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Assessing the state of the union

Lead Summary
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

The United States just had a birthday. Where do things stand? I fear, at a minimum, we are in cautionary times, and it may be much worse than that.

The war in Ukraine is top of mind for some folks. It is a terrible thing, no doubt. But what happens if Putin thinks he is losing? He may widen the war.

The war has already realigned the world – look who is buying Russia’s oil, China and India – and helping Russia prosper. The combine population of Russia, China and India is 2,965,262,623 or 38 percent of the total world population. In the past, all else being equal, countries with the larger populations tend to defeat countries with a lesser population in conventional wars. However, these three are all nuclear armed. They can make the world largely unlivable in an hour or two.

Internally, we are a deeply divided country. One could say several of the recent Supreme Court decisions divided us, but this is not so. Had all these decisions gone the opposite way, we would still be a deeply divided country.

For a proxy of our division, look at the major corporations leaving the “blue” states to assess the serious fractures in the country. These include Caterpillar, Citadel, Tesla, Hewlett Packard, Oracle and Remington Arms. They have found the rules and regulations in blue states to be onerous and expensive.

Apple, a liberal thinking company, has chosen to place its second-largest campus in Austin, Texas. Amazon, like-minded, has placed a major operations center in Houston. Ford, Volkswagen and Nissan have picked Tennessee for new manufacturing plants. Ford is a major participant in a multibillion-dollar battery plant being built in Commerce, Ga., next door to me. National Cash Register (NCR), a stalwart of Dayton, moved to Georgia over a decade ago and now has a shiny new, prominent headquarters building on I-75/85 in downtown Atlanta. (They say this is to attract Georgia Tech graduates across the street, but did they look at The Ohio State University? Apparently, Intel did).

Collectively, these moves represent huge costs to these companies, all of which must have thought they would get a better deal in a new location.

I can attest that for 20 or more years, the pulp and paper industry has chosen to place assets in Arizona, Nevada and Utah to feed the huge California market. Building industrial facilities in California is a largely a non-starter in my own industry due to state rules and regulations.

If the division was not evident enough, this last Friday, with gasoline prices at record high levels, the Biden Administration stated that it is not going to allow new offshore leases in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. This caused a huge uproar among the environmental groups for they wanted the Biden Administration to shut down leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska, too.

The EPA wants to essentially shut down, through onerous air regulations, oil and gas production in the Permian Basin – that large area straddling the New Mexico/Texas border, and which holds enough oil and gas to supply the U.S. for 200 years. These moves could destroy the U.S. economy by deliberate actions. I thought this was called sedition.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court decision this past week, West Virginia v. the EPA, will give them second thoughts. But all of this says there are powerful groups and people who are willing to thoroughly destroy the U.S. economy to achieve their personal goals.

Then we have the federal debt. I don’t care who ran it up: Republicans and Democrats are equally responsible, as are all us voters who elected these people. It was $998 billion in 1981. The next year it crossed the trillion-dollar mark and, today it stands at $29.6 trillion. In 1981 it was 31 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and now it is 124 percent of GDP. No one has a plan to get this under control other than inflate our way out of it.

Inflation will devalue everything – the national debt, your retirement savings and so forth.

Let’s discuss inflation. The lowest rate of core inflation in recent times was 1.6 percent in 2020 (it was as low as 1.3 percent for four years in the early 1960s). This year, for the first five months, it has averaged 6 percent.

Core inflation excludes certain items known for their volatility such as food and energy. These two exclusions are where you have most likely seen inflation at the retail level and food is up 10.1 percent in the 12 months ending May 31, while energy is up 34.6 percent in the same period.

We have the Democrats' ballot-stuffing operation, otherwise known as open borders. The government has released 1,049,532 illegal immigrants into the U.S. since Biden took office in January 2021. That’s more people than the total number of residents of Biden’s home state of Delaware. The objective behind this is clearly to secure Democrat votes at the ballot box.

As of December 2021, at least 15 municipalities allowed non-citizens to vote – one in California, 11 in Maryland, one in New York and two in Vermont (source: Ballotpedia). Further in the same article, it was stated that 14 states’ constitutions include no clear impediments to municipalities passing their own voter qualification laws. This group includes Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin in the Midwest.

Finally, there’s the stock and bond markets. You may not directly own any stocks, but how the stock market performs may affect how your employer acts. If machinations in the stock market make your employer look for ways to improve their profitability, you are an easy target.

That two-week severance check is chicken feed for your employer. A Wall Street Journal headline on July 2 says it all, “Markets had a terrible first half of 2022. It can get worse.”

CNBC says it was the worst first half of a year in 50 years. Hopefully, you never bought any of that fool’s gold – cryptocurrency.

We are in delicate times, folks. A little slip one way or another in a myriad of important categories can cause significant problems. I am not reminded of the Jimmy Carter era of the 1970s, but, sadly, the 1930s.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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