Guest Opinion Feed

There’s More to Being President Than Deal-Making - Ken Blackwell

Politically we appear to be living in the year of the outsider. Donald Trump has shocked the established political class and its loyal journalistic following. Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders are upsetting governing elites almost as much as Trump. The public says it is angry and isn’t going to take it anymore.

Yet the prescription offered by these three candidates is very different. The Donald constantly trumpets that he is a deal maker. Cruz and Sanders are more interested in the substance of the deal and always ready to say no deal.

There’s no doubt that politics involves compromise. Even such dominant figures as Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan had to accept less than what they wanted.

However, all of them started with strong convictions as to what needed to be done. From there they pushed to get as much as they could. And they compromised when there was no alternative. For them, deal-making was not a substitute for principle, but the culmination of principle. How do you put your beliefs into practice?

For Donald Trump deal-making appears to be the end, not the means. Hence his book, The Art of the Deal. Businessmen who’ve worked with him say he is most interested in the hunt and loses interest after he bags his prey.


The Government Spending and Debt Crisis Continues

by John Hendrickson

In early November Congress and President Barack Obama came to a compromise over spending, which not only raised the debt ceiling, but also left a door open for additional reckless spending. The federal budget is around $4 trillion and our national debt is over $19 trillion, which does not include the unfunded liabilities for entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare and the costs of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “The number one threat to our country’s future is our debt. The number one threat to our national security is our debt,” stated Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).1  Under President Barack Obama the national debt has expanded over $7 trillion, but the blame for this problem falls on both Democrats and Republicans.
Senator James Lankford (R-OK), who has assumed former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s role as a watchdog on wasteful spending, has released Federal Fumbles: 100 Ways the Government Dropped the Ball.2  Federal Fumbles exposes some of the wasteful spending by the federal government along with the harmful excessive regulations. As National Review reported, “Lankford records $900 billion in waste — $100 billion in government programs and $800 billion in regulations.”3
To read Public Interest Institute’s INSTITUTE BRIEF, The Government Spending and Debt Crisis Continues, please click HERE.

Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Our National Interest?

by John Hendrickson

The United States Congress, after granting President Barack Obama fast-track trade authority, will be debating the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). TPP is a large free-trade agreement with several countries in the Pacific (Asia) region. The text of the agreement is very complicated, and it is “5,554 pages long, twice that of Obamacare, and nearly three feet high.”1  The debate over TPP has created internal divisions within both the Republican and Democrat parties. Supporters of TPP argue that it will provide opportunities for new markets for American products resulting in economic growth and at the same time allow the United States to be a regional player in Asia. Opponents of TPP argue that the agreement will only result in further loss of manufacturing jobs, continuing loss of sovereignty, and further harm to the already suffering middle-class.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who is a leading critic of TPP and granting fast-track authority to President Obama described the TPP agreement:
“This is, by definition, anti-democratic. No individual American has the resources to ensure his or her economic and political interests are safeguarded within this vast global regulatory structure. The predictable and surely desired result of the TPP is to put greater distance between the governed and those who govern. It puts those who make the rules out of reach of those who live under them, empowering unelected regulators who cannot be recalled or voted out of office. In turn, it diminishes the power of the people’s bulwark: their constitutionally-formed Congress.”2  

To read Public Interest Institute’s INSTITUTE BRIEF, Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Our National Interest? please click HERE.

The President's Speech - Thomas Sowell

When the President of the United States asks the television networks to set aside time for him to broadcast a speech from the Oval Office, we can usually expect that he has something new to say. But President Obama's speech Sunday night was just a rehash of what he has been saying all along, trying to justify policies that have repeatedly turned out disastrously for America and our allies.

This was not a speech about how the Obama administration is going to do anything differently in the future. It was a speech about how Obama's policies were right all along. Obama is one of those people who are often wrong but never in doubt.

The president struck a familiar chord when he emphasized that we shouldn't blame all Muslims for the actions of a few. How many people have you heard blaming all Muslims?

Even if 90 percent of all Muslims are fine people, and we admit 10,000 refugees from the Middle East, does that mean that we need not be concerned about adding a thousand potential terrorists -- even after we have seen in San Bernardino what just two terrorists can do?


“Free” Government Money is Rarely Free

From Public Interest Institute’s

by Amy K. Frantz

The federal government gave out grants to state and local governments totaling more than $628 billion for fiscal year 2015.1  Why wouldn’t states and local governments take grants from the federal government?  Leaving aside the argument that the money the federal government gives away came from taxpayers in the first place, aren’t federal grants “free” money?  A closer, more transparent look at federal grants and the impact they have on state and local budgets will show that the “free” money isn’t so free after all.
Federal grants are typically intended to supplement state and local government spending rather than take the place of some state and local spending.  Thus receiving federal dollars does not generally result in less spending by state and local governments.
To read Public Interest Institute’s Iowa Transparency Newsletter, please click HERE.

It’s Time to Renew the American Century

By John Hendrickson

Henry Luce, the late publisher of Time and Life magazines, described the 20th century as the American Century. Today, in the 21st century, the United States is in decline. From an economic standpoint the national economy is suffering from a weak recovery from the Great Recession, and from a national security standpoint, the United States is being challenged across the globe by foreign powers who are hoping to benefit from our national decline.

One major economic threat confronting the nation is the escalating national debt driven by out-of-control spending and the escalating costs of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and now the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Michael Tanner, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis, wrote: “The ‘official’ national debt recently topped $18 trillion and is projected to reach $26.5 trillion within 10 years. Worse, if you include the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, our real indebtedness exceeds $90.5 trillion.”
The United States is also suffering from the lack of job growth, especially in good-paying middle-class jobs, and wages have remained stagnant for some time. A major reason for this is a reckless trade policy — helped along by high taxes and regulations — to encourage business to leave the United States for cheaper labor markets. Kevin L. Kearns, who is President of the United States Business and Industry Council, wrote that “since 2000, the U.S. has lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing establishments.”
The de-industrialization of the United States has not only hurt high-paying middle-class jobs, but it also threatens our national security. “This unbalanced trade has led to America no longer producing enough steel to supply its own defense and infrastructure needs,” stated Kearns. The so called free-trade deals have hurt the American economy and represent a serious threat to our national security. As Brig. General John Adams explained: “America is vulnerable. There are threats near and far from which our military defends us. And many of these threats are hard to see, easy to ignore, or difficult to contain. Yet, one that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is absolutely within our control — our growing reliance on global manufacturing supply chains to fulfill our national defense needs. The United States relies heavily on imports to keep our armed forces equipped and ready, and increasingly depends on foreign financing arrangements as well.”
The United States, once the Arsenal of Democracy, has allowed globalization to not only harm crucial industries such as steel, but also manufacturing even in regard to defense industries. As Kearns states: “Currently, our steel industry is facing a wave of subsidized steel at nearly unprecedented levels. And the U.S. also faces dependencies in such vital defense industries as propellant chemicals, batteries, and specialty metals. Where will we work, and how will we defend our nation, if these trends continue?” Brig. General Adams provides some examples when he wrote: “From magnets and batteries that enable our advanced missile systems to the uniforms worn by our service members, an alarming amount of equipment and components that go into weapons systems, aircraft, Navy vessels, tactical vehicles and other products are imported. And too often we are seeing potentially hostile trading partners become the sole source.”
We don’t even know the scope of our defense industrial-base vulnerabilities…,” argues Brig. General Adams. In addition, “America's military communications systems increasingly rely on network equipment from China, putting our entire defense at risk.” One of the reasons why the 20th century was the American Century was the fact that the United States was a commanding industrial and manufacturing power. Brig. General Adams argues correctly that the armed forces and civilians deserve “better than a national security policy that relies on countries like China and Russia for their safety and the defense of our great nation.”
Patrick J. Buchanan wrote, “We are a dependent nation now. We rely on imports for the necessities of our national life and the vital components of our weapons systems. [Alexander] Hamilton must be turning over in his grave.” Kearns argues that “America, with $18 trillion in debt, a declining manufacturing base, and a growing dependence on China is a nation at risk.”
In order to renew the American Century, it is necessary to solve the debt crisis and reverse the current manufacturing decline by following both conservative economic policies and an America first trade policy. This will lead to a more secure America with a stronger economy.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Public Interest Institute.  They are brought to you in the interest of a better informed citizenry. 
John Hendrickson, Research Analyst, Public Interest Institute, 600 North Jackson Street, Mount Pleasant, IA 52641-1328. Ph: 319-385-3462, Web site:  Contact him at

Iowans Are Over-Regulated!

By Amy K. Franz

Occupational licensing – “a form of regulation that requires individuals who want to perform certain types of work to obtain the permission of the government” – has grown significantly, particularly here in Iowa.  In our state, 33 percent of the workforce is licensed by the state, the largest percent in the nation.  The recent report, Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers, calls for “ensur[ing] that licensing protects consumers without placing unnecessary restrictions on employment, innovation, or access to important goods and services.”  The source of this report?  The Obama Administration’s Department of the Treasury Office of Economic Policy, Council of Economic Advisers, and Department of Labor.
While you recover from the shock that the administration of President Obama, who National Taxpayers Union reports has “overseen an unprecedented annual average of 81 federal regulations that would cost the economy over $100 million per rule,” would issue a report calling for less regulation, keep in mind that most occupational licensing is mandated by state governments.  So the President is calling for states to cut back on their regulations while the federal government keeps piling them on.  However, this report still has some good points on why we should lessen licensing regulations on America’s workers.

While the licensing of some professions, such as doctors or dentists, seems prudent, licensing requirements have grown far beyond their original scope.  In the early 1950s, less than 5 percent of the workforce in the United States was covered by state licensing laws.  By 2008, those covered had grown to 25 percent of the workforce.  “Among licensed workers today, fewer than half are in health care, education, and law – traditionally very highly licensed occupations.  Instead, large shares of licensed workers today are in sales, management, and even craft sectors like construction and repair,” according to the report.
Negative aspects of licensing include higher prices for goods and services, “with research showing effects on prices between 3 and 16 percent.  Moreover, in a number of other studies, licensing did not increase the quality of goods and services, suggesting that consumers are sometimes paying higher prices without getting improved goods or services.”  Occupational licensing also often reduces total employment in licensed professions – however, for those already in that profession, it may be viewed as positive to limit the competition.

The report recommends that states adopt changes to improve occupational licensing while meeting the needs of workers, businesses, and consumers, such as limiting licensing requirements “to those that address legitimate public health and safety concerns,” looking at cost-benefit assessments of licensing laws, and “harmonizing regulatory requirements as much as possible, and where appropriate entering into inter-state compacts that recognize licenses from other states to increase the mobility of skilled workers.”
I hope that states will take a look at this report and consider the recommendations, particularly here in Iowa, where we have the largest percentage of our workforce that must obtain a license from the government in order to work in a chosen profession.  I also hope that President Obama can see that lessening regulations on businesses and workers would be good for the federal government, too!

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Public Interest Institute.  They are brought to you in the interest of a better informed citizenry. 
Amy K. Frantz, Vice President, Public Interest Institute, 600 North Jackson Street, Mount Pleasant, IA 52641-1328. Ph: 319-385-3462, Web site:  Contact her at

DEAR ANTI-GUN ZOMBIES: Yes, Dillweeds, Civilians Can Stop Potential Massacres - Doug Giles

Last week I wrote a column that burnt the internet down about how a good guy with a gun could’ve “dissuaded” with hot Cor-Bons coming out of his pistol at 1100 feet-per-second the murderous weasel who wasted nine lives and wounded several others at Umpqua Community College.

As usual, and on cue, my detractors (cough… liberals) said how insane I was to augur for guns in the hands of a trained and licensed civilian on campus.

I was hammered with the standard and oft times disastrously deadly blah-blah “wisdom” that we must wait for the cops to sort it out. That guns in the hands of an average Joe would lead to bedlam and only Johnny Law can settle such scenarios.

Look, I’m a big fan of our LEOs, but when that kind of hell is unleashed on a crowd, unless the law is there, like in “there, there,” they usually don’t rock up until it’s too late. At that point the police's job is to fill body bags, draw chalk outlines, mark shell casings, search for the perp and try to comfort the confused.

Here’s a FYI for the dain bramaged liberal: When seconds count … police are minutes away.


The Problem Isn't Guns Or White Men - Ann Coulter

The media act as if they're performing a public service by refusing to release details about the perpetrator of the recent mass shooting at a community college in Oregon. But we were given plenty of information about Dylan Roof, Adam Lanza, James Holmes and Jared Loughner. 

Now, quick: Name the mass shooters at the Chattanooga military recruitment center; the Washington Navy Yard; the high school in Washington state; Fort Hood (the second time) and the Christian college in California. All those shootings also occurred during the last three years.

The answers are: Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, Kuwaiti; Aaron Alexis, black, possibly Barbadian-American; Jaylen Ray Fryberg, Indian; Ivan Antonio Lopez, Hispanic; and One L. Goh, Korean immigrant. (While I'm here: Why are we bringing in immigrants who are mentally unstable?)

There's a rigid formula in media accounts of mass shootings: If possible, blame it on angry white men; when that won't work, blame it on guns.


The Forgotten Alexander Hamilton

By John Hendrickson

Instead of removing Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill, it would be better for Americans to rediscover the principles and philosophy of one of our greatest Founding Fathers. Alexander Hamilton, who served as one of our nation’s prominent Founding Fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury under President George Washington, was a hero to many political leaders. As a close adviser to President Washington, Hamilton was the “chief architect” of the administration’s policies. It is said that Hamilton is the “Father of American Capitalism,” and as historian Forrest McDonald wrote, his fiscal policies “breathed life into the Constitution.” McDonald also argued that Hamilton’s economic program “was an example of conservatism — of constructive, prudential change — at its best.”
Hamilton’s influence on policy leaders during the 1920s and even into the 1930s can be seen clearly through the many speeches and references made to him by individuals such as President Warren G. Harding, President Calvin Coolidge, Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, President Herbert Hoover, and Senator Arthur Vandenberg. President Harding, early in his political career, gave a popular lecture on Hamilton to various audiences, while Senator Vandenberg wrote a book on Hamilton, The Greatest American. Andrew Mellon, who was considered to be the best Treasury Secretary since Alexander Hamilton, praised him in his book Taxation: The People’s Business.

Calvin Coolidge also joined in the admiration for Hamilton. In a 1922 speech before the Hamilton Club, then-Vice President Coolidge stated that “when America ceases to remember his greatness, America will be no longer great.” He praised Hamilton’s defense of the Constitution with his “masterly” contributions to The Federalist. Coolidge argued that Hamilton “played a leading part in the framing of the Constitution,” and without his leadership “the American nation would not have come into being.”

In addition to his role in securing the ratification of the Constitution, Coolidge argued that another aspect of Hamilton’s genius was his economic program, which was the foundation for the success of American capitalism. As Treasury Secretary, Hamilton was confronted with serious economic problems, and “his tremendous task was to provide for funding the national debt, establish the public credit, and provide for the government revenue.” Some of Hamilton’s initiatives that Coolidge specifically found crucial to the American economy included the establishment of the First Bank of the United States and his Report on Manufactures, which he [Coolidge] argued to be “a great contribution to political economy.” Coolidge argued that Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures developed a sound doctrine that would create a strong and diverse American economy. As Coolidge stated: “He believed in protection [tariffs] in the first place as a means of national defense. He desired his country to be self-sustaining and self-sufficient…After national defense he advocated protection as the method by which the nation would increase its power to produce wealth.”

“For most of the 19th century, the nation followed the economic policy of Hamilton and the foreign policy of Washington — and was richly rewarded. By the first decade of the 20th century, America was the most independent and self-reliant republic in all of history,” wrote Patrick J. Buchanan. The results of Hamilton’s economic philosophy were described by Buchanan when he wrote: “For 12 decades, America followed Hamilton’s vision. On the eve of World War I, the 13 agricultural colonies on the eastern seaboard had become the richest nation on earth with the highest standard of living, a republic that produced 96 percent of all it consumed while exporting 8 percent of its GNP, an industrial colossus that manufactured more than Britain, France, and Germany combined.”

Coolidge argued that “the measure of the strength and the enlightenment of a people is the measure of their appreciation of their great men, their devotion to their memory and the defense of the institutions which they have established.” He also warned that “when the reverence of the nation for its great men dies, the glory of the nation will die with it.”

Alexander Hamilton is a forgotten conservative statesman, whose ideas can help us solve the great national problems that we face today, especially dealing with our escalating $18 trillion national debt and poor trade policy. It would be wise for the Treasury Department to leave Hamilton on the $10 bill and not change any of our currency just to appease forces of political correctness.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Public Interest Institute.  They are brought to you in the interest of a better informed citizenry. 
John Hendrickson, Research Analyst, Public Interest Institute, 600 North Jackson Street, Mount Pleasant, IA 52641-1328. Ph: 319-385-3462, Web site:  Contact him at