History, What’s That?

Posted May 26, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, foreign policy, foreign relations, Uncategorized

Tags:

Yesterday, President Trump spoke to an American TV audience from the NATO headquarters backdrop. The ceremonial speech, which was actually made to other NATO Country leaders, and was intended to recognize NATO’s history was timed such that it fell into a good TV slot for a US audience.

The dedication of a new NATO building featured the addition of two symbols of why NATO is important. A large section of the Berlin Wall called attention to the Communist (totalitarian) threat and a piece from one of the twin towers starkly reminded viewers of terrorism. One might argue that for the present, these symbols offered fitting bookends to NATO’s history.

That was not sufficient for President Trump. The President managed to weave into his speech his request (demand?) that NATO member countries pay their NATO dues. President Trump lectured the assembled group calling the failure of most of NATO’s members to reach the 2% level as “unfair” to American taxpayers. Still unsure whether President Trump’s speech was aimed at NATO members or for US domestic consumption?

The general theme which has played out during Trump’s campaign and early days of his Presidency says countries around the world should do more to provide their own defense (and not rely upon the US). Seem reasonable?

So, it was not a stretch to call NATO obsolete, Brexit as a good idea, or to suggest Japan and maybe South Korea should go nuclear. Did the Donald say that?  Surely the President or some of his advisors have read history books about World War I and II.

Every country has groups within their borders who espouse democratic and peaceful ways, AND, other groups who see the world in militaristic, nationalistic tones. These domestic forces compete for power, and when conditions are right (for example, extremes of income distribution, economic depressions, suppression of individual freedoms), militarism takes hold and bad things happen.

Freedom of speech, fair income distribution, open education, and fairly perceived taxation are elements of civil life which keep the balance between moderation and extremism under control.

Attacks on the news media, implementing tax policies which reward the already wealthy, tilting education opportunities away from the public and towards the privileged, and shifting away from progressive taxation, are examples of governmental actions which increase a societies vulnerability towards nationalism. Some politicians around the world are only too willing to mouth “Make Country XYZ Great Again”.

Since World War II, the United States has played a positive role in keeping countries which had armed their nations to the hilt and had wage savage war on their neighbors on an alternative course. With economic stability, there was little political reason to rearm (other than for basic needs). With little rearmament, there was even more reason to use diplomacy when differences between various countries inevitably arose.

Imagine European history where every 10 to 20 years saw armed conflicts among neighbors.  Since NATO’s founding, peace has reigned. Think about Japan and how many people today buy Toyotas, Sony equipment, Seiko time keepers, or Canon/Nikon/Milota cameras.  Better than Pearl Harbor?

And instead someone thinks going nuclear is a good idea?

Clearly if NATO nations agree that 2% of their GDP is the appropriate amount for Europe’s defense, then each member country should be paying that amount on average (temporary exceptions for times of economic recession). Remember, however, most European countries have a parliamentary form of government. This means the officials making up the government can be turned out of office if voters become dissatisfied.

Keeping the public’s support is the necessary act of political governing. Does anyone think that countries not spending the 2% on defense could simply shift their national budgets to include the 2% and not short some other government expenditure? These countries have made choice which their people have approved. A unilateral change could have unintended consequences.

The world, including the US are far better off with a European Union (versus individual fiefdoms), a Euro (versus many different currencies of questionable value), and countries both in Europe and Asia more interested in domestic than foreign policy (versus a a flock of countries each trying to out arm the others).

While this opinion might not play well to the Trump base, it is also likely that President Trump, his nativist advisors, and his core supporters understand little about history or diplomacy.

There are other explanations why the President felt it necessary to impolitely lecture his fellow peers. A simple explanation would be President Trump does not see Angela Merkel, Theresa May, or Emmanuel Macron as his peer. Not a good omen, it can be a lonely world.

Hmmm.

Trump’s Budget

Posted May 24, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: deficit, Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Yesterday, the White House released its official budget proposal. While there is little chance the budget proposal will get accepted as written, the publication writes into history how cruel and short sighted an Administration can be.

From taking away meals on wheels and “food stamps” for qualifying families to deep cuts for the EPA, State Department, and most other agencies, budget telegraphs no concern for the needy, and no strategic recognition for the importance of diplomacy or climate change. This budget proposal is a flat earth document.

Budget Director Mick Mulvany offered a spirited double speak defense of cuts to social programs claiming, in effect, that cutting off support to poor families would hasten their return to the “dignity” of the work force. Hmmm.

IMO, there are systemic problems with most if not all of American’s current social programs. For example, the cycle of poverty seems as healthy today as it was when Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. Providing meals to grammar school children (in order for them to study better), while compassionate, does not seem to have improved education levels or graduation rates. So does President Trump have a point?

Maybe, but…

The old adage “don’t fix it if it’s not broken” does not translate well into “if it’s broken, just wait, it will get better”.  Dealing with poverty and education are important subjects.

And, to be sure, there are a lot of aspects of the American economy which are not working well. The notion that those currently receiving food stamps will be motivated to go out and get a “good” job is ridiculous. Minimum wage is simply too low to provide new workers a chance for upward mobility. So cutting benefits without an alternative program is tantamount to gross insensitivity to the social welfare of the country. The cuts may be inviting those “without” to take to the streets.

Breaking the poverty cycle, to be sure, is no easy problem to solve. In this regard, neither Democrats nor moderate Republicans have tabled any ideas to improve the current status quo. So with the absence of other plans, does that justify this budget proposal?

Maybe, but…

Conservatives and Libertarians have long championed this type of a budget. No surprise. This budget proposal, however, is not designed to solve social inequities, it is designed to make it easier (in the minds of President Trump and his close advisors) to enact huge tax cuts.

Their thinking goes that these sweeping budget cuts will allow equally sweeping tax cuts without increasing the debt. Conservatives and Libertarians surprisingly do not want to see the debt grow and would prefer to see it shrink. Given the option of a lower debt level and no tax cuts, or tax cuts and no change to the debt, these “real” Americans will choose tax cuts for themselves.

Cutting any welfare assistance programs without an alternative proposal is cruel. Cutting welfare and cutting taxes at the same time is cruel, greedy, and short sighted.

The Eastern Front?

Posted May 22, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

Most historians cite Hitler’s decision to attacked Russia and opening a second front on the East as the crucial event which ultimately lead to Germany’s defeat in World War II. The argument goes that Germany spread its resources too thin and consequently could not win either in the west or the east. I wonder if history will repeat.

President Trump has a serious political and legal fight on his hands with regards to Russian Government involvement in the 2016 election. According to American security agencies, Russian entities did engage in hacking and dissemination of fake news during the campaign. After denying there was any Russian involvement, President Trump now asserts there was no “collusion” between his campaign and the Russians. The FBI and both the House and Senate have now investigations underway with the potential for serious political and criminal determinations. To make a matters worse and in true Roy Cohn style, the President fired FBI Director James Comey and told the Russian Foreign Minister that he had fired the “real nut job” (James Comes) and that would take pressure off this investigation. Hmmm.

Surprisingly this Russian investigation is not either the western or eastern front. Hmmm.

Instead, President Trump’s “western front” lays in his (and the Republican controlled House’s) tax cut proposals. The President is proposing “huge” cuts which will gift million and maybe billions to the wealthiest Americans. And, this Trump tax cut budget hole will need to be offset by budget cuts.

Therefore, the “eastern” (second) front will be Trump’s budget proposal itself.

Reports today say the President will propose sharp cuts to Medicaid in his budget proposal. Medicaid covers healthcare for the poorest of Americans and in many States covers millions of Obamacare newly covered Americans. While most Americans do not receive Medicaid benefits, these proposed Medicaid cuts signal the beginning of a wider attack, an all out attack upon healthcare coverage (America Health Care Act), followed by Medicare, and ultimately Social Security.

While tax cuts for the wealthy are shameful and unnecessary, offsetting these corporate and individual windfall tax gifts with cuts to programs used by the other 99% of Americans is mean spirited to the max.

Going for tax cuts is a mighty lift. Going for a huge reduction in government spending, particularly safety net and entitlement spending is an even bigger challenge. Going for both is likely to resemble a war with two fronts.

The Russian meddling investigation is a complication even Hitler did not have. While it is unlikely the President ever engaged directly with the Russians, it is not unlikely that several of his key staff and advisors did. The irony might turn out to be that any contacts with the Russians was really about potential future business deals (making money). not intent to sway the election.

The even larger irony might turn out to be that the President gets ensnared by coverup or obstruction activities (wanting the FBI investigation to simply go away) and not collusion with the Russians.  One would think the President would want, if only as an insurance policy, to boast high popularity ratings if the investigations were to turn political.  Offsetting tax cuts for the wealthy with entitlement cuts for everyone else may not appear popular as Americans think about things.  Hmmm.

It will certainly be hard fighting a war on two fronts.

Being A Real Nut Job

Posted May 20, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Donald Trump, Politics, Uncategorized

Tags:

When I was in grammar school, a wise teacher once instructed the class about picking on others. My teacher said when you point your finger at someone else, look down at your hand. Remember, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

I wonder whether President Trump ever was so lucky to have such a teacher?
Maybe he should have learned…

“Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Meyer nut job.
That is what I’d truly like to be.
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer nut job,
Everyone would be in love with me.

Oh, I’m glad I’m not an Oscar Mayer nut job.
That is what I’d never want to be.
Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer nut job.
There would soon be nothing left of me!”**

When a senior elected official like the President lowers himself and the Office to call another senior public servant “a real nut job”, the name caller is indirectly calling attention to himself. I wonder whether President Trump wanted the American people to know the Donald was himself a real nut job?

** Slight variation to the Oscar Meyer Wiener theme song

Is There A Difference?

Posted May 19, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: congress, Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

President Trump complained once again that he is being treated poorly (and unfairly) by the news media. The President says that whatever he says is questioned by the press, more so than any other President. Even if the press correctly points out that a Trump statement is literally false (or generously, inaccurate), the President calls the publication of such a finding, “fake news”. Hmmm.

The Washington Post reported this week on a June 15, 2016 gathering including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Following a session with the Ukrainian foreign minister, when a small group of Republicans were together, McCarthy said to the group he would guarantee Russian President Putin was paying two Americans, one being Donald Trump. A week later, Donald Trump was nominated at the GOP convention.

Fast forward to this week when the Post decided to publish an account of this meeting. The Washington Post approached Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy’s offices about the pending article and informed them of what they would quote Ryan and McCarthy saying.

The offices responded that the report was incorrect, it never happened. The Post then went back and said they had a transcript. The offices responded again that the transcript was wrong, if not made up. Finally the Post told the offices they had a recording and the story changed. The offices then said that McCarthy had told a bad joke and there was nothing to it.

Hmmm.

President Trump makes statements which can easily be shown to be inaccurate. Two experienced political leaders make statements which they deny ever making. And they continue to deny making these statements until it is established a recording exists and then a spin is applied. Hmmm. Is there a difference?

Maybe… more like, however, a difference without a distinction.

President Trump says things that are inaccurate, (the kindest interpretation might be stretching the truth). When called for this exaggeration, the President doubles down, repeats the inaccurate statements, and claims unfair treatment.

The Congressmen says something, in private, which they could have believed true. When called up on the statements, this party denies ever having made the statements and avoid providing any proof that their statements might be true.  The Congressmen deny and deny until the evidence is overwhelmingly obvious, and at that point admit making the statement.  Without losing a breath, the Congressmen spin their statements to mean something quite different.

John Q Public hears all this and is puzzled. How could the office of the President say something so outrageously wrong? Why would the President say such things? Press of business? Victim of hateful media?

John Q Public also sees and watches elected officials and is just as disillusioned. The Public has such a low opinion of Congress for good reasons. When a Congressional member denies something, the Public has learned to discount the Congress member’s claims.

So here’s the difference. President Trump is newly elected. His supporters are giving the President wide latitude around what he says (because the Public is still hopeful that President Trump will make “their” American great again.  for Congress members (both Republican and Democrat), the boat has already sailed.   Congress members, on the other hand, may want to think they are not “lying” and certainly will go to extremes with denials and spins.  Congress members are quite comfortable speaking past the question asked, misdirecting the questioner to another topic, and if all else fails, fall back on “I can’t remember the details”.

See the difference?

In truth both President Trump and Congress members are telling John Q Public that honesty, directness, and good intentions are over valued virtues. Rather “not losing” in the case of Congress, and “winning” in the case of President Trump are the goals.

What is worrisome is that enough Americans voted for a person unfamiliar with truthfulness and elected Donald Trump.  If his Presidency becomes unhinged, who will these Americans turn to?  What even more outrageous and unprovable promises will the next candidate be willing to put forward?

John Q Public will be disappointed with President Trump if America is not made great again.  President Trump’s lack of truthfulness may not matter, results will.  If Trump is a one term President, what will the next President have to promise to get elected?

Authority Versus Right

Posted May 16, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: congress, Donald Trump, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

It is only Tuesday and President Trump has already opened another can of worms. In what is becoming a pattern of behavior, the Washington Post reported President Trump revealed to the Russian Foreign Minister, super secret US intelligence. The President’s aides (namely National Security Advisor H R McMaster) denied the Post article. “It” never happened, McMaster told a news conference. Twelve hours later, the President himself tweeted that he had in fact shown the Russian top secret classified material and as President, he had the authority and right to do so. Hmmm.

The Post report indicated that President Trump boasted about how much intelligence he receives daily and pointed to information pinpointing the where abouts of ISIS senior officials. The media speculated that the Russian could quickly figure out where the intelligence came from and most likely the methods used to obtain it. “Means and methods” have traditionally been completely “no-no” when reporting highly classified intelligence information. Hmmm.

President Trump has again conveniently conflated “authority” and “right”. Clearly the President has the authority to declassify any classified information regardless of whether declassifying is prudent or not. Once declassified, the intelligence is legally discoverable through freedom of information requests or through unauthorized “leaks”.

In other words, if the President opens Pandora’s box, what comes next will be what it will be.

In the President’s mind, apparently, authority gives him the right to act as he pleases. President Trump in essence is saying because I have the authority, I also have the right to act regardless of the consequences. IMO, Presidential actions must include reasonable diligence and consideration of consequences as well as gains to be made.

(For example, the President has the authority to use nuclear weapons.  Do you feel comfortable with the President making such a decision without a thorough discussion with senior military and intelligence officials?)

The President claims his purpose was to increase Russia’s engagement in pursuing ISIS. Sounds like a worthy objective especially if the other Country was an ally like Great Britain, France or Germany. One is left wondering when instead the Country is Russia who routinely supports interests opposed to those of the US.

President Trump has the right also to fire (remove from office) the FBI Director and under normal circumstances, the President is given wide latitude in justifying his decision. Obstruction of justice is not an accepted “right”.  Recklessly sharing secret intelligence could be a dereliction of duty.

It could also be brilliant negotiating tactic. Only subsequent events will determine.
Between dereliction and brilliance lies a sea of other possibilities. Ignorance, deceit, mistake, test, quid pro quo, gamble, and instinct to name a few.

As a one off, this release of classified information is unlikely to meet the test of impeachment, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” (Article II, Section 4).

President Trump had clear authority, but only with more information will Americans know whether the President had the right.

End Game?

Posted May 15, 2017 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: congress, Conservatives, Donald Trump, evangelical, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

There seems to be much reporting and analysis these days concerning how President Trump will become ex-President Trump. For those who were neutral or opposed to his candidacy, the option of an ex-President Trump is tantalizingly attractive. For those who supported his candidacy, somewhat surprisingly over 90% of them still think the Trumpeter is performing well and meeting their expectations. So, why the talk of “ex-President Trump?

President Trump has given his supporters all they could hope for. Reverend Jerry Falwell said this weekend at Liberty University’s Graduation in Roanoke, Virginia that “President Trump is the real deal and unlike previous Republican Presidential candidates (Mitt Romney and John McCain), Trump has delivered” (or words to that effect). (Evangelicals may have an advantage versus the rest of the secular America since Evangelicals believe God is listening only to them.)

One must assume President Trump’s supporters believe there should be immigration and entry barriers for Muslims and see President Trump’s so far failed actions as heroic never the less. (I wonder whether these religious champions have thought about which religious group would be next after the Muslims, or if his Muslim bans becomes implemented, what should the Country do with current lawful Muslim residents and citizens?)

Evangelicals must also cheer when they read about the American Health Care Act which cuts healthcare for the neediest. (Sound like lover thy neighbor?). And I wonder whether evangelicals think about the future. After AHCA, can a re-do of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security be far behind?

The Trump proposed tax reform must echo sympathetically amongst their church’s pews. The potential of huge tax reductions for the wealthy (corporate or individual), again overlooking the poorest Americans, must inspire these evangelicals to lift their voices in songs of heavenly thanks.

Of course, evangelicals may be thinking that “god helps those who help themselves”, and surely there is every indication that President Trump, his family members, and his richest supporters are helping themselves and buy into this myth wholeheartedly.

If one is objective about the Trump Presidency, one must admit the President has shown no signs of adjusting his ways despite a hail of criticism and push back. If tweets do not work, then a campaign style rally might. Or, a threat against this person or organization followed by a slam against a foreign country (friend or not) serves to distract the 7/24 news cycle as well as most citizens.

Environmental policy is under attack. Let’s have more oil wells, pipe lines, and even coal fields.  The Justice system has signaled it will be blind to individual liberties (especially voting rights) and instead focus on refilling out Federal prisons. Labor, Education, and HHS are all headed by individuals who are on record of opposing those departments’ previous policy direction. Hmmm.

And let us not forget that the overriding factors that got President Trump elected were two myths, (1) the US economy was flagging, and (2) only President Trump could make it great again.

Both of these myths were and are completely false. With the President’s rants over trade, his stress of keeping American manufacturing jobs in America with one hand and his destruction of jobs with budget and policy decisions with the other, there is more than a reasonable chance that the US economy will begin to slow and soon contract. If that happens, get ready for the wolves to come out.

Today the dark money sources (read Jane Mayer’s Dark Money), conservative and libertarian hedge funds and business owners (plus a lot of wealthy individuals with inherited money) support or at least have welcomed President Trump. These enormously selfish and self centered Americans will turn on a dime if President Trump is unable to provide them the tax reform he has promised and will seek his ouster if the economy fails in such a way as to shrink their personal wealth.

So, back to end game. President Trump is building a public record replete with words, actions, and deeds worthy of supporting impeachment. And, if not impeachment, then not reelections. And if not reelections, then may be not even re-nomination.

Americans, however, need to understand that a President Pence will not change President Trump’s policies. In many regards Pence represents a greater threat than President Trump. Vice President Pence will avoid any public statements if possible which are not fully vetted.  (Pence’s alibiing for Trump’s firing of James Comes is an exception.)   Remember, cutting back on the environment, pushing tax cuts for the wealthy, marshaling aid for religious groups, opposing women’s rights, and suppressing the vote are all bread and butter policies currently supported by Vice President Pence as well as the “dark money” owned Republican party.

Americans must, for their own good, keep an eye on Trump/Republican policies.  Impeachment of President Trump and removing him from office while tempting won’t change the foul wind blowing in Washington.

Repudiation of President Trump by making him a one term President, on the other hand, is that best alternative. Only in cases of severe “malfeasance” should impeachment be considered, regardless of the smell or optics of President Trump’s behavior.  The end game must include the blunting of “dark money” and its stranglehold on the Republican Party.  President is a red herring and not the originator of these top 1% policies.