Archive for the ‘2020 Presidential Election’ category

The Bloomberg Factor

November 10, 2019

Michael Bloomberg’s organization made application to take part in the Alabama Democrat primary.  This filing and any others that Bloomberg will subsequently authorize could position Bloomberg to become a full fledged candidate for the Democrat Presidential nomination. Will this new entry make a difference?

The current Democrat field of 17 Presidential candidates is quite large with a cluster around centrist values and two candidates pushing the bounds of progressive values.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren currently occupy about 30-40% of poll results. More importantly, Sanders and Warren also represent the most liberal or progressive wing of the party,  Are these very progressive views salable to a majority of voters?

Of the remaining 60-70%, Joe Biden has about 25% of the polling data and is squarely a centrist.  The remaining 14 candidates register in single digits.  

So, what would the entry of Michael Bloomberg mean?

If one reads the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, or any other large city newspaper, Michael Bloomberg should be no stranger. Bloomberg is a self made billionaire and successful three term mayor of New York City.  Pragmatic on most issues, progressive in a practical manner on others.  Bloomberg would be fully capable of performing the Presidential duties on day one. But most Americans do not read newspapers and Michael Bloomberg may be a stranger. What obstacles lie ahead of potential Bloomberg candidacy?

For many Americans, Bloomberg will need to introduce himself and outline why he should become the Democrat standard bearer and receive their vote. (Need for national name recognition)

Candidate Bloomberg is 77 years old and would enter a field with Sanders, 78, Biden 76, and Warren 70.  President Trump weighs in at 73.  Hmmm. Age is usually associated with experience and maturity but also comes with concerns about mental quickness, stamina, and health.  At 77 and President Trump at 73, Bloomberg needs to make the case that his experience is more relevant and far better for voters than the current President’s.  (Is Bloomberg still alert and healthy?)

The President’s job, if properly performed, is a tough executive assignment with an extremely broad span of responsibilities both domestically and foreign.  Arguably Vice President Biden should be prepared having been in the White House for 8 years already.  Sanders and Warren are both Senators and lack executive experience.  Bloomberg is a self made $50 billionaire who lead New York City for 3 terms.  Bloomberg will need to convince Democrat primary voters that his executive experience is relevant and important.  (Can Bloomberg convince voters that his personal business and mayoral experience are relevant for the Democrat nomination?)

Bloomberg’s signal of possibly running for President comes with less than three months before the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. And Super Tuesday (March 15, 2020) is about 5 months away.  News reports suggest that Bloomberg will intentionally skip the first four primaries and instead put his efforts on Super Tuesday. (Will Bloomberg try to win the nomination by primary votes or play for a deadlocked convention and being selected at the Convention?)

Money and “position papers” drive each candidate’s campaign.  With Bloomberg’s late entry what will he offer.  Money should be no issue but what policies will Bloomberg emphasize?  Bloomberg has been critical of Sanders and Warren, who he feels are promising goals they will be unable to deliver.  Never the less, Bloomberg will need some set of issue to run on other than I can do better than Trump.  (What Bloomberg select issues the average American can relate to?)

Finally news reports have suggested Bloomberg believe Joe Biden does not have enough popular support and financial backing from wealthy donors.  In such a situation the extreme progressive positions of Sanders and Warren might carry the day.  This worries Bloomberg because he believes Trump can beat such a left wing candidacy. Another factor to consider, as the other 17 candidates sooner or later drop their campaigns, would they support Biden, Sanders, or Warren, or would they back Bloomberg?   (Will Bloomberg ultimately back Biden if he does not run or can not win?)

Impeachment Dysfunction

November 2, 2019

The Democrat controlled House of Representatives  has voted to proceed with formal hearings whose subject is the impeachment of Donald J Trump.  This is a day most Democrats (but not all) had hoped to avoid.  The risks are obvious,

  • (1) Republican payback when they next control the House and there is a Democrat President, and
  • (2) the concern of what a wounded (but not convicted) President Trump might do next. 

Republicans seem less worried about “2”, and seem resolved to exercise payback when the time comes.  Who is worrying about underpinnings of our 250 year old democracy?

Money, specifically the exorbitant amounts routinely spent upon elections, seems to be driving a mass disregard for ethics, character, and decency.  Elected officials owe such huge sums for their election and must immediately begin stockpiling money for the next campaign.  Otherwise, the Congress member is toast if he/she does not keep on the rolling log.

Money plays several corrosive roles.  

  • Makes Congress Member obligated to special interests
  • Detracts from the time available to actual perform legislative work
  • Begins the self consuming practice of hiring additional staff to handle research and policy development as opposed to just handling constituent matters.  (It may come as a surprise that most members of Congress do not know the subjects the speak about but in fact are simply reciting policies and rationales that their staff, often with the help of special interests, have prepared.  No extra staff, not so good a performance on national TV.

Drunk with stench of special interest money, the Republican’s President Trump defense appears a head scratcher.  The GOP initially provided full throated denial that President Trump had attempted to extort the Ukraine unless the Ukraine announced the initiation of an investigation of Vice President Biden.  This tactic did not gain traction (that dog won’t hunt), probably because the White House had released a partial telephone call summary which clearly showed the President had sought a “favor”. The GOP next choreographed move was to claim the House process was unprecedented, unconstitutional, and illegal.  Hmmm.

But truth is not the GOP statement’s written or spoken words. rather,

  • (1) Republican Congressional members are more concerned about preserving their own chances for reelection, and
  • (2) preparing a rationale for the GOP controlled Senate to acquit the President when he is impeached despite the articles of impeachment and supporting evidence.

With national polling indicating a 49% favorable for impeachment (and removal from office) and a 47% opposed, the national vote is obviously close. At this point in time, President Trump looks destine to be impeached but not convicted by the Senate, and whether the President should be turned out of office will fall to voters who will decide in November 2020.

Hmmm.

Environmental Foolishness

October 30, 2019

Three major automotive manufactures, GM, FiatChrysler, and Toyota showed a sorry lack of vision (or backbone) when yesterday they announced support for the Trump Administration’s “lower” new car emission standards.  Rather than join Honda, Ford, BMW, and VW and agreeing with California’s standards, GM, FiatChrysler, and Toyota chose to go it alone.  Why?

Of course we may never know for sure but here are some guesses.

  • Avoid continued confrontation with Trump Administration.  The prospects of Trump Administration disrupting the supply chains for all three or initiating trade wars with new tariffs, GM, FiatChrysler, and Toyota all want to avoid short term business interruption.  Go along and get along.

 

  • Avoid investing in lower emission technologies in order to maximize current balance sheets.  With the current glut of oil, gasoline prices should remain attractive for consumers.  Why offer them hybrids and all electrics when demand is still weak and future consumer demand is not assured?

 

  • Why change in times of uncertainty.  GM, FiatChrysler, and Toyota have coldly calculated that any backlash from environmental groups can be managed by continuing to offer a range of lower priced cars which do not reflect added costs for environmental controls.

Regardless of how these companies justified their decision, the wisdom behind joining the Trump Administration on weaker standards than previously accepted during the Obama Administration, may prove to be short sighted.  The Trump Administration may end in 18 months or so, and any Democrat President will be likely to return to California influenced goals.  Maybe GM, FiatChrysler, and Toyota will simply shrug and say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

Beyond the hard nosed business aspects, all car companies want to make and sell what consumers want, but the Wall Street ideal route is often viewed as the path with the least change.  This is the mentality of a dying industry when a product as important as a motor vehicle can not foresee the potential for changing environment’s unanticipated consequences.

Since the late 1970’s when Japanese Automotive Manufacturers invaded North America with automobiles which already met stringent California standards, the Big Three missed the wake up call.  The Japanese did not have one car for the Japanese market and another for the US.  Japanese vehicles were “world cars and trucks”.

The behavior of GM and Chrysler is, sadly, not that surprising.  They thirst for a “no change” world that does not exist.  Rather than lead, GM and Chrysler want the world to stand still.  Hmmm.  The Trump world has no soul and gets it relevance from winning one-offs.  Not a wise option to align your company’s future to.

What is more perplexing is Toyota’s  behavior.  Have Toyota’s Lexus, fully decked out Camrays, and pick up trucks grown to such a significant share of today’s sales that Toyota has lost confidence in change, and by default, leadership?

The Trump Administration’s track record on loyalty to friends seems like a “fair weather” policy, and any Trump support is always secondary to what wins today.  This announcement reflects brightly upon GM, FiatChrysler, and Toyota’s environmental foolishness.  

.

Opioids, Snap Shot Of America?

October 25, 2019

The current health crisis emanating from the rampant use of opioid pain killing medications might be a wakeup call if anyone in America was listening.  Much like boiling a frog, the sinister opioid world unfolded slowly until the streets were filled with dead users.  

From prescribing opioids for dental work to treating back pain to eventually prescribing with a wink, too many doctors gave out opioids like lollypops.  Pharmacies dispensed opioids freely at the same time these Pharmacies were taking Sudafed off the shelves because some bright but not well intended people had figured out how to make “meth” starting with Sudafed. 

Pharmaceutical distributors worked overtime to ensure no pharmacy’s opioid order was not fulfilled asap.  Drug manufacturers were delighted to put on overtime to manufacture and disperse opioids far in excess of their marketing plans.  And, health insurance companies stepped up and paid all claims regardless of how many opioids the prescriptions called for.

All this took place while month after month, more and more Americans were dying of opioid overdoses.  Exceptionalism at work.

 Law enforcement treated the mounting death rate as a crime and searched for which neighborhood drug dealer supplied innocent people with these powerful drugs.  Enforcement was slow to pick up on the fact that most victims were connected to legitimately prescribed and sold opioids.  No cartels from Mexico or China, the supply started at CVS or Walgreens. (In truth there was also a lively business with heroin and fentanyl from China which utilized neighborhood drug dealers.)  

Over time, however, the misuse and consequent deaths spread across rural America and around every corner in urban areas.  First choice was legitimately prescribed pain killers but when these were not available, heroin and fentanyl were turned to.  How could something like that happen in an unexceptional country?

Weren’t the pharmaceutical companies headed by well educated executives?  Didn’t the pharmaceutical companies employ equally well educated marketing, product, and sales managers?  And how about the doctors who prescribed opioids, were they not capable of recognizing excessive use?  Why didn’t insurance companies, who are quick to deny coverage if the mood strikes them, pick up on their product’s easy to see out of sight usage spikes?  

I wonder whether sales growth and more importantly, maintaining the growth played a role?  I wonder whether the pharmaceutical companies’ generous bonuses or opportunities for promotion provided the necessary incentive for everyone in the opioid network to look the other way?

In an exceptional country one would think there would be regulatory agencies as well as legislators at local, State, and Federal levels who set rules and limits for how drugs should be safely consumed.  And when there is an epidemic as great as the Opioid onslaught, one would have thought there would have been an outcry from all branches of government and swift legislative action to end the abuse.  Hmmm.

The chicken or the egg, which should have come first?  Should the people who make up the Pharmaceutical industry have paid more attention to the “ethical” use of their products or should the customers through their elected representatives have put in place checks to preclude excessive use?  

When our country debates whether a candidate is too conservative or too progressive, we are probably debating the wrong subject.  What is missing is moral and ethical character, and judging from the amount spent on campaign financing or the size of corporate salaries and bonuses, it would appear that money determines exceptionalism.  The more money one has or can acquire, the more exceptional they might be.

Hmmm.

What’s Happening With Pete?

October 21, 2019

Barack Obama had no right to expect he could land the Democrat Presidential nomination back in 2008.  Who was Obama, and what is there about a “community organizer” and first term US Senator that makes one worthy of the Presidential nomination?  Who knows, but it happened.  

President Obama certainly had a lot to learn when he not only received the nomination, but also when he beat Republican John McCain to become President.  

Historians are still measuring the Obama years before assigning Obama some ranking from our best President ever to our worst President of all times.  It is safe to say that wherever President Obama’s years land, the Obama years were more successful than George W Bush even though both Presidents were at their hearts “good persons”. 

Comparing President Obama and President Trump will unlikely test historians.  Up to this point, President Obama showed more character and executive skills than we have seen from President Trump.  President Obama did not get every one of his foreign policy decision right but  preliminary comparisons with President Trump are favorable.  And domestic policies favor President Obama even more.  Fast forward to 2019 and one might responsibly conclude that most Democrat candidates should have good chance running against President Trump. 

Democrat Presidential candidate leaders, Joe Biden (age 76), Elizabeth Warren (age 70) and Bernie Sanders (age 78) collectively score about 70% of the preferences expressed in polls.  South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg has about 6% popularity.  Does this suggest that when the dust settles, the Democrat nominee will be someone 70 years or older?

Some say age should not be a factor but too often what they actually mean is former Vice President Biden, Senators Sanders or Warren are not too old to become the Democrat standard bearer.  I wonder whether at age 37, Mayor Pete is not too young but just right to snatch the nomination?

Why would anyone speculate about Buttigieg when there are seasoned pros to pick from?  Age, personal energy, and perceived electability might become factors.  Like goldilocks, however, “not too old, not too progressive, not same old, same old” might just be the most attractive in the end.  

There are still too many Democrats in the field in order to make a clear call on where the crowd will go when (and if) Biden or Sanders or Warren cannot make the sale for themselves as the nominee.  But in 2008 candidate Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses against most expectations.  Will Mayor Pete do the same?

Elizabeth’s Pickel

October 18, 2019

Senator Elizabeth Warren has drawn some criticism for her performance at this week’s Democrat Debate.  The criticism centers on Warren dodging the answer to the question “will taxes increase for middle class families if Medicare For All is adopted.  There are many answers Warren could have given but none that fit the frame work of a televised debate with 11 other hopefuls.  Here’s Warren’s problem.

The most fundamental question should be “is healthcare a right” or “is healthcare a privilege”?

If healthcare is a privilege, then the path forward leads to “the best healthcare money can buy”.  If someone has the money, they can have access to the best healthcare available in the US.  If someone does not have the money, then the healthcare available is to be found in whatever safety net programs Employers and Congress enact or at the Emergency Room.

If on the other hand one believes healthcare is a right, then the question arises what is the best method to deliver healthcare.  And here begins the pickle.  Healthcare is not free and must be paid for.  And, healthcare will cost middle class Americans more next year regardless of whether there is a “Medicare For All” option or not.  

So how should Warren have answered the question?

How about, “I don’t know but I am sure asking if taxes are going up is the wrong question.  Income taxes could increase but middle class Americans’ healthcare costs might go down”.  “Here’s why.  Medicare For All is an aspirational proposal whose goal is to provide healthcare to all American residents at existing quality levels or better and at steadily reducing costs.  Under Medicare for All, there should be no exclusions for pre-existing conditions or life time monetary limits on benefits.” 

And why not, all other modern industrialized countries provide their residents basic healthcare with health outcomes equal to or better than the US, and experience a national expenditure that is one half what we spend in the US, so why can’t the US do the same?”

Warren could have said, “And even if there are reasons we can’t achieve a 50% reduction (and still provide equal or better care), there is a lot of room to cover the costs of the 20% of Americans under or uninsured.”

These “best in class” healthcare delivery systems which cost about one half what the US pays have (1) a far greater emphasis on preventive health care, (2) negotiate healthcare providers costs nationally, and (3) offset much of the actual healthcare costs with a consumption based tax (VAT) which involves all of its residents in sharing the healthcare cost burden.   

Finally, Senator Warren might have said, “healthcare costs are bankrupting America.  Over two dozen other countries have found ways to deliver equal or better healthcare outcomes at one half the total amount the US spends.  Why can’t we do the same.  If you do not think healthcare should be a right (which of course must be paid for), I can only say I sincerely disagree with your view.  If you hold this view and are relaxed because you receive your healthcare insurance from your employer, I have bad news for you.  Global competitive market pressures are slowly making your employer uncompetitive and over the coming years more and more companies will be ending healthcare coverage.

So the wiser goal is not just insuring all Americans, but rather insuring all Americans at a cost approaching one half of what we are paying today insuring 80% of Americans.

The Second Phone Call

October 16, 2019

The now famous “whistleblower” gave us an insight into President Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian President.  From the whistleblower’s report, a number of released emails, and further testimony by present and former Administration persons before select House panels, the public knows how the crass (and mafia-like) President Trump tried to extort the Ukrainian President.  Trump’s goals were information intended to discredit Hillary Clinton and his potential opponent in the 2020 Presidential election, Joe Biden.  

This week the public has learned of a second phone call, this time with the President of Turkey.  The public does not yet have the details of this second call, but the evening news is delivering the sad consequences.  Turkey has invaded northern Syria and is attacking Syrian Kurds who previously had been US allies in the effort to destroy ISIS.  President Trump’s decision to stand back, and by default, allow Turkey to have its way, was against all professional advice news reports are telling.  Slowly there is speculation forming about what the telephone conversation with President Erdogan contained.  And the speculation is not pretty.

One school, let’s call it the “innocent” version goes as follows.  The President initiated a call against the advice of his aides.  As normal for President Trump, the President was unprepared for unexpected developments.  President Erdogan told the President that Turkey was prepared to implement a “buffer zone” in norther Syria along Turkeys border with Syria.  President Trump accepted the proposal and said US troops would not interfere.  President Trump is said to have laid down no conditions or consequences if Turkey went too far.  End of call.

The second school of thought, let’s call it the “Trump, Inc” version opens with the President thanking President Erdogan for attending the recent opening of a new Trump property in Istanbul.  President Erdogan reminded the President that “Trump, Inc” also has several other properties in Turkey and that Turkey was an important country for “Trump, Inc”.  President Erdogan than transitioned to Turkey’s plans to invade Syria and that it would be wise for the US to withdraw as soon as possible, etc, etc, etc.

Most likely the actual conversation combined both versions.  President Trump’s highest interests involve his properties and their financial value.  President never prepares for important meetings and so why would one expect that he prepared for his Erdogan call?  And, as “Mr Transactional”, why would anyone expect President Trump to see further than how the deal impacts the President now.

As a narcissist, a lazy thinker, and an outmatched participant in the international big leagues, why would anyone expect President Trump to suddenly act Presidential and attempt to deal with the best interests of America first?  

Should the details of the second call begin to be leaked, President Trump could be looking at wholesale abandonment by his up to now Congressional Republican firewall.  What a hoot that discrediting Joe Biden doesn’t bother Congressional Republicans but messing with the Middle East would.  Go figure.