Monday, December 17, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff, Healthcare, Housing and You

As we near the end of 2012 and the edge of the fiscal cliff, as usual the big debate is whether the Bush tax cuts should be extended or allowed to expire, and if they should be extended, for whom. As liberals and conservatives debate the impact on the economy, the focus of the media's coverage of the debate seems to focus mainly on the increases to the top income tax rate. After a two year reprieve on these extensions, most Americans seem to now believe that it is best to let the tax cuts expire for the top earners while ensuring that they are maintained for everyone else.

I think that framing the Bush tax cuts debate only in terms of income tax increases really minimizes the full effect of allowing the tax cuts to expire. Remember that the tax cuts did more than just lower the income tax rate; they also gave a hefty shot in the arm to the real estate market.

Under the Bush tax cuts, an individual could sell his or her primary residence and realize up to a $250,000 gain tax free. A couple could sell their primary residence and realize up to a $500,000 gain tax free. And this gain did not have to be reinvested in a new primary residence to reap the tax advantages; the sellers could choose just to put the money from the sale in an investment account and rent for the rest of their lives. The capital gains tax holiday gave a powerful boost to the real estate market because it allowed Americans to purchase a home and benefit in a very direct way from their properties' appreciation.

If all of the tax cuts are allowed to expire, next year the sales of primary residences will again be subject to capital gains tax. (Presumably the tax will revert back to the prior law before the tax cuts where no capital gains is owed if a new primary residence of equal or greater value is purchased within a set period of time.) But what if the tax cuts are extended to the middle class and only allowed to expire for taxpayers with incomes of $250,000 a year or more? What effect will that have on the housing market?

Remember that for the past couple of years Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's average borrower today has a credit score of 751 and a down payment of more than 30%. That means essentially that these two agencies, both of which have received hundreds of billions in tax dollar bailouts, are basically making loans to upper middle class borrowers--the ones who typically have higher incomes. A capital gains' tax on primary residences, combined with higher income taxes and a looming threat to discontinue the tax deduction for mortgage interest, may discourage these borrowers from investing in real estate. At the very minimum, it is going to discourage them from buying higher priced homes. Discouraging the very borrowers who are in the best position financially to purchase homes and pay the mortgages on them can only result in a further slowdown of the real estate market, and potentially greater declines in housing prices. Many of the taxpayers in the $250,000 bracket are actually small business owners. With increasing economic problems, and dropping market values, how comfortable are they going to feel going through the pain of purchasing a home knowing upon sale the gain will be subject to taxes because they earn over $250,000 a year?

I know that it can be argued that for many years primary residences were subject to capital gains tax upon sale, and that the tax did not stop people from buying or selling property. But I would counter that there is a strange phenomenon that comes into play when people are used to getting something (in this case a capital gains' tax holiday on their primary residence) and then see it taken away. We saw this with the home buyer tax credit. Buyers had bought and sold houses without an $8,000 tax credit since the beginning of civilization, but in the short time that it was implemented, buyers came to believe that they should expect a tax credit. Consequently, when the tax credit expired, buyers largely stopped putting in contracts on houses. The credit should not have provided all that much incentive--after all, the primary reward for purchasing a home is having a place to live--but once the inducement was offered and then removed, borrowers did not seem to see the point of buying a home for which they would not receive a tax credit.

Two years ago the tax cuts were extended for everyone. Now President Obama is adamant that they should be extended only for those earning less than $250,000. But this plan poses an additional set of challenges. The new health care law signed in March also contains a tax on real estate. The 3.8% tax on the sale of residential real estate applies to individuals with incomes higher than $200,000 and couples with combined incomes over $250,000. On a sale of a $300,000 home, the tax would be $11,400.00. This would be in additional to the capital gains tax. And since the health care tax is on the sales price and not on the gain, it would apply to any borrower in the income bracket being taxed. In other words, if you sell your house for enough to cover what you owe the bank plus the agent's commission and your costs as seller, you could still owe Uncle Sam a check.

We like to think that "rich" people, whom we as a society have defined as people with incomes over $200,000 or $250,000, have so much money that they don't feel these taxes at all and that any complaining that they do is only a result of greedy whining. But at what point do the more affluent people in our society decide that real estate is too heavily taxed and that they are better off renting rather buying? At what point do current homeowners who do have extra cash decide to offer their homes for rent rather than for sale because they are rebelling against a plethora of taxes which gobble up their equity? And what are the consequences of this shift in thinking for an already lethargic housing market?

In spite of reports that I have been reading all year, I personally have not seen a housing market recovery or improved housing prices. With one exception, none of the appraisals I ordered this year came in as well as expected. Properties that were purchased last year at lower than expected prices appraised this year for less than last year's purchase price. In my conversations with underwriters in other areas of the state, I have learned that this continued depreciation of the housing market is actually typical right now. Do we want to make a declining housing market worse than it already is by disincentivizing still more borrowers?

Raising taxes--even for the top income brackets--may generate a lot of money for the U.S. Treasury in the short term, but in the long term it will lead to increased unemployment which will lead to increased mortgage defaults and delinquencies at a cost to lenders, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and ultimately the American taxpayers. Taxing the life out of what is left of the housing industry is really just cooking and eating the goose that laid the golden egg.

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 implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Right to Work, Legalized Pot and the States vs. The Federal Government

The second week of December has been most interesting.  On Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed Michigan's first right to work law, officially banning the practice of forcing workers to pay union dues in the state.  What Michigan did was not really revolutionary--almost half of the states currently have right to work laws. What is extraordinary is that Michigan would pass such a law considering the long history of unions in the state.  What is also extraordinary is the national attention that this law has gotten.  I don't remember seeing all of this attention focused on Indiana in February when they chose to become a right-to-work state.  But since Tuesday, the focus of cable news has been the Michigan right to work law. Distraught union members have protested loudly, and sometimes violently; and Jimmy Hoffa Jr. has promised civil war. 
Amid all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that has followed Michigan's passage of the right-to-work law, what appears to have largely been lost is that states have a clear right to determine the labor laws within their own borders.  The primary impetus for this law is that Michigan is losing business opportunities to its right-to-work neighbor Indiana.  In order to attract jobs and business opportunities, states have to compete, and right-to-work laws allow such competition.

As someone who has worked in a right-to-work state my entire life, I can tell you for a certainty that right-to- work laws do not destroy the worker--in fact they open up a lot of new opportunities.  For instance, in Texas, the right-to-work laws mean, in part, that a non-compete clause from an employment contract cannot, in most cases, be enforced against an employee.  In practical terms this means that the worker who has an opportunity to go to work for his employer's competitor for a higher wage can take advantage of that opportunity without any real fear of reprisal.  It also means that a person who want to open his own business competing in the same field as his current employer has the opportunity to do so without waiting out the non-compete time of the contract.  That means that he can take his contacts with him while they are still fresh and while he can still grow the business.  Right-to-work helps employers, but it also makes life much easier for workers who now have a lot more options.  And right-to-work states grow.  Texas' right-to-work laws--coupled with no state income tax--account in large part for the state's maintaining a solid economy even in the current difficult times.

What I find most interesting about the current uproar about Michigan's new law is that the discussion by opponents of the new law is not being framed in terms of Michigan's right to regulate its own labor laws.  Rather, opponents seem to believe that Michigan's new law is the outgrowth of a national conspiracy by conservatives in Michigan and other parts of the country to undermine the unions and by extension the Obama Administration. President Obama even spoke against the passage of the Michigan law saying that this new law was not about economics; it was only about politics and the "right to work for less money." Rather than acknowledging that the state has the same right as any other state to pass laws for the perceived betterment of the lives of its citizens, liberals seem intent on furthering their assertion that this law is somehow aimed at undercutting the Administration and that Gov. Snyder was acting outside of his authority in signing it.

While union leaders were rioting in Michigan this week, in Colorado the state's new law legalizing marijuana went into effect.  Let me begin this by saying that I, personally, am opposed to drug legalization at every level as I believe that all recreational narcotic substances are damaging to the individual and to society at large.  But there are much greater issues at play here than just personal morality about whether drugs should be legal.

Washington State and Colorado, of course, legalized recreational marijuana usage by popular vote on November 6, in a move that many have called "historic."  Clearly, the signing of these laws actually was outside of the authority of the state governors who signed them.  Federal law does not allow recreational marijuana usage, and state laws are not allow to preempt federal laws.  However, on this issue, the left is remaining very quiet.  I saw a portion of an interview with former attorney general Alberto Gonzales about possible actions that the Administration can take as a result of the passage of these laws.  Gonzales said that basically the government has three options:

1. The Feds can arrest and prosecute citizens of the states under the current federal drug laws and then argue in court that federal laws always preempt state laws.

2. The Feds can sue the states in court for violating federal laws.

3. The Feds can withhold funding for local law enforcement since the local law enforcement is refusing to uphold Federal law.

There is also a fourth option which Gonzales did not mention but which many progessives and libertarians are demanding.  The federal government can do nothing.  Legalization of recreational marijuana is, after all, supported by a majority of the voters in Colorado and Washington--two states which voted for Obama in the 2012 elections. Additionally, big money backers including hedge fund billionaire George Soros and Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance support legalizing drugs. For the Administration to enforce the current drug laws would be very unpopular with both monied backers and the liberal voting blocks in those states, so it might be politically advantageous for the Obama Administration to not get involved.

Maybe.  Maybe not. Having two states pass laws legalizing drugs really is a clear affront to federal authority. As it turns out, Colorado and Washington's new laws violate not only federal law, but international United Nations' treaties--the 1961 International Convention on Narcotic Drugs outlaws marijuana and other drugs. That treaty is supported by two other treaties—the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Drugs and the 1988 Anti-Trafficking Convention.  Whether the Obama Administration privately agrees with these state laws is not the point; the point is that by refusing to take any action on these laws, the Administration is sending a message that in some cases, at least, state laws can preempt federal laws and even international treaties.  In speaking out against the Michigan law, the President and his Administration are interjecting themselves into a matter that is clearly the state's to decide.  In refusing to stand up against legalized marijuana--if that is ultimately the case--the President and the Administration are conceding authority that the federal government actually does have to enforce laws.  The only legal way around this is to back federal bills to legalize drugs nationally.  Any such legislation would undoubtedly prove extremely contentious and difficult to pass in a government as gridlocked as this one. 

It will be interesting to see how this issue of the state authority versus federal authority is ultimately resolved. After all, if the test of whether we have to obey federal laws is determined by whether a majority of citizens in a state agree with the laws or not, there are millions of citizens living in red states who do not agree with a lot of the laws that this Administration is passing.  Could what happens in Colorado and Washington set up a precedent for red states to eventually vote to reject Obamacare? If popular will can nullify international treaties, could states down the road vote to disregard UN treaties such as the UN Small Arms Treaty and could the courts rule with them?  Could courts rule that since the Administration has allowed two states to openly violate federal law, they have sent a message that state laws passed by popular vote have more authority than federal laws passed by the houses of Congress and signed by the President.  If the courts do eventually determine that this is the case, the outcome could be a rebellion against federal control unlike anything we have witnessed in the past.  The outcome should be fascinating to watch.

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 implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jim DeMint, Sandra Fluke and the War of Ideas

Our nation is at war.  No I am not referring to the perennial war on terror or the constant threats that Middle Eastern dictators pose to America.  Rather we are engrossed in a civil war--a war of ideas.  The most recent battle in this war was the 2012 elections, a loss which conservatives are still grieving.  But 2012 was just a battleground--it was not the war itself. 

Through the events of 2012, many of us conservatives have come to really understand just how much ground we have lost in the culture wars over the last 40 or 50 years. All serious conservatives now acknowledge that we have totally lost broadcast television media--mainstream media outlets openly protected the Administration's errors and missteps while crucifying conservative opponents for relatively small infractions.  We have lost the school systems which are educating an army of socialist, liberal young people who support drug legalization, gay marriage and redistribution of wealth.  These losses are reflected in polls that show an increasing support for socialism and big government across the U.S. and, of course, they are reflected in the elections themselves.

I think Time Magazine's short list for Person of the Year may best reflect the ways in which liberal socialism is taking over our society.  On the short list were E.L. James, author of the mega-best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, JayZ, and Sandra Fluke.  Assuming that Person of the Year acknowledges the individual who has made the greatest impact in the year, this is an astonishing list.  Using the criteria of accomplishment, James probably does deserve to be considered.  While I personally find it horrifying that society's morals have eroded to the extent that a series on sado-masochism can become an all-time bestseller, I also acknowledge that James accomplished something else that no one ever has.  She used modern technologies and social media to take an unknown book and make it into an international best seller.  Whether or not you agree with the specific content of her work, she has demonstrated an extraordinary understanding of how to market in the digital age, and in the rapidly changing world of publishing I can understand why the editors of Time would consider her.

Likewise, with Jon Stewart and JayZ, while I do not think that they have done anything worthy of the title of Person of the Year, I acknowledge that both men have demonstrated a high degree of personal success. Although I disagree with their actions and their politics, I also acknowledge that to rise to national fame in media and to influence a generation of voters takes a lot of discipline and commitment. 

That leaves Sandra Fluke.  What makes Sandra Fluke an interesting choice for Person of the Year is that she is the one person on the list with no accomplishments whatsoever.  She is famous only because Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" on his radio show.  Her sole achievement consists of being insulted nationally by a famous personality.  She is a law student in her thirties who supports big government and insists that she is entitled to free birth control.  There is nothing exceptional about her in any way, and yet everyone in America knows her name.

Perhaps Time Magazine's thinking is that Sandra Fluke is a composite for the single young women of America.  In a way she is.  Sandra Fluke and her sisterhood of single, liberal women who overwhelmingly supported President Obama's re-election last month are the spiritual daughters of Hillary Clinton, and like their "mother" these women believe that it takes a village to do everything--including, apparently, prevent pregnancy.  The "Life of Julia" is these women's playbook--they expect and demand cradle to grave care from a huge federal government who will stand in the place of the husbands they choose not to have.  They become enraged if anyone takes exception to being forced to bankroll their promiscuous lifestyles.  I am certainly not saying that none of these women will ever marry--most of them undoubtedly will.  However, they plan to continue to look to the government as their protector and provider throughout their lives, so the government needs to be big and strong and generous so that it can meet their needs and those of whatever children they have.  They are life-long victims of mean, hateful, judgmental people who call them names in public.  But they don't aspire to elevate their status in the world; they just want to silence the voices criticizing them. For these women, conservatism is a foreign language they do not wish to learn; the ideas are hollow and offensive.

By even giving Sandra Fluke honorable mention as a contender for Person of the Year, Time Magazine is acknowledging that these women are the new future of our country.  They are also playing into the liberal, socialist mindset that accomplishment and achievement don't matter.  Hard work does not matter; success does not matter.  A person who has done nothing except demand government handouts and fend off insults is as worthy of recognition as the one who has worked hard and achieved something notable. 

In the face of this new mindset, where work and achievement are denigrated, where unaccomplished people demanding a free ride are celebrated, and where promiscuity and irresponsibility are rewarded, how do conservatives restore the voice of reason?  As I mentioned last week, liberals understand human nature much better than conservatives, and so they have done much better in this war of ideas than we have.  But as I also mentioned, conservatives have a much better grasp on reality than liberals, and we know that liberal ideas do not work over the long haul.  That is our strength--and our weakness.

With this in mind, I was initially very sad today to learn that SC Senator Jim DeMint is leaving the Senate and going to work as the head of the Heritage Foundation.  It was DeMint who blocked the ill-conceived and dangerous LOST Treaty from being ratified this summer; it was DeMint who virtually single-handedly prevented the unionization of the TSA.  DeMint has consistently stood for conservative principles--sometimes completely alone--and he has accomplished remarkable things in an often hostile environment. called him the most conservative member of the Senate--a title I think he deserves. When I heard the news, therefore, I thought, with a lot of sadness, that we are losing a strong, consistent advocate for freedom in the Senate.  But when I read DeMint's statement about why he is leaving now, I was heartened.  He wrote that his intention has always been to be a citizen legislator--never a career politician.  And then he added this:
"I’m leaving the Senate now, but I’m not leaving the fight. I’ve decided to join The Heritage Foundation at a time when the conservative movement needs strong leadership in the battle of ideas. No organization is better equipped to lead this fight and I believe my experience in public office as well as in the private sector as a business owner will help Heritage become even more effective in the years to come.”
He went on to say:
"This is an urgent time because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections...We want to figure out what works at the local and state level."

As I have thought about DeMint's statement today and how the Senate will look without him, I have realized that we now have other strong true conservative voices in the Senate--Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and incoming Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  Each of these men understands that freedom is essential, that U.S sovereignty is not negotiable and that we must stand up for the Constitution of the U.S.  Perhaps DeMint knows that the Senate now has the principled, strong conservatives it needs in order to stand in the gap for our country in the short term.  He also seems to know that the real war is not in the Senate--it is in the minds of Americans who read Time Magazine and watch broadcast news and are influenced more by celebrities than think tanks.  The true war is in the thinking of the millions of women like Sandra Fluke who rejoiced at Obama's election as a victory for their futures, and in the thinking of Americans of all colors who routinely vote Democrat out of a sense that the Democrat party looks after the "little people" while the Republicans only look out for their own rich friends. If we cannot clearly communicate conservative ideas in a way that all Americans can understand, soon we will not able to elect enough people committed to the Constitution to any branches of our government to preserve our way of life, and then we will lose the country completely.  If we don't win the war of ideas, in a short time none of the other battles will even matter.

Welcome to the fight, Senator DeMint.

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 implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Code Red

It may come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog that I was not always as conservative as I am now.  My parents were very conservative, and I always had pro-life, pro-traditional family values, but when I was in my late teens and early twenties I was much more supportive of welfare and government assistance programs than I am today.  At that time, I held the views of many of the people who now seem to think that I am mean and unfeeling--I believed that the government needed to provide a hand up to people and that those recipients of this federal aid would go on to become grateful, producing members of society.  These views were shaped in part by the fact that when I was a teenager my father lost his job and over the years that followed our family became destitute.  We were never on any type of government assistance--including unemployment.  My father had money saved and after he lost his job, he cashed in his retirement savings which allowed us to live until my brothers and sisters and I were old enough to start contributing to the family's support. From that time on we worked and paid the bills as best we could.  I was deeply aware of how more affluent people looked down on us--and since virtually everyone was more affluent than we were I definitely sympathized with the underprivileged.

What changed?  Was it starting my own business and working the long hours and paying the taxes that are part of self-employment?  Not really.  Certainly, owning and running a business for close to 15 years has made me understand much about how jobs are created, how wealth is built and how excessive regulation stifles and smothers initiative and opportunity.  But the experience that really transformed my thinking about welfare and social programs occurred many years before I became a business owner.  What fundamentally transformed my thinking about government assistance was having up close and personal exposure to it.

Shortly before my nineteenth birthday I began teaching at the local community college, where I worked for years.  I was a part-time instructor in the history department but I also picked up additional classes in developmental education studies and English as a second language.  Since I have a Master of Arts in Humanities Degree with a history major and philosophy minor, I was eager to teach what I had learned in graduate school to students whom I was convinced would prove to be eager sponges ready to soak in knowledge.  I taught hundreds of students over the four years that I was at EPCC.  I opened each semester the same way--by introducing myself and then asking each student to introduce himself or herself and tell me what specifically they hoped to get out of the course I was teaching.  I learned over the years that these early introductions set the stage for the entire semester because in the twenty or thirty minutes that it took for me to meet the students and learn a little about them, I could predict who was going to succeed and who wasn't. I had many older students who had come back to school in an effort to earn a degree to improve their chances for promotion at work.  When I taught English as a second language I had quite a few students who were taking those classes because they needed better English skills for their jobs and several students who were the mothers of English speaking teenagers who wanted to be able to understand their children's conversations.  But every semester, in every class, I also had another type of student.  These were the students straight out of high school who were enrolled for only one reason--their parents had told them they had to either get a job or go to school, and they had decided that school was the better of the two options.

Nearly all of my students were attending school on some sort of financial aid. And I did have some very motivated students who actually worked hard and were eager to learn, but they were invariably the older students who had gone back to school because they had some personal motivation for self-improvement. They virtually never came from that young group of students who were the majority of the class.  In fact, after a few weeks, a good number of these would stop coming to class.  They were still physically going to the campus--I would see them hanging around the halls smoking and chatting with their friends. They might even attend the minimum amount that they had to in order to keep from having me drop them from the class.  But they weren't learning anything because they were not interested in working or studying or doing anything that they needed to do.  They were simply kicking the can down the road a few years on the taxpayer dime--using federal financial aid to give themselves a place to crash so that they could delay going to work and accepting adult responsibilities.  Seeing this colossal waste of opportunity in the form of grants and student loans handed to a group of people who did not appreciate them or take advantage of the education offered taught me the first simple principle of conservatism--what is obtained without effort is not valued.  People only appreciate those things that they work for and sacrifice to get; they never really appreciate anything that is just given to them.

Twenty years later, we have just gone through a horribly disappointing election in which a majority of Americans--though not a very big one--voted to give President Obama a second term.  Young people, minorities and women overwhelmingly voted for big government, more social programs, and more welfare.  In the wake of this election, we see the GOP now trying to figure out how to reinvent themselves to make our party more "relevant".  The GOP leadership appears to be bent on making our party more liberal so that its principles will more closely align with the desires of the electorate. 

I am very certain that the problems that the GOP faced in this election are not the result of being too conservative.  And I am equally certain that the solution is not to try to rebrand ourselves into a more marketable entity.  As long as we continue to make our elections about which candidate gets the most or best looking celebrity endorsements, we are never going to be able to address any of the real issues that are plaguing either the party or the country.

As I see it, we need to start addressing a couple of fundamental truths:

1. Liberals have a better understanding of human nature than conservatives.  As a result they are able to manipulate people using our basest instincts.  They also have a better understanding of the laws of physics as they apply to humans--specifically the law of inertia which says that an object in motion has a tendency to remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force while an object at rest has a tendency to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.  (This principle of inertia makes it difficult to transform welfare recipients into productive workers overnight since they have a tendency to want to remain at rest.)

Because of these truths, conservatives can never win public relations battles using political theory.  Liberalism simply sounds better.  The idea of a big, benevolent cash-rich government spreading wealth around to make sure that all citizens are happy, well educated, fed and fulfilled is too good a sales pitch.  It is certainly more appealing than a message that tells people to get up early in the morning, go to work, provide for themselves and their families and live as productive, contributing members of society.  As a theory, liberalism will always prevail.  But that leads me to the second truth:

2. Conservatives have a much better grasp on reality than liberals.  In reality, socialism produces sloth and poverty. Government handouts disincentivize individual effort and achievement and produce a society where no one is productive. And the big government that can meet your every need can also strip away every freedom--enslaving the people who looked to it for protection.  History teaches repeatedly that collectivism is a disaster and big, out of control governments become totalitarian and dictatorial. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."

Because of this truth, conservatives can win political battles by demonstrating the  real world differences between conservatism and liberalism.  Conservative principles produce prosperity, limited government and personal freedom.  Liberal principles produce poverty, and bloated bureaucracy and destroy personal freedom.  The question for us as conservatives now is not how we better market this message or how we rebrand ourselves.  The question is whether we are willing to stand up for our principles and live under them.

Unlike many Americans, I do not support secessionist movements, for two reasons. 

1.  As a student and teacher of American history, I know that the last secessionist movement in America ended with over half a million Americans dead and the secessionist states being forced back into the Union under less than favorable terms.  The southern states remained second-class states for many years after the Civil War.  That is not a model that any of us wants to follow.

2. We have enough conservatives states that we can demonstrate the superiority of conservative principles if we are willing to do it.  If we have the desire, and the will, we can prove in a real world setting that our principles still work and always will. But in order to do this, we have to be willing stop focusing on national politics for a time and instead we have to focus on what we can do within our own states.  By fostering conservatism on a state level, we can showcase its strengths while highlighting the weaknesses of liberalism.  This show and tell approach is going to be the best weapon against the growing popularity of socialism in the U.S. and I believe that it is our only real hope for turning the tide of American opinion.

The rest of my posts for this year will be devoted to some simple ways that I believe we can foster and grow conservatism on a local and state level.  None of the ideas is very radical, and many are currently being explored.  But I think that if all of us who believe in conservatism are willing to stand together and work towards our goals, we can make a big enough impact in our nation's thinking that when we do face liberalism again on a national stage, we can defeat it soundly.

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 implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why, as an Evangelical Christian, I Stand with Israel.

I wrote this in October as a pre-election post, but now with Israel and Gaza in the current conflict it seems even more relevant than it did when I first wrote it, so I have edited it a little to remove the election references and I am re-posting it today.
In the summer of 1997, my two youngest brothers were attending seminars at BYU in order to earn their undergraduate degrees. I took a two week vacation from my job and went to Provo, Utah, to be with them and with my mother during that time. Stefan and Judah spent every day in school from morning till late afternoon, and so Mother and I had to find ways to entertain ourselves during those hours.

During that two week period, BYU was hosting an exhibit of the artifacts from Masada, which was on special loan to the campus via the BYU Jerusalem Cultural Center. The exhibit traveled under guard with posted signs that the 1997 trip was the first time that these artifacts had ever been in the United States.

As I went through the exhibit, I was amazed. We saw portions of the book of Isaiah contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls, pottery from the Holy Land, and artifacts which had been excavated from the fortress at Masada, where the last Jewish rebellion against the Roman government occurred about 66 A.D. The residents of Masada had lived in the fortress for five years, before they finally committed suicide to avoid capture and execution by the Roman army.

Cassette tape recorders were provided to each visitor so that we could tour the displays while listening to an explanation of each item that we saw. We saw replicas of Herod's palace and the last temple, artifacts left by the Roman soldiers, and shards of pottery and makeup brushes and brass mirrors left by the women who had lived at the fortress. When we came to a collection of very small clay lamps which were about the size of the palm of an adult hand, Mother motioned to me to turn off my tape recorder. "Look," she pointed. "This explains the parable that Jesus told about the ten virgins--five had enough oil for their lamps and the other five did not. This explains why the five with the oil could not share theirs with the others." I looked more closely at the lamps and saw what she meant--each little lamp was made like a nightlight with only enough supply of oil for one night. When we had finished talking I clicked my cassette recorder back on to hear the narrator explain, "These oil lamps would have been the ones referenced in the parable of the ten virgins."

Of all of the experiences I have enjoyed over the course of my life, seeing the artifacts from Masada is in the top 5. The exhibit was a profound reminder that the nation of Israel was completely gone for almost 2000 years. As the child of parents who were in the Jesus movement, I grew up in a house where the star of David was prominently featured, and I learned from my earliest youth that the Jewish people are precious to God. To see the belongings of these people who were exterminated and scattered by the Romans was a profound reminder of the struggles of the Jewish people throughout history and particularly the long struggles of Israel as a nation to maintain its sovereignty.

As evangelicals, we believe that Israel is a nation that has a special and unique history and an important future. We believe that the promise of God in Genesis to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you and the entire world will be blessed because of you," extends to the entire nation of Israel. We also agree with Benjamin Netanyahu that the reestablishment of the nation of Israel May 16, 1948 was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and that it was God who re-established this nation as an independent state. Therefore, we reject statements such as the one made recently by Henry Kissinger that within ten years the nation of Israel will cease to exist. We stand against Iran's anti-Israel rhetoric not only because it is racist and genocidal but also because it stands against the purposes of God.

As the conflict continues between Israel and Gaza, we pray especially for the peace and safety of Israel.  We pray that God will guide their military efforts and protect this nation which is so dear to His heart.  And we pray for a speedy end to this conflict and for God to intercede in this situation so that the region can live in safety and so that Israel's neighbors will come to respect her national sovereignty and right to exist.

Abraham Lincoln said, "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." When we stand with the nation of Israel in friendship and military support, we are on God's side.  That's why, today, I stand with Israel.

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 implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Friday, November 16, 2012

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.

For many of us, 2012 has been an exceptionally tough year ending in an extraordinarily disappointing election. We have seen so many negative changes and so much bad news, while being painfully aware that that we are weeks away from another onslaught of bad news in the form of massive new regulations,  that those of us who work in real estate and mortgage lending might feel stumped at my mother's dinner table next week. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving week, I have compiled a list of 4 things that all of us in our industry can give thanks for on November 22.

1. We still have low interest rates (for now at least).   For all of the problems we have had with rule changes, underwriting changes and guideline changes, 2012 has seen record low interest rates. When I started in this industry in 1998, I would have never believed it possible that I would be financing people at fixed interest rates in the 2's. I realize that this is mixed blessing at best--a short term boon with long-term inflationary implications--but in the spirit of Thanksgiving I choose to focus on the bright side of the situation. Those low interest rates have allowed those of us in lending to weather tough times and perform a real service for borrowers who now have fixed rates lower than we ever imagined.

2. We are seeing lower housing prices (a trend which is likely to continue into 2013.) Yes, I know that this is also a mixed blessing at best, but think about it. With underwriting standards so tight, many borrowers could not qualify at all if housing prices had not dropped. Lower prices mean that many home buyers who had been priced out of an accelerating market can actually afford a home (provided that they can navigate the minefield of strict guidelines waiting for them.)

3. We still have access to great programs (for now at least). We have seen a huge number of products go away, but there are still some great loan programs that allow borrowers to qualify for financing. Programs like Fannie Mae's Home Path give borrowers an opportunity to buy a home with conventional financing, a reduced down payment and no mortgage insurance. I just finished quoting a loan on the Home Path investment program with 10% down and no mortgage insurance and a 3.875% fixed rate for 15 years. Although we mourn the loss of some of our past programs, great financing still exists for qualified buyers.

4. 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

Monday, November 5, 2012

For God and Country

Tomorrow is November 6th--a day many of us have been awaiting for several years.  I work in a heavily liberal Democrat district of the United States.  El Paso County, Texas voted for George W. Bush when he ran for his second term as governor, but Bush did not carry the county during his two presidential runs, although he easily carried the rest of the state.  In fact, I cannot remember El Paso County voting for a Republican candidate for president at any time during the past twenty-four years that I have been voting in presidential elections.  But even here, in this stronghold of liberalism, Romney-Ryan signs are appearing throughout the area.  I am also seeing a number of professionally made signs saying some variation of "This is my business; I did build it," coupled with or without Romney Ryan signs.  Yesterday on my way to church I noticed a new banner sign posted at a business that read in part, "I built this business without any help from the government."  That sentence was followed by a crass, unprintable suggestion to President Obama. The tone of the banners and the whispered conversations of my clients who reluctantly tell me that they are not going to vote for Obama indicate to me that there is a huge amount of anxiety, concern and discontentment in the business community and in our society at large.

During the month of October, I wrote a series of posts on various reasons why I am voting FOR Mitt Romney tomorrow and not just Against Barack Obama.  I am completely opposed to Obama's policies--not just in terms of the anti-business practices that he is using to crush the small business community, or the anti-Israel foreign policy that threatens our most important ally in the Middle East.  I am opposed to this "remaking" of America that Obama is determined to impose on all of us.  I stand against this idea that we need to be a socialist nanny state that has no room for God or freedom but plenty of room for an ever-expanding bureaucracy of government that should tell us where to live, what to eat, what to drink, where to work, what we can earn and what we should think. 

Last week, President Obama told his supporters that the best revenge is voting. Revenge for what?  Revenge against whom?  Why does one group of citizens need to plan revenge against another group who disagrees with them politically?  The revenge comments ties in nicely to comments made by White House advisor Valerie Jarrett last week that when the election is over it will be "payback" time for everyone who has opposed this Administration politically.  Of all of the un-American rhetoric that has eminated from the Obama camp over the past four years, these final threats against political opposition have to be a first from our political leaders.  The whole idea of voting for revenge is repugnant; it is the language of an angry, vengeful Administration that has nothing new to offer us and has therefore resorted to bullying and threatening the citizenry.

I will not vote for revenge tomorrow; I do not want revenge.  I want to see freedom expanded, I want to see harmful, abusive regulations turned back, I want to see jobs added, I want to see greater opportunities made available for all Americans.  I want to see the ranks of those on government assistance shrinking as those people who are currently receiving government assistance experience the self-respect that comes only from self-reliance.  I want to see our Bill of Rights defended for all Americans.  I want to see freedom of religion defended so that no one is forced by the government to violate his or her conscience.  I cling to God and guns and Freedom, but I do not do so bitterly as President Obama once derisively commented.  Rather, I cling hopefully to the values and freedoms that founded and built the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth.  Tomorrow I am voting for the Constitution and the rule of law--for the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  That's why tomorrow, I am voting for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and I am praying that across this country tens of millions of other Americans will do the same.  Tomorrow is our decision day; it is our chance to take a stand for God and 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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Do You Want to See Something Really Scary?

Do you remember Twilight Zone--The Movie? I did not see it--my mother was extremely strict and never allowed us to watch horror movies or even light comedy containing anything that smacked of the occult. But I remember my father coming back from a trip and telling us that he had been driving with his nephew on a dark, wood-lined road when his nephew told about the scene from Twilight Zone where a set of characters are in a car at night trying to scare each other. Finally, one of them says to the driver of the car, "Do you want to see something really scary?" When his friend agrees, he turns his face away, and when he turns back he has become a monster who kills the young man who is driving.

If Hollywood were making that movie today, rather than having the actor turn into a monster, the director could just show him the dismal state of the economy and a list of the executive orders, taxes and new rules waiting for Americans in 2013.  When he saw what is looming in front of us, he would die of a massive fear-induced heart attack.

Let's start with the executive orders issued by the Obama Administration.  President Obama has repeatedly complained that our current system which requires that laws be passed by Congress is just too difficult to navigate, so he prefers to run the country by executive order.  Below is a short list of some of the major executive orders which he has signed while President:

UPDATE NOVEMBER 1, 2012:  Yesterday when I initally posted this, I took the executive order list from a popular email that is circulating.  A reader commented that in reality many of these executive orders date back to the Kennedy Administration, although they are still in force and could be used by the president. However, I strive to always be accurate, so I have corrected my list today to include only executive orders signed by the President this year.  Each of these is recorded in the Federal Registry:
EXECUTIVE ORDER 13602 signed March 15, 2012, creates the White House Council for Strong Cities and Communities to implement locally-driven community and regional planning approaches.  Think Federally-driven implementation of Agenda 21 goals for Smart Growth and Sustainable living.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 13603 signed March 16, 2012, gives the federal government via various federal agencies control over all food, agriculture, livestock, farm equipment, all energy, all modes of transportation, all waterways, and all other resources including construction, in case of a national emergency and allows the secretaries of various departments to prioritize and allocate resources in both emergency and non emergency situations.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 13618 signed July 6, 2012, gives the federal government power over all modes of communication in a national emergency.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 13624 signed August 30, 2012, call for increased investment in industrial energy efficiency, allowing federal agencies to set and enforce new standards for manufacturing energy use.   
EXECUTIVE ORDER 13625, signed August 31, 2012, calls for the Federal Government to do a more thorough job assessing the mental health and possible mental instability of our troops and requires that federal agencies enroll 100,000 troops in a comprehensive mental health study no later than December 31, 2012. 
EXECUTIVE ORDER 13626 signed September 10, 2012, designates the Administrator of EPA and the Secretary of Agriculture as additional trustees for Natural Resource Damage Assessment and restoration solely in connection with injury to, destruction of, loss of, or loss of use of natural resources, including their supporting ecosystems, resulting from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. This order will give the EPA power over the areas affected by the Gulf Coast Spill of 2010 (effectively guaranteeing that they will never have any industry or drilling in these areas again.)
FURTHER UPDATE NOV 1.  (This morning Janet Napolitano announced that since Congress has failed to act with a CyberSecurity bill sufficient to meet the needs of the nation, immediately after election day the President will be issuing an executive order restricting the internet.) 

In addition to the executive orders, we have his signature legislative efforts which did pass through Congress--Obamacare and Dodd Frank.  Obamacare imposes taxes and restrictions on freedoms of Americans which we will just begin to experience in January of 2013, such as the new 3.8% tax on the sale of houses.  The taxes, fees and fines of Obamacare threaten individual access to healthcare and the very existence of small businesses nationwide.  And Dodd Frank, one of the scariest pieces of legislation ever passed, is about to produce crippling new regulations that will put homeownership out of the reach of average Americans.

We can expect greater and greater central management of our lives from Washington D.C. as the President forces us out of single family suburban housing and into tiny cramped quarters in the cities as part of "sustainable living."  And we can expect massive new powers bestowed on the EPA which will destroy the coal industry and cripple energy production while causing prices to skyrocket.  These new regulations are ready to be implemented but have been specifically delayed until after the election.

We can also look forward to 2 trillion dollars in tax increases to pay for massive spending and more nationalization of industry as the President campaigns by telling us that he wants to do the same thing for every industry that he did for the auto industry.  (Meaning, I suppose that he wants to take over all businesses and then sell them to foreign entities as he did Chrysler.)

We can expect greater inflation as fuel prices continue to increase, and we can anticipate even higher unemployment so that the ranks of the 23 million already unemployed will swell as more and more businesses shut their doors under the weight of heavy taxes and regulations.  The ranks of the 47 million people on food stamps will also swell, while the number of seniors will begin to shrink as the government rations health care.

And let's don't forget about implementation of the indefinite detention provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.  In September, the Obama Administration was able to get a three-judge panel to overturn the stay previously issued to prevent detention without trial or charges for Americans accused by the government of being threats to national security.  In a second term, we can look for the president to begin to use these broad powers against those he deems "domestic terrorists."

Anyone of the above list could be the subject of its own horror movie.  Taken together, there is nothing I can imagine that is scarier than an Obama second term.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why, as a Small Business Owner, I Am Voting FOR Mitt Romney, and Not Just Against Barack Obama

During the month of October, I have been doing a series on the reasons why I am voting FOR Romney and not just against the current president. The first two installments of this series dealt with why, as an evangelical Christian, I am supporting Mitt Romney.  Last week, I wrote about my reasons as a freedom-loving American for voting for Romney.  Today, I want to list some of the reasons why, as a small business owner, I am voting FOR Mitt Romney and not just against Barack Obama. 

I have been self-employed for 14 and a half years.  In 1998, when I was 27 years old, I cashed in an IRA with a little over $10,000 and opened a mortgage broker company in El Paso, Texas.  My father had been working for another mortgage broker company in town, and he wanted to come into the company too, so we became partners. All we had to work with was the money in the IRA, so every penny had to count.  I found two offices that we could sublease, fully furnished, for $245.00 a month to include utilities.  We could not afford a computer, but the sublease did include a used portable Brother typewriter which we used heavily.  My father and I split the cost of a multi-purpose fax/copy machine.  We filed our incorporation papers as an S corporation in the state of Texas and we were in business. We didn't have a copier, but we had our fax machine for single paper jobs, and I drove to Kinkos several times a week to make copies of the loan packages we were sending out for approval. We did not have a refrigerator, but I brought our lunch and soft drinks to work each day in a Styrofoam cooler. 

In 1998, the Texas home equity law had just been passed, and the overall housing market was pretty healthy, but competition was stiff.  We had to prove ourselves to earn every deal.  We did not have any money for advertising but I knew that through hard work and diligence we could prove ourselves and build a business, and although for the first year and a half we barely made enough to survive, within less than two years we were making enough to lease our own office suite and a copier and to purchase an office-size fridge. Within five years we were able to purchase our own building.  By 2006, half of my family was employed by the company I had started with $10,000.

Owning a business is one of the most work-intensive, grueling journeys that any person can undertake.  In good times, competition is fierce.  In bad times, there is barely enough money to pay the bills.  In all times, a successful small business owner can expect to work long days, week in and week out.  For most of the 14 and a half years that we have had our mortgage company, my normal workday was 10 hours Monday through Friday, and I came to work many Saturdays and Sundays.  Our business is one in which there are strict deadlines--especially since we did primarily purchase transactions in which borrowers had contracts with deadlines that had to be met.  Any additional work that I did in the community, such as the service on boards of various organizations, had to be done outside of those hours.  The borrowers had to be taken care of and their transactions had to be closed in a timely professional manner because our service was the primary commodity that we sold.

Anyone who thinks that all small business owners are rich has never owned a small business.  I am now 42 years old.  I have never owned an expensive car--my last three cars have been Honda Accords.  I have never taken a nice vacation.  The last time I took a week off was in 1998 when my youngest brothers graduated from BYU and I took a week to go be with them in Utah.  Little did I know that I would never be able to have that much time off work again.  Over the past four years, as the economy has continued to crash and mortgage guidelines have tightened until qualifying is nearly impossible, I have seen my income shrink dramatically but my hours in the office have not decreased commensurately.  Our industry has been buried under a tsunami of regulations, paperwork and federal licensure requirements so expensive that I could no longer afford to keep a New Mexico license as well as a Texas license.  I have looked around several times over the last few years with the idea of changing industries because the mortgage industry is such a mess, but everywhere I go I find other small business owners who are being buried under their own sea of regulations and paperwork, or whose businesses are strangling because of the overall poor health of the economy at large.

Small business owners are truly the engine that moves the economy. We are productive because we have to be.  We don't get an "A" for effort or extra credit just for showing up.  We earn our own paychecks with our direct efforts every day or else we shut down.  Our reward for long hours of toil is that we get to come back and do it again tomorrow--we have made enough money to cover our office expenses and keep our homes out of foreclosure.

When I opened my business, I knew that it would be a lot of work, although honestly I was unprepared for the extent of the work and also for the fact that it would never get easier--I naively believed that sacrifices made in my twenties would be made up for with a life of greater comfort later.  But I believed that opening and growing a business would provide security for the future.  My father was fired from his job when I was a teenager, and the horrible financial problems that our family faced redefined many aspects of our lives from that time forward.  As a small business owner, I believed that I was building something unique from which nobody could "fire" me.  I might have individual disagreeable customers who did not like me and who did not come back, but I reasoned that if I worked hard and provided good service, I could build a strong business of repeat customers. I was not intimidated by my competition because I knew that I could compete and carve out a place for myself in this industry and that as long as I maintained a good reputation, I would be able to work. In that I was correct.

What I did not factor in was the runaway government regulations from newly created agencies full of overpaid, bloated bureaucrats that could destroy my industry and regulate me into oblivion and that no amount of hard work, or good service, or good will in the community would make even the slightest difference. And unfortunately, that is exactly what I have seen happen.  This past January, when President Obama illegally appointed Richard Cordray--a recess appointment while the Senate was not in recess--as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he activated all of the massive powers of the CFPB, including the power to finalize new mortgage regulations and forms.  So I sit here today, typing this post and wondering why I invested so many years in building a business that the government could wipe out with a few computer strokes and a 2000 page + piece of legislation called the Dodd Frank bill.

For that reason, I am dedicating today's post to 4 specific reasons that I am voting for Mitt Romney on November 6th.  I am listing them in no particular order.  Any one of these reasons would individually be enough for Gov. Romney to secure my vote; taken together they are very motivating for me:

1. Mitt Romney has promised to fire Ben Bernanke.  I met Ben Bernanke last year when he was in El Paso to meet the troops at Fort Bliss.  As the 2011 Chairwoman of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce I was invited to attend a luncheon round table of small business owners, and I sat next to Chairman Bernanke for about two hours at Carlos and Mickey's Restaurant.  As the small business owners complained that they could not get credit from banks because of new regulations, Bernanke responded smugly that any small business owner being denied credit because of new banking regulations should question the banks further since new regulations do not impede small businesses from getting credit. (Sure they don't.)  For more on this see Lunch with Ben Bernanke Part I. 

Bernanke's Federal Reserve has been the author of regulations which have specifically and purposely destroyed the mortgage industry--discriminating against small business owners and in favor of Wall Street Banks as "legitimate" loan originators, so I am not a fan.  But while his mandates have hurt me, his quantitative easing policies are damaging the entire country.  Right now, as a result of QE3, mortgage interest rates are in the 2.75% range for 15 year fixed mortgages while 30 year mortgages are in the low 3's.  Bernanke claims that quantitative easing does not cost taxpayers any money whatsoever--the Federal Reserve buys Treasury bonds and will resell them when the economy improves.  But in fact, he is hurting taxpayers, because he is buying Treasury bonds from the U.S. Treasury--the taxpayers--at a volume designed to force the interest rates down artificially low, which in turn causes mortgage rates to drop to artificially low levels so that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--also owned by the taxpayers--can make thirty year mortgage loans at 3% interest rates.  Fannie and Freddie (the taxpayers) will be servicing these loans long after interest rates have risen back to normal levels.  Does that sound like a good monetary policy to you?

The Obama Administration would argue that this stimulates the housing market and helps homeowners but I strongly disagree.  In El Paso, where mortgage values never saw the rapid appreciation of other parts of the country and therefore also did not see the degree of depreciation that other areas have experienced, property values continue dropping.  Every home I have had appraised this summer, with one exception, has appraised for less than expected.  Those homes being appraised now which were appraised last summer are appraising lower than they appraised in 2011--not exactly a banner year for real estate. And in my conversations with underwriters from Texas--a state not nearly as hard hit as many others--I have determined that property values are dropping around the state. So quantitative easing is not shoring up property values.

It is also not helping the average homeowner. The people who are refinancing into these historically low interest rates are certainly happy to get the loans, but they don't NEED the loans.  In order to get a refinance with one of these incredibly low rates, borrowers have to have plenty of documentable income, good credit, good assets and equity in their homes.  Borrowers who fit that description already have low interest rates--they are just getting a LOWER interest rate.  Borrowers who are struggling because they are out of work or they can't make their payments must take their chances with a loan modification which they may or may not get.  The legitimate need of many borrowers who really do need help because they are in mortgages they cannot pay due to job loss or reduction of income has given rise to a plethora of frauds and scams as unscrupulous con artists have taken the last savings from those who are desperate in exchange for help that is not coming. And then there are the millions of homeowners who are not desperate--they have not missed any payments and they are not going into foreclosure--but  refinancing to a lower payment would make their lives easier.  Most of them don't qualify under the stringent new requirements. 

While the low interest rates do not impact everyone, the inflation that quantitative easing produces does affect all of us.  From rising food costs, to rising prices of commodities, to rising gas prices, we all feel the effects of inflation.  Those same families who don't experience the benefits of the low interest rates notice that they have much less money every month due to rising prices.  Bernanke and his monetary policies need to go.

2. Mitt Romney will repeal Dodd Frank.  Dodd Frank was sold to the American people as a populist effort to reign in Wall Street and the big banks, but Governor Romney was exactly correct when he said that Dodd Frank was the biggest "kiss" the Wall Street Banks had ever received.  In reality, Dodd Frank discriminates against small businesses and community banks in favor of the Wall Street Banks.  I personally bank at a local bank--as a result of Dodd Frank they closed their mortgage department last year because they cannot comply with the onerous new regulations. From new forms that change disclosure of costs to make bank loans artificially appear less expensive than broker loans, to new forms and procedures required only of brokers, each part of Dodd Frank dealing with mortgages is written to favor the Wall Street banks at the direct expense of smaller competitors.  And the regulations and paperwork that we have seen until now are just the beginning--after the election the qualified mortgages are about to be unveiled which will effectively regulate average American families out of homeownership and which will make it impossible for small mortgage businesses to remain operational.  Like so much of what we have seen from the Obama Administration, Dodd Frank does the exact opposite of what it purports to do--it concentrates wealth and power into the hands of an elite few while stripping everyone else of their opportunity to work and compete in the mortgage industry.

3. Mitt Romney will repeal Obamacare.  I am particularly infuriated when I hear liberals smugly talk about companies with no health insurance as moochers.  In 1995 my mother was in a horrible accident where she was run over by the family van.  Because of the severe financial problems, she had no health insurance and, other than the surgery to repair the extensive damage done which included multiple broken bones, she had virtually no health care.  When we started our business, I knew that eventually I wanted us to have a good health insurance policy.  I had to wait until we were making enough money to pay the premiums, but after we got established our company set up a small business policy with Aetna which provided excellent coverage for everyone employed here.  The business paid 100% of the premiums.  A couple of years ago, we had to let the insurance go because we could no longer afford the premiums, and so now I am uninsured again--not because I don't value health insurance, but because the economic polices of this Administration have made it impossible for me to afford it.  I cannot afford to pay fines in lieu of insurance to a government that is increasingly taking every additional dollar for taxes while regulating more and more strictly how much I am allowed to earn.  If Gov. Romney wins this election and gets the economy moving, I will be glad to go out and purchase health insurance again, but when I buy it and what I purchase should be my decision and mine alone.

4. Last but certainly not least--Mitt Romney understands that small businesses matter.  He said correctly that the policies of the last decade have heavily favored Wall Street corporations over small businesses.  I cannot speak for every industry, but I can certainly affirm that this has been true for my industry.  The fact that he understands this and recognizes that those of us who have small businesses are not going to work the hours we work and make the sacrifices we make only to be buried under regulations and see every extra penny consumed by taxes tells me that he has a proper perspective on the role of business and business owners.

On November 6th, I am going to go to the small, rural polling area where I have voted in every election since I was eighteen and I am going to cast my ballot for Mitt Romney and a straight GOP ticket.  The outcome of this election will determine what my job title is in January of 2013.

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

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Freedom Prayer

A reminder to pray for our nation:

“Lord we come to You tonight to ask for Your forgiveness. The Bible promises that when we seek You, we will find You, if we search with all our hearts.
"Lord we confess that we have not followed Your commands. We have not loved You with our whole hearts--we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  We have not stood for the truth of Your Gospel. We have sat by and said nothing when Your name was blasphemed and mocked. We did not take a stand when we saw Your laws despised.
“We know that many times we ourselves have been among the worst offenders. We have lived sinful lives that are contrary to the word of God. Like Esau, we have traded away our birthright for a little convenience; we have despised this incredible gift of freedom that You provided for us and allowed all of the liberty that our country offered to be trampled down. We have forgotten the words of King David who said that it is better to fall into the hands of God than to be at the mercy of men, and so we now find ourselves living under the rule of a cruel and despotic government who has stolen everything from us and shows us no mercy.
“We know that everything that is happening to us is a result of our bad choices, both individually and as a nation. You gave us the gift of being born into a free nation—the greatest nation the world has ever seen. You gave us a form of government unlike any other that had ever been known by any other people, and we did not value it enough to defend it. 
“For all of these things, Lord, we ask Your forgiveness.  We pray tonight that You will change our hearts so that each of us will begin to love what You love, to hate what You hate and to want what You want. We ask You to save our nation, for we know that the Bible teaches that salvation belongs to our God—no political party, no ideology, no government can save us.  If we don’t find salvation in You, we won’t find it at all.
“Please turn Your face to us again, and give us back our freedom, and restore our country so that we can truly be one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. We ask all these things in the name of Your son, Jesus.  Amen.”

Excerpted from The Planner.

 Alexandra Swann's novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

"'For I know the intentions of my plans for you,' said the Lord, "thoughts of peace and not of evil, so that I may bring you hope in the end.  And when you call on me and (kneel down and pray) before me, And as you love me with all your heart, you shall find me,' said the Lord."  Jeremiah 29: 11-13 as translated from the original by Victor Alexander.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Three More Reasons Why, as a Freedom-Loving American, I am Voting FOR Mitt Romney and Not Just AGAINST Barack Obama

Readers of this blog know that I have been using this month to write a series of posts about why I am voting for Mitt Romney as opposed to simply voting against Barack Obama.  The first two posts in this series, Why, as an Evangelical Christian, I am Voting for Mitt Romney and Not Just Against Barack Obama, and Reason # 8 Why, as an Evangelical Christian, I am Voting For Mitt Romney and Not Just Against Barack Obama told why in the context of my faith I am choosing to vote for Mitt Romney.  Today I am listing three more reasons why from the perspective of a freedom loving American who believes in what our country has to offer, I will be casting my vote for Mitt Romney in a little under three weeks.

I watched the debate between Obama and Romney with a lot of anticipation on Tuesday night.  I think that Gov. Romney did exceptionally well in holding the President accountable for a lot of his actions over the past four years. But other than the heated exchange over Libya, which I know we will get back to in next week's debate, the more interesting part of the night for me was the exchange over high gas prices.  Romney pointed out correctly that when Obama took office in 2008 the average price of gas was about $1.87 per gallon. This week the average price of gas is about $3.70 per gallon, which means that gas prices have doubled during the last four years.  (This is, by the way, not a surprising revelation to all of us who are struggling to come up with the $50.00 we need to fill up our mid-size cars.)  Romney was making the case that Obama's energy policies have failed--if they had not failed, gas prices would be down instead of up.

In what was in my opinion the most asinine response of the entire evening, Obama responded that of course gas prices were lower in 2008--we were heading into the worst recession since the Great Depression and a terrible economy always makes energy prices lower.  In an effort to save Obama from his own rhetoric, moderator Candy Crowley stepped in and asked Obama a follow up question which I think is the real key to this whole issue. She asked the president whether high gas prices were not just the "new normal" for Americans, and he responded that they were.  He also answered that his energy policy includes new mileage standards for cars which will make them more fuel efficient and will use less energy.

This "new normal" question is the true mantra of liberals in the United States.  This phrase actually translates to, "All of the good times are gone, all of the prosperity is gone, and all of the opportunity is gone.  There's nothing you can do about it.  Deal with it."

Aside from the absurdity of pretending that low gas prices are a function of a failing economy--an argument so preposterous that even my 91-year-old grandmother, who is a life-long left-leaning Democrat, knows its ridiculous--this energy policy debate involves a number of issues that no one has mentioned.  First, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the new mileage standards will increase the average price of cars by $3000.00 and the price of some models by as much as $12,000.00 pricing as many as 7 million people out of the new car market. In spite of what liberals pretend, this is not an achievement to brag about.  Millions of people who cannot afford cars mean millions more who will rely on public transit.  And although the new efficiency standards will supposedly save consumers $500 in year in gas for drivers driving 15,000 miles annually, those savings can be eaten up by increasingly rising fuel costs.  The facts are simply this--the Obama Administration pursues an energy policy that makes gasoline increasingly expensive because in order to implement its green agendas Americans have to stop driving.  In March of this year, Energy Secretary Steven Chu made headlines when he testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he would give himself an "A" in his handling of energy policy. While many conservatives shook their heads at his grading system, the truth is that Chu believes he deserves an A because his energy policies are moving the United States in exactly the direction the Obama Administration wants us to go. In 2008, Chu stated that Americans will not change their driving habits unless we have gas prices in the U.S. as high as they are in Europe.  Since green energy and green agendas are a major focus of the Obama Administration, which has squandered $90 billion dollars of U.S. tax money throwing our hard earned dollars at now bankrupt green energy companies, pursuing an energy policy that brings down fuel prices would be counter-productive. It is simply not going to happen.  For more background and perspective on this see Nowhere to Hide--Looking Forward to $9.00 a Gallon Gas.

Mitt Romney has stated that he will approve the Keystone Pipeline--something that Obama will never do for the reasons I have outlined above.  By opening drilling and exploration and lifting burdensome regulations from the coal industries,  Romney will be doing more than creating jobs--he will be allowing us to have access to the energy that preserves our way of life.

The Obama's Administration's war on fuel goes hand in hand nicely with its war on single family housing and home ownership.  When Obama and Biden attack Romney for saying that he wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, they frame the argument as if it is a pro-big business move.  But Romney is exactly right when he says that Dodd Frank was the biggest "kiss" the mega banks have ever received.  The real losers in Dodd Frank are community banks and small businesses and consumers.  Next week I will address these issues from the perspective of the small business owner, but today I want to address some of the impact on consumers.

Many Americans do not realize that we are now just weeks away from new mortgage regulations being unveiled that will regulate most Americans out of homeownership.  When the "qualified mortgage" guidelines are unveiled right after the election, we are going to see new guidelines for down payment and debt qualifications so restrictive that many Americans will never be able to buy a home, sell their existing home or refinance their existing home.  Those restrictions, coupled with new servicing guidelines that force banks to make fewer mortgage loans and implement punitive actions by the government against the mortgage industry, are going to mean that homeownership is going to go from the American Dream that everyone can aspire to, to a privilege of the upper classes only.  Lack of access to mortgage capital is going to leave Americans renting micro apartments under 200 square feet like those currently being built in New York City by Mayor Bloomberg and depending on public transportation wherever they go.  Repealing Dodd Frank is not about giving a pass to financial institutions--it is about restoring freedom and opportunity to the American people.  We are about to see our entire way of life disappear in this country to be replaced by a society where the government tells us where we can live, where we can go, and how we can travel there. 

Without repeal of Dodd Frank we will never have access to the capital we need to make our dreams a reality.  Dodd-Frank cuts off and strangles capital and lending thereby cutting off access to freedom and opportunity.  These new regulations, coupled with trillions of dollars in tax increases that the Obama Administration will impose in a second term, will strip away every opportunity for people to advance, build wealth and acquire assets.  Mitt Romney will repeal this awful, abusive piece of legislation, and that repeal, coupled with lowering taxes, will preserve opportunity and advancement in our nation.  For that alone he has my vote.

Finally, I am voting for Mitt Romney because he reminds us that we don't have to settle for a country in which 23 million Americans are unemployed, 47 million people are on food stamps, business owners can't stay open because of oppressive regulations and gas prices continue to rise. Do we want a financially stable nation, or do we want a nation with $16 trillion in debt where every penny we earn is subject to massive taxes to pay for an ever increasing bureaucracy? While the liberals tell us that the mess we are in is the "new normal" and we had better just get used to it, Romney reminds us that we don't have to live this way.

The 2012 elections are a crossroads for this country.  We are going to determine whether we want to be a free, prosperous nation with private property, private enterprise and opportunity, or whether we want to descend into poverty and socialism where no one has freedom or opportunity.  The ultimate battle here is about more than cars and housing--it is about whether we will pass on to our children a nation with the same opportunities and responsibilities that we inherited or whether we are going to pass on to them a land where their efforts are not rewarded, where they have no hope and no opportunity.

On November 6th, I am voting for Freedom, Opportunity and Prosperity.  I am voting for Mitt Romney.  I hope you will join me.

Read Alexandra's novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, free on Kindle October 17 through October 21st.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her newest novel, The Chosen, about one small group of Americans' fight to restore the Constitution and end indefinite detentions without trial, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at