For about 20 years, Ray Keating wrote a weekly column - a short time with the New York City Tribune, more than 11 years with Newsday, another seven years with Long Island Business News, plus another year-and-a-half with As an economist, Keating also pens an assortment of analyses each week. With the Keating Files, he decided to expand his efforts with regular commentary touching on a broad range of issues, written by himself and an assortment of talented contributors and columnists. So, here goes...

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Super Bowl and the NFL’s History Problem

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – January 31, 2020

The Super Bowl kicks off on Sunday night at 6:30 PM EST. And much of the United States will be watching the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers.

No doubt, the Super Bowl ranks as America’s biggest sporting event, with an estimated 112.7 million viewers having tuned in to last year’s game. This year’s contest will be the 54th Super Bowl. 

54th? Wait, I thought the NFL was celebrating its 100th anniversary throughout this season?

The NFL’s festivities marking 100 years of the league were occasionally interesting, but the NFL rarely does well with its own history. And that is made clear when the Super Bowl rolls around each year. 

The NFL, as well as most fans and the media, always talk about who won (and lost) Super Bowls, but little, if anything, is said about previous NFL champions and those championship games (except for the occasional mention of the 1958 NFL Championship game won by the Baltimore Colts in overtime). Yes, there were NFL champions before Super Bowl I was played at the conclusion of the 1966 season.

So, we often hear about the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers winning the most Super Bowls – each with six. Impressive? Of course. But in reality, there are three NFL teams with more NFL titles.

The Green Bay Packers actually are the NFL’s team with the most championships at 13. Next come the Chicago Bears with nine, and then the New York Giants at eight. 

The highly vaunted Patriots have a considerable journey ahead to even become number three, never mind more than doubling their current Super Bowl wins to match the Packers’ achievement.

Also, consider that the much-maligned Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions – each without a Super Bowl appearance – both have four NFL championships. The Arizona Cardinals have no Super Bowl wins, but were NFL champs twice when the team played in Chicago.

The Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl two years ago, but that actually was the team’s fourth NFL championship.

Why aren’t the pre-1966 NFL champions fully celebrated and recognized by the league, fans and the media? It’s rather bewildering and exceedingly ridiculous.

And what about the losers? This is a sore point for this writer being a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, who have lost four Super Bowls without a victory. That abysmal record is matched by the Buffalo Bills (who did it four years in a row).

But perhaps Bills and Vikes fans can take some solace in noting that several teams have lost more NFL championship games. The Denver Broncos dropped five, as did the Bears, Browns and Patriots. The Rams and Redskins each lost six. But there’s more – the Giants lost 12.

Major League Baseball and the NHL truly embrace their histories. Fans, the media and each league embrace and fully recognize the champions from the start of their respective leagues. But even during this season of celebrating 100 years of the NFL, the league continued to show that it really cares little about its own championship teams prior to the “Super Bowl era.” 

The NFL has fumbled its chance to raise to equal prominence all of those teams that won championships before 1966. Perhaps the NFL will get around to doing a high-profile, determined salute to those teams one day.

As for which team will make history during the Super Bowl LIV, the Chiefs are seeking their second NFL title, having won Super Bowl IV at the end of the 1969 season. The Chiefs lost Super Bowl I. Meanwhile, the 49ers are an impressive 5-1 in NFL championship games (all Super Bowls), with its last win in 1994 (and losing in 2012).

A 49ers’ victory would put the team in elite company, tying the Patriots and Steelers with six Super Bowl wins ... and yet, far behind the Packers’ incredible – indeed, historic – 13 championships.


Ray Keating is a columnist, a novelist (his latest novel is The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series), an economist, a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

What the Heck is Going on with the Cincinnati Reds?

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – January 31, 2020

With Spring Training’s date for pitchers and catchers fast approaching, the season of baseball hope is upon us. But this seems like a different kind of hope for my Cincinnati Reds this year.

I have two early baseball memories. 

First, I recall watching the New York Mets celebrate their World Series win in 1969, with Tom Seaver spraying champagne on the television camera. But I was only six years old.

My second memory comes from a moment four years later during the National League Championship Series. Pete Rose slid into shortstop Bud Harrelson and second base trying to break up a double play. The result was a fight, and empty dugouts. This time, I was 10, and becoming far more interested in the game. It was time to pick a team. As a New Yorker, I was expected to side with Harrelson and the Mets. But Pete Rose grabbed my interest, and I quickly came to appreciate the way he played the game. Yes, Pete Rose made this kid, living in New York, a Cincinnati Reds fan.

Today, my oldest son, David, reminds me of a chat with a friend while in high school. Somehow, they got talking about what baseball teams their fathers followed, and after David noted that I was a Reds fan, and when I became one, his friend simply declared, “Your father is a frontrunner.” Each time my son mentions this, I chuckle, and acknowledge that, in a sense, it seemed pretty easy for a 10 or 11 year old to become a Reds fan at the time (and shortly thereafter with the Big Red Machine winning the 1975 and 1976 World Series). 

But I then note that I’ve stuck with my Reds ever since, including some very thin years, including the last six seasons that included four years of losing more than 93 games, and two years of losing 86 and 87 games.

In fact, over the 28 seasons since the Reds won the 1990 World Series, they’ve managed to make the postseason only four times (five if you count an extra game in 1999 to decide who would make the playoffs, by the way, against and losing to, you guessed it, the Mets). 

As a fan, over such a long stretch, losing almost becomes the norm, and worst of all, the expectation. And that only gets magnified when one roots for a so-called “small market” team, and you start buying into the argument that we’re trading our top players in order to stockpile prospects to win in the future. And one waits for the future to arrive – year after year.

All of this is why I now ask the question: What the heck is going on with the Cincinnati Reds ... with my Reds?

Cincinnati suddenly has become the most active team in the offseason in signing free agents. It started in early December, with the Reds signing Mike Moustakas, the three-time All-Star, to a four-year, $64 million contract. 

And then, a couple of weeks later, came a two-year, $15-million deal with lefthanded starter Wade Miley.

The new year brought the signing of the Reds first player from Japan. Outfielder Shogo Akiyama, a career .301 hitter, signed for three years at a total of $21 million.

On January 27, the Reds announced the signing of free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos to a four-year, $64 million contract.

And on January 30, the Reds added to their bullpen by signing Pedro Strop for one year at a base salary of $1.825 million.

Suddenly, the Reds have a solid and deep starting rotation of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer, Wade Miley and Anthony DeSclafani. And the lineup ranks as formidable with Joey Votto, 1B, Moustakas, 2B, Freddy Galvis, SS, Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Tucker Barnhart, C, and an outfield of Akiyama and Castellanos being joined by either Aristides Aquino or Nick Senzel.

So, this is something that I’m not used to with the Reds – at least not in recent times. I mean the Reds have made big moves, spent money, and look competitive this year. Could they be postseason bound? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As a Reds fan, I’ve been disappointed before. 

Whenever the date for pitchers and catchers fast approaches (Feb. 13th for the Reds, this year), hope rises for this baseball fan, as it does for most others. But after this unexpected and welcome offseason, this Reds fan’s springtime hopes are not fanciful, but instead actually have some basis in reality. Play ball!


Ray Keating is a columnist, a novelist (his latest novel is The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series), an economist, a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Will the San Jose Sharks Actually Miss the Playoffs?

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – January 28, 2020

The San Jose Sharks have had a rather incredible playoff run. The team has made the NHL postseason in 19 of the last 21 seasons. But San Jose currently sits outside a playoff spot. Do they have a shot to sneak in this year, once again?

Well, given the miracle season that the St. Louis Blues had last year – from last place in the entire league in early January to Stanley Cup champions – anything is possible in the NHL. But keep in mind, there’s a reason it’s called a “miracle season” – by definition, miracles are pretty rare.

Heading into last night’s game with the Anaheim Ducks, the Sharks had collected only 46 points in 50 games, and they sat 11 points out of a playoff spot with 32 games left. 

Impossible? No. Unlikely? Highly. To have a shot at this year’s postseason, the Sharks would have to win at least 22 of those last 32 games.

Last night, they started the post-All-Star-Game homestretch well by playing a nice game overall, beating the Ducks 4-2, with Patrick Marleau scoring twice.

But what’s been the Sharks’ problem this season?

It’s perplexing given that the team is not exactly lacking in talent, including such formidable players as forwards Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane, Timo Meier, and Kevin Labanc, and defensemen Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, with veteran contributions from the likes of Joe Thornton and Marleau.

Nonetheless, it hasn’t been happening. Again, heading into last night’s contest, the team ranked 15thout of 18 Western Conference teams in goals scored, and dead last in goals against. That’s a painfully obvious recipe for a losing season.

Defense has been miserable, and that includes just dismal goaltending by Martin Jones. Aaron Dell has performed better in the net, though still handcuffed by a defense that falters far too often. Dell deserves to get the bulk of the starts for the rest of the season to see if he can spark something (and he played well last night vs. the Ducks).

The firing of head coach Pete DeBoer, replacing him with interim coach Bob Boughner, has failed, thus far, to provide any inspiration or energy, nor has it put an end to brain farts that have plagued Sharks play throughout the season. 

Of course, team captain Logan Couture being injured earlier this month was a big negative as well. But they weren’t exactly lighting the league on fire with Couture on the ice.

So, barring miracles, questions loom for all teams likely to miss the postseason, in particular with the NHL trade deadline approaching on February 24th. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Sharks move defensemen Brendon Dillon and/or Tim Heed, or forward Melker Karlsson, given that they’ll be unrestricted free agents after the season. 

However, things might be a bit different in San Jose compared to other teams. The case can be made that the Sharks don’t need that many changes or additions to get back in the playoff picture. Topping the list is goaltending.

It’s hard to blame this season on the moves that GM Doug Wilson has made. The players still have to play, and the coaches have to coach. Get a leader behind the bench and a strong goalie, and the Sharks just might return to their seeming default setting of making the postseason in 2020-21. 


Ray Keating is a columnist, a novelist (his latest novel is The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series), an economist, a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Could-Be-Worse Trade Policy?

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – January 21, 2020

The benefits of free trade have been well known since Adam Smith published his Wealth of Nations in 1776. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump seems to have missed the last 244 years on the issue. 

The result is that Trump stands out as a modern-day mercantilist focused on meaningless and yet deceptive “balance of trade” numbers, and using costly protectionist measures in a futile attempt to reduce the U.S. trade deficit. Make no mistake, President Trump’s trade policies amount to government interfering in markets via tariffs (i.e., taxes), quotas and other regulations. Trump trade policy has nothing to do with somehow advancing free trade, but instead is all about government managed or manipulated trade.

In fact, being against free trade stands out as perhaps the lone issue where Trump has not switched positions since the 1980s. And that’s unfortunate. After all, no matter how hard any politician tries to wish away reality, politics cannot erase or change the laws of economics.

It’s no secret what protectionism leads to, that is, reduced trade, increased costs for U.S. consumers and businesses, and less economic growth.

From pulling the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade effort on his first day in office to the recent signing of a “Phase 1” agreement with China, the Trump presidency has been waging a trade war, while failing to realize that the real attack has been primarily on U.S. businesses and workers. 

Exiting TPP meant making U.S. products less competitive in those 11 Pacific Rim nations. 

Imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports has meant increased costs for U.S. industries that use steel and aluminum, which, of course, far outdistance U.S. steel and aluminum manufacturers in terms of numbers of businesses and employees.

Waging a trade war against China has meant increased costs for U.S. businesses given that almost all imports are inputs to American firms, and given lost markets and opportunities for U.S. exports. This “Phase 1” deal basically pushes off, for now, future increases in tariffs, leaves higher tariffs in place (at more than six times higher than prior to the trade war, according to Oxford Economics per an NPR report), and in effect, has the United States in the very strange position of working against efforts to push China toward greater economic freedom by demanding that China hit certain targets in terms of buying U.S. goods, which can only be accomplished via greater government control over the economy.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which has been approved by the U.S. and Mexico, at this point, and awaits action by Canada, largely leaves the much-maligned NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) in effect, and makes some improvements regarding, for example, the digital economy, reducing custom duties on cross-border shipments, and intellectual property protections. But it also takes serious steps back from free trade by, for example, injecting wage, labor, auto-content, and environmental regulations into the trade agreement, as well as diminished investor protections. 

Clearly, the pro-trade positives of the USMCA could have been achieved through cooperation with Mexico and Canada without going down the path of adding in anti-trade measures. Indeed, the case can be made that the biggest plus with the USMCA is that it avoided a U.S. pullout from NAFTA, as threatened by the president.

As for the results, there have been no surprises. Real exports and imports, which have each grown at an average annual real rate of better six percent since 1960, for example, have slowed to a crawl. Since the start of 2018, real export growth has managed to average a mere 0.2 percent rate, while imports have advanced by an average rate of only 1.9 percent. The result has been that trade has shaved a significant 0.5-to-0.7 percentage points off of average overall real U.S. economic growth – if not more when you factor in the reach of trade across sectors, including the role that the trade war has played in the recent decline in business investment.

Manufacturing has suffered, given the rise in input costs, reduced export opportunities and added uncertainties. Consider that manufacturing production (i.e., the physical output of manufacturing sectors) effectively moved into a recession in 2019, with the December level of output down by 1.3 percent compared to a year earlier. 

Hmmm, and I thought I heard that protectionism was supposed to help U.S. manufacturing? Go figure.

Finally, study after study, namely by Federal Reserve economists, has confirmed the negatives of recent protectionist, trade-war measures, such as increased costs for U.S. businesses (including manufacturers) and consumers, and reduced U.S. exports. (See a Wall Street Journal summary of these studies.)

The health of our economy as it relates to trade is not measured by the size of trade deficits. Instead, it’s about whether or not exports and imports are both growing robustly or not. The answer of late is that trade is suffering.

Could trade policy be worse? Well, sure, it could be worse. But as it is, it’s anti-consumer, anti-business, anti-worker and anti-growth, and that’s really bad.


Ray Keating is a columnist, a novelist (his latest novel is The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12th book in the series), an economist, a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Friday, January 17, 2020

1917 – A Masterpiece from Mendes

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – January 17, 2020

Like many others, I assume, I was surprised when 1917 won for best drama motion picture, and Sam Mendes, who directed and co-wrote the film, earned the best director nod at the Golden Globes. 

It wasn’t anything against 1917 or Mendes, I simply hadn’t seen the movie, given it’s very limited release in December. For good measure, the competition was intense, including The Irishman being nominated for best drama, and the likes of Martin Scorsese, again for The Irishman, and Quentin Tarantino, for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, up for best director.

At the same time, though, there was buzz for 1917. So, I finally saw the movie this week.

If you’re looking for a sweeping tale of World War I – from the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, to the subsequent series of events tied to obligations and alliances leading to war across Europe, to the brutality of battle due to advancements in weapons – well, this is not the film.

Or, because the film opens on April 6, 1917,  perhaps you expect a focus on the United States entering the war and playing the key role in its outcome. After all, largely in response to Germany’s unrestricted submarine attacks, as well as the attempt by Germany to engage Mexico as a combatant against the U.S., it was on April 6, 1917, that the U.S. Congress voted to enter the war. But, no, that’s not the case either.

Instead, 1917 focuses on two young British soldiers in northern France who are given a mission to deliver orders that will stop an attack that, if launched, would fall into a trap set by the Germans, and cost the lives of 1,600 British soldiers, including the brother of one of the two young men given the assignment. The story is fictional, but was inspired by the stories told to Mendes by his grandfather, Alfred Mendes, who fought in World War I.

The result is an intense, harrowing movie about the journey across enemy lines taken by these two men. It’s epic in its visuals, but deeply personal in its focus. It largely emphasizes courage and even compassion, but in no way avoids the horrors and fears of war. At times, there are striking contrasts between beauty and even sacredness of life, versus the grim destruction, waste and brutality of war.

The two leads in the film are compelling – Dean-Charles Chapman as Lance Corporal Tom Blake and George McKay as Lance Corporal Will Schofield. There also are able, albeit brief, moments offered by the supporting cast. Mark Strong, for example, stands out as a captain who offers sage advice and comes across as a steady leader.

Finally, Mendes manages to present the film as one long, continuous shot, with the camera simply following the two characters on this perilous journey. That view is broken only once in the film when a lead character is knocked unconscious. It’s a marvelous achievement in storytelling via film. 

Serving up any further details on the film would be a mistake, for it needs to be seen to be fully appreciated, and any kind of spoilers and added hints would do a disservice to what turns out to be an extraordinary movie experience. Go watch it, and see why Mendes not only deserved the Golden Globe for best director, but that he should likewise win the best directing Oscar at the upcoming Academy Awards. And I make this declaration while holding clear admiration for Scorsese’s direction of The Irishman and Tarantino’s work on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Indeed, it turned out that 2019 was a good year for filmmaking – to a significant degree thanks to 1917.


Ray Keating is a columnist, a novelist (his latest novel is The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series), an economist, a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Yes, Free Trade is a Moral Good

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – January 16, 2020

Throughout much of the history of mankind, life for most people was a daily struggle for survival. That changed markedly as the institutional foundations of the market economy were established and spread – with that process continuing today. Those institutions include establishing and protecting private property rights; competition; the rule of law; setting up tax and regulatory policies that incentivize entrepreneurship, investment and innovation; consumer sovereignty; and the freedom to trade. That freedom to trade, once again, pertains to transactions in the same town or village, throughout nations, and across international borders.

So, let’s review key points making clear the moral superiority of free trade over protectionism.

First, there is an unmistakable moral component to establishing and expanding an economic system – that is, the market economy – essential to lifting people out of poverty; to the wealth creation that enables, for example, improved food production, housing, health care and overall quality of life; to greater leisure time; to a cleaner environment; and to incentivizing the private investment, innovation and exchange that allow for greater specialization, productivity and income growth. Free trade is central to the entire market process, and the free market is essential to economic and income growth, including poverty relief.

Second, the freedom to trade and exchange as one sees fit is a basic economic freedom that makes clear the value of each individual, with that same freedom serving to spur economic growth forward. Decades ago, my eighth grade teacher noted that the United States was the most prosperous country on the planet, yet she had no idea why that was the case. She failed to understand that it fundamentally was about economic freedom, that is, individuals being free to spend, save and invest their earnings as they see fit; free to start up, build and invest in businesses; free to gain education and skills needed to achieve their goals; and free to improve their lives by trading with whomever they choose.

Third, free trade points to individuals being able to improve their lives thanks to greater choices and lower prices in terms of consumption; thanks to enhanced productivity; thanks to a diffusion of technological advancements; and thanks to expanded opportunities by serving customers not only in their own town, state or country, but around the world. In contrast, protectionism is about the politically powerful influencing government in order to gain special treatment, such as U.S. steelmakers looking to be protected via tariffs or quotas. Such cronyism means that voluntary trade is being replaced by political dictates. It means that political power is reducing individual opportunity. When a country moves away from free trade, the people with lobbyists and political connections make out better than – and at the cost of – the average person.

The Peterson Institute for International Economics found that benefits from expanded trade to the United States from 1950 to 2016 amounted to $2.1 trillion (measured in 2016 dollars), with per capita GDP and GDP per household growing by $7,014 and $18,131, respectively, with gains accruing disproportionately “to poorer households.”

In terms of a global perspective, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization jointly published a report titled “The Role of Trade in Ending Poverty.” A key message in that study was:

People measure the value of trade by the extent to which it delivers better livelihoods, through higher incomes, greater choice, and a more sustainable future, among other benefits. For the extreme poor living on less than $1.25 a day, the central value of trade is its potential to help transform their lives and those of their families. In this way, there is no doubt that the integration of global markets through trade openness has made a critical contribution to poverty reduction. The number of people living in extreme poverty around the world has fallen by around one billion since 1990. Without the growing participation of developing countries in international trade, and sustained efforts to lower barriers to the integration of markets, it is hard to see how this reduction could have been achieved...

Trade also affects long-term growth since it gives access to more advanced technological inputs available in the global market and because it enhances the incentives to innovate. Trade contributes directly to poverty reduction by opening up new employment opportunities, for example for agricultural producers, with the expansion of export sectors, and by bringing about structural changes in the economy that increase employment of low-skilled, poor workers in the informal sector. Trade also provides better access to external markets for the goods that the poor produce. 

Finally, trade is not war – despite the rhetoric sometimes used by politicians who oppose free trade. Nor is free trade particularly about winners vs. losers – again, a politically favorite accusation hurled at times. In contrast, voluntary exchanges in a free market rank as the exact opposite of war, in any sense of the word. Each party gains in a market trade; if not, the exchange wouldn’t occur.

For good measure, free trade works against actual war. After all, if individuals and businesses freely partake in commerce with individuals and businesses in another country, those two nations are less likely to go to war. Indeed, this was one of the reasons why there was such a push to reduce trade barriers after World War II – especially given that many saw restrictions on trade (that is, protectionism) during the 1920s and 1930s as a contributor to the outbreak of World War II.

Free trade does not mean that no one will lose a job or no business will fail. Quite the contrary, market competition means that consumers ultimately decide which products succeed and fail, and in turn, which businesses will succeed and fail. That, in turn, means that resources are allocated to their best or most efficient uses given the needs and demands of consumers. Competition remains essential to long-run economic growth. This stands in opposition to protectionism whereby politicians climb into bed with special interests to dole out dollars, and try to anoint winners and losers. 

Free trade is about economic growth, lifting people out of poverty, creating wealth, boosting incomes, enhancing freedom, and mutually beneficial commerce. Free trade is a moral good, and yes, it rocks!


Ray Keating is a columnist, a novelist (his latest novel is The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series), an economist, a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

BREAKING BOOK NEWS: Second Edition of ROOT OF ALL EVIL? A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL – with a New Author Introduction by Ray Keating – Coming Soon!

Pre-Order the Kindle Edition and Signed Copies at a Special Price!

Do God, politics and money mix? In ROOT OF ALL EVIL? A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL by Ray Keating, the combination can turn out quite deadly. Keating introduced readers to Stephen Grant, a former CIA operative and current parish pastor, in the fun and highly praised WARRIOR MONK. Grant returns in ROOT OF ALL EVIL? – a breathtaking thriller involving drug traffickers, politicians, the CIA and FBI, a shadowy foreign regime, the Church, and money. Charity, envy and greed are on display, with the action running high. 

In this second edition of ROOT OF ALL EVIL? A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL, Ray Keating has written an author introduction focused on some of the challenges of penning a political thriller, including maintaining an edge-of-your-seat feel while not annoying the reader with the petty real world of politics. Keating also talks about how some key characters fit into ROOT OF ALL EVIL?, as well as how his own experiences fed into the story.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Doubts About the U.S. Still Being a Right-of-Center Country

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – January 11, 2020

The United States has long been identified as a right-of-center country when it comes to politics. But is that still the case? A new Gallup poll proclaims that it is, but I have reasons for doubt.

In a January 9, 2020, release, Gallup declared, “The U.S. Remained Center-Right, Ideologically, in 2019.” Let’s consider the pollster’s findings.

Gallup reported that 37% of American adults described their political views as “conservative,” while 35% said “moderate” and 24% “liberal.” Well, conservatives should be pleased, so far.

But Americans also leaned more Democrat than Republican in terms of party preference or leaning – with 47% aligning themselves with the Democrats and 42% with Republicans. Gallup noted, “Americans' political leanings have been quite stable since 2016, the year Donald Trump was elected president. The Democratic figure has not changed in the past four years, and the Republican figure has been 41% or 42% each year since 2012.”

Interestingly, none of this is terribly new. Looking at Gallup’s polling back to the early 1990s, more people identify as “conservative” and “moderate” than “liberal,” but at the same time, party preference (including how independents leaned) generally has been Democrat over Republican.

Meanwhile, the breakdown of how Republicans and Democrats identify their political views has skewed in directions one might expect. For example, in 1994, Republicans broke down at 58% “conservative,” 33% “moderate,” and 8% “liberal. That compared to the 2019 breakdown among Republicans as 73% “conservative,” 21% “moderate,” and 4% “liberal.”

The trend, unsurprisingly, has been in the opposite direction among Democrats – but more drastic. In 1994, 48% identified as “moderate,” 25% “liberal,” and 25% “conservative.” That compared to a 2109 breakdown among Democrats of 49% “liberal,” 36% “moderate,” and 14% “conservative.”

This trend among Democrats lines up with a clear shift to the Left among Democratic Members of Congress and Democrats running for president. When Joe Biden is considered a “moderate” among Democrats, you know the party has taken a sharp left turn.

But what about Republicans as “conservatives”? The problem is that the term “conservative” has lost its meaning among many in the Republican Party, particularly during the era of Trump. After all, President Trump has identified himself as a “nationalist.” And his main policy positions and political rhetoric rank as “populist.” And populism is not conservatism.

While a slippery term, populism has some common threads over the decades, namely, fear of something or some groups, opposition to a vague group of “elites,” and claims of being victims. So, populists often rail against bankers and big business. Today, key populist targets are free trade, immigration, and once more, sometimes vague “elites.” Like leftist Progressives, populists seek to engage government on their behalf, for their own causes, while vehemently opposing government action for issues they oppose.

The populist outlook stands in stark contrast to what traditional conservatism has stood for and encompassed. A traditional conservative generally understands and subscribes to Judeo-Christian values, free enterprise, free markets, and a strong national defense, with key policy positions being low taxes, smaller government, a light regulatory touch, strength in foreign policy and national security, free trade, and a social policy agenda led by being pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. Conservatism embraces freedom and personal responsibility, as well as compassion and charity. Conservatism views government in Madisonian terms, that is government more or less is a necessary evil that must be limited to basic duties, such as protecting life, limb and property. Conservatism certainly doesn’t accept the populist/Progressive idea that “We’re all victims now,” and government needs to do something about it, whether that be imposing protectionist trade policies, or breaking up large technology companies that populists fear or with which they disagree.

In the end, populism has more in common with Progressivism than conservatism, and yet, most populists today identify as conservatives. 

Therefore, that 37% of Americans identifying as “conservative” turns out to be rather meaningless. How many in this group are actually populists rather than conservatives? No one knows, but it’s clear that it’s a far bigger chunk than perhaps many of us suspected just a few years ago. And that casts serious doubt on the notion that America is still a center-right country.


Ray Keating is a columnist, a novelist (his latest novel is The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series), an economist, a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Sports Beats Politics Every Time

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – January 10, 2020

Sports always beats politics. I had another experience proving just that when stopping in for a caffeine hit at a Starbucks this week.

I entered the coffee house wearing a “Defend the North” hat and a Kirk Cousins jersey. Yes, I’m a long-suffering fan of the Minnesota Vikings. And despite the fact that this Starbucks was on Long Island and I happen to be a lifelong New Yorker, Fran Tarkenton made me a Vikes fan many years ago when I was a kid. And this is playoff time, so I’m donning the Vikings gear. Also, by the way, don’t be hating on Cousins – Captain Kirk got the job done against the Saints this past Sunday.

Anyway, as I walked toward the counter, a woman waiting for her drink spotted my attire, and proceeded to engage in the SKOL clap made famous by Vikings fans at each home game. This brightened my day. We did a high five, and she mentioned that she had worn her Vikings socks earlier in the day. We spoke about how pleased we were that the Vikings had beaten the Saints, albeit in heart-skipping, nail-biting fashion.

As this lady went to leave, we exchanged a “SKOL!” and another high five, and expressed mutual hope that our team would somehow beat the 49ers this coming Saturday.

That’s what it’s like being a sports fan. Heck, I’ve even had positive engagements with Green Bay Packer fans over the years.

Now, compare that to politics, especially in recent years. Republicans and Democrats largely detest each other. Conservatives and liberals view victories by their opponents in apocalyptic terms. It all can be so exhausting, and I’ve been doing political commentary and policy work for thirty years.

My meeting with a fellow Vikings fan in Starbucks was blissfully ignorant of party registration or our respective positions on the hot button issues of the day. We were just two Vikings fans hoping that our team would win the next game.

I’ve always been a big sports fan, but I appreciate sports fandom now more than ever before given the growing incivility in our nation. And I don’t like when politics soils the game. I’d prefer that the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Donald Trump, for example, simply shut up, along with the dupes who fall in behind each and the ESPN talking heads who find it necessary to weigh in, when it comes to politicizing football, or any other sport.

Sports beats politics, and I support a policy of strict separation of sports and politics.

Oh, yeah, and SKOL! Go Vikes!


Ray Keating is a columnist, a novelist (his latest novel is The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12th book in the series), an economist, a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Big Issue Underlying the Methodist Divorce

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – January 9, 2020

The United Methodist Church (UMC) ranks as the third largest Christian denomination in the United States – after the Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists. But it’s unlikely that Methodists will be able to continue the cheer “We’re number 3!” for much longer. 

To sum up: The Methodists are about to get a big divorce.

In early January, a group of UMC leaders approved a proposal to allow the denomination to split into two or more church bodies. The focus is to let more conservative or traditional congregations leave the UMC and form their own denomination (or denominations). 

The traditional congregations choosing to exit and set up a new church body would receive a parting gift of $25 million to get things rolling. Another $2 million would be available for other Methodist denominations that might be created.

As for individual congregations, unlike the petty and ugly actions taken by the U.S. Episcopal Church against traditional congregations that have tried to leave, local churches choosing to exit the UMC would retain their assets, as well as liabilities.  Still, and tragically, the reality of such votes promise to tear apart individual congregations and regional conferences. This promises to be hurtful and messy.

The proposal will be voted on by delegates to UMC’s next general conference in May 2020. Given the broad support given to the proposal from conservatives and liberals, it’s expected to pass the conference.

So, is this a good thing or not for Methodists and the larger Christian universe within the U.S.? Good or bad is open for debate, but it was inevitable.

The inevitability comes from differing views of Holy Scripture. As much as this Methodist split is focused on the question of gay marriage and active homosexuals serving as pastors, those issues spring from a more fundamental and growing difference not just within the UMC but across Christianity at large, that is, on the authority of Holy Scripture. 

Holy Scripture is quite clear in that sexual relations are meant exclusively for the relationship of marriage between a man and a woman. Any sexual activity outside those martial bonds is deemed to be sin. Now, lots of people don’t necessarily like that, and people have been sinning since Adam and Eve. 

And the fracturing of Christianity into seemingly countless denominations over the centuries is nothing to be celebrated. But in the past, it’s safe to say that the bulk of differences developed over the interpretation of Holy Scripture, while at the same time Christians generally accepted that the Bible was God’s word. However, in more recent times, a rather breathtaking arrogance has developed, which basically says, “Yeah, not only do we not like what God has to say here and there in the Bible, but we can simply ignore it. In fact, we can go against it or simply change it.”

This generates a far wider division within Christianity than what we’ve thus far experienced. How do Christians work and worship together in the same denomination when one group believes that Holy Scripture is God’s word and another group explicitly or implicitly denies this?

Hence, we see the inevitability of the Methodist split, as well as other forthcoming divisions. 

Good or bad? The Methodist split obviously is bad in that it reflects this dangerous fissure within Christianity regarding the authority of Holy Scripture. 

As a matter of the Church preaching the Good News to the world, the Methodist break likely will turn out to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, part of the world will look and shake its head at Christians and their internal squabbles. On the other hand, by being able to choose to form a denomination that respects the authority of Scripture, many Methodist pastors and churches will be free to focus more on properly tending to their flocks and bringing a clearer message to the world.


Ray Keating is a columnist, a novelist (his latest novel is The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12th book in the series), an economist, a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.