Thursday, March 5, 2015

Death by A Thousand Cuts

A few years ago, I wrote a post for this blog titled, Death by A Thousand Cuts which highlighted the proliferation regulations on the mortgage industry that were shuttering thousands of small companies and forcing independent loan originators to work for bigger companies.

For over five years we have seen more and more regulation crush American business.  In the mortgage industry, this really started with the "new" good faith estimates in 2010--which now are about to be completely revised again just five years later--and the compensation rules of 2011.  But when the Dodd Frank Act was passed in 2010, it created a framework on which to hang endless regulations for all types of financial service companies.  In November of 2013, even the proponents of Dodd Frank (the NY Times) were reported that the law was creating 42 words of regulation for each word of text.  And we have been told repeatedly by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and her socialist cohorts that these regulations are necessary to protect consumers and keep the economy safe from another crash.

I was surprised, therefore, to see someone else using the "death by a thousand cuts" analogy today.  This is not a fellow financial services professional, or a blogger, or even a conservative politician.  Today the individual speaking out against over regulation of the financial services industry is none other than the SEC commission Daniel Gallagher. 

Gallagher is not pulling any punches about the costly and negative impact of the excessive regulation on financial service firms.  To make his point, he has created a startling graphic to demonstrate the impact of regulations on financial service firms since 2010. 

To see a bigger version of this picture click here



Gallagher is very frank about the impact of over regulation and the real cost of regulatory burdens.   "No regulator, as far as I know, has considered the overall regulatory burden on financial services firms when determining whether to impose additional costly regulations," Gallagher told Mortgage Professional America. "We as regulators are, when it comes to the possibility that our rules are causing death by a thousand cuts, the proverbial ostrich—head firmly entrenched in the sand."

MPA goes on to quote Gallagher, "The stakes here are considerable: regulatory burdens divert capital away from the real economy—this acts as a barrier to entry for new market participants and further entrenches those institutions that are increasingly 'too big to fail.'"  

Gallagher says that he had his staff create the graphic to help the public understand the real impact of rule making over the last 4.5 years adding that he hopes it can spark public debate on the very serious issue of over-regulation and its impact on all of us.

Every once in a while, a federal regulator gets it right.  I applaud Gallagher for raising this issue and illustrating it so profoundly.  I hope that the country will wake up to what is happening in our country.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net

Sunday, March 1, 2015

An Open Letter to John Boehner and the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on DHS Funding

Dear Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Members of Both Houses:

I write this open letter today to remind you that all of us who vote in every election do so to uphold and protect the system of government guaranteed by our Constitution--a system based on laws properly made through the legislative branch of the government and implemented through the executive branch.  Over the past six years we have seen this system steadily eroded as the executive branch has seized more and more power away from weak members of the other branches of government.  Last fall, when we voted you into your present majorities, most of the American people who did vote did so with one purpose in mind--to stop this slide towards lawlessness and to reinstate the checks and balances system of government.  We gave you all of the tools that you needed to be an effective check on executive power.  So my question to you now is, why are you once again abdicating your responsibilities by refusing to stand up to the president's latest unlawful action?  Why are you so willing to once again hand over your power by passing a "clean bill" to fund DHS? And why are you whining that it is too late to stop this--that the best chance was at the end of the last session when the budget was passed?
 
Lest you forget, the budget deal was passed while Harry Reid was still Senate Majority leader.  Under his supervision there was NO chance of defunding amnesty or of stopping any of Obama's other flagrantly illegal acts.  That's why we elected you.  You have a chance now to actually do something about this, and yet you are once again waffling.
 
For those of you, and I know there are many, who are actually in support of amnesty, who actually are listening to the myriad corporate voices telling you that America needs its undocumented immigrants, that business relies on the work of undocumented immigrants, and that Hispanics will never vote for you again if you defund DHS, I have just one word for you: "STOP."  As a four decade long resident of a community which was 85% Hispanic I can tell you with reasonable certainty that Republicans will never have a majority of the Hispanic vote no matter what they do. Hispanics who are interested in free enterprise and upward mobility without government help will find you on their own.  But Hispanic countries are by and large socialist countries with socialist mindsets.  Most of the immigrants from these countries believe in a big safety net even if that big net means that most of the people live in poverty.  In this at least Ronald Reagan and all of those who have come after him were wrong--Hispanics are not  a natural voting block for the Republican party, and they never will be. The sooner you admit that, the sooner you can stop chasing votes you are never going to get.
 
However, the bigger issue here is not whether Hispanics can be converted to the GOP or not.  The question is not whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports amnesty (it does).  The question is not even whether it is morally right or financial expedient to deport people who have lived in this  country for decades and have children who are citizens.
 
The real issue here is the overreach of power by President Obama.   The question you all need to be asking yourselves this week is not "How do we resolve the issues of immigration?" but rather, "How are we going to respond to the problem of executive overreach?"  That second question is the ONLY one you are answering right now.  Funding an executive order to legalize between 4 and 7 million people not only rewards the illegal behavior by those who broke our laws to enter this country; it also rewards the president's illegal behavior.  By funding this initiative, you are saying that Obama does have the right to use his pen and his phone to do whatever he pleases.  You are abdicating your authority and responsibilities as a co-equal branch of government.  And you are betraying the people who elected you to stop this nonsense.
 
On Thursday many Americans, including me, took time to call the offices of various Senators to ask them not to vote for any bill that would fund amnesty.  By the time I was finished with my phone calls I was finding offices that had their answering machines on because of the volume of calls.  (Senator Marco Rubio's office had a message that the office could not receive any more calls because the voice mails were full.)  I was encouraged; I knew that my fellow citizens were on the phones letting you know what WE think about all of this.  And lest you forget the lessons of the last six years, we voted you in to stand up to Obama.  If you fail to do the job we elected you to do, we can just as easily vote you out.  We hired you and we can fire you.
 
I hope that you will take the time to think seriously about your responsibilities to the United States, and your responsibilities to the people who elected you.  I hope that you will consider the precedent you are setting right now if you do not uphold the systems of checks and balances.  I would rather see the Department of Homeland Security permanently shut down and all of its agents in the private sector than to see one penny allocated to support this illegal initiative.  Shut it down and leave it shut down--for the next two years if you need to.  We have enough law enforcement in this country without it.  But don't think for one minute that you can fund this and then tell us you had no choice.
 
It's time to stand up and do the job you were elected to do.
 
 Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.
 
 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

If You Want to Know What Free Community College Will Be Like, Take a Look at Your Free Healthcare

Is anybody else in this country sick and tired of being treated like an idiot by our government?  I am only asking the question because it seems that no matter what we do, Washington D.C. never changes its tactics.  After two presidential election cycles of massive spending, lies, blunders and embarrassment, last fall we sent the Obama Administration a clear message--ENOUGH!  This week, a new Senate was sworn in and whether or not they do a good job, we as Americans made ourselves heard:  We're tired of all this nonsense.  We've had it.

You would think that Washington would finally understand.  Apparently not.  On Thursday, Obama reverted back to a familiar pattern.  I am going to promise you all the free stuff you want.  Never mind the cost--somebody else is going to pay for it.  This has disturbingly the same ring as the 2008 and 2012 elections--the government is here to pay for everything for you.  All you have to do is vote in another big government liberal in 2016.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

For the next two days, Obama's newest promise, #FreeCommunityCollege was a trending hashtag on Twitter.  Suddenly, everyone is excited over the idea of the first two years of school being provided free. For every person who wants to go to college, for every parent who had their savings wiped out and will have a college age student in a few years, this one's for you.

Unfortunately, the truth is that virtually nothing in this life is free.  The air we breathe is free.  Sunrises and sunsets are free (although our view of them is not).  If we are Christians we believe salvation is free.  That's pretty much it. Everything else costs someone money.  If I have lunch with a friend at a posh downtown Dallas restaurant, and my friend picks up the check, that lunch is certainly not free--I just did not have to pay for it. If the owner of the restaurant is a close friend and he comps the check for me and my friend, the lunch still is not free--the owner paid for the food and venue and cost of the service. There is never a point at which my lunch becomes free--it is just a matter of who pays.  And as adults we know this, but unfortunately, as we saw in the case of "free" healthcare we don't care.  We really don't care how much something costs or who pays for it as long as the party doing the paying is not us.  So when Obama promised Americans free healthcare they all rushed down and voted for him--twice--blissfully aware that, just as with lunch, healthcare can never actually be free but the cost was going to be paid by someone else.  We were very happy to vote in a system that would transfer the cost of our healthcare from us to the American taxpayer--oh wait, that actually turned out to be us!  Or maybe we could transfer it to the those evil rich people--unfortunately that turned out to be us too.  Free was not really free, free was subsidized and those who did not get the subsidy had to pay ten times as much for a product that was substantially inferior.

Now it is 2015, and we all know this.  Unhappiness over Obamacare was one of the reasons for the massive shift in control of the Senate last fall.  But Obama is starting all over again with free education.  But just as with lunch and healthcare and the rest of life, education is not and cannot be "free".  It can only be subsidized.  And as we saw with healthcare, it cannot be subsidized for everyone--just a select few.  Obama says that he wants "free community college for those willing to work for it".  That is as big a lie as "if you like your doctor you can keep it."  The trending hashtag should be #Freesubsidizedcommunitycollegeforthosewhoqualifyforeverybodyelseitwillcostmuchmuchmore.  At least that would be honest, though admittedly hard to tweet.

I taught at a community college for four years after I received my master's degree, so this is a subject I know something about.  I have family who work in the community college systems.  There is a place for community colleges.  In the late 1980's and early 1990s when I was teaching, there were essentially three types of students who went to community colleges.  The first were kids straight out of high school who had been given three options by their parents--go to school, join the military or get a job.  These were by far the least motivated students.  Most of them started classes and dropped them, but continued to hang out in the halls so their parents did not know they weren't in school.  The second block was older returning students who were picking up some courses for a job.  On the Mexican border we had several mothers who took English classes so that they could understand their high school age children who only spoke English at home.  There were men in their late thirties and early forties who needed courses for their jobs.  Most of these people were good students and finished the classes diligently, but they were not on a degree plan.

The third block was people in their twenties who wanted to get a degree but were put off by the cost and some of the difficulties of going directly to the university.  Every year I would open my classes by asking each student why they were taking my class and what they hoped to get from it.  There were always a few who were taking the history classes at EPCC because they had a better chance of passing.  History classes at UTEP averaged about 200 students and were mainly taught by a Teaching Assistant who was usually a grad student.  To be certain, there was a professor with his or her name on the class roster, but the TA was the only person with whom the students had any real contact.  The TA did a lot of the grading There was really no way to get any assistance.  History classes at EPCC were much smaller--about 50 students per class and were taught by an instructor with a master's degree in his or her field.  We did the grading and we interacted with the students.  After credits became fully transferable from the community college system to any state college in Texas, the community college became a better option for students who were taking difficult classes and could not get help in a bigger university setting.  Plus, the courses cost much less.

Interestingly, nearly all the students I taught were receiving financial aid.  One of my inlaws got his Associates Degree through EPCC and paid his own tuition.  He was in and out really quickly on registration day because he paid his own way and the line to do that was quite short.  The line for the financial aid students wrapped around the building.  As long as students stayed in class and earned a decent grade, they received their financial aid.

I stopped teaching in 1993 and moved into the private sector, but I did revisit the community college systems.  I taught for a summer in 2006.  During my six years on the board of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce I became friends with the then president of El Paso Community College and attended programs at the campus.  I currently have family members employed by the Dallas Community College.  The model has not changed, but it has expanded. Today, many high schools offer programs that allow students with good grades to earn their last two years of high school and their first two years of community college in the same program.  Far from being less accessible, community college is actually more accessible than it was when I taught.  According to the Heritage Foundation, the average cost of a community college today in 2015 is $3800.00 a year.  That works out to a little over $300.00 a month.  For the student graduating this year who will not receive any help from Mom and Dad toward higher education, that figure is low enough so that he or she can work and pay for classes to earn a two year degree.  In Texas, those credits are fully transferable to any state university.  So conceivably, with a little planning, a student could pay $7600.00 for his first two years of college, and then transfer 100% of those credits to the University of Texas system and get a degree that could help him land a job.  It is an option that makes sense for working families.

If, however, community college becomes "free", that option will go away.  Whenever the government begins to subsidize anything for a select group, the price for everybody skyrockets.  So "free" community college will mean much higher tuitions for those who don't get the subsidy--just like Obamacare.  An option that allows young people to get a degree affordably is suddenly going to be a lot more expensive--out of reach of the private pay.  When the government starts tossing around the "F" word whatever they are subsidizing becomes really expensive.  Not only is it not "free"; it's also no longer "affordable".

The irony is that by their nature community colleges are heavily subsidized--through state governments, through federal grants, through private foundation grants, etc. Subsidies and grants pay for the entire system. This is just the federal government seeking more control--disguised as another freebie which in the end will have a huge price tag.  But as long as that price tag is being paid by somebody else, we are not supposed to care.

After everything we have already been through with Obamacare, with Dodd Frank, with the Obama phones, and all of the other "free" stuff over the last six years. I would like to think the American people are way too smart to fall for this again.  But then I look at the 2012 election, and I'm just not sure.  So what about it?  Are you tired of it yet?





 Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.


Friday, January 9, 2015

2015--The Year of Housing Change

The new year is off to an amazing start.  Only 9 days in, we are confronting yet another year of massive change.  Many of those changes are coming to the housing sector, and they will affect you whether you want to buy, sell, or merely refinance your home.

1. After months of speculation, yesterday Obama announced a .5% drop to FHA MIP.  This is an executive action order which does not have to go through Congress.  Of course, the stated purpose of increasing the premiums in the first place was to help FHA attain solvency, which the Administration says it has now achieved.  Regardless, this drop will make FHA a more desirable option for borrowers, and with new increased loan limits in many counties and dropping interest rates we can expect to see more borrowers and lenders choosing FHA over tougher to qualify for conventional loans.

2.  And speaking of tougher to qualify for...Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are implementing their new collateral underwriting system for appraisals on January 26th.  This new system will turn warnings into hard errors for appraisals submitted to Fannie Mae.  It is also going to make underwriters responsible for finding and verifying additional comps, which may result in a lot of delays getting appraisals approved and loans to the closing table.  

Although the powers that be seem to believe that an increasingly automated system for identifying comparables makes property valuation more secure, the truth is that only a qualified human can often really judge whether two properties are really comparable.  A custom built home with fixtures imported from Italy may be the same square footage as the high end track home that is one step above builder grade, but the properties are not actually comparable.  A trained appraiser knows that; a computer program does not.

It is going to be really interesting to see how this works out as the system is implemented on January 26th.  Will we see the normal pattern for real estate over the past six years--extreme paralyzing over-caution in the beginning followed by a loosening of standards later as underwriters get used to the new rules? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are supposed to interpret the new rules very differently from each other, creating yet another series of obstacles for lenders.  If FHA does not adopt similar rules, the new guidelines may  encourage more buyers to turn to FHA.  Time will tell.

3.  This is the HUGE one.  In August the CFPB is finally to going to combine the two most important forms in the mortgage world into one new monstrous form.  It seems impossible that it has already been five years since the 1 page, easy to understand Good Faith Estimate was morphed into a 3 page, difficult to understand Good Faith Estimate and the Truth in Lending became a contractual document which had to be  re-disclosed if the APR went up more than .125%.  In 2015 these two long, confusing forms will become one new long confusing form.  The HUD settlement statement is going away too; it will be replaced by a five page form which must be delivered to the buyer three days before closing.  Oh--and there won't be any more real estate closings after August 2015--after that date there are only "consummations."

To paraphrase Betty Davis in one of her most famous roles, "hang on to your hats; it's going to be a bumpy ride."



Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Best Gift Ever

As a child, I loved Christmas, as I think most children do.  To me, Christmas meant delicious food and toys.  Growing up in a large middle class family in the 1970's, we did not have extravagant gifts, but I remember many Christmases fondly.  There was the year that I received the baby doll in the pink blanket, and the year that I got the little record player that played Christmas songs on 45s.  One year, my brother received a set of plastic cowboys and Indians complete with plastic cows and horse corrals, and we could not wait to get up to start playing with them at the crack of dawn Christmas morning.

We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, and then my mother would read the Christmas story to us from the Bible while we ate candy and treats.  It was the most wonderful day of the year.

I am reminded of that joy now as I purchase gifts for my nieces and nephews.  Their wish lists are a lot different than mine were since they are a lot more technologically savvy than I ever was--maybe than I still am--but the excitement over Christmas is the same.

It seems to me that as we get older, the Christmas spirit is a little harder to catch.  For those of us who are self-employed or commissioned, the holidays are an especially stressful time of year as we try to adjust to ever changing demands of an economy that does not want to cooperate. In 2014 I moved to the Dallas metroplex, took a new job while continuing to run my own media company and worked unimaginably long hours while attempting to make new contacts and friends and learn how to navigate a city of six million people.  It was joyous and stressful and wonderful and brutally tough--all at the same.

Add to this stress the normal stressors of packed malls, and packed streets and packed freeways--I did not know what traffic was until I found myself stuck for hours on 1-35--and the invariable stresses of work and finances, and it can all combine to make the most dedicated lover of Christmas throw up his or her hands and shout "Bah Humbug".

But it is at those moments that I force myself to take a deep breath and to remember that Christmas is still the most wonderful day ever.  Although my nephews and nieces would take exception to this, the best gift ever is not a video game, or a doll, or a toy, or a car or a vacation. This year the best gift ever is not even a new job or gas prices below $2.00 a gallon, although that does make my heart sing.  The best gift ever is the gift of Christmas itself, which reminds us that we always have hope and that miracles happen no matter how bleak the world may seem.  For those of us who are Christians, Christmas is a powerful reminder that God is with us and we don't have to fear the future, even if at times it looks scary.  It is a reminder that we are loved. "For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17).  And it is a chance to express love and kindness in real terms to people around us and to those we are blessed to have love us in return.  And all of those things are priceless and worth celebrating.

Merry Christmas.
Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Don't Wait for the Next Election--Vote with Your Dollars Now

Last December I wrote a post entitled, Don't Wait for 2014, Vote with Your Dollars Now.  I wrote about my own experience of deciding to purchase my pathetically small number of Christmas candles at Hobby Lobby to support them as they fought against the government mandate that they pay for abortions.

I promised myself last December that as long as Hobby Lobby remained open, I would always patronize them at Christmas with whatever candles and Christmas lights I needed for the holiday season.  Honestly, when I made that promise I did not expect them to be open past mid-2014.  Although I wanted Hobby Lobby to win their case and I prayed that they would do so, after so many years of political disappointments I simply did not believe that the U.S. Supreme Court would rule that a business can make moral decisions with its dollars.

Of course, Hobby Lobby did prevail at SCOTUS and is very much alive and well.  And this, my first Christmas living in the Dallas metroplex, I drove to a very conveniently located Hobby Lobby and made my purchases.  The dollar amount was small, but the commitment to support this business and others like it that stand for freedom was important.

In that spirit, I want to take this moment, now that the holiday shopping season is in full swing, to remind all freedom loving Americans that where we spend our dollars does matter.  The society we fight to preserve is a free enterprise society which promotes personal freedom and responsibility allows people to find success beyond their wildest dreams.  And yet, so often when it is time to spend our money we forget that our dollars are the most important ballot we will ever hold.

As conservatives we just won a historic election, which has bought our country some time as we attempt to undo the massive damage that big government policies have done.  Our fight is not over; it is just beginning.  And the only reason we are still in this fight is because of companies who had the money and will to stand up to the government--companies like Hobby Lobby who were willing to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend their right to run their own business according to the dictates of their own conscience. Each victory has been a victory for freedom that ultimately made the victory one month ago possible.

Voting with our dollars does not have to mean a huge lifestyle change--it does not mean boycotting certain companies or products or making grand, sweeping promises we can't or won't keep.  We can vote in simple decisions--by choosing to give to charities that actually support conservative goals and values rather than those that are merely smokescreens funneling money to causes we find repugnant--yes Susan G. Koman Foundation, I'm talking about you.  In October I was making a purchase when the twenty-something clerk at the store asked me if I would like to donate some money to Koman.  When I politely declined she rolled her eyes as if to say that I was clearly a bad person who didn't care whether women got cancer.  I did not have time to explain to her that I cannot donate to Susan G. Koman because as a woman and a Christian conservative I support the health and well being of all women--including pre-born women who will be killed thanks to the organization's donations to Planned Parenthood.  I don't support abortion, so I don't give to Susan G. Koman.  Plain and simple. 

I do support free enterprise, freedom of speech and entrepreneurship; therefore, I buy my candles at Hobby Lobby.  I don't make all of my purchases based on a company's political views, but when I am able to do so, I support those organizations who support the liberties that we hold dear. I have found that the more consciously I evaluate WHERE I spend my money the easier it is to do so.  I invite all of you to do the same.  Through our spending we can send an even more powerful message than we can with our votes. 

Don't wait for the next election 2 years from now.  Make an impact in your day-to-day life.  You will be surprised at the changes you will see.

 Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Give Thanks

Every Thanksgiving for as many years as I can remember, my mother had a tradition at Thanksgiving dinner. After my father prayed over the food, my mother asked each of us to name one thing that had happened in the last year that we were thankful for. As I got older, knowing that I would have to state what I was grateful for, I started thinking about the year a couple of weeks in advance of the holiday, and I found that even in difficult years, I had a lot to be thankful for. My mother's tradition, which she continues to this day, has helped me to really think about the meaning of Thanksgiving each year.

It seems almost inconceivable that it has been an entire year since I last wrote my Thanksgiving post.  When I wrote the post for 2013, the world looked bleak--in fact I had to really think about what I was grateful for after such a tough year. 2014 has been a much better year.  I am living in a city where I wanted to live since I was eighteen years old and and working with a great group of people.  Frontier 2000 Media Group is now four and half years old, has published a dozen titles and is launching new projects next year.  And I see real hope for our country.  So in that spirit, I record a few things that we can be thankful for this year.

1.  The Tea Party is alive and well (along with the desire for freedom and liberty that gave birth to it.)  In August I was able to attend the Americans for Prosperity national conference here in Dallas.  When I saw the enthusiasm of the three thousand Americans of all ages, races and ethnicities, many of whom had traveled a long distance to attend this event (some from as far away as Alaska), I was genuinely encouraged.

Although the media has long tried to pretend that the Tea Party is nothing more than a phony "astro-turf" movement, the mid-term elections show something quite different.  Americans who care about the size and growth of government are making their voices heard and we are making a difference.

2.  We are getting the message out!  Last year I wrote about my initial disappointment when Jim DeMint announced he was leaving the Senate to take over the Heritage Foundation.  He explained that we had lost in 2012 because as conservatives we had failed to communicate our message effectively--the message that small government and individual liberty and responsibility provide a better way of life for all Americans.  But two years later, the hard work of communicating that message, through blogs, through new media outlets, social media and face to face interactions, is paying off.  Heritage played a part, as did Breitbart, The Right Scoop, Bill Whittle, and countless others who worked tirelessly to tell Americans the truth about government.  Our very own Liberty Project grew this year from just a few hundred likes on Facebook to over 6000.  Together all of us are sharing our message and Americans are starting to listen.

3. We now have the Senate and with that prize we have the opportunity to bring some real "hope and change" to our government.  The 2014 elections represented a huge opportunity for conservatives to bring our ideas to the table and implement them.  We cannot take this victory or the opportunity and responsibility it affords lightly.  We MUST demonstrate leadership and positive change over the next two years.  We MUST be willing to override the president and stand up to his ever-growing abuses of power.  If we fail, we won't get another chance.  We have a huge job ahead of us and part of that job includes holding our elected representatives responsible for doing the job we have entrusted to them.  We must shrink government and empower the private sector.  We must stop persecuting business. And we must encourage Americans to get back into the workforce (after we create a climate where there is actually a workforce to get back in
to.)

4. Wherever we are in this country and in our lives, we are still alive, and we are not alone! "Don't worry about things--food, drink and clothes. For you already have life and a body--and they are more important than what to eat and what to wear. Look at the birds! They don't worry about what to eat--they don't need to sow or reap or store up food--for your heavenly Father feeds them...And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don't worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't He more surely care for you....So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time." (Matthew 6: 25-34 TLB)

Now that's something we can be thankful for every day! Happy Thanksgiving.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at http://www.frontier2000.net.