Thinking Outside The Boxe Annual Symposium 2017- Full Transcript

1. How can the US (or any other country for that matter) stop North Korea from inciting a nuclear war?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-North Korea has done a lot of saber-rattling in the past year or two as they creep closer to developing a fully functional nuclear weapon. Confirmation that the rogue nation has finally achieved a minimal level of nuclear ability heightens concerns and nervousness around the world. Because of North Korea’s fear of invasion from the South, it makes sense they would attempt to fortify their weaponry as much as possible. Any country would if powerful enemy armies such as South Korea and the US had been staring at them across their border for almost seventy years.

Saber rattling is nothing new. It can be a useful tool for diplomatic negotiations. Empires around the world down through history no doubt made a lot of threats and put on shows of force to either warn off their enemies or gain leverage at the negotiation table. The US and the Soviet Union managed to avoid starting World War III despite spending the entire Cold War rattling nuclear sabers at each other.

With a US president who seems to be hot-headed at least and irrational at worst, combined with a purported madman running North Korea, conditions seem to indicate a war is far more likely than it was a year ago. But I don’t think the world is past the point of no return.

North Korea, one of the poorest nations in the world, is justifiably scared for its future. They’ve been starved, ignored, demeaned, and sanctioned for decades and might think this is a grand strategy by South Korea and the US to render them defenseless. Even with China standing guard nearby, it’s conceivable the South Korean army might be tempted to storm the border one dark night and reunite the country by force. North Korea might decide they’d rather go down swinging if they know they’re going to lose one way or the other, which would motivate them to strike first with or without nuclear weapons.

The US holds most of the cards and is the only nation that can prevent a nuclear war. The worst solution is to preemptively bomb North Korea. The North Korean response would probably be to fire a nuke at South Korea, which would get both the South Koreans and Chinese into the fight. Japan is an easy target for the communist powers, so they’d suffer too. With China in the fight, a nuclear duel between the US and them would become highly likely. And then you have World War III.

The only rational solution is for the US to suppress its macho super-military ego and truly become a nation of peace by lifting sanctions, opening trade, and sitting down at the negotiation table with North Korea to work out a way to peacefully co-exist. Conservatives, hawks, and a good share of the American people won’t like this apparent show of weakness by “the most powerful nation on Earth,” but it is the only way to avoid nuclear war. Salvaging our national pride at the expense of killing millions of innocent people and laying waste to entire cities or regions is not only not worth it, but it is also crazy and idiotic. Much like the way Nixon went to China in the 1970s and normalized relations, Trump must go to North Korea in the 2010s and do the same.

Myrtle Beach Correspondent-You have to consider here that the leader of North Korea is a psychopath. Diplomatic solutions are always ideal of course. We are dealing with a completely dangerous situation and he’s got his finger on the launch button. He also has no qualms about killing innocent people, obviously, because he does it to his own citizens. All things considered, I would say hit them before they hit us. It’s not ideal. But who really do they have as allies? China… Kind-of. They have condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests. Russia? Maybe, but supposedly Trump has Putin in his pocket. So would we risk World War III? Or would everyone thank us for taking care of the problem?

The simple truth is…if, and I mean IF, Kim Jong Un has the artillery and nuclear weapons he SAYS he has, we are in trouble if he strikes first. We have applied sanctions. We have tried diplomacy. It hasn’t worked. Time to end it before it starts.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-At this point, I’m not sure anything short of appeasement is going to keep Kim Jong Un’s lunatic finger off the nuclear trigger, but as any student of World War II can tell you, appeasement is a slippery slope. The North Korean regime is morally bankrupt, financially bankrupt and looking to blame the Western world for the manifold ills that have befallen its citizenry under the current inbred regime.

In reality, I think the only thing that’s going to stop North Korea from trying out its (as yet) unreliable missiles on Alaska or Van Nuys is a surgical military strike coordinated to take out missile sites and command and control, along with a naval operation to take out the Korean submarines, which by all accounts are older models which are not all that hard to find with modern technology. Yes, the international brouhaha will be loud, especially from Russia and China, but at this point I’m not sure either of them have the political or military will to defend their idiot cousin to the east.

Yes, there is the very great likelihood that a conventional war will break out, and thousands will die in the resulting conflict. However, and I know this sounds harsh, but better thousands at the tip of a bullet than millions at the head of a missile. Just one high-yield nuclear detonation will have global consequences far beyond any conventional conflict.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Honestly, I’ve never heard so much about Kim Jong Un until Donald Trump was inaugurated. The “dotard” seemingly gave life and an audience to the “rocket man.”

In fact, Mr. Kim has intensified his missile launching efforts since Trump started hurling Herculean taunts at him. From what I’ve seen, if the President of the United States focuses on the affairs of his country and remove his hand from the tweet button, a nuclear war would he less likely to occur. The more Trump talks, the more launches are made by the Supreme Leader of North Korea.

I’m also sensing a bit of insecurity from Kim Jong Un. He knows what’s happening on the world scene and is trying to remove himself from the statistics.

Kim Jong Un wants to dodge the fate that befell Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

I strongly feel that the United States is playing hypocrite. America also has a pile of nuclear weapons, all which are at the mercies of a man who promotes violence in his speech and actions.

Kim Jong Un is only trying to protect his regime, the same way other countries would. Leave Kim Jong Un alone and you won’t have to worry about a nuclear war.

2. The wave of sexual harassment charges against well-known or powerful men seems to get worse by the day. Is this the tip of the iceberg? Or, are these men being used as scapegoats or to further politically motivated schemes?

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Everyone thought Bill Cosby was the only monster lurking behind a name and a feign smile. Maybe because he was black? Eh, that’s not important.

I don’t believe these occurrences are being unfurled to further political schemes nor are these men being used as mere scapegoats. What was done in secrecy was bound to come to light.

One woman was bolstered to come forward and now scores upon scores are coming out. This is just the tip of the iceberg if you should ask me.

Society lacks morals. The very society we strive to build is found lacking. This issue highlights how men use their influence and name to get what they want. These women coming out is just the tip of the iceberg of moral degradation, sexism, and male chauvinism.

It is highlighting how powerful men view women as sheer objects and pleasure candies.

Sadly, it also highlights how women remain silent just to get ahead and further their career. Most of these women held back the injustice and assault meted out to them, because they feared losing a career they’ve worked hard to build.

It is sad. These occurrences have only revealed how far gone the human race has become. God intervene and help us.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The current mass panic over sexual harassment claims began as the ripping off of a particularly ugly scab, especially in the entertainment, news and restaurant businesses. I have worked in two of those and have witnessed personally the conduct by both men and women that would be censured in any other workplace. In my experience in the restaurant business, however, it was an even-up game, with men and women giving as good (or bad) as they got. In a stressful environment like a restaurant kitchen, emotions are peeled raw and base instincts and actions that would be intolerable in polite society rule the day.

That said, any situation where a supervisor forces his or her attentions on a subordinate is bad business. From the near-rape allegedly committed by Harvey Weinstein to the unwanted slap-and-tickle by Mario Batali, this sort of conduct has lurked beneath the surface of American business for decades, and it’s about time it got aired. I do believe we’re seeing the crest of the wave right now, although I’m sure there will be more allegations to come.

However, the use of sexual harassment allegations for political or personal gain is inevitable, and has almost certainly already begun. A Democratic candidate for the U.S. House recently abruptly ended her campaign when an allegation from 2005 from a male staffer resurfaced. Despite the fact that a lawsuit at the time was thrown out of court, the mere fact of the existence of the allegation caused the Dems zero-tolerance policy to take effect. This will continue, and politicians on both sides are going to fall victim to the guilty until proven innocent temperament of the current ethos.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-With the recent flood of sexual harassment claims and lawsuits against politicians and other men in positions of power such as Harvey Weinstein, it’s hard to know if this is an isolated flurry of activity that was sparked by Donald Trump’s election and the resulting power struggle between Democrats and Republicans. Alternatively, it may be an actual sea change in the greater power struggle that has simmered between men and women throughout history.

The knee-jerk reaction leans toward believing the theory of politically motivated harassment charges designed to either remove a politician from office or keep him from winning a seat in Congress. This is exemplified by the cases of Senator Al Franken and Senate candidate Roy Moore. Franken admitted his guilt to relatively minor claims and resigned, yet Moore is accused of statutory rape but adamantly denies the charges.

Because every case is unique, and the truth is often in the eye of the beholder based on his or her recollection of long ago events, we can’t always know for certain what happened and the severity of the misconduct. But with sexual harassment being such a hot-button issue, where the mere mention of misconduct can ruin someone’s career without proof of guilt, it’s plausible that one or more of these harassment claims are false and were fabricated by the opposing party.

Whether this recent spate of harassment charges is the tip of the iceberg remains to be seen, but judging by the long history of abuse heaped upon women by men in most societies, it very well may be only the start of a long and painful period of retribution by women against men.

3. With political parties seemingly less productive and more gridlocked, and business executives focused primarily on amassing wealth, are there any real and effective leaders anymore? If so, who?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I have all but given up on finding leaders from among the ranks of politicos in Washington or in our state houses across the country. Self-dealing, blind party loyalty and rampant self-aggrandizement rule the day, and the few moderates left find themselves buried under partisan shouting and pushed to the periphery. There are a few in the House, like a New Jersey Republican congressman voting against the tax bill because it will hurt New Jerseyans who will no longer be able to deduct their state income taxes, but he’s by far in the minority.

Instead, I look to people like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, visionary businessmen with the fortunes to back their dreams, to lead our society in the 21st century. Robert Heinlein’s future history series has a character early on named Delos D. Harriman, “the man who sold the moon.” He was a private entrepreneur who financed the colonization and mining of the moon, and made space travel profitable. I can see SpaceX as the genesis of this sort of enterprise, and the money generated from such an endeavor being used to foster change and social growth here on earth.

Am I dreaming? Did I read too much Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein as a child? Perhaps. But I prefer “my” future to the one currently being spun by our leadership class.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists one definition of the word leader as: “a person who has commanding authority or influence.” I’ll use this definition as the benchmark by which to identify who our real leaders are in this country. M-W’s dictionary lists numerous definition for the word lead. The definition I’m concerned with involves being in the forefront, guiding down a particular path, influencing thought and action in one direction or another. I also want to emphasize leading us toward positive results, much like an orchestra conductor successfully leading a 100-piece orchestra through a nearly perfect rendition of a piece of music. Uniting a group to achieve a common goal or goals.

By my definition of a leader, CEOs of large corporations are leaders. So are military generals and admirals and law enforcement heads, presidents of large universities and colleges, heads of the two major political parties, the President of the United States and his cabinet and top advisors and staff, members of Congress and the senior politicians in state governments, and heads of major religions. But do they really lead us? Do they inspire large groups of people to work toward common positive goals? Most importantly, will those goals benefit the country at large, and by extension, the world? By most measures, I must conclude those answers are “no.”

Politicians have led us into permanent political gridlock. Military and police leaders (hindered by politicians, unfortunately) have led us into endless wars against seen and unseen foes: Iraq, Afghanistan, Terrorism, Drugs, Poverty (poor people are arrested more often, killed more often, harassed more often than people in the middle-class and above). Religious leaders have led us into centuries of arguing to the death about which God is the “One True God.”

The net result of where our leaders have led us is a fractured society, a severe pollution crisis based on the increasingly adverse effects of a warming climate, rekindled animosity toward those of a different race or religion, increasing national debt that may never get repaid, and wealth concentration the likes of which hasn’t been seen for centuries. In other words, the world’s people have been led into a downward spiral for the past century.

The real leaders can and will only be found on the local level. These are the people who organize charity fundraisers, the ones who join the school board or the city council, the retired people who volunteer at schools, local charities, or civic projects. They are the kids who stand up to the bully at school. They include the woman who finally calls out the male co-worker who has been sexually harassing all the female employees for years. They are the people who clean up the polluted creeks or pick up trash from the sides of the roads. They are the men and women who view parenting as the most important job they’ll ever have and strive daily to teach their children how to be thoughtful, independent, responsible adults. They are the people who give a damn about the elderly stuck in substandard nursing homes, the mentally ill on the streets, the homeless, and the hungry. They are the medical and legal professionals who donate free services to those who need them but can’t afford to pay.

Bottom line, the real leaders are, and should always be, every individual who has a vision of a world that is better for everyone tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Those are the people who we should listen to, watch, and emulate.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent– Hell. To. The. No. There aren’t any effective leaders anymore. There never was. The cold reality is, man has dominated man for their own selfish gain. It’s what you can get, the name you can create for yourself, and the significance you and your family can bleed from this world that counts today.

Even with the best intentions, politicians and humanitarians will never be able to provide mankind with what it truly needs – proper health care, an extraordinary education system, peace of mind, eradication of poverty, and crime and violence. Should I go on?

It is just not within man’s power to rule mankind. If politicians find it difficult to make proper decisions without having countless advisors (and their advisors have advisors) how in the world will they be able to lead a nation?

Mankind is also driven by emotions. “Use your heart” or “follow your instincts”. That’s the advice people offer these days. Your heart and instinct will never be good enough to advance the affairs of a country/nation.

In fact, even if the world political rulers were to put heads and action together, they would still not be able to rid mankind of its suffering. Man will never achieve blissful peace, good health, or an abundance of food for everyone.

It just will not happen. If world leaders cannot bring us those basic necessities to live comfortably and anxiety free, shouldn’t we be looking toward a higher form of governance, one that is not ruled or corrupted by man? Think about it.

4. The Republican tax bill passed and was signed into law by President Trump, which means the US debt may grow by another 1.5 trillion dollars. Can we avoid having this skyrocketing debt load cripple our economy? If so, how?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The current Republican tax bill is the biggest batch of big-business sops, sham “benefits” for the middle class that will end up costing them and social engineering camouflaged as financial policy ever put forth. The GOP is trying to foster its spurious “business-first” agenda by giving gigantic tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, while stripping the middle class of things like the state and local income tax deductions. Yes, there’s a short-term tax cut for the middle class, but that will expire…and the loss of the deductions won’t.

The only way this tax plan will pay for itself is if the businesses receiving the tax cuts put the money they’ll collect off our backs back into the economy, which they have shown no inclination toward doing. Rather than help the little guy, they’ve proven themselves determined to build up giant cash reserves, reward the shareholders, drive up stock price and hide money overseas rather than expanding workforce and giving realistic raises to their current employees. Thus, the tax base won’t increase, the real economy will continue to be stagnant and the government coffers will go wanting. It will fall to some future administration to sort the mess out, and of course they’ll immediately be vilified by the Right for “raising taxes,” when if the supposedly deficit-shy GOP had stayed true to its roots, the mess would never have happened in the first place.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-And the newly passed Bill was Trump’s way of making America great again? Surely, he could have done better. That Bill will only keep the poor…poor. From a business perspective, Trump’s many businesses will benefit and turnover some massive profits, but with less money heading into the Treasury.

Surely, that’s not good for the ‘Great’ America. Whether we like to admit it or not, the aim of contending with debt is to ensure that a solution is put in place to curtail it, turn things around, as it were.

However, Trump seems to be behind time because he has chosen to plunge the country into more debt, rather than relieve it. Frankly, I don’t see any viable solution to preventing America’s economy from collapsing. I take that disposition for two main reasons.

Tax payers drive or build America. With this tax cut, the poor will be forced to pay what they don’t have, while the rich amass more in wealth. With less revenue from taxes pushed into the Treasury, America won’t have the spending or buying power it needs to operate as a functional system.

To supplement, the economy will collapse because of its leader. Trump is a mere businessman. That’s how he was bred. He’ll always think about means and ways to create opportunities for corporations and businesses, not necessarily for the greater good or benefit of the entire country.

The only way to remove this large debt is to reverse or repeal the decision that got it there in the first place.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Today our present massive federal debt exceeds our annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The government now owes a whopping $18 trillion to its creditors. Sooner or later, a day of reckoning will come. Either a recession/depression will strike and cause massive unemployment and reduced tax receipts, or our creditors will lose faith in the dollar as the world’s reserve currency and demand their money back. The consequences of those financial and economic disasters will doom our economy to one of two possible responses: much higher inflation if government prints more money and adds to the deficit; massive tax hikes if we choose to pay off the debt.

True leaders would realize that perpetual deficit spending will sooner or later end in catastrophe. They would preach frugality and reduce spending, raise taxes, or do both until the debt is reduced to a manageable percent of GDP. Unfortunately, our current political leaders seem addicted to tax cuts and piling on debt, so drastically reducing our deficit isn’t likely to happen.

The sanest way would be to enact a policy of stricter fiscal discipline and debt reduction by limiting expenditures to a specific dollar amount per capita. Indexing that amount to the core inflation rate will allow for inevitable price increases. This would be the equivalent of a balanced budget law—but not an amendment to the Constitution, which is far too drastic and rigid. Limiting spending to that level will require either spending cuts, benefit reductions (always unpopular in our ever-growing entitlement society), or automatic across-the-board tax increases for all businesses and individuals to make up the difference. With such a law in place, Congress will be forced into fiscal discipline or face the wrath of voters who don’t want to pay more in taxes. The key is to reduce that debt gradually over time so it will be less of a shock to our economy.

Unfortunately, since no one likes paying taxes and we as a nation don’t seem to mind fiscal irresponsibility from our government, this will be a hard sell. The only way this can happen is if a small but vocal minority start advocating fiscal responsibility by educating citizens, then Congress, about the inevitable disaster that awaits us if we spend ourselves into oblivion.

Myrtle Beach Correspondent-The only way this added debt won’t cripple the economy is if we find other ways to lower the debt. The tax bill makes sense to put more money back in the pockets of our citizens. But, it does not make sense from a national debt standpoint. We need to find another way to combat our debt, taxing citizens isn’t the way to do it. I don’t have any solutions right now.

5. President Trump has decided to pull the US out of the Paris Climate accord, the treaty designed to combat “climate change.” Will those who want to work toward solving the problems associated with global warming be more effective or less effective without the participation of the US government?

Myrtle Beach Correspondent-Even though Trump has pulled out it seems as though many US based businesses have not. I’m not convinced on Global Warming one way or another. I do believe it is important to start finding alternative solutions for energy. We do need to work on emissions as well, but why can’t we just plant more trees? This is a whole different argument so I digress. Will the accord be as effective without the US? Yes, I believe it will. I’m not really well educated on this accord; but I think every other country has agreed to participate, and I believe the US still will if some specific changes are made.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-On the surface, the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Climate accord seems like a negative for those who want to reduce the world’s carbon emissions, reduce greenhouse gases, and slow the rate of global warming and sea level rise. Those individuals and groups would prefer that the U.S. Government be the world leader in the discussion and decision making about how to solve this problem rather than abdicate its responsibility to the world.

I think there is a silver lining in this lack of federal leadership. The upside is that many state and local governments have redoubled their pollution-fighting efforts without the federal government’s blessing and will press on to reduce pollution in their jurisdictions. This decision may also compel individual citizens to take a hard look at their carbon footprint.

Those who think we should all be working for a solution to minimize the harmful effects of climate change more often seem to talk the talk without walking the walk. These people want everyone else to stop driving their cars, stop overheating and overcooling their giant houses, and stop overconsuming electronics, beef, pork, and other products that contribute to excess greenhouse gas. But they don’t usually lead by example and practice what they preach.

The only way we can minimize the adverse effects of global warming is for every single citizen in the modernized world to make radical changes in their lifestyle. We are the ones who create the most pollution. We can’t blame it all on big business or irresponsible governments. We are the ones who have put these governments into power, who in turn have allowed many large corporations to ignore anti-pollution laws or find loopholes and continue to pollute. If we as individuals realize we are the true agents of change in the pollution fight, not only will we increase our efforts to minimize our carbon footprint, but we’ll also increase our efforts to elect leaders at the national level who agree that the world can’t go on polluting and wasting natural resources indefinitely.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Depending on whose measurement you use, the U.S. is either the largest or the second-largest economy in the world. However, our withdrawal from the climate change accords won’t damage the overall global efforts to fix the damage caused by humanity. Right now, the U.S. is behaving like the drunken father of a large family. He’ll go off for a week, come home and pass out and generally behave in a manner that does nothing to improve the lot of the family. So the brothers and sisters band together and do what’s necessary to keep the house intact and the daily business continuing. Mom (perhaps Germany?) helps as much as she can, and eventually Dad is left to molder in his recliner while the family learns to live without his influence and sporadic assistance.

We risk becoming irrelevant on the world stage by our withdrawal from the climate change accords. Our image overseas is already nearing “class clown” status, with foreign governments seriously doubting whether Trump’s word can be counted on anything, since he seems capable of changing his attitude mid-sentence and routinely pretends that things he said just a few months prior no longer count. When the rest of the world moves to green energy and lowers its carbon emissions to within tolerable limits, the U.S. will be the drunken father, and will eventually no longer be included in the “family gatherings” and largely forgotten.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-I’d like to add that President Trump was a douche for backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement. That decision shows his dunderheadedness and disregard for the affairs of the day.

It also shows that as the President, he’s clueless about the effects of climate change on the environment and is only bent on “representing Pittsburgh”, as he said. That’s the stupidest statement I’ve ever heard, as climate change affects the entire world.

Sadly, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord will have an impact on climate change. The over 200 countries who are a part of the agreement will undoubtedly do what’s necessary to pull their weight, but the practices conducted in the U.S. could make their efforts less effective.

According to a little research I dug up, the United States is the second largest country (behind China) involved in carbon emission.

Carbon emission is responsible for climate change which raises global temperatures. If the United States does not put things in place to reduce carbon emissions, the efforts of the Paris Climate Agreement will not be effective.

Without Trump in the agreement, things could work. However, he has to pull his weight. He has to put things in place that would reduce carbon emissions at the city and state level. Without those regulations in place, the agreement will fail or at least lose its effect.

6. US employment continues to grow while unemployment continues to shrink, but wages have been stagnant for more than a decade. What’s the reason, and is there a solution to the middle-classes declining standard of living?

Sheffield. Jamaica Correspondent-That question has lingered on my mind for years. Sadly, that condition doesn’t only exist in America, but is a global crisis.

Regardless of how the employment figure looks – whether it increases or decreases – wages will remain the same. It all boils down to one word – greed.

Corporations and big businesses are so driven and filled with greed, that they are willing to keep wages stagnant irrespective of how affluent and profitable their business becomes.

The less these businesses have to pay out in wages, the more they have to pocket and feed into their bank accounts.

Why would these businesses pay their employees more when they can pay a bagatelle without being held accountable by the government?

To resolve the declining standard of living, especially among the middle-class, economists have tried correcting and implementing several factors. They’ve seemingly raised taxation for the rich to create an equalizing and allow those in the middle-class to take home more but to no avail.

They’ve also considered building more houses since middle-class residents are spending excessively on homes. This was to guarantee that those within the middle-class could build affordable homes in thriving cities and benefit from the wealth in those areas.

All those and more have been implemented but a solution remains elusive. It’s simple, the stagnant salary issue and declining standard of living for the middle-class is above mankind. We need divine intervention.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-For decades, businesses have been lauded for increasing their workforces. Every time a politician wants to give tax breaks or some other sop to big business, he points to the number of jobs that have been created even in the face of increasing automation and efficiency. Back in the early part of the 20th century, it was the same. The Triangle Shirtwaist Company employed hundreds as part of a thriving business…until the factory caught fire and the modern era of worker safety was rung in on the burned backs of nearly 150 employees, many of them women and children.

While today’s workers are safer, they are no more rewarded than those women kept locked to their machines while the factory burned around them. Cubicle farms are occupied by thousands of barely-paid drones who hate their jobs and are paid just enough to keep them from quitting or going into open revolt.

One solution to this is to tie benefits given to businesses to wage growth, not just increases in employment. If the carrot dangling at the end of the stick changes, then the corporate mule chasing it will have to change, as well.

However, I don’t see this happening, and I’m pinning my hopes on another possible solution. Small businesses which pay their employees fair wages are proliferating, largely thanks to the internet’s ability to put them and their products and services in touch with a greater customer base. Eventually, they will pull the best and brightest from the megacorporations, and the big boys’ production and product quality will suffer. When their bottom lines are affected, they’ll either see the error of their ways and loosen the purse strings or they’ll end up in the economic tar pit of their predecessors.

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent-First off…unemployment is NOT shrinking. The number of people collecting unemployment is shrinking, but not because they have found jobs. The number is getting smaller because they have exhausted benefits or gone on disability, Social Security etc. But it’s a false narrative that unemployment is shrinking.

To the question at hand: The solution is simple. Employers need to pay a decent wage! I’m not suggesting a higher minimum wage. What I’m suggesting is that big employers pay their employees a “better” wage, and offer benefits packages. It’s the sad truth that employers are all about the bottom line though. They have increased profits every year but don’t give back to the employees who work for them (and most of the time give to their profits by purchasing their goods). How do we fix this? You wouldn’t think we would need to have this conversation. It’s the right thing to do as a business. You take care of your people. Unfortunately, the only thing we can do is place some sort of “regulations” or “rules” on businesses. Maybe something along the lines of a profit margin percentage? If your margin is a certain amount you are required to give your employees a raise? I don’t know how that would work. But, really, just be a good business owner and pay your employees a decent living wage. It’s the right thing to do.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Politicians love to blame one group or country or mega-corporation for wage stagnation. But blaming one group or another misses the real reason wages have stagnated since the 1970s, but most noticeably in the past 10-15 years. The root cause of wage stagnation is the combination of three fundamental economic laws: supply and demand, the efficient allocation of resources, and the requirement of profitability for a business to be successful.

Supply and demand mean prices for goods and services will rise and fall depending on the scarcity of an item combined with the demand for that item. Automation, just-in-time inventory management, and computerized sales tracking assure us that prices on many goods will remain stable because demand and supply can be balanced quickly and won’t fluctuate wildly for very long. If prices don’t rise much, businesses can’t increase wages proportionately.

Efficient allocation of resources means fiscal and human capital will flow to wherever a business owner can get the most bang for her buck. If labor can be purchased more cheaply in one area vs. another area, the business will hire the cheaper labor force. This means high-labor-cost markets such as the U.S. must now compete with a worldwide workforce for many jobs. This puts downward pressure on all wages until the lowest-wage workers begin to insist on higher wages due to their higher productivity.

Profitability means a business must produce its product for less than the price for which it sells that product. If this doesn’t happen, the company will eventually go bankrupt, and its employees will lose their jobs. If competition forces that company to cut the price of its product, then wages, along with other production costs, are likely to stay the same or decrease.

All these factors create downward pressure on cost and price for most goods and services. After World War II, the U.S. was the only viable economy left standing on the world stage. Our businesses only had competition among themselves, and wages could be generous and support a middle-class lifestyle. Today, the U.S. has lost its competitive pricing advantage now that the rest of the world has begun to take its share of the economic pie.

There does not seem to be a solution to stagnating wages in the U.S. The last half of the 20th Century was a positive economic blip for the U.S., which allowed us to accustom ourselves to an unrealistic lifestyle. The challenge will be for Americans to downsize and prioritize their spending so the wages they do earn will be spent on what matters most. As Charles Dickens famously wrote in his novel David Copperfield: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

7. The recent smog in New Delhi, India is said to be the worst and most dangerous air pollution ever. Is it just a confluence of coincidental factors and bad timing, or is climate change directly to blame?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-New Delhi’s reputation as a polluted city has been one of the worst in the world for many years, so the city’s recent toxic smog can’t be blamed solely on a confluence of coincidental factors and bad timing. But neither should it be blamed on climate change directly. Other cities—except for Beijing, China—haven’t made world headlines by suffering an air pollution crisis second to none.

Equal blame should be given to coincidence as well as climate change. The world has been industrialized for more than 150 years, but pollution didn’t become a chronic problem in large cities until the middle of the 20th Century. Even then, only the largest, most industrialized cities like Pittsburgh, or large cities with unique microclimates that trap pollution such as Los Angeles, had severe problems.

Now that much of the world has been industrialized, and our population has ballooned to more than twice what it was fifty years ago, more and more cities are suffering chronic air pollution because they either lack the will or the money to fix the problem. New Delhi may be a figurative canary in a coal mine because it represents the tip of the iceberg as to what may happen to more and more cities ten and twenty years in the future. Their recent crisis should serve as a dire warning to other cities to prepare for the same possibility.

Science has already proven that air pollution doesn’t respect national borders, so air pollution is everyone’s problem. Unless we begin a world-wide effort to remove toxins, carbon, and greenhouse gases from our atmosphere, we’ll see increasing numbers of critical, life-threatening pollution problems around the world. When that happens, coincidence and bad timing will no longer be a factor.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-As it stands, doctors are urging residents to leave New Delhi because of the current state of affairs. The air is catastrophic to life of any kind. In fact, in 2015 alone, approximately 2.5 million people died because of air pollution.

What is the cause of this dire situation in New Delhi?

I’d like to think it’s a combination of factors. As it is, the world is threatened by climate change. The practices we carry out on a daily basis contribute to this change.

As we innovate and advance technologically, we ruin the atmosphere. New Delhi is no exception. Human practice dictate why the air is so bad.

The very vehicles those Indians drive in New Delhi cause problems. How so? These vehicles emit gases that are hazardous, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and greenhouse gases. A staggering 50 – 90 percent of air pollution is attributed to motor vehicle emissions. The very thing we rely on daily to commute intends to kill us.

Fuel burning, whether done at the industry, construction, and residential levels also contributes to air pollution in New Delhi.

Activities conducted within the city is also a contributing factor. About 10,000 tons of municipal waste generated in New Delhi is later burned. This adds particles to the air and contributes to air pollution.

India also has a coal-fired power plant that emits sulfur dioxide. This has contributed as well to the deterioration of the air.

The problem New Delhi now faces was a matter of time. The tide is changing. The atmosphere is being exhausted beyond repair. If we do not minimize the struggle we’ve inflicted on the ozone layer, we’ll have a lot of carcasses to deal with pretty soon, and it won’t only be in New Delhi.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I don’t see climate change as to blame for the unbreathable air in New Delhi, just as I don’t blame it for the days in Mexico City where the general public goes about in gas masks or other face coverings meant to protect them from the pollution. New Delhi’s problem is success! The Indian economy is growing at a rapid rate, and factors like increased ownership of automobiles are magnifying what was already a legendary traffic problem. Millions of cars sitting in gridlocks, none of them bearing the benefit of emissions inspections like most U.S. states mandate, belching hydrocarbons into the air like whales clearing their blowholes.

Eventually, just as happened here in the U.S., the government will find the political will to impose emissions restrictions on business and the motoring public, and the problem will begin to be fixed. Until then, the air in New Delhi will be just as breathable as the water in the Ganges is drinkable.

8. Will the electric car maker Tesla succeed in bringing electric cars to the forefront of the automobile industry? Why or why not?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I see an unlimited top end for Elon Musk’s wild child of a carmaker, Tesla. One of the reasons is that while other carmakers that have dabbled in battery-powered vehicles have largely used existing technology without really trying to improve upon what’s available, Tesla is putting significant funds into research into battery technology that have already dramatically increased the range of the company’s vehicles between charges.

Also, Tesla isn’t limiting its offerings to the sort of tidy sedans like the Chevy Volt that have been the sole home of all-electric vehicles in the past. Tesla’s yet-to-be-released Roadster promises to set a new standard for performance vehicles, and even the mid-priced Model 3 offers 250 miles of cruising range and an impressive suite of creature comforts. The Model X is the first fully electric SUV, making even soccer moms and weekend adventurers the target market for the company’s offerings. Soon, an all-electric tractor-trailer will be on the road, and orders for the quiet behemoth are already pouring in. Imagine a convoy of big rigs passing you on the road with no more diesel roar!

Musk has taken Tesla from a curiosity to a force to be reckoned with in the monolithic car and truck market, and he’s just getting started. Yes, the Big Three will eventually catch up to where he is now…but by then he’ll be miles down the road.

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent-Have you seen them? Tesla has broken the mold with their cars. Now, they have less expensive models so it opens the opportunity for more people to buy them. As they start to improve the technology (even though they already have…a lot) the costs will lower as well so even MORE people will be able to afford them. The performance alone of Tesla blows every other electric or hybrid car out of the water. They look good, unlike the ugly weird looking electric cars of the not-so-far-past. Tesla has succeeded where other electric cars have failed–they have made them affordable, efficient, good looking, powerful, etc. All of that combined and yes, they will succeed in bringing electric cars to the forefront. I would argue that they already HAVE.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, seems to be the Bill Gates of his generation—a ground-breaking visionary who may revolutionize the auto industry the way Gates (along with Steve Jobs) revolutionized the computer industry. Even though Tesla is something of a conglomerate, with interests in solar power and space travel, it seems like the company will succeed or fail based on whether it can produce an affordable electric car that will eliminate the need for gas-powered cars.

Tesla’s biggest challenge is overcoming an entrenched auto/oil industry that has actively suppressed the development of electric cars for decades. The technology for efficient, long-ranging electric cars has existed for a long time, but innovators have often been marginalized or ignored because electric vehicles threaten the profitability of the oil producers.

Government regulations and tax policies are also an obstacle. As long as EPA mileage standards don’t stress the automakers excessively, they’ll continue producing inexpensive gas-burning cars for consumers. The federal gasoline tax hasn’t been raised in decades, which keeps fuel costs artificially low and further tilts the cost advantage toward gas-powered vehicles.

The only way for Tesla to succeed with electric cars is to first, mass-produce an affordable, long-ranging car that needs little maintenance and is powerful enough for Americans who like big, fast gas-guzzlers. Then, a nationwide network of recharging stations will need to be built. Also, recharging times for batteries must be drastically reduced so drivers who travel long distances won’t be inconvenienced by needing hours to recharge. Then, laws, regulations, and tax policy must be changed to at least level the competitive playing field with gas-powered vehicles. Raising the federal gas tax is a start, but an equitable tax or fee must be implemented so drivers of electric cars pay their fair share and no more for road repair and maintenance.

The final step that will ensure Tesla’s success would be the implementation of strict pollution regulations that mandate no net addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. That would make gas-burning vehicles prohibitively expensive to own and would vault electric cars into the dominant position in the auto industry. Tesla seems to have the technology and deep pockets to survive in the auto business. The real question is, does the company have the patience and determination to prevail against formidable opposition.

Sheffield Jamaica Correspondent-Telsa is apparently making strides in the electric automobile industry. However, the field is white for harvesting, and competitors like General Motors have intensified their efforts.

They want their share of the pie. This was demonstrated when General Motors beat Telsa and released the “first true mass-market” electric vehicle. In fact, according to the company’s head of product, Mark Reuss, “we are far along in our plan to lead the way to that future world.”

If Telsa is to take the lead in bringing electric cars to the forefront, Elon Musk will need to up his game…and I think he will.

But, for Telsa to take the lead in electric automobiles, a strong foundation is needed. They need to have the infrastructure in place to welcome electric automobiles. It sounds simple but for electric cars, it isn’t.

The cars we use today run on gas and diesel. To acquire the power we need for our cars, we stop and get some gas (or diesel) before going about our affairs.

The same will need to apply for these electric vehicles. There will need to be a strong infrastructure in place to charge the batteries of these electric cars.

Telsa has outsmarted their competitors in this regard. Around the world, Telsa has installed about 1000 supercharger branded stations for their electric vehicles to be charged. Telsa is innovative and current. For this reason, I do believe they will lead electric cars to the forefront.

9. Is “net neutrality” a boon or a curse for American consumers?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-There has been no end of brouhaha and hand wringing over the end of “Net Neutrality” promised by recent changes in federal law. The circuit board-loving set would have us believe that soon we’ll be beset by fees and hidden charges for using everything from Google to Netflix to Facebook depending on which service provider we have. What they miss is that the internet is the Great Democratizer, which has brought the mighty low since the day the first email was sent.

There are simply too many service providers, too many websites and too many content providers extant for any feasibly evil plan to construct some sort of Machiavellian fee schedule to charge us for access to all of them. Yes, there will inevitably be efforts to make it more expensive to, say, watch 12 hours of Hulu on your laptop. You might be dinged some sort of service fee for your 24-hour online gaming marathon. But I don’t see those things becoming widespread, and I see the waters eventually calming and the attempts to “fee-up” the internet going the way of MySpace and Friendster.

Of course, I may be wrong. Maybe we’ll all end up paying to go outside of a certain umbrella of sites approved by our service providers. Just in case, I think I’ll go download all the solitaire programs I can now.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-American consumers rely heavily on the internet. Many use it for leisure, others use it to earn a living or keep in touch with loved ones, and to exercise their freeness of speech.

All of this is possible because of net neutrality. The fact that it avails so many things to Americans make it a boon, rather than a curse.

Without net neutrality, consumers would be restricted to content they’d otherwise have no issues accessing. They would potentially need to pay to have access to certain areas of the Internet and faster speeds to access things quickly.

Internet service providers would now have the power and backing to wield a stick, so to speak, above the heads of consumers. The disadvantages are endless.

Net neutrality does create an equal playing field for consumers to enjoy free content.

We can think about those who use the internet to earn a living. Because of their internet access, many companies and smaller businesses have made billions. With their innovations being protected, this allow freelancers to earn a living comfortably or companies to offer information in a way that best suits them.

Net neutrality does help improve communication. With various social media platforms, many consumers can communicate freely via instant messaging, voice, and video calls. With these tools, it breathes life into communication and make it efficient.

Life without net neutrality would be unproductive and unfair to many. It would be more of a curse than a blessing.

Without net neutrality in place, those who don’t have the spending power will be restricted in their Internet usage.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The phrase “net neutrality” is one of the most confusing topics I have ever come across either as a commentator or as a consumer of internet access. The phrase itself is ambiguous. On the one hand, neutrality implies idling or doing nothing. This could be interpreted to mean “The internet is fine the way it is. Don’t make changes.” Another definition means not taking sides, sitting on the fence. This conjures an image of Switzerland, a fiercely neutral nation for centuries, that doesn’t try to control or contain misbehavior by other countries (wars), even though the outcomes of those wars were usually only the rich and powerful nations survived and prospered.

My understanding is that the current policy in the U.S., which was just approved by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), rolls back Obama-era policies that enforced equal access to all internet users regardless of the amount of money or power an entity might try to wield. Going forward, we’ll have a multi-tiered pricing system whereby faster internet speeds cost more than slower speeds. This seems reasonable and fair considering most of us are willing to pay more for any product that is faster, better, easier, or more convenient.

The catch comes when we look at pricing models like this in other industries. Air travel and cable TV service leap to mind. Before airline deregulation, air travel was strictly regulated. Fares were high, but service was uniformly excellent, and seats were quite comfortable. Before cable TV was developed, a handful of networks controlled what the nation could view on TV and when they could view it. But the direct cost to the user was zero since advertisers paid for the broadcast.

Today, with deregulated airline we have inexpensive fares coupled with multiple levels of seating and other amenities that are dynamically priced. But we also have cramped seating, overbooked flights, long delays due to weather, traffic, and security concerns, and crowded skies. Cable TV brought us the iconic “500 channels to watch, twenty-four-seven,” tiered pricing that charges more for premium channels, and bundled groups of channels into packages with no ala carte options to buy specific individual channels. Additionally, competition has dwindled or been intentionally removed, which created monopolies and captive audiences in most markets, which allow arbitrary price increases with no comparable rise in quality or service.

Since both tight regulation and deregulation have positives as well as negatives, it seems that the best course for deciding how to run the internet is to apply reasonable regulation that keeps costs as low as possible while at the same time guarantees sufficient access to all customers, large or small. Part boon, part curse, we could call it “Net Neutrality Lite.” Think of that policy as akin to Switzerland staying neutral ninety-five percent of the time and only occasionally getting off the fence just long enough to figuratively rap the knuckles of a misbehaving nation with a steel ruler.

10. How should large coastal cities deal with gradually rising sea levels?

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Once again, the world has turned to science to solve, or at least provide answers to the elephant in the room. Sea levels are rising and people want to know to what extent did climate change affect the rising levels. Climate change seems to be at the heart of everything.

Especially for large cities situated along the coast, the catastrophe would definitely be immense if these levels continue to rise in the future. What can officials do to allay the anxiety of the people living along these areas?

There are several factors that could be tapped into, but I’d like to mention two.

Climate change is a monster. People need to wake up and realize that their actions and practices might not affect them immediately, but the atmosphere takes the blow.

Every hazardous gas we pump into the air adds up and affects rising sea levels. To deal with this problem, it takes a worldwide effort. People need to start doing things to better the atmosphere, not make it worse.

Another practical thing to do is to build. Build what? Build walls. Ha! Since Trump is putting things in place to build a massive wall, he might as well divide his resources and build a huge ass wall to separate those large cities and the sea.

My response to such a crucial question seems childish and frankly, it is. People need to grow up and stop building communities on WATER. No, it’s not safe to build because you want to look out at the ocean.

There are so many uninhabited places that can be developed to house people where they’re not threatened by water levels. Instead of building walls to keep people out, the government needs to get off his high horse and build walls to keep the waters out.

If that doesn’t work, God bless them.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Rising sea levels are the most immediate and obvious of the problems attributed to Climate Change, or Global Warming as it used to be called. Whether or not you believe the Earth is in danger, we all must adapt to whatever problems or crises Mother Nature throws at us.

One way to deal with rising sea levels is to fight the trend and try to preserve coastal cities by building dikes, dams, or sea walls to keep the sea water out. A modern-day example of this is the Netherlands, which has built massive dikes to keep its coastal cities from being flooded. Another solution is to adapt to water-filled streets like Venice, Italy did centuries ago by building a network of canals as a means of transportation and raising the livable parts of its buildings above the water line.

These solutions are temporary at best since it can’t be known exactly how high sea levels will rise in the future. A ten-foot-high sea wall may work for a time, but if sea levels rise eleven or more feet, the problem has been put off, not solved. The same goes for constructing canals and raising the habitable levels of buildings above the new “normal” sea level combined with tidal surge.

The only logical solution to rising sea levels is to discourage people and businesses from occupying seaside areas. If the federal government ends its flood insurance program, which essentially pays people and businesses to live and work in flood prone areas of the country, guess what? Logical individuals will conclude that it’s no longer worth the cost of occupying their coastal properties. The government should also begin limiting its declaration of disaster areas that are eligible for federal emergency which would be used to rebuild flooded buildings. Yes, help rescue people and clean up the messes, but don’t pay for anyone to rebuild a home or business in the same spot that was just flooded by storm surge from a hurricane.

However, a distinction must be made between discouraging coastal occupation and encouraging moving inland. Government-funded incentives like tax subsidies should not be offered to homeowners or businesses to encourage them to relocate to higher ground. Forcing those of us who don’t live and work in coastal areas to subsidize those who do is a recipe for an “entitlement disaster” as more and more people line up for their share of “free money,” a.k.a. a government handout.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Whether you believe in climate change or not, there’s simply no arguing with the fact that sea levels are rising worldwide. Whether it’s a warming climate or aliens hooking up secret invisible water pipelines in hopes of drowning us all, high tide is getting just a smidgen higher all over the world.

This will be a boon for many ports, as they’ll no longer have to spend so much on dredging to keep shipping channels open. However, the seaside or bayside subdivisions where their workers live might be a bit more challenging to inhabit when the roads are underwater.

For a solution, I’d look to Galveston right after the turn of the 20th century, when the damage from the 1900 hurricane was apocalyptic and the city fathers looked for a way to ensure that it never happened again. They built a wall (sound familiar) and they paid for it. The Galveston Seawall is a legendary feat of engineering, and has stood for over a century as a bulwark against storm surges and hurricane waves and has dramatically lessened storm damage on the island.

I’m not suggesting that Baltimore build a 60-foot concrete wall, but some smaller sort of construction should be undertaken to stave off Old Man Ocean before he decides to take over more than his fair share of the seaside. This will make beachside living a bit more challenging, as there will have to be a choice on which side of the wall to build, but it will be, in the end, a necessary evil.

11. According to experts, the US faces a massive infrastructure crisis that will require significant repairs and upgrades to our current infrastructure. How can this be achieved without crippling the economy with severe tax increases?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Remember the I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis a few years back? An interstate bridge, something most of us drive over every day, simply…went away. The dead and injured were numerous, and it took months for traffic flow to be restored. Similar disasters are coming, and will become almost a commonplace occurrence if we don’t do something NOW about our crumbling infrastructure. Our rail system is a complete joke, our roads are crumbling and our water, sewer and electric systems are pitifully vulnerable to not only natural disasters but terrorist attack.

It’s going to cost a lot of money to fix this problem. There’s no two ways about it. However, infrastructure spending isn’t “sexy” like new stealth bombers or guided missile destroyers. Road construction inconveniences the public, and nobody likes having their commute impeded by dreaded orange cones.

The billions that need to be raised can only come from a nationwide tax. A penny or two on gas taxes would be grumbled about, but would be bearable by the public. Taxes on tires, car repairs, etc. would likewise go toward raising the necessary funds. What’s required is the political will to impose those taxes, and thus far no one’s got the stones to put their political career at risk for the sake of…a road.

Sheffield Jamaica Correspondent-Oh, and to think the great and mighty America would have had things together. When you have such a blabbermouth for a president, everything should fall in place. But, it’s not. It’s falling apart.

America is a developed country so you’d probably be reasoning that it shouldn’t have an infrastructure issue. However, due to lack of investments it does.

Based on a little research I did, the American administration is proposing about $1 trillion in federal investments to rectify the infrastructure crisis, but about 49% of those who took a survey believe that efforts will prove futile to fix the problem.

Some also believe that the infrastructure will collapse because of high tax increases. From what I’ve seen, fixing this infrastructure crisis does not have to come to that if the government is willing to incite infrastructure investments.

There are several ways that could be done. The government – state and local – should endeavor to attract foreign investors. In addition, infrastructure should be made available for sale or lease to the private sector. Rather than increase taxation, tax incentives and credits should be given, which would make it easier for investors to jump on board.

A “user-pay” model can also be implemented. In areas where traffic congestion is terrible and people need express lanes, they can pay for such service.

Overall, I’m no expert, but it’s possible to fix the infrastructure without breaking the economy and taxpayers.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-With inflation a fact of life in our society, infrastructure repairs and upgrades will continue to cost more in the future. Solving this growing crisis cannot be put off since so many repairs and upgrades must be made now. We all must share in the cost if we use water, power, heating or cooling, transportation, and the internet. But cost-sharing must be done fairly. Someone who never drives a vehicle or takes public transportation shouldn’t be forced to pay for road repairs. Someone who lives off the grid and gets their power from their own wind, solar, or geothermal sources shouldn’t be forced to pay for gas, heating oil, or electrical grid repairs or upgrades.

One solution is to enact laws that require every new infrastructure proposal to include maintenance and upgrade provisions, so money is set aside for the time when repairs are necessary. The real cost of a project over its lifetime will be known and can be voted up or down instead of voting only on the upfront cost. If that extra ten or twenty or fifty percent of expenses are included, politicians will be more discriminating on voting for new infrastructure and more likely to concentrate spending on upgrades and maintenance of the status quo.

Another solution is to incentivize companies who develop new and better technologies that allow current infrastructure to last longer and be cheaper to maintain. This should be done by leveling the playing field via the tax code so businesses that have long been subsidized, like the oil industry, no longer get special treatment to maintain their competitive and financial advantages. If an innovator develops a method of constructing or repairing a road that results in a longer initial life, repair and upgrade costs are deferred far into the future, resulting in lower costs and less pressure on taxpayers.

User fees must become a larger part of the equation. The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993 and is not indexed to inflation, so money for interstate highway repair has lagged for more than twenty years. The gas tax should be increased immediately to at least reflect inflation since 1993. And with the increasing popularity of electric cars, an alternative to a gas tax must be developed to fairly assess drivers of electric-powered vehicles.

To offset this tax increase, and perhaps lower taxes overall, any road that can be privatized should be sold by the government to any company that can prove it has the management and resources to maintain the road at a level as high or higher than the road’s usual and customary condition. This, of course, means the privatized road will become a toll road, and the entire cost of maintenance will be borne by drivers who choose to drive on this road. Removing a substantial chunk of the US road system from federal responsibility can save billions of dollars.

Local issues should be addressed with similar solutions. Power companies can impose surcharges for electrical or natural gas grid maintenance (some already do so). Internet service providers could add small fees to their subscribers to cover server maintenance and security. Telecom companies can do the same for cell tower repairs and security.

But the ultimate cost comes down to individuals. We need to be willing to pay for the infrastructure we use. If the service provided by that infrastructure gets too expensive, then we need to do some soul searching and decide what we must have and what we can live without.

12. As concussions in pro sports rise (especially in football), attendance seems to be falling across the board. Will football lose its rank as America’s favorite spectator sport because of the increasing violence and subsequent injuries?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Even though declining attendance at football games isn’t currently caused by fans not caring to watch an increasingly violent sport which causes too many severe injuries, fan interest may eventually decrease faster because of the injury issue. Because football athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever, it’s a given that injuries will become more frequent and more severe. There is also a growing trend in sports toward more awareness about injuries, especially head injuries like concussions. In the forefront of that awareness is the discovery that many retired footballers from past generations are reporting severe brain issues such as Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Because of these issues, many parents of young football players are deciding to pull their sons from the sport. Many other teenaged athletes are making their own decisions and opting for a sport other than football because they fear the consequences of TBI as a result of too many concussions or one severe concussion. If fewer children never start playing football and the best athletes in the world choose other, less violent sports, the football talent pool will eventually decline, and the quality of the professional game will suffer.

In addition to concussions, it seems like other injuries are on the rise in pro football. It’s rare for a team to not lose several players for most or all of a season due to injury. And if too many of the best players on a team are sidelined for too long, fans will quickly tire of watching second-stringers play most of the games.

Pro football can combat the concussion issue by improving equipment, especially helmets, in a way that would provide more cushioning to the head and restrict the whiplashing motion caused by a hard hit. Rules can also be changed that would do more to protect players, such as outlawing any contact to the head or increasing penalties for those infractions. If nothing is done, injuries will continue to increase, and pro football will risk losing its position as America’s favorite sport. That day may come sooner than we think.

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent-No, concussions and violence are NOT the reason Football will lose its rank as America’s favorite spectator sport. The reason is because these big-old-baby players want to get political. When have you ever heard someone say “I want some politics in with my Football?” NEVER! We watch football to forget about our daily lives, to get away, to drink beer and have fun with our friends yelling at the TV. The LAST thing we want to see is some overpaid athlete protesting on the field. Especially, when they are protesting something they don’t REALLY know anything about. Why was Rosa Park’s protest so effective? Because she was LIVING IT. Find another way to raise awareness and get out of my football game.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Pro sports, especially contact sports like football is a recipe for collisions and concussions. That’s not news to anyone.

In fact, we are so far ahead that studies have shown that football is linked to CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). CTE is a disease of the brain that affects those who sustain frequent trauma to the head. Sounds like the entire culture of football, eh?

Regardless, the love of football is not growing cold. Sure, the numbers at a game has declined speedily, but that does not amount to anything. Violence is simply not the reason why the attendance rank is falling.

People are no longer interested in being live and direct at a game because they have better things to do. Yes, I said it. Living is very demanding. It takes a lot out of you. To follow and keep up with every single game and be present take an enormous amount of precious time that people are now groping to get back.

To supplement, the seats are empty because of the cost associated with watching these games in person. Those seats aren’t cheap. They cost a pretty penny!

Might I add too, that it’s even more costly when you have to travel miles upon miles just to see the games.

Hell. To. The. No. My family and I don’t love football, but we sure as hell wouldn’t stand the cost associated with watching the games if we did have a love for it.

Things and time have changed. People have also realized that they have more important things to do with their time and money.

On that note, violence does not cause people to miss out on football. FYI, people love violence and just like sex, that stuff sells.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The increasing violence and head injuries have nothing to do whatsoever with the declining ratings for NFL football. We have proven long ago that we like our bread and circuses best when the circuses are bloody affairs, and seeing highly paid men slam their bodies into each other is the closest we have today to the Circus Maximus or Colosseum.

The NFL is losing its way because it’s become a political whipping boy. Colin Kaepernick let the genie out of the bottle, and now the players have become a rabble of protest-happy spoiled children wanting to continue to make millions while disrespecting the country that gives them the opportunity to work only a couple dozen times a year while making millions.

Another misstep has been the oversaturation of the TV landscape with games. Sunday used to be the Big Day, with Monday Night Football ringing a Cosell-fueled end to the football week, leaving us all hungry for the next week at 1 p.m. Eastern, when our pigskin warriors would again face off. Now there are overseas games airing at 9 a.m., Thursday Night Football, Saturday football in the last three weeks of the season and the NFL Network airing repeats of games 7 days a week. Watching the game is no longer a national event, and it’s become less important to miss the Sunday games when you’ve got multiple other chances to get your fix of televised brutality.

So, get your players in line, stop trying to play every day of the week…and maybe start calling a few more penalties on the Patriots, OK?

13. Would capitalism survive if the majority of manufacturers turned away from planned obsolescence and focused on making only the highest-quality, longest-lasting products possible?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Planned obsolescence has long been a hallmark of the American brand of capitalism, and we’ve exported it worldwide. Selling widgets of all types with planned lifespans is simply how things have been done. However, oddly enough, the biggest challenge to that practice has begun in the American car industry. Our vehicles are lasting longer, performing better and being engineered better than ever before. And yet auto sales continue to thrive, and the Big Three are still turning out healthy dividends.

Why? It’s very simple: Americans consistently want the newest, best, most updated models of everything. Look at Apple! The iPhone is one of the most dependable, durable pieces of hardware around, and yet every time a new one comes out the faithful queue up for days to get their hands on one. Apple may have pushed the envelope a bit too far with the four-digit price tag on the iPhone X, but sales have so far been good…if not as mindbendingly amazing as in previous iterations. There’s a thriving market for older models of iPhones, but it hasn’t seemed to affect the sales of new models. Other smartphone makers see similar market activity.

Online ratings sites hold manufacturers of shoddy products accountable, and a four- or five-star rating on Amazon doesn’t happen when you market garbage.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Like I said, man is motivated by greed. Every fiber of their being thinks about what they can get against how it’ll benefit the society.

Money is the problem. Actually, the love of money is. Big corporations are ensuring that we dip into our pockets ever so often after buying a product for a few months. Planned obsolescence is definitely killing us. Before even going in for production, these companies have already determined how long they want the finish good to last.

Companies will never focus on making the highest quality and longest-lasting products simply because it will kill their profits to do so. That would definitely kill capitalism.

To demonstrate. I buy umbrellas very often. That’s a need in my country (for me, at least) because of my interests and lifestyle. If companies were to focus on producing an umbrella that lasts, there would be no need for me to purchase an umbrella at least 4 times in any given year.

The same would apply to other consumers who use umbrellas. That’s a major monetary loss for private owners and corporations.

If companies, especially those producing gadgets and tech focused on building devices that didn’t have a lifespan, the economy would have dipped and people would pocket more cash. One popular tech corporation I know actually slows down their old model phones, forcing people to upgrade. With each released model, the one before becomes obsolete.

That puts a burden on consumers because they’ll always try to keep up with the latest when their current device begins to lag.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Readers of a certain age may remember a time referred to in the saying “They don’t make ’em like they used to.” That was a vague reference to a time during the first part of the Industrial Revolution before mass production became ubiquitous. Plastics hadn’t been invented, and most durable goods were bought with the presumption they would “last a lifetime.”

Society today is at the opposite end of that spectrum with most items being built and sold with the idea that a newer, better, cheaper model will come along in a year or two. This suits producers just fine because repeat customers are the cornerstone of a successful business. But would capitalism survive if mass producers turned away from planned obsolescence and refocused on making products that would last a lifetime?

The switch should be easy for electronic products. Take cell phones for instance. Since smartphones came along some ten years ago, little has changed with their physical appearance. What’s new are the latest bells and whistles like improved cameras, more power, Bluetooth capability, etc. Physical phones could be made of titanium or another durable metal instead of plastic. Screens could be tempered glass instead of plastic. Improvements could be sold to consumers via software instead of a brand-new phone, or at least some replaceable module that fits inside the phone shell. Other electronic devices could follow similar paths.

Clothing, furniture, appliances, and other products could also revert to a high-quality, low-quantity formula. Yes, higher quality means a higher initial price. But if a $50 sweater lasts for decades and a $20 sweater needs to be replaced in three to five years, the consumer saves money in the long run. The producer makes more profit up front, which partially offsets the reduction in repeat purchases.

Spread across the world to all consumer cultures, spending less on things and replacing those things less often means most of us could survive just as well on reduced incomes. Businesses would scale back production facilities, shipping costs, raw material purchases, and marketing personnel. A company may contract in size, but as long as they sold their goods for a profit, they’d stay in business.

Scaling back implies workers losing jobs, but if we turn away from consuming and focus those human and capital resources on preserving, reusing, recycling, and cleaning up our messes, those industries will absorb many of the displaced production workers. It will be an evolutionary process, taking generations, but there must be a natural leveling off of the world’s parabolic rise in consuming. Sooner or later, we’ll use up all the world’s natural resources, and there won’t be any truly “new” things to buy anyway. Capitalism will survive whatever happens because people will still need to purchase goods and services to survive. Successful capitalists will be those who adapt to whatever society needs and wants.

14. Do large wind farms with huge turbines have a net positive or net negative impact on the environment?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I am an absolute proponent of renewable energy sources, and I see the protests against wind farms as a modern version of the Luddites, with possible secret backing by the fossil fuel producers whose livelihoods are threatened by the breeze-catchers.

Of course, just like with any industrial installation, prudence must be exercised with the location. Putting the giant propellers too near airports isn’t a great idea, and keeping them away from residential areas just makes sense, lest a catastrophic mechanical failure send a 40-foot turbine blade through Aunt Melinda’s Thanksgiving dinner, pulverizing two generations of the family. There is some evidence that wind farms may have an effect on migrating birds, but the jury is still out, and it certainly won’t be as bad as smog from power plants.

Beyond those practical considerations, however, I don’t see a single good argument against building as many turbines as humanly possible.
Harness the wind, harness the steam from the ground and build whirligigs to generate power from the tide. Catch sunlight and make energy out of it. I have no issue with any of it!

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-I’m an avid fan of wilderness areas. I believe in conservation of natural resources and protecting the environment. I think the world should get away from burning fossil fuels as fast as possible. I think harnessing wind power is second only to using solar panels to provide our energy. Yet some environmentalists believe that large wind farms with giant turbines are the worst thing in the world because birds are being killed by the blades and the low humming emitted from the turbines is creating sound pollution that also affects wildlife in the area.

Even though birds are killed by windmills and the immediate environment around a wind farm may disturb the natural habitat, I don’t think environmentalists give animals enough credit for their ability to adapt. It’s reasonable to assume that birds will evolve enough that they learn to recognize windmills by sight and sound and alter their flying to avoid crashing into turbine blades. Just as most animals have learned to avoid humans and be wary of human habitats, I expect windmills will become just another human obstacle for them to avoid. And if the low-level noise pollution created by a windmill negatively disrupts animals in that area, it’s logical to assume they’ll relocate to another area to avoid that disruption.

It’s also a negative for the environment that resources are consumed to produce, ship, install, and maintain a windmill. But each windmill replaces the need to burn that much more fossil fuel, which permanently reduces the pollution created by that oil or gas.

Wind is a variable, so a windmill can’t produce a steady, predictable amount of energy over time. But over the long term, a well-built, well-maintained windmill located in a reliably windy area should produce enough clean electricity to offset the initial consumption of natural resources and its related pollution.

One positive that may be overlooked is that windmills will become cheaper and more acceptable as more are produced, we accustom ourselves to seeing windmills all over, and we realize they are an affordable, viable energy option and not just a curious experiment.

On balance, while not the perfect source of energy, wind farms have a net positive effect on the environment.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Wind farms with huge turbines definitely impact the environment positively. Wind farms, which generate wind energy, is a clean fuel source. It does not pollute the air nor does it rely on fossil fuel such as coal or natural gas to operate.

Wind turbines themselves do not emit carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases while producing electricity. Wind power eludes nuclear power’s radioactive wastes and potential for nuclear accidents.

In the past, people were concerned that these wind warms, especially close to aviaries affected birds. However, that was because the turbines were moving very fast. Since the speed has been cut, these accidents have declined.

However, based on what experts have said, sustainable and renewable energy that does not contribute to global warming and emit harmful gas is more attractive than a few birds.

To operate these turbines is also inexpensive. The cost also continues to decline. The power from these turbines are also free once the infrastructure is attained and installed.

With that been said, it is a reliable source of energy that does not affect the environment.

Wind turbines are stationed high above the ground and allows for other use of the land. A common example is agriculture. With the turbines operating efficiently, it does not obstruct grazing animals and fields of crops.

The net negative impact of these turbines aren’t immense. Most people consider them an eyesore, and they do occasionally kill wild birds and bats.

15. Should the US work to stop or at least reduce urban sprawl in its major cities? Why or why not?

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-There is a reason (or reasons) why people would want to move from city areas and settle in the ‘country’ or rural locations.

Most cities often become industrialized. When these cities develop without proper planning and structure, people are forced to move. This usually give rise to criminal activities, which create a bad aftertaste for some living in these areas. These ones might decide to move to get away from that.

To supplement, they might be inflicted by unemployment, even diseases. Urban areas do become congested too. Too many people sharing the same space breathes havoc and room for disaster.

Even though people refer to urban sprawl in a negative manner, it is beneficial. Instead of clamping down on this, the government should encourage it and provide the necessary infrastructure to help these people moving to rural areas live better.

With suburbanization, there are opportunities to develop lands and overcome issues such as overpopulation. Instead of restricting people to a single area or city, people are allowed breathing room.

For suburbanization to be effective, however, the state must be willing to address issues such as clean water, trash disposal, and air pollution. Once the proper structures are put in place, it could work and develop.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The greatest example of urban sprawl in the United States can be seen in Houston, especially on the west side of town. When I moved to Houston in 1987, I lived on the near southwest side, just outside the 610 Loop. At that time, a five-mile drive took you out into the country. Little towns like Sugar Land and Missouri City were still country towns, with a small percentage of their inhabitants commuting daily to the Big City. Now Sugar Land has its own minor-league baseball team, Missouri City has a half-million residents and the Southwest Freeway has been expanded three times. On the far west side, it’s even worse. However, I’m not sure there’s anything to be done about it. As long as land is available and affordable housing in or near inner cities is sparse, and as long as gas remains relatively cheap, people will continue to trade ever-longer commutes for more luxurious and affordable housing. In cities like Charlotte, where I live now, near-town blighted neighborhoods are being gentrified, drawing wage earners back from the fringes, but the restoration isn’t nearly keeping pace with the influx of new residents. There will continue to be pressure to build out, and the freeways will keep getting wider and more crowded. My hope is that public transit might keep pace, with rail lines built to the suburbs that will take pressure off the atmosphere and the freeways, and that people will actually use them. Houston’s about 25 years behind the curve on that, but Charlotte has thus far shown a will to build rail lines, although much is left to be done.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Urban sprawl is really about population migration, so answering this question requires speculating on future migration trends. Urban sprawl began when those who had achieved success in the center of a major city desired a second home “out in the country” to enjoy during weekends and vacations. Then it grew to the middle class, who wanted larger houses, less crowding and pollution, and better schools for their children. As the car became the dominant mode of transportation, and roads were improved, and more were built, it seemed that almost everyone tried to outdo each other by moving farther and farther away from their jobs in the big city.

Today, there is a growing trend of regentrification—affluent people, retirees, and young artists and entrepreneurs moving into the most impoverished areas of inner cities and revitalizing once reviled neighborhoods. This could be called “reverse urban sprawl,” whereby suburban dwellers move into the large cities. If this trend continues, no one will have to work to stop or reduce urban sprawl since the trend will be to re-concentrate people in the large cities anyway.

Countering this trend is the rapid growth of internet connectivity that allows telecommuting or working from anywhere no matter where one resides. There will always be people who desire a quiet, remote lifestyle while still working in or near a large city and taking advantage of the amenities unique to metropolitan areas. So there will always be at least some outward growth from city centers.

But many metropolitan areas suffer the adverse effects of urban sprawl such as hellish commutes, pollution from autos, and development of land better suited for wetlands or farming instead of housing. These cities should emphasize spending on affordable housing and commercial rents, building upward instead of outward, expanding public transportation options, and discouraging single-occupancy auto travel. These improvements can attract enough people to at least slow the type of urban sprawl that causes more problems than it solves.

The key is for government and civic leaders to remain flexible with regards to city planning since no one can predict what living situation is best or most desirable for all 325 million Americans.

16. Is the increasing number of civil and criminal trials at local and state levels placing undue burdens on private citizens being called for jury duty? Is it really possible to get a jury of your peers due to differences in socio-economic background, educational background, etc.?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-During the forty-plus years of my life and my wife’s life that we’ve been eligible for jury duty, I have never been summoned, and my wife has been summoned only once. She was excused after the first day of interviews. Very few of my friends or acquaintances have mentioned they’ve been called for jury duty either. Therefore, from a personal standpoint, I don’t see a problem with jury duty being an undue burden. I concede that my experience is not representative of everyone, and significant problems may exist in other areas of the country.

I agree that there seems to be an increasing number of civil trials because lawyers are one of the most influential special-interest groups when it comes to passing laws at all levels of government. It’s in a lawyer’s best interest to have numerous and complex laws so more and more citizens will be compelled to pay for legal services. If a problem exists regarding too many trials, the better solution would be to eliminate as many laws as possible that are no longer relevant or exist only to give an unfair advantage to one entity over another. We could also enact laws that discourage frivolous lawsuits that are only used to delay some negative consequence (such as an insurance company suing a business to avoid paying death benefits in a wrongful death situation). A secondary solution that would require a massive hiring of judges is to reclassify crimes and lawsuits that call for a jury trial to trials that are decided by a judge only.

To the second question: Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines a peer as “one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status.” Using this broad definition, it is possible to get a jury of your peers. Getting a jury that is made up of exactly similar peers (ex: white, middle-aged, middle-class, college educated, suburbanite) will undoubtedly be more difficult. That’s because both sides want juries that can be persuaded to believe their client. But that conflict is always resolved because both sides may excuse a certain number of potential jurors during jury selection. Unless a trial takes place in a small jurisdiction where everyone shares identical backgrounds, race, ideology, education, and socioeconomic status, no jury will ever be ideal for a defendant.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent– I was recently called for jury duty, and saw up close that the entire concept of “a jury of your peers” is a complete farce in today’s society. At age 48, I was the youngest person seated for the jury in the trail of a young man in his early 20s accused of a drug offense. Most of those on the jury were white and at least middle class, while the defendant obviously came from meager circumstances. Thanks to having lived very close to the bone in my youth, I felt I had a bit of an understanding of his life, but surely not enough to be a truly good juror.

That said, we considered the evidence given in the case (the police did a horrible job of putting their case together) and found the young man not guilty. On the face of it, we would have appeared just the group to send this defendant to jail, yet we didn’t. That tells me that, at least in this instance, the system still works. I get called for jury duty every two or three years, and while it is an inconvenience, I accept it as one of the prices of living in our society. Whining about jury duty is fashionable and funny, but to me it’s unpatriotic in the extreme. Do your duty!

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-I’ve always questioned the justice system, specifically the jury duty aspect of things. I get it, the jury system has its place in society. But, isn’t it time for us to move away from that type of assessment and install more qualified, permanent personnel to deal with rendering verdicts? My golly! That would save private citizens a great deal of headache.

Private citizens do have busy lives to live. To supplement, some private citizens, like myself, cannot perform jury duties because of my creed system. It would be frustrating for someone like me to write and ask to be exempt or excused. Plus, if I’m called for jury duty and miss those, I could be in deep waters.

Give private citizens a break. A better alternative would be to get qualified individuals to fill that gap. With the increase in court cases for civil and criminal trials, these individuals would be ideal to sit permanently on cases with a salary.

I think the system does everything to not pay out. That’s how I view jury duty. It’s a cunning way for the system to get people to cast judgements without paying little or nothing.

If the panel is switched and jurors are made permanent, it would likely be impossible for court sessions to have jury of peers. Nonetheless, that would not affect the effectiveness of the jury to do their job and judge fairly and based on evidence.

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent-To start let me say our criminal justice system needs reformed…immediately. If we reformed the system we would drastically reduce the need for juries. Now, that being said onto the question at hand.

I’ve never been picked or called for jury duty, but I’m one of those odd people who has an interest in the legal system so I would love it. That being said, I run my own business doing Social Media Management so if I was picked for a jury that had to be sequestered it would GREATLY hurt my business, I wouldn’t be able to work. I also know employers sometimes require people to take vacation days or sick days to cover an employee who is out of work for jury duty or they forego their regular pay. Picture someone who makes $15 an hour, if they miss one day that’s $120 (pre tax); if they have to miss work (with no pay from their employer) they loose $80. And, That only one day! Imagine if they miss two or three! So, the answer is: Yes, Jury duty DOES put an undue burden on citizens. But, it’s still a duty.

As far as finding a jury of your peers, I think that’s an obvious no. You can find people of similar education, socio-economic status, biases, age, etc. But does that REALLY mean they are your peers? Probably not.

17. President Trump has called on the Congress to send him a bill that fixes the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Should this involve amnesty, a path to citizenship, or some other solution to immigration?

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent-The ONLY thing it should include is a path to citizenship. There is absolutely no reason to offer amnesty. I
don’t want to sound heartless, but it’s not fair to grant amnesty for the sheer fact that their parents brought them over illegally. It’s NOT difficult to become an American citizen. There isn’t much else to say on the subject…become a citizen or leave like everyone else. I have a friend who wanted to come to America at a young age from Germany. So, she joined the American Army as a translator in Germany and went through the legal process to become an American citizen. I don’t know why all of the sudden it’s ok to allow “illegals” to stay. Did they change the definition of illegal without me knowing?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The controversy over DACA is one of the hottest political footballs of 2017. Former-president Obama acted with compassion when he issued the executive order creating DACA. Unfortunately, the controversy that ensued after Trump’s election only highlights how screwed up our immigration laws and policies have become.

No one should be penalized for actions over which they had no control. Most DACA children never knew they were brought to the U.S. illegally until they applied for jobs, Social Security numbers, or driver’s licenses. Penalizing children for the actions of their parents is not the American way of offering “. . . justice for all.”

The solution is complicated, but the first step is to estimate the real cost of enforcing all our immigration laws. This country is great at passing laws that sound good and address a real problem, but then our government proceeds to either ignore those laws or selectively enforce them for political expediency. Once we know the cost of our immigration policy, we can have a debate on whether the laws are reasonable, cost-effective, and control immigration so we let in the “good immigrants” and keep out the “bad immigrants.”

The next step to getting a handle on our immigration laws is to streamline the legal immigration process so no one will opt for illegal immigration because it’s faster, cheaper, and more convenient than jumping through the legal hoops. Reducing illegal immigration will lessen the burden of the enforcement system, which will save money and lives in the long run.

Finally, we should allow DACA individuals to stay in the U.S. under the Obama administration program and give those people priority to apply for citizenship. Don’t grant a blanket amnesty, but if a DACA individual has followed the rules, submitted the required forms and documentation, and has not committed a serious crime, he or she should be given temporary amnesty and a chance to apply for citizenship. By all metrics, most DACA individuals are law-abiding, educated, hard-working young people. It would be ludicrous to expel some 800,000 desirable potential citizens from this country merely to score some points with the administration’s political base.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Let’s get something straight, politicians have been deliberating over what to do with the DREAMers for almost 15 years. That’s even older than the DACA program itself.

Obama installed that act in place to protect these illegal immigrants who came to America without a choice. At this point in time, the program Trump is looking to cut down protects over 800,000 immigrants who know nothing else but America and the culture.

To cut the cords on the DACA program means dislocating these ones and leaving them at a hefty disadvantage. It’s like starting over from the sand. What will they have to build on?

To fix these bills and right the wrongs that these DREAMers didn’t commit, the bill Trump is requesting should not only include amnesty, but also allow these ones to apply for citizenship. These ones have at least earned that and should be given a fair chance to live in peace and security.

I’ve always thought that Trump lacks decency and humanity. If this program was to be repealed and discontinued, he would have validated my emotions toward him. Then again, who am I or the DREAMers that Trump should care? If that program goes poof, America would be a sad place.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-Our xenophobic attitude toward immigration must change, or we risk stagnating as a society. Trump, with his prattle about building walls and waves of felons and tot-touchers flooding across the border, whipped up a misguided frenzy that risks closing our borders to the very sorts of people who made this country great in the first place. The only difference between today’s Latino immigrants and the Irish who faced similar discrimination over a century ago is the color of their skin and their mother tongue.

We need a path to citizenship for those already here, and a quick one. I see the GOP’s resistance to this as a naked attempt to keep recent immigrants, who tend to vote Democrat, from making it onto the voting rolls. I don’t think they actually fear these people, they’re simply trying to cling to their notion of a white majority as long as possible. It’s ridiculous, and doomed to fail. Making children born to illegal immigrant parents wait years for citizenship when they’ve proven themselves productive members of society is senselessly punitive.

And while I’m at it, those who may have come here illegally in the past, but who have spent their time here engaged in lawful pursuits and raising their children to be good Americans should get their own path to citizenship. Yes, their method for getting here wasn’t legal, but the conditions they were fleeing by and large would have prompted the same response from any family in suburban America. But for the grace of the God you claim to worship, even if you don’t follow what Jesus said about welcoming those in need.

18. Recent sexual misconduct scandals involving members of the Congress have revealed that taxpayer dollars were used to settle sexual harassment lawsuits. Should those members of the Congress who used taxpayer funds to settle these lawsuits be forced to resign, pay the money back and potentially be prosecuted?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The idea of members of Congress using taxpayer dollars to defend themselves from or settle sexual harassment claims makes my blood boil, but when I look at it a bit more closely I see there’s one avenue wherein the expense is justified. If it hasn’t already happened, I’m sure there will soon be baseless allegations leveled at a member of Congress for political gain. I would hate for an innocent man or woman to have to pay the cost of defending charges that came simply because of the office they hold.

Therefore, I would support paying for the initial defense of any member of Congress against claims of sexual impropriety. However, this would come with the understanding that if the charges end up to be founded in truth, then every dime spent would be repaid, plus a percentage penalty.

Under no circumstances should a single cent be spent to settle harassment or misconduct claims, no matter how big a “bargain” it might seem. This is simply allowing Congress to be held hostage by every accuser who sees the taxpayers’ coffers as a bottomless pit from which they can fill their buckets. I realize that not all harassment claims are cut and dried, and it’s often difficult to prove guilt or innocence, but a line must be drawn lest we end up paying for perfidy in perpetuity.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-I do believe that members of congress, who uses taxpayers’ funds to settle sexual misconduct scandals should be held accountable to the highest degree.

They should be forced to resign, pay the fine, and face prosecution. It is not fair to the people of America to see such matters handled with a lack of accountability and transparency.

These matters are serious and should be treated as such! Members of Congress should be seen as examples. If it’s ok for them to get caught in sex scandals, citizens will not see the need to do differently. They will imitate their example.

Once a crime or misconduct of that nature is done in America, the perpetrator is liable to bear the responsibility of such charges. The same applies to the members of Congress.

They should in no way be exempt. They should pay the settlement out of their own pockets, go through the dispute process and if guilty, be prosecuted.

Also, consider what the victims themselves have to go through. They have to pay for they own legal fees and endure a long,drawn-out process. Meanwhile, the Member of Congress gets the funding for their own lawyers.

The legislative laws that govern these processes should be reformed. Taxpayers’ dollars should not be used to fund lawsuits against members of congress. It will negatively impact taxpayers of the country.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-If there was ever any doubt that the US Congress is an elite, privileged club that considers itself to be either above or outside the laws that govern the lowly masses, the revelation that sexual harassment lawsuits against members of Congress were settled with an off-the-books slush fund consisting of taxpayer dollars removes all doubt. Heck yes, those members of Congress who are guilty of harassment and of using this secret fund should resign and pay the money back.

However, a Congress member’s guilt or innocence should be established before any other action is taken. Merely claiming sexual harassment doesn’t prove guilt. Once proven guilty, the Congressperson should resign. But that policy should apply to cases going forward. All members of Congress who used this fund to settle harassment suits should be forced to repay that money, and the lawsuits should go on the public record just like any other lawsuit that involves a government official.

The more critical issue is that Congress found it necessary to establish this fund in the first place and that tax dollars have been used secretly and with no accountability to anyone. This illustrates how deeply entrenched the good-old-boy entitlement culture has become in politics. How can the public trust anyone in power who enact a law designed to give them privileges unavailable to anyone else? If that weren’t bad enough, this law enables members of Congress to behave unethically or illegally, pay off an accuser with secret taxpayer money to avoid prosecution and publicity, and then go on about their business with no personal pain or consequences as well as having no incentive to stop the offending behavior. This secret slush fund is a symptom of a larger problem–sexual harassment. Abolishing the fund and forcing Congress members who’ve used it to repay the money they’ve spent from it is only one small step of many that should be taken to stop the insidious problem of sexual misconduct and harassment.

19. Increasing the minimum wage has been the focus of improving economic opportunities for low paid workers. Is this the right approach or is a better solution reducing the cost of living?

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent-This is a tough one…Where one side of me says yes we need higher wages (I’ll refer you to my previous comments that employers need to pay decent wages because it’s the right thing to do); the other side of me thinks there is some room on the opposite end, the “bill” side.

I do know that we need more competition for utilities. Let’s be honest…they have monopolies. There are TWO electric companies in my area, and each covers certain parts of the area. Ere-go, I have ONE choice for electric. Same with Cable, two companies, only one covers my home…in the NORMAL business world that equates to a monopoly. How do they get away with this? Trust me it’s a deep subject so we will have to save it for another day. I believe competition would help with costs of utilities.

Maybe the solution would be income based? Maybe you pay based on household income. I’m not sure how that would be enforced, or how “renters” would play into that. Maybe income based up to a certain income? I’m not sure about that, but it’s a suggestion.

What about offering discounts based on volunteer hours? Clean up a road and get 2% off, volunteer once a week at the homeless shelter and get 10% off? I’m sure all of us could find a little time to volunteer. I kind-of like this idea. I’m not sure how it would work, who would keep track it, but maybe that’s a viable solution to a few problems.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-This is the first time I’ve seen “reducing the cost of living” floated as a way to help those toiling at low-wage jobs, and it puzzles me. How exactly would we go about that? Tell the electric company to charge less? Put government controls on grocery costs? Make Verizon sell phones for $50 each with unlimited everything? This begins to sound like the sort of socialist plan that worked so very well in the USSR and, more recently, Venezuela.

Raising the minimum wage is an imperfect solution, but I also think it’s a far better one than what those who will be paying the wages would have us believe. Payroll expenses aren’t the largest part of the budget for most businesses with minimum-wage workers, and raising it won’t trigger the gigantic price increases that we’ve been told are coming. You won’t pay $9 for a Big Mac if Johnny the fry cook starts getting paid $9/hour. The market won’t support it, and the businesses will have to find ways to compensate.

Wage stagnation is a huge issue in this country, with mega-corporations holding onto ever-larger cash reserves and not letting is trickle down to the rank and file. If the boardrooms of this country won’t take steps to share the wealth, let’s put on our Bernie Sanders masks and make them do so!

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Mandating a higher minimum wage always sounds like a good idea in principle, especially when those who favor raising base wages compare the average wage to salaries of the “One Percent”—CEOs of large corporations, politicians, professional athletes, entertainers, bankers, lawyers, etc. The argument is, if a company can afford to pay certain individuals millions of dollars per year, surely the company is profitable enough to give its other workers what seems like a modest bump in pay—a few dollars an hour.

The problem is that most businesses in this country—something like eighty percent—have only a few employees. The owners of these companies rarely earn seven-figure salaries. Most probably don’t earn six-figures. Forcing a struggling small business to boost minimum wages from the current rates to the popular figure of $15.00 per hour would erase any profitability the business might have, which puts the business at risk of bankruptcy. If that happens, everyone loses because those workers go from the higher minimum wage to no wages at all, unless and until they can find a new job.

The real problem is institutionalized inflation, which began when the Federal Reserve Board (aka our nation’s “Central Bank”) was established in 1913. Inflation subtly eats away our purchasing power one or two or three or ten percent per year. Most of us never notice that prices gradually creep upward because a one-percent rise in prices makes little difference to the average worker. Stack ten of those years together, and toss in a few years of five to ten percent inflation, and suddenly, the minimum wage is no longer a livable wage for even a single person.

Inflation can only be eliminated by abolishing the Federal Reserve Board and returning to some sort of gold standard. So really, the only way to increase living standards is to decrease the cost of living. Technology advances have done miraculous work in bringing down prices for many items (computers and TVs for example). But other costs have skyrocketed relative to the overall cost of living (health care, health insurance, prescription drugs, college tuition). In general, skyrocketing prices are usually caused by overregulation, restricted competition (supply) that allows monopoly pricing, or artificial demand forced upon us by an entity such as government. The obvious solution here is to deregulate restricted industries to allow for more and fairer competition, which always drives prices down.

Deregulation will also help small businesses survive and afford to pay higher wages because most regulations are designed to give financial advantages to large companies that don’t want competition from small business. Think of the Big Box retailers gradually driving out competition from mom-and-pop stores. But the permanent solution to wage inequality is to eliminate inflation and allow wages and prices to find an equilibrium that allows more workers to earn enough to meet their basic living expenses.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-The matter of increasing minimum wage for low income workers would not be the right approach to improving economic opportunities. A better solution would be to reduce the cost of living.

It would be easier for low paid workers to meet the demands of daily living and provide for their families. This would not only provide basic necessities but it would boost morales, satisfaction, and create a peaceful atmosphere.

Lowering the cost of living would also lower the level of stress on individuals. They would not be tied up in debts or personal finances. They would simply be living within their means and maintaining a proper budget.

There would be no need to be depending on the government to increase their wages. This would improve poor living conditions for working households.

Purchasing power would also increase. A standard family consisting of a low paid worker, would be able to cover basic living expenses and would be able to buy other items.

This would be possible because the cost of items would be low enough for a low income to acquire.

Think about the possibility of saving! Not many families can save due to the high cost of living but if it was lowered, the possibility of saving would be an achievable feat.

20. Is it time for legislators to adopt an Animal Bill of Rights in the United States?

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-Taken at face value, an animal bill of rights sounds like a good, humane, decent idea. Most of us like animals of one kind or another. Most American households have a pet. And if a bill of rights is good for people, shouldn’t it be good for animals too?

My primary reservation about implementing an animal bill of rights is whether all animals found in this country would be included. An animal is defined in simple terms as any living organism that is not a plant. Will this bill of rights include dust mites? Mosquitos? Protozoans? Jellyfish? Earthworms? Probably not, but where do we draw the line? Will society waste time and money with endless debates, lobbying, and lawsuits about which animals will be included in the bill of rights?

I realize an animal bill of rights is intended to reduce or stop inhumane and abusive experimenting and testing of animals for the sake of medical research and product development, but humans have a knack for passing laws and establishing policies that are well-intentioned but have unforeseen negative consequences. How many more people might die from a disease because the research didn’t proceed as fast without testing treatments on animals than it did when animals were used for testing? Shouldn’t the survival of the human species take priority over anything else?

Everything possible should be done to minimize pain and suffering for all test animals. Technology should be developed that mitigates the need for experimenting on animals or can reduce or eliminate their pain and suffering. Individuals and groups can influence public opinion and persuade businesses to reduce or eliminate the use of animals for testing and experimenting by protesting, lobbying, or boycotting businesses and research facilities that use animals. All those approaches should be tried before we legislate a document that may cause more problems than it solves.

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-I think it’s absolutely hilarious that we’re discussing an Animal Bill of Rights when we haven’t yet figured out how to fairly and equally treat the humans who live in this country. I picture the sponsor of this sort of frippery as a woman in her mid-30s who calls her cats “fur babies” and celebrates her bird’s birthday every year. Yes, I know that’s a sexist piggy thing to say, but it’s MY brain, and sometimes it does things that aren’t PC.

Seriously, though, we have perfectly adequate animal cruelty laws that prohibit just about every sort of mistreatment inflicted on our furry, feathered or finned friends. I wholeheartedly support full prosecution for animal abusers, and would like to see those who abuse dogs flogged in the public square. Every time I edit a story about puppies abandoned, cats thrown out of moving cars or any of the other myriad stories of man’s inhumanity to animal I see on a monthly basis, I start to think a system of summary justice enforced by pet lovers might be a good idea.

However, I’m not sure I want the same people who buy sweaters for their Chihuahuas making legislation, and I don’t want Fluffy’s “dad” making decisions for the public at large. Let’s just leave things the way they are, and spend a little more time working on treating our fellow humans as well as most of us treat our “fur babies.”

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-I’m about to get religious here and that is because the posed question bears heavily on my religious beliefs and what the Bible explicitly states. If you’re an atheist or you don’t consider the Bible as authority, move along.

After Adam was created, he was told to have in subjection the animals. One of his role was to take care of them. In fact, Proverbs 12:10 says that a “righteous man takes care of his domestic animals”. (NWT) It’s the right thing to do. Animals aren’t intelligent creatures but operate based on instincts. However, they are living beings, just like you and I. They should be cared for.

Sadly, many people don’t see things that way, and as such, resort to animal abuse. Taking care of animals is our God-given responsibility and so I believe legislators should adopt an Animal Bill of Rights in America. I’m not assuming that these rights should equate to human rights, but they should be protected.

For example: It should be illegal to simply kill animals for sport or to showcase on a wall. Animals should only be used for food.

This Bill should definitely be looked into to ensure that our animals are safe and not mercilessly abused by monsters walking on two legs. Sometimes I have to wonder if we are the animals instead. Stop animal abuse. It’s not cute.

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