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Garland Robinette

Tune in to "The Think Tank" for independent, intelligent discussions with experts on matters of news, politics, science and much more!

Weekdays 10am-1pm

Twitter: @garlandWWL
Email: garland@wwl.com



Garland: Are we doomed to never-ending gridlock?

The American Health Care Act (AHCA), the GOP's bill to replace Obamacare, failed. Well, technically it didn't fail because Republicans pulled the bill before there could be a vote. It was a defeat, but not letting it come to a vote was a smart decision. 58% of our audience agreed it was the right move for President Trump and Paul Ryan to yank the bill.

So what happened? What went wrong?

I spoke with two friends of the show, Ron Faucheux, President of the Clarus Research Group. Faucheux said there should be two rules of governing in Washington, D.C.

"The first rule is: big changes cannot be enacted by slim majorities. And second, keep it simple stupid."

He said that the AHCA violated both rules. Both moderate Republicans and some conservative Republicans (like the Freedom Caucus) had issues with the bill. GOP leadership couldn't convince enough of either group to support the bill.

After the bill was withdrawn, President Trump that we're stuck with Obamacare for the time being and that it's spiraling out of control. I read several articles, including a conservative publication saying that some in the Trump administration are considering ways to weaken Obamacare without needing Congressional approval.



So the American public is stuck with Obamacare. Can you and your family afford to live with Obamacare, though?

Faucheux said Republicans should approach it in a more piecemeal fashion, repealing Obamacare and then passing several bills affecting the healthcare industry.

I've said before that, regardless of which one it is, hopefully one of the two parties will get in there and control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency and actually get stuff done. That didn't happen in this case.

I also talked to Ed Chervenak, Professor of Political Science at UNO to get his perspective, particularly on gridlock. He brought up an interesting point.

"What we have today is not only Republicans not speaking to Democrats; we have moderate Republicans not speaking to conservative Republicans. So the divide is even further than what we would find normally."

Are we just doomed to never-ending gridlock?

Listen to the whole conversation HERE.
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Garland: Do you believe Trump's tweets, or are they "fake news?"

News: Donald Trump Joint Session of Congress
The FBI, NSA, Justice Department and the CIA...they said they don't have any evidence that President Obama wiretapped President Trump's phones. Trump made that extraordinary claim via Twitter at the beginning of March. And, since I don't want to misconstrue what he said, you can read it in his own words.



Our sitting president accused the former president of wiretapping him. Within just a few weeks of that tweet, FBI Director James Comey was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on this issue, plus on whether they were investigating potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign (they are).

Here are Comey's exact words regarding the wiretapping allegations:

"I have no information that supports those tweets."

Now that seems pretty definitive. So, with the FBI Director saying that, do you believe President Trump's claims? 78% of our poll respondents – and it is unscientific, to clarify – said that we should treat President Trump's tweets as "fake news" while only 22% still believed him.

To try to help me make sense of all this, I talked with Bre Payton, a reporter for The Federalist, a conservative-leaning web magazine.

"It's a funny kind of thing. This is the same guy who perpetuated birtherism; but at the same time, sometimes he endsu p being right. So, at the end of the day, I don't see how this hurts his credibility."

Payton also brought up the lack of trust there seems to be between President Trump, who has maligned the intelligence community, and the intelligence community, which has leaked information about the Trump administration.

Whether you're conservative or liberal, we've got a situation in Washington where the most powerful man in the world does not believe the intelligence organizations, therefore he won't believe them when they come and say, "we're under attack." Does anybody else a problem with that? That's a GIGANTIC problem.

So where do you stand? Do you believe President Trump's tweets, or do you think they're "fake news" a lot of the time? Do you think the FBI saying there was no evidence to back up his allegations hurts his credibility, or is that just Trump being Trump?

Check out my whole conversation on this topic, including the full interview with Bre Payton HERE.
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Garland: Do you have enough saved for retirement?

How much do you have saved for retirement? Do you think it's enough? Odds are, it's not. The average American has two years savings for retirement, but the average retirement lasts 18 years. How do you fill the gap? I spoke with Andy Smith, a Certified Financial Planner and host of Investing Sense to help me sort through all this.

"What do you want to accomplish...what do you see your life being like when you finally stop working?"

Can you answer that question? Smith says most can't. You have to sit down and think about this. Set goals, concrete ones. Most people estimate they'll spend around $50,000 on health care costs over the course of their retirement. Boy, are they in for a rude awakening. According to this Bloomberg article, the average retiree will spend $130,000 on healthcare costs alone.

In addition to figuring out how you want to live once you're retired, you need to figure when you're going to retire. Obviously, that'll depend on your specific situation. Smith says some are ready to retire by 50; others work into their 70s or 80s. Regardless of when you do decide to retire, you need to maximize what you have saved up, what benefits you have access to, and how you use it all.

"How to get the most out of Social Security. How to pay for health care. How to make budgets. How to live within your means all the way up to and through retirement. So that once you get to retirement, you can get the retirement that you want and not the one that you're stuck with."

Again, we're back to planning. A little foresight can go a long way. You don't want to be like most Americans.

"50% of Americans rely 100% on Social Security for their retirement income."

That's a staggering number, and the maximum amount a single person can get from Social Security is about $31,000 a year. Make sure you plan, folks.

Listen to the full interview with Andy Smith HERE.
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Garland: Do we need a French Quarter re-do?

Trees on Bourbon Street? Street furniture? Cement bollards to block traffic? They're all parts of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plan to increase safety in the French Quarter. Is this what we want? Do we need to change Bourbon Street?

The French Quarter is the money maker, the money machine of the city. It draws in millions of tourists; so, of course, it deserves attention. How much attention, though? And what do we want it to be?

One guest I spoke with was Ken Caron, President of Cops 8 (an organization that supports police officers in the 8th District) about this issue. Mr. Caron made an analogy that I found interesting.

"Now I understand Bourbon Street is very important to the tourist industry and to our city as a whole. Beyond that, the citizens are just as important. It's almost as if we're building a wall around Bourbon Street."

He said a forum to discuss the measures just brought up more questions. There's an upfront cost of approximately $40 million, but there are potential recurring costs to keep everything in place. Is it important to spend this money on Bourbon and the French Quarter, or could it be better spent in other ways?

I also spoke with Meg Lousteau, the Executive Director of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents, and Associates (VCPORA). One of the points she stressed is that people still live in the French Quarter; it's a neighborhood. And that's one of the many things that helps make the Quarter "authentic."


"That's not a street anymore; that's a pedestrian mall. Are we really talking about converting seven blocks of Bourbon Street into a pedestrian mall?"

Should a stretch of Bourbon be closed like Royal Street? She pointed out that closing off Bourbon doesn't just affect Bourbon Street; it affects the streets on either side. How would that impact residents, business owners, and workers, in the Quarter and surrounding areas?

What do you think? Do we need a Bourbon Street re-do?

Check out the entire interview HERE.
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Garland: Please America - take a deep breath

My vocal chords are infected & I can’t speak on the radio right now.  But, I CAN talk with my pen, and my message is this: please, everybody - take a deep breath!

The end of the world is not yet here.  Donald Trump is only one man, and our governmental system is a huge, slow monster that will allow itself to be pushed only so far before it pushes back. And liberals will not be able to do much damage to “Trump-ism” in their reduced role in Congress and the states.

If you disagree with the above... fine. That’s what debates are all about, but can we start initiating an adult debate?

Two days of debate over crowd size, rather than what’s going to happen to healthcare?

The liberal side that sees crowd size as a way to minimize President Trump’s image?

A President, who is so overly sensitive that he tells his press secretary to attack the media in his first press briefing?

Madonna deflects the positive side of the millions of women (and men) marching nationwide to announce that she has considered blowing up the White House?

And, President Trump, instead of building bridges, asks why the crowd didn’t vote?

The defense or attack on any of these references can be found in the liberal and conservative websites and blogs. To find out who is right is virtually impossible.  All of the “fact checking” sites impartiality have been called into question... just google how many of the sites have liberal or conservative ties behind the scenes.

With all that said, can we start arguing like adults about what we do with the longest unresolved war in U.S. history (Afghanistan)?  Can we figure out what a replacement for Obamacare will look like? Can we debate whether its corporations or automation that’s keeping jobs from returning to America?

These are fool proof ideas, because you won’t need the media to fact check whether we get out of the blood-and-money drain called Afghanistan.  You won’t need liberal or conservatives to tell you if your healthcare improves or gets worse. You won’t need to be convinced whether we see an increase in jobs or whether products become more expensive because they’re made in America.

Soooooo...after the deep breath... can we show our children we really are adults?

Can’t wait to talk to you... debate with you... hopefully, soon.
G

Join Garland Robinette in the Think Tank weekdays 10am to 1pm on WWL-AM-FM-or WWL.com - your station for every generation. 
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Garland: Do you trust the government, or the media?

Do you trust the government or the media to tell you the truth? A major newspaper and government agencies reported that Russians had infiltrated a U.S. utility. It turned out not to be true.

The Washington Post was first to report that Russian hackers had infiltrated a Vermont power utility's computer network. Sounds scary, right? Only, that story had to be retracted once additional details came out that shed more light on exactly the level of compromise that the hackers were able to achieve.

At a time when trust in the media is at an all-time low, are you more inclined to take what the government tells you at face value?

We had a great conversation today, tune in on the link below!

FULL AUDIO: Do you trust the government or the media?
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Garland: Pentagon can't be stupid enough to ask for bonus repayment, right?

America is forcing thousands of soldiers to repay enlistment bonuses decades after going to war. When I read that, I thought, there's gotta be something more to it. The Pentagon and Congress could not be this stupid.

GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said this morning that the Pentagon should immediately stop trying to recover enlistment bonuses paid to nearly 10,000 soldiers in California who signed up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government has 45 auditors who are assigned to check on the cases of 20,000 more National Guardsmen and women. 

I asked Larry Korb, Senior Fellow for the Center for American Progress and former Assistant Secretary of Defense to come on and help explain what's going on here.

The Pentagon said this "has some complexities." What does that mean?

"You got a couple of issues - there was some fraud, some people who have actually been convicted of taking money they shouldn't have. The next thing is that when a soldier comes up for a bonus, you have a good idea of what you're supposed to get. If you're supposed to get 10 and they give you 20, you might ask, or maybe there's a wink and a nod. Having said all that, it's the auditors job to go in and check that out." 

OK but it wasn't the soliders themselves committing fraud, right, so what happens to the recruiters and higher ups who thought this was a fair plan of action?

"What I'm dumbfounded about is where's the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness? Where's the Secretary of Defense on this? The California Guard called Congress - where was the National Guard bureau? The head of the National Guard is now one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where was he on this? To me, that's the real failing. The people who committed the fraud should pay for it, but not these soliders."

In the second half of the show, I spoke with Shad Meshad, President and Founder of the National Veterans Foundation.

"I think you and the whole nation should be aggravated about this. This has got to be the most heinous, stupid thing I've ever heard of - it's just beyond reason, that they went back for multiple tours because of the bonuses, then come back and try to move on with their lives... and now the government is saying we made a mistake and we want our money back? That's unethical and unfathomable."

To hear the full show - prepare to get angry - click on the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Garland talks solider bonuses on "The Think Tank"
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Garland: Should third-party candidates be allowed on debate stage?

Should the Libertarian & Green candidates be allowed to participate in the Presidential debates?  

Some are urging the Commission on Presidential Debates to reconsider their policy of allowing only candidates who have an average of 15% in the 5 national polls into the fall debate. Should they? Using this model, only Clinton & Trump will be allowed to take the stage, excluding Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson whose national polling average is 8.8% and Green Party candidate Jill Stein who is polling at 3.4%.  

What if voters want to hear all points of view so they can make an educated decision?  In a recent Pew Research Center survey they found that 4 in 10 voters think neither Clinton nor Trump would make a good president... and that most voters are with the two-party system.  Another poll by USA Today & Suffolk University found that 54% of voters want 3rd party options. Should our democratic electoral system include all candidates in the debates or not?

As always I turn to Political Analyst Ron Faucheaux for some guidance. He's just had a piece published in the Wall Street Journal about this very topic.

"In this election, you have so much public discontent with the two major candidates... the proposal I made is that you can keep the 15% requirement for the second and third debates, but for the first debate, lower it to three percent, so that you can have both Stein and Johnson in the debate," Faucheaux said. "The idea there is that voters really need the information, and need the chance to see what all the options are. If they don't move up over the course of the campaign, then don't include them later. But at least give them some access to these public debates. Otherwise they have no chance at all of winning the election."

The two third party candidates have about 13-14% combined. If nothing else, shouldn't the commission allow that and say to Congress, there is a building movement out here that doesn't like what you are doing, and these numbers suggest you should be changing?

"That's exactly right. One national poll this year showed that 54% of American voters would like to have third options to look at in elections. Another showed 41% of voters didn't think either of the major party candidates would be a good president. So clearly voters are saying, we want to look at all of the options. It doesn't mean they're going to vote for those other options, they're just saying we want to look at them. If the minor party candidates have a voice, and the voters have a choice, I think it's healthier for our democracy." 

To hear the rest of the conversation with Ron, click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Garland talks third-party candidates with Political Analyst Ron Faucheaux

Photos via USA Today

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Garland: Could Facebook swing an American election?

Facebook may have been deliberately suppressing conservative news.  If true, is it legal? Can Facebook be forced to change?

My first reaction was "So what?" There's virtually nothing in today's media that isn't biased one way or the other. But in reading about this, I stumbled upon a work by Scott Allan Morrison, a veteran Silicon Valley journalist and author of new book, "Terms of Use," a thriller about the dark side of social media that speculates how a large social media company might try to swing an election. I invited him on the Think Tank this morning to see where the truth lies.

Could the fictional story in Morrison's book become a reality?

"I spent ten years covering the big internet companies, and the short answer is, they are amassing huge amounts of our data, data we don't even appreciate we're giving out," he said. "They are much more granular in the information they collect about us than we can even imagine... if they can manipulate our emotions, they can certainly manipulate our opinions. They story you referenced, that they are suppressing conservative views, is a disturbing one."

"Really what happened here is that some low level contractors were injecting their bias, conscious or unconsciously, into the stories they were putting up... and it could very well have just been the opposite, where conservative leaning employees might have done the same thing... regardless of whether they're suppressing liberal or conservative views, the fact that this is even possible highlights Facebook's ability to set the agenda and possible impact public opinion," he continued.

"We think of Facebook as a neutral platform, and it sells itself as one. So we have to be very careful about what comes out on Facebook."

Dr. Robert Hogan, LSU Professor of Political Science, joined me after the news to explain the story from his point of view.

"Social media sites have come to play a large role in Presidential campaigns in recent years... it's a major force in American politics today, so when you hear a story like this, that gives you some pause. i think people may not be fully aware of how FB works and how news gets to them. It raises serious questions," he said.

Could it be enough of a concern to where the government intervenes and puts in some sort of regulation there?

"What we're finding out is that the things that are on the "Trending" list is not simply put there by a mathematical algorithm, but is actually made in almost an editorial sense. And to the extent that humans are involved in that, it'll be subject to their biases... there have been calls to regulate old style media and there may be calls to regulate here but, it sounds to me like the nature and direction of that is coming from conservatives, who generally don't like government regulation, so I doubt you see much government intervention here.  

To listen to the full interviews with Morrison and Dr. Hogan, click the link below.

FULL AUDIO: Garland talks Facebook and the news

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Garland: Hokie was a one-of-a-kind man

I was always jealous of those who knew and were close to Hokie Gajan.  I’d see him in the hallways, and occasionally he agreed to venture into the Think Tank.  I knew Hokie was special, because I could see that EVERYBODY thought he was special.  I’ve got to confess, if I had been a great athlete, hero of LSU, icon of the Saints, and beloved by a city, I would have bragged about it all the time.  You knew about Hokie only from someone other than Hokie. 

My personal memories are few but clear.  Every time I shook his hand my brain asked me, “Is that a hand or a catcher’s mitt?”  When I did brag to him that I had “almost become an athlete,”  he laughed.  When I attacked Hokie on my show for stealing all my knowledge of sports, he laughed.  I once said to him, “I want to be tough like you one day.”   He said, “You’ll never be as tough as me, I have four daughters...you only have one.” 

Not long ago, I actually stopped and watched Hokie walk down one our WWL hallways.  He was bent over, covered with arthritic bumps and he shuffled because of many surgeries.  He ran into 3 people, one by one he made them all laugh.  No pity, no complaining, just love of life and people around him.  Some call Hokie “a man’s man.”  Actually, he was a one of a kind man.  NEVER to be another like him.
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