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by Taylor Kovar,

Hey Taylor - I’ve finally saved up enough to have a healthy emergency fund and am ready to start tackling my debt. Between credit cards, car payments, and student loans, which do you think I should go after first? - Melissa

Hey Melissa - As long as you make a consistent effort to pay down debt without overspending, you can’t really go wrong. When it comes to which type of debt you should target first, there are a few things to consider.

Credit cards. While everyone has a different situation, this is usually the place to start. Credit card debt will keep on growing if it goes unaddressed, with ridiculous interest rates and obscene penalties for late payments. I don’t know about your other debts, but I’m assuming your cards have the heftiest interest rates. I’m also hoping that this debt is smaller than whatever you owe on your student loans and car, which should make it easier to pay off. Once you have your credit cards eliminated from the balance sheet, you can take these monthly payments and add that amount to your other loans, speeding up the repayment process.

Student loan debt. Barring any defaults, you should have a respectable APR on this debt. If not, I highly recommend consolidating the loans to see if you can get a better rate. You can check out my review of Splash Financial at GoFarWithKovar.com to learn more about the process of consolidation and see if Splash might help you reduce your interest payments. As long as your rates are manageable, I’d tackle all of your other debts before going after the student loans. However, if you have multiple loans through federal and private sources and some of them have higher interest rates, you might start there and then move on to credit cards or car payments.

Car payment. Should your car payment have you paying more than the credit cards each month, get the car paid off. Hopefully, you got a vehicle within your price range and didn’t take on too much debt for this. While it’s nice to keep the monthly payments below $200, it’s even nicer to own the car outright, so speed up the payment process as much as you can. If you’re having trouble managing car payments and your other debts, it might be worth heading back to the dealership to see about exchanging for a cheaper model.
 
Making a very general assumption about your debt, I’d say you should pay off your credit cards, then your car, then the student loans. This order could change depending on the amounts you owe but targeting the highest interest rates and consolidating student debt usually provides the quickest path to becoming debt-free. Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

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by John Stossel

    This week, children may learn about that greedy man, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is selfish until ghosts scare him into thinking about others' well-being, not just his own.
    Good for the ghosts.
    But the way Scrooge addresses others' needs matters.
    Today's advocates of equality, compassion, increased spending on education, health care, etc., say "we care" but demand that government do the work.
    Controlling other people with the power of government doesn't prove you care.
    If you want to help the poor, clean the environment, improve the arts. Great! Please do.
    But if you are compassionate, then you'll spend your own money on your vision. You will volunteer your work and encourage others to volunteer theirs, by charity or commerce. You don't force others to do what you think is best.
    But government is not voluntary.
    Government has no money of its own. Whatever it gives away, it first must take from others through taxes.
    If you vote for redistribution of wealth, welfare benefits, new Medicare spending or free education, you can tell yourself you're "generous."
    But you're not. You're just forcing others to pay for programs you think might help.
    That's not generosity. That's control. The more programs you demand, the more controlling you are.
    In fact, you are worse than greedy old Ebenezer Scrooge.
    With Scrooge, people have a choice. They can work for Scrooge or quit. They can do business with someone else.
    Governments don't offer us choice. Governments say: "Comply or we will lock you up. Pay taxes and we will decide whom to help. No one may escape the master plan."
    Why, then, do people react to big government ideas as if they're generous instead of scary?
    Because most people don't think clearly about what it means to tell government to use force against their fellow citizens. They think about society the way their ancestors did.
    "Our minds evolved tens of thousands of years ago, when we lived in small groups of 50-200 people," says HumanProgress.org editor Marian Tupy. "We would kill game, bring it back, share it."
    The idea of everyone getting an equal share still makes us feel warm and cozy.
    Some of you may feel that coziness this week, sharing a Christmas meal. Great. But remember that if you decide that society's resources should be redistributed, that's much more complex than passing meat around a family table.
    Seizing control of a big society's resources has unforeseen consequences -- ripple effects that are hard to predict.
    Back in the cave, you stood a pretty good chance of noticing which hungry relative needed a bigger share of meat. In the tribe, that sort of central planning worked well enough.
    It doesn't work as well once the tribe numbers thousands or millions of people. No tribal elder knows enough to plan so many different people's lives.
    Today's politicians, for instance, don't know how many workers will be laid off if they raise taxes on Walmart.
    They don't know what innovation will never happen if they cap CEOs' salaries.
    They don't know how much wealth creation will be lost if they tax investors' money in order to fund another government program.
    Government's built-in ignorance explains how it can spend trillions on failed poverty programs, and then respond to the failure by demanding more funds to continue the same programs.
    You stand a better chance of getting good results if you do real charity, close to home, where you can keep an eye on it -- and without coercing anyone else to do things your way.
    We can invent new ways to give to each other. Philanthropy evolves, much the way markets do, harnessing new technologies and social networks that span the globe.
    Innovative ideas, like microlending, start in one kitchen. If they work, they grow.
    By contrast, government grows even when it doesn't work. It bosses people around even when it's not really helping them.
    Big hearts are a good thing. Big government is no substitute for them.
    John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

    Virginia Governor Ralph Northam apologized for his medical school blackface stunt, but he will have much more to apologize for if he signs into law a bill that attacks Virginia citizens' Second Amendment rights. The measure is Senate Bill 16, which would ban "assault" firearms and certain firearm magazines. Since Democrats have seized control of Virginia's General Assembly, they are likely to push hard for strict gun control laws. Those laws will have zero impact on Virginia's criminals and a heavy impact on Virginia's law-abiding citizens who own, or intend to own, semi-automatic weapons for hunting or their protection. As a friend once explained to me, "I carry a gun because I can't carry a cop."
    I am proud of my fellow Virginians' response to the attack on their Second Amendment rights. Firearm owners in the state have joined with sheriffs to form Second Amendment sanctuary counties. That means local authorities will be required to protect Second Amendment rights in the face of any attempt by Virginia's General Assembly to abrogate those rights. Eighty-six counties -- over 90% -- in the Virginia commonwealth have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions. Spotsylvania County's board of supervisors voted unanimously to approve a resolution declaring that county police will not enforce state-level gun laws that violate Second Amendment rights.
    Sheriff Chad Cubbage said, "Be it be known that the Page Sheriff hereby declares Page County, Virginia, as a 'Second Amendment Sanctuary,' and that the Page County Sheriff hereby declares its intent to oppose any infringement on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms." Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins made a vow during a board of supervisors meeting, where the board unanimously agreed to declare the county a Second Amendment constitutional county, to "properly screen and deputize thousands of our law-abiding citizens to protect their constitutional right to own firearms."
    In an attempt to appease citizen resistance, Northam suggested there would be a ban on only the sales of semi-automatic rifles. He would allow gun owners to keep their current AR-15s and similar rifles as long as they registered them. Otherwise, they must surrender the rifles. I'd urge Virginians not to fall for the registration trick. Knowing who owns what weapons is the first step to confiscation. Governor Northam further warned, "If we have constitutional laws on the books and law enforcement officers are not enforcing those laws on the books, then there are going to be consequences, but I'll cross that bridge if and when we get to it." Some Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill say that local police who do not enforce gun control laws should face prosecution and even threats of the use of the National Guard.
    Virginians must heed the words and capture the spirit of their two most distinguished citizens, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. These resolutions referred to the federal government but are just as applicable to state governments in principle. They said: "Resolved, That the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government ... and whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force."
    Too many Americans view the Second Amendment as granting Americans the right to own firearms to go hunting and for self-protection. But the framers of our Constitution had no such intent in mind. James Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 46 wrote that the Constitution preserves "the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation ... (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." Thomas Jefferson wrote: "What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms." Similar quotations about our founders' desire for Americans to be armed against the possible abuses of government can be found at https://walterewilliams.com/quotations/arms/.
    Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by Walter E. Williams

    Here are several questions for biologists and medical professionals: If a person is found to have XY chromosomes (heterogametic sex), does a designation as female on his birth certificate, driver's license or Social Security card override the chromosomal evidence? Similarly, if a person is found to have XX chromosomes (homogametic) does a designation as male on her birth certificate, driver's license or Social Security card override the chromosomal evidence? If you were a medical professional, would you consider it malpractice for an obstetrics/gynecology medical specialist, not to order routine Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer for a patient who identifies as a female but has XY chromosomes?
    If you were a judge, would you sentence a criminal, who identifies as a female but has XY chromosomes, to a women's prison? A judge just might do so. Judge William Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit focused on a Florida school district ruling that a transgender "boy," a person with XX chromosomes, could not be barred from the boys' restroom. Pryor suggested students shouldn't be separated by gender at all.
    Fear may explain why biologists in academia do not speak out to say that one's sex is not optional. Since the LGBTQ community is a political force on many college campuses, biologists probably fear retaliation from diversity-blinded administrators. It's not just academics and judges who now see sex as optional. Federal, state and local governments are ignoring biology and permitting people to make their sex optional on one's birth certificate, passport, Social Security card and driver's license. In New York City, intentional or repeated refusal to use an individual's preferred name, pronoun or title is a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. If I said that my preferred title was "Your Majesty," I wonder whether the New York City Commission on Human Rights would prosecute people who repeatedly refused to use my preferred title.
    One transgender LGBTQ activist filed a total of 16 complaints against female estheticians, with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal after they refused to wax his male genitals. He sought financial restitution totaling at least $32,500. One woman was forced to close her shop. Fortunately, the LGBTQ activist's case was thrown out by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, and he was instructed to pay $2,000 each to three of the women he attacked. The LGBTQ activist is not giving up. He is now threatening to sue gynecologists who will not accept him as a patient.
    In 2012, an evangelical Christian baker in Colorado was threatened with jail time for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. When Christian bakery owner Jack Phillips won a landmark (7-2 decision) U.S. Supreme Court case in June 2018 over his refusal to make a wedding cake for a gay couple based on his religious convictions, he thought his legal battles with the state of Colorado were over. But now Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, 24 days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor, faces a new court fight. This fight involves a lawyer who asked him to bake a cake to celebrate the anniversary of her gender transition. There are probably many bakery shops in and around Lakewood, Colorado, that would be happy to bake a cake for homosexuals; they are simply targeting Phillips.
    For those in the LGBTQ community, and elsewhere, who support such attacks, we might ask them whether they would seek prosecution of the owner of a Jewish delicatessen who refused to provide catering services for a neo-Nazi affair. Should a black catering company be forced to cater a Ku Klux Klan affair? Should the NAACP be forced to open its membership to racist skinheads and neo-Nazis? Should the Congressional Black Caucus be forced to open its membership to white members of Congress? If you're a liberty-minded American, your answers should be no.
    Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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by John Stossel

    Sen. Rand Paul just wrote a book, "The Case Against Socialism."
    I thought that case was already decided, since socialist countries failed so spectacularly.
    But the idea hasn't died, especially among the young.
    "Hitler's socialism, Stalin's socialism, Mao's socialism. You would think people would have recognized it by now," says Paul in my latest video.
    Paul echoes Orwell in likening socialism to "a boot stamping on the human face forever" and warning that it always leads to violence and corruption.
    "You would think that when your economy gets to the point where people are eating their pets," says Paul, contemplating the quick descent of once-rich Venezuela, "people might have second thoughts about what system they've chosen."
    That's a reference to the fact that Venezuelans have lost weight because food is so hard to find.
    "Contrast that with (the country's) 'Dear Leader' Maduro, who's probably gained 50 pounds," Paul observes. "It really sums up socialism. There's still a well-fed top 1%; they just happen to be the government or cronies or friends of the government."
    Naturally, American socialists say our socialism will be different.
    "When I talk about democratic socialism," says Sen. Bernie Sanders, "I'm not looking at Venezuela. I'm not looking at Cuba. I'm looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden."
    Paul responds, "They all wind up saying, 'The kinder, gentler socialism that we want is Scandinavia ... democratic socialism.' So we do a big chunk of the book about Scandinavia."
    Paul's book is different from other politicians' books. Instead of repeating platitudes, he and his co-author did actual research, concluding, "It's not true that the Scandinavian countries are socialist."
    Scandinavia did try socialist policies years ago but then turned away from socialism. They privatized industries and repealed regulations.
    Denmark's prime minister even came to America and refuted Sanders' claims, pointing out that "Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy."
    In fact, in rankings of economic freedom, Scandinavian countries are near the top.
    "They have private property, private stock exchanges," says Paul. "We learned that, actually, Bernie is too much of a socialist for Scandinavia!"
    Scandinavia did keep some socialist policies, like government-run health care. The media claim that's why Swedes live longer, but Paul says: "This is the trick of statistics. You can say, 'The Swedes live longer, and they have socialized medicine!' Yet if you look hard at the statistics, it started way before socialized medicine."
    Scandinavians already lived longer 60 years ago, and they also had lower rates of poverty. That's because of Scandinavian culture's emphasis on self-reliance and hard work. Paul reminded me of an anecdote about economist Milton Friedman.
    "This Swedish economist comes up to him and says, 'In Sweden, we have no poverty!' Friedman responds, 'Yeah, in America, we have no poverty among Swedish Americans!'"
    In fact, Swedes have 50% higher living standards in the U.S. than when they stay in Sweden. Danish Americans, too. Socialism can't take the credit.
    But the most important argument against socialism is that it crushes freedom.
    Socialists get elected by promising fairness and equality, but Paul points out: "The only way you can enforce those things is to have an equality police or a fairness police, and ultimately they show up with truncheons. ... The best kind of socialist leader ends up having to be ruthless because you can't be a kinder, gentler socialist leader and get the property."
    By contrast, capitalism largely lets individuals make their own choices.
    "It's a direct democracy every day," says Paul. "You vote either for Walmart or you vote for Target. You vote with your feet, with your wallet. People who succeed are the people who get the most votes, which are dollars. And as long as there's no coercion, seems to me that that would be the most just way of distributing a nation's economy."
    It's not perfect, but look at the track record of the alternative, says Paul: "Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Chavez, Maduro. It doesn't work."
    John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.
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