For the past several years I have been quite outspoken about various directions in our great nation. that were alien to the original principals of the country. These directions were counter to the individuality of the people that built our nation and how various new government actions were actually working to thwart the growth of our magnificent country. Though no actions that were done by the country’s government was vindictive toward any group of individuals in America and while governmental actions were meant to help the country by providing immediate help; the overstepping of government in its’ programs caused societal distress in the long run and damaged the ability of society to advance our country.
I had written about government regulations and how they were strangling the ability of the American to be creative and curtailed the individualism that founded and grew a great land. America is one nation made of people that are fiercely individualistic. We fight together as a unified nation when threatened. We believe in states rights and fiercely defend these rights. Examples of how we view our states rights are how we cast our votes in the various states, how we implement our game laws and of course who we cheer for on a chilly Saturday night football game in the fall. Federal regulations begin with a problem that needs to be fixed to benefit the majority of the country. The problem is that when a regulator walks through the door it is hard to get him out. More and more regulations are put into place and we find that instead of curing a problem, the ever-increased regulations begin to strangle the industries that originally held the problems. The excessive regulations then become the problem and growth is stymied while the working environment becomes more and more stressful as we try to run a business while traversing a gauntlet of paperwork, restrictions and bureaucratic reporting.
Things have changed for America. In 2017 fourteen major regulations that have been repealed are expected to have major financial impacts to the United States. Repealing these regulations are expected to save 3.7 billion dollars in government costs, 34.8 billion dollars in industry costs and reduce paperwork by over 4 million manhours. This is a sizable amount of human labor that can be used and will be used for meaningful work that produces goods and services for a hungry nation. It has been recently identified that 496 regulations will soon be completely withdrawn while another 389 will be suspended pending investigation. This is great news for a country weary from the burden of over regulation. There is one warning though. We must insure that we don’t take too much license to deregulate the country and leave certain important parts of our nation exposed to unsafe conditions or exposed to potential future adverse events.
When the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was enacted there was one blatant requirement of the act that disturbed me. This was the part of the act that required everyone to participate in the program or be fined for not paying into the program. If a person is young with no health problems, they were mandated to purchase the Obama Care insurance. If they did not participate, they would be fined. This is not only forcing people to purchase a federal program but it is forcing individuals to pay the government for something they do not need. This was removed last week.
I have been vocal over the years about corporate taxes and how they have to come down so that American companies to be competitive on the world market. Over the last decade we have stood by and watched as companies have packed up and moved to other countries due to the American tax structure. This is not just relocating manufacturing facilities to reduce manufacturing costs. This is moving corporations to not to have to pay high corporate income taxes. Last week corporate taxes were reduced to a point that America can be more in line with the rest of the world and once again become competitive. This will not be the end either. We can expect other countries to lower their tax base and again in the future the Unites States will revisit its’ tax structure and other tax reductions at the corporate level may become a necessity.
So where will these changes lead our great nation. Will the decreased regulations and tax reductions be a Christmas gift for our country or will this actually be the Christmas Grinch? Next year will tell and then I will see if I end up with egg on my face. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. I am predicting a good one for our nation and the world.


John Locke was a prominent writer whose teachings were instrumental in the shaping of the Declaration of Independence.  Jefferson and other notable leaders that crafted the document were influenced by the words put to paper by Locke.  John Locke spoke of the state of nature and how man should live in harmony but when the life becomes out of balance and situations, dictators or governments place unrealistic burdens on a people, the people will eventually cause a change and return their lives to a balanced state of nature.

Several years ago I wrote about Hugo Chavez and his attempt to alienate his country from the United States.  Venezuela had nationalized its’ oil resources years earlier and unceremoniously sent American oil companies packing after they had built the vast oil industry for sixty years.  Venezuela still maintained friendly relations with America and the West until Chavez took power.

Venezuela is a country rich in natural beauty, resources and land mass.  As with any country in the world, the majority of the population want the basics in life.  These are the ability to work and make a living for their families, live in peace and have an opportunity to be free and have a say in their future.  This dream was dashed when Chavez came to power and rights were eroded to a point that economic cracks quickly formed.

When policies within a country go wrong it is hard for the country’s leadership to admit the failings and correct the fundamental governmental policies that led to the countries woes.  Instead it is easier to look for outside influences to blame for the problems within one’s own country.   In Venezuela’s situation the Unites States filled the space as the reason for Venezuela’s problems.  Chaves ranted against America much as Khomeini had done earlier in the 1970s and 80s in Iran.  The  Great Satan of Iran was now the despised nemesis of Venezuela.  A Venezuelan population with a large peasant presence bought the Chavez rhetoric and Anti-American protests were seen.  Make no mistake, there were and are a large part of Venezuela that wants freedom and Democracy but justice for voices of anti-government change is usually quite swift.  The dissidents remained silent.

Chavez embraced the Castro brothers who ruled Cuba as the last icon of the failed economic experiment of Communism and he continually expanded his dialogue of anti-American venom.  Then he fell ill to cancer.  Cuba was his choice of treatment but he ultimately succumbed to the disease.  This provided the perfect opportunity for Venezuela to reach out to the West and especially the United States and allow a new environment of friendship and cooperation to grow.  Unfortunately, this did not happen and a replica of Chavez, Nicolas Maduro, took power in 2013.

Corruption is rampant and the country has the highest murder rate in the world.  Drug trafficking ranks Venezuela as number four in the world.  It shows that as government becomes more centralized the more corruption that enters into the society at the highest levels of the government.

The economy of this beautiful country is in a shambles.  Despite the government blaming the United States for Venezuela’s woes, the population is finally not buying it.  People are standing in line for hours the find that they can only get a bag of sugar.  Convoys of rice are being looted as the military stand by and watch.  The people are rising and just as John Locke suggested, the people will ultimately regain control of their country and Venezuela will return to a balanced state of nature.

Let’s hope that the end of the highly regulated dictatorship of Venezuela is replaced quickly with little violence and loss of life. Let’s hope that the corrupt leadership packs up and moves to Havana.  Let’s hope that the new government builds a free market economy that places the good of the population as the most important charter of the country.  Let’s hope for peace to a lovely country with so much potential.

The United States was founded two hundred and thirty-nine years ago. At the time the Declaration of Independence was signed a person was free to enter into any line of business that he desired if the person could secure adequate funds. This allowed new businesses to be invented and developed. The country grew and as land was added to our country the opportunities appeared to be endless. The addition of the Louisiana Purchase by Thomas Jefferson for three cents an acre doubled the size of our country. Other acquisitions such as Alaska led to the country we have today.
Immigrants arrived from all parts for the world. The west coast witnessed mass immigrations from China while New York saw the arrival of hundreds of thousands from Europe. The fiber of a people that would leave home with the realization that they would probably never return to see their relatives or home land led to building a nation of risk takers. These individuals were willing to take chances to enhance their own place in society and thus build a new country.
As the nation grew, two resources of paramount importance for growth were available in America. These were abundant natural resources and cheap labor. Immigrants needing work could rely on working in sweat shops with unsafe conditions and receiving low pay. For many this was the only option from a country that was supposed to offer an equal chance for a wonderful future. Resources were being depleted at increasingly inefficient rates and our land and air was being fouled by indiscriminant resource extraction methods and manufacturing processes. Banks were lending money with little regard for security. Various financial collapses ensured with the first beginning during Andrew Jackson’s administration. Various regulations had to take place.
Labor Unions formed and better working conditions were put in place. A minimum wage was implemented where no wage controls had existed. Regulations were instituted to insure that the environment was protected and banking regulations would guard against future financial collapses as was witnessed during the Great Depression. Americans were better protected and the open market allowed the country to grow to become the flag ship economy of the world. But regulations continued to be implemented and increased at an alarming rate. One a regulator comes through the door to fix a problem the regulator seldom leaves and more regulations are stacked on top of other regulations.
Today, regulations are beginning to take their toll on our nation’s ability to remain creative. These regulations are thwarting the ability for the small entrepreneurs to obtain the finances required to turn their dreams into job producing companies. Corporations and small businesses that are in existence today are being continually bombarded with increasingly more regulations. These regulations are making it difficult for businesses to perform its’ work in an efficient manner. Continually increasing our nations regulations on American commerce will eventually lead to turning our country into a second rate economy. We are not leaving a bright future for our children and grandchildren.
The economy that has been leading the world in growth is China. While the communistic country is full of regulations, it is it’s economic reform of removing centralized regulations that is fueling the phenomenal growth. At the same time, the United States is choking its own growth by continually increasing its own regulations. Unless fundamental changes take place, America will fall into a world of bureaucratic paperwork much like the lethargic economies of Europe and stand by while China, India and other developing countries become the leading economies in the world and America can only talk about its’ past and how great it used to be. In the mean time we will become even more regulated as a more socialist government becomes the norm for our great nation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These few words are powerful and summarizes the spirit of America. It has been stated that his single sentence is the best know verse in the English language. While it originated as the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence the intent of the words can be found in later constitutions from 1700s France to post war Japan.
Unfortunately over time the meaning of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been modified by many to be life, liberty and a guarantee of happiness. The original meaning stems from a time when the Declaration of Independence was written and the young country was full of immigrants seeking a better life. America was welcoming immigrants with no pre-requisite as to race, culture, country or religious affiliation. There was also no guarantee that an American would succeed in life, but they were guaranteed that they would be allowed to pursue this. As the country matured America grew from within its’ borders more than growing from immigration. Over the years America took care of its’ own and laws were instituted to take care of the less fortunate. The Great Depression gave a conscience to our young country.
America went to war in the 1940s and the young men and women that returned brought a resurgence to the term that guarantees a pursuit of happiness. Veterans that had seen the horrors of war wanted to come home and pursue the American dream. America exploded, fueled by what is referred to as the greatest generation.
Social programs that were enacted during the Great Depression such as social security were seeing massive funding increases brought on by a huge growth of a country that did not have to endure years of bombing and fighting on its home land. By the mid 60s lawmakers that wanted to do more for the population began to provide a wider range of services and benefits. Entitlement programs were enacted and the government began to guarantee happiness while transitioning away from guaranteeing that Americans can pursue happiness without government intrusion.
Today we have had a detrimental effect on American culture by trying to insure that everyone is financially equal. Instead of providing a level playing field to guarantee that everyone can pursue financial gains America is attempting to guarantee financial equality without individual striving to do so. This is the concept of socialism and when extreme regulations are added to socialism and religion is discouraged or banned communism becomes the form of government.
Russia was under communist rule and ultimately failed. This caused Russia to become a minor player in the economic world. A country of immense proportions and blessed with natural resources was unable to survive under communism. China has thrived but only after open market concepts were expanded and China has become more of a hybrid communist/market-based country. England had strong socialistic tendencies. With the introduction of a conservative government and reduced government intervention in the lives of the population, England has once again become a European economic leader as it has moved away from socialism and more toward a government that allows a citizen to pursue happiness but does not guarantee it. Greece on the other hand embraced socialism and has refused to change its’ policies. Amid cries of thousands that have grown use to the government taking care of their needs, the government refuses to change and it is on the verge of collapse. Other governments such as Germany and other members of the Economic Union have grown tired of continually funding Greece’s give away programs and it is only a matter of time until Greece leaves the EU and fails economically or completely revamps its socialist programs.
It’s sad to see a great country like America destroy the motivation of its’ population to achieve in life while the country attempts to provide happiness for all. This will ultimately lead to the demise of the greatest country in the history of the world. There is only one way to regain the confidence of the citizens and once again grow the country to a point that we are the leader of the world. We must wean ourselves of the numerous entitlement programs that are causing us to heavily borrow from China and other countries. We must also lift the repressive government regulations that make it so difficult to pursue new entrepreneurial opportunities. If we continue in the direction that we are going today our children and grandchildren will inherit a country that’s greatness is only a figment of one’s imagination and a country that’s burdened by oppressive regulations under centralized control.

This will appear in the Bernice Banner, Bernice Louisiana, USA Week od 3/16/2015.

In 1949 George Orwell, an English writer, completed his final novel while dying of tuberculosis in Scotland. Little did he realize that terms he used in this novel would become ingrained in the American vernacular and used in normal conversation when discussing freedom and liberty. One such term is “Big Brother is Watching You”.
A few months before Orwell’s death, “1984” was published. Based on a future view of the world when there was continual war and military actions, the fictitious country of Oceana was dictated by a central government controlled by a privileged inner circle. Big Brother is the leader of the political party and enjoys a cult personality from the country. He is idolized much as a movie star would be. Independent thinking and individualism is viewed by the ruling party as worthless. The central government would provide for the population and the citizens need not think for themselves. To do so could lead to prosecution from the government for performing thought crimes. This same theme was made into a futuristic movie starring
The government had surveillance devices everywhere and thus led to the term “Big Brother is watching you”. This has led to the use of the term when people think that the government is infringing on the rights of the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as provided by our Constitution. My first introduction to 1984 was an early black and white movie launched in the 1950s. As I watched this film on the Channel 8 after school movie, Showboat, I can still remember the uneasiness I felt as I watched how the citizens were continually being watched and monitored.
And now we are witnessing this behavior in our country as well as other countries around the world. The recent revelation that the Federal Government has captured millions of telco and broadband records has sent shivers up the spines of many as calls of Big Brother is watching you is being communicated throughout our country. But then it has to be asked, at what price do we have to pay to maintain our freedom. What trade off do we have to accept to fight the ongoing war against terror and those that wish to do us harm. The government once claimed that the threat from Al Quida was over. A very naïve thought as we watched Al Quida spinoff ISIS roll across Iraq and gained acceptance and recruitment via social media.
There was a time that the use of video surveillance in public locations was viewed as Big Brother. After a while the concerns evaporated and recently public cameras were instrumental in capturing the Boston Bombers and we watch women being escorted away only to hear that had an unfortunate end. The videos did help capture the villains. While this has been an accepted method to keeping us safe the impingement on our freedom has been viewed as a necessary evil. The recent disclosure of personal communication records is different. The cameras that capture our public movements are in the public domain. Unlike “1984” the invasion of privacy inside the home has not been acceptable within the American borders. Now we have to ask ourselves the question, “Is it acceptable for government to indiscriminately capture personal communication records in an effort to thwart terrorism?” This is going to be a highly debated issue over the next few months. The primary question that has to be raised is the potential to use the records for activities other than originally intended. Then our basic rights to freedom have been usurped. Another thing that we must guard against is future generations becoming comfortable in a society that accepts that it is OK for Big Brother to watch them. This is a delicate balancing act and it will be interesting to see how our government and our citizens play this out.
The one question is, at what point does monitoring private communications for public security hit a point that private rights and freedoms are being impinged. Two years ago when the governments capture of millions of e-mail messages the notification sent shivers across the conservative land scape. ISIS, the terrorist organizations that has trumped America in its’ use of the internet and social media, has now made everyone re-evaluate the use of media monitoring.

The financial crisis of 2007 – 2008 is considered by many to be the biggest financial crisis since the great depression. Financial institutions were on the verge of collapse and the housing market took a dramatic downturn. Unemployment rose dramatically. The result of this near disaster has had a remolding effect on American society with a different approach to personal debt, savings and other social norms. This near collapse of the American economy transmitted across the oceans and Europe and Asia quaked as they fought to keep their economies afloat. Fortunately the world economy remained intact and the dire visions of the 1920s and 30s were not to be seen in the first part of the 21st century.
Despite all the problems experienced with the economy, the stock market has surged to new highs of galactic proportions. Oil and gas in America experienced a renaissance as the industry’s expertise has returned to the borders of our great nation as we cracked the nut that leads to extraction of gigantic amounts of hydrocarbon from previously inaccessible oil shale. Jobs have finally returned to the work force; albeit many of these jobs are providing employment on a part time basis or in an underemployment situation.
Pulling the economy back from the precipice of disaster has taken a joint effort by both government and business. Now that the economy is back on its feet the government must slowly remove itself from the market place and let the free market rule again. Some regulation must remain in place to prevent a repeat of 2007 but this must be limited to only absolute necessary regulations. Unfortunately, this concept is not readily accepted nor understood.
As good as the economy is looking we still have soft spots. The current oil and gas retraction will have benefits to the economy immediately. We have more money to spend, travel and tourism becomes easier and all this leads to the confidence of the American consumer becoming brighter. If the downturn is short-lived and the return to higher oil prices slowly increases, our oil and gas industry can remain intact and we can continue our rise to being the largest oil producing country in the world.
If a person listens to any financial show or reads a financial analysis they will be inundated in statistics and financial indicators that provide some level of predictions as to how healthy the economy is and where the direction of the economy is going. Several of these indicators are quit pertinent and the numbers that accompany these indicators can provide a good indicator as to where we are heading. One thing to remember is that a single month of economic data does not tell the whole story of an economy as to whether it is moving forward or retracting. It takes three consecutive reports or months of data to establish a trend. Thus three months of good data is a good indicator that we are going in the right direction. Let’s look at some of these.
New claims for unemployment is tracked weekly and indicates how willing employers are to keep their existing employees. If new claims can be less than 200,000 per week for six weeks then we can feel that our workforce is stabilizing.
New job creation shows how many new jobs our economy has created over the previous month. Brisk jobs creation shows that the economy is growing and will also signal a potential for inflation. While inflation has been the scourge for a stable economy, small inflation is actually good and can lead to wage growth. This wage growth is important to consumer spending and thus a more vibrant economy. To me new job creation of 315,000 or better for three straight months is a strong indicator that our economy is on the right track.
The unemployment rate has been a barometer of economic health. What it doesn’t show is the people that have given up trying to find a job and have become disillusioned. If we realize our new creation of 315,000 jobs or better but experience a drop in in unemployment of only .1 percent then we can revel in the fact that the chronically unemployed have re-entered the market, are contributing to the American growth, are paying taxes and our country is even stronger. Again this must happen for three consecutive months.
Durable good sales indicate large ticket items that are sold over the previous month. This represents items such as cars, washing machines, ATVs, televisions, etc. An increase in durable goods for three months shows that manufacturing is on track.
An increase in housing sales for three months will indicate that one of our major economic indicators is again fueling the economy.
To me the most important economic indicator is the consumer confidence index. If the American citizen is confident that the economy is good then all things are possible. Three months of increased consumer confidence will go a long way to growing an economy.
Of course the best forecasting tool is the American stock market. It is usually three to six months ahead of the economy when indicating the financial strength of the country. Today we are at historical highs.

This will appear in the Bernice Banner, Bernice, Louisiana, USA the week of 1/5/2015

In the late 1970s and early 1980s the oil and gas industry had come to maturity and supply of oil and gas outstripped demand. The world was growing and this growth was fueled by fossil fuels; oil and gas. In 1979 we watched with held breath as the 3-mile Island Nuclear Plant was slowly brought under control and a major nuclear accident was prevented. This had the effect of killing the nuclear electrical power industry in the United States and oil, gas and coal filled the void for electrical production.
Saudi Arabia was the leading producer of crude oil in the world. At its’ peak the country was supplying ten and a half million barrels of crude oil to the free world. The hatred for communism was so great that oil only flowed to non-communist countries. A partnership between Saudi Arabia and America was strong and the bonds ran back to the time that oil was first discovered in Arabia. America depended on the crude to fuel our growing industry. At the same time Saudi Arabia looked to America for oil and gas expertise, construction services and material and equipment. Much to the surprise of most Americans, this bond was so strong that Saudi Arabia ran a trade deficit with the United States and more money was flowing to America for goods and services than was flowing to Arabia for oil.
I was living and working in Arabia during this boom period. I witnessed narrow roads winding through the desert being replaced with six lane highways. A country that had to import cement for its’ massive construction projects developed its’ own cement industry that eventually threatened to flood the world market with cheap cement produced from its’ vast supply of limestone. Oil and gas projects were under construction both onshore and offshore in the mid-1980s. Construction companies from around the free world were everywhere in the oil patch. Then everything changed.
Ninety-eight percent of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product came from oil when I arrived in Arabia in 1978. In the mid-80s oil was selling in the mid thirty dollar range and then the price began to slide. The price was not due to speculation but a realization that there was too much oil available in the world. Rigs began to stack in America and the drilling in Arabia slowed. I had attended a class once that was put on by the Facilities Development organization. They told us that you don’t look at costs that have been sunk into a project to determine to continue a project if the financials are looking bad. This proved to be correct.
It was recognized that the oil market was about to crater. The King of Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented move to address the country and stated that due to the drop in oil prices that the country’s budget was no longer valid and the country would run on current revenue. It was reported that Ali Naimi, the first Saudi president and chairman of the board of Aramco was flying over Arabia and contacted the company and had the huge refinery near Riyadh immediately stopped and Bechtel corporation was to be off site in thirty days. I had inherited an offshore project and we were on the last of eight platforms to be installed. I received a call to cancel the remainder of the work and have the barge return to port where the pipe spools on board the barge would be cut into scrap.
Eventually the pendulum swung and Americans returned to Arabia. The country had an explosion of oil and gas expansion and the country has really done their development correctly. Oil and gas facilities were built and the environmental impact considerations has been a major part of the development. Ali Naimi, a highly respected American educated petroleum engineer was named as the Oil Minister and became one of the most powerful men in the world. Unfortunately just when it looked like it would never end, the pendulum has swung again and a slowing economy coupled with over supply is leading to a downturn in the oil industry.
The major oil companies will be the first to delay major developments. A large overhead and tight profit margins will require large capital projects to be shelved. Exxon/Mobil, Shell and Total are all slowing down development to allow for continued unabated dividends to the investors and remain profitable. Drilling will be slowing down and especially in the oil sands projects where expensive processes will make some development cost prohibitive. This is what the development within our own parish is certainly under scrutiny. It is hoped that the smaller producing companies are looking at the long term oil and gas strategy and are making economic evaluations based on three to five years out. In the near future there will not be a better time in years to drill for oil as drilling prices drop.
The one major question to ask is how long will the down-turn last. If short then we are in a good economic position within America. The economy will get a shot in the arm from lower fuel prices. Then if oil and gas comes back quickly with a slow price rise, the economy will have time to absorb the increases and continue its’ growth. If the upturn takes a long time, then it will be years before the industry recovers. The one thing that we do not need is a knee jerk reaction from Washington that will lead to suppressive regulations within the oil and gas industry.