When Money’s No Object

Last year, Joe Biden campaigned for president on a theme of the United States returning to normalcy, and at least in one regard… we have. Democrats in D.C. are back to spearheading trillions in new spending for initiatives that go far beyond the stated purpose of that spending, while Republicans are again pretending — after the national debt grew by $7 trillion on President Trump’s watch — to be fiscal hawks.

Last weekend, the U.S. Senate voted purely along partisan lines (50-49) to approve Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP), with the bill going back to the House later this week to be finalized. The price-tag of this COVID relief legislation: a whopping $1.9 trillion.

For some frame of reference, that’s larger than the size of Canada’s entire economy.

Needless to say, it sure would have been nice if President Trump hadn’t spent two months suppressing the Republican run-off vote in Georgia by promoting baseless election fraud conspiracies. If the GOP had held the Senate, and been in a more effective position from which to play their part as the loyal opposition, the bill would have looked quite a bit different.

Some of the ARP provisions are certainly defensible as COVID-related assistance and economic stimulus (like direct payments to individuals and vaccine funding), but the legislation is overflowing with wasteful spending that has little (if anything) to do with the crisis at hand.

For example, $86 billion is being spent to bail out long mismanaged union pensions, and $350 billion is being sent to state and local governments to balance their books.

Senator Mitt Romney, in his opposition to the bill, explained the problem with the latter: “There was an assumption states had massive revenue losses associated with the COVID experience, but the data that has come out since then shows many states did not.”

Romney’s right, according to a report from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. While some states in fact have seen large drops in tax revenue during the pandemic, most didn’t. In fact, some even saw increases in revenue.

The biggest beneficiaries of this provision will be local governments with longtime financial problems that had little to do with the health crisis, and a lot to do with bad governance and runaway spending. They’ll be getting big federal bailouts that aren’t conditioned on reforms to fix the problems that put those localities in financial peril in the first place. For example, the ARP will nearly erase San Francisco’s projected $650 million budget deficit, no strings attached.

Another thing the ARP ignores is that the U.S. economy as a whole has strengthened significantly since mid-January, when Biden first announced his plan. While 306,000 jobs were lost in December, the economy added back 166,000 in January and 379,000 in February. The growth has beaten expectations and dropped the U.S. unemployment rate to 6.2 percent.

With the holiday COVID surge over, and vaccine efforts ramping up in a very big way, the outlook for the economy is looking increasingly strong for the foreseeable future… even without the help of more federal stimulus.

Senator Rob Portman made this point in a statement explaining his vote against the bill: “…the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said recently that without any additional stimulus the economy will recover to pre-pandemic levels by mid-year.”

With our economic growth and very promising forecast, there’s no serious non-political rationalization for a rescue package this size, especially when it’s filled with so much waste and non-rescue funding. And it’s coming at a time when our country’s national debt just passed $28 trillion (making it larger than the entire U.S. economy itself). Does anyone care?

Of course, that question is 110% rhetorical. Just about everyone in congress who genuinely did care was either chased out of D.C. (and effectively the Republican Party) over the past four years, or compelled by the altered political landscape to stop caring.

That said, 11 Republican Senators (led by Susan Collins) did put together an alternative bill — one more targeted and less wasteful that would have cost $650 billion. But since the GOP is now the minority party in the Senate, the bill, of course, never stood a chance. And the effort certainly didn’t save Collins and her Republican colleagues from being framed as heartless monsters  — the default progressive reaction to any Republican who votes no on a Democratic spending bill:

Like I said, things are getting back to normal.

Only, the left now has another (rather effective) attack line they can use in these situations:

The most consequental political casualty of the last four years has been fiscal conservatism. The GOP joined the Democrats in rejecting even its mere premise, and they did so purely in the interest of tribal servility.

I’d say, “I hope it was worth it,” but when the prevailing mindset is that money’s no object, that answer — unfortunately — will always be yes.

 


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A Surplus of Indifference on the National Debt

Earlier this week, after meeting and negotiating with congressional leaders from both parties, President Trump proudly announced bipartisan support for (and his endorsement of) a two-year budget deal that raises the debt limit.

The plan removes the automatic budget cuts from the 2011 sequester, and adds a whopping $320 billion in federal spending. This assures trillion-dollar annual deficits moving forward (even if we continue to have strong economic growth), and a 4 percent increase in discretionary spending each year.

If the Tea Party movement were still a thing, this news would have assuredly sent thousands of old guys donning colonial outfits into immediate cardiac arrest. After all, we’re talking about a much larger “stimulus” than even the one Barack Obama spearheaded in 2009 ($787 billion spread out over 10 years).

If you’ll recall, it was that very legislative act that launched the Tea Party movement in the first place.

Times have certainly changed.

After nearly a decade of Republican voters excoriating and punishing Obama, the Democrats, and even prominent leaders of their own party for presiding over far too much federal spending, the base abruptly fell silent on the issue in 2016 (where it has remained ever since).

The timing was by no means random. 2016 was when an unconventional Republican presidential candidate — armed with celebrity charisma, snappy catchphrases, and schoolyard insults — managed to win the nomination on a big-government platform that included an unequivocal refusal to deal with federal entitlement programs (unarguably the largest drivers of our national debt).

With Donald Trump’s takeover of the party came the shocking abandonment of the one position that seemed to unite all base Republicans and conservatives: fiscal discipline.

Prominent media-conservatives, who’d spent the previous few years branding John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Paul Ryan as “RINOs” for failing to achieve sweeping spending cuts in the face of Harry Reid’s Senate majority and Obama’s presidential veto, suddenly decided that fiscal solvency wasn’t all that important after all. Well, not as important as demo viewership, listenership, and readership anyway.

And as the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein pointed out this week, even the small-government Republican hardliners in Congress, who were elected to teach the “Establishment GOP” a lesson in fiscal restraint, quickly turned to jello:

The Freedom Caucus, founded to supposedly represent the Tea Party values of limited government in Congress, has devolved into a PR shop for Trump. Mick Mulvaney, one of the founders of the group, has discounted the importance of deficits as the president’s budget man and chief of staff. And even Rush Limbaugh recently declared that, “Nobody is a fiscal conservative anymore. All this talk about concern for the deficit and the budget has been bogus for as long as it’s been around.”

Limbaugh’s breathtaking hypocrisy aside, the debt issue should be of dire concern not just to people on the political right, but to every American who cares even a little about the quality of life of their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and beyond.

For those of who understood its importance during the previous administration, but somehow no longer do, I would recommend reading Noah Rothman’s sobering piece on the topic. It lays out the gory details: the debt reaching 100% of GDP; accelerated borrowing costs for homeowners, students, and entrepreneurs; investment capital drying up; a significant recession; the collapse of Medicare and Social Security; taxes through the roof; political dysfunction that makes our current landscape look like a well-oiled machine.

The burden we’re placing on future generations is absolutely staggering. Rothman’s piece also explains why voters — not primarily politicians — are ultimately responsible for the looming debt crisis.

In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, Republicans (holding the White House and majorities in both branches of Congress) had their best opportunity in over a decade to finally address this crisis. They squandered it — free to do so because the base and the conservative media let them completely off the hook. And contrary to modern right-wing sensibilities, no amount of asking “Would you rather have Hillary?” and playing whataboutism rhetorical games with the Democrats is going to rectify the situation.

I get that it’s fun to make jokes about how much of our money Democrats want to burn through, but those one-liners fall a bit flat when our current Republican president is on track to preside over more debt-spending than Obama.

The slightly good news is that the debt-ceiling deal still requires congressional approval, and there will probably be some changes to it between then and now. But the fact that a $320 billion increase is the bipartisan, president-approved “compromise,” along with the reality that both parties have effectively purged fiscal conservatism from their platforms, means that those changes will be cosmetic at best.

I hope, when the time comes, we’ll be prepared to explain to future generations why we let political cowardliness ruin their shot at economic prosperity and security. But more likely, we’ll just blame it on the other party.

Did you miss John Daly’s recent trip to the White House? Watch exclusively video of the special event below. Then learn more about his upcoming novel, Safeguard, here.




Only a Culture Battle Can Make Us Care About the Debt

As news outlets reported yesterday, our nation recorded a whopping $100.5 billion budget deficit in October alone (the start of our fiscal year). This is a 60% increase from the previous year, and despite a roaring economy and record-high tax revenue, our government’s spending grew twice as fast as its collections.

President Trump’s first full fiscal year in office gave us a $779 billion deficit (the highest in six years), with future Trump deficits projected to exceed $1 trillion.

Nice work everyone.

I say everyone, because this really is all of our fault. We can point fingers for our nearly $22 trillion national debt at elected leaders and political parties all day long, but these days it’s a perversely disingenuous exercise. The fact of the matter is that we, as a society and culture, simply don’t care about the long-term fiscal health of our nation. We don’t see the ramifications in our daily lives, and we don’t care about the astronomical burden we’re placing on future generations of Americans.

We live in the now, and that has never been more apparent than it is today.

There was a bit of hope just a few years ago, back when Tea Party protestors took to the streets in huge numbers to demand some fiscal sanity in Washington. Angered by government bailouts, a trillion-dollar stimulus, and the Affordable Care Act, conservatives — many for the first time in their lives — made their voices heard. Sure, some of them dressed in silly colonial wear, and their ham-handed rhetoric didn’t always portray them in the best light. But despite all of the criticism and maligning from the media, the Tea Party created a cultural sea-change.

In 2010, just two short years after the Democrats gained majority control of everything in Washington, the Tea Party movement carried fiscally conservative Republicans across the midterm finish line for a stunning retaking of the House. Some of the subsequent GOP-led initiatives, like Paul Ryan’s entitlement reform bills and multiple efforts to stop Obamacare before it fully kicked in, were good. Others, like the government shutdown, weren’t so good. Regardless, voter-backed fiscal discipline was the goal because the culture demanded it.

Of course, there was only so much change the Republicans could produce (despite the insistence otherwise by numerous conservative media figures) with a Democratic president and a Democratic majority still in the Senate. And when the Democrats lost the Senate in 2014, Republican voters were assured that the only thing needed to finally get this country’s fiscal house in order was a Republican sitting in the Oval Office.

And that’s when Republican voters nominated the one presidential candidate (out of 17) who ran on a big-government, big-spending, leave-entitlements-alone platform.

Again, nice work everyone.

In 2018, there is no fiscally conservative major political party. So a few questions need to be asked:

Why did the Republican/conservative base suddenly decide that fiscal discipline wasn’t all that important after all?

Why are trillion-dollar deficits a crisis of epic proportions under a Democratic president, but fine and dandy under a Republican one?

Why aren’t Sean Hannity and his fellow media “conservatives” hammering “runaway spending” like they did practically every day during the Obama era (when $9 trillion was added to our national debt)?

The answer comes back to the culture.

The Tea Party fought more than just a political battle. They fought a cultural one. They identified big-government overreach and unsustainable spending as a dire threat to the American way of life, and they earnestly believed it.

But like most impassioned movements, the intensity fizzled over time. Divided government and the separation of powers don’t often lend well to immediate or even eventual results. This spawns frustration and apathy. Additionally, continual mockery and vilification from detractors with much larger platforms can take a toll on a person’s spirit, and when that spirit leaves, so does the attention. And without the attention and the cohesiveness it naturally brings, a culture battle is no longer really a battle.

In a way, this explains the drawing power of Donald Trump. He frames nearly everything as a culture battle, and he does it with such passion and outrage that he can make anything (even an issue as mundane as an NFL player kneeling for the anthem) seem like a national crisis. He commands huge, consistent media attention for everything he says and tweets (which was true long before he took office), and those in the media who’ve shelved their long-preached principles to prop up and parrot his rhetoric enjoy the same spoils.

But what gives a cultural phenomenon like Trumpism a huge edge over societal movements like the Tea Party is that Trumpism isn’t necessarily tied to results. The endgame often isn’t victory or the betterment of the nation’s health. The endgame is the fight itself.

For example, whether President Trump is in office another two or six years, he will likely never produce his much promised border wall (at least nothing remotely resembling what he campaigned on). And he won’t lose a single supporter because of that failure. That’s because the endgame is the fight.

In Trumpism, there will always be an enemy of the culture standing in Trump’s way, whether it’s the “open border” Democrats, insufficiently loyal Republicans, the media, Mexico, or whoever. And whenever our president doesn’t feel like talking about the wall, he can just take on a different culture battle — like he’s doing this week with “fake news,” claims of election fraud, and liberals causing forest fires in California.

Again, this is how Trump frames such arguments. And as long as he’s “fighting” for something, that’s enough. Sure, he has some significant wins that he can justifiably brag about — victories that any Republican president would have pursued and achieved. Those are great and good for America, but does it matter that Trump is actively defying what was the Republican Party’s top concern for nearly a decade? Clearly not.

If only such a low bar had been granted to the Republican incumbents in Congress who were portrayed as “RINOs” and “squishes” during the Obama era, and suffered primary defeats from GOP voters because they couldn’t get fiscal legislation passed through both Reid and Obama.

I specifically remember people like Laura Ingraham actively campaigning against (and successfully defeating) people like Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for being insufficiently conservative.

Yet, these days, loyalty to Trump is a far hotter GOP primary stance than cutting federal spending, including to people like Ingraham.

Think about that for a second. The party of “small government” now rewards Trump suck-ups over fiscal conservatives.

This is what makes deficit and debt reduction such a hard-sell as a cultural battle these days. The fiscal conservatives who actually care about this issue (and there aren’t many left) expect results. And now that the Right is conditioned to expect only the fight, there’s little appetite to tackle something as politically complicated as the national debt, even though we desperately need to deal with it.

So we won’t deal with it. We’ll instead enjoy our strong economy for the time-being, and talk about “winning,” and “owning the libs,” and totally ignore the fact that our self-proclaimed nationalist president is significantly adding to our country’s most serious national security threat — one that our kids and their kids will have to deal with at great personal expense and sacrifice.

But at least we get to say “Merry Christmas” again, right?

Nice work everyone.

 




America Can’t Afford to Let Trump Be Trump

Over the past couple of months, the public popularity of the Republicans’ tax-cut law has seen a dramatic trend upward. Back in December, only 30% of Americans favored the bill, while 51% viewed it unfavorably. Today, the split is nearly even at 43/44. That shouldn’t surprise many people, as lots of Americans are enjoying larger take-home pay as a result, rather than the “Armageddon” that Nancy Pelosi had promised. One should expect the law’s popularity to continue to rise as pro-rated 2018 paychecks arrive in the mail and wire transfers.

Politically, this should end up helping Republicans, granting congressional GOPers a bragging point in what is expected to be a rough midterm election this November. Right now, Democrats are favored in general ballot polls by nearly ten points.

President Trump should certainly be given some credit, not just for signing the bill into law, but also for largely getting out of the way of the legislation process. Unlike during the healthcare battle, Trump refrained from torpedoing his own party’s legislation with stinging criticism on Twitter and in public appearances, thus letting Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell work their magic without having to take media-fueled fire from both sides (the demagoguery from the Left was bad enough). Trump was prepared to sign whatever bill Congress gave him, and fortunately he was handed a pretty decent one.

It’s fascinating to look back at Trump’s first year in office, purely from a policy standpoint. Legislatively, we saw a remarkably traditional Republican agenda which provided a stark contract from the anti-establishment theme we’d heard so often during Trump’s campaign. Matthew Continetti recently offered an explanation for this in a piece for National Review:

“When Paul Ryan launched his ‘Better Way’ agenda in 2016, the idea was to provide a blueprint for the next Republican administration. The man who would lead that administration was skeptical, to say the least. The Ryan agenda, focusing on health care, taxes, military spending, and welfare reform, was resisted and belittled by Donald Trump’s populist-nationalist supporters. But a funny thing happened when Trump won the presidency. It was Ryan’s priorities that shaped Trump’s first year in office.”

Continetti is right, of course, even if ardent Trump supporters don’t want to admit it. For better or for worse, Trump shelved many of the radical Steve Bannon-approved ideas he ran on (and put forth in his inauguration speech), and instead adopted the agenda of a guy much of his base viscerally hates: Paul Ryan. Healthcare reform was a failure, but tax reform was a success, and the defense sequester has been ended.

Now that we’ve entered year two of the Trump administration, however, it’s becoming clear that the Ryan agenda has about run its course, and the Trump agenda is emerging to the forefront.

While an almost daily-dose of White House drama, and controversial rhetoric from our president (on everything from gun confiscation, to trade wars, to corruption inside our intelligence agencies) continue to drive our news cycle, our looming national debt is now at over $20 trillion.

This is a dire threat to our economy, our national security, and the qualify of life for future generations of Americans. Yet, Trump is holding on to his vow not to reform entitlements — the largest drivers of our debt (by far). Without presidential support, entitlement reform (a longtime Ryan and GOP goal) is a non-starter.

Sadly, deficit spending has actually risen under Trump. In his first year, the president managed to top the $587 billion annual deficit he inherited, and by next year the deficit will reach $1.2 trillion. Within 10 years, it will reach $2 trillion.

Unfortunately, fiscal restraint is neither a guiding principle, nor a topic of particular interest in this Republican White House. This has been apparent in everything from the proposed trillion-dollar  infrastructure bill, to the cost of the border wall (paid by us, not Mexico), to Trump’s $13.5 million in travel expenses (during his first year alone), to his calls for a totally unnecessary military parade (estimated to cost up to $30 million).

Trump has always subscribed to a “the bigger the better” mindset. We’ve known this about him since long before he ever entered the political arena. It’s been a hallmark of the Trump brand for decades, and he has brought that philosophy with him to the presidency (where it’s no longer his money that’s on the line).

This is not a good situation. And as Daniel Hannan points out in a recent piece for the Washington Examiner, it’s happening at the worst possible time:

“What makes this development especially bizarre is that this fiscal incontinence is taking place at a time of strong growth and low unemployment. Supporters of Obama’s splurge could at least argue that he was engaged in pump-priming during a downturn. I never found that a convincing argument, but plenty of Keynesians sincerely believe in it.

Today, though, even that flimsy justification has been ripped away. There is no argument, whatever school of economics you follow, for emptying your nation’s coffers and exhausting its credit during a boom. Sure, the cuts in corporation tax will, over time, yield higher revenues. But in the meantime, where are the spending reductions? Why are conservatives going along with — no, scratch that, why are conservatives enthusiastically cheering — measures that they would recently have condemned as a betrayal of the national interest?”

Now that’s the million dollar question (excuse the pun): Why don’t conservatives care?

They certainly cared when it was President Obama and the Democrats that were driving our country off a fiscal cliff. That’s when the Tea Party movement was formed, rose to prominence, and drove candidates running on fiscally conservative platforms into office. But today, other than from some persistent Trump-skeptics on the right, you don’t hear a lot of dissent — not from the Republican congress and not from the Republican base.

Part of the reason is because Trump won both the Republican nomination and the general election on that big-government, big-entitlement platform. Thus, he has given cover to congressional leaders who’ve long struggled to sell their message of fiscal conservatism to an electorate that just doesn’t grasp (or care about) the ramifications of the size of our national debt.

In other words, if the leader of the party treats it like it’s no big deal, and won with that attitude, why should others in the party put their necks on the line? Why should they take that risk?

At least there’s been a fair amount of push-back against Trump’s ridiculous steel and aluminum tariffs, which are being sold by the president as dealing with a different kind of deficit — a largely irrelevant one known as the trade deficit. The supposed protectionist measure will — by all accounts — benefit very few Americans while hurting virtually everyone with higher consumer costs… all in the name of some abstract definition of balance.

Sounds like something President Obama would have come up with.

But Obama’s gone, and so is nearly every Republican fiscal argument that was used to challenge his policies. For the most part, when it comes to such matters, the Modern Right (in DC, in the conservative media, and in the Republican base) seems content with just letting Trump be Trump.

That proved to be an effective strategy for our president during the election, but when it comes to governance and leadership on the defining issue of our time, it’s a catastrophic mistake. We can’t afford this, and we need to get back to acknowledging that fact.




Bipartisan Indifference on the National Debt

There was an interesting (or at least telling) exchange the other day on Fox News between Greg Gutfeld and liberal commentator, Richard Fowler. It came during a panel discussion on The Five about President Trump’s first year in office. After Gutfeld highlighted some positives, Fowler took a more critical stance, pointing out that the new GOP tax plan is going to add an estimated $1.5 trillion in deficit spending, and that Trump’s infrastructure plans will add more.

“I love it when liberals start talking about debt,” said a sarcastic Gutfeld, referencing the $9 trillion that was added during the Obama era (a roughly 70% increase from the Bush years). “You know, that’s amazing.”

“Republicans used to talk about debt,” Fowler jabbed back. “And then all of a sudden, that went away.”

“We learned from you,” replied Gutfeld (referring to liberals in general). “We learned that debt doesn’t matter.”

And that was the end of the debt discussion. The panel moved on.

Purely from a rhetorical perspective, both men were right. The Democratic party hasn’t demonstrated any real concern over the national debt since the Bill Clinton era, and even a few years of budget surpluses back then (with the help of Republicans) didn’t do much to slow down its growth. And anyone who remembers Obama’s budget proposals over the years knows that if he had gotten his way, the country would have been buried in trillions more.

To Fowler’s point, fiscal restraint was a big part of the Republican and conservative platforms when Obama was in office. It’s what fueled the Tea Party movement, and led to the GOP unexpectedly re-taking the House in the 2010 midterm. Paul Ryan went out on a ledge multiple times to produce entitlement reform bills, some of which made it through the House. Efforts from budget hardliners within the Republican party led to a sequestration and even a government shutdown. Conservative commentators on talk-radio and cable news were in absolute hysterics over the growth of Obama’s debt, never missing an opportunity to point out how the president was mortgaging the futures of our children and grandchildren.

Yet, now that we have a Republican president back in the White House, what are we hearing from the Right in regard to the national debt? Whataboutism …and not much else. 

Adding trillions to the debt is now commonly seen as okay, in large part because the Left has been effective in selling much of the country on the notion that doing so comes without repercussions. But national indifference isn’t the biggest problem here. Liberals and the media have also created the conventional wisdom that pretty much any notable reduction in government spending (aside from on the military of course) will lead to an economic and societal catastrophe in which children will starve by the millions and old people will be tossed out into the streets.

Donald Trump understood this when he was running for president. In sharp contrast with his primary opponents, he borrowed a lot of progressive campaign rhetoric from the Left, promising universal healthcare and vowing not to reform our entitlement programs — the leading drivers of our debt. With the help of some opportunist media-conservatives, Trump substituted economic populism for economic conservatism. He went on to win the Republican nomination and the presidency, and now the will of the American Right to deal with our debt problem is almost nonexistent…despite the fact that we now owe over $20 trillion.

For some perspective, that translates to $63,000 for each U.S. citizen and over $170,000 per tax payer.

You almost get the sense that a lot of Republicans are happy to have the political burden of fiscal conservatism lifted off their shoulders. If they don’t have to talk about meaningful spending cuts, the Democrats are left with one less issue in their arsenal with which to beat them over the heads with.

Sure, the Republicans have proven that they still know how to cut taxes. Letting people keep more of their own money is a good thing. But the tax bill (and any economic growth that may come from it) isn’t going to put a dent in our national debt. This problem isn’t with revenue. It’s with spending.

The Republican party — like the Democrats and most of the country — now seems content with just letting future generations suffer the dire consequences of our excesses. It’s disgraceful and immoral, but in a political era fueled by tribalism and perpetual partisan outrage (rather than sound principles), it’s the kind of thing we should expect.

What’s particularly disheartening about this is that the GOP has blown an extraordinary opportunity this year by not addressing the debt. They have the White House and hold majorities in both branches of Congress.  As far as political capital, President Trump is going to suffer from low approval ratings no matter what he does on policy (his personal conduct continues to assure that), yet his loyal base (probably a third of the electorate) will support him regardless of what he does. He has abandoned plenty of his campaign rhetoric since taking office. He could do it again for the sake of the country, this time on the debt, and lose hardly any backing.

But this isn’t going to happen, not without a cultural sea-change in how Americans view this issue. And that can only come from either bold, honest leadership (the kind you’re not going to find on cable news), or a legitimate fiscal catastrophe that leaves our country in ruin and without choice.

It would be nice to try and avoid the latter.

There are still a few conservative voices out there who are sounding the alarm on this issue. Ricochet.com’s Jon Gabriel is one of them. He writes fairly regular pieces on the topic. I’ll close out this column by presenting a chart Gabriel created that accurately illustrates the situation we’re in, and puts it in some valuable perspective. The chart’s a little out of date (ending with Obama’s tenure), but the current trajectory is essentially the same, and only stands to worsen with the predicted growth of entitlement costs.

Sleep well, America.

Credit: Jon Gabriel, Ricochet.com