Archive for October 2018

The Master Plan, Part II

October 31, 2018

In the previous post, “Master Magician And King Of Deception”, the thought that President Donald Trump was incompetent was put aside.  The post described how the King of Distraction has promised to help American workers by increasing pay and opening new jobs.  In fact, so far, there has been little movement in pay (and none if inflation is taken into account), and jobs have increased only modestly and in proportion to the jobs creation rate established in the Obama Presidency.  But, looking around there are a lot of richer rich people.

One is left to assume that President Trump never intended, as a priority, to help the unemployed.  Rather, his objective had always been to woo the wealthy and apply their money and influence towards his reelection campaign, and if possible, increasing the net worth of the Trump family businesses.  The average worker, has been just window dressing.

“Master Magician and King of Deception” discussed three objectives that President Trump is trying to accomplish.  In essence the real “what”.  Part II of Trump’s master plan reflects how he thinks he can get away with and endless bait and switch.  One could say, “keeping one step ahead of voters, never looking back, while providing camouflage for deception”. 

In order to keep Americans from recognizing the Trump Administrations’ real accomplishments (aiding the wealthy and himself), he needed a way to distract voters.  How about a “tweet” each day which would be outrageous, as well as red meat for his base. 

President Trump introduced social media in a big way.  Simply stated, President Trump has used Twitter to introduce and amplify “distraction”.  His goal is clearly to keep voters impressed with the pace of “action” while at the same time keeping voters from thinking through any White House proposal.  The conscious introduction of a new subject each day leads directly to assuring voters do not remember a twitter promise from last week, last month, or last year, never mind what progress had been made.

President Trump, for reasons of his character makeup, has set objectives designed to satisfy his personal needs, not those of the American people.  The President has kept ahead of the truth so far but the beginning of the end may be nearing.  Simply saying something is so does make reality that way.  Time is working against the President. 

Vote on Tuesday, November 6 

Master Magician And King Of Deception

October 29, 2018

America is being treated to someone possibly even greater, more outlandish, and more successful than the man who wrote the book, P T Barnum.  The media has falsely accused President Trump of being “over his head”, sorely lacking in understanding of economics and foreign policy, and too spontaneous to put forth a comprehensive set of national policies.  Hmmm, I wonder what the record shows?

  • Tariffs – President Trump declared by executive order that US Steel and Aluminum Industries were core to the US’ national security.  The White House then laid hefty tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The President also promised that the tariffs would bring jobs back to America.  Most economists and media pundits roundly criticized the President, disputed his logic, and predicted imminent trade wars as foreign nations retaliated with tariffs of their own.  What happened?

Foreign countries retaliated, as predicted, and threatened to put more tariffs on if the US continued with other tariffs (you know, retaliations for the retaliations only brings more retaliation).  But as the dusk has cleared something quite unexpected and unpredicted has happened.  American Steel and Aluminum companies have raised the domestic steel and aluminum prices, about in line with imported steel and aluminum’s old price combined with the new tariffs.  There is no new jobs nor new Steel or Aluminum capacity.

What a hoot.  American aluminum and steel companies gained this competitive advantage where the tariffs made imports more expensive, but then chose to raise their prices eliminating any price advantage the tariffs had brought.  End result, no new investment, no new jobs, just higher prices and more profits for US Steel and Aluminum companies.  Higher costs for everyone else.

  • Corporate tax cuts – The US tax code was “so unfair” to American corporations, the President said.  American corporations were subject to a 35% corporate tax while few other countries in the world had a rate so high.  The message was higher taxes were putting American corporations in an uncompetitive position and this “was costing Americans jobs”.  A lower corporate tax rate would mean more investment and more jobs.  Hmmm.

Overlooked in the political discussions was the facts that America’s “effective tax rate” (the actual amount of federal taxes companies pay which reflects the 35% minus exemptions, rebates, and loopholes, was about 18% which was in line with the rest of the world.

The proposal was to reduce corporate taxes to 22% and with this new found source of cash, corporations would pass on a portion to its workers and of course, invest in new factories and hire new employees.  Even though this concept had been tried before with negative results, the President was sure it would work. Oh, and yes there was no adjustments to the exemptions, rebates, and loopholes,

Just like Linus and Lucy, corporations took lower tax rates, promised to do great things, and then put the savings in their pockets once again. No new jobs, no new investment, and no pay increases for their employees.  Hmmm.

  • Climate, Energy, and Trade – The President has spoken firmly about the adverse impact (on jobs) that the Paris Climate Agreement, the EPA Clean Air regulations, and the Trade balance of payments between most countries and the US represent.   The President promised to “fix” these defective agreements and bring back jobs to America.  Hmmm.

Besides the President’s reasoning being flawed, what was not flawed was the plan to look the other way while favored companies operating in these fields increase their bottom lines.

The Presidential Banner, “Make America Great Again” which calls for rescuing American workers and jobs is instead an unvarnished plan to aide favored corporations and wealthy supporters.  While many still claim President Trump is unfit for his job, Americans would be better served to forget about labeling Trump as unfit and focus on the destructive consequences of his policies and actions.  

President Trump has promised, as did former President Hoover, “a chicken in every pot” but the Americans better keep looking because the fruits of Trump’s policies are flowing only to the top 1% and there may be chicken only in the very wealthiest pots. 

Is There A Problem With Immigrants?

October 25, 2018

President Trump has made building a wall between the US and Mexico a signature goal of his Administration.  At each campaign stop the President finds a way to focus on the wall and deftly switches the subject away from “why there are so many latinos trying to seek asylum” to “the claim that those seeking asylum are drug dealers, rapists, or welfare seekers”.  Hardly, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” written on the Stature of Liberty.

President Trump is doing no one any favors with his rhetoric.  As a business man, Trump and his Trump companies have enjoyed the lower priced labor of foreign workers and tossed them away when the work or season has ended.  And, migrant laborers are key to farm and agriculture in many American States, essential to timely harvests. 

But, humanitarian considerations for Latin American immigrants is a much more nuanced issue.

There is the moral consideration that a wealthy entity should have towards a poorer one.  Most religious faiths emphasize charity, and the Christian faith traditions make this their build board self descriptor.  Yet, in this case, large numbers of Christians are lining up to support Trump and turn a back upon these poor immigrants.

Potential immigrants come in two varieties, refugees and processed new arrivals.  The first group is seeking relief from oppression and the second is simply seeking admittance for some specific purpose, such as education, work, or recreation (like Disney World or accessing their vacation home).

Economic immigrants, that is those fleeing their country because they cannot find work, are a sub-group of both refugee and normal immigrants.  Economic immigrants have been generally considered undeserving of permanent residency.  The view has been that this group do not bring skills, are more likely to displace American low wage workers and are more likely to require social services for some period of time before they become productive residents.

Those seeking asylum (in order to escape human rights abuses) must, by International Agreements, be given due process over whether their claim for asylum is valid.  The Trump team appear to see all immigrants as “economic” immigrants and therefore pictures them as intent on “stealing” jobs from American workers.  Hmmm.

Latin American immigrants are mostly family oriented, hard working, and willing to do what is necessary to blend into the American Dream.  Turning them summarily away violates both international norms as well as invites the “knock-on” effects of why the asylum seeker were seeking asylum at all.

Wether President Trump or any of his fellow travelers in Congress like it or not, turning a blind eye on Latin America only hastens the further collapse of these countries.  Weak, dysfunctional countries are ripe for lawlessness, terrorism, and/or forming alliances with countries not friendly to the US.  In short, if the President wants countries a short distance from our shores allying themselves with Russia or China, it would appear he has forged the perfect foreign policy to achieve this.

A transactional mentality does not see beyond the next deal.  If the US does not want excessive numbers of refugees or economic immigrants streaming across the borders, the US needs a foreign aid program aimed at stabilizing and then building local Latin American economies.  

Hungry or frightened people flee, those who are food sufficient and feel safe do not.

Wasting Time

October 16, 2018

If you have a heartbeat, and watch television, there could not be a better time to be “wasting time”.  The combination of local and national sponsored political ads running for State and Federal positions presents an amazing display of what is not important, relevant, or at all helpful in knowledgeably selecting the candidate who will represent your interests better.

So many television advertisements are negative, mean spirited, and intentionally misleading that the feel good, “look here’s my family, I approve this message” while more pleasant to hear or see, are too weak to catch and hold the voters’ interest.

Advertising experts tell us that their craft is about catching the listener/viewer’s attention and then implanting an idea which will keep reminding the observer to take a certain action, like “vote for Joe”.  There is no time, these experts say, in a print or TV ad to teach.  Instead the ad must be emotive and encourage the recipient to act on “feelings”.  

Town hall meetings, potentially, allow for a more in-depth discussion and questioning.  Even in this format, dog whistle topics can achieve the same emotive outcomes.  What about 

  • “Immigrants are taking your jobs”, or

There is a fact component and a “so what” component.  If immigrants are in fact displacing longer term residents, why is that?  What alternative jobs are available (or could be) and what skills would those jobs require.  What is candidate X’s proposal to provide the opportunity for upward job mobility?

Invariably the candidate who warns of “immigrants are taking your job” has no policy or idea of how to grow the larger pie.  It is far easier to arose xenophobia than to think creatively and attempt to raise all boats.

 

  • “he’s a socialist who will raise your taxes”, or 

Once again the emotive word “socialist” is handed out like candy.  In truth, social welfare policies must be paid for and so the possibility of increasing taxes would exist.  But here in lies the intellectual dishonesty.  Where is the discussion of what specific policies would result in increased need for tax revenues?  Ironically, “Medicare for all” ( a euphemism for Universal healthcare) is core to most solutions aimed at achieving a balanced Federal budget and eventually reducing the national debt.  (The idea is that unless the US lowers its per capita healthcare spending to be in line with best in class globally which is about one half US spending, there is no path to a balanced budget.) 

What are candidate Y’s views on fixing the decaying infrastructure, providing basic healthcare with no exception around pre-existing conditions, or spending on social needs versus military spending?

  • “she’s a fighter who will change Washington (DC)”.

“She” might be your preferred candidate, but what does “she” see as key policies?  What is it about her make up that underscores “she is a fighter” and why would that be good?  Of course a candidate could have wonderful ideas, present a cheery disposition, and become a “get along, go along” type of elected official. 

 

Deep down, voters need to believe any candidate will put the business of governing ahead of their natural sense of increasing their personal wealth.  Is that message presented loud and clear?

Without a doubt, negative ads are cost effective and in the absence of any fact or policy filled presentations can be any easy pick.  The current crop of hollow, misleading TV ads intimidate most politicians, and the knee jerk reaction is to counter in kind.  Informed voters must, however, look beyond, discard all negative ad influence, and highly discount all other ads which do not communicate policy recommendations.

Otherwise, we are wasting time. 

Foreign Relations, Bush League

October 11, 2018

The Trump Administration following the inspiration of their commander in chief have racked up quite a score card for foreign affairs.  Everything in the foreign affairs arena done in the Obama Administration was prima facia wrong (how about worst ever).  With this view, abandoning, walking away from, or reversing any and all Obama Administration policies was the Trump option of choice.

So, we have ended NAFTA (worst treaty ever), thumbed our nose at the Europeans by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, and roundly distanced the US from almost all other countries with our America First and indiscriminate use of new tariffs attitude.  President Trump said he expected each other country to act similarly, that is in the best interest of themselves.  Hmmm.

It is relatively easy to look good or at least get away with new policies regardless of how short sighted they may be, if you have actually inherited a good economy and a well defined foreign policy.  Deconstructing is much easier and for the short run less risky than for proposing and implementing sound, constructive longer term policies.  President Trump has and continues to show us how true that observation is.

Someone, however, with a “one off” set of tactics, runs a far ranging risk of “what goes around, comes around”.  Case in point, withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

A group of neoconservative hawks combined with far right Israeli supporters (remember the Iraq invasion in pursuit of non-existent WMDs) lobbied hard for President Trump to reverse the Obama Administration negotiated agreement with Iran.  With the most bellicose rhetoric the President could muster, with draw from the Iran Nuclear Agreement he did. 

Proud as a peacock, the President labeled the agreement “the worst ever”.  Hmmm.

The President then reimposed the economic sanctions which existed prior to Iran agreeing to halting their nuclear development.  Regime change (which Israel predicted) was just around the corner.  But…

The “but” is that the rest of the signatories (Germany, France, the UK, Russia, and China) did not wish to see Iran restart its testing.  The US cajoled and then threatened that dire consequences would befall them if they traded in violation of US sanctions.  For many businesses, the US market is extremely important and understandably these companies hesitated.

Making a straight up choice between the US and Iran as a trading partner would seem a no brainer.  The complication, however, was the US was not acting very trustworthy in its dealings with any other country forgetting about Iran.  Hmmm.

America First (or America Alone as it is practiced) will not work in todays global economy.  Supply chains are too intertwined to simply take a unilateral position unless one is willing to accept sharply higher costs of doing business and substantially lower economic growth.  So where does the US stand?

Russia and China are strategically challenging the US for world economic growth and strategic national interests.  Europe (the UK, France, and Germany) are simply unwilling to turn down trade with Iran on the basis of an unfriendly country asking them to.  Hmmm.

Reports this week that the other signatories to the Iran Nuclear Agreement were exploring a “barter” system with Iran as a means of out flanking the US squeeze on monetary based trades.  The details are not important but the fact that three important allies are openly discussing ways to circumvent US sanctions should send a huge message.

I wonder if anyone is listening?

Guns Or Gay Marriage

October 7, 2018

With the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice, one might ask, “will Justice Kavanaugh be pro-second Amendment AND anti-gay rights (Fourteenth Amendment, equal treatment under the law)? I wonder whether the Justice will see the irony of these conflicting positions?

Most conservative judges have ruled an expansive Second Amendment interpretation.  According to these learned men, guns are a rock bed right which all Americans possess, even guns in unlimited quantities.  Guaranteed by the Constitution and in line with the Founding Fathers original intent, they say.

If one looks at this perspective closely, the conservative side is saying no one has to own a gun but at the same time no one should deny ownership to others.  Hmmm.

Gay rights, however, seems to be seen differently by conservative judges.  Conservatives seem very much at ease when courts find that discrimination against the LGBT community is ok (if stemming from deeply held religious views). 

In other words, even though no one is being forced to be gay, bi-sexual, or transgender, and being an LGBT member does not infringe on anyone else’s rights, it is permissible to  limit gay rights, if not outrightly banishing the LGBT community existence.

 

(Family planning and women’s reproductive health rights are similar, where the conservative, paternalistic right continually attempts to assert its “father knows best” over issues that do not effect anyone else and are not compulsory issues which the conservative right must follow.)

So, Guns or Gay marriage encapsulate the contradictory position that many conservatives, particularly those under the influence of fundamental or evangelical religious beliefs. 

“I not only know how to live my life best, I know better how to live your life”. 

The Man Or The Office

October 3, 2018

During George W Bush’s presidency, criticism of “W” took on a personal tone.  Critics said President Bush was lazy, he was intellectually challenged, and many other descriptors worse than that.  Bush has campaigned on the idea that he was a compassionate conservative what ever that means.  Instead, “W” sided with pro-lifers, withheld birth control and family planning funding from poor countries receiving US aide, and de-emphasized regulatory efforts.  Who can forget FEMA’s Hurricane Katrina response or the unnecessary war against WMDs which did not exist.  There was plenty for moderate Americans to dislike.

Supporters, however, clung to the notion that George W Bush was the President and the office of President, if nothing else, deserved respect.  Hmmm.

President Trump has and continues to set new standards for crassness and boorishness and has disgraced the US’ mage and reputation around the world.  Again, supporters, especially those in Congress, find President Trump a pillar of decency and a powerhouse of success.  How could anyone be so wrong on both counts?

Last evening the President treated a campaign rally group to the Trump version of #MeToo sensitivity.  Not content to leave the Blasey Ford – Kavanaugh testimony as “he said, she said”, the President climbed into the gutter and made fun of Ms Ford.  Feeling his oats, Trump cautioned parents and young people that there was a new standard where “men” were guilty until proven innocent.  

Besides speaking tastelessly, the President was completely inaccurate in his statements and their implications.  If there is a lower standard of personal performance, the President seems determined to find it.

With President Bush one can find room to say he was served poorly by his advisors and financial backers.  With President Trump, decency and truth have been put on the shelf while the President and his supporters race for shortsighted wins with tactics which in the fullness of time will tarnish the American image for years to come.   

The only important question remaining is whether President Trump will experience President Bush’s 2007-2008 economic collapse in 2019 or 2020.  

IMO, there is no “man” in the White House.  Forgetting policy differences (reasonable people can disagree), one cannot escape the conclusion that President Trump is a sorry excuse for a human being.