The following is the transcript of Digger Cartwright’s opening remarks and responses to the question and answer session from Thinking Outside the Boxe’s Annual Symposium held in Orlando from December 26-31, 2014.
“Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here once again and see so many familiar faces. I get invited to give speeches at a good many events each year, but I decline most of those invitations. This event, however, is one in which I’m pleased to participate. I thank Mr. Clinger and his organizers for having me and for continuing to invite me back. I guess you’re gluttons for punishment.
The exchange of ideas and thoughts in an open, civil, non-judgmental, and non-confrontational forum is an admirable endeavor. Most Americans are bombarded with propaganda from the mainstream media on a daily basis, and as a result, many Americans have become disgusted with both the media and politics. Frustrated and jaded, many have withdrawn from the political process, much to the detriment of our society and our republic. I sympathize with those who feel disenfranchised and feel that their opinions don’t count or that their voices aren’t heard. It is easy to feel lost and powerless against the massive and all powerful federal government which seems increasingly out of touch with ordinary Americans.
But my friends we have been there before in the history of our nation. In December 1773, a group of patriots who had grown tired of oppressive rule by tyrants made their voices heard by dumping tea in Boston Harbor. Their voices were heard loud and clear over the next several years. They exchanged ideas and debated political philosophies; at times, it became heated but by all accounts our forefathers remained largely civil and honorable. Our republic was born by their making their voices heard. In the end they shed the chains of rule by men and created a government ruled by men.
I encourage our fellow countrymen to keep making their voices heard. If we allow ourselves to be silenced out of fear or apathy, we pave the way for rule by tyrants. In making our voices heard, making our opinions known, and supporting a cause larger than ourselves, I hope that we can remain civil and undertake with honor great debates about the challenges facing our country and the policies that will shape the future of our nation. There are those among us who will try to debauch our efforts by the willful creation of conflict, campaigns of whispers and lies, and divisive rhetoric aimed at dividing us as a people and as a nation. We must resist their efforts and keep making sure that our voices are heard loud and clear.
I have long believed that we do our part here at this symposium. Many topics are discussed, and many ideas offered for debate. Good or bad, we must welcome the opinions and ideas of others and work to find common ground among those opinions and opportunities from those ideas. But our work doesn’t end with the closure of this event. We must continue our efforts when we leave here. Unlike any time in the history of the world, we have the opportunity as a result of social media and the internet to share our opinions with millions of people in this country at any given moment. Though there will be detractors, we must strive to do what we can to keep the debate and the spirit of our republic alive.
Thank you again. God bless, and God bless America.”
- Should we negotiate with terrorists? If so, how much is too much when bargaining with them?
I don’t think we should bargain with terrorists at all. It’s a losing proposition. If you give into them once, you’ll be giving into them forever, and you’ll never go back. Bargaining with terrorists sets a dangerously destabilizing precedent. It gives them a sense of legitimacy and makes other terrorists think that we’ll come to the bargaining table with them. Frankly, going to the bargaining table with terrorists is a sign of weakness. You can’t negotiate with people who think you’re weak; that’s a one-sided negotiation and the terrorists would come out ahead. You have to deal with these people from a position of strength. If they say we’re going to kill the hostage unless you give us ten of the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay and then we give them the prisoners, they’re going to go get another hostage and make the same deal or a better deal, and remember that there is no guarantee that we’ll get the hostage back alive. Chances are that they’re going to kill the hostages anyway. But let’s say we do make a deal; then, they’ll keep pushing the envelope. Our position should be that we’re not going to negotiate at all and that if you kill one of our people we’ll hunt you down and kill you and all your terrorist friends.
Now, here’s a sad reality. This is going to end up costing the lives of the hostages. These people don’t deserve to die. I don’t like the idea of sacrificing them, but it’s the sad reality that it’s what we need to do. They were probably just doing their jobs and got caught up in the crossfire so to speak. However, they assumed the risks of going to countries in conflict or countries that harbor terrorists whether they went their willingly or reluctantly as part of their job. They may be workers who didn’t have a choice, but I would hope that their employers would provide adequate security contractors for their protection.
Whether people want to admit it or not, we are still at war with terrorists. No matter what the liberal media says or wants you to believe, the global war on terror is still alive and well. We didn’t defeat the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re still there, and they’ve spread to other countries in the Middle East. Haven’t you heard about ISIS and their activities in Syria? Oh, that’s right; we’re not supposed to talk about that elephant in the room. And how about the murder of Ambassador Stevens and others in Benghazi, Libya? The terrorists were responsible for that. What did we do? Not much. I think the federal government is still investigating it.
These terrorists would destroy western civilization if they had it in their power, and they’re getting better organized and better funded all the time. The terrorists aren’t going away willingly. We need to ramp up the global war on terror, even if it is a politically unpopular issue. We know the general area where the terrorists are. Let’s bomb the hell out of them. For every hostage of ours that they kill, we should kill a thousand or ten thousand of the terrorists. Are innocent people going to be killed? Yes, and that’s unfortunate, but that’s what happens in war. Our political leaders can idealize about sanctions and working with the intelligence community and working with the people in countries that are hotbeds for terrorism, but that isn’t going to work. The Iranian hostage crisis proved that. The only language these people understand is force, and the force of the United States’ military is a mighty force to be reckoned with. Let’s use it. No more troops on the ground. Bomb them into submission.
- Do we need to re-think our overall foreign policy?
What foreign policy? Is our president still going around the world apologizing or is he just going around the world on social calls? Has any of this administration’s foreign policy, if you can call it that, been successful? No. Russia is still in Ukraine. North Korea engaged in cyber warfare and we’ve done nothing about it. We’re normalizing relations with Cuba which has one of the worst human rights violation records in the world. The terrorists are still beheading hostages. Syria’s dictatorship is still battling rebels and terrorists. If we have a foreign policy, it’s a disgrace.
So, yes, I think we need to formulate a foreign policy. It needs to be one of strength. We shouldn’t have and shouldn’t be apologizing to anyone. We’ve done nothing wrong. Let’s mind our own business and worry about our people before we start worrying about the people in other countries. I’m painfully aware of the plight of people in many countries throughout the world, but it’s not our responsibility to take care of them. There are terribly brutal and ruthless dictators throughout the world, but if they’re not bothering us and if they’re not supporting or harboring terrorists, what business is it of ours? So, here’s my foreign policy.
- Rout out and kill the terrorists, wherever they are. If you’re harboring the terrorists in your country or backing them, we’ll rout you out in the process.
- Stop giving money to all these foreign countries. The federal government is giving the tax dollars generated by hard-working people in America to countries who hate us and do nothing for us. Let’s cut them off from funding; it’s a total waste.
- Stay out of other countries’ business unless it has a direct impact on our interests or those of our allies. Just because Vladimir Putin is a ruthless dictator who invaded Ukraine doesn’t mean we need to get involved. Ukraine is nothing to us. Just because Bashar al-Assad in Syria is a ruthless dictator who has murdered thousands of his own people doesn’t mean we should get involved and back the “rebels.” For all we know these “rebels” or as the liberal media likes to say “freedom fighters” are actually the terrorists. In fact, I think we did prove that they are terrorists.
- If another country attacks us or one of our close allies (like Great Britain or Japan for instance), we wipe them out.
- If another country is seeking nuclear weapons, blow up their facilities. If they’re still pursuing nuclear weapons, wipe them out with a nuclear weapon and show them and remind the world why rogue regimes don’t need to pursue nuclear weapons or a nuclear program.
- Use sanctions only for economic issues. Sanctions don’t stop nuclear weapons programs. Sanctions don’t stop terrorists.
Pretty simple, isn’t it?
- What is the future of Iraq? Are we going to allow Iraq to be controlled by ISIL? Will Iraq break into three countries? Will there be a civil war in Iraq?
I want to start by mentioning something that has been mentioned at this symposium in the past. Keeping the peace is always harder than winning the war. The situation in Iraq is a classic example. It’s been a long and hard effort to keep the peace there after we deposed Saddam Hussein, and I think it’s going to become increasingly difficult to keep the peace particularly as we scale back our presence there.
I think Iraq runs a real risk of descending into chaos. You have a country that has many factions, and a lot of those factions don’t get along. Let’s not underestimate the power and the potential threat of ISIL. These are ruthless terrorists, and they’re getting better organized. More importantly, they’re well-funded. This has all been playing out in Syria for the most part of the last year and a half; we know what ISIS is capable of. During this time, there has been a growing influence of ISIL in Iraq. Obama even sent special ops to help deal with this threat, but it appears that ISIL is in control of a large portion of Iraq. ISIL appears to be gaining ground, and it appears we ceded the area they have under control to them. This isn’t good, and we haven’t done much about it. Mr. Obama doesn’t have the courage to re-engage in Iraq. He’d rather let the terrorists take over than have to fight them. ISIL wants Iraq to be a caliphate, and that may well happen if Mr. Obama just sits on his hands.
But as long as we have some sort of presence in Iraq, I think the situation remains manageable. We still have the best trained and most sophisticated military in the world. The scary part is that we trained the Iraqi security force. What happens when the rank and file from the Iraqi security forces align themselves with ISIL? These will be people that we trained, using knowledge we taught them against us. That’s when the situation could deteriorate rapidly. Or, if they give up the fight in Syria and concentrate efforts in Iraq, the situation would change dramatically.
Isn’t it interesting that no one in the media is talking about this? It’s almost as if it’s taboo to even mention Iraq or Afghanistan. Of course, if they talk about it, they have to mention that we still have a lot of troops in both countries. More importantly, if the media talks about this, they might have to mention that the decision to withdraw from both countries has truly destabilized both countries—just as Mr. Obama was warned would happen. Then again, if the media doesn’t mention anything about Iraq or Afghanistan, they help perpetuate the false image of Mr. Obama being a peace-time president. We’re still engaged in a global war on terror whether Mr. Obama or the liberals want to admit it.
Ultimately, I think Iraq is going to end up being run by a dictator again. We put Saddam Hussein in power. We’re going to put someone like him in power, either intentionally or unintentionally, and the country is going to once again be ruled by a tyrant with access to tremendous oil wealth. We’ll get run out of the country like we were run out of Iran, and all our efforts will have been for naught.
- Are you willing to pay $5 or more per gallon for gas if it helps the environment?
Yes, but I don’t think most Americans would be willing to do that. I find it ironic that the environmentalists are often the ones driving the SUV and the gas guzzlers and they’re the first to bemoan high gas prices. I’ve spoken at length in the past as to the benefits of higher gas prices. As gas prices increase, you have fewer people on the roads or people begin to drive less. Higher gas prices change consumers’ behavior. If you chart the price of gasoline and gasoline consumption, you’ll find that as prices rise consumption does, in fact, decline. When gas prices spiked back in 2008, gasoline consumption declined by about 3%. Prices fell in 2009 and 2010 then rose again in 2011. When prices rose in 2011, consumption fell by about 3% again. This doesn’t seem much, but it does illustrate that as prices rise, consumers drive less. When the gas prices rose to over $4 per gallon, public transportation ridership increased. It doesn’t seem much in percentage terms, but it equates to about two or three hundred thousand barrels per day. How much would consumption decrease if we did get to $5 per gallon? My contention is that the higher gas prices go the sharper the drop in consumption.
So, as prices rise, consumers either drive less or take public transportation or perhaps car pool, though that hasn’t quite caught on with most people. As we drive less, we pollute less thus helping the environment. As we drive less the roads are less congested and there are less accidents, which may result in lower car insurance premiums for a lot of people. We can keep going about the benefits, but I won’t digress.
Like I said, I don’t have a problem paying higher gas prices, but a lot of people won’t like that. There are those who don’t want higher gas prices because they feel it’s making the oil people richer. There are those who feel that it’s just an additional tax on people. To some extent they’re right, but you only pay that tax if you drive. My grandmother doesn’t drive so the gasoline prices don’t directly impact her, and let me put emphasis on directly. This does beckon the question whether the $5 per gallon gas is a result of supply cuts or increased federal, state, and local taxes. The federal gas tax has been 18.4 cents since the early 1990s. I think it was raised to 18.4 cents in 1993 to be exact, so for two decades it hasn’t changed and it isn’t indexed to inflation. I don’t think we’re going to raise the gas tax so much as to get the average gallon of gas to $5, so it would likely be the result of lower supply. But let’s not forget that there are hidden taxes in the price of gas—taxes, fees, and other costs paid by the refiners and producers of oil along the way before it reaches the gas pump. A lot of these extra costs that drive up the price of oil are the result of environmental regulation.
The money raised from the federal gas tax is supposed to go to road and bridge maintenance and construction. Doubling the federal gas tax isn’t going to be too noticeable to most people, but I wouldn’t support that until two conditions were satisfied: 1) there must be a guarantee that the money raised by the entire gas tax would go for federal roads and bridges (states should take care of their own roads) and not get used as part of the general fund in Washington, and 2) there must be audits and safeguards in the program to prevent fraud, wasteful spending, kickbacks, and roads and bridges to nowhere.
Ultimately, none of this is going to happen.
- Is the United States as a whole handling missing person’s cases properly?
I’m not going to comment on the law enforcement working on missing person’s cases. They have a very difficult task and limited resources.
- Should illegal immigrants be allowed to serve in our military in lieu of deportation?
I’m not opposed to something like that but our military is becoming less human capital intensive and more technology intensive. I’m not sure there’s a need for these people to be in the military. If you want to load up the military and put them on the border, maybe that’s an option but I don’t think they should get military benefits or pay; they work in exchange for room and board. But listen, I don’t think military service is the answer. I think the real issue is getting some kind of service out of these illegal immigrants, many of whom want to become citizens at some point. The service we get out of them doesn’t necessarily have to be military service. I say we give them a choice between deportation and work. If they choose to work on selected projects for five years and at the same time become proficient in English, they can take the citizenship test at the completion of their five years of service.
There are plenty of infrastructure projects that could be undertaken and completed much more quickly if we employed the labor of illegal immigrants. How many roads and bridges could be built, expanded or repaired with crews working around the clock? How many high speed rail lines could be constructed? A lot of these infrastructure projects were represented as being shovel ready. Why take five years for a highway project when it can be done in a fraction of the time with the labor of illegal immigrants?
But I think we need to be careful about this. We have a set of rules for immigrating legally to the United States. I think these rules need to be followed. Realistically, we’re not going to round up all the illegals here and deport them. That isn’t going to happen, so we need to figure out how to deal with it.
First, we need to round up all the illegals who have committed crimes (other than coming here illegally) and send them back to their home countries. Let their prisons deal with them. If they come back after this, we just shoot them. If these are violent criminals, let’s get the rope and find a sturdy tree and get rid of them once and for all. Why should the taxpayers fund these criminals and why should they be given any legal rights here? Fast track them to the gallows.
Second, we need to identify and locate those who are here illegally and get both service and taxes out of them. If they’ve been working under the table or just under the radar, they’ve been avoiding income taxes. Let’s go back and calculate how much they owe and get that from them. If they can’t pay, off they go back to their home country. So, they have to pay up and give us service before they have an opportunity for citizenship.
Third, we need to make sure we have a system in place to keep track of people entering the country on work visas, student visas, etc. We have plenty of technology to track these people in one way or another. When their time is up, they have to go or face the consequences.
Fourth, we need to make it very difficult on illegals here. They shouldn’t be able to open a bank account or get a driver’s license or get a job or put their kids in school or get any type of government services or assistance. Maybe they’ll leave voluntarily.
Fifth, we need to make sure we have control of our borders.
Sixth, we need to make it very difficult under all circumstances to become a citizen. These people don’t have a right to citizenship. They don’t have a right to come here and use our services and become a citizen. This may encourage people to come here illegally, but if we have the other systems in place to make it difficult for them to stay here illegally or even get here illegally, I think we can mitigate this.
- Should illegal immigrants or any non-citizen be able to receive government financial assistance (i.e. welfare, food stamps, etc.)?
No. Let me make that an emphatic, ‘No.’ Government financial assistance is first and foremost for citizens and taxpayers of the United States. Why would we give any type of benefit to someone who comes to this country, particularly if they come here illegally, and who isn’t a citizen? Illegal immigrants don’t have the same rights as U.S. citizens just because they found a way to sneak into the country or came here on a visa but then didn’t leave. They certainly aren’t entitled to anything, except maybe a one way deportation ticket. We can’t put the burden of taking care of these people and their families on the shoulders of hardworking Americans, some of whom are struggling themselves. If someone is hurt or seriously ill and needs to go to the emergency room for a life threatening injury or condition, they should get treated but it shouldn’t be free. If the illegal shows up with a cold and wants treatment, they should have to pay on the spot or be turned away.
The effort to say that they are already paying into the system is erroneous. Most of these illegals are working for cash, so they’re not paying income taxes which fund entitlement programs. They do pay sales tax when they buy goods but that goes to state and local governments. Since most of them don’t own property and rent living quarters, they’re not contributing to the tax base from which most counties derive funds for police, fire, libraries, public services, and schools.
I find it quite repulsive that people want to give illegals benefits when there are plenty of working poor who can’t get assistance. How do you justify giving the former college student turned illegal welfare or the illegal with ten kids food stamps and at the same time tell the single mom working two jobs that she doesn’t qualify? The illegals milking the system here in the United States need to be rounded up and deported. They’re not contributing to this country; they’re only taking. It should be easy to find these people. If they’re getting a check sent to them, we know where they are. If they’re using the EBT cards, we know where they use them so we should be able to track them down.
- How can society become better stewards of our environment?
Consume less. If we consume less material goods, we’ll have less trash which ends up in landfills. Ever think of how much garbage you create in a day’s time? The average person creates about 4.3 pounds of garbage per day. That’s over 1,500 pounds per person per year. This ends up in landfills which results in methane gas emissions and pollutants in the groundwater. Cut down on your consumption, and you cut down on your impact on the environment.
Think about how much packaging is thrown out each day. I bought a razor the other day and it was in this heavy duty plastic packaging that I threw out. Could it have been in a smaller more efficient packaging? Yes. Businesses could help by packaging products in more efficient packaging. It may not look the prettiest, but I would still have bout the razor if it had been in a smaller packaging.
But cutting consumption like this is only part of the battle. We need to cut our energy consumption at all levels. How many of you forget and leave a light on or leave the TV on or leave the heat on? Guess what. It costs you money and has an impact on the environment. The energy being used is derived from a power plant that is having an impact on the environment. How many of you drive a lot or take a bunch of quick trips to the grocery store every week? Well, you’re having a tremendous impact on the environment each and every time you start up your car. Consider cutting back on the discretionary trips and you’ll help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We can also be better stewards of the environment by taking the initiative to plant more trees which help clean our air and have other environmental benefits. I have a pretty simple philosophy with this one. If I cut down a tree, I replace that tree with at least one new tree. If we all did this and if real estate developers would commit to doing this, we’d make great strides in being better stewards of the environment.
- Do celebrities have a responsibility to be positive role models for young Americans?
I would say that celebrities to some degree do have a responsibility to be positive role models. But there are two problems here. First, television and the media love to portray derelict celebrities as being cool and as being successful. This gives young people the wrong idea; they think they can be rich and famous by being derelicts as well. This is quite a moral hazard. Second, parents are the best role models for their children. They can’t subrogate responsibility for raising their children right and teaching their children morals and values to someone else.
There’s no doubt that celebrities have a tremendous influence on the youth in this country. Actors and athletes are in the spotlight. They get a lot of time on TV. Kids want to emulate these people. Kids see these people on TV and follow their lives online and social media. They see them acting like fools and disrespecting others and the law without consequences then the kids think they can do this too and also face no consequences. These kids get brainwashed in a way.
Parents and society need to do a better job educating children about actions and consequences. Kids see these celebrities as heroes. We need to better educate kids as to who the real heroes are. The actor or athlete is rarely the hero. The real heroes in this world are the teachers, the EMS responders and doctors, the police, the firemen, the members of the armed forces, and the veterans. Let’s teach kids to look up to these people, but it’s sort of hard to do that when the media in this country wants to push the actors and athletes in your face as being such great people.
- Should the government be involved in the politics of sports (LA Clippers, Washington Redskins, etc.)?
The government shouldn’t be involved in private business matters unless the law has been or is being broken. Let’s look at Don Sterling and the Clippers controversy. It’s not the government’s right to attempt to strip private property just because liberals don’t like what someone said. First off, I could care less what he said. We still have freedom of speech as guaranteed by the 1st amendment to the Constitution. If you don’t like what he said, don’t patronize the Clippers. I find it quite ironic that despite the controversy the fans didn’t abandon the team. The fans were still filling the seats. The players didn’t quit. They still played each game. If what he said had been so egregious and inflammatory, the players should have all quit and the fans should have boycotted the team and the games.
Same thing goes for the Washington Redskins controversy. Last time I saw a Redskins game on TV it looked like the stands were pretty well filled. The fans haven’t abandoned the team. The players haven’t quit.
Personally, I don’t think most people care about these “controversies.” These are all distractions created by the media. The free markets work. If the consumers didn’t like what Sterling said or found the Redskins name and logo so offensive, the teams would pay a price for it financially. That didn’t really happen.
We have nearly $20 trillion in national debt. One in six Americans go to bed hungry at night. Over fifty million people in the greatest and most prosperous nation in the world don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Our children are falling farther and farther behind in education. These are the real problems. Why don’t they talk about these issues and get people fired up to find a solution for these very real problems? Why does the media even bother with crap like the Clippers or Redskins?
- Should the government be allowed to terminate trademark rights for material some may deem “offensive” (Washington Redskins controversy)?
No, this is a gross miscarriage of justice. This is an overreaching federal government that has no respect for private property rights or the Constitution. This administration is driven by emotions and far left liberal ideology. As I said before, if the free market feels a trademark is offensive, consumers won’t buy the product. The ticketholders don’t have to go to the games and no one has to buy tickets. At the end of the day, the fans don’t have the moral outrage that the media and this administration have. Most people don’t care. I know a lot of Redskins fans, and they’re outraged that their team is under attack.
Is this all the government has to worry about right now? We have terrorists taking over the Middle East and plotting to kill us. We have $20 trillion in debt. We have enough problems to worry about. We sure as hell don’t need the government worrying about whether the Redskins are offending someone. I’m offended that these rappers refer to me as a cracker, but is the government shutting down the rap industry? No. This is sheer hypocrisy on the part of the administration and liberals, but then again, I would expect nothing more of them.
If the media isn’t outraged by this violation of private property rights, they’re not fit to be in the business. If the administration can get away with this, what’s to say they won’t shut down a network if they deem it offensive? This is absolutely ridiculous. I hope the Supreme Court hears this case and sides with Dan Snyder.
- Should pet owners be able to deduct a portion of their pet care?
Absolutely! If people can get deductions for having kids, why can’t I get deductions for my cats? My cats are my kids. In fact, my cats are better than most people’s kids. They get great care from me, and they don’t use any public services so to speak. They don’t go to school. They don’t use the roads. Where we have a problem is that people can’t be allowed to hoard animals in order to get more deductions and we’re not sure how well the animals are being treated. In order to get deductions, I think you need to show that your pet is up to date on all their shots or vaccinations or that your pet gets their annual checkup with the vet. Just as the government wants children to be well-cared for, they should also want pets to be well-cared for and treated humanely.
I’m going to digress here a bit and get on my soapbox. I think most people know that I’m a huge animal lover. I would love for our nation to have more concern for animal rights. There are millions of abandoned and abused animals in this country. Shelters euthanize animals by the scores simply because they can’t find them a home, yet we give real derelicts benefits for having more children. Then we spend billions of taxpayer dollars helping people care for children they shouldn’t have had in the first place. Shelter pets are like children. They can’t care for themselves. They can’t get jobs and support themselves. They need our help.
I want every shelter pet to find a forever home and I want every animal to be treated with respect, love, and dignity. So perhaps we frame this debate as part of the larger animal rights discussion. There’s plenty of incentive for people to adopt a shelter pet. These creatures can bring so much joy to your life, but it comes with a tremendous responsibility. There are a lot of people who don’t adopt a shelter pet because they can’t afford it or can’t afford to keep them. Let’s give people an incentive for rescuing a shelter pet. If it comes in the form of tax breaks, so be it. Let’s help people save these animals but make sure the animals get adopted into good homes. Let pet guardians deduct the expenses of caring for their pets as long as their vet signs off that they have examined the animal and that it is being well cared for.
I’m very passionate about animals. I’m sorry if I’ve digressed here. This is a very important topic that we need to have a better conversation about in this country. We animal lovers who are passionate about caring for abandoned animals and shelter pets often get labeled as kooks or extremists. If that’s what people think of me, then so be it. I’m going to keep fighting to end euthanizing animals in shelters and help every shelter pet find a forever home.
- How do we stop the flow of illegal immigrants through our borders?
I know there are some people who think this issue is as simple as closing the borders. There’s no doubt that we need to tighten up the U.S.-Mexico border. We’ve got people just walking across into the U.S., bringing kids here or having kids here, then expecting us to take care of them. Let’s load up the border with drones, the military and border patrol and turn these people away. I won’t hesitate to say we shoot them if they are sneaking across the border; that sends a powerful message. Plus an increased military presence and a shoot to kill mandate will help with the paramilitary drug cartels just across the border. We’re at war with the terrorists but we’re also at war with the paramilitary drug cartels in Mexico.
There are plenty illegals here who actually came here legally, most of them on student visas who stayed after the visa expired. We need to round them up and send them back where they came from, even if that isn’t a politically popular thing to do. These people have broken the law. They need to face the consequences. Then, we need to fix the broken immigration system. We need a better way to track the people who come into this country. With the technology we have today, let’s look to biometrics to keep track of people who come here. When their time is up, if they haven’t left the country, we track them down or make it very difficult for them to survive here. Make it difficult for them to get a job, rent an apartment, drive a car, and open bank accounts, and so on.
I’m not opposed to people immigrating to the United States. However, there is a legal way for people who want to immigrate here to do so. They need to follow the law to immigrate here. If they do that, I welcome them. If they break the law and stay here illegally or sneak across the border, they need to face stiff consequences.
- Should we re-negotiate student debt? If so, why? Does this create a moral hazard?
Absolutely not. These people entered into a legal agreement. They were given money for college, and they used it to get an education. And you know, they’re able to get loans for an amount that far exceeds the actual cost of tuition and books? So, they get the maximum loan and then use the excess to party or to live on or to buy a new flat screen TV or a new car. Just because they can’t get a high paying job once they graduate doesn’t absolve them of the liability. If you go to the bank and get a mortgage for a house but then can’t afford the house, the bank keeps what money you paid and they take the house.
These kids weren’t worried about the student loans when they took them out, and they didn’t really consider whether they should take the money or not and apparently no one bothered to counsel them on this. If you’re a student majoring in marine biology, for example, and there are a couple hundred other students at your college majoring in the same thing and thousands of others majoring in the same thing throughout the nation, do you really think you’re all going to get a job? And did you ever consider what the average earnings are for the field relative to the amount of student debt? Did anyone ever think of that? Probably not.
The sad thing is that young people have been sold a bill of goods that you need to go to college and get an education and then you’ll have a great job and make a fortune. The job market can only support so many marine biologists and history majors and English majors. I know plenty of college graduates who are waiting tables and tending bar and struggling to pay off the student loans for a degree that they’re not using and that is going to waste. People really need to consider this when they’re going to college. I’ve long advocated that we need to better counsel kids in high school about college and their options. Some of them probably need to go to vocational or technical schools. The world is always going to need mechanics and plumbers and electricians and professional servers. These are good professions, and those in the trades can make a good living. Getting a four year college education isn’t for everyone and can sometimes be a vast waste of money.
Counseling alone isn’t going to stop this, and the colleges certainly don’t want to tell kids this. Each kid that walks through their door is a dollar sign. If you’re an unemployed college graduate who spent tens of thousands of dollars on your education but can’t find a job in your field, ever ask what your college did for you? Think they care about you now that they have your money? Something to think about.
But you’re not going to convince idealist young people that their college education is going to make them a millionaire. Some will become millionaires. Some will make very good livings and do well. Some will spend a lot of money on their education and spend half their life paying off the debt. So, we’re always going to have more kids go to college for disciplines where the demand is low but the supply of graduates with that degree is high. If you’re an employer looking at resumes from ten college graduates and your looking to fill one position who are you most likely to consider? The applicant with the 2.5 GPA or the applicant with the 3.8 GPA? Even with a degree, those who didn’t excel academically would seem less likely to get the job over those who showed that they did academically excel at college. Maybe less partying and more studying would have helped that GPA, and don’t give me the excuse that ‘I’m not a good test taker.’ That’s a cop out. Everyone in the class took the same test. Maybe you were just too hungover or too high to focus.
So here’s an idea. Maybe it’s time colleges and universities reconsider the awarding of degrees. To me, the students who barely squeaked by are cheapening the degrees of those who dedicated themselves to their educations. Maybe each department at a university should only be allowed to award degrees to those with a GPA above 3.0 (or some other hurdle grade point average) or the top 75% of the class. That seems like it would weed out a lot of marginal or underachieving students and help those who worked harder. After all, shouldn’t there be incentives and rewards for hard work and disincentives for laziness and lack of applying oneself?
- Is it time to audit lottery monies used for state programs?
I think they are already being audited, but I think the issue is how the money is being spent and is it being spent judiciously. Many of the state lotteries are supposed to fund specific projects or causes—senior citizen programs, education or scholarships, and so on. I think this is all great, but when you’re dealing with the amount of money generated by the lotteries for these programs there is bound to be fraud and waste. I have long preached against fraud and waste in both government and the private sector, but sadly to no avail most of the time. I do believe that each of these state lottery programs should face very difficult scrutiny in how the funds are spent. That’s not to say that we should consider every scholarship awarded or every senior center built. We need to make sure that the stewards of these programs aren’t wasting money on unneeded centers or fraudulent scholarships. We need to make sure that the programs aren’t being manipulated by special interests. The site of senior center shouldn’t be decided by a politician or the landholder. Administrative costs and salaries should be minimized whenever possible. I’m not suggesting we micromanage, but I’m suggesting we have stringent oversight of the overall programs and how the money is allocated to projects. Overall, politicians should never dictate how the funds are spent and shouldn’t even have a hand in the process. The oversight should be handled by independent bodies comprised of normal citizens who don’t have any special interests and audited by independent accountants and independent government watchdogs. It’s probably idealistic, and I know that. There’s a lot of money at stake, and that money does a lot of good. But that money can do a lot more good and can go a lot further if we don’t allow it to be misappropriated and misused.
- Is it time to re-think a space program?
I don’t think so. NASA’s budget is something like $17 billion per year. What do we get out of this program? Frankly, I don’t see a whole lot of benefit to the American people. Over the last fifty years, NASA has spent over $500 billion dollars cumulatively, and what do we have to show for it? We allegedly went to the Moon. We don’t have a shuttle program. Seems like an awful waste to me. There is a certain appeal to the space program, but let’s let the private sector take over. If there’s a market to go to Mars or to build a base on the Moon, let some private entrepreneur or aerospace company spend their money. I don’t think we should be using tax dollars from American taxpayers to fund a program that is yielding little these days. I’m always for spending cuts in the federal budget, so let’s cut the spending on NASA as a first step in shrinking the size of the federal government and eliminating wasteful spending, fraud and waste.
- Is political correctness infringing our freedom of religion (if you’re a Christian)?
Yes, there’s no doubt about that. The liberal, anti-Christians want to religiously emasculate us. You can’t say Merry Christmas. It has to be Happy Holidays so you don’t offend someone else. That’s bullshit. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s fine, but why get offended by it? If someone wished me Happy Hanukah, I wouldn’t be offended. I’d tell them thank you and same to them. I think the underlying theme behind the holidays, regardless of which holiday you celebrate, is peace and goodwill, which I talked about at length in my speech yesterday at lunch. So, why are people so worried about expressing the Christian faith during Christmas?
Maybe those who object also object to peace and goodwill? Is that why they want to take away any mention of Christmas? If you don’t believe in Christ, that’s your right, but if you don’t want to allow others to celebrate a message of peace and goodwill, what does that say about you and your tolerance? If I celebrate Christmas and say Merry Christmas, that doesn’t mean you have to believe what I do or that you have to agree with me. If, however, you’re offended by it, you need to get thicker skin, and if that’s the only thing you have to worry about, you need to get a life. Instead of worrying about Christmas, how about focusing those energies on something productive like feeding the hungry or helping those who have been displaced or caring for homeless animals?
I really think we’ve allowed the entire political correctness issue to go too far, but I’ll not digress into that bigger discussion. Clearly, we’ve also allowed the secularization of Christmas to go too far as well. The argument that you can’t display the Nativity or just about any other sign of Christmas on some government property as a violation of the separation of church and state is ridiculous. This country was founded by Christians, more devout Christians that we can probably imagine today. Our Founding Fathers showed their faith through prayer and the numerous references to God in the federal government. They mention the Creator in the Declaration of Independence. Each President has placed his hand on The Bible and said “So help me God” at the end of the Presidential Oath of Office. Yet there are still some who want to take all references to this away.
If you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s ok. You’re not obligated to do so, but don’t tell me that I can’t celebrate it openly as we have done in this nation for hundreds of years. And, if you’re a foreigner here and you’re of another faith, learn to live with it. I sincerely doubt that your homeland would scrap any celebration of your faith if I went there and objected to it.
What is sad as well is that businesses of all sizes are getting sucked into this ‘Happy Holidays’ nonsense lest they potentially offend someone and that someone may not do business with them. These business owners need to get some guts. I don’t care what holiday people celebrate. I do business with them based on their reputation, their honesty, their quality, and so on. I’m certainly not going to be offended if I go into your business and you’re celebrating another holiday.
Let’s get real people. Time to stop this nonsense. Quit trying to secularize Christmas!
- How can we hold parents accountable for their children?
If children don’t know how to act in public, it’s because the parents have failed to teach them and to discipline them. This could be a function of just pure ineptitude of the parents or perhaps their parents didn’t teach them. Parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s behavior, and there are really no excuses. There’s no way to penalize the parents as a means of holding them accountable for their kids per se. I think there are several points to make here.
First, kids need to be taught foundational values like the difference between right and wrong, the concept of personal responsibility, and that decisions and actions can have consequences. A good way to start is by teaching them the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. But aside from that, parents need to teach their kids how to behave and how to act in public. It never ceases to amaze me how many parents let their kids misbehave in restaurants and seem oblivious to it. I guess this is because the parents themselves have no manners and are so self-absorbed and self-centered that they don’t care about anyone else. Personally, I don’t feel that I should have to put up with people’s kids misbehaving in a nice restaurant. As a parent you may think your kid is great and special and the center of the universe, but I don’t.
Second, discipline has pretty much vanished from parenting skills. Parents want to be their kid’s friends instead of being the parent. Kids will have much more respect for parents who parent than they will for their parent/friend. Discipline is the means to reinforce what you’ve taught the kid. Actions have consequences. If you do something wrong, you get grounded or you get spanked. I don’t see anything wrong with spanking a kid as long as it doesn’t go too far. I got smacked across the butt with a belt on a couple of occasions, and I learned real quick that I didn’t want to get the belt again. I had my mouth washed out with soap once. I didn’t want that to happen again. A little discipline will go a long way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents tell their kids this: “Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. I told you not to do that. Don’t do that. I’m going to take your toy away if you do that again. I’m going to take your toy away if you do that again.” And the parents do nothing and the kids keep doing what they want. First time the kid misbehaves, you give them a warning. Second time, you jerk a kink in them. That’ll probably straighten them up real quick. Threatening that you’re going to do something and then never doing anything only emboldens the kids because they know you’re a coward and that you’re not going to do anything.
Third, shaming or embarrassing people is a real effective way to get them to change their behavior. Business owners need to say something to parents when their kids are misbehaving in their establishment. So what if they leave? You can actually do without their business. Other patrons will thank you. If the owners or management of an establishment aren’t going to say anything, it’s up to other patrons to say something. I can think of two instances in the last month where this happened, and I was involved in both of them. First, I was having dinner in an upscale restaurant and the large party at the table behind us had three kids ranging in age from about six to ten. The middle one, he was probably about seven or eight, refused to stay seated and was up and down and running around. The parents kept telling him to sit down, but he didn’t listen. After about a half hour they told the kid to sit down again, so I turned and said in a voice loud enough for the tables around us to hear, “He didn’t listen to you the fifty other times you told him to sit down, what makes you think he’s going to listen now?” The restaurant got real quiet and all eyes seemed to be on them. The parents were quite embarrassed. They gave me very dirty looks, as if I cared, and the wife apologized profusely. The husband took the unruly child outside. When they returned, there were no further problems.
The second instance was at another nice restaurant. Two children, probably about five or six years old, at the table next to us were running around their table then our table and the parents seemed oblivious to it. They just continued to enjoy their food and their conversation with an older couple who I presumed were the wife’s parents. Luckily, they were nearly finished by the time I was seated. I made eye contact with the father a couple times and sort of shrugged. He then tried to reign the kids in but to no avail. I noticed a couple of other diners were also getting frustrated. Soon, they picked up their stuff and started to leave. I stood up and started to clap without saying a word, which prompted a couple of diners around us to join in on the clapping. The wife look like she could have died from embarrassment, and the husband just had a real stupid look on his face. Hopefully, that gave them something to think about on the car ride home, and maybe it will prompt them to take action to see that their kids behave a little better next time.
Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking that I’m quite the jerk for doing this type thing. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion. I don’t have a problem with kids; I don’t have any and I don’t want any myself. Most of the time, you can look around and see other kids in a restaurant and they’re better behaved. I have no problem with that and I welcome that. I’ve even commented to parents about how well behaved their child is, and they seem to genuinely appreciate that. But like kids or not, I don’t believe there is any excuse for them to misbehave in public. If you’re a parent going out in public, the world doesn’t revolve around your kid. Have some courtesy. It’s real simple.
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About Mr. Cartwright— Digger Cartwright is the author of several mystery stories, teleplays, and novels including The Versailles Conspiracy, a modern day political thriller, Murder at the Ocean Forest, a traditional mystery novel set in the 1940s, The House of Dark Shadows, a psychological thriller, and The Maynwarings: A Game of Chance, a mystery set in the Old West. His latest book, Conversations on the Bench, is an inspirational/motivational novel. His books are available in hardback, paperback, and e-book format through his website, www.DiggerCartwright.com, on-line booksellers and bookstores.
Mr. Cartwright has contributed to a number of articles on a wide range of financial, strategic planning, and policy topics. He frequently contributes articles, commentaries, and editorials focusing on current economic and political topics for the private think tank, Thinking Outside the Boxe.
He enjoys golf, participating in charity golf tournaments, and attending WWE events. He divides his time between Washington, D.C., South Carolina, and Florida.
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