DUBLIN – Today, a simple proposal for making America great again…
But first an update on our recent trip to Ireland.
When we left you on Friday, we were visiting our headquarters in the town of Portlaw in County Waterford, Ireland, where we have become the biggest employer.
Portlaw is not a fancy town. It is plain, modest, and tidy, with rows of small factory-worker houses – most of them stuccoed and painted much like the old industrial bedrooms of Baltimore.
In the tea shop on Friday, the only place to get a hot sandwich, we noticed all the seats were taken. Children out to lunch (school is still in session) took up many of the tables. The few others were crowded with newcomers – our employees.
Though three or four houses are for sale – from about $80,000 to $350,000 – one of our American exports said he could find nothing for rent.
“I bet these prices are going to go up,” said our Baltimore transplant. “It’s not very fashionable. But it’s so cheap and easy to live in Portlaw [rather than commute to and from Waterford City, 30 minutes away], demand is bound to increase.
“And there’s a bar for sale. If I had the energy, I’d buy it. Nobody ever lost money owning a bar in Ireland.”
Over the weekend, we toured the oldest house in the area, Curraghmore. It was built by the Anglo-Norman de la Poer family beginning in the 12th century.
Curraghmore House in County Waterford, Ireland
After conquering England in 1066, some of the Normans kept going west. Led by Richard de Clare, they landed near here and soon were masters of the ground.
But rather than keep close connections with their cousins in England and Normandy, they picked up the Gaelic tongue and customs and were soon more eager to keep out the outsiders than the natives themselves.
The estate passed from generation to generation, only once through the female line; it is still in the family 800 years later.
Many great houses in Ireland have been abandoned by their owners, fallen to ruin, or have been turned into golf estates and tourist attractions. This one is still in use… by the same family.
They live here year-round – in much the same grand style they always did. Hunting parties and large, formal dinners are weekly affairs. The rest of the time, the family rumbles around in the huge house amid the accumulated glories and trivia of eight centuries of history.
Portraits cover the walls. Memorabilia fill the shelves. Furniture, much of it hundreds of years old, fills the open spaces.
One ancestor shot lions in Africa… and brought them back to prove it! One fell off his horse hunting foxes nearby and broke his neck.
Another attempted to rescue Gordon at Khartoum. There’s a painting to illustrate his illustrious relief effort; he is dressed in a white uniform on the deck of a British warship headed up the Nile.
“General Gordon practically begged his commanders for reinforcements,” explained the butler who gave us the tour.
“But headquarters dilly-dallied until the situation was dire. Then they sent three ships up the Nile. Two of them couldn’t make it past the short artillery.
Only one got through. But it was too late. When he arrived in Khartoum, he found the entire British force slaughtered, with General Gordon’s head on a post in front of the fortress.”
Ireland supplied the British Empire with many of its finest fighting men.
The “British” general who surrendered to Washington at Yorktown was an Irishman, General Charles O’Hara.
The “Iron Duke” of Wellington was Irish, too… something he was not eager to advertise. When asked about it at a dinner party, he replied: “Just because you are born in a stable, it doesn’t make you a horse.”
None of the Irish officers in the British Army, as far we know, came back from his foreign adventures as ignobly as the Anglo-Irish general who commanded the British forces at the Battle of New Orleans, the final major battle of the War of 1812.
Major General Sir Edward Pakenham was filled with grapeshot by one of Andrew Jackson’s backwoodsmen. The ill-tempered aristocrat was shipped home to Ireland in a cask of rum.
Arriving at his estate at Tullynally, County Westmeath, a relative remarked: “Well, the general returns to us in better spirits than he left.”
But let’s get down to business.
On Friday, we gave our opinion about what would have to be done to bring “transformational” change to the U.S.
Dear readers needn’t worry: None of those reforms we proposed will be enacted.
That’s just the point. When the insiders get control of a government, the last thing they want is real change. Instead, they fight among themselves over who will get what – some of it merely symbolic, most of it material.
Our proposals can be reduced to a single sentence: Make America Safe for Win-Win Deals Again.
Why are win-win deals so important?
In a nutshell, without win-win deals, there is no progress… no freedom… and no civilization. Take away the win-win deals and the whole shebang goes into a slump – the economy, the government, and society.
That’s what we’re seeing in America… with lower growth rates, more debt, and more meddling by the authorities.
It will get worse, we predict.
That is not a world that your editor looks forward to.
That is a win-lose world… and it wears many different wigs and moustaches, pretending to be an angel of mercy one day… and a national hero the next.
That is the world Russia entered in 1917… and stuck with for the next 70 years. It is the world, too, that Germany entered in the 1930s… and emerged from dazed, shell-shocked, and broke in 1945.
China sank into it completely (after a ghastly civil war and brutal invasion) in 1949; it largely escaped in 1979 with the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping.
Nations and economies are always in danger of falling for the win-lose world. It promises quick solutions… easy money… and the hollow pride of bullying others.
But in public life – as in private life – win-lose is a loser.
More to come…
BY CHRIS LOWE, EDITOR AT LARGE, Bonner & partners
That’s the stark message of today’s chart of the labor force participation rate.
The unemployment rate you often see splashed across the front page of the newspaper doesn’t tell the whole story.
The official unemployment figures only consider those who are actively looking for work. It doesn’t account for workers who have dropped out of the workforce altogether.
That’s why the workforce participation rate is so important. It shows the total percentage of the working-age population that is employed or actively looking for work.
The labor force participation rate shot up at the start of the 1970s. The big tailwind here was baby-boomer women entering the workforce.
But it peaked in the late 1990s, right after the first popular web browsers – Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer – were released.
This coincided with increased automation of factory floors.
As more people started doing business online, and more robots started doing the work of humans in factories, the labor force participation rate started to plunge.
– Chris Lowe
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In today’s mailbag, readers respond to Bill’s proposal to restore the American Republic…
Make the dollar honest again? Would you like a scoop of ice cream to go with that pie in the sky you’re wishing for?
– Kurt J.
You left out a very important part, make bribery (campaign contributions) of a federal employee punishable by a minimum of five years in jail, without parole or pardon. That would go a long way in making government better.
– Bernard B.
Cut tax rates across the board to 15%, then to 10% in five years. If you have any income it should be taxed and that includes anyone on government entitlement programs. For those that get government support, the 10% tax would automatically be deducted as it should be for everyone.
The federal government should live on income alone and all other forms of taxation would be taken out to support the needs of the people in communities, towns, counties, cities and states.
Of course this will never happen but it is just a thought.
– James B.
It didn’t take long for the term “Deep State” to enter our lexicon. It surely is descriptive of the problem. The rising tide is not floating all ships. This is especially true for small businesses and their owners. Like me!
– Louis S.
Your message about making the dollar honest again certainly hit the nail on the head. But I think the “Fair Tax” is a much better and more equitable system than your proposed 10% flat tax.
To all those who are unfamiliar with the Fair Tax, I suggest you check it out and urge your representatives to support its implementation. But the chances of it being adopted are about as good as rowing a boat to Jupiter.
– Arthur S.
All your suggestions are good, but chief among the changes should be this: Congress shall pass no law from which they are exempt. Take Social Security as the primary example. Because our system allows congress to create laws and regulations that they can opt out of, they have no skin in the game.
– Miles N.
You say “Cut congressional salaries to what a politician is really worth – about minimum wage.” The only reason they should make that much is if their constituents make that much!
– Darrel G.
Could you please discuss the “Fair Tax” idea? The discussion I read suggested a flat consumption tax of 23%. It seems to me that with a consumption tax instead of an income tax the government could receive all the revenue from the “cash economy” as well as put all the tax lawyers and accountants out of business. I would love your take. And keep on writing so that I can keep on reading.
– Barbara L.
When fewer people are paying into the system but more and more are drawing from it there is a limit to the sustainability of the system. We are way past the point of no return.
The state of Illinois is bankrupt and is unable to make good on its pension system or even pay its debts. Living in California I fear the same will happen here as government handouts continue even to people not in the country legally. The investment strategy is now uncertain but I know that many of us are hoping to weather the storm.
– Dave E.
Absolutely love the insight… especially in the honest, humorous way it’s shared. Well done!
– Allan B.
If you were born before 1969, our colleagues at the Palm Beach Research Group just released a book you’ll want to read.
Buried in President Reagan’s Tax Reform Act of 1986 is a little-known government program. And if you qualify, you could retire with an extra $2,194 per month, tax-free.
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