Archive for May 2019

Smoke Screen

May 31, 2019

For many who have lived in New York City, knowing what Donald Trump meant, was a no brainer.  His shenanigans were well know from tabloids and call in talk radio. 

If one paid attention to the 2016 Republican Presidential primaries, there was adequate information to gain understanding that a rudderless narcissist was about to bloom. 

And the 2016 Presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton should have answered any questions about how shallow, hateful, and self centered, candidate Trump was.

Seventeen months have now past in Trump’s Presidency, and no reasonable person should remain deluded that Trump will grow into the stature demanded by the “office”.   With Democrats in control of the House, the country is safe from any draconian legislation, and that is good.  Americans (or at least 65% of them) can sleep at night with the belief that 2020 will bring the end to Trump’s American nightmare.

But Americans must also come to realize that Donald J Trump has served as a “smoke screen” for Team Red’s special interest.  Trump the circus master has kept the focus on himself and thereby kept the American collective mind off the recognition that Republicans, funded by special interests have supported the President and enabled his most destructive behaviors. 

Now the President has made a move to bite the second hand that feeds these backers.  First the trade war with China makes no practical sense but now threatening tariffs on Mexican trade boggles the mind.  The ramifications will recoil across the country including most “red” States and therefore GOP legislators.  Not only are tariffs the wrong tool to “fix” the influx of Latin American refugees, Trump’s actions are a clear indicator to all other nations just what being a “friend” means to Trump… and his Administration.

The threat of tariffs as high as 25% on all Mexican exports to the US is so egregious that GOP legislators have no excuse to not act to stop the President. 

  • First, the tariff will be a tax on all Americans as prices of Mexican imported goods rise. 
  • Second, should Americans substitute automobiles or watermelon or avocados from Mexico with the same products from a different country, the economic impact upon Mexico could be devastating.  Does Trump and the GOP want a failed State of 80 million citizens on the southern border?

Trump’s motivation behind the tariff threat is unclear at this time.  If Americans are talking about the border and tariffs, however, they are not talking about the Mueller Report.  Hmmm.

Memory Day

May 27, 2019

Today is Memorial Day, and in small towns across America, local residents celebrate the memory of those who died defending our Country.  Memorial Day ranks about the same as Armistices Day and both rank well below the 4th of July, Independence Day, in terms of the size and scope of American’s celebrations.  

The 4th of July brings fire works, warm weather, and lots of red, white, and blue.  Concerts, air shows, and big parades bring citizens out to mark the occasion.  For Memorial Day, if it doesn’t rain, communities put forth a fire truck or two, some barely able to walk old soldiers, and the town’s mayor.  Armistices Day (November 11) is lucky to match Memorial Day in parade turnout and usually is absent any fireworks.  Hmmm.

Maybe we need to rename one or both as “Memory Day”.  The point here is that celebrating war is a non-productive exercise while celebrating those who served their country, celebrates the “right stuff”.  The memory of wars past, how these wars began, and the personal sacrifices of those who served both during war and peacetime prompts citizens to ask good questions and appreciate the service of others.

President Trump could definitely benefit from a “Memory Day”.  The President’s multiple deferments prevented him from serving during the Vietnam War era, a not surprising event for those preoccupied “chasing the buck”.  The President like many other well to do young men used his connections and questionable medical certifications to “opt-out” of public service.  Hmmm.

Memory Day, of course, might fall on deaf ears with respect to President Trump.  There is scant evidence that the President thinks of anyone or anything other than his own personal gratification. And his views that he likes war hero who weren’t captured (in reference to Senator John McCain) pretty much sums up his obtuse view of public service.

Memory Day might also be expanded to include numerous other history lessons.  President Trump has done literally nothing to build or create since being elected.  All of his “claimed” successes have been promising his base future rewards by withdrawing from past President’s hard work and accomplishments.  Think about it:

  • Beautiful healthcare by making Obamacare less viable
  • World peace by withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Accords
  • Tax breaks for the wealthy by national debt borrowing
  • Stimulating oil and gas exploration at the expense of any global warming initiatives
  • Achieving new more favorable trade deals by using unilateral tariffs
  • Getting tough with China by taxing (through tariffs) American consumers

The President’s ceaseless urge “to score victories” in the fields of healthcare, national security, fair taxation, energy independence, climate change, or global trade reflect a shallow understanding of the complex nature of world connectivity and instead displays a selfish greed for personal self gratification.  

National holidays take time to plan (like on what day to celebrate), so maybe 2021 might be the first year to introduce “Memory Day”.  That would be most fitting and the earliest date for remembering that Americans freely elected Donald J Trump, Americans are solely responsible for his Presidency, and with the assistance of time, Americans can benefit from seeing what abject failure his “public service-free” Presidency has been.  

Brexit Delusions

May 26, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May resigned (effective June 7) today as a consequence of  her failure to gain Parliament’s approval for her European Union “exit” plan.  To be clear, Brexit is clearly the responsibility of the British people regardless of it outcomes.  To “Brexit” or to not “Brexit” lies within the sovereignty of Britain alone.

Never the less, it is sad to see Britain make a misguided decision to leave the European Union and potentially make both Britain and the EU less viable.  Brexit advocates claim the issue is about sovereignty and the cost are minimum if not a positive for Britain.  Brexit advocates paint glowing pictures of the future and do not speak to why the EU was formed in the first place.

Most all generations seem to display collective amnesia.  What happened in the past stays in the past and over time ceases to inform the present.  In weeks there will be the World War II’s ending 75th anniversary.  In part, the EU represents a brick in the wall of common sense dedicated to not letting the seeds of war reoccur.  

The EU also represents the principle that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  The EU nations’ combined economies make it second to the US and has thrived since its inception.  No single EU country has the size or importance to negotiate trade deals as widely or as favorable as the EU can. 

The British economy is aging.  While London is a first class financial center, its value as European headquarters for American firms will shrink markedly once Brexit is complete.  Frankfurt, Paris, or Brussels will become much more favorable.

As in all nationalist campaigns, Brexit will benefit some but for the average Britain the returns will be meager.  British military power will gradually disappear as funding its own defense spending (versus other social obligations) becomes too expensive.  The landed will keep their steady incomes while workers see real wages shrink.  

Lastly, some say the EU is not such a great deal, particularly the free flow of labor which also includes recent economic migrants.  This is not an insignificant problem but attempts to flee to Britain is unlikely to lessen once Britain leaves the EU.  The EU has its own problems with some member countries either tilting right or running fiscally questionable economies.  So maybe the EU will end soon on its own.  But why leave now?

Most nationalist and most populist leaders are more concerned about how they make out in any set of domestic or foreign policies and far less concerned about the impact upon the average citizen.  Nationalist and populist also tend not to learn from history and are doomed to repeat past mistakes.  Brexit may be necessary some day but with the rise of China, the continuing menace of Russia, and the Middle East in turmoil, why now?  

Alabama Hypocrisy

May 24, 2019

The State of Alabama does not have the market cornered on hypocrisy.  Alabama does, however, have every right to be considered in the best of the best category.  The most recent act which deserves mention is the Alabama law outlawing abortion at six weeks (fetal heartbeat detected but still before fetus is viable) unless the mother’s health is at risk.

When a State official was asked about abortion cases involving rape or incest, the official replied that “the life inside (the fetus) shouldn’t be victim for the sins of his father”.  Rape or incest are just the same as any other unwanted pregnancy.  Hmmm.

Most commentators predict the law will never go into effect and will be rejected by courts.  The wild card could be the Supreme Court but experts say the Alabama abortion law is so extreme it is more likely the Supreme Court will not hear the case.

The Alabama law results from State legislators seeking a test case upon which the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v Wade.  Presumably the push for this law is religious driven and flows from “deeply held religious beliefs”.  Conservative Justices are said to be salivating at the chance to give a nod to deeply held religious views like “acts refusing service to GLBTQ community” because the Bible tells them so.  Hmmm.

The larger hypocrisy arise from our Constitution’s first amendment.  The founding fathers were well aware of the hardships which occur when any State favors one religion over others.  The first amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,”).  The point here is that any Alabama citizen is free to accept, for themselves, religious beliefs which reject abortion.  Alabamians, however, should not be free to impose their deeply held religious view on another person.

Consider hypothetically, for a moment, that a fetus’ heartbeat was an acceptable standard for limiting a woman’s right to abort.  Wouldn’t one expect that Alabama law would also dictate a set of health and lifestyle rules the mother must observe during pregnancy such as no smoking, no drinking, no lifting, etc so that the fetus is protected?  All sorts of risky life styles would seem proper for regulation.

And what if the “unwanted pregnancy” mother really didn’t want or couldn’t afford to carry the fetus full term (she already had too many children, she couldn’t afford another child, she was or the fetus was ill, etc), wouldn’t one expect the State would step forward, if it outlawed abortion and cover the cost to bring the fetus into this world, then take the baby and arrange safe care and ultimately adoption, and if the baby was retarded or deformed, provide caring institutionalization?  Not part of the Alabama law.

The dirty secret, of course, is that any good Alabamian with means will leave the State and find abortion elsewhere.  It will only be the poor and less affluent who would experience the new law.  

Abortions will always be in demand by some.  The State would do well focusing upon policies which align with Bill Clinton’s view that abortions should be Safe, Legal, and Rare.  

Morehouse

May 20, 2019

James F Smith has made the front page of most newspapers today for what he did at Sunday’s Morehouse College graduation.  Mr Smith, a very successful black entrepreneur, announced to the graduating class that he and his family were going to pay off all the student loans which the graduates had individually accumulated.  The class reaction was mixed, some immediately applauded and cheered, some hesitated, not sure if Mr Smith was telling the truth.  Others may have wondered how this was possible.  And a few might have paused over Mr. Smith’s charge that he expected the “class to pay ahead”.

Of course, Mr Smith’s generosity was magnificent and an act to be honored and recognized.  Even more significant, Mr Smith was demonstrating visibly and substantially the tried and true path that all minority groups have used in order to assimilate into American society.  Sure, one can say that Italians or the Irish (not to mention the Catholics, Jews, Polish, Russians, Hungarians, etc) who were dirt poor when they arrived in the US and were considered almost sub-human, were white and at least did not look different from established society.  But what about Chinese, Japanese, or Vietnamese who also arrived dirt poor and found collectively how to break the bands of poverty and achieve some level of wealth and professional status?  How did this happen?

Most all of us carry some type of prejudice against some group or other. Probably human nature. Normally this prejudice arises from stereotyping a specific group and assigning some undesirable characteristic to the entire group regardless of whether each and every member of the group exhibits the characteristic. 

So the plight of blacks could be tied to the fact that so many American blacks live in poverty, lack education, and do not possess good income producing skills or professions.  Those blacks who do possess both the drive and the education/skills are over shadowed by the impression those who lack them make on the population as a whole.

Mr Smith’s act of reaching down from his position of wealth and success, and providing a “hand” to pull others up is remarkable and praise worthy.  His example coupled with his words of “paying forward” must be heard and understood by these graduates.  Only action by  “blacks” or “African Americans” can assure they integrate into the overall society.

There are many examples of successful American black doctors, politicians, and entertainment figures.  These humans, regardless of how purposeful their lives may be are the exceptions not the rule for the entire black community.  Reaching with a hand ready to pull up and demanding the challenge to “pay forward” is a proven method and could change black lives and American society.

 

Tariff Facts

May 17, 2019

Tariff facts even a beginner should know:

  • “Developers” should not play with tariffs.  Tariffs are far more complicated and present the risk that the trading partner can levy equal and opposite trade damage (if not greater) on the initiator.

 

  • “Developers” should not retain “protectionist” advisors since they represents refuted and fringe economic thinking.

 

  • Tariffs are extremely serious matters for trading partners and new impositions demand corresponding responses.

 

  • While tariffs are designed to hurt a trading partner, tariffs are plain and simply domestic taxes which fall on some but not others.

 

  • Unilateral tariffs almost always elicit an unpleasant response.

 

  • Do not pick a tariffs war with two or more countries at the same time.

 

  • Don’t be surprised if other countries anticipate tariff tactics, particularly if the same strategy is used and respond quickly and effectively.

 

  • Providing relief to domestic groups hurt (like farmers) when trading partners predictably levy penalty response is unfair to all other Americans who must pay the tariff tax.

 

Trade knowledge a President should also know.

When assessing trade policies, particularly balances between trading partners, fair and reciprocal trade is a good starting goal. Trade balances, however, may become unbalanced for good reasons.   Labor content cost (buying from low wage countries may allow a country to employ its labor on higher value added manufacture), technology content (higher value goods and services may provide more income per unit of labor and enable production of a wider range of more profitable goods and services for export), and basic raw materials (no value added) provides the means to add value and export for profit. 

The principle involves freeing domestic labor to make more higher value added goods and services for domestic and foreign consumption.

Writing Posts Is Not Easy

May 13, 2019

Well into the third year of President Trump, it is not easy to publish new and original posts.  In the opening months of the Trump Administration, each day brought one more audacious event after another.  Posting something that reflected a Trump policy which was demonstrably ill advised was a “holy cow” event.  Now the crude, rude, and of course, incorrect Presidential statements do not surprise and have become predictable. 

Regaining the Center, dating from the George W Bush years, aims to expose and comment upon hypocrisies which others may have not yet called out.  Punditry along with newsworthy press coverage, however, are all over President Trump and never let one of his distasteful utterances go unnoticed.  What is left for Regaining the Center?

IMO, America made a serious mistake in electing Donald Trump.  To be sure Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate too, but Clinton’s flaws were well within the bounds of sound governance.  President Trump has had virtually no foreign or domestic policy action which can be yet traced to positive outcomes.  From his “big beautiful wall” to “I love tariffs” with stops in between supporting this dictator or that one or stiffing one long time ally or another, President Trump has thrown more muck at the proverbial wall and none have achieved his promised outcomes.

(Some may cite Trump’s tax cuts as a smashing success.  Closer inspection, however, shows no connection between promised outcomes and what has actually taken place with those who received the lion share of the tax benefit.  The cost of the tax cut is being sent to our children and theirs since the tax cut is unfunded.)

All Presidents experience domestic or foreign policy failures.  Despite the best of intentions, world events do not always go as predicted.  Most Presidents, however, surround themselves with competent mainstream advisors and pursue incremental change, largely because the world is a very complicated place.  Not Donald Trump.

  • The Mexican border wall is dealing with the wrong end of the immigration problem.  Why are central Americans seeking refugee status and how can those causes be mitigated?
  • Securing new manufacturing jobs would be wonderful if that were economically possible.  Repatriating manufacturing jobs which have gone to China (or other lower wage countries) is a non-starter because the US cost to manufacture (largely wage driven) is too high.
  • Denying climate change is both dangerous for future generations but in denying, the President is refuting science.  Denial teaches science our youth that education is not important.  This dangerous example is the hallmark of second rate countries.
  • Bi-lateral trade agreements run counter to reality.  The world is complicated and trade arrangements must be flexible enough to anticipate apparent irrationalities from trading partners.  For example, religious or ideological interferences come and go, and consequently two specific trading partners might go to war and ask for the US to side with one of them.  Trade agreements where the US gets most of what it seeks and so do the other trading partners better insulates against unforeseen global changes.

Today North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela are hot spots getting hotter.  Under Trump, other countries that could be useful in resolving tensions have been alienated and are content to stand on the sidelines.

And geopolitically, China and southeast Asia represents the largest area potential trouble and future conflict.  Where is the US?  Does day dreaming sound right?  The US has allowed a trade policy disputes to erode into a trade war with consequences on Wall Street and Americans pocketbook.

Regaining the Center offers a safe port in this Trump-made storm.  The next two years culminating in the November 2020 elections provide the opportunity to reset America’s political compass.  Voters need to recognize the folly the Trump Administration and its GOP enablers have put forth.  Choosing candidates who will promise a “center” road platform and who will endeavor to work on real problems not phony political claims should be the goal.

Since no candidate is likely to speak entirely candidly (most seek to be all things to all people), the candidate pointing towards the center is probably the safest bet.