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Right-to-Work Withstands Legal Challenge

The Free Press WV

Last week I wrote about the ongoing legal battle over West Virginia’s right-to-work law. The headline was, “Right-to-work arguments in WV go on… and on.”

I was wrong… because that was before the state Supreme Court issued its decision overturning the lower court’s preliminary injunction preventing the right-to-work law from taking effect.

The majority opinion by Justice Menis Ketchum and the concurrence by Chief Justice Allen Loughry left no avenue for a possible appeal and no room to suggest they might be convinced that the right-to-work law is unconstitutional.

First, Ketchum established this is a legislative matter not a judicial one. “Whether a law is fair or unfair is not a question for the judicial branch of government,” he wrote.  But then he went on to make clear his belief about the union argument.

“Twenty-seven other states have adopted right-to-work laws similar to West Virginia’s, and the unions have not shown a single one that has been struck down by an appellate court,” Ketchum wrote.

Chief Justice Loughry was even more direct.  “In absence of any legal authority supporting its constitutional challenge and in the face of United States Supreme Court holdings undermining their (the unions’) position, the respondents’ (the unions’) action fails on all fronts.”

Justice Robin Davis dissented and will issue a separate opinion and Justice Margaret Workman concurs in part and dissents in part and also reserves the right to issue her opinion.  However, the lean of the majority of the court—Loughry, Ketchum and Beth Walker—is clear.

The case is now remanded back to Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey for a final hearing.  It would be wise for her to heed the not-so-subtle criticism from the court.

Justice Ketchum wrote in a footnote, “Because of the far-reaching effect of Senate Bill 1 (the right-to-work bill) and its potentially substantial impact upon the public interests, in the future, we encourage the circuit court to act with greater celerity in bringing this case to a resolution.”

Chief Justice Loughry was again a little more direct. He called Judge Bailey’s issuance of the injunction “inexplicable” and added, “I further encourage the circuit court to assiduously avoid further delay and grant this matter its foremost attention.”

The unions may continue their legal challenge, and Judge Bailey may even make an ill-advised ruling contrary to the strong message from the high court, but from a legal perspective this issue is settled.  Right-to-work opponents should put their efforts into changing the make-up of the Legislature or the Supreme Court if they hope to prevail on this issue.

How We Are Failing the Founders

The Free Press WV

Opinion polls consistently show that we hold the institutions occupied by our elected officials in low regard.  The latest Gallup Poll shows Congress with just a 16 percent approval rating.  President Trump’s approval rating hovers at around 40 percent.

Gallup finds the U.S. Supreme Court fares better with 40 percent of Americans saying they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the institution, but 56 percent says they have only some or very little confidence.

We grouse and ask what our government leaders are doing wrong, and that’s fair. We need to hold our public officials accountable.  We are less willing to hold the mirror up to ourselves, but that would be a worthwhile exercise.

A new survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center finds that for all the complaining we do, many of us don’t know much at all about the targets of our discontent.  For example:

–More than a third of those surveyed (37 percent) can’t name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.  About half do know that freedom of speech is included, but only 15 percent could identify freedom of religion and just 14 percent could identify freedom of the press (10 percent could name right of assembly and 3 percent knew right to petition.)

–Only 26 percent of those surveyed can name all three branches of government. One third could not name any of the three branches.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, said the findings do not bode well for us.  “Protecting our rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome.”

So often we hear the clatter of, “I know my rights,” but as it turns out, most Americans really don’t.

Chris Stirewalt, Fox News Political Editor, writes that after reviewing the poll, “you cease to wonder why things are so bad and begin to wonder why they are not already worse.”

We witness the animosity toward the so-called “elites,” but as Stirewalt concludes, “it’s easy to be an intellectual elite in a nation where not even half of the people know what kind of government they have… This should be cause for deepening alarm.”

If Senator Byrd were alive today, he might be shedding a tear for us.  After all, it was Byrd who so revered the Constitution that he always carried a dog-eared copy in his breast pocket and successfully convinced Congress to make September 17th Constitution Day.

(The day is being marked today this year because the 17th fell on a Sunday and one of the purposes of Constitution Day is to study the document in public schools.)

Byrd, writing in his autobiography said, “Only with a citizenry that understands its responsibilities in a republic such as ours can we ever expect to elect office-holders with the intelligence to represent the people well, the honesty to deal with people truthfully, and the determination to effectively promote the people’s interests and preserve their liberties, no matter what the personal political consequences.”

This is our charge, not only on Constitution Day, but every day.

Who Is Ignoring The Science On Climate Change Now?

The Free Press WV

There’s hardly time for the winds to die down and the flood waters to recede before the “climate change” mantra is repeated.  CNN and MSNBC seemed particularly whetted to linking climate change to the storms.  Anchors wondered when the hurricanes would prompt President Trump to take the threat more seriously.

The Charleston Gazette editorial page rarely misses an opportunity to link bad weather to global warming.  “These evils (hurricanes and drought-fueled wildfires) fit precisely scientific warnings of what to expect from global warming.”

Well, not exactly. Climate alarmists are always saying they are relying on science, so what does the science say about these hurricanes?

A report released August 30 by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it’s too soon to make the connection between rising global temperatures and the storms.

“It is premature to conclude that human activities—and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming—have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global cyclone activity,” according to the researchers.

The report does say there is a possible linkage between Atlantic hurricane activity and Atlantic sea surface temperatures, but it’s inconclusive. They do warn that if the connection does exist there could be a significant increase in big storms. But NOAA adds that there is little statistical evidence to suggest that will actually happen.

NOAA researchers say that if greenhouse warming does cause an increase in Atlantic hurricane activity then we should have had an increase in the number and intensity of storms starting in the late 1800’s, but that hasn’t happened.

“We find that… there is a small nominally positive upward trend in tropical storm occurrence from 1878-2006. But statistical tests reveal that this trend is so small, relative to variable in the series, that it is not significantly distinguishable from zero,” according to the study.

The ongoing study of the impact of human activity on the climate is critical.  It’s illogical to think that the activities of 7.5 billion people are not having an effect on the planet. However, it’s also important to de-politicize the debate and consider the science.

NOAA’s researchers asked this specific question: “Have humans already caused a detectable increase in Atlantic hurricane activity or global tropical cyclone activity?”  The answer, for now at least, is that it is premature to conclude that.

That conclusion is not a denial of climate change; it’s just the opposite. It’s an acknowledgment of what the science does actually say about human activity and hurricanes.

Right-to-Work Arguments in WV Go On… and On

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia legislature passed a bill during the 2016 regular session making West Virginia a right-to-work state. Governor Tomblin vetoed the bill, but the House and Senate overrode the veto and the law went into effect July 01, 2016.

However, nearly 15 months later West Virginia is still not a right-to-work-state.

The state AFL-CIO challenged the law in court and in August 2016, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the law from being enforced.  State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey challenged the court order and finally last week the state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case.

The high court should rule soon, but that won’t be the end of it.  The issue before the court is whether the circuit judge’s temporary order blocking the law should stand.  Regardless of how the Justices rule, it’s likely that a court fight over the merits of the right-to-work law is ahead.

Labor argues the law is unconstitutional because it is tantamount to an illegal taking since a union may have to represent a worker even if that worker does not join their organization or pay dues.  “Our contention remains as strong as it was the day we filed this lawsuit in 2016 that this law is an unconstitutional taking of property rights from local unions and their members,” said AFL-CIO President Josh Sword.

Sword is right that the union will have to represent all employees at a workplace whether or not they join and pay dues, but only if the union acts as the exclusive bargaining agent.  If the union chooses to have that exclusive representation–which carries with it a considerable amount of power and benefits–then under federal law it must represent all employees.

If the union does not wish to be the exclusive bargaining agent, then it can operate with a “members only” arrangement where it represents only dues-paying workers who willingly join the union.

These and related issues have already been adjudicated a number of times in many of the 28 states that have adopted right-to-work laws. West Virginia’s law is not substantially different from these other cases to warrant it being tossed out, unless a judge or a court here makes that call for political reasons.

For years, West Virginia was not a right-to-work state because Democrats controlled the legislature. That has changed and the Republicans wasted no time passing the bill and even overriding a gubernatorial veto.

Whether or not West Virginia is a right-to-work state is a public policy decision to be debated and voted upon by the people’s representatives.  That process was followed and the courts should recognize that while the unions are upset, their arguments do not justify overturning the legislature’s will.

September 11, 2001

The Free Press WV

Sixteen years ago this morning our country was changed forever. Nineteen Islamic extremists hijacked four airliners to carry out horrific and nihilistic attacks against the United States.

Those attacks killed more than 3,000 innocent people while damaging the Pentagon—the epicenter of the country’s military—and destroying the twin towers—the very emblems of commerce in the heart of one of the world’s great cities.

The New York Times editorial following the attack began this way: “Remember the ordinary, if you can. Remember how normal New York City seemed at sunrise yesterday, as beautiful a morning as ever dawns in early September.”

And for a long time we could not contemplate the normal.  The attacks were so sudden, so dreadful that we were shaken to our core. Would we ever be able to return to the innocence of our safe routines again?

Of course in time most of us have.  There has been physical and emotional healing, and that’s a testament to our strength and resolve.  We go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Only then do we learn to live with the loss.

It is remarkable that life for most of us has largely become ordinary again. The fact that it can be this way is a tribute to the human spirit and a brave and relentless effort by this country’s defenders to try to prevent another attack.

We know the date when our war on terror began, but there is no end in sight.  The threat is constant and the enemy is often vague. Traditional modes of security are not enough.  As we have witnessed here and around the world, an individual radicalized on the Internet can wreak havoc by driving a truck through a crowd or going on a shooting rampage in a nightclub.

Tragically that is part of the new normal, and these lone wolf attacks are incredibly difficult to prevent.

Think about this freshman class of college students.  They were only two years old when the twin towers crashed in fiery heaps. Post 9/11 generations must be reminded on the anniversary of what evil incarnate is capable of, just as our parents and grandparents ensured that we had December 07, 1941 etched in our minds.

Every year since 2006, MSNBC has replayed NBC’s coverage of the attacks in real time. I hope they do it again this year and every year. Some have criticized it as “tragedy porn” that titillates and that it dredges up the horror for family members once again.

But I think it’s critically important that young people can witness for themselves how those events unfolded while those of us who lived through them are graphically reminded of our generation’s Pearl Harbor.

As time has passed we can again go about our ordinary routine, but on this day we are obligated to remember why that once seemed unimaginable and the events that made it so.

GOP Leaders Predict House Departures

The Free Press WV

Several West Virginia Republican Party leaders are addressing concerns about a possible higher-than-usual turnover rate in the House of Delegates in 2018.  Republicans hold a commanding 64-36 advantage in the House, and the GOP will likely still have the majority after the 2018 election, but there will be some shakeup.

Officials and candidate recruiters estimated that from 10 to 15 current Republican House members will not run for re-election next year.  The reasons vary.  Several are running for different offices, including Congress, County Commission and State Senate.  Others, I’m told, are just ready to move on from politics, especially after the last session.

Lawmakers worked through a controversial and aggravating special session that took the state right up to the July 1st deadline for the start of the new fiscal year. Some left Charleston tired and frustrated with the whole process.  And the budget outlook for the next couple of years also looks grim.

However, state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas believes GOP Delegates who were considering not running may change their minds.  “In June, a lot of folks who had been there for the extended session were frustrated, but now they’ve been back home and regained perspective,” Lucas said. “It’s not a concern for us at all.”

Lucas says he plans to personally contact every Republican House member soon to find out for certain their plans for the next election.  After that, the party can begin recruiting to fill any vacancies.

Greg Thomas, a Republican consultant who has played a critical role in candidate recruitment in recent elections, acknowledges the possible high turnover, but he is confident Republicans can keep their advantage. “Nearly all of the seats that are being vacated are in Republican strongholds or heavily leaning GOP districts,” he said.

Kris Warner, Republican National Committeeman for West Virginia, says voting data collected by the national party will be made available to state candidates. “Our conservative candidates (will) have access to the same information in West Virginia that was available to the Trump campaign last cycle and continues to be updated daily so our candidates do not waste money on inaccurate voter information,” he said.

Just a few elections ago, the only thing missing from the Republican ballot in many parts of the state was the image of tumbleweed rolling over the empty pages. That has changed dramatically with the GOP now in control of the House and Senate, not to mention Governor Jim Justice has recently switched to the Republican Party.

The challenge now is to retain the majority, protect incumbents and recruit replacements where necessary.  “We know the importance of having a full ballot,” Lucas said, “and we have every reason to believe we will have a full ballot next year.”

No doubt the GOP will, but depending on decisions made in the next couple of weeks, the party may have to mount a bigger recruiting effort than expected.

Can We Discuss These Statues Before We Tear Them Down?

The Free Press WV

The current combustible debate over statues and memorials with connections to the Confederacy and slavery has its share of irony.

White nationalists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month chanted, “You will not replace us,” and, “Jews will not replace us.” The torch-bearing men and women gathered at the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the University of Virginia campus to make their point.

The anti-Semitic racists must not have known that the sculptor of the bronze statue was Moses Jacob Ezekiel—a Jew.  (Ezekiel was also the sculptor of the statue of Stonewall Jackson on the West Virginia Capitol grounds.)

This statue controversy is complicated.  Historians, art and culture preservationists, community members where statues are located all have views, often contrary, on what’s to be done with the statues of Jackson, Robert E. Lee, confederate soldiers and others connected directly or tangentially with slavery.

Dr. Jason Phillips, WVU Eberly Professor of Civil War Studies, says when emotions run high like they are now, reason and rational decisions become more difficult. “The problem is when these protests get ugly, and get big and get violent, then you are creating a situation in which city councilmen and mayors decide in the middle of the night the safest thing to do is to make the statue disappear.”

During a calmer time we would have a more levelheaded discussion that includes asking questions such as:

What was the motivation behind the construction of the statue and when was it put up?  There’s a difference between a Confederate memorial from shortly after the war and a statue of a Confederate leader erected during the 1950s as a rallying point for whites opposed to integration.

What is the artistic value of the statue?  For example, Ezekiel was one of the more accomplished artists of his day.  The National Museum of American Jewish History houses a number of his works.  Shouldn’t that weigh into any decision about the Stonewall Jackson statue?

What were the merits (and flaws) of the subject and can they be viewed with a historical context rather than judged by today’s mores?  Thomas Jefferson is an example of the complexity; he owned slaves, but also authored arguably the single most important document in the country’s history that articulated the values of a new nation that still hold true today.

Is there a suitable replacement?  If some monuments should come down, perhaps there are new ones that can be erected honoring more recent contributors to our nation.

Would the statue be better suited someplace else?  If a community objects to Robert E. Lee seated on Traveler in the town square, then maybe it could be moved to a cemetery were Confederate soldiers are buried.

Breaking down the debate into these and other questions would help us reach more thoughtful decisions about these statues and other symbols from our history.  Without a balanced approach, the fate of these sculptures will be decided by angry mobs with torches and spray paint or weak-kneed public officials during the dark of night.

Flooding in West Virginia… Again

The Free Press WV

Last weekend heavy rains—several inches within an hour overnight Friday—flooded communities from Ohio County in the Northern Panhandle down through North Central West Virginia.  Much of the damage seemed to follow along the route 250 corridor.

As many as 400 homes and businesses in Marshall County sustained water damage. The worst of it was in McMechen, where runoff roared down the hillside and flooded the town.  Several dozen people had to be rescued from their homes by emergency workers and volunteers in boats.

In the Wetzel County town of Hundred, the community spent the last two years raising money for a new fire hall. They opened the building just two weeks ago, only to see it flooded last weekend.  Five feet of muddy water soaked the brand new building and damaged or destroyed several emergency vehicles.

Wetzel County House of Delegates member Dave Pethtel said his town has been devastated. “I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen water this high before,” he said on MetroNews Talkine Monday.

In Littleton (Wetzel County), Rachel McDiffitt waded through waist-deep water to get to safety.  She came back after the flood waters receded to find her house and car destroyed. A few items that belonged to her late daughter were covered in mud.

The Marion County town of Mannington was hard hit. Some there are calling it the worst flood in 40 years.  Shelia Higgins looked out her front door Saturday morning and found the water surrounding her truck and up to her porch. “I was really scared,” she said.  What’s left behind are mud and a terrible smell. “It’ll take a while to get dried out.”

The Marion County 911 center reported 30 water rescues during a 12-hour period Saturday.  Miraculously and thankfully no one died.

Those who had water and mud damage got busy cleaning up as soon as the flood waters receded. Volunteers started showing up to pitch in.  Some of the first to respond came from communities that suffered though the devastating flood of 2016, returning the favor for the help they received.

Meteorologists said the flooding rains were caused by an unusually strong weather pattern normally associated with fall or winter. The Nor-easter triggered heavy rains and flooding throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

West Virginia is particularly vulnerable to flash flooding because of the steep mountains and narrow valleys. The ground and valley streams simply cannot absorb several inches of rain over a short period of time.

We’re told that death and taxes are life’s only certainties, but in West Virginia we have to add one more–flooding.

Manchin, Capito Can Lead Bipartisan Fix to Obamacare

The Free Press WV

The repeal of Obamacare is dead.  The official time of death was 1:29 a.m. last Friday when U.S. Senator John McCain gave the thumbs down and cast the third Republican “no” vote against the so-called “skinny” repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  The bill failed 49-51.

“Repeal-and-replace” had finally reached the end.  The cause of death could be attributed to a series of failures, but in reality the Republicans never took very good care of their prized patient.

They leaned on it for seven years as an example of their opposition to Barack Obama and a symbol of excessive government, but they never nurtured a replacement. The idea that Republicans could do better finally collapsed in a heap last week.  Even some in the GOP were relieved the “do-not-resuscitate” directive was in place.

McCain’s dramatic “no” vote was followed by audible gasps in the Senate chamber.  Minority Leader Charles Shumer wisely shushed his caucus to avoid the impression Democrats were celebrating the Arizona Senator’s controversial vote that doomed repeal and replace.

Schumer then made an emotional appeal to follow the lead set by McCain earlier in the week when he called for a bipartisan fix to Obamacare. Schumer said if the Senate could return to the regular order of business, “the way it had always worked, with both sides to blame for deterioration, we will do a better job for our country.”

Just a few hours later, West Virginia’s two U.S. Senators, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito, were on the same commercial flight from Washington back to West Virginia.  They talked at length about what could come next and how the troubled healthcare law could be repaired.

Manchin and Capito are in a unique position to help rekindle a modicum of bipartisanship on healthcare.  Both are moderates. They come from a state where the person for whom the Affordable Care Act is named is wildly unpopular, but a state where over 170,000 now have insurance because of expanded Medicaid.

The two have been told over and over by constituents and providers about the most pressing problems—premiums and out-of-pocket costs for people in the individual markets and exchanges are too high, expanded Medicaid with its low reimbursement rate is putting a financial strain on hospitals, prescription drugs are too expensive, to name a few.

These and other problems, however, are the basis for a starting point for meaningful discussions between Republicans and Democrats. Those talks need to start quickly because insurance companies will soon be setting their rates for next year and, without adjustment, even more people will be priced out of the market.

Capito is clearly moving away from her long-standing repeal-and-replace position. “That’s not an option right now,” she said on Talkline Friday.  “So we need to move forward and replace as much as we can and make it work for everybody.”

Manchin agrees that it’s time to find common ground.  “We could lose 20 Democrats and we could lose 20 Republicans and you know something?  That wouldn’t be all bad,” Manchin told me Friday.

Compromise in politics has gotten a bad reputation, but the deep flaws in Obamacare and the inability of the GOP to craft a replacement means bargaining and concessions are essential for progress. Manchin and Capito can be leaders on that front.

Trump’s Scout Speech Was Self-Defeating

The Free Press WV

If you watched all of President Trump’s speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree Monday you would have heard a number of inspiring comments and sound advice.

“As much as you can, do something that you love; work hard and never, ever give up and you are going to be tremendously successful,” Trump told the more than 35,000 Scouts, leaders and volunteers at the Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.

Trump has credibility on that message because when he launched his candidacy June 16, 2015 few believed he had a chance. That “never-give-up” attitude will carry you a long way in the pursuit of your goals.

The President also praised the Scouts for their commitment and service, citing the 15-million hours of volunteer work by the Scouts last year and the 100,000 hours of community work during the Jamboree.

“Your values are the same values that have always kept America strong, proud and free,” he told the cheering Scouts.

The young men surely already understand the value of their Scouting, but it’s reassuring to hear reinforcement from the President of the United States.  So why then did the President feel compelled to drift off into politics and unsuitable comments considering the venue?

At times, Trump sounded like he was back on the campaign trail, talking about fake news, Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

“Just a question: did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree?” Trump asked, eliciting boos from the crowd.  “And we’ll be back. We’ll be back. The answer is no, but we’ll be back.”  It’s true that Obama never appeared at a Jamboree in person, but he did deliver a video message to the 2010 gathering.

Trump lapsed into a rehash of his win on election night.  “Do we remember our day? Wasn’t that a beautiful day? What a day.”   He then recounted his surprise win over Clinton in Michigan. “My opponent didn’t work hard there,” he said, eliciting more boos from the Scouts.

The President also called out U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito from the podium on the healthcare vote. “You better get Senator Capito to vote for it,” he said.

These and other political statements by Trump broke a long-standing tradition.  The Scouts released a statement that their policy does indeed specify that Scouts in uniform should not appear in places where people “could construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support.”

Trump loyalists say he was elected because he is different… not a typical politician, they say. Yet he cannot seem to resist one of the worst characteristics of a hackneyed politician and that is the tendency to self-aggrandize.

Mondays’ off-script riffs were inappropriate considering the audience and they unfortunately overshadowed what was otherwise an inspirational message.

America Leaves Future Generations with Massive Debts, Obligations

The Free Press WV

The United States is heading down the path to becoming an insurance company with a really big army.

Let’s start with Medicaid.  The most recent report shows that federal and state spending on health care for lower income Americans rose nearly sixteen percent from 2014 to 2016, to $576 billion. Much of the rapid rise is attributable to the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

If nothing changes—and we don’t know yet what, if anything, Congress will do—Medicaid spending will approach $1 trillion by 2025.  Congressional Republicans are trying to curb the rise in Medicaid spending, but that’s politically difficult.

Nearly lost in the healthcare debate is a new release on the status of Social Security and Medicare programs. The annual report quantifies the worsening threat to the long-term fiscal soundness of both programs.

“Both Social Security and Medicare will experience cost growth substantially in excess of GDP growth through the mid-2030s due to rapid population aging caused by the large baby-boom generation entering retirement and lower birth rate generations entering employment,” the report said.

That’s the essential problem for all three of the programs; they are growing faster than the economy. If no changes are made, they will swamp the country in debt and generate an even larger drag on the economy.

The report says the combined retirement and disability programs under Social Security are okay for now, but by 2034 the trust funds will be depleted. At that point, benefits will need to be reduced or taxes will have to be raised.

(One additional note: Trust fund is a misnomer. The federal government has already spent that money and replaced it with special treasury bonds that amount to I.O.U.s from Uncle Sam.)

Investor’s Business Daily reports, “Waiting only makes the problem worse.  Putting off fixes would require a payroll tax hike of nearly 4 percentage points or across-the-board benefit cuts of 23 percent.”

Medicare is also in trouble.  The report says the hospital insurance trust fund portion of the program will be depleted in 2029. “At that time, dedicated revenues will be sufficient to pay 88 percent of HI costs.”

Our policy makers have willingly indebted future generations, and Americans have been complicit because we recoil against more taxes, benefit cuts and increases in retirement age—anything we fear will impact our quality of life.

Future generations will not look back fondly on us. They will wonder why, for all the talk from us about wanting a better life for our children and grandchildren, we spent their retirement and burdened them with debt that made it harder for them to achieve their dreams.

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