Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Random thoughts

Third party advocates are misguided. A third party will weaken the republic. It is ironic that many of those same people grouse that Obama wants to turn us into Europe. Well nothing will transform us into Europe faster than a third party. The parties would have to mix, match and compromise. One time the link would be between the dems and the 3rd party and then they would fall out and the link would be between the republicans and the 3rd party - just like what just happened in Germany. No what is needed is for the tea party activists to take over both the democrats and the republican parties. Although tea party folks are thought to be right wing republicans, quite a few are democrats who are afraid of all the spending and growth in government power.

Obama is now attacking the bankers. It is bogey man of the month. First it was the doctors accused of treating patients with concern to payment schedules rather than what was best for the patient. Then it was to attack the insurance companies because of their "obscene" profits - even though their earnings per share and profitability put them in the bottom tier of corporations. Next, it was the bankers. All this is just a smokescreen to divert attention from an administration that has failed miserably in its first year. So the president says "we want our money back". He wants to tax the banks who have already paid back their TARP money - except for Citibank.The losses he cites are from the auto companies not the banks. Yet he has not railed against the auto companies and demanded our money back. Speaking of which, we the people should demand the TARP money paid back back. That is we should demand that all the TARP money be returned to reduce the federal debt. Obama is using what was repaid to be new spending. So Mr. President: we want our money back.

I just saw a poll about the president's dropping poll numbers. It seems that 88 percent of democrats and 22 percent of republicans still favor his policies, It used to be that the republican numbers have fallen but the big fall is in the independents. Who are these people that think the president is doing a good job? First, I don't understand why the republican numbers are positive. For all their differences, I do know know of a single republican who favors the takeover of the American economy by the government. So who are these 22 percent? The 88 percent democrat support confirms that there are virtually no moderate or conservative democrats. How else can one explain this number?

True health care reform

As I have written before, Obamacare is not about health care but all about expanding the scope and power of government. The reason why most Americans rejected Obamacare is not because they don't favor reform. They do. They are just smart enough to realize that the government mismanages all its enterprises. They all lose money. Why turn one's health care over to the folks who lose $7 b a year on the post office, who lose on Amtrack, Medicaid and have bankrupted social security. No Americans realize that the government will turn what some think is a bad system to one that is worse and costs more. Americans did not oppose adding 30 million more people to the insured rolls. However, they were opposed to having to pay for the insurance of those 30 million people. So what can be done to improve the system? There is a role for the Federal government. The first is to do something akin to the Reigel-Neal interstate banking act, which removed the barriers erected by the states on interstate bank branching and acquisitions. Removing the barriers erected by the states to prevent competition in health care insurance would mean that policies could be transported across state lines when a person moves, It would mean that a person in one state could buy a policy offered in another state. States should remove all mandates from health insurance policies. That would allow persons and families to craft a policy suitable for them rather than being forced into higher cost one size fits all policies. There should be a nationwide tort reform law. Texas has shown that when there is tort reform, then doctors move in to provide services and costs are lowered. There should be a nationwide pool for those with pre-existing conditions. Those in the pool sould be able to purchase insurance and the pool policies should be subsidized by the federal government. Lastly, one item that is the elephant in the room is that no one address the problem of emergency room use and nonpayment. Lets be blunt. Health care is a good and going to the emergency room and not paying is nothing more than stealing. One would not be allowed to walk away with a TV without paying for it. The same should be true with health care. Since the Feds will go after you like a junk yard dog if you don't pay your income taxes, it should go after health care scofflaws with the same vigor. Just like with delinquent taxes, the terms of repayment would be worked out. Do all of this and costs will come down. Since this makes so much sense there is no hope that any of it will take place.

Why 60?

Isn't it curious that the media reports that if Bernanke is not re-confirmed in the senate that he "will lose his job"? This gives the impression that Bernanke will have to leave the Fed. Not so fast my friends. If not confirmed, he could just go back to being a Fed governor. The governors are appointed to a 14 year term and then the president picks one to serve a four year term as chairman. This is just another indication that the media knows very little about what they report. I was also puzzled as to why Ben Bernanke needed 60 votes to be re-confirmed in the Senate rather than 51. It is because the Senate will debate his confirmation and 60 votes are needed to end the debate. However, when the vote is taken for confirmation it will only require 51 votes to re-confirm. Should he be confirmed? Yes. Why? He has been a sycophant for the Obama administration surrendering Fed independence. Bernanke started campaigning for re-nomination the second Obama got elected. He has given the administration all the liquidity it has needed to expand its spending into the feckless territory. The Fed has loaned money where it has never lent before through establishing all of it lending facilities buying asset-backed securities. It sent billions of dollars to AIG so they could pay off all their big bank creditors rather than have them eat some of the losses. So why re-confirm? Its because the next chairman will be worse. It will be some administration lackey like Larry Summers who will be an extension of the administration and turn the Fed into a branch of the Treasury. However, since if he is confirmed, Bernanke will be in the chairman's seat for four more years. He - and his six Fed governors and 12 reserve bank presidents - can then become more independent and conduct monetary policy for the benefit of the nation rather than the benefit of the president. Why? Because unless this administration starts to slow down spending by attacking entitlements, removing the disincentives embedded in Obama's cap and trade, health care and financial reform agenda, this president won't be in office when Bernanke's next term comes around.

Monday, January 25, 2010



Who said you can't be in two places at the same time?

I have an old dear friend who was a major operative in the Carter White House. He was a Clinton supporter and said that he feared that Obama would be dominated by the Congress due to his lack of political experience. Well he was correct. Every single major legislative initiative has come from the Congress. Cap-and-trade and health care reform were both written in the Congress and Obama embraced them as his own. Members of congress have complained that they were getting little leadership on these issues from the president and no direction. When health care ran into trouble in both houses, there is little evidence that the president asserted a leadership role in resolving them. Rather it appears that he has agreed to whatever was put before him. It is hard to imagine such a hands off approach to what has been called his signature event. People have said that the domestic policy is confused and in a shambles. There has also been major grousing over the administration's foreign policy. In several key areas, the administration has continued the same policies of the previous administration that it had criticized. In others, the president has met with embarrassment and ridicule (Venezuela, China, Iran). The president has appeared to abandoned our allies in Eastern Europe - namely the Poles and the Israelis view him suspiciously. Thus, foreign policy is also confused and in a shambles. So to quote Vince Lombardi "What the hell is going on out there?" I think what we are seeing is a lack of leadership. It is obvious that the president has not laid out his agenda either domestically or internationally. What is the plan? What are the objectives? Where is the leadership? Well I have concluded that he hasn't had the time. CBS News has reported than in his first year, Obama has made 411 speeches, held 42 news conferences, granted 158 interviews, attended 23 town hall meetings, made 42 domestic trips, 10 foreign trips, attended 28 fund raisers, 7 campaign rallies, had 74 meetings with foreign leaders and vacationed 26 days. It is apparent that the toughest job in the administration is being the president's appointment secretary. Instead of leading, the president has remained in campaign mode and abdicated governing to others.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Whew! That was close

Who would have every thought that Massachusetts of all places would rescue the nation from the folly of nationalized health care? As I have written before, the major initiatives of the Obama administration have nothing to do with the problems they purport to address. Cap-and-trade has nothing to do with global warming. It has to do with increasing the power of the government. I have not seen one scientific report that finds that the CO2 emissions that will be reduced under cap-and-trade will have any significant effect on the earth's temperature. Moreover, even if it did, there is considerable debate over whether CO2 is even related to changes in global temperatures. What cap-and-trade does, however, is that it allows the government to pick winners and losers, dramatically increases the tax burden, raises costs to businesses and creates a gigantic slush fund for the government to reward its supporters. Thus, cap-and-trade, under the guise of saving the planet, is simply a way to increase government's power. As bad as health care "reform" is, cap-and-trade is actually worse. The financial "reform" package has nothing to do with the problems that got the nation into financial crisis. There is not a word on reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. There is not a word on asset bubbles. Rather it gives the government a chance to regulate hedge funds which had nothing to do with the crisis. It gives the government more power to regulate banks by limiting their size and creating an anti-bank consumer "protection" agency. Again this legislation just increases the power of the government. As to health care - the second worse piece of legislation in my lifetime (cap and trade is first), it does not reform health care. It does nothing to address costs - with medicare and medicaid spiraling into financial crisis what sane person thinks that the government can control costs? Rather it again simply increases the power of the government. At least for now this folly is dead thanks to 52 percent of the voters in Massachusetts. But the republic is not out of danger. The administration may attempt to backdoor many of the provisions of health care under a different guise. It will try to impose cap and trade via the EPA and it has decided to declare war on the investment bankers and commercial bankers in an effort to divert attention from its agenda to take over all aspects of what was once the freest economy on the planet.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year

Yesterday I was interviewed by one of the local TV stations which wanted to know my new year's predictions. Here is what I said about my 2010 outlook. First, the employment picture will not either improve noticeably or get worse. Granted the recession may be over technically but there is no private sector recovery. GDP is made up of government spending, private consumption and investment expenditures. When you look at the composition of GDP growth, it is mainly in the government sector. Since government spending is financed either through borrowing or taxation, in either event it decreases private expenditures. Government borrowing raises the cost of private funds (crowding out) while taxation decreases the amount the private sector can spend. Consequently, until we see a recovery in private expenditures and investment, we will continue to have little real growth. Moreover, employment will stay stagnant until the uncertainty surrounding this administration is removed. As long as health care is unresolved and cap and trade sits out there, then businesses will not know their costs making it impossible to plan for the future. As a result, even though we have come out of every post-war recession like gangbusters with economic growth of around 6 percent, no one expects growth much over 2 percent for 2010. Second, one result of the recession is to make all of us re-evaluated our choices. My parents were products of the Great Depression. They hated debt. One reason I went to the University of Georgia is because they did not have enough money to send me to Purdue where my big brother was a junior. Since they did not borrow money, I had to go to a place where they could afford the tuition. Well one of the adjustments made during a recession is that households and businesses pay down debt. This is called deleveraging. As households get out of debt they will be reluctant to jump right back in and borrow more. What we will see is less consumer borrowing which translates to slower growth. Third, we have looming out there all of the trillions of dollars that the government has borrowed, printed and spent over the past two years. That has got to result in higher rates of inflation that will further debase our already weak currency. Our government is doing the opposite of deleveraging. Rather it is getting deeper in debt. This started with George Bush who demonstrated the fallacy of compassionate conservatism. We got tax cuts, but a new prescription drug entitlement, war expenditures, two "stimulus" bills and TARP. I wrote after the election that if you liked Bush you will love Obama. Most people thought I was on drugs. Yet one year later it has come to past with more reckless spending, zero fiscal responsibility and zero monetary control. We now have a government without adult supervision and are on the path to financial ruin. Yet I remain optimistic and will detail that optimism in the coming year.

Happy New Year

Happy new year. January 15 is Martin Luther King’s birthday. It is also the birthday of my son Morgan who was born on January 15, 1967 which is also the date of the first Super Bowl. As I have gotten older I have read the history of the civil rights movement. Having lived through it I have come to realize that I have been myopic and what was going on around me was only one piece of the elephant (hopefully not the rear). So I have read books such as Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters and Pillar of Fire; David Halberstam’s The Children. I have given my children copies of Calvin Trillin’s An Education in Georgia in which my experiences I as one of the four first black freshmen (and first male) at the University of Georgia are documented. However, it is interesting to recall the reflections of a white southerner from a small north Georgia town, who may have been the first person to sit next to me in a classroom at Georgia. Previously during my first two years, when I sat down on a row, everyone got up and moved. That white student was Bob McTeer who went on to get a Phd in economics, became the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the president of the Texas A & M system. It seems only appropriate that I reprint from his blog a celebration of Martin Luther King.
From Bob McTeer’s blog

Martin Luther King
January 16, 2006
 Sulphur Springs, Texas
It's an honor to be invited to talk about Martin Luther King on Martin Luther King Day. But, frankly, I don't know why you invited me, of all people. But I accepted your invitation because it is an honor. And it just seemed like the right thing to do.
I greatly admired Martin Luther King, especially in the early years of the civil rights movement, but I've never mentioned that publicly. My invitation must be based on the fact that Dr. McFarland was a previous speaker and did a good job. So, if the president of A&M-Commerce did a good job, then maybe the chancellor would too.
Maybe, but that logic is suspect since university presidents are probably more scholarly than chancellors. That's certainly true in this case. You may not know what a chancellor's job is. I didn't until Mark Yudof, the chancellor of the University of Texas System, explained it to me. He said being chancellor is like managing a cemetery: There are lots of people under you, but most of them aren't listening.
I admired Dr. King, both the man and his work. But I never marched with him, or against him. I was on his side: for desegregation, for an end to discrimination based on race, and for equal rights. I was against separate public bathrooms, separate water fountains, and separate and unequal schools-the most visible signs of discrimination at the time.
I was a supporter, but I watched the civil rights movement on television, as a spectator.
There were no marches or sit-ins in my little town in the foothills of north Georgia. This part of the state had never been plantation country, so we didn't have rich whites and poor blacks. In my little town of Ranger, we only had poor whites. And no blacks at all. 

I attended grade school-it was called grammar school back then-in a three-room schoolhouse in Ranger, Georgia, population about 100, maybe a few more. As I said, there were no black families in Ranger. I went to high school five miles south in Fairmount, which, I believe, had three black families. I remember that because my school bus passed their houses on the way to school. I don't know if they had school-aged kids, but, if they did, they went to the black school in the county seat of Calhoun, 18 miles to the west. Both my grade school and my high school got consolidated away, so now everyone travels 20 miles to Calhoun's consolidated and integrated Calhoun schools.
I just used the term "blacks" and "black families." I trust that's not offensive to anyone. Back then the proper term-and the term Dr. King used-was "negroes." Today it's "African American." Since this is an historical account, I'm using the term that emerged during the civil rights movement.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, about 75 miles south of Ranger, on this day in 1929-77 years ago. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta and studied theology at Boston University. Like his father and grandfather before him, he became a Baptist preacher.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks-who died last October at age 92-refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to whites. (For perspective, this was just over a year after Brown vs. the Board of Education.) 26-year-old Martin Luther King, a local pastor and member of the Montgomery Improvement Association, was drawn into the ensuing bus boycott and, as they say, the rest is history. I was barely 13 at the time, and had been baptized as a Baptist four months earlier in a muddy creek behind Liberty Church outside Ranger. A deep-water Baptist!
I mention my Baptist credentials so I can tell a Baptist joke, hopefully, without getting into trouble:
They say being Baptist doesn't keep you from sinning; it just keeps you from enjoying it. That's why you can probably classify me now as a backsliding Baptist.
On occasion, one might have classified MLK the same way, but that doesn't take away from the greatness of the man, in my opinion. If we set the bar for our role models and heroes too high, I'm afraid we won't have any. You don't have to be perfect to be great.
In an interview years later, they asked Rosa Parks if she kept her seat on the bus because she was tired. She said no, she was just tired of giving in.
MLK emerged from the successful Montgomery bus boycott, which lasted over a year, as a civil rights leader.
He became the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957.
His belief in nonviolent tactics was based in part on Gandhi's teaching, and a trip to India in 1959 strengthened that commitment.
He didn't initiate or lead the sit-in movement (at lunch counters and the like), but he got drawn into it by activists in SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
He was arrested in October 1960, during an Atlanta sit-in, just before the presidential election. John Kennedy called King's wife, Coretta, to express his concern. This attention reportedly helped get King released, and probably helped Kennedy get elected president.
By then, I was a freshman at the University of Georgia and voted for Kennedy in that, my first election-partly because he seemed stronger on civil rights and partly because my Dad had always voted for the Democrat, whoever he was, because, in his words, "Democrats are for the little man." My Dad dropped out of school in the seventh grade to work in the sawmill. He always considered himself a little man. He was a very smart man who was borderline illiterate, and I'm here today because of him.
(But I still don't think it was smart for him to allow his vote to become automatic-to be taken for granted. Especially if it's based on the slogan of a past era.)
That January-on January 9, 1961-the University of Georgia was integrated by two black students: Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter. He later became a doctor in Atlanta, and she made it big in journalism as Charlayne Hunter-Gault on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Hamilton Holmes registered for the psychology class I was taking. As I recall, he sat apart from the other students, and they (that is, we) pretty much ignored him. I wish I could report to you that I went out of my way to make him welcome, but honestly, I felt like I was just barely hanging on myself as a freshman from a tiny rural town in a big university. I didn't do anything ugly. I just didn't do anything, and I was typical. If I was feeling overwhelmed, think how he must have felt.
Looking ahead two years, I sat next to Harold Black in an international trade class. Harold told me he had been the third black student at UGA, and we became classroom friends of sorts.
I stayed at Georgia and got a Ph.D. in economics. He left and got his Ph.D. in economics from Ohio State. He'd told me he'd been subjected to some minor harassment early in his freshman year-people banging on his dorm room door and so on-but it was not too bad. What I admire most about Harold is that he says he has fond memories of his Georgia days and he doesn't hold a grudge. I believe he sent his daughter to Georgia.
[As a footnote, so did Hamilton Holmes, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa, went on to Medical School at Emory in Atlanta, and latter became an ardent UGA supporter. He died in 1995 at age 54. Georgia named a professorship after him in 1999 and named the academic building after him and Charlayne Hunter in 2001, on the 40th anniversary of their arrival.]
Back to Harold Black. At one point, I thought I'd probably lost his friendship when he asked me to sign a petition to bar the ROTC from campus. I declined to do so, but he didn't take it personally. Following several important positions in government, Harold has been in recent years a professor of finance at the University of Tennessee, another one of those schools that wear those awful orange-colored football jerseys. In preparing these remarks, I googled Harold and his picture indicated that he has lost more of his hair than I have.
Harold's asking me to sign the ROTC petition created quite a moral dilemma for me. I wanted to support him as a friend, and, frankly, as a black student in a white school. But I didn't see the connection with ROTC, one way or another. Later on, of course, Martin Luther King presented the country with the same dilemma by bringing Vietnam into the Civil Rights Movement. More about that later.
Charlayne Hunter had a rougher start at the University of Georgia. One night during her first or second week, Georgia lost a basketball game, and as the upset fans piled out of the arena, someone yelled out, "Let's go to Center Myers"-which was her dormitory. A crowd of students and locals gathered there, threw some rocks, broke some windows and made news acting like the redneck idiots they were. My roommate and I were in our room, listening to it on my portable radio. He wanted to go over there and watch-just watch, he promised. I wouldn't go. So he called me a bad name that you can imagine.
After the first couple of weeks, I don't recall much fuss about race or desegregation on the Georgia campus. I graduated in 1963-the year James Meredith entered the University of Mississippi with the help of 5000 federal troops-and won a fellowship to stay at Georgia for graduate school.
When my fellowship ran out in 1966, I became a full-time instructor for two years and didn't leave Georgia until August 1968, about four months after King's assassination at age 39. So his remarkable civil rights career began when I was roughly 13 and ended just before I was 26. Where I was and what I was doing are, of course, not important, but it helps me keep track.
As a civil rights leader, Dr. King had his failures as well as his successes. Through it all, he adhered to a nonviolent approach, despite the urgings of more militant leaders like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael. He achieved a great victory in Birmingham in 1963 when his organization, the SCLC, orchestrated a series of clashes with the police. Remember Bull Connor? The use of police dogs and fire hoses on peaceful protestors attracted much media attention and national sympathy and prompted President Kennedy to introduce major civil rights legislation in June 1963. Kennedy was assassinated that November, and it was left to Lyndon Johnson to get the legislation through Congress the following year.
King's most famous and most-quoted writing was his letter from the Birmingham jail in 1963, in which he defended the use of civil disobedience to unjust laws.
His most famous speech also came in 1963-his "I Have a Dream" speech, following the march on Washington.
Time magazine, fittingly, named him "Man of the Year" for 1963.
1964 wasn't a bad year either: He became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, at age 35.
Voting rights protests and the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, came in 1965. That August, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.
King took a major turn in 1966, moving into a Chicago ghetto and launching a campaign against poverty.
He also became increasingly vocal against U.S. involvement in Vietnam and delivered a strong antiwar speech at Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967.
His antiwar stance attracted more attention from J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, which used bugs and wiretaps to find something damaging.
Dr. King became involved in a Memphis sanitation workers' strike in April 1968. On the evening of April 3, he made the following familiar comments regarding his optimism for the future despite the obstacles that lay ahead.
He said . . .
". . . it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop . . . and I've seen the Promised Land. . . .
I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land."
He was murdered the next day, on April 4, 1968, as he stood on the second-floor balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
He was only 39 years old.
Martin Luther King Day was first celebrated in 1986.
So far I've been summarizing facts that many of you remember, at least vaguely.
It goes without saying that I was, and still am, a great admirer of Martin Luther King.
He was a great man, a great leader, a great orator-right up there with Winston Churchill.
When I taught a weekend mini-course on public speaking at Johns Hopkins University in the 1980s, I assigned his speeches because I considered them some of the most eloquent ever written.
Earlier I said I admired Martin Luther King, especially in the early years of the civil rights movement.
What I meant by that qualification was that in the early years, he was trying to right clear wrongs, to end racial discrimination and demeaning treatment, and promote equal opportunity and respect for all.
His philosophy was to turn the other cheek, despite attacks by thugs with badges and their dogs.
He avoided returning violence that would likely have caused many more casualties and polarized the nation rather than won its support, as he did.
His message was accepted not only because it was right, but also because it was pure and unencumbered by extraneous issues. He fought clear and plain evil in those early years.
I personally thought it was a mistake for him to mix his messages in his later years and put our Vietnam efforts and fighting poverty on the same plane with ending racial discrimination.
Many others and I believed at the time that our cause was noble in Vietnam-that what we were trying to do was right, even if we weren't doing it very well. I think King's position on Vietnam muddied his message on civil rights.
Public opinion on Vietnam after all these years has moved in King's direction. History will probably declare him right on the war, but I still think our cause was noble and that millions of people would have been better off had we won. But in the context of tonight, I just want to offer the opinion that Vietnam diluted King's main message, which was a purer and more righteous message.
Similarly, I also thought it was a mistake for him to take on some of the economic issues that he made part of his movement.
Make no mistake about it: We are all against poverty and unemployment, which were especially severe among his people, and still are to a lesser extent. His goals were and are shared by all people of goodwill.
The problem comes not with the goals of ending poverty and unemployment but with the means of doing so-with the economics.
Good people disagree on that-especially economists, even good economists.
You've all heard the economist jokes.
One is that if you laid all the economists end to end they would never reach a conclusion
My point here is that those who care the most don't necessarily have the best answers. Some well-intentioned remedies end up doing more harm than good.
I would even define economics as the study of unintended consequences.
President Kennedy's assassination left it to President Johnson to get most of the civil rights program through Congress.
Having been Senate majority leader, Johnson was good at that, perhaps too good.
The Civil Rights Act was needed. The Voting Rights Act was needed.
My Dad, in his Truck Stop, needed the Civil Rights Act as an excuse to do the right thing.
But laws have their limits.
You can't eliminate poverty by making it illegal, and you can't achieve prosperity by voting for it.
Attempts to do so generally run afoul of the law of unintended consequences.
Economists generally agree, for example, that legislating higher minimum wages can raise wages for a few while contributing to the unemployment of many.
Getting the incentives right can create a needed safety net for the poor. But getting the incentives wrong can lead to welfare dependency for generations of the poor.
I don't mean to turn this into a polemic on economics.
My point is simply that the drive for freedom and the end to discrimination is probably more successful if it doesn't become part of a larger ideology with unrelated features that weaken the total message.
I don't know what Martin Luther King would say about some of the major issues of today.
But because he was a very intelligent man, I believe his thinking would have evolved with the times, with changing facts and circumstances, and with our better understanding of economic issues.
If he were here today, I think he would say the job is not finished, that more needs to be done.
But I think he would also recognize the enormous progress that has been made.
I think he would caution his people against thinking of themselves as victims-even though they have been victims-and urge them to take responsibility for their progress and prosperity.
It takes time. Usually generations.
I'm relatively prosperous. I have a good job.
But I can't take much of credit for that. Most of the credit goes to my Dad, the seventh grade dropout who quit school to work at the sawmill.
From the time I can remember, he told me I had to go to college so I wouldn't have to work as hard as he did.
I assumed I had no choice in the matter.
He saved enough money to start a gas station and saved enough there to build a truck stop, which is where I grew up-raised by my folks and long-haired waitresses.
The truck stop was successful enough to send me to college before Interstate 95 bypassed it and drained off its business.
We are all poor until someone steps up and, with sheer will, decides to break the cycle of poverty.
Government safety nets are needed to catch us if we fall, but we can't depend on them to help us soar.
That depends on us, with the help of our family and friends.
Martin Luther King was a great man. A great leader.
He gave his people freedom and dignity and a more level playing field.
He gave his people a beginning toward the good life.
I'm not sure what a 77-year-old Martin Luther King would say if he were here tonight.
But with more eloquence than I could ever muster, I think he would say something like the following to his people:
Don't forget the past, but don't dwell on it.
Continue to seek justice, but look inward and to God for the strength to move onward and upward.
Don't use the past as an excuse for failure in the future.
Use the past as an incentive to break the cycle of poverty through education, dedication and hard work.
Take responsibility for your own progress and success.
What I will leave you with tonight is that I hope we in the Texas A&M University System can help in the noble quest.
We have nine universities-not as many flavors as Baskin- Robbins, but enough to meet diverse needs.
The closest is Texas A&M Commerce, but they are all in Texas.
We have Texas covered.
We are proud that a high percentage of our students are first-generation college students, just as I was.
We want to help.
I can't think of a better way to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday than to be here with you tonight.