Transcript of Mystery Novelist Digger Cartwright’s Q&A Session at Thinking Outside the Boxe’s 10th Annual Symposium

 

The office of Digger Cartwright released the transcripts of his opening statement and his responses to the question and answer session from Thinking Outside the Boxe’s 10th Annual Symposium held in Orlando from December 26-31, 2013.  The symposium focused on a variety of topics such as domestic politics, recent economic conditions and the outlook for the coming year, social issues, etc.

 

Mr. Cartwright’s opening statement was as follows:

 

“It’s a pleasure to be here today for this most memorable occasion as we celebrate the 10th Annual Thinking Outside the Boxe Symposium.  It’s a humble honor to be invited to this event to share my thoughts and my perspective on the world’s problems and issues that we’re facing here in America.  Over the years I have found the events hosted by Thinking Outside the Boxe to be insightful and refreshing as individuals from all walks of life join together for conversation, discussion, and debate about ways to make our nation stronger, more prosperous, and more secure.  And no matter how our opinions may differ, and often times they differ greatly, we meet not in any adversarial or politically partisan manner but rather we come together in the spirit of our great American ideals.

 

It is not just those gathered here at this symposium or the champagne summits who share a commitment to the principle that we the people form the basis of our government and that we the people, regardless of backgrounds, form the foundation of our constitutional republic.  This is a belief shared by many millions of Americans throughout our great nation who go to work each day, who raise a family, who participate in their communities but who don’t have the opportunity to participate in events such as this.  These Americans feel they no longer have a voice in the politics of America.  They feel left out of the process.  They feel they cannot make a difference.  They feel that the government is no longer of the people, by the people, and for the people but rather the government is of the special interests and political elite, by the special interests and political elite, and for the special interests and political elite.  They feel increasingly isolated in their lives from the Washington bureaucracy and the political elites that have become detached from the reality of the world outside of Washington, DC and can no longer relate to the wants, needs, interests, concerns, and plights of the American taxpayers and their families.

 

This isolation and detachment, the growing rift between the people and the political elites, the special interests, and the bureaucracy, pose a great threat to the long-term stability of our nation.  Our Founding Fathers rightly feared an unchecked and powerful federal government.  They feared it would erode the freedoms they had fought so hard to secure for our nation, and they feared its unchecked power and expansion would lead to the very tyranny from which they had fought to free our nation. We are seeing the effects of an expanding federal government that has gradually been increasing its power and control over the lives of the American people all under the guise that the politicians know what’s best for the people and that they know better than the people.  The politicians no longer believe they work for we the people.  They increasingly believe that we the people work for them.  And in a nation where half the people pay the taxes to fund the government and care for the other half of the people, the American taxpayer does, in fact, work for Uncle Sam.  Those who are dependent upon the federal government are slaves to Uncle Sam just as those who work and pay taxes are increasingly slaves to Uncle Sam as well.

 

I have spoken at length in the past about the crossroads at which we find ourselves as a nation.  We cannot survive as a nation where half are enslaved to work to fund the government and half are enslaved to receive the handout from the government.  We cannot survive as a nation where the government becomes more and more isolated from the people and where the people become more and more like subjects.  There is an old saying that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

 

To those who feel increasingly less relevant in the political process and who feel they can’t influence the process, I would encourage you to become more engaged.  Write letters.  Make phone calls.  Educate yourselves about the candidates then vote for the best person for the job.  Vote not for the political party, but vote for the person who you feel can make a difference.  Let your voices be heard.  Real and meaningful change will not come easily and may not come overnight, but a groundswell of public engagement in the political process will show that we the people still have voices and that we the people still determine our future as a nation.  To those who still doubt they can make a difference, I would say only that silence will ensure that you don’t make a difference.  Silence will allow the federal government to expand its power and control and destroy the foundation upon which our nation was build.  Silence empowers tyrants.

 

To those here today and at this week’s events, it is up to us to ensure that the dialogues and conversations and discussions and debates continue even after the conclusion of this symposium.  It is up to us to speak up for those who have no voice or who are afraid of being heard.  It is up to us to get more people engaged in our efforts.  None of us here have all the answers nor do we necessarily have the right answers, but through collective efforts among ourselves and in conjunction with our fellow Americans we can offer up a host of solutions, alternatives, and new perspectives.  Together we can address and solve the problems that weaken our nation and our society.  Divided we ensure that the solutions to the problems are left in the hands of would-be tyrants seeking self-preservation in Washington.  Putting aside political differences and working together we move America forward not for one class but for all the citizens of our great nation.  Allowing political philosophies to divide us we ensure that the American people remain enslaved to Washington, the political elites, the special interests, and the bureaucracy.

 

Americans have always come together in times of crises.  During the crises in our history, we have put aside that which divided us and concentrated on that which united us.  Let us strive to focus on that which unites us as a great nation and address our problems together.  Let us respect differing opinions and perspectives and seek compromise rather than imposing our individual will on others.  Our efforts all begin by talking to one another, listening to one another, and trying to understand one another.  So let the talking begin.

 

I hope that on this 10th anniversary of the Thinking Outside the Boxe symposium the talking that begins today will be the start of a new decade of continued efforts and that the talking will continue for years to come.  I hope that what we do and say here is not lost on those in attendance or those who follow Thinking Outside the Boxe.  I hope that in some way our efforts here make a positive difference.  Thank you again to our hosts for this event.  I look forward to our discussions.”

 

The transcript of Mr. Cartwright’s responses in the question and answer session follows.

 

1. How can the crisis of violence in our schools be solved?

 

Turn over administration of the schools to the military.  It’s real simple.  You have every school administered by the United States military with MPs walking around with machine guns to keep order and discipline.  You make the kids say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and you make sure there are consequences for the kids who cause problems at school.  You separate the kids into classes based on aptitude and let the teachers teach to the same common denominator of scholastic aptitude rather than dumbing down the classes for all the kids and teaching to the lowest common denominator.  You make the kids exercise every day with gym class to help address the growing childhood obesity epidemic.  I would wager we’d see a precipitous decline in bullying and school violence if you have the military there every day and instill these school kids with a sense of responsibility, structure, discipline, and a bit of patriotism.  Is any kid really going to go up against the military?  If they do, it certainly won’t be as damaging as if you don’t have the military in the schools.

 

2. Should the internet be regulated more strictly?  How can this happen?

 

What are we regulating?  Free speech?  The free exchange of ideas and information?  Unless you want to have censors like China, I don’t think it’s possible to regulate the internet and the flow of information.  Users just need to be aware that not everything on the internet is true and need to make sure that they verify information, people, and businesses they find on the internet.

 

When people want to talk about regulating the internet and controlling the internet, I like to remind them what a powerful force for change this has been.  It has opened up markets throughout the world for business.  People here in central Florida can do business with manufacturers in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.  In many cases it has brought down the prices of goods and services.  And let’s not forget the convenience factor.  Students don’t have to go to the library to research information.  They have access to millions of resources at their fingertips.  Consumers don’t have to call businesses to send them a catalog.  They can access that information on a website.

 

The internet has truly revolutionized the world, the way we interact, and business.  To regulate it would be to do a great disservice to consumers and businesses.  The only reason I can see that anyone would want to regulate the internet would be to chip away at personal liberties, freedom, and access to information.  From there, it’s not far from progressing to a full censorship as part of a Nazi, fascist, communist state.  Leave the internet alone with my previously mentioned caveats to users.

 

 

3. Welfare, food stamps, and Wic are all programs that need reformed.  How can we do it?  Is welfare drug testing working? Or is it a waste of taxpayers’s dollars?

 

Drug test all recipients of these programmes.  Utah announced a couple months ago that it saved over $350,000 in the first year that it required drug testing for welfare recipients.  Second, let’s have the IRS audit the welfare, food stamp, and WIC programmes.  These programmes are rife with fraud and waste.  I know of instances where foreign college students here in Orlando are getting food stamps.  Really?  Why are we giving benefits to foreigners and able bodied college students at that?  This is ridiculous!  The system is clearly broken and needs to be cleaned up.  The welfare progamme was never intended to be a generational programme.  And what happened to Bill Clinton’s welfare to work programme?  Guess that went by the wayside.  We need to get back to some basics here.  If you’re down on your luck and you need help, I’m all for that.  But I’m not for supporting people because they’re too lazy to work or because they have five kids by five different people.  Let’s give people a hand up and not a hand out.  Let’s stick to a strict term limit for welfare and foods stamps of say six months.  If you can’t find a job in six months, you’ve got a problem.  And instead of rewarding people for working the system by having more kids, let’s penalize them.  If you can’t feed the kids you’ve got, why would you have more?

 

You know what the bigger problem is?  People are lazy and have no sense of pride.  They have no sense of self-worth.  Let’s encourage them to get a job and provide for themselves and their families.  Welfare isn’t something that you should want to be on; it should be something you’re on when you’ve encountered a bump along the road in life.  You need help; we’ll help.  You need a solution; get a job.  We need to make sure we have a strong, vibrant economy where if you want to work you can find work.  We need to make sure that we remain competitive in the world economy so that we can create jobs.

 

And then we have the politicians who want to create dependency by giving handouts to constituents.  They’re effectively buying votes.  So, they create this culture of dependency to keep a certain voting base and in the process they keep people down.  They get them in the system, get their handouts, and then they never get out.  And why go to work for minimum wage when you can sit at home doing nothing and get a welfare check, housing assistance, a free phone, food stamps, and so on?

 

I know a lot of people don’t want to end the welfare system as it is.  So how about this solution?  Let’s round up all the people getting welfare and food stamps and relocate them to Detroit.  There are plenty of run down and abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit.  In exchange for their welfare check and food stamps, they get to work together to rebuild the run down communities in the Detroit area.  And maybe we put these people to work on building roads, cleaning up communities, and guarding the border.  Rather than having these people sitting around not contributing, let’s make them earn their keep.  If they don’t want to do that, they can leave the program and get a job or join the military.  Of course, wait a minute here…the military won’t accept lazy, high, or strung out people.

 

4. How can employers maintain standards of customer service? Higher wages? Stricter rules?

 

It’s really about creating a corporate culture around customer service and creating an environment where the employees are happy and want to come to work.  A happy employee provides good customer service.  An unhappy employee provides poor customer service.  If your corporate culture is bad and you pile on stricter rules, you just alienate the employees and customer service spirals out of control as it gets sucked down the drain.  I personally believe that if you take care of your employees then they will take care of you and your business.  I’ve found that some of the best customer service comes from small businesses.  They have a very family oriented environment with the employees.  The bigger the organization gets the more corporate bullshit that gets involved; employees are less happy and this manifests in lower standards of customer service.

 

I think some big businesses don’t really care about customer service.  They figure if you don’t like it someone else will take your place as a customer.  To me, this is like the greater fool theory.  Eventually, you run out of fools and you have to face the music.  Small businesses are much more accommodating, in general.  The dollar you spend in their store or their restaurant or their office means a lot more to them and their survival than the dollar you spend in the big box retailer.

 

So how do you get the employees to give customers great service?  How do you create that corporate culture?  I think part of it is money.  People are motivated by money.  An honest wage for an honest day’s work is a great motto to live by as a business owner.  But also give them incentives.  Maybe there are bonuses and profit sharing plans and insurance benefits.  Those all add up to showing you care about the workers.  No one wants to work in a place where they don’t feel like they’re appreciated or they feel like they’re just expendable.  But I think there’s more to it than just money.  Employees like recognition as well.  They like a sense of family to some degree.  If an employee needs an afternoon off to go to the doctor or is going to run late because they have an event at their kid’s school, let them do what they have to do.  Don’t jerk them around about the time.  Show some concern for your employees.  Treat them like humans.  Treat them like you would want to be treated.  Be fair but don’t let them walk all over you.  Just take care of your employees and let them take care of you.

 

Of course, you’ve got to be willing to make some tough choices when it comes to employees.  You can’t be afraid to fire people.  Not every employee is good for the organization, and sometimes someone needs to be let go for the best of the organization.  You’ve got to do it.  It’s not easy.  It’s not pleasant, but sometimes you have to do it.  You can’t manage to the fear that you may be sued or taken to a labor board or something.  If Joe’s guilty of chronic absenteeism for no good reason or he’s not doing his job, document it and fire him.  Set a precedent.  That sends a message to the other employees that failure has consequences but success has rewards.

 

5. Conflicting laws in states can cause problems.  Should the federal government become involved and pass blanket laws?

 

No.  Any powers not expressly granted to the federal government by the United States Constitution are deemed to be rights or powers of the states.  If one state wants to ban smoking in public places but another one doesn’t, it’s not up to the federal government to make a blanket law or get involved.  The only caveat being unless the state law violates the Constitution or federal laws.  Laws vary from state to state.  If the federal government is standardizing laws throughout the nation doesn’t that effectively emasculate the states?  I don’t like the idea of the federal government harmonizing laws.  Why should I be bound by the laws of California if I live in Florida?  Laws in states are made by the elected legislators.  The people of Florida didn’t elect the people in California, so why should they control our laws in a roundabout way?

 

Call me cynical, but I see this simply as a way for the federal government to chip away at our freedoms and the rights guaranteed us by the Constitution.  Here’s how I see it playing out.  Let’s say California passes a ban on owning ammunition and then a bunch of blue states follow.  The federal government passes a blanket law to ban private ownership of ammunition in every state.  So, we didn’t have any say in the matter here in Florida.  The laws would be determined by a handful of heavily populated states with liberal agendas and they would impose their liberal agendas on everyone else.  I don’t like it.  We’d be one click away from communism and direct rule by the political elites in Washington.

 

Keep the federal government out of the states’ business!

 

6. Should there be an age limit on driving?

 

I think the entire system of issuing driving privileges needs reformed.  Let’s keep in mind that driving is a privilege, not a right.  I’m interpreting the question as placing an age limit on driving such that when you reach a certain age you must surrender your driver’s license.  I don’t necessarily think elderly people on the road is an overwhelming part of the problem.  In fact, people over the age of 65 account for the lowest percentage of drivers in all accidents.  Young people account for a much higher percentage.  There are way too many people driving on the roads who don’t need to be driving.  This isn’t just people who are too young and too immature to comprehend the responsibility of driving a motor vehicle.  These are people who don’t have licenses or have had their licenses revoked or people who are prone to cause problems for other drivers.  If someone has maxed out the points on their license, why should they have a right to drive?  If you’ve maxed out the points, doesn’t that say that you don’t have regard for traffic laws and thus don’t have regard for the safety of others on the highway?  There are too many people driving on the roads for law enforcement to enforce the traffic laws.  So, what do we do?  Let’s implement traffic cameras at stop lights and accident prone intersections.  Let’s require more stringent training for young people before they are able to obtain a driver’s license.  Let’s require periodic written and driving tests for all drivers.

 

How can we solve this problem and lessen the cost of traffic accidents?  Every traffic accident impacts drivers’ insurance rates whether you were in the accident or not.  If you live in an area where there are a lot of accidents, you pay higher insurance rates whether you have a good driving record or not.  And of course, there’s the cost of human lives when you have fatal accidents.  I have long said that there are too many drivers on the roadways.  How do we lessen the number of drivers on the roads?  We need substantially higher gas prices.  As the cost of gasoline increases, the usage of automobiles decreases.  Let’s jack up the federal gas tax to three or four dollars per gallon and use that money exclusively to invest in infrastructure projects, namely public transportation projects such as high speed rail, monorail systems, and improved mass transit.  But we can’t just do this for the big cities.  We need to expand this so that people from all over the country have access to high speed rail.  Let say you live in rural Florida and want to go to Washington, DC and the closest high speed rail depot is forty miles away.  You don’t want to drive because gas prices are so high, so you may opt for a bus ticket or a commuter rail to get you to the city and the high speed rail.  This improvement in mass transit will come if we have a substantial rise in gasoline prices.  When gas prices spiked back in 2008, mass transit ridership throughout the nation increased exponentially.  There’s a very clear and simple relationship here.  As gas prices rise, usage declines.  As gas prices rise and usage declines, we have fewer drivers on the roads leading to fewer accidents, lower insurance rates, and less pollution in the environment, ceteris paribus.  Higher gas prices are not very palatable to most people, but there are significant benefits to it.

 

7. Is society too consumed with “political correctness”?

 

Absolutely.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  People need to get thicker skin and get over this political correctness thing.  This is part of the wussification of America.  You can’t call someone fat or obese because it may hurt their feelings.  We have to be more sensitive to that.  This is ridiculous.  If they don’t want to be called fat, lose some weight.  You can’t say someone is short or a midget, because it may offend them.  I really think the liberals in this country, and they’re the ones pushing this political correctness stuff, have this confused with bullying.  If you’re picking on someone and calling them fat just to be mean or shorty or stumpy or string bean or retard or whatever, that’s unacceptable.  I don’t condone bullying.  But simply saying the person who came into the office looking for you was short, fat, and black and didn’t leave a name isn’t bullying; it’s factual information.  If I want to say I have a problem with fat or obese people and write an article about it, I have a right to say that.  If you don’t like it, get over it.  The whole political correctness thing has gone way to far; it’s almost as if those promoting it are trying to infringe on the first amendment.

 

8. We don’t have the resources, man power or knowledge that the big drug cartels have.  Can we ever stop it?  What can we do about the drug trade?

 

Legalize drugs, regulate and tax the industry, and you’re resolved the problem.  Unless we want to have the military fight the drug cartels and totally wipe them out, we’re not going to stop the drug trade.  The war on drugs that we’ve had in America for the last forty or fifty years has been a vast failure.  We haven’t stopped it.  In fact, it’s gotten worse.  This problem isn’t going away.  Our prisons are overcrowded with people in there on drug charges.  Do we really need this?

 

Let’s consider this.  We’ve got a small time distributor in prison for thirty years at a cost of over $50,000 per year to take care of him.  That’s going to cost the taxpayers $1.5 million to house and care for him on these drug charges.  Has it stopped the drug trade?  No.  Is it going to stop the drug trade?  No.  Is it worth $1.5 million to make a statement?  No.  We’re just throwing good money after bad.

 

The black market for illegal drugs is hundreds of billions of dollars annually.  I’ve seen estimates that the market could be as big as $1 trillion annually worldwide.  Why not get some tax revenue from this?  We need to shore up social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and now fund Obamacare?  Do it off the tax revenues raised by legalizing drugs.  And it’s not just about money.  We divert resources away from the fight against drugs towards other areas that need funding.  Crime associated with the illegal drug trade should fall if it’s not illegal anymore and the use is regulated.

 

I’m not for the use of drugs, and I certainly don’t condone it.  But the reality is that we’re not going to stop it.  Unless we let the military fight this war, nothing is going to change.  The cartels are going to keep doing their thing and will continue to get stronger.

 

9. Don’t you think the average American citizen is tired of politics?

 

Undoubtedly.  Hell, I’m sick of politics.  It’s a terrible little game that gets played with the political elite in this country and all the average American citizens are just pawns getting screwed in the process.  I wouldn’t change our system, our constitutional republic, for anything else in the world.  Yes, we have our problems, but it’s the best game in town when you compare it to socialist states or communist states or other democracies.

 

It’s very important to distinguish between the American people and the American taxpayers.  They’re two very different things.  Those Americans who live off the government dole really don’t care about politics or follow politics.  As long as they’re getting their handouts, they’re fat and happy.  If you’re a taxpayer and you’re paying into the system to take care of the people who don’t work or pay taxes, and I’m not talking about people on Social Security, you probably have more interest in what’s happening politically.  It just boils down to the fact that taxpayers are sick and tired of the bickering in Washington, the gridlock, and the never-ending fleecing of the American taxpayers.  Doing what’s best for the American people and being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be that hard.  Listen and don’t get me wrong.  Both parties are to blame for this, and the media is to blame for stoking the fires and trying to promote their own agendas.  They get viewers foaming at the mouths over their biased reports and never give the full story and all the facts and that just makes matters worse.

 

I think one of the biggest problems is that we have career politicians in Washington and we have these political machines that prevent good candidates from getting elected.  So, they’ve created a certain culture of politicians that are the face of Washington.  After all, the government is run by staffers and bureaucrats.  The elected officials are just the faces that give the people the appearance that they have a say in government.

 

I think the average person in America sees that we have problems in this country and wants them solved.  A waterline breaks on your street and public works is out to fix it pretty quick.  But that’s not the case with the Congress.  It would take the Congress years to get that fixed.  They’d have to have hearings and get some agency to do a study then deliberate it and put some additional riders on the bill to fix it and deliberate it some more and so on and so on.  The American people don’t like that.  They see a problem and they want it fixed.  Yes, the Congress has to deal with bigger problems than a waterline but solving the problem shouldn’t be that hard.  We need tax reform.  Get everyone together and come up with a solution.  Oh, but wait a minute…there’s special interest groups and lobbyists that muddy the waters.  Imagine if there were special interest groups and lobbyists that interfered with getting the waterline fixed.  And so, it just goes on and on and the real problems never do get fixed.  They just patch them from one election to another just enough to get by and make it look like they’re doing something.

 

  1. 10.    Is there a country that has a national health programme that actually works efficiently?

 

No.  Any national run health programme suffers from vast inefficiencies and healthcare rationing.  The National Health Service in Great Britain has long been plagued by problems like lack of doctors and long wait times to see a doctor.  What happened?  People got tired and started finding private insurors and private doctors.  Did it cost more?  Yes.  Did they get better treatment?  Yes.  Was it more efficient for the patients?  Yes.  Take a look at Canada as another example.  If you’re old and you get sick, you’re not going to get the same level of treatment and care as someone half your age.  They figure you’ve lived long enough, so why bother spending money to keep you alive a few more years.  So, the death panels decide who lives and dies.  This isn’t speculation; this is fact.  I can point to examples of personal friends from Canada who relied on the system and they’re dead.  Is this what we deserve here in America?  No, but it’s what we’ve got now with Obamacare.

 

  1. 11.    How can we stop the bickering between the Democratic and Republican parties?  Would a strong 3rd party help or hinder getting things done in Washington?

 

Political extremists have hijacked both parties.  They’re too consumed with satisfying extremists when it comes to abortion or environmental issues or socialist policies or welfare to stop bickering.  There’s also too much money involved in politics from lobbyists and special interest groups.  Moderates have been wiped out in both parties.  The Democrats and Republicans aren’t going to allow any third party to get strong enough to be an actual threat to their hold on power.  George Wallace was the last real contender as a third party candidate.  Ross Perot had some great ideas and was gaining momentum then the parties collaborated to force him out of the race.  There’s been nothing since then, and I don’t think we’ll ever see a viable third party candidate in the future.  As I said, there’s too much money at stake here.  No third party candidate can raise what the Democrats and Republicans can raise.  Would a third party stop the bickering?  No.  Democrats and Republicans are going to bicker until the end of time.  Would a third party bring some semblance of order and balance in the Washington?  Yes.  Would more get done?  Probably.  Would America be better off?  In all likelihood, yes.

 

I do think it would be good to have a third party in the Congress.  Let’s take the Senate, for example.  There are 100 senators.  Let’s say the Republicans have 40 seats and the Democrats have 40 seats and the third party has 20 seats.  You effectively force real compromise to try to get the votes from the third party that you need to get legislation passed.  The House of Commons right now has the Tory party forming a government with the Liberal Democrats, strange bedfellows, but it’s working for them.  I think they’re functioning better now than they have in years.  That’s just my opinion as an outsider looking in and having followed their politics for decades now.  Would it hurt to have strong third party members of the Congress?  No.  Would more get done for the taxpayers and the people of America?  Yes.  Is it going to happen?  No.

 

  1. 12.    Should we raise the minimum wage?

 

No.  Personally, I feel businesses should pay their workers a good, decent, livable wage.  I support an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.  Not all businesses feel that way.  And for a lot of businesses it’s a matter of economics.  They simply can’t afford more than minimum wage and still generate a profit.  Businesses aren’t non-profits.  As part of a capitalist system, they’re in it to make money for the owners or shareholders.  If they’re offering minimum wage, you don’t have to work for them.  And in the free markets, the market will set the level of wages to attract qualified talent for a business.  If you can’t attract good workers at minimum wage to profitably run the business, you’ll have to pay a higher wage.  That’s simple economics.

 

You know, I find the whole debate about minimum wage hypocritical.  We’ve got servers in restaurants working for $2.15 an hour or whatever the rate is now and relying on tips.  How can we justify this even if they are working for tips?  I’m just now comfortable with having a minimum wage but making exceptions for people who work for tips.  If we’re going to have a minimum wage, everyone should be subject to it.  However, if we’re going to allow some to abide by the minimum wage but not others, then why don’t we still have gas station attendants or ushers in theaters?  Thank the minimum wage.

 

  1. 13.    Healthcare is very important.  What would be a way to get American’s covered without penalizing them for not having insurance or forcing enrollment in government run systems?

 

I don’t think anyone has a problem with paying something for their healthcare.  People just don’t want to be raked across the coals when it comes to paying for healthcare.  Competition is the best way to drive down prices.  If insurers could compete across state lines, would premiums drop?  Yes.  If the federal government offered its own coverage that competed with private insurers as an insurer of last resort, would premiums drop?  In all likelihood, yes.

 

Why are healthcare costs so high?  Hospitals and doctors charge too much some would say.  Ok, if that’s the case, why are they charging so much?  Their malpractice insurance is expensive.  Why is their insurance so expensive?  Frivolous law suits.  Thus, perhaps we should look at tort reform for medical malpractice to drive down doctors’ and hospitals’ insurance costs.  Would this all help lower healthcare costs?  Sure.  What else would help lower healthcare costs?  Preventative healthcare and a healthier population.  Insurance costs go up because healthy people are taking care of sick people.  Some illnesses can’t be avoided.  But some illnesses are lifestyle related.  If you’re obese, have heart disease and diabetes, why should I be subsidizing your cost of healthcare?  If you’re a smoker and have lung cancer, why should I subsidize you’re treatment?  If you’ve got a sexually transmitted disease because you engage in high risk activities, why should I subsidize your treatment?

 

Everyone should have access to affordable healthcare.  But by the same token, everyone should be expected to pay for their own healthcare, and if you engage in activities that may result in health problems, you should be on your own.  If the costs are high, so be it.  You made a conscious decision about your health, so be prepared to live with the consequences.

 

  1. 14.    We have people serving 10-15 for possessing marijuana and 10-15 for felony DUI yet murderers, gang members, and violent criminals walk free.  Does our legal system need to be reformed?

 

Absolutely.  We waste a lot of resources prosecuting people for ridiculous charges like possessing marijuana yet murders, rapists, and violent criminals go free.  Going back to an earlier discussion, we need to decriminalize drugs, tax them and regulate that industry.  We accomplish nothing by locking people up who have possession of marijuana.  It hasn’t stopped people lighting up.  Nearly half the federal prison population is incarcerated on drug charges.  About a quarter of the states’ prison populations are incarcerated on drug charges.  This all costs the taxpayers money.  But you know what?  Attorneys and prisons are getting rich off the war on drugs while the taxpayers are losing out big time, and overzealous prosecutors are just building their resumes on easy prosecutions.  A huge problem with incarcerating people on non-violent drug charges is that they get mixed in with a prison population that includes gang members.  Then guess what?  They get in the gang and we they get out of prison the non-violent drug offender turns to gang violence.

 

Felony DUI is a bit of a different story.  If you get behind the wheel of a car after you’ve been drinking and you wrap yourself around a tree, so be it.  You’ve only hurt yourself and the tree.  If you kill or maim someone else, it’s a different story.  An accident?  Yes.  Does it change the fact that you’ve killed or maimed someone?  No.  Should these people be incarcerated in with the gang members in prison?  I don’t think so.  Perhaps we should have penal farms or something of that sort where these people go or some type of minimum security prison just for offenders like this.

 

Here’s where I have a real problem.  Ever notice the people you read about got arrested for felony DUI and they killed someone have had prior DUI arrests?  How many times do we let these people get off?  Thank the lawyers.  Now, having said this, I think it’s ridiculous that a husband and wife go out to dinner and have a couple glasses of wine and get pulled over at a traffic stop roadblock and now they’ve got a DUI.  If we really wanted to stop drinking and driving on moral grounds here in the United States we would equip ever car with a breathalyzer that has to be taken before the engine starts.  You pass the test and the engine starts.  You fail and you’re sitting for a while or you’re taking a cab.  Ah, but here again, lawyers don’t want this.  They want you to pay them tens of thousands of dollars to get you out of the DUI on the first offense.  I just don’t think we have a real good balance with the system right now.

 

But here’s something else to think about.  Know why some states are decriminalizing marijuana?  It’s money.  It’s not only tax money, but they’ll also be getting money from arresting people for DUI marijuana.  Why are so many big lawyers and law firms supporting legalizing marijuana?  They’re going to profit from representing people arrested for DUI marijuana.  And the prisons are going to get rich off of incarcerating them.

 

  1. 15.    Innocent until proven guilty…. Your mug shot is online when you are CHARGED with a crime.  Shouldn’t it only be on there if and when you are convicted?  Does this violate the principle of innocent until proven guilty?

 

Legally you are still innocent until proven guilty by a jury of your peers.  However, as we’ve seen with so many high profile cases, you’re judged and either convicted or exonerated by the court of public opinion long before you come to trial.  And of course, the media fuels the fires of this for ratings.  They love sensational trials where they can tear people down.  They don’t care whether someone is innocent or guilty or how their coverage impacts the case and the people’s lives.  All they want is ratings and sensationalism.  And with that comes money!

 

Arrest records are a matter of public record.  Anyone can go to the courthouse and watch the proceedings of people who are marched out before the judge to get bail.  Is it right?  Well, if you don’t want your mug shot out there, don’t break the law, commit a crime, and get arrested.  I find it interesting that these perps who think they’re so tough and just killed someone have to cover their head when they’re doing the perp walk.  If you’re so tough and so proud of what you’ve done, why are you covering your face?  Let’s let everyone see it.  But then we have to consider the person who is wrongfully arrested and accused or who is arrested for a crime committed in self defense.  What do we do with these people?  Well, these people aren’t usually hiding their faces.

 

Does it create a prejudice with some people?  Sure.  Is that prejudice enough to prevent them from getting justice?  I don’t think so.  Does that prejudice impact their daily lives?  Sure.  Is this enough to do away with putting their mug shots online?  Probably not.  I think the more important issue is the impact the media has on the legal system or the influence the media tries to have on the justice system.

 

  1. 16.    If you have the motivation to start your own business why are you charged a self-employment tax?  Shouldn’t you be rewarded for entrepreneurship instead of punished?

 

Absolutely, you should be rewarded for entrepreneurship.  Being an entrepreneur is hard enough as it is.  Add the government taxes on top of that and it becomes even more difficult.  Wonder why businesses are losing their competitive advantage against foreign businesses?  Labor costs and taxes.  We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world.  But let’s look at the reality.  Most small businesses are LLC or S-corps that are taxed at the individual level.  So, they’re paying self employment taxes and individual income taxes on the profits of the business.  It adds up real quick.  When you have to factor in the cost of taxes, you may work all year and come up with very little once you pay Uncle Sam who’s going to allow politicians in Washington to squander your hard earned dollars.

 

I have long favored either a flat tax or a national sales tax in lieu of income taxes.  Realistically, we’re not going to get either of those.  So, if we’re looking at the existing tax code, we need to make some adjustments for small businesses.  Maybe we give tax credits for every full time employee you have for the year.  Let’s give incentives for investing in your business and growing your business so that it’s successful.  A lot of municipalities give tax incentives for locating a business in their city or county.  Why doesn’t Uncle Sam consider that?

 

Why do we penalize success in this country and reward failure?  Is that the American way?  You’re successful, so we’re going to take from you and give to someone who hasn’t done jack shit in their lives.  Is that the American way?  Is that what our country is about now?  Oh, you’re successful so that means you must have done something bad to someone along the way and you must be penalized.  You must have stepped on someone along the way or taken advantage of workers along the way.  You’re successful so you must have screwed someone along the way so Uncle Sam screws you to get even.  I find it un-American.  I don’t think we should reward those who chose to do nothing with their lives.  I’m not willing to accept the excuses that they were held back or they didn’t have a chance.  We have foreigners come here with nothing but the shirts on their backs and become successful yet people born here couldn’t do it?  It’s laziness and a lack of work ethic and a lack of initiative.  Anyone who wants to do something in their life has the opportunity.  It’s just a matter of applying yourself and taking a chance.  If you fail, so be it; at least you tried.  To sit back on your lazy ass and never do anything about it doesn’t deserve a reward or assistance.

 

  1. 17.    Should Obamacare be repealed?  What solutions do you feel would create downward pressure on healthcare costs if it were repealed?

 

Yes.  Obamacare should be repealed.  However, there are parts of the law that a lot of people like such as keeping kids on their parents insurance until they’re 26 and ensuring that insurers don’t turn you down because of a preexisting condition.  Let’s repeal Obamacare but keep parts of the law that people generally agree with when we craft something new.  What’s going to create downward pressure on healthcare costs if we do repeal Obamacare?  Competition and tort reform.

 

 

  1. 18.    We are currently over $18 trillion in debt as a nation.  The debt ceiling debate will be coming up again in February.  Is the government going to shut down again?  What should the Congress do—raise the debt ceiling or reduce spending?  What changes should be made to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington? 

 

We’ve discussed this extensively before.  I believe we debated it at length at one of the champagne summits back in October.  The Republicans had the Democrats and Mr. Obama over the barrel back in October with the government shutdown and they caved in.  They got scared that the media was blaming them and that the public was turning against them, so they rolled over and gave in.  They could have forced the Democrats and Obama to do whatever they wanted by just keeping the government shutdown.  The voters would have forgotten about it all by the time the 2014 mid-term elections came up.  But no, they gave in and got nothing for it.  In fact, Mr. Obama and the Democrats came out smelling like a rose.

 

So, we’re not going to see another shutdown.  The Republicans don’t have the guts for it.  They’ve become a bunch of cowards.  Let’s remember something, when the government shutdown occurred, the federal government furloughed over 800,000 workers that were deemed non-essential.  If they were non-essential, why were they on the government payroll in the first place?  By the very definition of non-essential, doesn’t that mean the government could function without them?  And it seemed like the shutdown was a non-event for about 99.9% of the general population.  The government could still be shutdown and no one would really know the difference, except the furloughed workers.  After all this, the workers ended up getting paid anyway.  That’s BS to me.  So, how did the shutdown actually save any money?  It didn’t.  It was all just a sham that was part of Washington politics.

 

We’re not going to have another shutdown.  But that doesn’t mean that the Congress should just acquiesce and raise the debt limit.  We’re in over our heads as it is.  The Congress needs to cut spending significantly.  There’s about 800,000 workers that we know are pretty much expendable at the federal level.  Maybe they should be in the unemployment line.  That would save some money.  As a matter of fact, I wrote an article with Thinking Outside the Boxe a while back that examines ways the federal government could save money almost immediately.  Let’s dig out that list and follow it.

 

Let’s make each and every department go through their budget and cut expenses by 10% each year for the next three years.  Would it be painful for each department?  Yes.  Could they find 10% in savings immediately?  Yes.  Would it be in the best interests of the nation?  Yes.  Would it be better than raising the debt limit?  Yes.  Are there other savings at the federal level from eliminating fraud, waste, duplicate programmes, etc.?  Yes.

 

Let’s also keep in mind that another way to confront our fiscal problems in Washington is to grow our economy in concert with controls on spending.  Tax cuts spur growth.  Elimination of regulations and bureaucratic red tape for businesses spur growth.  Another way to do this is total tax reform that makes business more competitive and puts more income in the hands of the taxpayers.  As the economy grows and spending is contained, the deficit falls.  As the deficit falls, the borrowing needs of the federal government fall.  As the budget moves into surplus, the debt can be paid down.

 

All of this is well and good.  Would it be in the best interests of the nation?  Yes.  Does anyone really think the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can accomplish this?  No, not realistically.  Does Washington have a spending problem?  Yes.  Can Washington spend beyond its means indefinitely?  No.  Is the spending problem in Washington going to bankrupt America?  Yes.  Can the American people do anything about it?  Yes.  If they’re truly concerned, they need to make sure they elect good candidates who will work together for meaningful change and not keep sending career politicians and their cronies back to Washington.

 

  1. 19.    Education in America continues to decline as we fall further and further behind other countries.  How do we fix this?

 

We have to stop teaching to the lowest common denominator.  I’ve spoken about this many times before.  You have all kinds of kids lumped into the same classes and some of these kids have different learning aptitudes.  So, the teacher has to teach to the level of the slowest kids in the class.  If you have an advanced learning aptitude, you’re being disadvantaged and taught at a level that holds you back.  If you’re failing because you’re a slow learner or you don’t understand, we need to make sure you have an opportunity to learn at your pace.  When I was in school, every math class, science class, history class, and English class had three levels—one for slow students, one for average students, and one for advanced students.  You could move between the classes based on your aptitude.  So, you may start out in the average class but the teacher may see you’re more advanced and offer you the opportunity to move to the advanced class.  By the same token, you could be in the advanced class and be in over your head and get moved to the average class.  What’s wrong with this nowadays?

 

We need to make sure we have the highest quality teachers in our schools and that they’re actually teaching kids.  Teaching is an honorable profession.  We need to make sure we attract bright young men and women into the profession by offering competitive wages and a good work environment.  A lot of times the teacher gets the blame when kids aren’t doing well in school.  There are plenty of teachers that are failing students.  We need to weed them out and get top quality educators.  And we need to equip those educators with the best tools and resources to help the kids learn.  Our technology has evolved significantly and we need to make sure classrooms are equipped with the best technology and resources that help kids learn.

 

We need a standardized curriculum for schools to teach throughout the United States.  Let’s have minimum curriculum requirements for each grade.  If the educators want to teach more, great, but we need to make sure we have a base level of education for all students to ensure they’re not falling behind other countries in math and science.

 

But let’s be honest, the teachers can only do so much.  The kids have to want to learn and have to face consequences if they don’t do their work.  A good teach can teach any student who wants to learn.  We have a lot of derelicts in the school system who don’t care about an education but who are mixed in with kids who are there to learn and become productive members of society.  Problem kids and at risk youth need to be removed from the general population and put in special schools.  Of course, all of this would be largely irrelevant if the military was running our school system as I discussed earlier.  We need to make sure there is discipline in the school system.  If you cause problems and disrupt learning for other students, you face consequences.  If you’re a derelict who doesn’t want to learn and be a good member of society, there needs to be a consequence.  If you don’t do your homework and don’t apply yourself and if you’re failing because you’re lazy, there’s going to be consequences.  You shouldn’t be allowed to drag down the rest of the students who want to learn.

 

And maybe it’s time we rethink the way we educate kids.  I hated school as a kid.  I dreaded getting up and going to school and sitting all day in different classes.   Maybe we need to find more creative ways to educate kids so that they have an interest in learning.  Maybe we shorten the school day but extend the school year.  Maybe we give them incentives for doing well in school like opportunities for scholarships or graduating early and going to junior college.  Let’s get them more engaged in learning.  And listen, this is really more for junior high or middle school and high school.  That’s when kids start losing interest.  The first to fifth graders aren’t really to a point where they can make choices about skipping school or being lazy.

 

 

 

 

  1. 20.    What is your outlook for the economy in 2014?

 

Either I’ve been wrong about the US economy for the last year or so or else the economic data being provided by various federal departments is wrong and intentionally misleading.  Unemployment is down to 7%?  How about all the people who exhausted the unemployment benefits and aren’t included in that statistic?  And if everything is going well why is the Congress considering extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed?  I don’t think the economy is doing particularly well right now.  I think we’re just sort of stagnant.  Forget the GDP figures.  Businesses aren’t really growing.  They’re just maintaining the status quo.  The real retrenchment comes once Obamacare is in full force and businesses find out how it’s going to impact them.  Consumers aren’t all that optimistic.  I think retailers will find that the Christmas shopping season didn’t live up to expectations.  Prices are rising.  Just take a look at groceries.  Everyone has to eat so everyone has to buy goods at the grocery store.  This is going to continue to hurt consumers.

 

I think we’re going to have a downturn in 2014.  I don’t know if it will constitute the technical definition of a recession, but I think we’ll have slow or no growth and another way of layoffs as businesses adjust to the healthcare law and all its nuances.  Obamacare is going to have a negative impact on businesses and it will negatively affect the economy as a whole.  Prices are going to continue to rise.  I think we’ll see a rise in oil and gasoline prices to highs not seen in about five or six years.  The housing market will remain slow but initially show some signs of strength only to give that back in the second half of the year.  The stock market will probably continue to do well as long as interest rates are low.  It seems the market has become the place to store money for decent returns as opposed to bonds that aren’t yielding much.  The Federal Reserve will continue tapering the quantitative easing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they start talking about raising rates towards year end.

 

  1. 21.    Do you have any mid-term congressional election predictions for 2014?

 

I hope the Republicans keep the House of Representatives and retake a majority in the Senate in 2014.  At least we’ll have a chance of emasculating the Obama administration and keep it from doing any further damage to our nation and our economy.  However, I would point out that I think the DNC is capable of anything.  I think they perpetuated massive fraud in the 2008 and 2012 elections, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they try the same thing in 2014.  After all, Mr. Obama’s aim it to make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House again.  God help us if that happens, but I wouldn’t put anything passed Mr. Obama and the DNC.

 

I think the moderate American people are going to see through the smoke and mirrors of this administration.  If you’re on the government dole, you’re happy.  If you’re a moderate or independent who voted for Mr. Obama not once but twice, you might start having second thoughts, particularly when taxes rise and you get a cancellation notice from your insurance company.  Obamacare’s launch has been a vast failure and the full impact has yet to be felt.  I think the allure of the Obama administration and the false promises of the Democratic Party will wear off and the independent voters will wake up this year.  And least I’m hopeful of that.

 

The transcripts of additional interactions between the panelists were not made available by Thinking Outside the Boxe.

 

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2 responses to “Transcript of Mystery Novelist Digger Cartwright’s Q&A Session at Thinking Outside the Boxe’s 10th Annual Symposium

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