Archive for April 2019

American Dream Lost?

April 28, 2019

The 2020 Presidential race is underway and President Trump continues to run hard for reelection.  No surprise since President Trump has been campaigning since he was inaugurated in 2017.  But what type of platform will the President run on?  And what ultimately will be the Democrat counter position?

President Trump has his 35% base and will tell those Americans whatever it is that they want to hear.  The President, however, most likely needs more voters in order to win reelection.  So what will he tell voters who know the President has no clothes, is a terrible example of a human being, and in all likelihood, is enriching himself while performing his duties as chief executive?

Here’s my guess

Total Success – President Trump will assert that everything his Administration has undertaken has been an unmitigated success.  The tax cuts have stimulated the economy, his tough trade policies have created jobs, and his tough border stance has made Americans safer.  All of this, the President will say, can be traced directly to the President himself.

A Valiant Leader – The President will claim that “conspirators” buried deep within government and media circles have conducted unprecedented campaigns to thwart his Administration with phony claims and false news stories.  The President will claim that despite these scurrilous forces he has be completely exonerated.  

Americans are better off – The President will point to economic growth , the stock market, and employment numbers (assuming unemployment is still low and the GDP and Stock Market are still rising), and ask Americans what could be better?

President Trump’s reelection proposition boils down to “why try something new when (because of me) the country is doing so well”?

Bernie Sanders (Medicare for All), Elizabeth Warren (Bank, School Loan regulations), and Kamala Harris (I’m for those too) to name three out of twenty candidates have identified a few issues which are badly in need of fixes but these issues cost money (read likely new taxes), apply to many voters but far from all, and open the candidate to a charge of being a socialist.

Healthcare access and affordability, student loan debt level, affordable housing, and for some, especially LBGTQ members, equal opportunity is paramount.  But how will those issues, as important as they are, build a coalition sufficient to beat Trump and the GOP?  Under what catch all phrase will Democrat candidates chose to make it easy for voters to know what Democrats stand for?  Probably not the Green New Deal.

Democrats, IMO, need not panic.  The next 12 months or so is about who the standard bearer will be.  Following the Democrat nominating convention, the standard bearer must have an easy to understand “elevator” speech compelling the voter to vote Democrat. (Hillary never had one and in the end went with “I’m With Her”.  No wonder she lost.

Democrat hopefuls can rest assured that Trump’s claim about a wonderful economy (hit a home run with first quarter GDP growth, the President claimed) is not wonderful for most Americans.  Large corporations are for sure enjoying excellent earnings but corporate leaders are weary about future ramifications from trade disputes, deteriorating relations with foreign allies, and shortage of labor.  The 10 year economic expansion will sooner or later end and tools useful in stimulating a lagging economy (like tax cuts) are unlikely to be used since the government is already running annually close to a $1 trillion deficits.

The unspoken secret hiding in plain sight in the Trump economy is steadily growing “income inequality” to record heights. 

  • The rich are getting richer and relatively speaking everyone else is getting poorer. 
  • College graduates, in addition to a large debt upon graduation, are finding jobs they thought would follow their four year degree, are just not there or if they are, these jobs do not pay what the graduate thought they would. 
  • New graduates must pay back college loans, must pay for healthcare insurance or even if provided by an employer, must cover co-pays and rising drug costs, and not to be overlooked, new graduates must find money for anticipating their retirement some 30-40 years later.  Is this the American dream?

Are there proposals or policies that can restore the American dream (upward mobility)?

  •  “Medicare for All” does not restore the American Dream. 
  • Free college education will not place the American Dream within the grasp of all Americans. 
  • And reigning in the excesses of banks and large corporations won’t solve the American Dream dilemma either.  

So the message might be “elect a party whose policies assist all Americans, not just the top 5% of the wealthiest Americans”.  Interestingly, this message could be carried by any of the current Democrat hopefuls, although it might fit more comfortably with more moderate or centrist ones.

Remind Americans of how things really are in the Trump “home run” economy.

  • Growing income inequality
  • Shortage of good paying jobs
  • Healthcare spending twice that of 20 leading countries delivering mediocre outcomes and still not covering everyone
  • Infrastructure, roads, bridges, and ports deteriorating from neglect
  • Education, K-12 producing dismal results on average
  • College education costs rising faster than inflation and producing graduates who can’t find a job which pays well

President Trump’s American Dream encompasses the top 1-2% wealthiest Americans and the Trump family.  Aiming at all Americans, including the top 1-2% will produce an Administration with sharply different priorities and a totally different view of the global community.

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Joe or Bernie?

April 24, 2019

With former Vice President Joe Biden about to join 19 other Democrat hopefuls for the 2020 Presidential nomination, one must be struck with how running for president has changed. 

Biden will be the 20th (and probably not the last) Democrat to announce their candidacy.  In the olden days, Presidential candidates were determined in hotel smoke filled back rooms where the party bosses picked their choice for President.  The national convention was for pomp and affirmation of the bosses’ pick.  Then came the primaries and the bosses’ power faded.  Fast forward to 2019 and it seems anyone with a twitter account is qualified, and the money necessary to launch a campaign, seems to grow on trees.

So, what impact will Joe Biden make?

The current field of Democrat hopefuls could be grouped into

  • “boys and girls”,
  • “left and centrist”, and
  • “single issue and broad spectrum” candidates. 

Joe fits the “boys”, “centrist”, and “broad spectrum” labels.  Seems like a winner?

Biden, however, carries a few milestones too.  Biden will be 77 if elected so age, health, and out of step with younger Americans are electability risks.  Biden has also had a history of “gaffs” which require a timeout in order to explain what he really meant, and then more time consuming energy to restart the campaign.  And there is the lingering feeling that Biden is not the sharpest knife in the drawer hounding him.  But Joe is just being Joe.

Bernie Sanders has launched a strong campaign for the second time and is doing well with popularity and fund raising.  Sander supporters are passionate about Bernie and still feel robbed when Hillary Clinton won the nomination in 2016.  Sanders, however, will be red meat for Trump. “He’s a socialist, if not a communist” will be Trump’s tweets.  While Sanders’ campaign pledges have fairly broad appeal (Medicare for All translated into affordable healthcare), most Americans have employer provided healthcare insurance and are insulated from the actual cost of healthcare.  But who wants to live like Cubans or Venezuelans as Trump will posit life under Sanders.

So why not nominate one of the other 18?  Never say never, it is over a year until the nominating convention.  At this point in time, on a subjective basis only, the rest of the field looks a push over for President Trump.  The Democrats lack name recognition, executive experience, and stand for policies which require more than 30 seconds to explain.  Simply looking at Biden or Sanders, one knows what they stand for.

Should either Sanders or Biden get the Democrat nomination, dejected Democrats will say, “another white male”.  Hmmm.  This suggest strongly that both will seek a female Vice President nominee, probably Amy Klobuchar or Kamalar Harris.  If Harris would agree, a Biden-Harris ticket might provide the most formidable and best winning combination against Trump-Pence.  

Mueller Exposed

April 21, 2019

After a bit over two years of a “special counsel” investigation, former FBI Director Robert Mueller released his report and then Attorney General William Barr dialed in some spin.  House Democrats insisted on seeing an unredacted copy so they could make their own judgements and this past Thursday a still redacted version was released.  The Attorney General held a press conference which some labeled a “spin” exercise just prior to the release.  The press conference amazed any impartial observer, outraged anti-Trump voters, and was all Trump supporters needed to triumphantly proclaim “complete vindication” for the President.

On the subject of “collusion” or conspiring with Russian sources, Mueller detailed a laundry list of Trump staff and campaign aides who had contact with Russian sources.  There was no smoking gun found linking these contacts to directives from the President.

Duh – Why would this be a surprise.  Donald Trump never leaves a written trail where he directs anyone to do anything other than to make a situation go away.  But even more to the point, the Russian interference, which Mueller clearly states existed and which Trump denies happened, was just one of many “disinformation” campaigns coordinated by conservative and far right groups.  The Russian involvement was less about the elections and more about business arrangements which could follow a Trump victory.

The issue of “Obstructing Justice” was quite a different matter.  Mueller clearly lays out multiple incidents of clear attempts to interfere with the prosecution of the Mueller investigation through attempts to fire mueller himself, and witness intimidation or cajoling.  The theme was “don’t cooperate or else”.  Again at the end of the day, Mueller seems to have decided DOJ policy which prohibits indicting a sitting President weighed heavily, so much so that he wrote his findings in a manner to lead Congress step by step through impeachment for immediate remedy, or to provide useful information for voters to decide in 2020.

AG Barr, however, chose to spin Mueller’s report claiming the Special Counsel found no violation of laws which of course is not true.  Mueller declined charging the President based upon DOJ policy.   For a reasonable person, there is no basis to reach “full vindication” on charges of obstructing justice.

Politically speaking, impeachment is an unwise move, IMO, given the Mueller report.  The Senate will not convict this President at this time.  Full Stop.  Impeachment proceedings in the House could lead to impeachment but at a heavy cost.  But why impeach if conviction is impossible?

In addition, President Trump appears to have gotten “his man” finally as Attorney General.  Department of Justice efforts to discover further evidence will be highly curtailed.  Leakers and already developed evidence from the Southern District of New York might add some juicy details, but who knows.

One is reminded that Al Capone was killing people, running prostitution houses, and ear deep in illegal booz joints but the Feds could not pin a crime on him until the IRS went after him for tax fraud.  A new President and a new IRS chief might accomplish what Mueller did not.

  

Reparations

April 13, 2019

A number of Democrat Presidential candidates are tossing around their thoughts concerning “reparations”.  Most are referring to descendants of former slaves, some are linking payments to all African Americans, a few are saying “don’t forget the American Indians”.  The “off-ramp” seems to “I support the formation of a commission to study reparations details”.

Reparations is a complex subject and even more so considering the time lapse that has occurred since slavery and broken treaties with American Indians.  Should the damages caused by Jim Crow laws or the north’s housing discrimination be considered and reparations proposed for those current day Americans?  

Some suggest there should be a one time payment to whatever group is selected.  Others favor an ongoing payment scheme, and still others recommend giving back land rights.  And not to be overlooked is the “apology” that must accompany any payment.  Hmmm.

The subject of slavery and slave trade, seem in today’s world, injustices of the highest order.  Slavery seems completely incompatible with the religions of early America as well as the faiths practiced today.  To say, as a nation, we are sorry does not seem a huge stretch.  But who makes the apology and on whose behalf (some white Americans, all Americans, or just those Americans who sign some future declaration?) does that person make the apology… and, to whom is the apology directed?  For example, (1) verifiable descendants of former slaves, or (2) all blacks whose ancestors were Americans prior to 1900, or  (1) or (2) plus native Americans.

So, if the popular notion recognizes slavery and the treatment of our first nation Americans as unfair, unjust, incompatible with our modern views of humanity, then it reasons that a national commission is a worthy effort.  Asking 2020 Presidential candidates, however, has a smell of hustling primary votes.  

Lessons From “We Hate To See You Go”

April 8, 2019

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen got her walking papers Sunday evening in a White House meeting with President Trump.  The sudden but not surprising announcement ended a shaky and troubled 18 month tenure for Nielsen.  Like so many other high level Trump Administration appointees, Nielsen turned out just not to be “Trump’s type of guy”.  Hmmm.

Late last week, the President pulled his ICE Director nomination (Ron Vitiello).  President Trump termed his bizarre change of mind as a sign “we must get tougher” on border security.  In other words, I made this nomination for Senate approval… but I have changed my mind…   Is there any connection between Nielsen’s and Vitiello’s firings?

How about

  1. President Trump has a bogus and un-winnable Mexican border strategy.  Trump will not, however, take responsibility for anything which is viewed as a failure or mistake.  Cleaning house is one way to deflect attention from the President to underlings.  
  2. White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller has been an outspoken hawk on immigration.  His fingerprints are all over the “Zero Tolerance” and “Separation of Children” policies which have experienced shameful consequences as Trump’s team tried to implement.  Miller is said to have constantly urged Trump to follow this path.   When events did not go well, setting up Nielsen and in effect Vitiello to take the fall is a class act for people like Miller (and Trump).
  3. President Trump has a serious character flaw.  He instinctively knows how to get others (most who are willing) to engage in unethical and mean spirited activities (following ends justify means philosophy).  When events do not turn out as the President wanted, or the President realizes the outcomes he sought are flawed, the President just cuts free the subordinates who did what he asked.  The pictures of helpless children separated from their parents will be linked with Nielsen and less so with Trump.  Hmmm.
  4. The Trump Administration has hired few “Elliot Richardson-type” political appointees and there is a reason why.  Elliot Richardson was Richard Nixon’s Attorney General who was asked by Nixon to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox.  Richardson said no on principle and resigned.  Trump does not seek any subordinates of character, just those who will do as Trump says.

While Secretary Nielsen must be disappointed in being forced to submit her resignation, she will come to realize how lucky she is to get out before the ship does sink.   

Should America Deal With Global Warming?

April 4, 2019

The question before the house is “should America deal with Global warming”?  Before trying to answer that question, one must recognize that America alone can not solve the problem of global warming even if it were possible for us to cease burning fossil fuels.  Emissions from India and China along would ensure that global temperatures would continue to rise.  And beyond India and China, there are the still emerging economies of Africa and the existing European Union economies.  Hmmm.

So if there is nothing America can do to solve the problem, why do anything?

All tough problem solutions must begin someplace. Accordingly, a good place is to confirm there is a problem.  A great deal of money has been spent postulating that global warming does not exists, that the science behind the global warming assertion is bogus, and that worldwide calamities are overstated.  One reason for America to do something is that these postulations are false and misleading.

  • Global Warming exists and the US needs to go on record again affirming.  The issue is not that the planet is warming (this can be measured) but rather that mankind is facilitating the warming by releasing heat holding gases into the atmosphere at alarmingly high rates.  In earth’s history, scientist can show there has been periods of warming and cooling, glacier formation and melting, and rises and declining of sea levels.  Since the Industrial revolution (1820s to present), coal, wood, and oil combustion has poured tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.  More recently methane gas has joined carbon dioxide.  President Trump disputes the science and does not accept the conclusions that the environment is warming to quickly due to man-made events.

 

  • Global warming is a world event and will require all countries participating in reducing warming.  The argument most developing countries make is why should we reduce our growth when the developed world has polluted the atmosphere for so long?  This is a reasonable argument that can be addressed by sharing non-polluting technology.  President Trump says the US owes nothing to other developing countries (America First).

 

  • American Leadership could make a difference.  Leading by example is a well proven method to gain cooperation of others.  The US could embrace a pledge to reduce Global Warming with a goal of stabilizing the annual increase of global temperature.  From that position, the US could form international groups of countries taking a similar pledge.  Such alliances could stimulate both ideas and action with many more countries.  President Trump, however, has chosen to walk away from the Paris Climate Accord and eliminate all means to influence other countries.

 

  • Actions speak louder than words.  Doing something rather than just pontificating is a more solid sign of support.  Setting emissions targets, sponsoring lower emitting technologies, and recognizing positive action by others can generate a positive momentum.  President Trump has encouraged more oil exploration, greater use of coal, and lowering of automobile emissions standards.  Hmmm. 

There are no short term consequences for President Trump’s actions, other than maybe his supporters may get a bit richer.  But there are potential serious outcomes for the President’s policies on the long term.  The fundamental issue is and will be “if you don’t begin now, when will the right time be?”  Deniers say “never”.  Commonsense says “we must start now if we are ever to expect others to join in.” 

Elections are important.

I’m Really Serious

April 2, 2019

President Trump told us this week that “he” would close the US-Mexican border… for a very long time… he was very serious…  This was all due to the tactics the Trump Administration has used to curtail central American attempts to immigrate.  President Trump, as he has told us, is so much smarter than previous Presidents and knows how to deal with problems like this.  Hmmm.

Not unlike trade, immigration is a complex problem which bites both ways.  Placing tariffs on another country’s goods and services almost always does two things… (1) tariffs bring higher prices to your own country’s consumers, and (2) brings on tariffs from the other country which impedes sales of your own country’s exports.  Hmmm.  Sounds to me like a lose-lose.

Now the President has huffed and puffed that he will close the US-Mexican border (which does almost $2 billion in trade each day).  The President thinks that Mexico is not doing enough to slow down the flow of refugees from Mexico and Central America across the southwest US border.  The President has told Americans he is so smart and knows how to solve complex problems like immigration.  I guess this current situation is a proof.

It should take Americans no more than a few moments to realize that this President Trump solution is as bozo  as any of this previous out of sight solutions.  Like tariffs on China, ask the midwest farmers how things are working out.  The cure the President is recommending will cost Americans dearly.

Who exactly is advising this President?

President Trump’s Mexican policies are on the surface self defeating measures.  US supply chains are fully integrated into Mexican customers and suppliers.  No Presidential blah-hah-hah will alter reality.  And of all Trump’s “let me cry wolf” statements, the President saying he is really serious.  How come his words sound like “wolf, wolf”?