Digger Cartwright

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Mystery Novelist Digger Cartwright Participates in Thinking Outside the Boxe’s Annual Symposium

Orlando, FL, Miami, FL & Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) January 29, 2015— The office of Digger Cartwright, mystery novelist and industrialist, released the transcripts of his responses to the question and answer session from Thinking Outside the Boxe’s 11th Annual Symposium held in Orlando from December 26-31, 2015.  The symposium focused on topics such as recent economic conditions and the outlook for the coming year, geopolitical events, domestic politics, etc.     


1.     Should the federal government increase progressive taxation or the federal minimum wage as a way to address income inequality?


Cartwright—Neither!  Income inequality and the efforts to address this issue are typical socialist arguments and policy initiatives.  It’s not for the federal government to redistribute wealth though the Democrats would certainly like nothing more than to legislate income equality via redistribution of wealth.  What politicians and those who want income equality fail to understand is that you can’t tax your way to prosperity.  At some point, they rich are going to take their money and go somewhere else or worse.  They aren’t going to sit idly by while the federal government continues to take more and more from them and punishing them for being successful.


There’s a fundamental problem with progressive taxation.  It’s punitive.  The more successful you are, the more you’re punished for that success by having to pay higher taxes.  You end up paying for those who don’t contribute anything at all to the system.  But it’s not just the rich who get screwed by the tax code.  The middle class and small business owners get screwed the most.  The tax code is messed up, and I don’t think anyone will disagree with that.  Everyone knows that the rich people have the best accountants and lawyers to ensure that they minimize their tax bill.  Middle class Americans try to do the same thing but not quite as effectively.  This is the very reason I have always supported a consumption tax of some sort.  With a consumption tax, everyone pays a fair share.  If you’re a multi-billionaire and you purchase a $500,000 car, you’re going to pay more in tax than someone who purchases a $10,000 car.  If you buy a new iPhone every six months, you’re going to pay your fair share over someone who buys the cheapest cell phone and uses it for three or four years. 


The naysayers of a consumption tax say this hurts low income workers the most since they don’t pay any taxes now.  It’s hardly fair that they pay no taxes but get all the benefits offered by the government at basically no charge.  But let’s address this.  I would exempt grocery store purchases of unprepared food from the consumption tax since low income workers still have to eat.  However, I’d slap the tax on prepared foods at restaurants.  If you’re a low income worker, you probably shouldn’t be eating out or getting the latest technology every time something new comes out.  It’s a bit hypocritical that low income workers whine about not having any money but they have a cell phone with internet service, cable TV, Netflix, etc.  Perhaps they should try being more frugal with their money.  Alternatively, get a second job or get the skill sets you need to get a better paying job. 


Politicians in America have had a war on poverty for decades.  They’ve been taxing and spending non-stop for decades.  Have they eliminated poverty in America?  No.  Have they closed the income gap in America?  No.  All the politicians are doing is taxing more and spending it on bloated federal programs or giving it to other countries.


How do we close the income gap in America?  Let’s make the American economy the strongest, most competitive, most dynamic economy in the world.  Cut taxes and give businesses an incentive to create more and better jobs for Americans.  Ensure that the economy is vibrant enough so that anyone who wants to work can work and advance.  But we also need to change the culture of Americans and make sure they have the skill sets necessary to compete on the international business stage.  We need to educate kids and give them K-12 educations that rival those of other industrialized countries.  We need to help them make better choices when it comes to either going to college or going to a technical or vocational school.  By doing this, we can help millions of working Americans lead better lives.  Not everyone is going to have everything they always want.  Not everyone is going to be a multi-millionaire.  If you want everyone to have equal financial resources, you should move to a socialist or communist country.  See how that works out for you. 


With regards to the minimum wage, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the minimum wage as it is.  I’ve talked about this at other events in the past.  In fact, the minimum wage has done more to kill jobs than anything else.  Ever wonder why we don’t have full service gas stations anymore?  Thank the minimum wage.  The business economics don’t support the payroll for service station attendants at the minimum wage.  If they were like waiters and waitresses and relied on tips, perhaps it would be a different story. 


Raising the minimum wage isn’t going to lift anyone out of poverty.  If you raise the minimum wage, do you think  McDonald’s is going to take a hit to their profits?  No.  They’re going to pass along the cost to the consumers.  So, the dollar menu becomes the two dollar menu.  Oh, wait a minute, that’s already happened, hasn’t it?  How did that work out for the minimum wage workers?  You get a raise but now the food at McDonald’s costs you twice as much.  You go to buy groceries at the grocery store and your bill is higher…might be because the minimum wage is higher and the store is passing along the costs to consumers.  Let’s look at Walmart and the layoffs they announced recently.  Those people who got pink slips can probably thank the higher wages for their demise. 


Abolish the minimum wage and let the free markets determine the right wage for a job.  If someone is willing to work for $5 per hour, so be it.  If not, the business will have to raise the hourly rate until they find someone who will work for the advertised rate.  The free markets work.  Attempts to manipulate the markets through socialist policies rarely have the desired  outcome in the long-term.       


2.In light of recent terrorist attacks, should the federal government increase domestic surveillance?  How far should a domestic surveillance program be allowed to go?

Cartwright—If you use Facebook or Google or Apple or Amazon and you have a problem with domestic surveillance, you’re out of touch with reality.  Facebook, Google, and your cell phone provider know about you and what you do than Uncle Sam does.  Do you think the federal government is listening in to the phone calls of nearly 400 million people in America?  That’s not happening, but is Google tracking your every move on the internet?  You bet your ass they are.  Ever get pop-up ads for something you looked at on Amazon a week ago?  Think that’s a coincidence?  Think again.  They know what you’re looking at online.  They know what you like, what you want, what your habits and patterns are.  They know all this about you.  Your cell phone provider may even know where you are right at this moment.  Does Uncle Sam know that you looked at a pair of shoes on Amazon last week?  Probably not. 


This is a serious issue for sure.  The last thing I want is for the federal government to have more power over individuals and more information about individuals.  We still have a reasonable expectation of privacy but we have to be willing to make some sacrifices in the name of making America a safer place.  Logistically, the federal government doesn’t have the resources to listen in on everyone’s calls, for example.  If they want to listen to what I’m talking about on the phone, have at it.  It’s probably pretty boring stuff most of the time.  Do I want them listening to me?  No.  Do I want them listening to a suspected terrorist or someone with terrorist ties?  Yes.  The federal government does have limited resources when it comes to domestic surveillance.  More often than not, they’re going to focus those resources in the right places and they’re going to be working within the parameters of the law which means they’re going to need court orders to listen in on your calls. 


If you go to some big cities, Big Brother is watching you walk down the street and get on the subway and so on.  There are cameras everywhere we go.  The reality is we’re under surveillance just about all the time as it is—online, at the grocery store, in the restaurant, walking down the street, and so on—and most of this surveillance is done by private business owners who have no obligation to you.  So, is it really that big of a deal?


Let’s consider something else.  The odds of anyone in this room or anyone that anyone in this room knows being killed by a terrorist here in America is remote.  You probably have a better chance of winning the Powerball than you do of being killed or of knowing someone being killed by a terrorist here in the United States.  It’s just that simple.  Of course, this is the counter argument to more surveillance.  Why focus our resources here when the odds of a terrorist attack are so low?  Why not focus our efforts on spying on people with terrorist ties overseas? 


On the other hand, our intelligence community has stopped a number of terrorist plots and may have stopped many more that we don’t know about.  I like most Americans want to be safe and want America to be safe.  Can we accomplish this without giving up some of our privacy?  No.  Are ordinary Americans giving up any more of their privacy for domestic surveillance programs than they do for Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc?  No, and in fact, we’re probably giving up less. 


Personally, I think surveillance of Facebook and other social media outlets is fair game, for example.  I also think surveillance of foreigners living here in America and visiting America is fair game, especially those from countries with known terrorist ties.  And, if you’re an American and you decide to travel to a country with terrorist ties, stay for a while, then come back, maybe you should be under surveillance too.  Who should be under surveillance: mom, dad, and the kids who go to the beach on vacation or someone who goes to Iraq for a vacation?  Who should be under more surveillance:  someone’s grandmother from Kansas or a twenty year old male, Syrian “refugee?” 


Let’s use some common sense here people and recognize that we gave up our privacy long ago.    

3.Is it time to end the current Social Security program for citizens under the age of 18?


Cartwright—I’m not suggesting we end benefits for children who are under eighteen and currently receiving survivor benefits until they are eighteen.  I don’t think that’s the point of the question.  However, I do favor telling people under eighteen that they will not have social security when they reach retirement age and encouraging them to start saving on their own at an early age.  There’s no doubt that the current Social Security system is broken and unsustainable.  Let’s remember that Social Security wasn’t intended to be a long-term programme to supply for everyone when they reached retirement age.  Somewhere along the way the idea of personal responsibility got put by the wayside in favor of another big government, socialist entitlement programme.  I recognize that it’s helped a lot of retirees over the years; it’s helped relatives of mine who wouldn’t have been able to survive in retirement without it. 


At the same time, I think the Social Security programme has been a tremendous moral hazard.  Working people have abandoned the idea of personal responsibility in saving for their retirement.  If they had known that they were going to have to rely solely on their own savings for retirement, would they have made different choices in life?  Would they have bought a new car every few years?  Would they have taken all those vacations or but all those things they didn’t really need?  Would they have bought more house than what they needed simply so they could keep up with the Jones?  I wholeheartedly believe that people would have made different choices in life if they had know that they were going to have to provide for their own retirement.  If you happened to work for a company that provided you with a pension, good for you; you probably had the ability to spend more than you really needed to if that pension was going to take care of you in retirement.  But those pensions went by the wayside a long time ago and successive generations have continued to exhibit little financial responsibility for planning for their retirement. 


Now, I know what the first reaction of the naysayers is: It’s hard to save money.  Each and every one of us in this room and in America can find ways to save a little money.  Maybe these people should have thought about that before they had one, two or three kids.  Society has brainwashed a lot of people that you need to get married, have kids, and buy the house with the white picket fence.  All well and good, but does anyone ever stop to ask if they can afford it or how that’s going to impact their finances now and in the future?  No.  But even with all this, there are still ways for people to save money.  Maybe you go out to eat less or don’t get a new car every five years or don’t get the biggest house that will fit in your budget or cut back on other discretionary expenses.  If anyone thinks they don’t have discretionary expenses, they’re living in a fantasy world.  Cell phones with big data plans are discretionary.  The internet is discretionary.  Cable and satellite are discretionary.  Everyone can save a little bit here and there, and it all adds up in the long run. 


So how would this plan work?  By ending Social Security as we know it for anyone under eighteen, we can estimate more accurately the funding needs for the Social Security Trust Fund for those who remain eligible to participate.  Their participation isn’t going to change and their benefits aren’t going to change.  We’ve simply put an end to the infinite funding needs going forward.  Unfortunately, we’ve put twice the burden on people under eighteen—they are still going to be paying payroll taxes to sustain promises made to existing participants and those eligible for future participation and they will be required to fund their own retirement savings.  Would suck to be them, but someone has to take one for the team.  Better them than us, right? 


But we can also minimize the burden on those young people and future generations.  Much of the funding problems with Social Security can be resolved by getting more people working.  The more people who work, the more taxes flow into the Social Security Trust Fund.  When the trust fund has sufficient resources to fund current and future retirees, the payroll tax for future generations can be reduced or those funds could be diverted into personal retirement trust accounts.  We can also help minimize the impact on future generations by ensuring that the Congress quits looting the Social Security Trust Fund by taking the cash to spend and replacing the cash with nearly worthless IOUs.  Not only should the Congress be barred from taking any cash from the Social Security “lockbox”—isn’t that a bit ironic?—but the Congress and the Treasury should be mandated to start returning cash that has been robbed from the Social Security “lockbox” until the trust has converted all the IOUs to cash.  This is going to be a painful process that will require the federal government to cut back on its spending in other areas, which is what I prefer over the alternative tax hikes. 


It’s not going to be easy for young generations or the federal government, particularly the pork spending Congressmen and women, but it needs to be done.  This in conjunction with promoting a strong, healthy, vibrant economy where we have maximum sustainable employment and a higher labor force participation rate can help to start solving the Social Security problem.  We all have to recognize that the current system is not sustainable forever and that we need to shift the burden of retirement from the taxpayer to individuals for future generations.     

4.Should federal anti-gaming legislation be scrapped?

Cartwright—My right honorable friend here just said it.  Legalize it and let government at the local, state, and federal levels tax it.  We can’t legislate morality, and I find it quite hypocritical that many states allow people to buy lottery tickets but they don’t allow casinos.  Isn’t the lottery considered gambling?  Isn’t the lottery a game of chance?  Let’s legalize gambling and let the casino operators build casinos where they see fit and where it’s economically feasible for them.  This is good business, and it’s good for communities.  Each casino in Las Vegas averages over 2,000 employees each.  I know there are plenty of communities throughout the United States that would love to have someone come in and create a couple thousand jobs. 


Do you know what an economic boost a casino is for a community?  It costs tens of millions of dollars to build a casino.  When you build one, you give a boost to local construction companies.  The casino creates thousands of jobs.  Those employees pay taxes.  The casino pays millions in taxes at all levels.  The people working spend their money.  You have a boost in people coming to the area.  The economic benefits go on and on.  All told, a casino has tens of millions of dollars in local economic impact. 


Let’s tell the religious zealots to get the hell out of the way of economic progress.  If they don’t like the casino, they don’t have to go to it, and they can stay at home and pray for those sinners who are going to gamble and while they’re at it they can pray for those sinners who drink and smoke and have sex and so on and so on.  These same people say there’s a high cost to society.  Well, let them quantify that.  We can put together an economic study that shows how much the area benefits from the construction of a casino.  The naysayers can’t quantify the “social cost” of gambling.  This is just a smokescreen for their religious and moral objections to gaming. 


Gambling is how we create tens of thousands of good jobs throughout the country and give a boost to some communities that could really use it.  Let’s get with the times and let the casino companies build where they want to build.           

5.The majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from automobiles.  Is it time to institute a carbon pricing system for individuals who drive automobiles?

Cartwright—The solutions are very simple.  First, we need to impose a special gasoline tax on every gallon of gasoline and diesel sold in America.  This tax should be punitive.  In this instance, yes, you should be punished for your behavior.  I’ve long promoted the benefits of higher gasoline prices at the pump.  You have people driving less, capital gets invested in alternative energy and alternative transportation means, with fewer cars on the road there will likely be fewer accidents which should lower insurance premiums, and of course pollution is reduced.  I’ll gladly pay eight or nine dollars per gallon if it means there are fewer crazy drivers on the road every day and at the same time it helps clean up the air.   


Normally, I oppose higher taxes but I think I can make an exception in this case.  Here’s what I would propose.  Let’s start with a $3 dollar surcharge imposed on every gallon of gasoline sold in the United States.  On whole, we consume about 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year.  That would be about $420 billion dollars raised annually.  Of course, this kind of a surcharge is going to have an impact on the amount of gasoline consumed.  Let’s say that gasoline consumption is cut by one third which is about 47 billion gallons per year.  This leaves about 93 billion gallons consumed at a $3 surcharge which equals about $279 billion annually.  To be clear, this surcharge would have to be put into a trust fund.  No government agency could raid the trust fund and spend the money for anything other than the intended purposes.  The funds raised by the gasoline surcharge could only be used for road projects, traditional rail and high speed rail, other forms of public transportation, renewable energy projects, and most importantly planting trees. 


Yes, you heard me correctly, planting trees.  Greenhouse gas emissions come most in the form of carbon dioxide.  As I recall from elementary school science, trees and plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.  So, if we plant more trees, won’t we be taking greenhouse gases out of the air and replacing them with oxygen?  Isn’t this a simple approach to reducing climate change that should get all the tree huggers excited?  It’s a pretty simple concept, right?  Two things are happening in the world today—we’re creating more carbon dioxide because more people throughout the world are driving and we’re cutting down trees and forests left and right for development, urban sprawl, or whatever you want to call it.  We’re putting more greenhouse gases into the air and we’re taking out the natural air filters in nature at a more rapid pace than we’re replacing them.  So, shouldn’t we use some of the funds from my gasoline surcharge to designate tracts of land for reforestation? 


Here’s another interesting thing to consider.  Burning a gallon of gasoline results in about twenty pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the air.  The average tree can only absorb about forty-eight pounds of carbon dioxide per year.  You can do the math—twenty pounds of carbon dioxide times 140 billion gallons of gasoline consumed per year in the United States equals a massive amount of carbon dioxide being emitted each year just here in our country or 2.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide.  It takes nearly sixty billion trees to process this carbon dioxide.  We probably have that many trees in America; I don’t really know, but adding a few million more every year wouldn’t hurt one bit. 

6.Should all states mandate water conservation at some level?

Cartwright—I agree that mandates are problematic from a bureaucratic perspective, and I agree that the free markets should determine this.  I guess you could make an argument for a surcharge on excess water usage similar to the surcharge on gasoline that I proposed a few minutes ago.  This is a good way to influence consumption of water and the behavior of consumers when it comes to water usage. 


But you can also influence consumers with incentives related to conservation in this case.  Let’s consider this.  I recently saw a toilet that had a sink atop the tank so that when you washed your hands the water drained into the tank which would then be used the next time you flushed the toilet.  I thought it was a pretty slick idea.  We do waste a lot of water when we wash our hands and take showers.  What if we could reclaim and reuse this water in the toilets in our own homes?  It would probably take some re-plumbing and some modifications but it could probably be done.  Would people be willing to invest in this effort if they received a tax break or a rebate from their water company based on the amount of water they save in a year’s time?  I imagine a lot of people might take advantage of this if you could make it worth their while.  Just something to think about.


How can we encourage people to conserve water?  Most people take water for granted.  They turn on the sink and the water is there.  They don’t really worry about it until the well goes dry, so to speak.  We need to work on educating the population on how to conserve water and the importance of doing so.  As a lot of places in the west have seen, you’re in a lot of trouble when your water resources become scarce.  Here again this is about influencing consumer behaviors.  We waste a lot of water to water the lawns so that we have pretty green grass.  This really isn’t an efficient or prudent use of water, particularly when it’s in short supply.  Perhaps homebuilders should consider alternative landscaping options that consume less water when building a development and homeowners consider alternatives to their lawns.  Personally, I favor putting down the artificial turf they use on some football fields.  I think it’s made of recycled tires.  It’s looks very real and requires no watering.  It’s pretty expensive, but if it saves on the water bill and you’re given some type of credit or incentive, it might become more prevalent.

7.Do schools need more authority to discipline students?  If so, how do we accomplish this?

Cartwright—All of my colleagues here have hit on one important point, and that’s the lack of respect that kids today have for authority figures.  The school system suffers from the inmates running the prison.  That has to stop.  I’ve long advocated turning over the entire school system in the America to the military.  Let me be clear that I’m not saying we turn public schools into military schools.  I’m simply saying that the administration of the schools be run by the military.  Kids will be taught respect and manners, and if the parents need to be taught some respect and manners, they can be taught respect as well courtesy of America’s finest military personnel.  I think the military is pretty good at the whole discipline thing, don’t you?  Unruly kids in school would learn that their actions have consequences, and I don’t think they would want more than one dose of military discipline.  I think it would improve moral in the schools and make our schools safer for students, teachers, and administrators alike.  I think you would see an improvement in test scores because there wouldn’t be learning disruptions in the classrooms and habitually truant students would be getting paid a visit by a couple of MPs.


The fact is the public education system has no effective means of disciplining students anymore.  The only way to restore that is to have the system run by the military.  Good luck suing Uncle Sam if you feel your precious little child who has no respect for teachers or others has been mistreated if they have to peel potatoes or do pushups or if they get their ass whipped.  Many kids these days are being taught morals or values or respect in their homes so they need to get it somewhere else.  The schools have been emasculated when it comes to this, so let’s give a new approach a try.

8.Has social media’s impact on society and the world done more good or more harm?
Cartwright—I think that social media has, in fact, made us less social.  Kids and many adults are glued to their cell phones and are unable to carry on conversations or interact in social settings.  Look at how many people these days, particularly the youth of America, are socially awkward and socially inept.  
Social media has certainly given relevance to people and events that have no relevance.  Do we really need to know that some unemployed bum living in his parents’ basement and playing video games had a sandwich at lunch, watched TV, smoked some dope, played more video games, and went to the bathroom?  Do we really care what some snot-nosed, self-centered, shithead kid who has done nothing in life, who knows nothing about life, and who knows nothing of the world thinks about anything?  Do we really care when some pathetic, bitter, critical liberal or right wing nut spews their hateful rhetoric?  Why give relevance to any of this?  
People waste so much time on social media in the pursuit of nothing that I think it has really hurt American productivity.  I don’t think it’s going to get any better.  People seem obsessed with wasting time on trivial pursuits when it comes to social media.  In these regards, I think it has been bad for society.
I think the only positive I see is as a means to connect with people who you may have lost touch with over the years.  It’s a convenient way to reconnect with these people, if you want to connect with them.  But I don’t think this really benefits society as a whole.  Has social media cured cancer or anything like that?  Nope.  Has it ended poverty in America?  Nope.  Has it increased the safety and security of America?  Nope.  
On net, social media in my opinion is quite a waste.  No one seems to really be benefiting from it in any meaningful way.  It’s giving kids and some adults a false sense of security and a false sense of importance in the world.  I know people who have tens of thousands of followers on social media outlets but these followers don’t know the person in real life in most cases.  These followers aren’t there when the person they’re following needs a shoulder to cry on or needs a loan to buy gas money.  Let’s get real.  Social media just tries to “fluff” people and get them feeling good about themselves or feeling like their lives don’t suck so much.            
9.Are the Democrats and Republicans both becoming more extremist and does this give rise to a viable third party?

Cartwright—I’d like to point out to my friends here that we do have a third party in America.  It’s the Libertarian party, but unfortunately, it doesn’t get much attention though it does have a following.  However, the Republicans and the Democrats are never going to let third party candidates be successful.  This would upset their balance of power and they’re going to do whatever it takes to maintain their power and their control. 


Someone made a comment a minute ago that the two parties are one and the same and that the system is rigged.  That’s exactly right.  We are ruled in America by a political elite establishment.  They think they’re better than the ordinary American.  They think they know better than the America people.  If you’re not one of them, you have about zero chance of any success in politics.  They look out for their own and make sure they get their own into the “club” in Washington.  They pick the candidates that they want and even before they get elected the upper echelon from the party takes them to lunch or takes them out to golf and tells them what they’re going to do when they get to Washington, tells them what committee they’ll be on once they’re elected, and how they’re going to vote.  If you buck the trend, if you’re not a good little soldier who falls in line with the establishment, you’re done.  They all play their little game of back and forth.  They trash talk each other on TV, and when it’s all over they go have drinks together and yuck it up at how stupid the American people are.  Does this make us any different from Russia or China?


Why do you think the establishment hates Donald Trump so much?  They know he’s not going to play their little game, and they feel he’s a threat to their power and balance.  Trump is the Luke Skywalker to the establishment Evil Galactic Empire.  They’re seeking to destroy him.  Ross Perot was the same.  Look what they did to him.  Let’s go further back to George Wallace, the last their party candidate to win any Electoral College electors.  Everyone who is a threat to them gets attacked either physically or with smear campaigns.   


Do we need a viable third party in the United States?  Absolutely.  It would be great if we could get some third party candidates, particularly Libertarians, elected to the Congress.  Perhaps it would force some compromise between the parties and get the system working a little bit better.  Is that ever going to happen?  I doubt it unless we can get a candidate like Trump to back quality third party candidates in Congressional elections.  I don’t think it’s highly likely, but it’s nice to dream about.  I want what’s best for America and I want America to be the great place that our Founding Fathers envisioned.  Unfortunately, our constitutional republic has been hijacked by the political elite who are more interested in self preservation and personal gain than doing what’s best for the country.    

10.       Is it time for a new round of campaign finance reform?

Cartwright—Good luck with this one.  Again, the political establishment is not going to let this happen.  They’re in too deep.  They’re selling their votes and peddling their influence left and right to special interest groups for huge sums of money.  It takes lots of money to run a campaign for federal office, whether it’s the House of Representatives, the Senate, or the President. The money has to come from somewhere for these massive and expensive campaigns.  This is partly the reason why it is so difficult to unseat an incumbent.  They usually have a massive war chest of campaign funds to use for advertising to crush most of the opposition.  This also leads to career politicians.  Why get out when you can live the high life in Washington on the taxpayer’s dime?  

Do we need campaign finance reform?  Absolutely.  We need to ban PACs and Super PACs and special interest groups from manipulating the election process.  As the system is today, Chinese communists can funnel massive amounts of money into the election process through various means, predominantly Super PACs.  Do we really want foreign companies, countries, or politicians involved in our election process?  I don’t think so.  It’s not what America and our election system is about.

Another option is to institute term limits for congressmen and senators.  Perhaps by doing this they wouldn’t constantly be on the campaign trail trying to raise money for re-election, particularly during their final term in office.  Use the debate system to let candidates get out their messages or give each candidate the opportunity to buy allocated hours of prime time television on the networks so they can stand and talk about themselves, their campaign platform, what they’re going to do for America, and why they deserve your vote. 

The system wasn’t designed for the political elite and their establishment or the enormously wealthy who can fund their own campaigns.  The Founding Fathers envisioned every day Americans in public service in the Congress and as President.  I think the system has become vastly corrupted from their original intent.

Along those lines, I’ve also long believed that service in the Congress should be like jury duty.  You would have to meet certain qualifications in terms of education, not have a criminal background, and so on.  If you’re number is randomly drawn at the election time, you get to go to Washington as a congressman or senator and serve your country and your state or district.  Then, you have a whole new House of Representatives every two years, and one third of the Senate is new every couple years.  That would eliminate career politicians and the need for campaigning for election and reelection.  Perhaps then the Congress would do the work of the people and not focus on self preservation via reelection.  It’s a fanciful idea but not going to happen.         

11.       Torture or enhanced interrogation?  How far is too far in    dealing with terrorism?


Cartwright—I don’t think the terrorists are interested in torturing anyone.  They’re simply looking to cut off our heads, burn us alive, or cause as much death and destruction at one time as possible.  If you have a high ranking terrorist in custody and you know that he has information on a planned terrorist attack on a major city in America, how far would you be willing to go to get the information to stop the attack and save the lives of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people?  Personally, I say do whatever it takes.  I’m not worried about the “rights” of terrorists or their mental state or their dignity or what other countries think.

12.       How do we more effectively promote the use of alternative energy?

Cartwright—I’m all for the promotion of alternative energies, but this boils down to two things—economics and changing consumer behaviors in the form of incentives or disincentives.  I go back to my fuel surcharge and using part of the funds raised by that to invest in and promote alternative energies.  I think we should go off of the coast of just about every state and construct windmill.  Anyone who lives on the coast knows that those windmills would be turning all the time.  The government never does anything cheap or efficiently, so perhaps they offer up the opportunity to private industry with some sort of subsidy or tax credit funded by the fuel surcharge to build offshore windmills for energy purposes.  Do the same thing for businesses who are willing to build solar fields. 


Wind is a no brainer.  We should be doing anything and everything to harness the power of wind. I think buildings along the coast or in areas prone to high wind should install smaller windmills on their roofs or on their properties; use the energy to power your exterior lights or heat your pools or something.  Solar is intriguing to me as well.  I think most buildings could put solar panels on their roofs.  I’d even like to see window tint film developed with solar panel capabilities incorporated so that high rises and commercial buildings can tint windows with solar power generating capabilities.  Things like this will only help in the long run.


As I said earlier, reducing the use of fossil fuels for transportation is going to take a disincentive for drivers to continue filling up with cars.  A fuel surcharge or significant increase in the price of gasoline is the only way to change this.  Some consumers will go buy a more fuel efficient car or an electric hybrid or a fully electric car.  That’s great.  The electric it takes to run that car has to come from someplace.  Perhaps it’s coming from coal fired power plants or nuclear plants.  I don’t know, but the transition to electric cars en masse would require additional power consumption and put additional strain on power grids.  We need to be ready for that so perhaps this is where additional wind and solar power come into play. 


At the individual level, we need to disincentivize consumption of fossil fuels, predominantly gasoline for transportation purposes, and incentivize investment in alternative energies via tax credits and bigger tax breaks for buying electric cars or putting wind or solar power generating capabilities on your home or property.          

13.       Should the United States return to the gold standard or a similar standard?

Cartwright—Great concept, but this is not going to happen. It would be nearly impossible to return to the gold standard at this point without severely disrupting financial markets.  The dollar is strong right now against other currencies and inflation is relatively low.  Go back to World War I.  The US had double digit inflation for a couple years.  Same thing during World War II.  It’s nice to say that the gold standard would eliminate inflation but that’s not the case.  Economic history over the last hundred years or so doesn’t bear that out here. 


I like the idea of having gold in Fort Knox and knowing that the dollar is backed by something other than the full faith and credit of the federal government but it’s not practical and never has been practical.  The gold standard didn’t stop us from getting in two world wars, a war in Korea, and a war in Vietnam.  It didn’t stop the federal government spending more and more.  It didn’t stop entitlement programs and the expanding welfare or entitlement state. 


What we need to focus on is the full faith and credit of the federal government.  We need to start balancing the federal budget, paying off the national debt, and reforming entitlement programmes so that the unfunded liabilities don’t bankrupt us in the next couple decades.  Some of these reforms take massive political action, which isn’t going to be easy.  We need to ensure we have a vibrant, competitive economy that’s producing jobs so that anyone who wants to work can work.  Having people working solves a lot of problems in America. 


When it comes to the Federal Reserve, we need to let the FOMC continue to do its job in seeking maximum sustainable employment and price stability.  I think they’ve done a good job for the most part if you look at their history.  It’s a tough balancing act that they have.  Where I think they could make some changes is to increase the reserve requirements of banks.  This requires banks to retain more of their deposits and reduces their lending capabilities which force them to make more judicious decisions in the lending process.  The financial crisis of 2008 could have been avoided had the reserve requirements been higher.  Higher reserves are not a bad thing financially for the banks but it is very unpopular as it limits their lending ability.  The higher reserve requirements take money out of circulation and curbs inflation.  On net, I think higher reserve requirements contribute to a more financially sound banking system which is crucial to having a sound economy.    

14.       The last two presidential elections were rife with known voter fraud.  How do we ensure that our elections remain open, free, and fair?

Cartwright—The instances of voter fraud in the last couple of elections is indisputable.  We had the whole Dallas Cowboys football vote in Ohio, even though I don’t think any of them were residents of Ohio.  Half of the Walt Disney character roster voted.  We have precincts where move votes were cast than there were registered voters.  And I was here in central Florida for the 2012 election.  We had a judge keep the polls open past established hours so that people could vote.  They were still voting the next day and the election was over.  All of this was fraud, but no has seemed to have an interest in investigating it and prosecuting the perpetrators. 


The solutions to stopping voter fraud are very simple and my colleagues here have hit on some of them. 


First, you should have to show a valid government issued photo ID to be able to vote AND you should have to be able to prove your residency in the precinct.  There should be no registering by mail or on the internet.  The whole argument against showing photo identification is an implicit endorsement of voter fraud.  Anyone who is eligible to vote in America can get photo identification. You can’t open a bank account or a utility account without a photo ID.  In fact, you can’t do much of anything without photo ID anymore, so this is just a copout for those who want to be able to rig elections by stuffing the ballot boxes.  If you’re not able to register in person, perhaps we can even send the sheriff, a couple deputies, and a representative from the election commission to your house to verify your identity, fill out the paperwork, and get you registered to vote.  


Second, the absentee ballots should either be eliminated or issued only under the most extenuating of circumstances and with ample proof of the reason for needing the absentee ballot.  We all know when Election Day is.  Be prepared to go vote on Election Day unless you’re serving our country overseas or in the hospital.  There’s no excuse for not being able to vote on Election Day.  The polls are open enough hours that anyone can vote.  When I was a kid, everything was pretty much closed on Election Day.  Maybe we need to go back to that. 


Third, let’s talk about the process of voting on Election Day.  We need police presence at every polling station so there is no voter intimidation.  Once you get inside, you must show a government issued photo ID AND your voter registration card.  Once your name is matched to the log of eligible voters and they have ensured you didn’t vote by absentee ballot, you get to dip your finger in the ink and put your fingerprint next to your same and signature in the register.  The ink will wear off in a couple of days and should prohibit anyone from coming back to vote again.  Once you’ve done all this, you get to vote. 


These simple procedures should curtail voter fraud immensely.  No system is foolproof, but these measures should help keep our elections fair.  Any objections to these simple measures can only be deemed subversive.  If you are an honest person and you’re eligible to vote, you should have no problems with this.   

15.       Do drones present a threat to individuals’ privacy and security?

Cartwright—The answer to the question is an unequivocal, “Yes.”  I love the idea of having drones used for police surveillance on criminals.  Hell, I even like having them armed to catch people who speed or run red lights and give them a ticket.  I certainly don’t favor drones in the hands of private citizens who want to invade their neighbors’ privacy.  This is one thing that needs to be stopped quickly and resolutely.  Local governments need to ban these just like they banned laser pointers.  No good will come from people having drones.  Ban them now. 

16.       Should members of the Congress be allowed to gain financially from their positions?  What should we do about this, if anything?

Cartwright-No, politicians should not be allowed to profit from public service, but the reality is that they do.  The statistics on the wealth in the Congress is staggering.  The median net worth is over $1 million.  You have people in the Congress worth $400-$500 million dollars, and you have only a handful who are of very modest net worth.  The reality is that the Congress is full of a bunch of high net worth individuals making decisions that benefit themselves more than anyone.  They’re out of touch with every day Americans, and they can’t relate to every day Americans from their ivory towers in the insulated world of Washington, D.C.


I’m sure the people in the Congress are all a bunch of honest, hardworking, compassionate, decent people who have the best interests of their constituents and the country at heart.  And did I mention they’re probably as honest as the day is long?  They just happen to be wealthy from their previous careers as lawyers for the most part.  And their increase in net worth while they are in the Congress is just coincidence; it’s just dumb luck because their holdings are all in blind trusts and being managed by professional money managers.  They just happen to be rich already, and their money is really working for them.  Their increase in net worth has nothing to do with their public service.


Qu'ils mangent de la brioche!  

17.       Do video games contribute to youth violence?

Cartwright—I’m not sure that video games directly cause youth violence, but I think it may bring out aggression and exacerbate mental disorders in some people.  Youth that go and do something violent already have something wrong with them.  They don’t sit and play a video game and then decide to have a sandwich before carjacking someone.  Those who do something violent are either influenced by their environments or they have a screw loose somewhere along the line.

I think this does bring up a bigger point that is often overlooked.  How do we get help for the youth who are prone to violence due to the environments in which they are raised or due to some mental disorders.  Reducing violence in America is a tall task.  Kids these days may have to contend with gangs in some cities or broken homes and neighborhoods which can lead to violence.  Some kids just need mental counseling or meds to keep them in order.  Sadly, in the cases of mental disorder, what recourse do we as citizens have for getting someone help.  Teachers or co-workers of troubled youth may observe behaviors or sense something wrong, but they have little recourse to deal with this.  They have little options for getting someone help.

I go back to my earlier comments about letting the military run the school system.  I think we’d see a precipitous drop in youth violence if the military is running the school system and bringing respect, manners, and structure in the lives of kids and teens.  

18.       Federal and state governments are rife with fraud and waste.  How do we combat this?  Is there any way to stop this?
Cartwright—My friend here is exactly right that we need to shrink the size and scope of the federal government, and for that matter, all levels of government.  There was a bit of an uproar a couple years back when you had the picture of the guy from the GSA sitting in a bathtub at some Las Vegas Hotel; there were some resignation and righteous indignation from the left and the right, but at the end of the day, a few top people were sacrificed and nothing more happened.  The federal government is rife with wasteful and fraudulent spending just like this and everyone knows it but no one has the willpower to tackle the issue.  Billions of dollars are wasted with Social Security and Medicare fraud each year, but we let it happen and we will continue to let it happen.
I think the solution lies in part with tax reform.  I’ve been an advocate of ditching the current tax code for a long time and replacing it with something like the fair tax or a flat tax.  Make it so that everyone can fill out their taxes on a postcard and mail it to the IRS each year with their check.  Then, you take the IRS agents and have them start auditing each and every department of the federal government for fraud and waste.  In addition, every member of the federal government would get audited each year, just to keep them all honest and to make sure there’s no graft or profiting from public service.  The auditors at the IRS are great people; they’re good at their jobs.  I don’t want to get rid of them; I want to keep them working for the people.  I want them to ensure that the people’s taxes are being put to good use and not squandered.  
The politicians seem to forget that the federal government has no money of its own; all the revenue that the federal government has is derived from the people.  The politicians don’t care if the money is squandered; it’s not their money.  I bet the Congress would have a different opinion about their spending bills if the money was coming out of their pockets.  I wonder if some of the members of the Congress who are worth two, three, four hundred million dollars would approve of spending their personal resources in such a wasteful manner.  I bet they don’t run their businesses like that; I’m sure they keep a pretty tight rein on the purse strings of the companies.
19.       Is year round education good for student learning?

Cartwright—The more we can keep the kids in school, the better off we all are. If they’re in school, they’re not out roaming the streets getting into trouble or mischief.  I would think most parents would like this.  Who takes care of the kids in the summer while the parents are working? 


Just keeping kids in school isn’t enough.  We need to make sure they’re getting a first rate education while they’re in school.  We need to go back to grouping kids in classes based on aptitudes so they can learn at their own level and pace instead of teaching to the lowest aptitude in the room.  We need to have great educators in the classrooms; get the best and the brightest to teach the kids.  Let’s give college kids an incentive to become teachers, and make sure we give the best of the best teachers already in classrooms an incentive to stay.  Let’s get the federal government out of the way of teachers and administrators and let education be run at the local level…of course, notwithstanding my earlier comments to put the military in charge of school administration.  We need to be doing whatever it takes to prepare future generations for the competitive global economy.      

20.       Should unemployment and welfare benefits be tied to community service?


Cartwright—Absolutely!  Why should we let people on welfare or unemployment sit around all day watching Netflix, playing video games, going to the gym, having sex, smoking dope, and doing nothing to contribute to society in a meaningful way?  These people are fully able to work, but many of them are just flat out lazy.  It’s become a lifestyle for them.  Why work when someone is willing to pay you to sit around and do nothing? 


Obviously, we need to address the bigger issue of welfare reform in this country.  It’s nothing more than a modern day plantation system where welfare recipients are slaves to the plantation overseer, Uncle Sam.  They rely on Uncle Sam for every aspect of their existence.  Sadly, it’s become generational, much like on the plantation.  Successive generations are born into it and never escape.  This needs to stop.  There clearly needs to be limits on the amount of time you can receive welfare benefits, that is unless you’re providing forty hour or more per week in community service.  Let’s set up a system that tells the welfare or unemployment recipient where to go to do the community service each week.  If they don’t turn in their timecard with forty hours of work verified, they don’t get the benefits.  They can work the food kitchen or the homeless shelters.  They can pick up trash along the roads.  There are plenty of community improvement projects that need done in communities throughout America.  They can help public works fill potholes in the roads if they need to.


And how about this?  If we’re going to build a wall across our southern border, let’s round up all the illegals and the people on welfare and unemployment and ship them down there to build it in exchange for their benefits while they’re working on the border wall.  If they refuse, their benefits are cut off immediately. 


These people are just sitting around and doing nothing. Let’s put them to work.  If they don’t like the work, they can find another job.  These people have been sucking off the teat of the taxpayers for far too long.  I don’t mind helping people get back on their feet or helping those who are incapacitated and can’t work, but it makes me sick to think that my hard-earned tax dollars are going to fund habitually lazy leeches of society.
21.       Now that same sex marriage has been legalized, is it time to legalize polygamy?
Cartwright—Since we’ve legalized gay marriage, it’s only fitting that we legalize polygamy which is another form of marriage.  At this point, only a hypocrite or a bigot would oppose legalizing polygamy. 
22.       Should open carry with appropriate background checks and licensing be permitted in all 50 states as a federal regulation?
Cartwright—I do believe that we should have open carry in each and every state for those individuals who have obtained an open carry permit.  This would be like a concealed weapon permit which requires classes and target practice in addition to substantial background checks.  If you can pass all of this, I’m all for it.  I think this would seriously reduce a lot of crimes in America.  Who’s going to walk into the liquor store and rob it if there’s ten people walking around with firearms on their hips?  Who’s going to walk into a restaurant or theater and start shooting if other people have guns?  Hell, I think this is a great solution to airline security as well.  Give every passenger who gets on the plane a pistol and have them turn it back in when they get off the plane.  How many hijackings do you think there would be if all the passengers were equally armed? 
I’m all for open carry all across America so long as there is a rigorous permitting process to make sure that felons, criminals, or individuals with mental disorders don’t get permits.  Ever notice how much crime and gun violence is committed in places with tough gun control laws?  How did gun control work out for Paris?  Bet things would have ended differently had some of the people had guns.  How about crime in places like Boston, Buffalo, and Los Angeles which all have tough gun control laws?  Not places that I would want to live or visit for that matter given their crime rates.    


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