Dear Mr. Trump,

First let me say congratulations on a winning a hard-fought, difficult campaign against a formidable opponent. The entire world was watching and you managed to pull off a fairly decisive victory.

I voted for you, but I confess I only reached my decision in the final days before the election. There was good, and bad, about both of you as candidates.

I write to point some things out. I have read and studied and listened to people, exhaustively, in the days prior to the election. And I came to some conclusions about why you won. I hope you will, by some miracle, be able to read this and digest what I’m about to point out.

I don’t believe you won on the basis of the standard Republican platform. And your victory shouldn’t be viewed as a total rejection of the Democrats. It should rather be viewed as a rejection of both Democrats and Republicans as we have known them in the past 16 years or so. The increasingly partisan approach to government has long since quit working.

You won because the people are tired of the constant entrenchment from both sides of the aisle. They no longer want business as usual from the Federal government. They want progress on issues that affect their lives. They want Congress to work together, to quit shutting down the government to strong-arm the opposition, and realize that neither Democrat nor Republican are dirty words.

You, a complete DC outsider, steamrolled the Republican opposition in the primaries. Why? Because the people want Washington shaken up. This election boiled down to a complete outsider vs. the consummate Washington insider, and your victory thus comes with a mandate: fix it.   

That mandate is really simple at its core. Lead the government in a direction that is not detrimental to the lives of its citizens. Help Congress enact policies that help us, not hurt us. End the pervasive deadlock that keeps bills from being passed. Bring transparency and openness to our governmental process.

When I hear the Republicans want to privatize Social Security and Medicare, that’s one example of what I mean. That would ultimately hurt us in the long run. Those are two of the most successsful government programs ever enacted. It would be political suicide to tamper with them. Far better to fix them than to scrap them or turn them over to people who will take a portion for profit. It’s not believable to listen to the government warn that Social Security is about to be insolvent, when Congress took money from the SS funds on multiple occasions. That’s our money, mind you. Not the government’s.

Obviously, one huge issue is the Affordable Care Act. Of course, it’s been anything but affordable for a lot of people. There are no easy answers here. Let me share an experience I had. Among other things, I worked in EMS, in both 911 systems and private ambulances. One call, private ambulance, had me picking up a German gentleman who visited Raleigh, NC and fell and broke his hip. We arrived and I went to get out basic patient information sheet and insurance information and was told everything had already been paid for. I looked at the nurse quizzically and she nodded, “His insurance has already paid us and the transport costs. Just bill us.”

I was shocked, how did it get paid so quickly? Before he was even out of the hospital?  His daughter explained during the transport. “Everyone in Germany has insurance. It’s very efficient. But because everyone has it, the costs are much lower.”

“How low?” I asked.

“About $140.00 a month.”

Yeah, it’s that awful socialized medicine we’ve heard so much about. But at this point, hell, if our insurance could cost $140.00 a month, I’d take that all day long.

But no, I’m not advocating a government-run, single payer system. Point is, while many folks are against being forced to buy insurance, they are really upset at the astronomical costs they’re now faced with. The ACA addressed nothing in the way of cost containment. If you’ve seen The Big Short, with Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Steve Carrel, you know how crazy the housing market bubbled before it crashed. Housing costs went up and up and up, and then the crash happened. As a real estate investor you certainly know  all about it. I suspect the medical industry is riding a huge bubble at the moment, and there will be hell to pay when it finally bursts. The healthcare industry appears headed in the same direction as the housing market: massively inflated costs with a dwindling supply of new customers and cash, and often very high risks among those buying insurance. When the average savings rate is now negative 1.3% among Americans, you have to ask, exactly how are people supposed to pay insurance premiums that cost more than mortgages, and withstand $3,000-$5,000 deductibles to boot? The money just isn’t there. This is a market reaching critical mass. All the signs are there if one is paying attention.

We need positive steps towards healthcare cost containment. Period. If there’s anything to be gleaned from this election, I’m convinced this was an angry electorate. They don’t need healthcare costs stopped. They just desperately need them dialed back to livable amounts. What we have is simply unsustainable.

There is another thing I think needs to be addressed. There’s a lot of talk about growing the economy via tax breaks for large corporations so they can free up cash to pay for more workers and create more jobs. That’s fine, if they keep that end of the bargain. All too often jobs still wind up going across borders or overseas. My personal feeling, however, is that this is an arrow shot that is a bit off target.

If you really want to grow the economy, focus also on the 80% that is comprised of small businesses. I owned a small business myself, and the taxes I payed in addition to Social Security, Medicare and others were a significant burden. I know guys having to work crazy hours instead of hiring additional workers because the math isn’t adding up. When eighty percent of our economy is driven by small businesses, it’s simply common sense to ease that burden for us. We’re not asking for the moon. My own desire is simple: a lower tax rate that doesn’t stifle my cash flow, and a much simpler way to file and report income, taxes and Social Security/FICA. The cost of paying an accountant is another headache for very small businesses like mine. Make it simple enough that small business owners can do it all themselves.

There are many, many other things I could address, but I’ll content myself with just one more. This is a country deeply divided, and this is a time we need to hear healing words. The racist, sexist, Islamaphobic and misogynistic words and even assaults that have occurred across the county need to stop. And you can prove yourself a leader by directly addressing them in a press conference and other means at your disposal and bring significant shame to those who belittle, insult and abuse our fellow Americans. Yes, you are a divisive figure, for better or worse. But you can, by your words and actions, promote healing.

Steve Bannon as senior counsel is one such example. He’s probably none of the things the liberal media has portrayed him to be, but the very association of him with Breitbart and, by extension, some of the people that cling to it is going to invite that very kind of speculation and backlash. The President simply cannot hire someone who is a lightning rod for controversy. It just creates more fodder for the rabid elements of the press. If you really want him, fine. But he needs to address these things as well, and distance himself from the radicals, decisively.

Of course, almost every administration has hired lightning rods before. It’s hard to avoid. But it’s not hard to work to gain trust, and addressing and condemning the radicals and their acts would be a good way to start.

I hope you read this, and maybe think it over. I hope you understand I’m just an average American joe, who has bills to pay and a life I want to live. I hope you can settle in and begin taking positive steps that will benefit all of us, not just a select few. I hope you realize we elected you precisely because you are an outsider, and we desire significant change in how D.C. does business.

I hope our county will be better off in four years.

I hope.
Sincerely,

Morris Haywood

First, no additional work has been done on the house this week. I am out of paint, so that will have to wait until I get paid next week.  Instead, this post will deal with a house I almost had, one that still has me shaking my head in disbelief at corporate stupidity.

In mid-2004, emerging from the collapse of my father’s business and my own bankruptcy, I had to forge a new path. I had invested $30,000 against my house to pay for equipment for the business, not knowing just how bad the business was doing. My dad, notoriously private in matters of money, could not bring himself to tell me before accepting the money. Adding insult to injury, years later, after he promised me he would leave more than enough in the will to cover what I lost, he passed away while leaving the whole estate to my stepmother. I never saw a dime.

Well, all that by way of explaining this situation. I fought hard to rebuild my credit from 2002 to 2004. And I succeeded. It wasn’t stellar, mind you, but still well into the 600’s. Not too shabby for having a bankruptcy, foreclosure and an auto repossession two years prior. I sucked it up and moved on.  I lived in a cheap apartment and lived frugally for two years.

In March of 2004 I took a patient suffering from dementia and other maladies from the hospital back to her residence in Wendell in my ambulance. At two a.m. we arrived at her house and her family greeted us as we came in. I noticed the “For Sale” sign mounted in the front yard and inquired after the patient was placed in the bed. The man eagerly  handed me the MLS printout. Very reasonable, $67,500.  I calculated and realized I could make that payment.  So, I started talking to my real estate agent. She helped me locate a really good mortgage company who helped me get the ball rolling.  They determined I could probably buy the house.

But Allie, my agent, wasn’t sold just yet. She insisted on a broadening the search a little. So I set aside a day and she and I went from house to house looking at lots of different homes from modern to falling apart.  None met my criteria. We had one last house on the list, in Zebulon, just three miles down the road. As I pulled up, I just sat, stunned.

An absolutely charming house, with a nice barn (not a storage building or a backyard garage, but a real honest-to-goodness barn) out back, loads of nice plants and just beautifully maintained. Outside, anyway. Inside, it was a disaster. Paint hung in strips and tatters from everywhere, like so much incomplete confetti. Boxes and debris of mostly office-type stuff was everywhere. Still, I noticed a walk-up staircase and found two more bedrooms up there. Four bedrooms total, three fireplaces, and a nice, full bath. Full back porch, glass-enclosed. Roomy living room with nice, even floors. Beautiful entrance hall which led to a dining room. The kitchen was old, but adequate.

The entire house just screamed, “Potential!!!”  It was solid and well-built. About the only problem I could find was the messed up paint.  I have experience with paint, and I knew immediately why all the paint was peeling in the rooms. Someone attempted to paint latex paint over oil-based paint. Can’t be done without first priming it with an all-surface primer.  But that was not a big deal. Paint is paint. Easy to rectify and redo. The floors were in nice shape. Other than paint and fixing a weak spot on the small front porch, this house would be ready to move into in no time.

Without further ado, I put an offer to purchase in writing, for $7,000 less than the asking price. Since I had financing provisionally secured, and did not have to wait on a house to sell in the meantime, I figured it would sail right through.  A cash offer, in other words.

I could not have been more wrong.

Had the house been owned by an individual, it most certainly would have. I was surprised from the seller’s Realtor that the house was owned by the corporate giant Glaxo-Smith-Kline.

GSK has a significant office and manufacturing base in Zebulon, and this property was on the back side of their campus. They had no use for it, and wanted to sell it.  No big deal, I thought. The guy warned me it might take a few weeks.

But he called me back in just a few days to tell me my offer was acceptable to them. I was ecstatic. I called my financial guy at Charter Funding, Bill Borter, and informed him. He said, great, fax me the accepted offer and we’ll get started.

I called Allie and asked her to secure that for me.  But it still wasn’t there a week later. I called the GSK Realtor directly myself, finally, to ask what the hold-up was. It was now September, 2004.  He explained they were just checking some “things” first. No big deal, but to be patient.

For two months, I went back and forth with them. No formally accepted offer. I was the only bidder. But they had some issues to deal with. Finally they told me what one of the issues was.

The house has an oil furnace. I love oil furnaces, they heat better than any other fuel and are far more efficient (more BTU’s per unit of fuel than any other type of fuel out there).  “So, it has an oil furnace?” I said. “What’s the problem?”

“Well, the tank leaked,” the Realtor explained.

I shrugged.  “It happens.  No big deal. I’ll just have to order a new tank or new fittings, wherever the leak is.”

“Well, it’s a bit of a liability problem for them, you see.”

No, I didn’t really see. They had already stated the house’s old well could not be used and the house would have to be connected to city water.  That seemed a waste to me, but I acquiesced to the requirement. But if these guys are chemists, they should know one thing clearly, oil and water do not mix.  Oil is lighter than water, and will be absorbed and eventually broken up by the dirt and soil. It’s carbon-based, you see. There’s not too much danger of huge contamination, and most likely none in the water table. And even if it did get in, it doesn’t mix. As the guy described it, it was a drip, anyway, not the whole tank rupturing.  But, all right. So I agreed with all of that. City water, replace the oil tank. Don’t get me wrong, a huge spill of hundreds or thousands or millions of gallons of oil IS a huge natural disaster. A couple of dozen gallons from a heating oil tank, not so much. To wit: the grass and plants beneath the tank were growing healthily.

So, I waited again. Weeks went by.  No word. I left messages which were unanswered. This was getting strange. Finally, I got a call. There was a problem.

As it turned out, the property lines were off. In short, instead of the property line 10-12 feet from the house, as it seemed to be, the actual line ran right next to the house, and the driveway wasn’t technically part of the property, nor was the barn.  Now this was a problem.  But it was only twelve feet, right? Negotiate with the neighboring property owners and get it fixed, right?

Wrong. As soon as they found out GSK owned the property and there was a property line dispute, they went nuts, demanding almost $20,000 for that tiny strip of land. The entire lot wasn’t worth much more than that alone. The negotiations slowed to a crawl while I waited, fuming.

At that time was now early December. And Bill Borter called, with bad news. Unless I could secure the signed offer to purchase, my funding would not be available after the first of the year. Investors for mortgage companies have only so much they can allocate, and they can’t make money waiting. This investor wasn’t willing to wait any longer. I called back to tell GSK to get a move on, time was running out. No return call.

A week before the end of the year, GSK suddenly got busy. We think we have the property line worked out.  Do you mind if we go ahead and fill in the old well? Do you require this or that prior to closing?  Wow, I’m thinking this might actually happen.

But the week after Christmas, still no word. I made a call to the Realtor and spoke at length to him. He informed me it now looked like April when all the paperwork related to the property line would be resolved. GSK finally paid $16,000 to settle the dispute. My price would not go up, he assured me.  I then had to put my foot down. “I don’t care if you take the rest of 2005 to settle it,” I said, “But I need that signed Offer to Purchase contract right away. You have until December 31, after that I withdraw my offer.”

In the meantime, I went back to the house the old lady lived in, the first one I looked at that night I brought her home. She had since been moved to a nursing home. The house was empty. Allie and I toured it again. I was less impressed this time around, but still, I found it adequate and inexpensive, well within my budget. I signed an offer to purchase, knowing it was now a long shot I would see the paperwork from GSK on the one I really wanted.

On January 2, 2005, I called the Realtor representing GSK and formally withdrew my offer to purchase. My financial guy was already at work, ready to move. I hated it, I really did. The Zebulon house was much nicer, had more room, and was on an infinitely prettier lot. But the circumstances could not be avoided. And I could not wait. I had already checked around, and I could not find another mortgage company to work with me, so I was stuck with what I had. But Charter didn’t try to dump a junk mortgage on me. It was a thirty-year, fixed rate, 6.2% loan only a little bit above national average, a fair reflection of my credit and the times.

On February 2, 2oo5, I walked into the house for the first time, my very own. One cannot imagine my excitement of that day for me. The past three years, nightmare years, all evaporated in an instant. I had done it, all by myself. And that’s a good feeling. I owned my own house!

So, what happened to the house? The GSK house? I had not been by there in some time, and two years ago I got to thinking about selling mine and buying that one, if it was available. So I drove by to take a look.

I was flabbergasted. GSK had torn the house down, even the beautiful, picturesque barn. Gone completely. Saddened at the sight, I put the car in reverse and drove away. I have not been back, though in my mind, I find myself still thinking about how nice it would have been, and about all the things I had planned to do to fix it up.

I spend some time on Facebook, as many of us do. I have friends decidedly right-wing, who spend alot of time railing against Obama and the present administration. I have friends also who are decidedly left-wing, blasting any view or commentary that originates from the right-wing view.

 And there is me. I have never fit either of these categories very well. I’m reminded of a theology professor who stated in class, “You know, I disagree with many of the conservative viewpoints, but I don’t mind telling you, I stand shoulder to shoulder with them on abortion. I think it’s dead wrong, except in certain circumstances.”

I don’t care to share my views on abortion in this little epistle. It’s not relevant to my topic. I do mention my professor’s words because he brings out a good point. He was saying, in effect, “Don’t hold me to the party line. I make my own decisions about things, thank you very much.” Amen to that!

To an extent, that is me. I personally think that most folks who vote a straight Democratic or Republican ticket have traded their brains for a bumper sticker mentality. Only rarely have I met someone who can state views backed by research on each and every topic brought before the body politic. The one who can say, “Liberal, liberal, liberal, no—conservative on that one…” is one I tend to respect more highly. They show evidence of thinking, and even more than that, integrating their thoughts with who they are as people. I find that commendable.

 Thus what follows is neither conservative nor liberal, nor necessarily in-between. It is my thinking of what I would do if I were leading the country. Note, I don’t say “President.” Because what I am suggesting here may well fall outside the realms of legality for the office of the Presidency, or at least the reach of it. So, let’s just say I was the leader, even a behind the scenes leader. What would I do?

The very first thing would be to allow the government to come to a halt. Allow Social Security to be paid, Medicare to function, our military to remain in place. Federal law enforcement would continue for the moment. What then?

I would first outline a plan to bring as many of the current drains of federal tax dollars (overseas aid, funding studies that don’t save human lives, worthless make-work programs, etc.) to the table. And I would begin the painful but necessary cutting and removing of those programs and aid dollars. To be frank, as far as foreign aid goes, I do not see the necessity when we can’t even take care of our people at home. If the people of Pakistan get a free handout from the good old US of A, then surely John and Jane Smith on Main Street do, too. Next I would then begin the process of decentralizing the federal government, returning these programs to the states, should they choose to keep them alive.

The main focus here is a return to the states’ powers to function as true states. In other words, strip the United States of its power, and return that power to the individual states.

We seem to have gotten away from that, and there was a time when the states ruled supreme; Washington was more an afterthought. When people wanted something done, they spoke to the governor. Why not return to that mode of thinking? If Virginia sees something worthwhile about Pakistan, for example, they would be welcome to send money there, if they have it.

Gone would be the IRS, INS, so many agencies and bureaucracies that penny by penny, drain the American taxpayer. Each state can have its own set of rules and enforcement procedures. If they want no immigration, for example, they can set up their own set of rules for determining who is granted citizenship and who is not.

I think that ultimately, these issues are the right of the people to decide. While our founding fathers may have been wise in creating a republic, and not a true democracy, it is painfully obvious to me we have not had any real say-so in what goes on in Washington in a long time. Liberals cling with desperation to outmoded programs of entitlement that permit the idle and lazy to receive benefits and cash and perpetuate a do-nothing lifestyle. Conservatives likewise have their own pet friends and causes, and one truly abhorrent one is their cozying up to Big Business and Big Bank. And Big Business has shown us all just what kind of friend they are: in their ever-increasing zeal to keep profits sky-high and costs low, they have sold us out. They take gargantuan tax breaks and then lay off entire US workforces, hiring Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, and other nationalities to benefit. Another thing: they also manage to stuff trillions of dollars into off-shore accounts. Tax free.

Friends and neighbors, this is not a pretty picture. We have two sides who can’t seem to find any common ground, and is it any wonder? They are both clinging to false idols, idols who laugh quietly behind their backs and continue to insist on their dollars for federally funded programs or tax breaks so they can shaft us some more.

I, for one, have had enough.

The problem for me, as I see it, is the entrenched District of Columbia political machine, so powerful no one can seem to touch it. It is like some dangerous, powerful creature lurking in the seas, giant tentacles touching every facet of American life. Decisions are made over whiskey, and tea, and coffee, in hallways and houses. Who has time for the average citizen when, by God, there’s a Power Meeting to go to?

Who needs this? They quit listening to us a long time ago. And my question is, who will listen? I don’t know, but I would put a lot more money on Raleigh, NC than I would Washington, D.C.

Is it possible for us to rethink the whole thing? To return that power to the states, giving them control of their financial destiny? I think, in reading the Constitution, that the original framers had something like that in mind from the start. Remember, the states weren’t all that excited about a Federal government to start with. Having just defeated one tyrant, they were fearful of creating another. And that issue kept the federal government small indeed. It provided leadership in the international arena, armed forces to protect us, and courts to appeal to when needed.

It wasn’t until the twentieth century that the current ideas of taxation really came into play. In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution, giving Congress the right to levy income taxes for the first time, although the government imposed tariffs and other taxes up to that point. But it snowballed from there into a huge give-and-take mess. Corporations worth billions are given complete tax breaks (see G.E., for example) while the average citizen (me, for instance) is struggling to pay a $1600 tax bill, complete with threatening letters from the IRS.

In my view, I would abolish federal income tax, and with it, the IRS. Instead, I would then allow the states to levy a proper level of taxation. Honestly, as I have said before, ten percent should be plenty. Or a graduated tax rate, zero for the truly destitute, five percent for those in poverty level, ten percent for those of comfortable middle class, fifteen percent, and so on. I’ve never believed it to be constitutional, or fair, for the government to impose a fifty-percent tax rate on someone just because they make a lot of money. With the states responsible for income tax, they can then send a portion to fund the federal government, or what remains of it.

And each state knows better than the federal government what its citizens need. The poor and destitute could be helped by welfare in New York, for example, and with work programs in North Carolina. Or whatever suits the states’ fancy. In other words, the power and the money to make and implement those decisions and programs resides with each state, not the federal government.

The same would hold true for natural and cultural resources, police agencies, prison systems, and so on. I would eliminate the federal court system, insomuch as it exists for federal crimes. The federal courts would be for appeals beyond the state level, only. All these agencies we have taken for granted in our lifetime would then become properties of the states, with the states tasked with adjusting them and carrying them out on the local level.

Of course, this is all just a pipe dream. And I am not advocating a Tea Party type of reductionism. I have seen nothing in the Tea Party ideas to indicate they have a much better proposal. While the idea of reduced government is laudable, it isn’t possible. Again, the entrenched District power-beast lurks beneath the waters, snaring any and all who attempt to effect change. My idea, in effect, is to kill the monster, not wound it.

No, my idea is best understood as removal of federal powers, not reducing them. Reducing government’s power is only a short-term solution, one that will take just a few years or maybe decades to grow back to and exceed the previous levels. Removing that kind of power makes better sense to me. Every state has a pretty firm grasp on what it needs and what it wants to accomplish. And they would be in the best position of all to determine their futures.

Yes, it is true, some states would be very rich. New York, Texas and California would lead that pack, no doubt. And some would be very poor. But they would not be as poor as they are now. Their hard-earned money would stay in the state, for the most part. And, again, they can then move forward to meet the needs of the populace without interference from Washington.

As I see it, it is Washington that is now the problem. They have catered long to the well-lined pockets of lobbyists and big business, resulting in a stalemate that permits no palpable progress to be made. Change is bad, absolute change is lethal to the District life. The federal government thrives on stalemate and opposition. And as one who dutifully paid taxes for years, all I can do is wonder precisely what I am getting out of it. More importantly, I wonder what my children will get.

This little essay came about as the result of a Facebook page: one of my friends listed her political views as “Impeach them all!!” She was joking, of course, but those words took root in my mind, and as I began to reflect, I wondered what would happen if indeed the federal government was removed from the center stage. I think we would need to retain the State Department, the presidency, the Supreme Court, and Congress, as well as a national military presence. The states would forward a percentage of the income taxes raised to fund those entities. We do need a national face and a working staff to deal with international matters. But it is the states where I believe the true power belongs. It was that way once, and I honestly believe the time has come when we need to embrace that ideal once again.