Archive for December 2017

Ashamed

December 30, 2017

As 2017 comes to an end, one word keeps coming to mind. Ashamed.

The last election revealed America is a divided country. About half the voters are against most, if not all, policies that progressives put forward such as environmental protection, individual and women’s rights, basic healthcare (especially for the poor), and comprehensive immigration reform. This conservative voting block is not of a single mind but rather vote that way in order to express their “litmus test” objection to one or more of progressive policies. In a democracy, this voting rationale is both possible and protected.

The larger question is whether this litmus test voting is good for the county?

The 2016 General Election pitted the “Make America Great Again” coalition versus the “I’m With Her” crowd. The Trump/GOP team put forward policies and promises which were categorically antithetical to America’s (as an whole) best interest and liberally salted their promises with “free lunch” offers.

  • Putting coal miners back in the mines (when there are economically and environmentally superior non-coal options),
  • Opening government lands (and creating jobs) for oil exploration (when world oil demand was weak and alternative energy sources were becoming competitive),
  • Building a wall on the Mexican boarder as a means of creating jobs in unspecified areas (when the jobs Republicans were eyeing were in agriculture, restaurant services, landscaping, and many other laboring capacities which American workers have consistently tried to avoid),
  • Ending NAFTA, TPP, and the Paris Climate Agreement (even thought NAFTA was key to making the US auto industry price competitive, TPP was an important step in keeping the US a factor in Asian peace, and Paris Climate Agreement was a mechanism to deal with global warming), and
  • Giving Americans the biggest tax cut ever (even though it would cost $1.5 trillion in additional Federal Debt and Republicans have always opposed increasing the debt)

President Trump and the Republican controlled Congress have colluded to reverse environmental standards, workers protections, business rules, women’s rights, and perversely shown a willingness to increase the number of Americans without basic healthcare and enable the income inequality to further increase. The President, with his defiant, fact-less proclamations, has thumbed America’s nose towards most all the world’s countries, be they ally or foe.

Making America Great Again? No way, President Trump is really interested in himself, his family, and his wealthiest donors.

I have lived 7 years in Europe and have conducted business around the world. All the modern industrial countries know a bully when they see one. Regardless of President Trump’s chants of America First, these global trading partners will protect their own interests and reject any arrangements that hurt their own situation. Win-win, ok. America win, other nation lose, is a non-starter.

That President Trump’s actions makes me ashamed that our electoral system gave the reins of power to such an unqualified person.

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Tax Reform Bottom Line

December 17, 2017

Republicans are predicting that next week the House of Representatives will pass the conference committee’s tax reform proposal and shortly thereafter, the Senate will also vote approval. This outcome is being positioned as a great victory for President Trump and for the Republican leaders in Congress. Hmmm.

For sure it is a legislative victory. But is it in any way a reflection of voters’ best interest? Who wouldn’t want to pay less taxes?

And, is the Republican $1.5 trillion tax cut consistent with long and frequently expressed Republican concerns about annual deficits and the magnitude of the current debt?

This bill is pure and simply a reward to very wealthy Republic donors So, what’s so wrong with this tax reform?

As advertised, “a big beautiful Christmas Present tax cut for the middle class”, it is not. This is a lie or more gently an incorrect projection. Most of the tax savings accrue to the very wealthy and corporations. Even more shameful is that Republicans will now attack entitlements on the basis that the Government cannot afford funding them any longer.

  • One must recognize that tax reform bill is an optional piece of legislation. There is no gun to the heads of Congress members. The US economy is doing well compared to other modern global economies. Changing tax code without severe economic pressure is dangerous.
  • The consequences of lowering both individual and business tax code are unpredictable.
  • The promise of further economic growth, especially in a time of reasonable economic growth, is wildly unsupported with past experience.

The dark side of this “reform” is that it plays to worst of voters’ instincts. Who doesn’t want to pay less in taxes? Unfortunately, America’s growing income inequality makes Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security even more critical to the well being of so many Americans. Republicans know this and will use the increased deficit to argue for entitlement cuts.

Hmmm. Let me think. Tax cut for the wealthy, pay for it with help from average Americans and the most vulnerable. Wow, what a Christmas present.

So, It’s All About Abortion And Maybe LGBTs?

December 12, 2017

The Alabama special election for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions is taking place today. Regardless of who wins, Judge Roy Moore or Doug Jones, the real loser will be common sense.  Questions will remain whether the electorate can think clearly through complex issues. The main culprit is evangelical religion as practiced in the bible belt and particularly in Alabama.

Judge Roy Moore is the Republican candidate and as such should be the expected winner.

Moore, however, on any reasonable basis of “fitness for office” should be disqualified based upon his record as a Alabama court member. Moore was twice removed from office for not complying with lawful directives from higher courts. The recent allegation of Moore’s predilection for much younger women, and alleged inappropriate relations with a 14 year old represent a “he said, she said” issue and if Jones and Moore were tied in voter’s minds, might be enough to tilt the election Jones’ way. But that is not the case.
Republican voter after voter has said in interviews that Judge Moore represents their religious convictions and everything else be damned.

Abortion (or killing the unborn as these pious Alabamians say) is the issue, period.

What type of poisonous thoughts have these people been indoctrinated with? One is left to wonder how one can judge one life (the unborn) against the mother’s life if the mother’s life was threatened? And what about capital punishment or military service? Where is the bigger thinking about raising a family of several children when health or economic means would better allow?

These same evangelicals are quick to push forward their “holier than thou” views opposing a woman’s right to choose and hold slightly out of sight their views that the LGBT community are all sinners and as such lesser people. What type of religious institutions can teach such extreme hatred for fellow humans?

This type of extreme thinking also explains why so many Americans voted for Donald Trump whose life is hardly in alignment with biblical teachings.  Trump has said he was opposed to abortion and has half heartedly taken a swipe at transgender persons serving in the military. Go figure.

The greater issue on abortion is that abortion has been steadily decreasing, largely the result of contraception. It should be clear to everyone that the cycle of poverty can only be broken if family planning is a rational process and children are conceive with love and dedication to be raised into productive circumstances.

So, no matter how this election turns out, this subject will continue to be red meat for the bible thumpers and will be revisited again and again.

When Logic Fails

December 11, 2017

The Republican designed and President Trump supported “tax reform” is poised to become law. Only a few more horse trades remain before a mockery of fairness and consistency with past positions is presented to the American people, a big beautiful Christmas gift as President Trump has pontificated. The lipstick on this pig can’t mask the mind baffling contradictions from Republican policy and think tank positions.

Tax reform involves elimination of loopholes, exemptions, and other special interest sponsored deductions followed by a readjustment of the prevailing tax rates. Among the loopholes, exemptions, and deductions are those included to specifically encourage certain parts of the economy, or reward certain persons or industries normally for loyal support.

For example, the home mortgage deduction is intended to stimulate home ownership and incidentally benefits the building industry. Other loopholes, exemptions, or deductions are clearly targeted at key donors, for example, in the oil and gas exploration community.

Where has logic failed?

  • The US economy is already one of the strongest in the world. Why is there a need to stimulate?
  • The corporate tax rate is 35% and is the highest among similar modern countries. The effective tax rate (that is what corporations actually pay) is only 18%. This reflects the 35% minus all the loopholes, exemptions, and deductions. The 18% effective rate put the US right in the middle of other like countries. Why the need for corporate tax reform?
  • Our country already has a yearly budget deficit and a total debt of $20 trillion. The President and Congressional Republicans claim this “tax reform” which will cost itself $1.5 trillion, will so stimulate the economy that everyone wins.
  • Republicans claim economic growth alone will cover the $1.5 trillion and in the process will create more higher paying jobs. Despite two previous attempts (George W Bush and Ronald Reagan’s Administrations) where taxes were cut and corporations kept the windfall profits, Americans are asked to believe this time will be different. Hmmm.
  • The height of chutzpah falls to the GOP’s billing of this tax reform as a “middle class” tax cut. Under the questionable claim of middle class tax cut, the very wealthy and pass through business owners will reap the greatest amount of the $1.5 trillion in cuts.

As details are being ferreted out, mortgage interest and State/local taxes deductions will make the tax reduction less helpful to the middle class. Changes in how university endowments are treated will hurt many Universities financially and are likely to make higher education more difficult (read expensive) for the middle class to obtain.

President Trump has been in office 11 months and on every single claim he has made or policy action he has issued by executive order, there is overwhelming evidence that the President’s words are not supported by logic or fact.  A logical person must assume the President’s words are wrong again.

The Republican controlled Congress, on this issue, is equally and shamefully wrong. Following the money, one can explain the Republican Congress members’ action by who is buying the Republican Congressional members’ loyalty, for example the Kochs, the Mercers, and Sheldon Adelson.

The notion that America’s tax code should undergo a tax reform is not illogical or unnecessary. Tax reform targeted, however, for the wealthy and corporations is a dead end proposition for everyone else, and clearly destined to not deliver on its promises.

The Mouse In The Picture

December 7, 2017

Have you noticed who is photo-bombing President Trump’s “important” speeches?

Yesterday’s Israeli Embassy speech provided an apt example. While the President stood solemnly before an American flag (required back drop for a President), over President Trump’s right shoulder, in plane view was Vice President Pence. Hmmm.

The Vice President appears to have decided that subliminal messaging could make Americans think “Mike Pence” is made of Presidential timber, and dare I say, a worthy replacement of President Trump should events dictate.

There is never a dull day at the White House. On some days, however, President Trump’s fitness to serve is questioned. On other days, Special Prosecutor Mueller raises speculation that his investigation may ensnare the President. One can read on Vice President Pence’s face, “don’t worry, I’m ready to step in”.

That prospect, in fact, does worry me.

President Trump appears to be in the White House for his own personal aggrandizement. Some of his most unfair, cruel, and misguided policies are grounded on how the President sees them as helping Donald Trump.

With a President Pence, America would inherit a President arguably as unfit for office (for different reasons) as President Trump. Mike Pence thinks he is being guided by god’s will, and is destine to change the world to fit his evangelical views.  On top of that, Pence is very comfortable with the financial backings (and demands) of the super wealthy like Koch brothers, the Mercers, and Sheldon Adelson.

My guess is that each night when Vice President Pense goes to sleep he dreams he might become the “mouse that roared”.

Next Stop, Social Democracy?

December 5, 2017

These past 11 months have witnessed war against Government regulations, a skewed (towards the wealthy) tax reform, and the wanton disregard for healthcare and the environment.  Thanks Mr. President.  To be fair, this is not just a President Trump issue, rather it is the true face of the current Republican Party.

And, more than any other factor, these past 11 months have demonstrated the maturation of years of focused work directed by ultra conservative groups under the Koch Brothers’ flag.

The Koch’s and most of their zealous followers see the world largely from a libertarian perspective. In their minds this means much less government, far fewer regulations, much less government services, and consequently much lower taxes. The Koch’s legions act as a model for others to see what hard work and drive can produce.

Tax reform now rests in a joint Congressional committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate’s tax reform versions into one bill both Houses can accept. Barring a miraculous reenactment of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol”, Americans can look forward to more income inequality as a Christmas present.

In other Trump administrative action, curbs on Big Banks will be slackened, hints companies may not need to provide their employees healthcare, and  “Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security” will be tossed to the “private” sector severing any connection to the Government or its promises.

For the Koch-type people, panacea could not look better. Hmmm.

One can imagine two outcomes given current choices Republicans are making.

  1. A total breakdown in America’s social contract. The majority of Americans will lose faith in Government and jump to the belief that paying taxes, following laws, or supporting the Country as a whole are no longer a duty since their Government no longer looks out for them.
  2. A strong electorate reaction which in turn elects a government with the mandate to secure access to affordable healthcare, retirement assistance (social security, Medicare, and pension guarantees), and a kind/caring safety net collection of services, (after all America is the wealthiest country in the world).

With respect to these two options, option #1 should increase gun sales and return America to a period more similar to pre-revolutionary times. With option #2, America will be seamlessly connected to the global economy and viewed by others as the latest, intelligent “Social Democracy”. Hmmm.

Governance Gone

December 3, 2017

With the Senate passage of the GOP tax reform bill Saturday evening/Sunday morning, any semblance of a political party worthy to hold the reins of government vanished. The current Republican crowd in control of both houses of Congress resembles more a mob than a deliberative body. What is even worse is that the Republican majority clearly do not care what others think or who may be severely disadvantaged by tax reform.

Was this rough shod action new to the Senate?

Not long ago, Republicans were closing in on “repeal and replace” legislation which would impact 1/3rd of our national economy and could take away coverage for our most at risk Americans.

  • Were there any hearings?
  • Were their any requests for public comments?
  • Were there any efforts made by Congress to educate the public ahead of time on what changes were actually in the bill?

The answer to all these questions was no.

The tax reform bill’s passage was even worse.

  • Bill preparation is private,
  • Sloganeering replacing printed copies of the proposed legislation,
  • Horse trading (often just promises and not changes in the law) to get 50 vote Republican majority,
  • The final copy of the 500 page bill issued two hours prior to the actually Senate vote

These reckless behaviors demonstrated absolute “zero” Republican interest in governance and 100% recognition of what they owed the moneyed interests who bankrolled their individual campaigns.

When Americans go to the polls, most think they are exercising their Constitutional right (and duty) to select those who will run the Government in a way that recognizes (and balances) all Americans’ best interest. On December 2, 2017, Americans learned that

  • the Republican majority in Congress has no interest in all Americans,
  • no interest in a transparent and interactive process,
  • and a thorough willingness to do what ever is necessary to meet the needs of their wealthy campaign donors.