"Most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be"
A Great Year in Review
We may have had better days as a nation and certainly had worse. We've had more moral presidents and less. But thanks to the news and entertainment media's blind hatred for Donald Trump, I don't believe we've ever had such a disconnect between how American's feel about their country and how it is actually doing. It looks as if most Americans entered the new year in an emotional state somewhere between despondency and rage. Meanwhile here in Realsville:
The Stock Market defied predictions that Trump would trigger a crash with the S&P 500 up 19% for the year, extending the surge that started with his election. One year ago The Beagle advised that stocks remain the best LONG TERM investment and you should stick with them but also to diversify 20 to 40% of stock assets overseas (up 24%) including the scary emerging markets (up 28%). But that stock returns would be much lower for the next eight years than the first eight of the bull market.
That's even more true today as price earnings ratios have expanded further. In times like these, we become smitten by the rewards of stock ownership. . .and forget that those rewards are there only because there is also the risk of loss. Don't try to time the market as NO ONE knows when or how bad the next drop will be, but corrections (10% or more decline) are the norm for mid-term election years.
Economic Growth Accelerated to above 3% for two consecutive quarters--a first for this expansion. Meanwhile, unemployment fell to 4.1% with low inflation, making for an historically low "misery index" of 6.3%--less that half what it was 6 years ago. The black unemployment rate is 6.8%--the lowest ever recorded, Interestingly, the news media (which hounded George H.W. Bush out of office for a weak economy) are now quick to note that the president doesn't really control the economy.
Tax Cuts gave nearly every taxpayer a raise and sets the stage for real spending and entitlement reform if and when Republicans find a negotiating partner.
Deregulation removed 67 Obama era rules while adding only three.
Judicial Appointments have saved (for now) our constitutional democracy and secured (for now) our first freedoms. Considering the fact that a Clinton supreme court would be well on its way to criminalizing the Christian and biological view of marriage, I'm having a hard time understanding why evangelical Christians are accused of being "duped" by Trump. Would we prefer candidates who vote like saints AND behave like them? Of course, but if I can have only one, I'll take the candidate that represents my views, thank you. (You'll note that these charges are usually being leveled by people who voted for actual rapist Bill Clinton twice. And are today's male progressive leaders doing any better in the sexual morals arena? Not even close, if you're keeping score.)
Illegal Immigration is estimated to be down more than 40% in Trump's first year which is highly unusual during times of strong U.S. economic growth.
Internationally, with US assistance, but minimal US casualties, the vilest force on earth was utterly destroyed (along with much of northern Iraq and Syria). Now the incalculable damage from Obama's politically motivated and disastrously abrupt Iraq withdrawal can at least start to be repaired. Still no sign of the war mongering commander-in-chief doomsayers warned us about.
Energy Independence, a pipe dream for decades, will soon be a reality thanks to the Keystone pipeline and exploration innovations from "big oil".
Education Reform, while largely a state matter, is no longer being inhibited by Washington's liberal Democrats and their corrupt interests in protecting our current public school system failing so many.
Violent Crime Fell in 2017 after rising in each of the two previous years (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/us/violent-crime-murder-chicago-increase-.html) and assassinations of police officers dropped from last year's news media fueled levels as well (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/12/28/number-officers-killed-2017-hits-nearly-50-year-low/984477001/).
Still, delusional Democrats will turn out in droves this November while the "low information" voter has been effectively demoralized by the media. This will mean a return of the House to Democrat control. But impeachment won't happen even if they take the Senate, as Democrats believe they can defeat Trump more easily than Pence.
Allegations of mental incompetence tell us much more about the mental state of Trump's enemies than of him. In my medical opinion, could a man who reached to or near the pinnacle of three different sectors of society and weathered a year of the most unfair attacks (according to Jimmy Carter no less) of any modern president without flinching, be schizophrenic? No, but in light of the disconnect between the state of the nation and the nation's mental state, I'm afraid I can't say the same for the rest of us.
Sadly, as Maya Angelou said, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Such feelings, even if divorced from reality, will translate into Democrat votes this November.
A Great Year Ahead (for Aggie Sports)
The Beagle hit and missed in August, predicting Nick Starkel would would be the starter (hit) for another seven or eight win season (hit), but with enough young talent and improvement that Coach Sumlin would be back one more season (miss). Had Starkel remained healthy, it could have played out differently. But what I didn't know (and have since learned) is that Jimbo Fisher was hooked before the season kicked off. Firing Sumlin would not have been feasible after a 10+ win season but was otherwise a done deal. Consider the public comments from A.D. Scott Woodward before the season started and the nationwide search that produced one and only one candidate.
Top coordinators have been hired. The talent is largely in place. The facilities are there. The commitment has been made. Next year will be a step in the direction of our future as national championship contenders.
Similarly, Aggie baseball should be expected to compete for an SEC title and a return trip to Omaha. And don't give up on your Aggie basketball team. While their recent stumbles will keep them from an SEC title in a conference with incredible depth and parity, Coach Kennedy has made the right disciplinary decisions with this team (the failure to effectively address the marijuana problem on the football team was a major factor in their underachievement) and you can expect them to not only make the NCAA tournament but once there, to compete for their own title: "Best Aggie Basketball Team in History"
Beagle Readers Provide Scholarships for Four Salvadoran Children
It's been rewarding doing this blog for the last six years knowing how important conservative Christian values are to our community and nation. But the opportunity to help provide tangible support for the least of these has been the highlight.
In the aftermath of the devastating attack on their ministry, your assistance to the good people of SHIP did not go unnoticed. Here's an excerpt of an e-mail I received from their director after they noticed the extra end of year support:
. . .I continued to ask God, WHY? He told me to just watch and see him get the glory. And then your friends began contributing, and I began to see how God was going to be glorified through this mess. He helped me realize (again) that his work is done because HE is involved. . .God has been glorified and has blessed SHIP through you and others like you. We are forever grateful for your compassion and your action. I have a friend who says, "God doesn't always come when you want him to, but he always comes on time." Thank you for being the one who brought God's "on time" to SHIP and for responding to God and blessing the children of El Salvador. Four children now are assured of a good education. We appreciate your prayers so much; if the final days of 2017 are any indication, 2018 will be miraculous for SHIP and for the least of these. Feliz Navidad y prospero año nuevo from a thankful ministry.
Beagle readers gave or pledged $2,250 to the ministry which I was happy to match through my Donor Advised Fund (more on that below). I suspect more was given by some readers anonymously which I also appreciate (even if you didn't follow instructions!). The total contribution of $5,500 (or more) did not nearly replace the shortfall produced from the professor's act, but it helped. If you would like to provide further assistance in this or future years, go to https://shipinternational.org
Tax Law Changes: Stewardship Needed
In order to ensure that middle class taxpayers received their share of the tax cuts (and thus ensure that the news media would fairly report this--insert laughing crying emoji face here--), the standard deduction was doubled. This means that the number of households better off itemizing deductions will be cut in half.
If you're in this group, allow me to introduce you to the Donor Advised Fund. It has always been a convenient vehicle for transferring appreciated assets from taxable accounts because the full amount of the investment (held 1 year or more) could be deducted in the year it is transferred AND capital gains were avoided entirely. (You sell losing investments to claim a tax deduction, of course)
But it makes even more sense now if you find yourself on the border of itemizing, as you could claim the standard deduction in alternate years giving from your DAF to your church or charities in those years you plan to take the standard deduction. You contribute to your DAF in the years you will itemize. You can contribute to a DAF using appreciated assets or cash--tax deductible either way.
Since only 5% of Americans give 10% or more of their income to any charity, it's safe to assume most Christians don't tithe. But we should. I've discussed previously why I don't believe anything in the New Testament reduces the Biblical expectation to tithe, if not for the sake of His kingdom then at least for our finances: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/study-christians-who-tithe-have-healthier-finances/). A DAF would allow you to continue to give annually without losing the tax deductability of your gifts.
Vanguard has an excellent Donor Advised Fund that requires a 25k minimum. For smaller amounts, I recommend Charles Schwab.
Could Progressives Ruin College Football Too?
The list of things you enjoy in life that progressives are not trying to destroy seems to keep getting shorter. But their attempt to corrupt what was a terrific all SEC college football championship game fell flat. The campaign by the NAALCP to create a white flag waving protest of Trump's attendance was a bust. The best protest they could muster was a single Alabama player giving voice to the moral and intellectual soul of the anti-Trump movement (F--- Trump!).
If by the end, progressives hadn't already switched over to their late night talk shows, they would have instead been treated to a very different message from another Bama player and true freshman offensive MVP joyfully sharing the Gospel to anyone who would put a microphone in his face. Thanks Tua Tagavailoa, college football and America needs you!