The Real American Dream


Money to Burn: A Novel of Suspense


by James Grippando


This week marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the death of two great American heroes—Sgt. Michael Strank and Cpl. Harlon Block, two of six Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima.  A third, PFC Franklin Sousley, was killed in action three weeks later, as the battle came to a close.  The battle of Iwo Jima was the bloodiest in the history of the United States Marine Corp, with almost seven thousand Americans killed and over 19,000 wounded.  More than a quarter of all Medals of Honor awarded to marines during World War II recognized the bravery of men who fought (and in many cases, died) on that Pacific Island. 

The Pulitzer-prize-winning photograph of the marines raising the American flag is probably the most enduring image of the Second World War.  Sadly, other memories—important memories—are fading. 

My father died last year, one of nearly a thousand World War II vets who die each day.  He lived through the Great Depression, stood in breadlines at age eleven, and spent the four best years of his life fighting the worst war the world has ever seen.  I know my eleven-year-old son now cherishes the World War II uniform his grandpa left him.  More than that, however, I hope my son will remember.   

I can’t say I’m optimistic.  Much of my concern arises from a recent experience I had in writing my latest novel, Money to Burn.  As a tribute to my father, a character named “Papa” plays a central role.  It’s a Wall Street thriller, and my father was about as far away from Wall Street as you could imagine—which is exactly the point.  The Greatest Generation is the perfect counterbalance to the greed and self centeredness that nearly destroyed us.  In an early draft, I described Papa as “part of the generation for whom 9/11 was a dark day, but for whom December 7 was the day that will live in infamy.”  The line was cut. 

“Why?” you might ask.  Simple:  Because too many of my younger readers wouldn’t have any idea what I was talking about.

I hated to lose that line, but I agreed to change it to fit the tone of a financial thriller.  The novel, after all, wasn’t about World War II.  The inspiration for the story came to me when, in March 2008—another anniversary to mark this week—a group of powerful hedge-fund managers gathered for a champagne breakfast at a Manhattan restaurant.  They specialized in short-trading—essentially betting that the value of a company’s stock will go down.  They were rumored to have been celebrating the fall of Bear Stearns, the first major investment bank to go the way of the T-Rex and the Dodo bird.   Over the next seven months, I would conduct my research by watching Wall Street implode in real time.  I was writing about short-sellers trading investment banks into oblivion.  Financial media fanning the flames by carelessly spreading dangerous rumors planted by unscrupulous traders.  Mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps landing insurance giants on life support.  Fortunes lost overnight in Madoff-sized Ponzi schemes.  I was writing about the world of high rollers and high finance.

Or was I?

Through it all, the voice that spoke loudest to me was that of a fictional character—the one based on my father.   I wrote most of the outline for Money to Burn while at my father’s bedside in a skilled nursing facility.  After he passed, the novel seemed to write itself.  It was in the later stages of his illness, while reading early pages aloud to him, that I realized how much the crumbling financial world could have learned from a high-school graduate and a D-Day survivor who came home from the war, went to work in a print shop, supported his family, saved enough to retire at age fifty-five, and died with no debt.  Zero.

Yes, I changed the line about 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, I changed it to:  “Papa was part of the generation for whom the American Dream was not just to buy a home, but to actually pay off the mortgage.” 

What a concept.

This week—sixty-five years after the death of those Marines who are now symbols of American bravery—tell your kids about the real American Dream.  Tell them about Iwo Jima and “the day that will live in infamy.”

Shame on you if they don’t remember.

© Copyright James Grippando 2010

James Grippando is a national best-selling author of seventeen suspenseful thrillers in as many years, including Money to Burn, which will debut on the New York Times bestseller list.  His novels are enjoyed worldwide in twenty-six languages.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and not necessarily of Glenn Beck or Mercury Radio Arts, Inc.

Reform Conservatism and Reaganomics: A middle road?

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Senator Marco Rubio broke Republican ranks recently when he criticized the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by stating that “there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker." Rubio is wrong on this point, as millions of workers have received major raises, while the corporate tax cuts have led to a spike in capital expenditure (investment on new projects) of 39 percent. However, the Florida senator is revisiting an idea that was front and center in the conservative movement before Donald Trump rode down an escalator in June of 2015: reform conservatism.

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The "reformicons," like Rubio, supported moving away from conservative or supply-side orthodoxy and toward policies such as the expansion of the child and earned income tax credits. On the other hand, longstanding conservative economic theory indicates that corporate tax cuts, by lowering disincentives on investment, will lead to long-run economic growth that will end up being much more beneficial to the middle class than tax credits.

But asking people to choose between free market economic orthodoxy and policies guided towards addressing inequality and the concerns of the middle class is a false dichotomy.

Instead of advocating policies that many conservatives might dismiss as redistributionist, reformicons should look at the ways government action hinders economic opportunity and exacerbates income inequality. Changing policies that worsen inequality satisfies limited government conservatives' desire for free markets and reformicons' quest for a more egalitarian America. Furthermore, pushing for market policies that reduce the unequal distribution of wealth would help attract left-leaning people and millennials to small government principles.

Criminal justice reform is an area that reformicons and free marketers should come together around. The drug war has been a disaster, and the burden of this misguided government approach have fallen on impoverished minority communities disproportionately, in the form of mass incarceration and lower social mobility. Not only has the drug war been terrible for these communities, it's proved costly to the taxpayer––well over a trillion dollars has gone into the drug war since its inception, and $80 billion dollars a year goes into mass incarceration.

Prioritizing retraining and rehabilitation instead of overcriminalization would help address inequality, fitting reformicons' goals, and promote a better-trained workforce and lower government spending, appealing to basic conservative preferences.

Government regulations tend to disproportionately hurt small businesses and new or would-be entrepreneurs. In no area is this more egregious than occupational licensing––the practice of requiring a government-issued license to perform a job. The percentage of jobs that require licenses has risen from five percent to 30 percent since 1950. Ostensibly justified by public health concerns, occupational licensing laws have, broadly, been shown to neither promote public health nor improve the quality of service. Instead, they serve to provide a 15 percent wage boost to licensed barbers and florists, while, thanks to the hundreds of hours and expensive fees required to attain the licenses, suppressing low-income entrepreneurship, and costing the economy $200 billion dollars annually.

Those economic losses tend to primarily hurt low-income people who both can't start businesses and have to pay more for essential services. Rolling back occupational licenses will satisfy the business wing's desire for deregulation and a more free market and the reformicons' support for addressing income inequality and increasing opportunity.

The favoritism at play in the complex tax code perpetuates inequality.

Tax expenditures form another opportunity for common ground between the Rubio types and the mainstream. Tax deductions and exclusions, both on the individual and corporate sides of the tax code, remain in place after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Itemized deductions on the individual side disproportionately benefit the wealthy, while corporate tax expenditures help well-connected corporations and sectors, such as the fossil fuel industry.

The favoritism at play in the complex tax code perpetuates inequality. Additionally, a more complicated tax code is less conducive to economic growth than one with lower tax rates and fewer exemptions. Therefore, a simpler tax code with fewer deductions and exclusions would not only create a more level playing field, as the reformicons desire, but also additional economic growth.

A forward-thinking economic program for the Republican Party should marry the best ideas put forward by both supply-siders and reform conservatives. It's possible to take the issues of income inequality and lack of social mobility seriously, while also keeping mainstay conservative economic ideas about the importance of less cumbersome regulations and lower taxes.

Alex Muresianu is a Young Voices Advocate studying economics at Tufts University. He is a contributor for Lone Conservative, and his writing has appeared in Townhall and The Daily Caller. He can be found on Twitter @ahardtospell.

Is this what inclusivity and tolerance look like? Fox News host Tomi Lahren was at a weekend brunch with her mom in Minnesota when other patrons started yelling obscenities and harassing her. After a confrontation, someone threw a drink at her, the moment captured on video for social media.

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On today's show, Pat and Jeffy talked about this uncomfortable moment and why it shows that supposedly “tolerant" liberals have to resort to physical violence in response to ideas they don't like.

President Donald Trump has done a remarkable job of keeping his campaign promises so far. From pulling the US from the Iran Deal and Paris Climate Accord to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the president has followed through on his campaign trail vows.

RELATED: The media's derangement over Trump has me wearing a new hat and predicting THIS for 2020

“It's quite remarkable. I don't know if anybody remembers, but I was the guy who was saying he's not gonna do any of those things," joked Glenn on “The News and Why it Matters," adding, “He has taken massive steps, massive movement or completed each of those promises … I am blown away."

Watch the video above to hear Glenn Beck, Sara Gonzales, Doc Thompson, Stu Burguiere and Pat Gray discuss the story.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar brings white fan onstage to sing with him, but here’s the catch

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for American Express

Rapper Kendrick Lamar asked a fan to come onstage and sing with him, only to condemn her when she failed to censor all of the song's frequent mentions of the “n-word" while singing along.

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“I am so sorry," she apologized when Lamar pointed out that she needed to “bleep" that word. “I'm used to singing it like you wrote it." She was booed at by the crowd of people, many screaming “f*** you" after her mistake.

On Tuesday's show, Pat and Jeffy watched the clip and talked about some of the Twitter reactions.

“This is ridiculous," Pat said. “The situation with this word has become so ludicrous."