and Saudi Arabia already is.
Global experience in our leadership is vital for our future success. We live in an inescapable global economy. We won’t win by being “dumb and dumber” when it comes to dealing with 200 countries which are becoming more technically advanced because a Republican legislature in Texas won’t even use a Rainy Day fund designed for funding Texas schools to compete in this high-tech global economy. Forty four countries now have space programs, are producing engineers to fill American engineering and science jobs.
According to Bill Hammond of the Texas Business Association only twenty five percent of our kids come out of Texas high schools college ready! How is that a mark of success of Gov. Rick Perry after fourteen years in office, and his GOP replacement Greg Abbott? I’ve seen it up close and personal, kids in the family who can’t spell. Then I realized it wasn’t just them. There is a whole generation like them in America. We have to do better because it won’t help them --or our future as a skilled country in the new space age we live in if they don’t have the basic knowledge necessary to become skilled (versus unskilled) labor in this increasingly high-tech world evolving around us.
Minimum wage jobs flipping burgers won’t feed a family or make life easy if that is all the educational skills our kids achieve. Texas must fund full day pre-K full day. That didn’t happen in 2015 when the Texas legislature met. It needs to put another $2 billion back into our education budget. It didn’t do that either. We must allow our talent, even those of all races like who don’t have family money, to go to school. An educated citizenry enriches us all.
I did a series of TV interviews and videos in the ’90s that warned about the potential of a 9/11 happening. Some of it is on YouTube. No one listened, of course. Why did I have a clue? It was because of my international travels into the Middle East. I was lucky. I saw things few Americans get to see: dozens of countries and their legal systems, customs, and laws. On one trip I'd be in China; on another I would travel to India or Vienna or London (on business, not as a tourist). I had to study each system to know the best way to proceed. I found a journal entry I had written which mentioned Saddam Hussein in 1981―nine years before he attacked Kuwait! That knowledge is what I based my 9/11 prediction on. That is the kind of knowledge in Congress that makes a difference between a good decision and a bad one, like starting a war.
Even though all the laws, customs and languages were different, I saw that people are very much the same. That was confirmed again when I ran for Congress in one of the most diverse counties in the nation: Ft. Bend County, Texas. That was in 2000. I went inside mosques, synagogues, and Hindu temples, as well as Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran and all kinds of Christian churches. I heard imams, rabbis and Christian pastors all giving the same lecture: be good, love your family, pray. We have more in common than most people think. If you travel you will find that to be true.
The point is that America has a diverse population of people from around the world who share our values. Immigrants like these have driven our success the past two centuries and can help us regain our dynamism in the future. Texas is already a “majority minority” state.
By 2050, the United States as a whole will be a “majority minority” country. Education of all of our people—not a privileged few-- will be critical to maintain our global leadership. Texas already is a majority minority state.
We have the ingredients for success. We need a global strategy for technology leadership to guarantee American success in the years ahead.
We won't win the 21st century with thirty-year-old space shuttles, rusting bridges, kids not getting pre-K education and by failing to improve our education and job skills to meet the challenges of an inescapable high-tech global economy and space-age century.
We need smart strategies and smart investments to win this race.
To win the future we will also have to reform our present political system. Your Congress rep mostly likely sits in gerrymandered districts that make their seats safe from a general election opponent. As a result, our political system encourages the most radical ones the primary - not the type to work across the aisle to fix America's issues.
We have to reform a system where Congress pays more attention to rich corporations than their voters. The U.S. Supreme Court, for the first time in American history, because of Citizens United , has allowed corporations to spend unlimited billions to buy this election to elect the candidate of their choice, allowing them to get more special breaks for themselves.
The Constitutional principal of “One man one vote” has been gutted by the Robert’s court and replaced with “One corporation, one billion dollars to buy unlimited votes.” It’s no longer a level playing field for the average American voter who can’t spend billions funding candidates of their choice.
The revolving door in Washington between Congress and lobbyists adds to the corruption of our system. Even Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay’s convicted felon-friend, said that we have to close that revolving door to return power to the people instead of favoring the special interests and the wealthiest. In the meantime our Congress gives tax breaks to the wealthy, expecting it to “trickle down” to the majority. That snake-oil slogan has never worked. It has only made our economy look like Mexico's, where a few families at the top control a majority of the wealth, while everyone below them has nothing.
America became great because its best leaders focused on improving life for those who were at the bottom of our economy through means such as the G.I. Bill, Pell Grants, etc. People could bootstrap themselves up with a little help.
We built the Interstate Highway System and a world leading space agency. We invested in education and training and infrastructure. We were the gold standard of the world. Then we lost our way. Our companies’ outsourced jobs overseas and we let our education system falter. We gave tax incentives to export jobs. We engaged in unnecessary wars without bothering to pay for them even during the “good times.”
To succeed in current real world, we have to have leaders who know the world well enough to develop winning strategies. Isolationism is a fatal mistake.
I went to Norway for the first time in May 2011. Despite my having been in some 50 countries before, and reading everything I could on Norway before arriving, I thought I knew what to expect it to be like. When I got there, Norway was nothing like what I had read about! By the end of the trip I knew things I could never have known otherwise. Here's is why that is important.
While there, I discovered how a couple of Norwegians stopped Hitler from getting “heavy water” to make an atomic bomb first. They made a movie about it called “Heroes of Telemark” starring Kick Douglas. Without the Norwegians stopping that shipment, Hitler could have gotten the A-bomb first and would have won the war instantly. So how would a member of Congress know more if he haven’t “been there, done that”?
Imagine an elected congressman/woman, senator or even president who has never been in Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East (except perhaps as a tourist or on a junket) pushing the voting buttons in Washington.
In 2010 nearly eighty Congress reps were elected from places like Frog Jump, Arkansas, whose wife called his government issued Blackberry phone a "Blueberry" because they had never used one or been out of their home state. These reps caused us to lose our No. 1 creditor status by voting against a debt ceiling increase. That increase was required from prior spending decisions of that same Congress! One of them, Senator Cruz shutdown our government over people getting access to healthcare like he has, costing us $24 billion. The world has to be laughing at us shooting ourselves by the actions of our own Congress. But no, they aren’t laughing because when we screw up the economy the world pays a heavy price.
The Euro crisis makes the U.S. dollar still the most reliable currency on the planet. To fix the domestic issues we face, we also have to make sure Europe's system becomes more stable. They don’t need a bailout from us; they need to fix their own system. However, if their barn catches fire the flames will spread to ours. Over 20% of U.S. exports go to Europe. Millions of U.S. jobs are at stake if Europe burns. It is an interconnected world. What happens in the U.S. doesn’t just stay in the U.S. What happens in Europe, and China, will also impact our own economic future. Terrorism in Europe can jump the "great pond" to the U.S. if we don't help them.
Wall Street's hedge funds and phony credit default swaps brought down not just the U.S. financial system, it also crashed the global financial system as Wall Street's worthless paper was brought by pension groups and investors worldwide. It caused every bank in Iceland to go bust. Had President Bush not started TARP (which Obama continued) and all our banks had gone bust like they did in the Great Depression, we would have seen scenes of misery and unemployment in the 50% range.
Americans need smart government, smart roads, smart schools, and smart policies that will get our momentum back. We need a smart, world-wise Congress and a smart, world-wise president with a smart plan to deal with a China, whose economy is the second largest in the world; with Europe, the largest market in the world; with the fiery Middle East; and with our neighbors in South America. China has built its first aircraft carrier. Its basketball team ended up in a fight with the American team, and the Chinese blamed their own team for being too aggressive!
Ninety-seven percent (97%) of Chinese grade school kids graduate from high school. Eighty percent (80%) of them go to college. Less than 50% of American kids make it through high school! This is not a race we are ―as Charlie Sheen might say―“winning.”
How do we both regain our technological lead and recover from the financial mismanagement of the past decade that put us in this mess?
We can only do it by using a smart strategy based on real facts, not the nonsense from politicians who got us into this hole starting in 2001. Instead, new textbooks based on Texas guidelines omit slavery and Jim Crow laws against blacks from our history books. Like radical Islam, radical Christians on the Texas State Board of Education question the principle of separation of church and state which our founders wanted after seeing what happened in England with a state religion. The books even glorify the McCarthy era witch-hunts for suspects “communists.” If any books deserve to be burned, it i these sorry excuses for “education” by the hard right controlling Texas politics and education policies.
If we don't get smart and global fast, we are toast. Stick us with a fork, because we’re done.
At the beginning of the 20th century we couldn’t have competed if we insisted on continuing to make buggy whips when the world moved on to cars. Now that the world is entering the space age, we can’t compete by clinging to old technology, like producing oil from dirty tar sands. If the lobbyists of today were in charge in 1900, the buggy whip lobby would make sure we were still driving buggies! Our oil companies today still want their tax subsidies but don’t want the emerging clean energy wind and solar power industries to have the same thing!
To win we need to invest in education, training, and rebuilding our transportation networks and other infrastructure, and to change our tax laws to make them more fair and equal.
We also need to reform our election system. Our current system leaves out the moderate voters who show up in November. The decisions as to who will win a congressional district are made in party primaries in safe districts by a few voters who are hyper-partisans on each side―the type who would rather walk on burning coals then talk to the other side.
To win a seat in a primary, each candidate must run “left of left” or “right of right,” ensuring more extreme candidates are elected to safe districts, making them less willing to compromise to get things done―the opposite of what our Founding Fathers did in starting our great country. These reps are more afraid of a primary challenge than a November challenge by the opposing party. We saw that in 2012 when veteran lawmakers lost to “tea party” types who were so extreme that they ended up losing in the general election.
We are seeing it in 2016 as a guy who has never run as a Democrat has the lead in Iowa in New Hampshire (Sanders) and a guy who has never run as a Republican has a led the GOP nomination despite never having been elected dogcatcher. It's beyond bizarre. Each party is leaning to the extreme; whereas, the best leaders, and solutions, will be closer to the center.
California and Arizona have removed partisans from drawing district boundary lines, making those races more focused on the vast majority of people in the moderate middle instead of the extreme ends. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme court has upheld this new way of drawing boundaries. What we need are more centrist, moderate, middle American-type congressional representatives who can work across the aisle for our common good― who also have sufficient global experience to get us back into a strong economy and win the global game.
We have only one shot at a comeback now that our money and the world’s No. 1 creditor status are gone. It took less than eight years, from 2000 to 2008, to dissipate our wealth built up over 200 years! We have to get smart and know how to lead technically and economically to get back into the game.
That’s why I started the “Global American” campaign to inform Americans about events in the world that impact our future (see “About the Author”) and ways to succeed.
Our future depends on who we elect and what we each do to upgrade our skills. The world is rapidly catching up with us. We can’t succeed by standing still or by not giving it our best.
That is why I am supporting Hillary Clinton as President in 2016 - one of remaining centrists who the global expertise we need to take us to the next level. She has negotiated in over 100 countries worldwide, meaning she knows what is going on there. Never before have we had such a globally qualified candidate (Bush had been in only 3 countries when he was elected).
We certainly do not need a candidate who appeals to racism, sexism and nationalistic whites-only fascism, as Trump has. Even Mr. Cruz has called for racial profiling of Muslims. Both candidates would increase terrorism in America and the world by their words and actions, not diminish it.
Nor do we need more voodoo economics from the GOP, Mr. Cruz and Trump. THAT is what got us into a deep financial hole we must dig out of.
In closing, I ask you to once again remember Proverbs 29: 18: "Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
For America's sake, we need that vision.The ONLY candidate that I see with a real vision for success of America is Hillary Clinton. She is the only presidential candidate that has more global experience than myself, but on a higher level.
I negotiated in nearly 50 countries. Hillary has done so in over 100 countries. This happened when Trump was importing his clothes from China. He created jobs in China; Hillary created them in the USA). My vote is not based on her sex, but on her expertise and vision.
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About the Author
Since a layoff in the Great Texas Oil Bust of the 1980’s, Michael has been an entrepreneur domestically and internationally. During the first Gulf War and for a few years after 9/11 he was a terrorism analyst on TV. In the 90's he produced a video with a weapons expert from the Reagan administration about the potential of a 9/11 attack entitled: "Nuclear Terrorism: Could It Happen Here?" (many available on YouTube, search "Michael Fjetland")
Because of his global experience (and despite his BBA from rival University of Texas) Michael was selected as an adviser for the board of Texas A&M’s Center for International Business Studies where he served for 18 years until about 2003. He has been a speaker on global threats, issues and opportunities from Washington, DC to South Africa. Michael is also a licensed pilot and after 9/11 flew search and rescue missions with the Civil Air Patrol, which is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.
Today, Michael is founder and CEO of Armor Glass International, Inc., a company that installs security film on glass--the weakest link on every building-- to armor it from hurricanes, burglars, tornadoes and solar heat. Glass failure is what leads to structure collapse in high wind events--and is easily penetrated by intruders. Its a 21st century carbon negative “Green+Security” technology that saves enough energy to pay for itself. Details at: www.ArmorGlass.com
Then ask yourself: "We Used to Do Great Things Like That; Why Aren't We Doing it Now?" Look at what we are up against. Take a 7 minute ride with me on the fastesttrain in the world - hovering on magnets not touching steel...
For Michael’s updates on Current Global events that impact your Future, “follow” or “subscribe” to his blog, Global American Values
and/or his “Global American” newsletter
Agenda for American Greatness was developed from the global experiences of the author, Michael Fjetland, BBA/JD, detailed in "Better Times Ahead April Fool"(looking back at the future of America). Time warp around the world the last 30 years and experience vicariously some bizarre adventures that gave the author a front row seat to the complex global gamesmanship between America and the world -- a magic carpet ride for less than the cost of a Starbuck's coffee.