Guess who’s coming to lunch?

The phone call was brief:

“I have a special guest to speak to my employees at lunch today. Can you come over and take a photo for the newspaper?

Normally, I would have thought about it. As sole editor, reporter, photographer and compositor, my time was limited and it was deadline that day at 4 pm.

Yet, without a moment’s hesitation:

I’ll be there!

The Valley Forge Sentinel was a tiny weekly publication in King of Prussia, PA, with a news staff of one.

Arthur S. DeMoss

The man who called me was Arthur S. DeMoss, founder of National Liberty Life, Valley Forge, the firm that revolutionized the business by selling its insurance policies by mail. Art Linkletter was to become its spokesman.

At its peak the DeMoss firm had 1.5 million policyholders. Half the profits went to his missionary foundation, and when he died in 1979, he left $200 million to his charity.

In later years the DeMoss foundation distributed free copies of Power for Living, originally commissioned by the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation to celebrate “The Year of the Bible.” TV commercials ran around the world in the late 90s.

Another DeMoss Foundation project was the 1990s ad campaign with the slogan “Life, What A Beautiful Choice,” an effective and tasteful pro-life campaign.

For the editor of a small newspaper, just getting inside the DeMoss building was appealing. How many computer tapes did he use to store those million plus policies? How big was the staff at this $500 million-asset NYSE mail order firm.

All the questions were answered within minutes after arrival and a handshake greeting from DeMoss.

I’m just so happy that you could come, he said.

We went on a tour, and he showed off his mainframe computers before we entered the lunchroom. I looked for the press table, but there was none. I was the lone reporter.

About two dozen employees stood on one side of the room, waiting for the introductions. DeMoss praised his guest with a soft voice.

The Rev. Billy Graham then captured the room for nearly 30 minutes. He was the great orator at a tiny venue, but treated it like the largest arena. I then interviewed him briefly and nervously

Religion historian Grant Wacker wrote at that time in the mid-1960s, Graham had become the “Great Legitimator”:

By then his presence conferred status on presidents, acceptability on wars, shame on racial prejudice, desirability on decency, dishonor on indecency, and prestige on civic events.

The Reverend’s staff estimated that more than 3.2 million people responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to “accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.”

After Graham left, DeMoss invited me to a party later that afternoon at his house in Bryn Mawr on the Main Line. His estate encompassed 50 acres.

I declined. I had a deadline and needed to write my front-page scoop.

That 25% U.S.A. import tariff on all pickups and fancy SUVs costs you big money, because it stops foreign competition

Yet another truck ad? We just had one – only five minutes ago.

Do you ever wonder why American auto manufacturers rarely run tv ads for passenger cars, yet flood us with massive commercial schedules for pickups and big SUVs?

Follow the money.

For American vehicle manufacturers, the money is in pickups and other so-called light trucks, like SUVs.

25% tariff kept it out of 1966 USA showrooms

The primary reason: virtually no foreign competition, because of a 25% tariff on imported “light trucks” enacted in 1964, as the response to tariffs placed by France and West Germany on importation of U.S. chicken. In short, the “Chicken Tax.”

The tax requires a pickup truck made in Japan or elsewhere – that should sell here for $30,000 – will be hit with a $7,500 (25%) tariff, and instead cost you $37,500.

Only light trucks made in North America are exempt.

Automakers have enjoyed this industry protection from competition for 55 years, and the tariff is still imposed. By comparison, passenger cars only face a 2.5% tariff.

You can’t compete with a 25% price advantage, so foreign manufacturers don’t send light trucks into America, and companies like Chrysler, GM and Ford have near-monopoly control of the market.

U.S. manufacturers make much more profit selling pickups, and have neglected our car market. Most passenger autos sold in American are made by foreign companies – Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, etc.

For the record, other nations impose a 10% tariff on cars we produce, which is another reason for our automakers not to invest in cars, versus light trucks.

So, what’s the big deal that a few pickup trucks made here are very overpriced?

It’s not a “few” trucks.

In 2018 Americans bought 11,786,069 new light trucks, and only 5,488,181 new passenger cars – proof that you can convince the public to drive trucks instead of cars through heavily advertising them and rarely mentioning autos.

To make things worse for consumers, NAFTA allows Mexico and Canada to build cars and light trucks, and then export them to us with no tariffs. The Japanese pickup that faces a $7,500 tariff can’t compete with a Ford or GM truck built in Mexico.

NAFTA means manufacturers can have the best of both worlds – a 25% tariff advantage on their “competitors”, and an underpaid labor force (minimum wage 59 cents an hour) in Mexico to build these trucks.

Fair trade this isn’t.

Remember those 5,488,181 new passenger cars sold in the U.S. last year? Guess where they came from?

  • Mexican plants from 13 automakers produced 4.2 million cars in 2018, the majority of which were imported by the U.S.
  • Mexico also exports 90 percent of its OEM car parts to the U.S.

It’s no surprise that foreign automakers have moved plants to Mexico to allow tariff-free exporting to the U.S. of both trucks and cars.

These are the 39 new car and truck models currently built in Mexico, and exported with no tariffs to the U.S. (all plant and production data is from Automotive News):

  1. Audi Q5
  2. BMW 3-series
  3. Chevrolet Blazer
  4. Chevrolet Cruze
  5. Chevrolet Equinox
  6. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab
  7. Chevrolet Trax
  8. Dodge Journey
  9. Fiat 500
  10. Ford Fusion
  11. Ford Transit Connect
  12. GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab
  13. GMC Terrain (certain models)
  14. Honda Fit
  15. Honda HR-V
  16. Hyundai Accent
  17. Infiniti QX50
  18. Jeep Compass
  19. Kia Forte
  20. Kia Rio
  21. Lincoln MKZ
  22. Mazda 3
  23. Mercedes-Benz A-class
  24. Nissan Frontier (certain models)
  25. Nissan Kicks
  26. Nissan Sentra
  27. Nissan Versa
  28. Nissan Versa Note
  29. Nissan NV200 Cargo
  30. Ram 1500 Regular Cab
  31. Ram 2500/3500/4500/5500
  32. Ram ProMaster
  33. Toyota Tacoma
  34. Toyota Yaris
  35. Volkswagen Beetle
  36. Volkswagen Golf
  37. Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
  38. Volkswagen Jetta
  39. Volkswagen Tiguan

The trend to fewer cars and more trucks on our highways is evident when you compare 2018 to 2017 sales.

 Type 2018 2017 Y-o-Y
Jan.-Dec. Jan.-Dec.
Passenger Cars 5,488,181 6,318,061 -13.10%
Light Trucks-Pickup, SUV 11,786,069 10,912,375 8.00%
Total 17,274,250 17,230,436 0.30%

While nearly all politicians and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce whine about the possibility of President Donald Trump imposing a 5% tariff on Mexico in exchange for more cooperation at the border, not a word on the Chicken Tax.

As usual, the slick characters have found devious ways to trick the system from time to time, avoiding the 25% levy.

For example, Ford – not satisfied with its 25% bonus tariff protection – imported its first generation Transit Connect light trucks as “passenger vehicles” to the U.S. from Turkey. Wikipedia notes that the company:

…immediately stripped and shredded portions of their interiors (e.g., installed rear seats, seat belts) in a warehouse outside Baltimore.

To import vans built in Germany, Mercedes disassembled them and shipped the pieces to South Carolina, where American workers put them back together in a small kit assembly building.” The resulting vehicles emerged as locally-manufactured, free from the tariff.

As you might expect, the new NAFTA set for a vote in Congress this summer, continues to guarantee no tariffs on “light trucks” from Mexico and Canada, while the rest of the world pays 25%.

Employers are getting richer by hiring workers under the table. Politicians fall for the tired scam of “jobs Americans won’t do.”

It was a morning air flight last month in Philadelphia, and I was moving through security at the TSA Pre® line, when the alarm sounded. Pulled aside, I was told to send my wallet and glasses through a conveyor. I couldn’t reach the belt from where I stood, so I asked the TSA agent nearby where to place the items.

Shut up and do what you’re told, he snarled.

Welcome to the world of government arrogance, power and rudeness.

I wondered how I would be treated if I were not an American citizen, who never missed a day of work in 48 years, was never arrested, paid maximum FICA taxes every year, registered for the draft, and even once worked for our United States Information Agency to spread good news about America around the globe?

Life isn’t fair. And today, neither are the rules for citizenship, hassle-free travel, paying taxes or getting a job.

Take the undocumented stranger, paperless person, or whatever new-speak you prefer.

Any foreigner, younger than 21, can claim one of their parents is abusive, and they are given access to a U.S. work visa, driver’s license, even a real Social Security card. They can fly anywhere in the USA, work where they want, and even vote in school board elections in places in California.

If you are under 18 you can claim to be a child (unlike our soldiers, who are men at 17 when they join). That designation means you cannot be sent back across the border and must be released into the United States after 20 days, and be assigned to a person (not necessarily a parent) living in the United States.

If you bring a child with you and claim to be their parent, both of you are released into any one of various cities around the country with free transport provided by bus or plane.

And if you just lie, and don’t attend your hearing years away, the result of this deception is that you get a chance to join the underground economy – meaning no payroll and no income taxes.

Someone who doesn’t pay taxes always costs capitalist employers less than someone who does. Levies like FICA – 7.65% for the employee –  are matched by your employer. If both of you don’t pay FICA, your boss saves 15.3% off your wages. This under-the-table hiring is one major reason that Social Security is fiscally underfunded.

In America, today, what’s good for business is promoted as good for everyone. And nothing is better for generating more profits for owners than lower wages for workers.

Which brings me to Threecard Monte – also called Find the Lady and Three-card Trick – a con game to scam rubes of their money.

The three cards in the real immigration policy are:

  1. A GOP or Democrat politician, who is paid above the table (campaign contributions) and below the table (graft and corruption) to increase the number of workers in the nation to lower wages for the rest of us.
  2. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, dominated by international firms and corporate campaign contributors, which also wants higher unemployment and fierce competition to lower pay scales..
  3. A well-meaning citizen, who is repeatedly told that wages rise when more folks fight for jobs, that working under the table is good for hiring cheap nannies, and that real Americans don’t like to do certain jobs, especially if their hands might get dirty.

The media always picks the #3 card, and tries to convince the rest of us we are all winners.

Want proof of this conspiracy?

Both houses of Congress decided in 2012 that requiring employers to check the Social Security (SS) numbers of their workers, versus the real SS database was just an imposition on business that prevented scooping up as much profit as possible. The Social Security Administration (SSA) had been making these comparisons to W-2 forms since 1993, and notifying problems by mail.

At the time the letters were portrayed as unnecessary regulation. Indeed, how many fake social security numbers could possibly be in play – a hundred employers, maybe as many as a thousand? That’s no big deal in an economy that employs 129 million.

In March, Donald Trump and his new Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Alex Azar, announced that the first warning letters were mailed.

And there weren’t 100 or 1,000.

Some 570,000 employers were informed of W-2 and Social Security information discrepancies. If each company had 20 workers affected, that’s more than 11 million jobs.

The GOP and most Democrats were silent, realizing that voters believed fair employment rules made sense and they wouldn’t agree with protest of a legal procedure.

But the wide-eyed, well-meaning and often fooled – weren’t happy.  Some Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to the SSA last month calling on SSA to stop reporting the errors. Even my old friend, Rep. Dwight Evans, fell for the no-enforcement scam.

But that is the tip of the iceberg. At least these workers paid FICA, even though it didn’t go into any real worker account.

What about the millions who work under the table in construction, hospitality and carrying money and orders to and from lobbyists and Congress? How is the government cracking down on that law-breaking?

In the 12 months ending this March, about 112,000 people were prosecuted for illegal entry or re-entry.

And since many of them were working – legally or with fake papers – how many employers faced prosecution for violating labor laws?

The results were:

  • 85,727 persons were prosecuted for illegal entry to the U.S. during the 12-months ending in March.
  • 34,627 were prosecuted for illegal re-entry in that time.
  • 11 individuals were prosecuted for hiring undocumented workers.
  • 3 received jail time.
  • 0 companies were prosecuted for hiring undocumented workers.

If you wonder who is pushing for more legal and illegal immigration, it’s not like the old days when they brought over the Irish or Polish by the millions to do hard work at low wages with no unions.

Today’s shakers of policy, including immigration, are smooth-talking, lewdly-rich, pretenders of purity, who use a little of their dough in a recipe of financial control, sprinkled with doses of fake concern for humanity.

Enter the Koch Brothers, who together are almost as rich as Jeffrey Preston Bezos.

These big corporate donors to the Republican establishment ($889 million in 2016 alone), have now praised House Democrats’ mass amnesty effort through organizations the Kochs control, including the Libre Initiative and Americans for Prosperity. In a statement praising a recent House vote, the Kochs contended:

Today’s vote to provide a path to permanent legal status for the Dreamers and TPS recipients is a positive step,” Libre Initiative president Daniel Garza said.

The Dreamers know no other home than the United States. Every day they contribute to our economy and communities, but there is one big thing holding them back: the uncertainty around their status. Until and unless the law changes – giving them a way to remain legally in the United States – they remain limited in contributing to America’s success.

We are hopeful that this vote sets the stage for discussions among leaders in both parties, in both the House and Senate. Given the extraordinary level of support for the Dreamers among the American people, this can’t be the end of the discussion. It has to be a new beginning – the start of a discussion about how to move legislation through the House and Senate and have it signed by the president. We are thankful to lawmakers who support this important effort.

The Kochs have indicated they will no longer support Republicans who don’t follow their philosophy of open borders, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, ending all inheritance taxes, replacing the progressive income tax with a sales tax, and halting tariffs imposed by the United States. Democrats who buy in, get the payout.

In a reversal of prior contributions the Kochs (sons of John Birch Society founder Fred Koch) say they will now also fund Democrats who support their philosophy of privatization at all costs.

The next time a candidate promises, don’t look at their party label, or blindly trust what they say. Remember politicians don’t necessarily put all their cards on the table, and what you see is not always what you get.

China’s companies win the race for producing employment giants, dwarfing American firms like GM, Apple or Exxon

Longhua Subdistrict, Shenzhen

When you don’t count Walmart, the largest employers in the world, are in China, not the United States.

And the biggest firms in China are industrial and manufacturing companies, not a low-wage retailer

China National Petroleum (1,636,532), China State Grid (913,546), Foxconn (803,126) and Sninopec (667,799) together employ 4,021,003 workers.

Foxconn is well known in the U.S. for producing Apple phones in Longhua Town, Shenzhen, in the south of China.

Hundreds of thousands of workers (counts vary between 230,000 and 450,000) are employed in the walled campus of Foxconn City, one of many factory locations.

Like America’s Gilded Age company towns, Foxconn Campus includes 15 factories, worker dormitories, four swimming pools, a fire brigade, its own television network, and a city center with company grocery store, bank, restaurants, bookstore, and hospital.

Compare firms like Foxconn to the closest American industrial company – General Electric (313,000) – which has its workforce here and in China, according to a GE document:

GE China houses over 20,000 employees, 30 manufacturing bases, and more than 30 joint ventures, with a presence across 40 cities in the country. It also houses R&D teams in 8 cities in China. In 2017, GE’s orders in China amounted to US $8.1 billion.

One unfair tax advantage to America is that a firm’s China operations can help to avoid paying anything in support of our public needs. Our largest industrial employer may be a good example. The NY Times reported that between 2008 and 2015:

General Electric, International Paper, and PG&E, incurred a total federal income tax bill of less than zero over the entire eight-year period — meaning they received rebates.

But China’s dominance is not just in manufacturing and industrial employment, it far outpaces us in finance.

China has the largest major bank employment in the world: Agricultural Bank of China (491,578), Industrial Bank of China (433,048), China Construction Bank (370,415), Bank of China (311,133), and China State Construction (270,467).

Our largest bank, JPMorgan Chase, has 252,539 workers, many overseas.

These statistics lead to the conclusion that a socialist economic system, like China, does create jobs, even while guaranteeing healthcare and other services – benefits usually only for purchase in America. While China concentrates on increasing factories and employment in its own country, U.S. firms often do the opposite.

Meanwhile, China’s average wage is $12,000 in American dollars, compared to $6,900 in 2011, and $31,000 here. The government also requires employers to provide ten paid holidays, five to 15 paid vacation days, as well as up to 98 days of paid maternity leave, plus paternity leave that varies between 7 and 20 days. Workers must receive 30 days notice of layoffs, and sign an employer/employee contract.

China’s elected and appointed officials have the major voice in determining economic policy on a company-by-company basis. For example, products of China are free of VAT and other taxes when exported to the rest of the world. Imports are always taxed with the VAT, as well as tariffs that can often even double prices.

In the United States, the opposite is true. In recent years both political parties have allowed corporate interests to dictate public policy to government officials. And since corporations own all major media outlets, this corporate capitalism is promoted at all turns.

Most European nations have compromised on near-absolute control of government by corporations (U.S.) and absolute control of corporations by government (China). In varying degrees these countries attempt to blend the best of two economic/political systems.

Americans often cannot afford to pay for nursing homes, drugs, or childcare.

Chinese workers currently have lower pay, stricter working conditions, and face a government that controls most aspects of their lives.

Compromise, anyone, for the public good?

Name Industry Revenue
USD millions
Workers Nations
Walmart Retail $500,343 2,300,000 United States
China National Petroleum Oil and gas $326,008 1,636,532 China
State Grid Electricity $348,903 913,546 China
Foxconn Electronics $154,699 803,126 Taiwan
Tata Group Conglomerate $110,700 702,454 India
Sinopec Oil and gas $326,953 667,793 China
Volkswagen Automotive $260,028 642,292 Germany
Amazon Retail $177,866 566,000 United States
Agricultural Bank of China Financials $122,366 491,578 China
Gazprom Oil and gas $111,983 469,600 Russia
Industrial Bank of China Financials $153,021 453,048 China
Kroger Retail $122,662 449,000 United States
Berkshire Hathaway Financials $242,137 377,000 United States
China Construction Bank Financials $138,594 370,415 China
Toyota Automotive $265,172 369,124 Japan
Ping An Insurance Financials $144,197 342,550 China
Samsung Electronics $211,940 320,671 South Korea
General Electric Conglomerate $122,274 313,000 United States
Bank of China Financials $115,423 311,133 China
Exor Financials $161,677 307,637 Italy
Walgreens Boots Alliance Pharmaceuticals $118,214 290,000 United States
Daimler Automotive $185,235 289,321 Germany
China State Construction Construction $156,071 270,467 China
United Health Healthcare $201,159 260,000 United States
AT&T Telecom $160,546 254,000 United States
JPMorgan Chase Financials $113,899 252,539 United States
Japan Post Holdings Conglomerate $116,616 245,863 Japan
Honda Automotive $138,646 215,638 Japan
CVS Health Healthcare $184,765 203,000 United States
Ford Automotive $156,776 202,000 United States
BNP Paribas Financials $117,375 189,509 France
Costco Retail $129,025 182,000 United States
General Motors Automotive $157,311 180,000 United States
China Life Insurance Financials $120,224 170,517 China
Verizon Telecom. $126,034 155,400 United States
SAIC Motor Automotive $128,819 148,767 China
Allianz Financials $123,532 140,553 Germany
Apple Electronics $229,234 123,000 United States
Total Oil and gas $149,099 98,277 France
AXA Financials $149,461 95,728 France
Royal Dutch Shell Oil and gas $311,870 84,000 Netherlands United Kingdom
Glencore Mining $205,476 82,681 Switzerland
BP Oil and gas $244,582 74,000 United Kingdom
Exxon Mobil Oil and gas $244,363 71,200 United States
McKesson Healthcare $208,357 68,000 United States
Chevron Oil and gas $134,533 51,900 United States
Cardinal Health Pharmaceuticals $129,976 40,400 United States
AmerisourceBergen Pharmaceuticals $153,144 19,500 United States
Fannie Mae Financials $112,394 7,200 United States
Trafigura Commodities $136,421 3,935 Singapore
Workers line up, ready to manufacture Apple phones in China