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Views on the News

Views on the News*

February 3, 2018

 

Depending who you ask about the success or failure of President Donald Trump’s first year in office, you are likely to either get an earful about all the offensive things he has said as president, or hear about all the “winning,” delivered as promised.  The reason for the dichotomy certainly is related to one’s partisan beliefs; but, perhaps more important is whether the observer is able to separate Trump the Man, from Trump the Manager.  As a man, Trump is brash, turbulent, and lurches from one gaffe to another as he speaks and tweets whatever appears to occupy his mind.  Trump the manager, however, is calculated, driven, and while superficially engaged in squabbles with his opponents, has expertly flouted the D.C. establishment to start a regulatory upheaval unlike anything we have ever seen from a Republican president; including Ronald Reagan.  The reason for Trump’s resounding regulatory successes is no accident.  While critics fully expected Trump to surround himself with inexperienced yes-men meant to do nothing more than fluff his ego, Trump instead modeled his administration as an elite football program; where as head coach he could focus on the big picture, leaving the execution of his vision to talented support staff heading the various agencies and positions within the Executive.  Almost immediately, they quietly went to work.  Mick Mulvaney, while serving in the cabinet as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, also has made quick work of gutting the onerous Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as its interim director. Trump’s pick for Interior Department Secretary, Ryan Zinke, recently announced “revolutionary” plans to reduce the amount of land owned by the federal government, and return control back to states.  Zinke also, from day one, helped open more federal lands to hunters and fishers by eliminating regulatory statutes blocking access to supposedly “public” lands.  Scott Pruitt, picked to head the Environmental Protection Agency, has greatly reduced the agency’s budget and staff, while rolling back Obama-era regulations and muzzling the agency’s inappropriate political posturing about global warming.  At Education, Secretary Betsy DeVos reversed the Obama administration’s “Dear Colleague” letter policy; thereby restoring the Fourth Amendment to college campuses.  These are but a handful of the more public examples of how Trump’s appointees have gone nuclear on D.C.’s regulatory state.  More impressively, they have done so almost completely under the radar as the Mainstream Media chooses to focus its attention on smearing Trump at every turn.  What has been sour grapes for liberals, however, has provided ample cover for a quiet, conservative revolution in the halls of agencies responsible for billions upon billions of dollars in regulatory red tape.  Outside the excellent work of his Cabinet, Trump also deserves credit for Nikki Haley, who has proven to be a fierce and deft ambassador of U.S. interests among the vipers nestled at the United Nations.  Kudos are due Trump as well as for the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, who was perhaps the very best successor to the seat vacated by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.  Then there are also his legislative victories, including a historic tax cut immediately prompting huge corporate investments back into the economy (and into American workforces in the form of bonuses and raises), and killing the odious “ObamaCare tax.”  Together, these wins along with those from his appointees, amount to as much as conservatives could have hoped for in a first year, especially given initial concerns with Trump during the campaign.  To be sure, Trump’s first year has certainly come with its disappointments; for example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ obsession with reviving antiquated Drug War era law enforcement on medicinal and recreational marijuana.  There is room for improvement, such as working with Congress to pass dramatic cuts to spending to help offset Year One’s tax cuts, and yet-to-be-passed legislation enhancing firearms rights (e.g. Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, and the Hearing Protection Act).  Nevertheless, an objective look at Trump’s first year proves that all the “winning” he promised during the campaign, even if in different and surprisingly positive ways than many of us thought, is very real.

(“Trump’s ‘Quiet Revolution’” by Bob Barr dated January 31, 2018 published by Town Hall at https://townhall.com/columnists/bobbarr/2018/01/31/trumps-quiet-revolution-n2441867 )

America was founded to be free and democratic, unlike England with its monarchy and rigid class system.  While classes will always be with us, only in America is class mobility possible and likely.  Over our two-hundred and forty-two years, millions of people have become successful because they were not bound to the economic plight to which they might have been born.  Americans do not care about the state of one's birth; they revere hard work, invention, imagination, and success.  In this country success means having a work ethic, work that one is good at, satisfaction in that work, providing for one's family and the contentment, a form of wealth to be sure, that derives from all of the above.  If our wealthy elites could get over their superiority complex and accept that most of us do not envy them, they might be better citizens, more respectful of the rest of us, better leaders.  Illustrious schools may give those children of the rich and powerful a leg up but they do not guarantee happiness, kindness to others, or generosity of spirit. Their inherited wealth does not guarantee they will be good spouses or parents.  Those children of the very wealthy who are sent off to expensive boarding schools, to the Ivy Leagues, do not necessarily lead happy lives.  Much is expected of such inheritors of wealth and privilege; they must be as successful as their elders, productive in the name of the family.  They must belong to the right clubs, dine at the right restaurants, shop at the right couture shops, hire the right caterers, see the right plays, etc.  Their kids must be accepted to the right pre-school, let alone the right private elementary and high school.  Their kids are pawns in an ugly, cutthroat game of parental bragging rights.  To our millions of self-made successes, kudos, but it still does not make you better than other Americans even if it does make you wealthier.  The not-rich progressive leftists are extremely envious of the very rich, angry that they exist.  These were the Bernie Sanders supporters; Bernie did a good job of filling them with rage against the undeserving rich, socialist that he is.  Obama's and Hillary's supporters were the virtue-signaling left, often rich themselves but generally ignorant of history and the actual policies of the right, the ones that aim to engender self-reliance and smaller government, the policies that would truly empower minorities rather than make them dependent.  Those folks are all about big government, entitlements, mandates, and control of the masses that they disdain.  Most Americans could not care less about the shallow pursuits of the one percent; they just want to live their lives, raise their kids to be good citizens, enjoy their sports, their faiths, their hobbies, and varied pursuits and to be left alone by the government.  They do not want the state or federal government to mandate that their kids need to know about homosexuality and transgenderism in kindergarten or that males can use the girls' bathroom if he/she feels like it.  This is not the stuff of the American heartland which is why those Americans are so hated by the elite denizens of the beltway and the left coast.  These people, our supposed betters who wield power and are able to influence how the rest of us live, very truly believe they are superior beings.  Only they have the correct opinions.  Only they go the right schools, read the correct publications and websites.  Listen to Hillary's speech about Trump supporters as deplorables. That is what they believe.  The left these days is vicious and intolerant.  Leftists no longer even pretend to condone diverse or opposing opinions.  They are demonstrating bad behavior all over the nation with their silly marches.  Conservatives were horrified at what Obama did to this country over his eight years but we did not act out like banshees in the streets.  Our left has surpassed Saul Alinsky's tactics in their campaign to destroy those whom they oppose.  The American left today is fascist.  They intend to dictate to every citizen what they can say, do or think, as they indoctrinate our young people, our elementary through university students, with their radical intolerance.  College students no longer learn about the horrors of communism and fascism, both products of the far left.  They are being trained to be mind-numbed, doctrinaire leftists.  They learn to renounce their country, our Constitution, to abhor themselves if white, to see themselves as a victim and so superior if black, Hispanic, etc. To be a minority in America is to be privileged in one sense, unless one is Asian because they value education and succeed in record numbers.  They are discriminated against for being successful.  Victimhood is a status symbol on American campuses.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to give all illegals free college tuition!  Why is the entire country not sick to death of the left's prioritizing illegal immigrants over our citizens?  It is so obviously all about votes.  If these immigrants were going to be voting Republican, the border would have been sealed up long ago.  The less educated, the more dependent on U.S. government, the better.  They will vote democrat. That is how racist the left is; import millions of third-world immigrants whom we can use and abuse.  The American left today is racist, assuming the inferiority of minorities which is why they court them as dupes and dupes too many have been for decades.  Not until Trump was elected has the black unemployment dropped to its lowest level ever recorded.  The Nation of Islam did not want anyone here to accept the truth of Malcolm X's epiphany: racism is contrivance, a sham invented by the left to disempower African Americans.  Convince them they are inferior, that that they need to be taken care of by the government and the democrats will remain in power forever! Being the racists they are, projection came easy.  It has always been the left that assumes African-Americans need a leg up.  It is conservatives who have always embraced MLK's dictate about the content of character. The left is all about skin color; to the right skin color is irrelevant.  The entrenched members of the D.C. establishment, left and right, inhabit a rarefied world the rest of us cannot imagine.  There is no right or wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral.  Trump has indeed challenged the system; he is winning; and he is draining the swamp, little by little, criminal by criminal.  The revealed corruption of the FBI and DOJ is tragic and largely the responsibility of the Clintons and Obama.  Obama built upon, took his cues from the Clintons, the most corrupt family ever to wield political power in America.  Astonishingly, no one of the left seems to care about how criminal the Obama administration was or how unscrupulous the Clintons have always been.  Their disdain for Constitutional ethics is telling.  No one on the left seems to care about the horrific abuse of power that occurred under Obama.  He effectively turned our law enforcement agencies into a Stasi that spies on its own citizens.  To be sure, there are many wealthy and privileged Americans who are selfless and spend their lives doing good work for their country and for those in need, but they are the quiet ones.  It is the noisy anti-Trumpers that are fit to be tied.  Trump has indeed upset the apple cart of the D.C. elites.  Their bad habits are being exposed, their entitlement mindset, their right to premium healthcare they deny to others, their sense that they are above the law, their belief that only their opinions on all things are "correct."  The Democrats are no longer liberal, they are radical and anti-democratic. This incarnation of the progressive left prioritizes illegal immigrants, including MS-13 gang members, over American citizens.  They value the rights of gays and transgendered persons over all other Americans.  They abandoned working class Americans in favor of racial minorities in the 2016 election, which is why they lost.  They enforce equality by dumbing down education across the board.  Equality of opportunity be damned.  Education is where the elites do have an unfair advantage.  Their privileged kids do read great literature, learn higher math and actual science.  Every one of them knows that man-made global warming is a hoax but they perpetrate it still because they think it will scare "the people" into compliance.  They still travel all over the world in private jets.  The "people" are less likely to drive the SUVs the elites take for granted, the big ones.  The "people" will conserve water, recycle, embrace all the diversity in their communities, etc. unlike our beltway betters.  The very rich do none of those things because they are special.  The people do not envy them one bit; they sometimes pity them; and it is "the people" who made America great.

(“Real Americans vs. Our Effete Elites” by Patricia McCarthy dated January 28, 2018 published by American Thinker at http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/01/real_americans_vs_our_effete_elites.html )

Today’s liberal journalism is motivated by hatred of Donald Trump, and, as a consequence, much of what claims to be “reporting” is ideological propaganda.  Once a generally-honorable profession, today’s political journalism generates heat, but little light. It has become a redundant-meme machine; e.g., Russian Collusion ad nauseam.  The national news all sing from the same tune, an echo chamber repeating identical highlights from that day’s Washington Post and New York Times.  During the Obama years the words to the tune were: Obama is doing wondrous things for America, etc.  But after November 2016, the notes went sour, the voices flat, the lyrics became acidic, the tune caustic, as hate took over.  Hatred of Trump was born the night he won the Presidency, and it lives on.  Most liberal journalists despise Donald Trump because he beat Hillary Clinton.  Their souls continue to vent the emotions they felt the moment Clinton lost.  Many liberal journalists were existentially invested in her victory. To the extent they aimed to facilitate that outcome, they failed.  They continue to bemoan that failure, viscerally, from a gut level.  Much of what is offered as political “news” today in America is intentional propaganda.  The primary target of liberal anti-Trump propaganda is the “marginal man.”  Media propagandists keep in mind that most important man to be reached is the so-called marginal man: that is the man who does not believe what the propagandist says, but who is interested because he does not believe the opposition either; the man who in battle has good reason to lay down his arms. 

In the public venue of political ideology, “…the Undecided—those people whose opinions are vague, who form the great mass of citizens, and who constitute the most fertile public for the propagandist... The Undecided are participants in the life of the group, but do not know what decision to make on problems that seem urgent to them.  They are susceptible to the control of public opinion or attitudes, and the role of propaganda is to bring them under this control, transforming their potential into real effect.”

Liberal media propaganda aims to recruit new anti-Trump lemmings into the campaign to, at least, diminish Trump’s effectiveness as President, or, at most, remove him from office.  Despotism is the enemy of the people, but an unchallenged press trafficking in propaganda is no guardian of democracy.  The true, frontline “guardians of democracy” are the women and men of America’s Armed Forces.  A deeply biased press, whether acting under duress, or voluntarily, enables despotism and, thereby, becomes an enemy of the people.

(“Liberal journalism’s hatred of Trump breeds propaganda” by Lee Cary dated January 26, 2018 published by Cnada Free Press at http://canadafreepress.com/print_friendly/liberal-journalisms-hatred-of-trump-breeds-propaganda )

Once again Democrats seem poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Across the U.S. in an off-year election season, Democrat candidates reaped the benefits of voter revulsion over the incompetence and excesses of Donald Trump.  Democrats won the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia, and gained at least 15 seats in the 100-member Virginia House of Delegates.  The party won a U.S. Senate seat in deep-red Alabama, albeit against a flawed Republican.  But Democrats are making the mistake of counting on anti-Trumpism to carry the party to victory in the 2018 midterm elections and the presidential contest of 2020.  The party desperately needs to develop a positive, uplifting message that doesn’t hinge on Trump-bashing and does capture grassroots attention.  The Democrats must convincingly address people’s concerns about securing affordable health care, educating their children, living in safe communities and finding well-paying jobs in ways that aren’t rooted in fear.  Without a compelling message, the victories of these off-year elections could become a faded memory.  An ABC News/Washington Post in July found only 37% of respondents believed that the Democrat Party “stood for something,” and 52% believed that the party “just stands against Trump.”  The Democrats have no answer for the new tax reform plan.  The Democrats have relied mainly on negative messaging.  There is still time for a Democratic turnabout, but the party needs to act now.  It’s time to bring on the offense rather than the defense.  The Democrats should devise and present appealing alternatives to Republican ideas on climate change, the environment, voting, civil rights, urban and rural poverty, addiction, infrastructure, and immigration.  The Democrat turnabout can only be achieved with new leadership.  The old guard of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who botched the shutdown debate, lack the vision to revitalize the party.  The possibility of a presidential candidacy by Oprah Winfrey has excited many grassroots Democrats.  Winfrey has extraordinary name recognition, a fortune nearly equal to Donald Trump’s, media savvy and a positive public image.  Donald Trump’s victory already proved that a candidate need not have experience in government to win a presidential contest.  The future of the Democrat party is now.  The grassroots understand this simple fact, but the politicians to get back to them with something that works. 

(“Democrats Can’t Survive on Anti-Trumpism Alone” by Allan Lichtman dated January 26, 2018 published by Time at http://time.com/5120377/anti-trump-democrats-2018-midterms/?xid=homepage )

 

Trump’s 2018 Davos strategy was a brilliant stroke: “America is open for business, and we are competitive once again.”  He went on to say: The world is witnessing the resurgence of a strong and prosperous America.”  The core of his message was this: “There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest, and to grow in the United States.”  Trump’s polices, in just one year, have begun to restructure the American economy.  We’ve moved from secular stagnation” (i.e., high taxes, massive regulation, huge government spending, and a disdain for business and investors) to a new private-sector incentive system that rewards success.  By slashing individual and corporate tax rates, providing 100% immediate expensing for plants and technology, and making it easy for big companies who fled our high-tax system to bring the money back home, he has ended the war against business and investment.  More than 250 American companies have announced gigantic investment projects, paid sizeable bonuses to their workforces, increased 401(k) contributions, and raised corporate minimum wages and other benefits.  Now, a roaring stock market, generating $7 trillion in new wealth, provides the only realistic chance of bailing out excessive government-union pensions and benefits, even though these very unions totally opposed Trump’s corporate tax reform.  Meanwhile, new money is circulating throughout the economy to start new companies and re-oxygenate the system.  The post-tax-and-regulatory reform policies of the Trump administration have barely been put in place, yet they’re already benefiting working folks around the country.  Trump’s critics belittled the idea that corporate tax cuts could actually increase wages, but in faster than a New York minute, several million wage earners have already benefitted.  Then there are the know-it-all critics who say there’s no academic evidence to support the view that business taxes matter for the workforce.  With more capital behind each worker there’s greater productivity. And new investment projects raise the demand for workers and their wages.  Regulation is stealth taxation,” Trump said in Davos. “We are freeing our businesses and workers so they can thrive and flourish as never before.”  Also the Trump tax bill ended the ObamaCare individual mandate and opened the door to energy drilling in ANWR.  Then, in Davos, the president offered a fantastic point on the so-called debate over globalism and trade: “As president of the United States,I will always put America first, just like the leaders of other countries should put their countries first also. But America first does not mean America alone.  Trump also said he’s willing to deal on trade, including NAFTA, and perhaps the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but he correctly insisted on reciprocity.  Barriers should be torn down by both sides. Arbitrations must protect America, not penalize it.  He also predicted that the U.S. dollar will strengthen based on America’s resurgence, and that it will remain the world’s reserve currency.  So, America First came to Davos, and to all the multi-lateral globalists and multi-nationalist elites, and these CEOs, bureaucrats, and academics listened carefully to Trump’s words.  Success has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

(“America First Triumphs in Davosby Larry Kudlow dated January 28, 2018 published by Town Hall at https://townhall.com/columnists/larrykudlow/2018/01/28/america-first-triumphs-in-davos-n2440707 )

Igniting economic growth, as the Trump administration’s policies are doing, is not as straightforward as it sounds because it is easy to make spectacular mistakes in judgment if caught in the grip of Keynesian economic theory.  A day after Barack Obama’s 2008 election, the Dow plunged by almost 500 points.  On the day of Trump’s election, the economist Paul Krugman wrote with his legendary overconfidence: “If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”  The Federal Reserve, he added, could not cut rates again to forestall the anticipated recession and the Trump administration would only make matters worse because it was “ignorant of economic policy,” but the Dow soared by 250 points.  Krugman’s basic mistake is that he wants to use monetary and fiscal policy to shift income and wealth away from investment to consumption, or indeed vice versa.  The theory is that only government stimulation can make up for the chronic shortage of private investment, given the general lack of confidence in market institutions.  This approach falsely assumes that some omniscient policymaker knows best how to make and implement a collective decision about the appropriate balance between investment and consumption, but there are several errors with this way of thinking:

·    First, this approach ignores the uncertainty that comes when a government agency makes a policy decision that is later reversed by a change in leadership, such as when Obama succeeded George W. Bush.  The inevitable discontinuities in public policy complicate the efforts of private firms to engage in long-term planning. The resulting uncertainty permeates all market transactions.

·    Second, the Krugman approach insists that major investment decisions in new technologies, roads, bridges and tunnels should be made collectively, not separately, even though each individual has far greater knowledge of his or her personal preferences, which can, if need be, implemented through professional advisors.  There is no dangerous collective action problem from bottom-up decisions that needs to be countered by some supposed government expert.  Even, perhaps especially, on macroeconomic affairs, policymakers should heed the Hayekian injunction that dispersed sources of private knowledge will outperform centralized diktats.

·    Third, many Keynesians belittle the importance of low taxation as a means to drive economic growth.  In truth, capital gains and excise taxes take a chunk out of the gains from a voluntary exchange, which the government then gives to others.  Taxation thus slows down the frequency and velocity of these transactions, resulting in an immediate reduction in output, which can be offset socially only if the taxes in question bolster the sensible infrastructure needed to support these transactions not just more government pork.  The initial round of corporate cuts have already produced the desired effect by spurring repatriation of cash held overseas by American corporations, stimulating foreign investment in search of greater profits, and resulting in wage and employment boosts as companies hire more personnel to fund their anticipated expansions.  One can quibble about the size of these effects, but not about their overall direction.

·    Fourth, the Krugmans of the world overlook the importance of systematic deregulation in the overall scheme of things.  Taxation and regulation should be understood as close substitutes for each other.  Thus, regulations that stabilize business transactions, like those requiring certain transactions that are binding to be in writing and publicly recorded, will generally advance commerce.  Other forms of regulation will block and distort private transactions without producing any offsetting gains.  Changes in the regulatory climate are quickly reflected in overall stock market performance.

Many claim that Trump’s policies stem from his frustration with government intervention into his business affairs.  Private market actors care little about his personal motivation, what they care about is not having to brace themselves for another numbing round of regulation.  Their planning horizons become longer and clearer, allowing them to shift resources from lobbying and compliance work into productive activities.  These early stock market gains will be infectious, as others join the parade.  Ironically, Keynes was right that “animal spirits,” his vivid term for collective social expectations, really matter. The recent climb in GDP, after years of the Obama administration treating slow growth as the new normal, suggests that regulatory policy, not technological limitations, were the greatest obstacle to growth during those lean years.  The contrast between the Obama and the Trump administration is illustrated by some key policy shifts with respect to key government agencies.  Administrative discretion in the Obama years led to aggressive enforcement of statutes and regulations in banking, civil rights, education, environment, finance, labor, pharmaceuticals, and much more.  None of these various sector initiatives can individually have the same global reach as a change in tax or monetary policy, but their cumulative effect does have a huge impact on the overall behavior of private firms.  The Trump administration’s regulatory cutbacks reinforce a global positive perception that no government inspector will come knocking on a firm’s door, demanding to examine documents and interrogate key employees.  It takes no legislative action for the Trump administration to ramp down executive enforcement of existing laws and regulations, just as it took no Congressional authorization to ratchet up enforcement under Obama.  It is, therefore, welcome that Trump officials like Betsy DeVos have not only rescinded some of the worst Obama administration guidelines, such as those concerning Title IX sexual harassment cases, but also have insisted on using a fuller notice and comment system to draft new regulations.  This overall approach pays large dividends.  To take one example, compare the Obama administration’s willful obstruction of the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline with the Trump administration’s approach.  The permitting process lets government administrators either speed up or shut down a particular activity.  In December 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers had approved the Dakota Access Pipeline, only for the Obama administration to flout the rule of law by overriding the Corps’ technical judgment for nakedly political reasons, ordering a full scale environmental impact statement that could easily have taken years to complete, knowing full well that the billions of dollars already invested in the nearly completed pipeline could quickly go to waste.  To its great credit, the Trump administration reversed that decision early on by Executive Order, and allowed the standard approval process to run its course without political intervention.  A year later, the results are clear to see. The pipeline is up and running without a hitch. Its hefty direct revenues are only part of the overall picture.  In addition, the pipeline’s operations have already generated huge environmental benefits by cutting dramatically the amount of oil shipped by rail and truck.  Using dedicated facilities in controlled environments to ship crude oil is far safer than transporting it in these mixed-use modes of transportation.  Secure and reliable shipment also induces drilling companies to increase their levels of production, knowing that their crude oil can go to market.  The higher volume of activity increases the demand for both labor and equipment as new facilities open up in North Dakota.  At the opposite end of the distribution system, cheaper and more reliable energy sources trigger increases in activities in industries too diffuse to catalogue. All the while, the higher profits and wages create additional tax revenues that, wisely used, can improve the physical and social infrastructure that support these activities.  In sum, the decision to open up an essential pipeline facility generates social gains that go far beyond the direct gains to the owners of the venture.  Under the Obama administration, the same process worked in reverse.  The decision to block pipeline approval necessarily produced economic stagnation while increasing the level of environmental risk by blocking new and safer technology.  Given all of this, today’s positive growth cycle should be sustainable to the extent that it rests on productivity gains.  The so-called Keynesian multiplier was thought to be a justification for ramping up public expenditures, many of which were inefficient, but that multiplier effect works far better in the private sector, where there is more assurance that any initial venture will spur new ventures that will in turn generate more positive returns.  The past year has resulted in a fundamental transformation in business expectations, but we should remember that it is only those policies that brought about prosperity that can maintain it. 

(“The Trump Growth Machine” by Richard A. Epstein dated January 29, 2018 published by Hoover Institution at https://www.hoover.org/research/trump-growth-machine )

 

There is so much published each week that unless you search for it, you will miss important breaking news.  I try to package the best of this information into my “Views on the News” each Saturday morning.  Updates have been made this week to the following sections:

·  Family at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/Culture/family.php

·  Homeland Security at http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/dp/homelandsecurity.php

 

David Coughlin

Hawthorne, NY

http://www.returntocommonsensesite.com/