Roger Carlton articles

Roger Carlton lives in Robbinsville, NC. He writes for the Graham Star newspaper. He is a friend of mine and a former writing student. Let me know your thoughts on his articles. 

ENDING WARS                                         April, 2021

President Biden announced last week that we would withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. Twenty years ago, this date was seared into our memories with four hijacked planes. Two toppled the World Trade Towers. One crashed into the Pentagon. The last was heroically brought down by passengers confronting the terrorist/hijackers before it could crash into the White House.

The American public demanded retaliation. President Bush responded with bipartisan Congressional support by attacking Afghanistan to remove the terrorist training ground. Bin Laden was the leadership that needed to be taken out. Twenty years later, Bin Laden is gone, Al Quada is essentially neutralized, thousands of US soldiers are dead or wounded and billions have been spent. So, has the goal of the Afghanistan War been achieved? Should we end it and move on to new objectives?

President Biden respectfully listened to the advice of his military leadership. As Commander in Chief, he chose a different path. We do not have the intelligence data that our leaders have so it is difficult to agree or disagree based on facts. Here are a few things to consider.

  • America never won a war without the will of the people behind the effort. That will has waned after 20 years and the panoply of new challenges including mass shootings and the pandemic grows by the day.
  • The objectives of the war have been essentially accomplished. The leadership of this enemy has been removed and his organization reduced to a small band of Taliban. Perhaps no war ever ends with unconditional surrender unless you use the nuclear option like we did in Japan. Heaven forbid that the nuclear option is ever used again.
  • Most of the major wars we have fought conclude with the enemy becoming our ally. Germany, Italy, and Japan are our staunch allies. Vietnam has become a capitalist society. If we truly believe in nation-building, we try to leave a war zone with a more democratic government that believes in a capitalist system.
  • A global War on Terror cannot be won in the traditional sense of a clean and decisive closure. The terrorists are like a balloon. If you squeeze them in one place, they just move to another. Vigilance with pinpoint targeted responses as needed is the appropriate action to protect us from the threat. 
  • We do not dishonor the sacrifice of life and limb suffered by our veterans and their families if we leave Afghanistan. All we do is add to their ranks by extending the conflict. There are much better ways to honor their service.        
My son-in-law, Andy Goehring, is a West Point graduate who was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for Valor in the Iraq War.   When I discussed this column with Andy, he responded with great wisdom. He suggested that we reframe the question about the right and wrong of leaving Afghanistan from "Should we leave? to "Should we stay?" Think about that my friends.


Everyone Likes Infrastructure 

The second phase of Biden-omics was announced last week. Just like Roosevelt's New Deal which had an enormous positive impact on Graham County, so will the infrastructure legislation which includes billions for clean drinking water, broadband expansion, roads, public schools and community colleges and workforce housing. All of these projects are needed in Graham County just like the TVA flood control, Rural Electrification and WPA/CCC projects were during the Great Depression. 

Phase 1 of Biden-omics was the COVID Relief legislation. By now most people in Graham County will have received their $1400 or more if they have dependent children. Added to the $600 from the previous Administration, this is a lot of money to spend as you see fit. Just remember as you use this much-needed money, that not one Republican voted for Biden's initial contribution to the betterment of life for our Graham County.

On the subject of infrastructure, everyone, regardless of political party, seems to agree we need it. How our elected leaders at the County and municipal level work out the priorities if the legislation passes, is the subject of a future column. The real debate in Washington will be how to fund the costs. 

Let's dispel a few myths already being created by the opponents. 
This is a ten-year program which means that the $2 trillion dollar cost will be roughly $200 billion per year. Still a lot of money, but, manageable. Second, the deficit hawks say it will explode our budget which will lead to inflation. This is another myth that simply isn't true. What causes the deficit we are currently experiencing is the 2017 "tax reform" that benefitted the rich and corporations. 

You know that when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants higher gas taxes and toll increases to pay for roads, that isn't good for the common person. 

You know when the 400 richest Americans pay a lower tax rate than the bottom half of wage earners, that isn't good for the common person

You know when Archer Daniels Midland, Dish Network, FedEx and Nike paid no federal taxes last year on $8 billion in income that isn't good for the common person. 
In fact, these giant corporations got more than $500 million in tax refunds last year. 

Come on, swamp dwellers in Washington, drain this swamp that makes the rich richer and the common person pay the bill.

The way to pay for these needed programs is with equitable tax reform. Just one equitable change would fund the infrastructure program. It is called a wealth tax. An annual tax of 1 percent on wealth over $50 million and 2 percent over $1 billion would generate $2.75 trillion over the next 10 years. There are many other ideas to end loopholes and make the federal income tax fairer across all income levels. For instance, why should the dollar you earn from the sweat off your back be taxed at a higher rate than the dollar "earned" from a hedge funder's capital gains? 

Remember, the American Revolution was over "taxation without representation." As the debate over Biden-omics Phase 2 begins in Washington, don't fall for the usual spurious deficit and inflationary fake arguments. Let your elected representatives know simple stuff like your kid is failing in school because you don't have internet access.   

Roger Carlton lives in Robbinsville, NC. He writes for the Graham Star newspaper. He is a friend of mine and a former writing student. Let me know your thoughts on his articles. 

March 20, 2021

Not too far away from Graham County is a casino that provides entertainment, food service, lodging, and gambling. Total revenue from these operations exceeds $500 million annually. The entire resort is packed with masked-up, socially distanced and temperature ok folks having a good time. The casino is owned by EBCI and operated by Caesars Entertainment which is a company with $10 billion in annual revenue. 

A bit further away is another casino known as the New York Stock Exchange. The 226-year-old institution lists approximately 2400 companies with a market cap approaching $35 trillion. That is 18 times the recent $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill passed by Congress. There are hundreds of millions of shares traded daily.

To keep this simple, the NYSE is a casino of extraordinary proportions. Thirty years ago, this columnist attended a breakfast sponsored by Northern Trust Bank. The speaker prophesied that the Dow Jones Industrial Average daily closing, which was then just breaking $1000, would be $30,000 in our life time. We all scoffed and laughed. Well, guess what. The DJIA closed at nearly $33,000 a few days ago. That gamble paid off if you could risk a lot of ups and downs along the way.

Most of the serious downs were not caused by the fundamentals of our capitalist system. The financial crises which led to the greatest drops were caused by a diminished regulatory authority. We ignored the causes of the savings and loan crisis until banks started to fold. Did the same thing with mortgage bundling wherein garbage loans were wrapped up in few good ones. 

Here's the rub.  Until recently, when the stock market casino goes bad, members of Congress of both political parties join together in a bipartisan way to save the day allegedly for the common folk. Trillions of taxpayer dollars are allocated to save jobs, stave off bankruptcies, avoid evictions and keep food on the table. This is called socializing losses.  It means that taxpayers eat the cost of the bailout. Yet, when the stock market inevitably recovers, the owners of those stocks reap the gains and pay nowhere near a fair share of taxes. This is called privatizing gains. It is how we have allowed ourselves to be governed over the past four years.

Maybe that's why so many people are angry about everything. No one they support at the polls has stepped in to socialize their losses. In fact, they were unanimously opposed.  

March 14, 2021

 Sadly, a column that appeared last week in the Graham Star denigrated H.R. 5, The Equality Act. The critique began with blaming the Democrats for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That is political, partisan, and grossly inaccurate. In fact, the Senate Republicans were in favor 27 to 6 and the House Republicans were in favor 136 to 35. 
The statement "in every line you will find a direct correlation between women and the LGBTQ group" can only be made by someone with chauvinistic views of women bordering on misogyny. Women are not given a "high honor of being wives, mothers, and co-laborers." Being wives and mothers is a matter of choice and perhaps that "co-laborer" wants to be a supervisor or maybe even a boss someday.

The reference to "The Equality Act is an attack on the created order" fails to acknowledge how demagogues abuse and co-opt well-meaning concepts.  Just like the ancients sought to understand the inexplicable by creating characteristics for the constellations, the original advocates of created order tried to make sense of life by prioritizing family, church, state, and the economy. The concept originated in Germany in the 1700s by religious philosophers and was 230 years later used by the Nazis to justify Aryan superiority leading to the Holocaust. Homosexual males were made to wear inverted pink triangles on their sleeves and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. They underwent horrible tortures too vile to mention in this column.

The Equality Act does add protections for disabled workers and no longer requires that transgender people must be undergoing a medical procedure to be protected. 
The Amendment expands protection against harassment and violence, reaffirms the equal protections of the 14th Amendment, and makes sure that women don't have to pay more for products and services that are similar to products and services used by men. 

The column in question is unnecessarily hurtful to the LGBTQ community. It is inciteful to those who perpetrate violence because of how you look or act. It ignores the contribution to the arts, medicine, faith, economy, entertainment, military, politics, and sports made by members of the LGBTQ community.

To turn this into a learning experience, let's consider Coach Vince Lombardi's wisdom as seen in an advertisement appearing in the same edition. "People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses or the problems of modern society."

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