Since my Ringside Politics radio and TV programs started in 1999, I have enjoyed an annual Thanksgiving tradition of bestowing a “Turkey of the Year” award to the most deserving celebrity or politician. Of course, these are “winners” who distinguished themselves in a particularly foolish way. Previous winners have included filmmaker Michael Moore, former House Speakers John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, President Barack Obama and former New Orleans Mayor, current federal inmate, Ray Nagin.
This year, the list of nominations was almost endless. It has been a political year like no other, but it has been dominated by one person, President-elect Donald Trump. He burst onto the political scene as a businessman and outsider who was tired of the insufferable weight of political correctness. He declared his goal was to “Make America Great Again,” by “draining the swamp” around Washington D.C. and putting “America First.”
It all started on June 16, 2015 before a huge crowd at the Trump Tower in New York City. In his initial speech, Trump claimed that the country needed a wall on the southern border and that Mexico would pay for it. He also lambasted Mexico for “sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Immediately, Trump was labeled a racist and the media started to ridicule his presidential plans. There were also efforts to financially harm Trump’s business empire. His Miss Universe show was dropped by television networks, the first indication that his presidential aspirations would be met with fierce opposition.
In the GOP race, Trump faced 16 seasoned challengers, many of them are members of the Republican Party establishment. These candidates were quick to condemn Trump whenever he made a controversial comment. Many issues arose that gave his opponents fodder. Trump’s statements about Megyn Kelly of Fox News, Senator John McCain, and an Indiana judge presiding over the Trump University legal case caused continual controversy.
After he secured the Republican presidential nomination, there were other controversies such as his statements about a Muslim father who lost a son in the Iraq War, a former Miss Universe and his infamous remarks about women captured on a 2005 tape recording which was conveniently released to deflect from the WikiLeaks disclosures about Hillary Clinton. The icing on the political cake occurred when 12 women came forward to allege Trump sexually assaulted them.
In every one of these incidents, Trump was viciously attacked by the usual collection of news reporters, Hollywood celebrities and liberal politicians. Unfortunately, they were joined by many Republican politicians who were eager to be critical of Trump and unwilling to support his candidacy, even after he secured the nomination.
Former Republican Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush refused to endorse Trump, as did 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney. U.S. Senator and 2008 Republican Party presidential nominee John McCain was among several prominent Republicans who withdrew their support after the 2005 tape was released.
Joining these political leaders was a collection of conservative misfits in the media and political worlds who refused to endorse Trump. This group became known as the “Never Trumpers” and included radio talk show host Glenn Beck, commentators Erick Erickson, George Will and Bill Kristol and Senators Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Many of these individuals bitterly opposed Trump, even though he won the nomination fairly and faced Hillary Clinton, a corrupt liberal, in the general election.
From this “Never Trump” universe, I selected my three Ringside Politics Turkeys of 2016. These were the worst of this motley crew because they were presidential candidates who betrayed their party and reneged on a promise to support the nominee. All 17 GOP presidential candidates signed a pledge to officially endorse the eventual party nominee. Unfortunately, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Ohio Governor John Kasich placed their own political interests in front of their party and their country.
Not only did they make a horrific mistake, but they looked quite foolish in the process. Graham said that “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…….and we will deserve it.” Not quite Lindsey, as Trump won 30 states, plus Maine’s 2nd congressional district, and collected 306 electoral votes, the most won by a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. Jeb Bush who was embarrassed by Trump and famously labeled “low energy” acted like a petulant child and refused to endorse anyone, and indicated he would vote for a third-party candidate.
While Graham and Bush acted poorly, the most egregious political violation of the year was committed by Ohio Governor John Kasich. He not only refused to endorse Trump but later confessed to writing in the name of John McCain as his presidential choice.
Kasich declined to participate in the Republican National Convention which was held in his home state of Ohio. He did not welcome the delegates nor attend any of the events which culminated in Trump’s nomination. He was under the delusion that he was the “most electable” Republican presidential candidate even though he only won one primary in his home state of Ohio. In contrast, Trump won 37 states and four times the number of delegates as his nearest competitor.
In a year of the Trump political revolution, where one candidate defeated the combined forces of the political, business, media and globalist establishment, these three Republican Turkeys did not join the historic party.
Sadly, Graham, Bush and Kasich put their selfish interests first and lost badly. Their only consolation is that they are the clear winners of the 2016 Ringside Politics Turkey of the Year Award.
Billionaire Elon Musk is a brilliant entrepreneur, futurist and visionary. From humble origins in South Africa, Musk has become one of the richest men in the world.
He earned his money through successful high tech ventures such as the first online version of the Yellow Pages, X.com, and another company which he founded and merged to create the incredibly lucrative and transformative online payment site, PayPal.
He eventually became involved in a variety of businesses that are fantastic conceptually, but have problems translating into financial solvency. Musk owns Tesla Motors, which is trying to make the electric car profitable, SpaceX, which is working on a plan to transport humans to Mars and SolarCity Corporation, which is attempting the impossible, turning a profit on solar energy.
What has saved Elon Musk from total collapse has been a very healthy dose of federal government subsidies and contracts. In each of his businesses, Musk is facing product questions and fierce competition.
While Tesla require most customers to travel great distances to purchase and service their vehicles, the Chevy Bolt will soon be available nationwide and will be easily serviced at accessible dealerships.
Musk’s ambitious goals for SpaceX might need to be adjusted after the recent failure of the Falcon 9 rocket. This explosion cost at least $62 million and destroyed a payload including a $195 million Facebook satellite.
It was the second explosion of a SpaceX rocket in the last fifteen months, even after launch delays that have averaged two years or longer. In the process, the explosions also destroyed $118 million in taxpayer cargo.
For the first failure, Musk blamed a vendor for an inferior product and in the last catastrophe, there has been wild speculation about potential sabotage from a rival company including images of an unidentified flying object coming from a neighboring building. An investigation has turned up no smoking gun. While some conspiracy theorists believe that SpaceX was the victim, the American taxpayers are the true victims.
With such a track record, it would seem investors might be worried about the future of SpaceX, but the good news for Musk is that he has healthy government subsidies and contracts to carry him through the tough times. For SpaceX, Musk has reportedly received federal government contracts valued at $5.5 billion, and government subsidies worth $4.9 billion, which also benefit his other two enterprises, SolarCity and Tesla.
Overall, Musk’s companies have accumulated over $10 billion in federal government subsidies and contracts with a very minimal track record of success. Surely, Musk is a dreamer who inspires others to support his fabulous journey, but in a federal government with a debt approaching $20 trillion, the taxpayers are being taken for a ride on a rocket that keeps crashing.
In the private sector, these companies might very well be bankrupt after so many failures, but in the fiscally irresponsible realm of the federal government, the bailouts continue undisturbed. It is time Congress starting exercising their responsibilities for fiscal oversight.
It is time that questions were asked about accountability. Is this the best use of $10 billion? Why should our government play favorites and fund Musk’s enterprises at the expense of his competitors?
SpaceX’s competitor is United Launch Alliance, a collaboration of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. It performed 106 space launches successfully, but at a higher price tag than SpaceX promised. Thus, SpaceX just won its first Air Force contract worth $82.7 million, to launch a satellite in 2018.
Musk is an incredible salesman and has wowed the federal government with his promises and his ability to market his companies. According to Forbes, he is worth $14.3 billion; however, it is time to analyze whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth with these investments.
Incredibly, all three of his heavily subsidized companies have experienced massive delays and none of them are making a profit. Tesla Motors produces cars that can cost up to $115,000. While consumers can utilize some tax breaks and credits to ease the pain of a new electric vehicle, the price tag is still out of reach for most Americans. This is a product with a very limited potential audience, so it is worthwhile to question why the government is investing so heavily in Tesla, including $1.3 billion in government assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy other sources.
To propel the use of solar energy, SolarCity has been the recipient of over $300 million in local, state and federal grants and subsides. With the price of oil and natural gas so low we should not expect this investment to make a profit anytime soon, especially with tax credits for consumers ending in 2017.
If Musk can achieve his dreams of widespread space travel, solar energy use and electric vehicles, he should be applauded. However, this should be accomplished with private sector funding. In this arena, mistakes are costly, but triumphs are handsomely rewarded.
In the world of federal subsidies, a company can fail for years and still receive generous taxpayer funding. It is a symptom of what is wrong in our Nation’s Capital and it needs to be fixed before we accumulate another $20 trillion in debt.