Fight Or Flight: Which Do You Choose?

Here’s a shocker: In “Action Comics #900,” Superman talked about giving up his U.S. citizenship!

No, he wasn’t protesting the incredible intrusions our Big Nanny government is making into all of our personal affairs. Superman doesn’t need to worry about being groped at an airport; he can fly anywhere he wants, unaided.

In case you haven’t followed the Man of Steel in recent years, Superman has become embarrassingly politically correct. The reason he was thinking of giving up his citizenship was because borders are obsolete these days. The Superman character said: “The world’s too small, too connected.”

At least so far, Superman hasn’t surrendered his U.S. passport. But for a bunch of people who gathered in Vancouver, Canada, two weeks ago to attend the 12th annual Agora Financial Investment Symposium, the question of how to preserve their liberty and savings was very much on their minds.

The theme of this year’s conference was Fight or Flight: Your Capital at Risk. Among the questions speakers addressed were:

  • How bad do you expect things to get? (Keep in mind this was before the market’s reaction to the Standard & Poor’s downgrade.)
  • What can we do to change things?
  • (Here was the killer) If you can’t stand what’s happening in the U.S. but don’t think it’s possible to make things better, is it time to consider moving your money — and maybe yourself – outside U.S. borders?

For a mostly Libertarian audience, it was interesting how many were more inclined to fight than flight. There was plenty of discussion about what tactics and strategies would be the most effective and which ones were likely a waste of time.

The mood of this group was captured perfectly by Byron King, author of the popular newsletter Outstanding Investments. When panelists at the Whiskey Bar (an extremely popular give-and-take closing session) were asked to name their favorite hero, philosopher and cocktail, Byron replied: “Patton, Patton and Molotov.” (I’ll give you a moment to enjoy the joke, which brought the house down.)

Doug Casey was at the opposite end of the fight-or-flight spectrum. He’s been an “international man” since he wrote a book of that title nearly 40 years ago. Today, he says he is, by choice, homeless — although he will admit to living on five continents and owning homes on most of them.

Agora founder Bill Bonner, who gave the closing address at the conference, said he did not agree with either point of view. Rather than fight or flight, he prefers to watch and chuckle. With his sardonic sense of humor, the Daily Reckoning columnist is an expert at poking fun at the posturing and platitudes of those who are sure they know what is best for us.

Speaking of politicians, no one at the conference had a more attentive audience than bestselling author John Mauldin when he described a private, invitation-only meeting he had with a roomful of Senators and their staffs in Washington a week earlier.

John is the author of an important new book, Endgame, which discusses various possible outcomes to the dilemmas our country faces. As you might imagine, many of them aren’t pretty. John describes himself as an optimist; by that, he means he thinks we will somehow muddle through.

Apparently, several members of “the world’s most exclusive club,” as the U.S. Senate is sometimes called, aren’t as optimistic. Here is how John described what happened:

It started when a friend gave Senator Dan Coats a copy of Endgame. He read it and underlined, highlighted and scored it. Then Senator Rob Portman took it off his hands and read it. They asked me to come to Washington to meet with a few of their colleagues. You don’t say no to such a request.

John met beforehand with several chiefs of staff who advised him not to use a PowerPoint or even a prepared presentation. Rather, they suggested, just talk with them about what you see happening.

Evidently, Coats and Portman had worked the room, because nine guys showed up more or less on time. Two Democrats, six Republicans, and an independent (Lieberman). Jon Kyl was there, as well as Gang of Six member Tom Coburn from Oklahoma. Also Corker, Lugar, Coats, Portman and Mike Lee, the Tea Party senator from Utah. Overall, I was very impressed with the level of knowledge in the room and the candor.

The thing that surprised and worried John — as it surprised and worried everyone who heard him in Vancouver — was that no one was very optimistic about a solution. None of the Senators or their staff he met with thought the present situation could be papered over with another round of quantitative easing, or even by a temporary increase in the debt ceiling. “I told them we could see a banking and credit crisis that was worse than the subprime crisis,” John reported. No one present disagreed with him.

When some of the most powerful people in Washington admit they don’t know what will happen next or even what to do about it, the situation is extremely serious, folks. Even Pollyanna is getting nervous.

But enough of the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Were there any positive suggestions for us? Of course. John Mauldin mentioned one of the most popular: Own gold. In fact, he says he spends some of every paycheck on the Midas metal (he’s partial to the gold American Eagle). And a lot of speakers agreed with him.

Egon von Greyerz got the crowd’s attention when he said, “There are only three kinds of money: Money which is already worthless, money that will become worthless (he put a picture of a $100 bill on the screen), and real money: gold.”

Egon also used one of the best analogies I’ve heard in a long time. It would take 100,000 workers, he said, making an average wage, more than 330 years to earn the same amount of dollars that Ben Bernanke has created in one year. Makes you appreciate just how big the tsunami of fiat currency really is, doesn’t it?

But not everyone recommended owning more gold. Gary Gibson, the editor of Whiskey and Gunpowder newsletter, had an interesting twist. Instead of buying gold coins, he said we should stock up on nickels. “Right now,” he said, “you can walk into your bank, give them a $100 bill, and receive $120 worth of nickels.” Yes, the metal content of that lowly coin is actually worth 20 percent more than its face value.

“And there’s another plus to owning nickels,” Gary told the crowd. “If you’ve got $10,000 worth stashed at home and a burglar breaks in, no way is he going to cart off more than $40 or $50 worth.”

There were many other dramatic promises and predictions at this year’s Agora symposium, including some truly eye-opening possibilities about the future of technology and biotech. But I’m running out of space to share them with you.

Instead, let me suggest that you get the CDs or MP3s of the conference and listen to the talks yourself. You can get every main session speech on a digital, downloadable MP3 file for only $99. Or if you prefer a boxed set of CDs, as I do, it costs only $149. Whichever you order, you will also receive a special report listing every investment recommendation in the afternoon breakout sessions.

To order, simply click here. And get ready to enjoy several hours of information on how to keep what’s yours — and make it grow.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Day The Flood Began

The flood of “funny money” — that is, the Federal Reserve creating billions of dollars and then trillions of dollars in new currency, unbacked by even an ounce of silver or gold — can be traced back to Aug. 11, 1987. That is the day when Alan Greenspan replaced Paul Volcker as the head of the Federal Reserve.

In the prior five years, Volcker had slammed on the brakes at the Fed, easing the Discount Rate seven times in six months in 1982. The effect on interest rates was dramatic.

The stock market loved the idea of Alan Greenspan taking over. On Aug. 11, 1987 the Dow opened at 2635.84 and closed at 2691.96. That doesn’t sound like much now, but it is 248 percent above the bear market low in 1982, when it dropped to 772.13.

Of course, two months later, on Oct. 19, 1987 the Dow lost 508 points — 22.6 percent — which surpassed the crash of Oct. 29, 1929 that is now known as Black Tuesday.

Yes, times sure were different back then. Anyone want to go back?

–Chip Wood


“I Vote For The Lollipops Guy!”

A friend of mine was trying to explain to his children the significance of the debate going on over what to do about our national debt.

He showed them a clip of something you’ve probably seen: the National Debt Clock in New York City. On Monday, the National Debt Clock said our national debt was more than $14.4 trillion, and it said each family’s share of this monstrous total was $122,303.

Steve tried to explain the situation this way to his kids:

“Who would you vote for? Someone who promises to give you lollipops every day at school, even though he can’t afford them? Or someone who says he needs to take your desks away because we can’t afford to pay for them?”

His 8-year-old piped up, “I vote for the lollipops guy!”

And of course, that is the problem. Ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt made the redistribution of wealth the official policy of the United States, a majority of our citizens have been voting for “the lollipops guy” a majority of the time. We’ve reached the shocking situation in which more of our citizens receive something from government than contribute to paying the bills.

“How do we fix it?” Steve’s children asked. Here’s what he said:

“As a good person, you need to keep your promises. So if someone earned lollipops this year, they should get them. But if you don’t have the money to buy lollipops in the future, you have to stop promising to give away lollipops.”

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just promise to stop giving away lollipops.

But of course, the Harry Reids, Nancy Pelosis and Barack Obamas of the world will never agree. More to the point, they will never voluntarily relinquish the power, perks and prestige that pandering to greedy constituents has given them. They know that if they have to start taking away lollipops, their popularity will plunge faster than Congress’s credibility.

We made a huge start toward turning things around last year. The big spenders in Washington (and in many of our State governments) are still in shock over the number of Tea Party types who got elected in November 2012 — and not just the Young Turks in the House, or the lions of liberty like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Mike Hill in the Senate.

No, the changes at the State level are even more stunning — and may be more significant. Several States are now openly defying the dictates from Washington. They’re suing to stop Obamacare, demanding that they be allowed to combat the flood of illegal aliens pouring into their State. They’re challenging teachers’ unions and other public workers groups. They’re trimming payrolls, cutting pensions, ending featherbedding and demanding that people do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

Ladies and gentlemen, the revolution has begun!

We may not all agree on the best strategies and tactics that should be employed. That’s fine with me. This is not a one-size-fits-all movement. There’s plenty of room for plenty of approaches. I, for one, would like to see more attention paid and more resources devoted to the nullification movement. Imagine what would happen if more State governments told Washington: “We don’t like that law. And we’re not going to let you enforce it here.”

This is not the only strategy Constitutionalists can adopt to combat the overweening reach and power (and taxation) of our Federal government. How about getting Congress to demand appellate jurisdiction over what cases the courts can rule on? You hear a lot about the checks and balances the Founding Fathers built into the Construction. But you don’t hear much about the power they gave the legislature to check an out-of-control judiciary. But it’s there, folks. And I, for one, would love to see it used.

We don’t all have to support the same solution. Just as competition makes products better, it will make causes better, too. I’m not going to tell you which ones I think are most worthy of your support and which ones aren’t. (At least not very often.)

The critical thing is that you do something. Become a puller at the oars and not just a passenger in the boat. Want to do something right now? Send a friend this column and urge him or her to subscribe to Personal Liberty Digest™. That will certainly help get him informed, educated and alarmed.

Remember the lesson of Seymour Durst. He’s the gentleman who created the first National Debt Clock. When he mounted it at the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street on Feb. 20, 1989, the number was less than $3 trillion. The original clock didn’t even have space on it to hold one more digit; it had to be rebuilt when our debt hit $10 trillion.

Now, the debt is over $14.4 trillion and rising so rapidly that the last numbers on the clock revolve so fast, they’re just a blur.

This week, Congress faced the most important choice this country will make this year: whether to stop the madness or to continue to pile debt on the backs of our children and our children’s children?

Unfortunately, Congress decided to go the route of the lollipops guy.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama Is A Loser

Nobody loves Obama? In her Wall Street Journal column last Sunday, Peggy Noonan pointed out “something I’ve never seen in national politics.” The lady has seen a ton of stuff (and read about more) since her stint as speechwriter for Ronald Reagan. So what is it that’s surprised her now? “It is that nobody loves Obama.” Oh sure, he’s got plenty of supporters. Even some fanatical loyalists. But they’re all grim about it. What’s going on? Peggy’s conclusion: “He is a loser. And this is America, where nobody loves a loser.” Let’s hope she’s proven correct next November.

We need more people who pay taxes. Note I didn’t say who pay more taxes.  Not at all. I’m talking about the 52 million Americans who filed a tax return in 2008 (the most recent year for which data are available) but paid not a penny in taxes. In fact, thanks to various tax credits and giveaways, many of them actually received money from Uncle Sam. This incredible situation is making me more sympathetic to abolishing the income tax — and replacing it with a national sales tax. But please note, I’m saying instead of, not in addition to.

What’s in a rating? Representative Ron Paul mentioned that losing its AAA rating would mean the government would have to pay more to issue new debt. But he then pointed out: “This is not altogether a bad thing. Higher borrowing costs will ensure that the government cannot continue the same old spending policies.” Way to look for the silver lining, Ron.

–Chip Wood

When The Lamps Went Out In Europe

For most of the past century, this week was known as the time when “the lamps went out in Europe.” On Aug. 1, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. On Aug. 2, 1914, Turkey signed a military pact with Germany. On Aug. 3, 1914, Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium. On Aug. 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany.

By the time hostilities ended, the “old order” had been destroyed throughout Europe, paving the way for the rise of communism in Russia, Nazism in Germany, fascism in Italy and socialism in England.

On Aug. 3, 1914, British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey declared: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” His pessimistic prediction wasn’t entirely true, but much of the civilized world would be overturned.

–Chip Wood


Lies our leaders tell us

OK, this is it, I promise: my last column on the so-called debt crisis (at least until next month). I know you’re getting tired of hearing about it. Heck, I’m getting tired of writing about it.

But the lies and distortions have gotten so outrageous in the past few days that I simply must get up on my soapbox one more time and try to clear up a few of the biggest piles of malarkey. (Some of you may prefer a stronger word for what’s being thrown around.) Here are the latest “Big Four” that got my goat.

There is no Aug. 2 deadline

I know; it’s hard to believe. All we’ve heard for months is economic catastrophe will befall us if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by Tuesday.

But where did that date come from? It was plucked out of thin air by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. It has no basis in fact, in law or in any accounting data anyone can present. The big spenders in Washington simply picked a date at random with which to frighten the American public.

Even Geithner admits that “technically” the government ran out of money two months ago. He says he used “extraordinary measures” and “accounting maneuvers” to delay the crisis as long as possible. But if he could do it for eight weeks, why not nine? Or 10?

Obama threatens to stiff seniors and vets

This one really has me steamed. Two weeks ago, the President told CBS News, “I cannot guarantee that those [Social Security] checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue. …this is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans’ checks, these are folks on disability and their checks.”

All of which, as I showed in last week’s column, is a big, fat lie. (Click here if you missed that one.) If Social Security checks go out late, it will be because Barack Obama and his henchmen wanted to frighten our senior citizens and disabled vets out of their wits. (And frighten them into voting for him again in 2012, I should add.)

Can you think of anything this man has done that’s more despicable? (Well, OK, I’ll admit that killing a bunch of innocent civilians in Libya and other places is also pretty bad.)

There is plenty of money to pay our debts

The latest figures I could find show that the government expects to take in about $173 billion in revenue in August. Interest payments on Treasury securities for the month come to about $29 billion. We can pay every penny we owe and still have $144 billion left for other things. Not everything the Democrats want to do, I’ll admit. Not even everything they’ve already authorized. But so what?

It’s time to do what every family in America has to do when the money runs out, folks. Cut spending.

It’s all the Republicans’ fault

This may be the biggest whopper of them all. It wasn’t the Republicans who ran up those gigantic deficits. Barack Obama has forced our government to borrow more money in the past two years than any prior President did in eight.

Yet he wants you to believe that everything would be hunky-dory if it weren’t for those troglodytes in Congress. Is there anyone in America who actually believes this? Besides a few leftist university professors and some community organizers, that is.

Please remember that as President of the United States, Barack Obama was legally required to present a budget to Congress a year ago. Let me also remind you that back then, he had a solid Democratic majority in both houses. He could have gotten virtually anything he wanted passed. Why didn’t he?

Oh, and here’s a kicker you probably don’t know: According to a law passed way back in the days when Jimmy “Killer Rabbit” Carter was President, Obama’s budget had to be balanced.

Yup, even I forgot about this one. Section 7 of Public Law 95-435 declares, “Beginning with fiscal year 1981, the total budget outlays of the Federal Government shall not exceed its receipts.”

This has been the law of the land for 30 years, ladies and gentlemen. It’s never been repealed. Of course, I’ve got to admit it’s never been obeyed, either. That’s another objection I have to a Balanced Budget Amendment. If the big spenders in Washington won’t obey this law, what makes you think they’ll obey another one that says essentially the same thing?

In yet another speech filled with lies and deception, our Dissembler in Chief declared last week that “Congress has run up the credit card.” Who told it to, Mr. President? In fact, who insisted on all of that additional spending? May I respectfully suggest, sir, that for the answer you look in a mirror?

The President keeps trotting out his lament about corporate jets and how awful it is that our country allows this “tax break for the rich.” Apparently, this canard plays well in Peoria, so he uses it again and again.

Here’s how petty the President is being. If businesses weren’t allowed special deductions for the depreciation of those jets, government tax revenue would go up $3 billion. Or to put it another way, Obama’s deficit just for this year would be slashed from $1.4 trillion to — are you ready for this? — $1.397 trillion. That’s really impressive, isn’t it?

If the Democrats could do this 1,000 times, the Internal Revenue Service would collect an additional $300 billion in taxes. That is about one-third the deficit Barack Obama has incurred for this year.

Barack Obama is one of the most divisive, dishonest and mean-spirited men to ever hold high office in this country. And considering the competition, that’s saying something.

So what if we run out of money?

The bean counters tell us that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the government of the United States won’t be able to pay about 44 percent of the bills coming due next month.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I’m serious. Think for a moment about what would happen if this country went a month with the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Interior, Agriculture and a bunch of others doing nothing, because they didn’t have the funds?

I think we would quickly find out we don’t need them. And that this country is a richer, freer, more prosperous place without them. Private industry would create millions of new jobs. Profits would go up. So would tax revenue.

Ask some of the oldsters out there what happened at the end of World War II. Millions of soldiers returned home, ready to roll up their sleeves and go to work. Thousands of factories that were busy making war material turned their attention to making consumer goods. And this nation rode a wave of prosperity, innovation and job creation that lasted for decades.

I think the same thing would happen again, if the bloated, oppressive bureaucracy our politicians have created were shut down… or at least drastically trimmed.

As a fellow writer put it, wouldn’t you relish the prospect of “thousands of government employees, people with perfectly productive minds, some of them quite brilliant, making the change from parasites to producers?”

Sure you would. We can dream, can’t we?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

A LION in the House

Another government default. In my Straight Talk column two weeks ago (click here if you didn’t see it), I mentioned that the U.S. government has defaulted on its obligations at least twice in the past. Ron Paul, my favorite LION in the House (that’s an acronym I made up; it stands for Libertarians In Office Now), reminds me that there was a third and more recent default. In 1968, Uncle Sam unilaterally reneged on all the silver certificates that were in circulation. The notes promised to “pay on demand” their equivalent value in silver. But as of 1968, all you could exchange them for were other Federal Reserve notes. Can you guess who got the worst of that deal?

Ron Paul sues the President. And here’s an item you probably haven’t heard much about unless you read about it in Personal Liberty Digest. Last month, Congressman Paul joined six other Republicans and three very brave Democrats in a lawsuit against the Obama Administration for its “illegal” war in Libya. Paul says Obama’s boys claim they can ignore the War Powers Resolution “because Libya is so militarily weak” the actions there don’t constitute a real war. What a great defense if you ever decide to mug someone. “It wasn’t really a crime, your honor, because the victim was too weak to fight back.”

Hey, airlines, give us that money back! With all the dithering over the budget debate, Congress failed to renew a tax on airline tickets that helped fund the Federal Aviation Administration. The expired taxes can be $25 or more on a typical $300 ticket. But rather than pass the savings on to consumers, all of the major airlines simply raised their ticket prices by an amount equal to the expired tax. I understand their rationale: Congress will probably re-impose the tax shortly.  But in the meantime, this makes the airlines sound awfully cheap.

That was a great tweet, Mr. Speaker. Did you see the tweet John Boehner sent the president during Obama’s “Town Hall Twitter” earlier this month? It was a dilly: “After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?” Obama didn’t answer in 140 characters or in many words, for that matter. No wonder he’s a little ticked off at the Speaker.

–Chip Wood


History in Song

History was an important theme on the Billboard Top 40 charts 52 years ago. For the week of July 27, 1959, the No. 2 hit was “Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton. It spent 18 weeks in the Top 40 and six weeks at No. 1.

Remember the story it told? “In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the Mighty Mississipp. We took a little bacon an’ we took a little beans, and we caught the bloody British at the town of New Orleans.” The battle itself was won 144 years earlier, on January 8, 1815.

The No. 4 hit that week was about another battle in the same year, 1815. “Waterloo” was sung by Stonewall Jackson. Yes, that was his actual name; he was a direct descendent of the famed Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

What do you think the chances a singer would have today, singing about battles that took place nearly two centuries earlier? Can you think of any popular song that became a hit in the past 25 years that commemorated anything in our history? I can’t.

—Chip Wood



What A Guy

How many people would have done this? A tip of the Chip Shots hat to Christian Lopez, a 23-year-old baseball fan who managed to snag a home run ball off the bat of Derek Jeter. But not just any ball — it happened to be Jeter’s 3,000th hit. The slugger was the first Yankee in history to achieve this awesome record. Rather than keep it, sell it or negotiate with the Yankee slugger for it, Lopez gave back the ball. He could have sold it for more than $200,000, collectibles experts say. Nice going, Mr. Lopez.

And a chorus of boos for the jerk who did this. I was traveling abroad and missed the final round of the U.S. Open. So I was shocked to learn that some idiot at NBC decided to edit a broadcast of the Pledge of Allegiance. The pinhead deleted the words “under God” from the airing, apparently afraid that some atheistic golf fan would be offended. The network apologized profusely afterward. But it’s significant, I think, that someone in control of what we see would do this… and his boss would OK it.

Do they cancel each other out? I received a fortune cookie at a luncheon recently and to my surprise found three fortunes inside. The first said “There is no limit to intelligence.” Mmm, can’t argue with that. The second read, “No matter what you do, there will be critics.” Since I was at a conference with more than 100 speakers, I knew that one was true. The third promised, “You will soon make a wise investment.” You can guess which one I want to come true.

A fatwa against Fido. I had to read the story twice to make sure it wasn’t a spoof. Seems the authorities in Iran have declared war on any decadent Iranian who wants to own a pooch. Last year, Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against dog ownership. This year, the Iranian parliament decreed that dog ownership was a sign of “vulgar Western culture” and made it illegal. As a result, there’s a black market in dogs in the country, with smugglers being paid thousands of dollars to bring a puppy to an eager owner. Aren’t you glad to live in a country where we still have most of our freedoms?

—Chip Wood


The Left Baits A Trap for Us

A lot of good people have fallen for a very bad idea. I’m referring to the notion that a balanced budget amendment will somehow help solve the fiscal disaster our country faces.

I just got a promotion from Regnery Publishing, one of my all-time favorite book-publishing companies. I can’t count the number of truly important titles it has issued, from Witness to the whole “politically incorrect guidelines” series. My shelves are filled with things it has done, including numerous best-sellers.

But the most recent email I got from Regnery stopped me short. The subject line read, “Amending the Constitution Is Our Only Hope.”

Our only hope to save our Republic? I hope Regnery doesn’t mean it. Because the amendment process is long, arduous and often unsuccessful. (And frankly, even when it’s successful, it could turn out to be a mistake.)

The subhead continued, “Washington Is Incapable of Controlling Spending. There Is Only One Solution Left.” No, Regnery isn’t advocating armed insurrection. Or even tar and feathers. The copy insists, “By doing what our Founding Fathers would do: adopt a balanced budget amendment.”

If the Founding Fathers had wanted to do it, they would have done it. I happen to think they did a darned good job on the 10 Amendments they did give us. (I also think most of the ones that followed made things worse for this country, not better. But that’s a column for another day.)

The email from Regnery is for a new book by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) called The Freedom Agenda. I haven’t read it, but I guess I’d better. The ad for it says the book “proves why a balanced budget amendment is the only way to rein in spendthrift politicos and cut back government overreach.”

I couldn’t disagree more. We don’t need a balanced budget amendment, as I’ll show you in a moment. And I think passing one would be dangerous. Let me explain why.

A balanced budget amendment, even if approved by two-thirds of the states, doesn’t mean that government spending will be reduced by a single penny. In fact, just the opposite is likely to occur. Because of automatic increases that are already included in much of our legislation, unless Congress decides otherwise, Federal obligations in the future are much more likely to increase than decrease.

One important example is interest payments on the national debt. For a variety of reasons, from the real estate collapse to meddling by the Federal Reserve, interest rates in this country have been kept artificially low for years. But what happens when they start to climb?

Look at the numbers, folks. Our acknowledged Federal debt is somewhere north of $14 trillion. Our average interest payments for all of that borrowing come to about 1.5 percent. While that’s a bargain today (where can you borrow money at such a low rate?), it still means we taxpayers have to fork over about $200 billion a year, just to pay the interest on the national debt.

What happens when that rate starts to climb? Right now, Ireland must promise to pay 14 percent to get anyone to lend it money. Greece has to fork out even more. I’m not saying our interest rates will ever get that high. But what happens when they double or triple from here, as I believe is all but inevitable? Where is the money going to come from to pay them?

I agree that we should balance the budget. But not if the politicos in Washington decree that we need to increase revenue to do so.

The most important thing isn’t to balance the budget; it’s to slash spending.

If a requirement gets added to the U.S. Constitution that Congress must pass a balanced budget, one horrible alternative seems frighteningly clear to me: We will be forced to raise taxes to comply with the law.

I can see the editorials in The New York Times and The Washington Post. The editorial writers won’t be so juvenile as to gloat; but I wager they will smirk a bit. Because they will know that we have fallen into a trap that they baited for us.

Yes, I think a balanced budget amendment could be dangerous. But I’m against it for a second and more basic reason: We don’t need it.

Thanks to the foresight of our Founding Fathers, the solution is already in the U.S. Constitution. Article 1, Section 7 of that marvelous document requires that all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives.

If the House doesn’t approve it, the President can’t spend it. Period.

Does Congress really want to reduce spending? The answer is obvious: Don’t authorize the expenditure. Want to force the Department of Education (or any other Federal agency) to spend less? Don’t vote them more money. Want to force the Transportation Security Administration to stop groping old ladies and young children? Cut off its funds. Want to trim the military budget by a few hundred billion dollars? Reduce the appropriations and let the bureaucrats in uniform decide which bases to close and which troops to bring home.

Until last year, getting the House to reduce expenditures for anyone and anything seemed like a hopeless dream. Heck, when the Democrats were in charge, they wouldn’t even abolish the subsidy to mohair producers. (This sweetheart deal went back to World War II, when the military wanted to make sure it had enough cloth for all the uniforms it required. They switched to synthetics more than 50 years ago, but like old man river, the subsidy just keeps rolling along.)

Unlike last year, there is a Republican majority in the House this time. I know; I know; we’ve had one before. And under every previous Republican president, including Ronald Reagan, Federal spending just kept climbing.

I think this House is different. There are a bunch of tough-minded freshman who reject the old adage that you have to go along to get along. They aren’t going to meekly accept any deal that requires higher taxes and more borrowing. I hope I’m right about this. And I hope you’ll do everything you can to make certain your representative is in this group.

We know that Barack Obama won’t play fair. He’s already threatened to cut off Social Security checks to older Americans if he doesn’t get his way. Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) pointed out that even if Social Security tax receipts don’t cover all of the checks some month, the Social Security Trust Fund can sell some of the government bonds, bills and notes it owns. The Trust Fund holdings are enormous; even if it had to sell some at a discount, it could raise enough money to cover its checks for years.

And please don’t say anything to me about the government defaulting on its debts. There is more than enough money coming in every month for Uncle Sam to pay the interest on all those IOUs, as I’ve proven in previous columns.

Should the Federal government be forced to live within its means, just like thee and me? Absolutely! Do we need a Constitutional amendment to do this? Absolutely not.

The Constitution is fine just as it is. Congress already has all of the remedies it needs, if it will only use them. If the present Congress doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to do so, then let’s get some new faces with stronger backbones next year.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Celebrate Ice Cream

Raise your ice cream scoop high this week, as you celebrate the invention of the ice cream cone. Sunday was National Ice Cream Day and July is National Ice Cream Month.

According to some accounts, on July 23, 1904, Charles Menches invented that uniquely American treat, the ice cream cone.

Here’s what Menches Brothers Restaurants says about it: “At the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, Frank and Charles baked waffles in Parisian waffle irons and topped them with ice cream. They then had an idea to wrap the warm waffle around a fid, a cone-shaped splicing tool for tent ropes. The waffle cooled and held its shape to provide an edible handle for eating ice cream. Returning home to Akron (Ohio), the Menches began production of ‘premium’ cones at their Premium Popcorn Works factory.”

According to The Library of Congress, Menches “is one of several claimants to that honor: Ernest Hamwi, Abe Doumar, Albert and Nick Kabbaz, Arnold Fornachou, and David Avayou all have been touted as the inventor(s) of the first edible cone. Interestingly, these individuals have in common the fact that they all made or sold confections at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. It is from the time of the Fair that the edible ‘cornucopia,’ a cone made from a rolled waffle, vaulted into popularity in the United States.”

—Chip Wood





Two More Obama Lies

Before I get into the main topic today, let me say by way of introduction: I hope every single representative who votes to raise the U.S. debt ceiling has to find a new job next November.

I don’t care what kind of pressure he or she faces; I don’t care how many more lies the Administration and its henchmen tell; I don’t care how spineless and weak-kneed the Republican leadership becomes. For this November’s elections, I propose the simplest test in U.S. history: If you vote to burden my children and my children’s children with more debt, then I want you out of office. Period.

I’ve written before about all the bluff, bluster and baloney that politicians and the press have been ladling out on this issue. There’s been enough BS to fertilize every grain crop in the country. (And with the subsidies for ethanol, folks, that’s a lot of fertilizer.)

The latest one to raise my ire came from our Obfuscator in Chief, Barack Obama. I’ve mentioned before how careless our President can be about getting his facts straight. Earlier this year, he told a whopper about a Supreme Court decision in his State of the Union address. And he did it with four of the justices sitting right in front of him. (Click here to read that one, in case you’ve forgotten the dirty details.)

The most recent one came as he was urging negotiators from the two parties to work out a compromise on the nation’s debt. The spending champ got two facts wrong in a single sentence. Here’s what he said: “Everybody acknowledged that we have to get this done before the hard deadline of August 2nd, to make sure America does not default for the first time on its obligations.”

The last part of that statement is just flat-out wrong. It is not true that the United States has never defaulted on its debt. Actually, as anyone familiar with our financial history knows, the government has officially defaulted on its obligations at least twice. And it continues to do so today.

During the Civil War, the Union issued a flood of paper money to help pay its bills. The Treasury promised to convert these “greenbacks,” as the currency was called, into gold at war’s end. However (surprise, surprise), the government reneged on this promise. In fact, it passed something called the Legal Tender Act, requiring people to accept greenbacks at face value. It revoked a promise that holders could exchange them for gold-backed Treasury bonds.

The scheme worked so well that Franklin Roosevelt did even more 70 years later. FDR made the ownership of gold illegal in the U.S. in 1933. Citizens were ordered to surrender any gold coins they owned. At the same time, the promise on our currency that it was “in gold coin payable to the bearer on demand” was repudiated. Gold certificates could be exchanged solely for more paper. It was one of the biggest thefts from its citizens our government ever perpetrated… until now.

Despite the worries of some of our more alarmed contemporaries, gold confiscation is unlikely to happen again in this country. For one reason, the government doesn’t need to seize our gold to create a mountain of new money. Since there is not a single gram of gold backing any of our currency, there is simply no limit on the amount of fiat currency the Federal Reserve can create.

The process isn’t new. Famed British economist (and big-government enthusiast) John Maynard Keynes understood it very well when he wrote, “By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

If the government promises you a dollar, it should pay you a dollar, right? But under the tax-and-tax, spend-and-spend policies of the past 50 years, the “dollar” Uncle Sam pays you isn’t worth 100 cents. Its purchasing power has fallen so far since FDR’s day that it takes 10 or 20 “dollars” to purchase what a dollar used to buy.

This steady and deliberate inflation of our currency is the most deceptive, most deadly and most despicable form of devaluation.

So don’t tell me the U.S. has never and will never default on our debt, Mr. President. It’s simply not true.

Now, what about our Spender in Chief’s insistence that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we won’t be able to pay our bills?

Turns out this one is just as false as the first part of Obama’s statement.

Keep in mind that even without new borrowing, money continues to pour into the U.S. Treasury every day. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, do you expect that no more money will be withheld from your paycheck? Of course not.

Not a single business will stop paying its taxes, either. Tariffs will still be collected. And billions of dollars will continue to arrive in Washington every week.

Will it be enough to pay to pay the interest on our national debt? Ladies and gentlemen, it will be far more than enough. Here are the hard facts that Barack Obama hopes you will never learn.

Yes, interest payments on our debt cost a bundle. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. currently spends $200 billion per year just to pay interest on its debt. But the interest payments represent only a small percentage of all Federal expenditures. Uncle Sam receives several times that amount in tax revenue.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has stated emphatically: “If Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, the Federal government will still have far more than enough money to fully service our debt.” So he’s proposed a new law that would require the Treasury to make interest payments on our debt its first priority.

Voilà! With one simple piece of legislation, the problem is solved. So let us hear no more about the United States not paying its debts.

As I said above, the single most important decision Congress will make this year is whether to raise the debt ceiling. I hope you will insist that your Congressman toes the line here. If the House won’t give in, we will win this battle. And you’d better believe all the big-spenders in Washington know this. That’s why they’re getting so frantic.

I’ll have a lot more to say in the coming weeks about other aspects of this issue — such as how we can get our obese government to live within its means. (For a hint, go to, where you’ll find an item-by-item explanation of how we can reduce spending by $1.375 trillion.)

It’s up to us to make sure our representatives don’t give in on this one. Don’t let them give in an inch.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama Seems Confident

Don’t bet Obama will get them. At a fundraiser in Philadelphia two weeks ago, Barack Obama apologized for not accomplishing more of his goals. “I know there are some of you who are frustrated because we haven’t gotten everything done that we said we were going to do in two and a half years,” our Orator in Chief said. Then, he added, “It’s only been two and a half years. I got five and a half years more to go.”

Some Dems aren’t that optimistic. Obama might tell the crowd (and himself) that he’s a shoo-in to win another term. But some powerful Democrats aren’t so sure. They’re hinting that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should retire now, so the President can nominate her successor. They don’t want to run the risk that a Republican President (and a conservative one at that) might get the opportunity after 2012. It’s such a good idea that Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy says Justice Stephen Breyer should also step down now, rather than risk illness (or death) with a Republican in the White House.

This year’s most stupid proposed bill. Actually, there are a lot of candidates for that dubious honor. But my favorite this week is H.R. 2411, the Reduce America’s Debt Now Act of 2011. If passed, the law would require every business in America to offer its employees a payroll deduction plan so workers could designate a portion of their paycheck to be sent to Washington. The money would be applied to help pay off the national debt. The cost to businesses to do this is almost certain to be more than any contributions the program would raise. Oh, and get this: You won’t get a tax deduction for your gift! Anyone want to bet on how much money this will bring in?

Washington’s most absurd subsidy program. Remember the Golden Fleece awards? My first nominee would be the subsidy for mohair farmers. It was started in World War II to make certain the military had enough wool for all those uniforms. Although uniform-makers switched to synthetic fabrics more than 50 years ago, the million-bucks-a-year subsidy has never been canceled. A government subsidy is the closest thing to immortality you’ll ever see.

—Chip Wood

Two Monumental Events

Two of the most important events of the 20th Century took place on July 16. The most recent happened in 1969, when the Apollo 11 launched. Four days later, Americans were transfixed at the sight — on live television! — of man walking on the moon. The space program has changed our lives in many ways.

The other event took place 24 years earlier. It was on July 16, 1945, that the first atomic bomb was detonated near Alamogordo, N.M. President Harry Truman was in Potsdam, East Germany, at the time. He was sent a telegram announcing the news which read: “DOCTOR…MOST ENTHUSIASTIC AND CONFIDENT THAT THE LITTLE BOY IS AS HUSKY AS HIS BIG BROTHER…I COULD HAVE HEARD HIS SCREAMS FROM HERE….”

Which was the more momentous event: our conquest of space or our discovery of nuclear power? Which brought more benefits to mankind? The experts have been arguing about it ever since they happened.

—Chip Wood

Learn to Park, Ya Big Jerk

Aargh. It just happened again.

I pulled into the parking lot with a couple of minutes to spare before my appointment. I could see a parking spot available just three spaces from the front door and made a beeline for it.

But as I approached, I saw that the car on the left spilled over into “my” spot by half a foot. Yes, I could still pull into the space. But the only way out of my car would have been to climb out the sunroof. So I had to keep going, around the corner and down two aisles, before I found a place to park.

What is it with people these days? Why can’t they park between the white lines? And more to the point for today’s column: What are we going to do about them? If you agree it’s time to teach them to do better, read on.

But first, let’s agree on what we’re trying to accomplish here.

I’m not talking about the people with a brand-new vehicle who deliberately angle across two or three spaces. These folks know exactly what they are doing. They are not the subjects of today’s epistle.

And I’m not talking about the folks who think a bright-yellow line painted along the curb means “this place is reserved for you.” When I lived in Atlanta, that color designation had a special meaning. It told the ladies who lunch, “Sure, honey, leave your Mercedes here.” If you don’t believe me, visit any strip mall or shopping plaza; you’ll see what I mean.

While I’m on that subject, would someone please explain to me why the people who will fight like furies to get the closest space to their target — and will even double- or triple-park, if necessary, to avoid walking an extra 10 or 20 feet — are most often the ones who are headed to their favorite gym?

What’s wrong with these people? You would think they would park as far away as possible from their favorite Buff and Beauty Salon, so they could get in a warm-up walk before they hit the mats with their favorite trainer. But n-o-o-o-o. Nothing less than right by the front door will do.

But they’re not the targets of today’s remarks either… much as they might deserve all the opprobrium we can heap on them. No, today I want to talk about — and propose a solution for — one of the most irritating groups of humanity ever granted a driver’s license.

I’m referring to the people who don’t know or don’t care that they’re terrible parkers. “Close enough” is good enough for them. It doesn’t matter if the front of their car or the rear (or all too often, both) spills over into their neighbor’s space.

What can we do about these people?

You can’t confront them. Most of the time, they’re nowhere to be seen. You can’t tell their momma or poppa that they should have raised them better. And no, as much as you may be tempted to do so, you can’t remove the stems from a tire or two and leave them with a flat. First, that’s against the law. Second, they wouldn’t know why you were punishing them. Third, they might catch you and pound you to a pulp. So don’t do it.

And definitely no keying either, no matter what the provocation. Not even if the driver is a selfish slob who deliberately parks across three spaces to protect his oh-so-precious sports car or shiny new truck. Don’t stoop to his level.

What I propose is a simple, cost-effective educational solution that’s also fun to implement. Each of us should order a bunch of small cards printed with this unmistakable message: “Learn to park, ya big jerk!”

Then, whenever we see someone who needs a gentle reminder about his parking skills and the lack thereof, we can simply take one of these cards and slip it under his windshield wiper. (Make sure it’s the one on the driver’s side. And that the message is pointing into the car, so he will see it when he gets behind the wheel.) And then go on your way, with the warm glow of contentment that comes from knowing you have done your part, in one small way, to make the world a better place.

This is obviously such a terrific idea that I am shocked to tell you I have not been able to garner much support for it. A whole host of people you would expect to love the idea is silent. American Automobile Association, why aren’t you taking the lead here? Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly, here’s a crusade that could really make a difference. Even my old colleague Neal Boortz ignores me. (I think his preferred solution is tar and feathers. He’s an old-fashioned kind of guy.)

So, good friends, it’s up to us. Get those cards printed. And then, let’s go to work. Let’s vow to straighten out the world, one parking space at a time.

Emily Post Would Not Approve

Well, I’m glad I got that off my chest. I feel much better now. Venting can do that, you know.

On calm reflection, I realize my suggestion might not be the best way to produce the more civilized and considerate behavior that should be our goal. Putting a “Learn to park, ya big jerk” card on someone’s windshield might be a tad counterproductive — especially if the offending parker sees you put it there.

The doyenne of politeness, Emily Post, taught that it was never appropriate to counter rudeness with rudeness. Miss Manners says much the same thing today. So what would they suggest we do about this incredibly pervasive problem?

Is there a chance they would approve of the concept, but not the copy? Would they endorse cards that said something like:

“Pardon me, sir or madam. I couldn’t help noticing that your automobile has intruded into the space where I hoped to park. Would you mind making an extra effort the next time to stay within the painted lines? I assure you, we will all appreciate your thoughtfulness. With very kindest regards, yours sincerely, A Fellow Parker.”

I decided to research the matter. I checked Post’s bestseller, Etiquette In Society, In Business, In Politics, And At Home. Since she wrote it in 1922, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it has absolutely nothing to say about the subject of parking spaces.

Post’s great-granddaughter-in-law, Peggy Post, is continuing the work Emily began. She now heads the Emily Post Institute. I checked the online archives of the Institute, but the only thing that mentioned parking was an article about being calm at Christmas. It contained some very sweet suggestions, but nothing that addressed this problem.

I didn’t find anything on this subject at Miss Manners’ website, either. So I wrote both ladies, asking if they had advice they would like to share with the gentle readers of this column. It’s been several weeks now, and I have not heard back from either one. That’s rude, isn’t it? Maybe I’ll get a response after publishing this column. If I do, I’ll let you know.

I’m sure many of you have some practical, positive solutions to contribute. So why not click on the “comment” tab below and fire away? I’m eager to hear how you would solve the problem of rude, inconsiderate parkers.

After that, we’ll tackle how they drive. Wait until you hear my paintball proposal.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

So Much Debt

How much does Uncle Sam really owe? There’s quite a kerfuffle in Washington over raising the Federal debt ceiling above $14.3 trillion. But what if we included as “debt” all the promises to pay our government has made? Add all the so-called unfunded liabilities and the total comes to a staggering $114.5 trillion. That amounts to more than 1,025,000 bucks for every taxpayer in the country. Are you ready to cough up your share?

Now here’s a wonderfully old-fashioned idea. John Garvey, the president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., is an awfully brave man. He wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal last month, explaining why his institution is abolishing coed dorms. It turns out that the behavior of young men and young women is worse when they share a dorm. Garvey wrote: “Here is one simple step colleges can take to reduce both binge drinking and hooking up: Go back to single-sex residences.” I wonder how long it will be before the wrath of progressive educators falls on his head.

Getting paid a fortune to watch porn. An investigation at the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that 31 employees spent most of their time downloading and watching pornography, rather than investigating possible financial miscreants. Seventeen of the porn watchers earned, on average, more than $100,000 a year.

Let’s dump this useless agency. Since 1985, we taxpayers have forked over more than $700 million to fund something called the United States Institute of Peace. We even paid for a gleaming new 150,000-square-foot office building near the State Department. Congress has held no oversight hearings on the Institute since spending $4 million to launch it in 1985. Yet every year it gets more taxpayer funds. The total for 2010 came to $66 million. Anyone see any reason to fund it one second longer?

—Chip Wood

A Coincidence?

Believers in the coincidence theory of history will have fun with this one. It was 64 years ago this week when witnesses claimed that something fell from the sky and crashed on a ranch outside of Roswell, N.M.

Ever since July 8, 1947, rumors have persisted that the unidentified flying object, or UFO, contained visitors from outer space. Allegedly, their bodies were hidden away by government agents and became the object of various secret experiments.

I scoff at such preposterous allegations, of course. Nevertheless, it gives me pause to realize that nine months later, in March 1948, Al Gore was born.

Hey, have you got a better explanation?

—Chip Wood

A World Gone Crazy

Not always this peaceful. London must be one of the most civilized cities in the world. But this civilized? During a recent visit, I came across two demonstrations facing each other across a street. On one side stood a small pro-Israel group, waving a blue and white flag. Across the street, several pro-Palestinians held aloft their black, red and green flag. Both groups seemed to be enjoying themselves. I hope it didn’t turn into a riot after I passed.

Are we worse off than the Greeks? Greece is about to go bankrupt, possibly taking down the euro with it. Thanks to their profligate borrowing and spending, the country’s debt is a staggering $42,888 per person. But here in the good ol’ USA, our debt comes to even more: $46,403 per person. Our government wants to borrow several trillion dollars more, and other countries seem eager to lend it to us. We truly live in a world gone crazy.

We’re getting too politically correct. I just learned that the U.S. Navy has decided to name one of its newest ships after Latino civil-rights activist Cesar Chavez. What happened to the proud naval tradition of naming ships in honor of a military hero? Shouldn’t this honor be reserved for someone who proudly served his country as a member of the armed forces?

Our kids are too plugged in. A 2010 survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reports that children in this country spend an average of 7½ hours a day, seven days a week, plugged into some sort of electronic media. Yes, our children are on electronic devices for more than 52 hours a week — more time than most adults spend at work.

–Chip Wood

Would You Be This Brave?

On July 4, 1776, after months of heated debate, representatives of the Continental Congress voted unanimously that “these United Colonies are and of right ought to be Free and Independent States.”

Thirteen colonies voted to become something new: the United States of America. All they had to do was to win their independence from a government that would consider them traitors.

Fifty-six men bravely affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence. What sort of men were they? And what became of them?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, 11 were merchants, nine were farmers or plantation owners. They were well-educated men of means. All of them had a great deal to lose when they voted to defy what was then the most powerful nation on Earth.

One of the signers was Richard Stockton, a distinguished jurist from New Jersey. At the conclusion of the meetings, he proudly affixed his signature to the Declaration, joining 55 other delegates. Each of them willingly risked everything when they pledged to each other “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Sadly, the revolution was to cost Judge Stockton the first two. But he would never surrender the third.

As he returned from Philadelphia to his home in New Jersey, Judge Stockton was warned that British troops were coming to arrest him. He fled to a neighbor’s house with his wife and children. But a Loyalist, a supporter of the British cause, betrayed the family’s hiding place. Here is what happened next, as described in a wonderful little book Personal Liberty wants to give you this Fourth of July:

The judge was dragged from bed and beaten, then thrown into prison. This distinguished jurist, who had worn the handsome robes of a colonial court, now shivered in a common jail, abused and all but starved.

A shocked Congress arranged for his parole. Invalided by the harsh treatment he had received, he returned to (his home at) Morven to find his furniture and clothing burned, his fine horses stolen, and his library — one of the finest private collections in the country — completely destroyed. The hiding place of exquisite family silver, hastily buried, had been betrayed by a servant.

The Stocktons were so destitute that they had to accept charity. For the judge’s fortune was gone, too. He had pledged it and his life to his country. He lost both. He did not live to see the Revolution won.

That account comes from a wonderful little book called They Signed For Us. It was written half a century ago by Merle Sinclair and Annabel Douglas McArthur, two patriotic ladies who wanted to help others learn more about the remarkable men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

At the end of today’s column, you’ll find a link that will take you to a copy of the book. You may read it online or download it and print your own copy. The file also includes a list of all of the signers and the States they represented, plus the complete text of the Declaration of Independence.

To whet your appetite a bit more, here’s another excerpt from They Signed For Us.

SUDDENLY THE BIG BELL in the State House steeple pealed joyously. The appointed signal! Cheers rose from the waiting crowds.

Proclaim liberty throughout the land….’

Cannon boomed, drums rolled. Church bells rang, sounding the death knell of British domination!

News of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence spread like wildfire. Ready messengers leaped into their saddles to ride and spread the word. The Declaration had been ordered printed on a single large sheet, ‘45.5 x 37.5 cm.,’ or approximately eighteen by fifteen inches. These broadsides were distributed with all possible speed, to be read in the provincial assemblies, pulpits, market places, and army camps.

The story continues:

On July 8, the Liberty Bell summoned citizens of Philadelphia to the State House yard for a public reading of the document. Colonel John Nixon mounted a high platform and spoke the noble lines in a strong, clear voice. The crowd, now hushed, listened intently throughout.

‘…for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.’

It was almost a month later that the Declaration was engrossed on parchment and ready for signing by the delegates to the Continental Congress. Members gathered on Aug. 2 for the ceremony.

The only person who had signed the Declaration on July 4, 1776 was John Hancock, a delegate from Boston who had been elected president of the Continental Congress. He wrote his signature in large, bold letters and as he did, in a reference to the near-sightedness of the British king, he declared, “There! John Bull can read my name without spectacles and may now double his reward of £500 for my head. That is my defiance.”

As the delegates gathered around a desk to sign the Declaration, William Emery, one of the representatives from Rhode Island, moved as close as he could. “I was determined to see how they all looked as they signed what might be their death warrants,” he later wrote. “I placed myself beside the secretary, Charles Thomson, and eyed each closely as he affixed his name to the document. Undaunted resolution was displayed on every countenance.”

Contrasting with Hancock’s confident signature was the shaky scratch of Stephen Hopkins from Rhode Island. Hopkins, the second-oldest signer, suffered from palsy. As he handed the quill to the next person, he valiantly proclaimed, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not!”

As one or two delegates hung back, seemingly reluctant to add their signatures to such a momentous declaration, John Hancock encouraged them. “We must be unanimous,” he said. “There must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together.”

Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin replied, “Yes, we must all hang together. Or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Happily, none of the signers was hanged by the British. But all of them were considered traitors to the Crown. And many of them suffered terribly for the cause they so ardently supported.

John Morton, a delegate from Pennsylvania, was the first of the signers to die. His last words for his family, before his death in April 1777 (just eight months after he signed the Declaration), were, “…tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it to have been the most glorious service I ever rendered to my country.”

The following month, Button Gwinnett, the commander in chief of Georgia’s militia, was badly wounded in a duel with a political opponent. He died a few days later — the second signer to die.

But by and large, the signers of the Declaration of Independence were a hardy bunch. Three of them lived until their 90s — a remarkable accomplishment in a time when most men did not see their 50th birthday.

Only two of the signers were bachelors. Sixteen of them married twice. Records indicate that at least two, and perhaps as many as six, were childless. But the other 50 signers were a prolific lot, having a total of 325 children between them. William Ellery of Rhode Island had 17 children; Roger Sherman of Connecticut had 15.

Fifty years after the united colonies declared their independence from Britain, plans were made for jubilant celebrations on July 4, 1826. Only three of the original signers were still alive: Charles Carroll, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Here is how Sinclair and McArthur describe what occurred that day:

“In a dramatic climax that even their agile minds would not have contemplated, these two principals in the struggle for Independence left the nation awestricken and touched, by dying hours apart on the Fourth of July. Jefferson died at one o’clock in the afternoon, Adams toward evening.”

Ten days earlier, Jefferson had written the mayor of Washington, expressing his regret that ill health prevented him from coming to the nation’s new Capitol to join the festivities.

“I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met … with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between the submission or the sword.”

He concluded by writing, “Let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollection of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

As part of that “undiminished devotion,” we are delighted to provide you with a copy of They Signed For Us. Please click here for it.

And please share this copy of Straight Talk with others you know, so they may enjoy it as well. Just forward this column with a short note, urging them to read about the incredibly brave patriots who won our freedom for us when They Signed For Us.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

P.S. Happy anniversary to us! This weekend marks two full years of Straight Talk columns for Personal Liberty. How time flies when you’re having fun! As many of you know, I also write two other, shorter features for Personal Liberty every week: Chip Shots, which appears at the bottom of each Friday email, and This Week in History, which appears at the bottom of each Wednesday email.

As it happens, my very first piece for Personal Liberty was about the incredible men who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to secure liberty for us. So it seems only appropriate to share that message again today, as we prepare to celebrate 235 years of independence. Happy July the Fourth!

One Madman’s Legacy

It was on June 28, 1914 that a single act of violence led to one of the greatest bloodbaths the world had ever seen.

The perpetrator was someone you probably never heard of: Gavrilo Princip. He was a Serbian nationalist who, on that day, murdered Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie.

Within a month, World War I started in Europe. Before it was over, the Habsburg dynasty (the reigning power in Europe for six centuries) would be deposed, deficit spending to finance the war would destroy most countries’ currencies and end the gold standard, the income tax was adopted in the United States to pay for the war and the seeds would be planted for the rise of communism in Russia, Nazism in Germany and fascism in Italy.

It’s amazing what one madman’s deed led to, isn’t it?

—Chip Wood


Weiner Roast

● So Weiner is worse than Assad? I was glad to see that Barack Obama finally weighed in on the fate of Anthony Weiner. His exact words in his interview with NBC’s Today were: “I can tell you that it if was me, I would resign.” Dear, dear, did no one teach the one-time professor to say “if it were me?” Anyway, it’s worth noting that our President has never taken such a strong stand against Syria’s murderous dictator, Bashar Assad. Apparently, sexting teenagers is worse than murdering innocent civilians.

● Hey, U.N., where did they go? Thanks to the Alert Reader who asked me to check out a grim warning from a U.N. agency that has been shoved down the memory hole. In 2005, the U.N. Environmental Programme warned that by 2010, there would be “fifty million climate refugees” fleeing man-caused disasters across the globe. When a reporter asked the U.N. agency about that dire prediction, the U.N. bureaucrats acted as you might expect from those hypocrites: They deleted the article and accompanying map from their website. No apologies for getting it wrong, of course.

● Granted, John Edwards is a scumbag. But is he a criminal? I have no sympathy for the pretty-boy politico and multimillionaire trial lawyer. After all, he cheated on his wife while she was dying of cancer, tried to pay an aide to claim he was the father of Edwards’ illegitimate child and spent a small fortune from his campaign funds trying to cover up his misdeeds. As someone else observed, he’s guilty of behavior that would make Representative Anthony Weiner blush. But is he a crook? Would someone please tell me what Federal statute the poor slob broke?

● Those dastardly French did what with their wine? In 2010, a French court found 12 businessmen guilty of lying about the quality of wine they were exporting to the United States. It seems 18 million bottles of inferior-grade plonk were marketed as top-quality pinot noir. The culprits received suspended sentences and fines of 3,000 to 18,000 euros for a crime that allegedly netted them millions of euros. To teach them a lesson, a wine-loving friend of mine suggests switching to Argentine malbec or Australian shiraz. I already have.

–Chip Wood


Tossing Grandma Off The Cliff And Other Democratic Lies

The hysterics and hyperbole over raising the Federal debt ceiling are becoming absolutely absurd. If you were to believe Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geitner, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee and other Administration spokesmen, you would think we are about to face financial Armageddon.

Of course, if you believe Geitner, Goolsbee, et al, you’re a fool.

I can’t remember when the big spenders in Washington have conspired to tell a bigger pack of lies than they have about the dire consequences that will take place if Uncle Sam isn’t allowed to continue borrowing money. I wrote an entire column about Barack Obama’s Lying Liars in January; click here if you missed that one.

Among the deliberate misstatements are the threat that “we won’t be able to pay our troops who are fighting in Afghanistan.” That, of course, is a total fabrication. Our military personnel are considered “essential personal.” They would be paid every penny they are due even if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. So, unfortunately, would our Senators and Representatives. Yes, even the despicable Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are considered “essential personnel.” Who on Earth drafted such a law? Oh, right. Congress.

Remember, even if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, money will continue to pour into Washington by the bucketful. Do you think your withholding taxes are going to go away? That they won’t continue to collect every penny due for Medicare, Social Security and the million-and-one taxes that are imposed on businesses? Dream on, brother.

Here’s the shocking truth — shocking to anyone who believes the mainstream media, that is: The Federal government will continue to take in plenty of money to pay our troops, pay the interest on the national debt and pay almost everything else you and I would consider necessary.

What it won’t be able to do is to pay for all the socialistic boondoggles Barack Obama and his buddies want. Boo hoo. Too bad. What the guys and gals in Washington need to do is what every responsible family in America has already done. That is, reduce expenditures to match income. Live within your means. Don’t borrow money to finance a bunch of stuff you can’t afford.

Funny thing is, a lot of our leaders used to say the same thing. Let me call to the witness stand an obscure but ambitious senator from Illinois. Here’s what Obama said five years ago, during a similar debate over raising the debt: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure… Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I, therefore, intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

Today, of course, Obama is willing to pile a ton more debt on “our children and grandchildren.” I hope you won’t let him get away with it.

Another Vicious Lie

Did you see the Democratic commercial that’s been credited for defeating a Republican in what was supposed to be a “safe” district in upstate New York? It’s part of the left’s “Mediscare” campaign. In it, a conservatively dressed white businessman pushes a wheelchair holding an agitated grandma to the edge of a cliff — then promptly dumps her over the edge.

The video suggests that this is what Republicans want to do to every senior citizen — and will do if the budget plan devised by Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is allowed to pass.

If you believe the mainstream media, the fear campaign was so successful that the Republicans lost a special election for Congress that “everyone” expected them to win. But here’s what the lying media didn’t tell you.

It’s true that Kathy Hochul, the Democratic candidate, got 47 percent of the vote and was declared the winner. The Republican candidate, Jane Corwin, received 43 percent of the vote and lost.

What few accounts bothered to mention is that there was a spoiler in the race. A political opportunist named Jack Davis ran as a self-proclaimed “Tea Party” candidate. He spent a reported $3 million of his own money on the race and received 9 percent of the vote — enough to prevent a victory for the Republican.

Here’s the kicker: Davis had previously run for the same seat three times — as a Democrat. Moreover, he was actively opposed by the real Tea Party leadership. I don’t know what sort of reward he will receive for his actions, but don’t be surprised if it makes his $3 million “investment” seem worth it.

Will the “Mediscare” smear work next year? You can bet your bottom dollar that the Democratic leadership hopes so.

When Is A War Not A War?

The answer, I guess, is whenever the Democrats say so.

Under the terms of the War Powers Resolution, whenever the President commits American troops to battle anywhere in the world, he then has 60 days to tell Congress what he is doing and win approval for the engagement, and then 30 days after that to recall the troops if approval is not given.

But now, that 90-day deadline has come and gone. Is anyone interested in upholding the law here? Not in Barack Obama’s Administration. In fact, the No. 1 law enforcement officer in the country — Attorney General Eric Holder — has argued that the War Powers Resolution doesn’t apply here… because what’s happening in Libya is so inconsequential, it doesn’t amount to a “war.”

In the Alice-in-Wonderland world that our leaders inhabit, it doesn’t matter how many air strikes we’ve ordered or how many combatants have been killed — or innocent civilians, for that matter. If they say it’s not a war, then the rules of war — and the laws of Congress — don’t apply.

I could go on and on with other examples of the deliberate obfuscation our President and his cronies have been practicing. How about the whopper that “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it?” The latest estimates are that under Obamacare, some 80 to 120 million Americans will lose the independent health insurance they and their employers have been paying for.

Unless you’re a friend of the Administration, that is. In that case, you will probably be granted a waiver that exempts you from the law. It seems that just about everyone in Nancy Pelosi’s district has gotten one; how about you?

Yes, the rules are definitely different now. And they’re getting more different every day. That’s what happens when liars and lawbreakers are put in charge.

Hopefully, all of this will change dramatically 17 months from now.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Birth Of A Humanitarian Effort

The Battle of Solferino was fought in Northern Italy 152 years ago this week. The combatants were the Austrian army and the alliance of France and Sardinia, led by Napoleon III. After 15 hours of fighting, the Austrians retreated, leaving more than 40,000 men killed or injured. Even Napoleon III was said to have been sickened by the slaughter.

Another man who was also appalled was Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman who passed through a village where many of the wounded were being treated. He returned home and wrote a book about what he had seen, called A Memory of Solferino.

Dunant proposed forming an association of trained volunteers who would care for the wounded in future wars. His idea led to an international humanitarian movement that now has more than 90 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on three different occasions – in 1917, 1944 and 1963. Sadly, it looks as though the need for it will not end anytime soon.

–Chip Wood