Archive for July 2016

Democrats Taking Stock

July 30, 2016

The Democrat National Convention closed Thursday night, Hillary Clinton and Vice President nominee Tim Kaine have set off on a campaign bus tour across Pennsylvania, and now it is time to assess how effective the DNC had been. In a few days the “official” polls will begin to trickle in and the media will breathlessly report them as hard fact, even if they are contradictory. That’s the American way.

For sure, the DNC stage management and presentation was hands down superior to the Republican convention. Points must also be conceded to the Democrats for handling the forced resignation of Debi Wasserman-Schultz professionally and without any short term blow back. And for sure Bernie Sanders deserves an award for being a first class adult in the room..

The DNC also sported some great speeches (and better than the RNC). Michelle Obama, President Obama, Khizr Kahn, Michael Blumberg, and General John Allen to name a few. But what about Hillary Clinton herself?

In comparison to the doom and gloom Donald Trump speech, Hillary’s was full of sunshine and optimism. Hillary was workmanlike, very positive, and on target for the already converted. Hillary supporters loved her speech.

Hillary explained to Americans why Donald Trump would be an unsafe choice for President and why he should not be elected. She said it 50 different ways. She then went on to explain what she would do as President, point by point by point. The electricity seemed to drain out of the air.

So the real race for President has begun. Donald Trump says he will fix everything without any indications how. Hillary Clinton says she will help the middle class by creating good jobs and suggests how. Hmmm.

The Clinton promises are questionable for two reasons. (1) The adverse impact of globalization may yield only to long term systemic changes resulting in worker’s improved  skills and education.  Hillary’s short term solutions may simply not produce results in the short term.  (2) Clinton’s proposals may require Congress’ legislative support, and what makes anyone think that the GOP members will say anything other than “no”?

IMO, previous Donald Trump supporters will be unchanged and polls will reflect the same numbers for him. For Hillary, her main, logically believable case, is that Donald Trump cannot be taken seriously and is totally unfit on foreign relations issues. In other words she is saying, “I might not be who you would like as President, but Trump is so bad I look great.”

Yet to come will be the debates, gaffs by either candidate, and the ever possible calamity either domestically or internationally which could galvanize Americans to take a chance with Trump or retreat to safety with Hillary. Time will tell.

The Person Or The Principle?

July 27, 2016

Listening to disheartened Bernie Sanders supporters who say they will not support Hillary Clinton, one hears the unthinkable. “I was not for Bernie, I was for what his campaign championed”. Hmmm.

I wonder what principle Bernie represented? Was it “free” college education? Or, was it “free” healthcare? Or, was it just the idea of breaking up the big banks or raising the minimum wage? Some say Bernie was just the face and voice of “progressivism” and that there was many more ideas to come. Hmmm.

Thinking about this, one might wonder whether America is an island, separated from the rest of the world and free to undergo any political and social experience it chooses (and remain worldwide competitive)?

For sure there are some everyday conditions which Americans ought to regret if not be ashamed of. For example,

  • Basic healthcare – not available to every American
  • Income inequality – trending even larger and far greater than 40 years ago
  • Uncontrolled drug prices – pricing at what the market will bear
  • Unaffordable higher education – resulting in personal debts of over $100,000
  • Minimum wage below a living wage – leaving little or no room for upward mobility

I am sure Bernie Sanders knew that while each of these situations were worthy of improvement, that all were not possible with the stroke of a pen.

In addition, it is important to know that a progressive like, left of center agenda does not include denying women the right to choose, respecting the rights of all individuals regardless of religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Even centrists do not support tax cuts, especially for the wealthy.

So why would it not make sense to ensure no steps backward and hold the potential to move in a more progressive direction?

George W Bush was elected (with Supreme Court help) with out winning the majority. What role did the principled, but spoiler oriented Ralph Nader play in Al Gore’s loss?

IMO, Hillary represents progressive leanings but well anchored in the center. One might say a Hillary victory will reinforce “Regaining The Center”.

The Coming Week – Will The Big Kids Show Up?

July 25, 2016

The Democrat National Convention begins Monday. It will not be difficult to present a more positive message compared to the just completed Republican convention. But is that enough?

For example, will it be enough to speak of tweaks to the Affordable Care Act or should the convention assert “basic healthcare” is a right to which all Americans are entitled?

Or, with respect to jobs, is it enough to say a Clinton Administration will work to generate jobs, or should the convention acknowledge the reality of globalization and the disproportionate sharing of productivity gains during the last 25 years?

And what about poverty? Is it enough to declare war on poverty without addressing why poverty exists at all and especially why poverty appears institutional with some Americans?

Americans would benefit if Democrats considered aloud the larger subject of healthcare. In a country that fancies itself as the world’s most powerful, offering a healthcare delivery system which is often too difficult or too expensive for many of its citizens to access, seems bazaar if not outrightly shallow.

And Democrats should be clear that no government service is free and health care is no different. Government, of course, needs to be clever about how it finances healthcare so that it is available for all citizens when they need it, even if they cannot afford the insurance or the co-pay. (Most other countries use a VAT to underwrite healthcare costs.) But beginning with the notion that America offers the best healthcare one can afford is no longer acceptable.

Globalization is like the elephant in the room. No one seems to want to discuss how it is a fact of life. Political leaders also seem to deny the best way to deal with globalization is through open trading arrangements and not protectionist measures. Open trading, of course, must be fair.    Democrat leaders, however, fear their many Unionist supporters will not want to face up to globalization and globalization is a subject better left unsaid.

Poverty is as old as the ages. Never the less, systemic poverty is a serious problem and a potential security threat (as we have seen in Europe with poor disaffected immigrants). Democrats need to move beyond the notion the Government can simply give enough handouts to the poor that they will rise above poverty and enter the productive economic streams. Poverty is not just a state of wealth (like having no wealth).  Poverty seems also to be a state of mind. Will Democrats step up and say the poor bear some responsibility in improving their own lot?

IMO, behind closed doors, Democrat leaders could have these discussions. During the discussions, however, someone will remind these leaders that the election is theirs to lose.

Clinton-Kane should walk away with the election by simply not self destructing. My guess is that regrettably  platitudes and PC talk will dominate and once again an opportunity will be lost.

Trump Is Destroying The Republican Party?

July 23, 2016

The news media is flooded with articles and commentaries about the demise of the GOP. The cause is laid at Donald Trump’s feet. The Grand Old Party will never be the same again, these media sages say. Hmmm.

IMO, there is little that separates a career Democrat from a career Republican elected official. First and foremost, both party members are set upon personal wealth generation, just as if they were still in private business. One must look much deeper to discern a difference.

Some will point to one party being “progressive” and the other “conservative”. Why would suddenly “conservative” approaches become out of fashion? Could it be that this approach does not work with the type of problems facing Americans? I doubt it.

By the same token, is the “progressive” party fully on target with solutions to America’s problems. No chance of that either.

Trump is most likely a red herring.

The Republican Party is a broken and defunct political organization and Donald Trump’s ascendence only serves to highlight the GOP’s dysfunctional ideology. Trump hasn’t destroyed the GOP, the GOP has destroyed itself through all the incompatible factions the GOP gladly has bundled together in order to gain majorities in Congress.

The 16 other Republican candidates who began the primaries (and who lost out to Trump) stood little chance of winning in the general election and may have fared even poorer than Trump.

A party can’t put women, gays, and immigrants back in the genie’s jar and move on as if nothing has happened. Tax reform may be a non-partisan and worthwhile objective, but passing a tax cut for the wealthy is unconscionable.

Repairing the infra-structure is another worthwhile goal but doing so by cutting entitlements is tone deaf. Cutting entitlements while increasing defense spending is cruel as well as wasteful.

And championing religious freedom as a thinly veiled cover for legal discrimination is tantamount to political suicide.

Donald Trump is a very clever imposture. His political views are a compilation of Democrat and Republican pledges. Most likely there are no Trump pledges that he would die for, other than promising what’s necessary to win.

This behavior in no way endangers today’s Republican Party, the GOP has done itself in.

The Law And Order Candidate

July 22, 2016

Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, told Americans last evening he was the “law and order” candidate. In a one hour and fifteen minute exhortation, Trump gestured with both arms for emphasis while he recited all the things he viewed as wrong today, and how under a Trump Administration America will be great again. Hmmm.

At least on one point, the crumbling infrastructure, Trump was spot on. The only problem was that fixing the infrastructure will require billions if not trillions and with Trump’s promised massive tax cuts, one must wonder where the money will come from?

Our world is out of control, Trump says, and Americans are afraid. If Trump is alluding to the numerous cases of police shootings of African Americans, he was going off the reservation since most GOP members are more concerned about the fewer incidents of fellow Americans shooting police. With Trump it is unclear what he means and that’s just how he likes it.

Terrorists acts around the world were also featured in Trumps speech. Some how, as if magically, under President Trump ISIS is going to disappear and the world will be safe again. Hmmm.

In the seventy-five minute speech, Trump managed to avoid any details on what specific actions his Administration would take toward anything he had listed as something he would fix. What was clear, however, was that everything that was wrong (in Trump’s mind) was the direct result of President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Gratuitously, Trump distilled the issue down to elect him and life will be good again.

Morning after poll numbers showed a dead heat between Trump and Clinton. This reflects a bump (increase in poll numbers for Trump) from four days of constant TV exposure. It is normal for each party to get a bump in ratings directly following its national convention. Hillary’s turn is next. Hmmm.

Trump’s promises are full of inconsistencies, both with reality (like more spending and lower taxes) and with the Republican platform itself. Clinton’s strategists may have a problem choosing the best points to refute since there are so many.

The over arching theme of “law and order’” is perplexing. Trump’s selection as the GOP standard bearer was a direct result of so many Americans worried about jobs, particularly good jobs. Most Americans have seen a life time’s worth of riveting TV about the shooting by police of African Americans than they have seen shootings of police officers. Trump should not expect to make the tragic shootings of police officers his central theme without equal time to the senseless killings of innocent Americans by police mistakes.

And, to underline this point, the one factor in common in all these killings are guns which are freely available. Trump’s beating of this horse will lead right into Hillary’s position on better gun controls. Hmmm.

A Presidential candidate’s shelf life should be a concern for Donald Trump. While he says many provocative statements, his oratory skills are narrow and not impressive. He has spoken like a bully and bluffer, and we should not expect much change during the general election campaign.

How About Some More Division?

July 21, 2016

When President Obama was elected, the Republican Party decided to just say no. For President Obama’s first two years, the Democrats enjoyed a Senate majority (thanks “W”) and some legislation was passed, notably the Affordable Care Act. Beginning in 2011, however, it was “NO” in capital letters.

The height of Republican “no-ism” came early this year when Senate Leader Mitch McConnell promised not to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee vowing to wait until the next President was elected. Unprecedented and clearly outside the spirit of the Constitution, this was a politically divisive act of the first order. Many Republicans cheered McConnnell anyways.

This past week in Cleveland, Republican conventioneers have bemoaned the division of their own party, the division gripping Congress, and the division drenching America. Calls for unity and making America great again were heard everywhere. Has the GOP decided to turn the page on division and go back to governing in the entire country?

Hmmm.

Senator Ted Cruz had other thoughts.  Cruz called for all voters to vote their mind. Read that no endorsement for Donald Trump. Cruz is all for GOP leadership… as long as Congress acts the way he thinks it should. And Cruz is just not so sure about Trump.

Most of the GOP speakers have been in agreement on only one subject. Hillary Clinton.

Each speaker tried to out vilify Clinton compared to the other speakers. The hyperbole went as far as to call for sending potentially the next President to jail for acts which up to now have not been judged criminal by any competent authority.

These anti-Hillary chants are not likely to sway any Clinton supporters and the raw demographics currently point to a Clinton victory. So, what is the real message to be taken from the Republican Convention?

How about more jobs, improved foreign policy, ending poverty, immigration reform, or tax reform?

Hmmm.

There has been no road map for new and better jobs laid out. There has been no plan revealed on how American foreign policy can be made more effective. There has been no ground swell behind ending poverty or dealing comprehensively with immigration and the 11 million undocumented living here now. While there has been broad support for tax cuts (a gift to the rich), there has been no discussion how such cuts would be offset with spending decreases.

In short, the only totally agreed upon position has been to demonize, if not outrightly label Hillary Clinton as a criminal.

Does anyone think these charges befit a party which claims it wants to govern the entire Country, let alone bring unity back?

Make America Safe Again

July 18, 2016

The Republican Presidential Convention opens today with the theme “Make America Safe Again”. Media reports predict record TV audiences for the four day convention even while pundits are non-stop pointing out the division within the GOP. With so many main stream Republicans “unavailable” to speak, the actual evening agendas and specific speakers will likely surprise many. What will the Donald do?

Trump has set the opening nights theme is “Make America Safe Again”. Such topics like Benghazi are said to be featured. Hmmm.

I wonder whether the Trump team will speak to deaths by traffic accidents (30,000 per year) or slips and falls (20,000 per year)? And while they are at it I wonder whether they will speak to deaths by guns (33,000 per year)?

The first night’s theme is a telling indicator of the duality of purpose. Making America safe is hardly the GOP’s purpose. Instead, Republicans want to make Americans afraid and channel that fear into votes.

If the GOP can be so far off base on a measurable subject like safety, what else will they be wrong about?  Hmmm.