Archive for the ‘Donald Trump’ category

Repeal And Replace II

September 21, 2017

Republican Senators are marching, somewhat like lemmings, towards a cliff over which they are likely to plunge. The Graham-Cassidy proposal is craftily constructed healthcare (not) bill. As previous GOP attempts, this repeal and replace version eliminates the individual mandate, frees employers from the requirement to provide their workers healthcare insurance, and frees businesses and the wealthy from certain Obamacare related taxes.

Graham-Cassidy also shamelessly bribes the 50 States with a promise of a block grant which can be spent as the States see fit thanks to large cuts to Medicaid.

For some States, Medicaid cuts are unwelcome since when they do the math, these States realize they will receive less money than with Obamacare. For other States, especially those who did not expand Medicaid under Obamacare, Graham-Cassidy looks like new found money.

The vote scheduled for next week represents a wholesale capitulation by Republican Senators to big money interests. The vote is expected to be held without the daylight of any public hearings and without knowledge of the CBO review, both steps Senate Republicans had vowed to provide just months ago.

There is, however, no reason to expect the CBO score to indicate less Americans will lose coverage than in previous GOP attempts.  One must wonder why the GOP insist upon retracing its already discredited path.

At risk once again are the most vulnerable, the poor, those with pre-existing conditions, and the suddenly unemployed. Most Americans gain healthcare coverage through employer provided insurance and will not feel the impact of any “repeal and replace’ legislation (until such time as it becomes fashionable for employers to decline to offer coverage at all). The wealthy, if required, could pay for healthcare personally, and while no one likes paying for anything, healthcare insurance cost for the wealthy represents a tiny percent of their disposable income.

One is tempted to blame President Trump and assign this shameful legislation to him. Wrong.

From all reports the President has tissue paper thick knowledge of healthcare and has applied his learnings to Graham-Cassidy.

There is no doubt the President will praise the bill if the Senate finds the 50 votes necessary for passage (President knows about winning). There is also no doubt that were Graham-Cassidy to become law and the public become disenchanted with GOP governance, President Trump will then disown the legislation and blame the Senate.

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$700 Billion For Defense?

September 19, 2017

The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a Defense authorization bill which carries a $700 billion price tag. Championed by Senator John McCain, the Defense bill has been positioned as absolutely necessary to keep America’s world leadership role secure. With North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, and ISIS posing threats to American interests, McCain feels it is imperative that defense spending increase.

There is a problem, however, “where will the money for this spending come from”?

Republicans have suggested their new Graham-Cassidy “Obamacare repeal and replace” will save tax payers money. Republicans do not, however, say one must accept less coverage, revisit open season on pre-existing conditions, and allow less Medicaid funding if Graham-Cassidy becomes law. Hmmm.

Tax reform has been held out also. The GOP promises to stimulate the economy, put people to work, and in the his process generate the same or greater tax revenue with lower tax rates. (Sound like a free lunch?).

But there is a far bigger problem than finding funding sources. What would the Trump Administration spend the increased defense budget on?

What is the Trump foreign policy? What is its goals and what strategic relationships would the Administration employ?  What would be the State Departments’ role?

President Obama proposed “pivoting” US military assets from the Middle East where arguably, it was no longer necessary to secure the region’s oil reserves to the far East where China was posing new worries about freedom of the seas for all nations.

Underpinning Obama’s vision was protecting free trade and independence of the region’s trading partners. Countries which prosper are simply less likely to find hostilities attractive.

What does President Trump see? “Making America Great” does not meet commonsense tests. Why would any country, especially a Southeast Asian country cooperate with the US if the outcome was a zero sum, America wins-the other country loses?

And the Trans Pacific Partnership, aimed directly at building win-win trade relationships, along with discrediting the Paris Climate Agreement which called for cooperation among the worlds nations appear not part of Trump’s vision.

How can anyone conclude other than President Trump sees “going it alone” (with a big stick) as his preferred strategy, either because it is simple and he can understand it or because he now finds his campaign rhetoric has boxed the US into a tight spot.

Spending $700 billion on defense may be in the US best interest but until a clear and coherent US foreign policy emerges, these expenditures will be wasteful in themselves, and will require deep cuts in domestic expenditures since there appears to be no appetite amongst Americans to pay more in taxes.

The potential cost of Trump presidency is becoming clearer.

He Likes Us

September 16, 2017

Chuck Schumer was overhead telling Senate colleagues that President Trump likes Democrats.  Senator Schumer said, “he likes us, or at least he likes me”. Does this sound like junior high school?

If there was a thread of evidence to believe President Trump likes anyone or if he momentarily does, that he will like you in the morning, I would like to see it. From that perspective, Schumer’s judgement is misplaced. If, on the other hand, the President’s encouraging comments towards Schumer reflect his dissatisfaction with Senate Leader Mitch McConnell or House Speaker Paul Ryan, then the President’s words make more sense.

Presumably the Presidents affectionate words flowed from a tit for tat offer Senate Minority Leader Schumer made offering help on passing certain legislation the President wanted in return for a favorable outcome on a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) bill. For President Trump a deal is a deal and his Schumer agreement represented something Ryan and McConnell have been impotent upon.

DACA immigrants represents some of the best of the best. These are fully assimilated  young Mexican Americans who know far more about the States than about a country they left as a child. Many of these DACA immigrants are in college or in training programs and are working hard to make something of themselves. So why would anyone think that deporting these Mexicans was in America’s best interest?

“They jumped the line”, we hear some say. “They are here illegally” the righteous pronounce. “They are taking American jobs” still others claim. And the really cynical say, “DACA is a route to citizenship, and that’s amnesty”.

One does not need to be an economist or a business person to recognize how misplaced these xenophobic claims are. And that is partly why Schumer’s claims are so surprising.
President Trump was elected with a large assist from xenophobic immigrant haters.

Schumer’s claim strikes fear into this block of Trump supporters. Is Donald Trump just another politician who is now abandoning this loyal group once again?

Senator McConnell is shrewd politician who carries few moral or ethical crosses.  He ia crafty and can be persuasive on key issues. McConnell’s majority, however, is thin (two votes on a good day), and when McConnell needs to get 50 votes for a dubious bill such as Healthcare, he finds it impossible to push water up hill.

House Speaker Ryan is new to his role and possibly lacks the shrewdness and questionable ethics of McConnell.  Ryan does, however, own about a 50 seat plurality over Democrats.  Unfortunately for Ryan, his House majority is an ideologically split group with little hope of finding a common position on most issues.

As a consequence, President Trump has become disheartened with his Republican Congress leadership and may be thinking there might be another way.

Some speculate that President Trump’s real interest is tax reform and the Schumer kind words are a gambit to soften up Schumer.  Senator Schumer is also a shrewd politician and should be able to take care of himself.

Lets hope that the loyal opposition remembers the voters who gave Hillary a majority of the popular vote and in his joy of being “liked”, does not agree to legislation which hurts the country.

Human Rights

September 14, 2017

There has been a flurry of news reports and opinion columns calling into question Burma’s (Myanmar) handling of its Rohingya minority. The ruling party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been criticized because she, who was once a political prisoner, has not spoken out about her country’s treatment of the Rohingya. The cry of “human rights” fills the air. The Myanmar military, on the other hand, claim the many of the Rohingya are dissidents and seek to cause trouble for Myanmar.

Over the years, American foreign policy has been influenced by factions who stressed “human rights” and sought American officials to speak out when visiting with foreign leaders.

American officials were expected to point out that America’s successful economy was based upon certain human rights, particularly freedoms of religion, speech, and travel.
In practice, foreign affairs is both complicated and complex, often balancing security with commercial opportunities in countries which have little culturally in common with the US. Singling out human rights as a requisite condition for the US to entertain a relationship with another country, history shows, set conditions the US can not always meet .

First, America sees human right violations in others much clearer than it sees violations at home. Second, many so called human rights violations are difficult to distinguish from  behaviors attributed to culture, religious, or martial law events.

When a foreign country imprisons or summarily executes one of its citizens, Americans are often quick to claim that unfortunate person’s human rights had been violated. And to be sure, news reports often show little “due process” involved. But what about the recent spade of police shootings on unarmed Americans? Officials usually claim the officers were fallowing procedures and “feared” for their lives. From another country’s perspective, however, someone with a gun shoots someone without a gun, it might look quite different.

And what about throwing people in jail for long hard sentences? Would it surprise you to hear that the US incarcerates more people per capita than any other country? Of course we hear that these people were given a fair trial, with representation. Hmmm.

And when we hear of ethnic cleansing in some distant country, most everyone thinks this is simply unacceptable behavior. So, how does one judge the Buddhist expulsion of Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar and the isolation of Rohingya in Muslim Pakistan? How does one make peace with educated Saudis denying women the right to walk, talk, or express themselves within their Kingdom?

And while one is considering these confusing situations, how does one make sense of American Christians (remember love thy neighbor) finding space within their religious beliefs to shun and discriminate against others based solely upon the other person’s sexual and gender identity?

Calling out some other nation over perceived “human rights” violations could be well intended. What would have happened had Hitler been confronted in 1939 over human rights abuse?

In today’s world, with nuclear weapons available to many countries whose interpretation of human rights differs from what we feel proper, a wiser position for the US might be to redouble its efforts on domestic human rights issues, and if necessary, speak in private with foreign leaders about perceived violations in their country.

Hmmm.

Trump’s DACA

September 6, 2017

A lot of people, (some estimates most Americans), have found President Trump’s decision to end DACA (Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals) using an executive order, unfathomable. Why would a President signal all Americans (as well as the world at large) that values and facts no longer count in determining American Government policies. Hmmm, like the Paris Climate Agreement or the Trans Pacific Partnership?

What could be the greater purpose for tuning against an estimated 800,000 DACA registered but illegal Mexicans?

Conservatives have long objected to Mexicans entering the country or over staying their lawful visa. Arguments have ranged from “we must have secure borders” to “these Mexicans are taking jobs from Americans”. Occasionally a conservative will give a nod to the potentially changed voting demographic should these undocumented Mexicans gain US citizenship.

For these hard right conservatives, the preferred positions are based upon fear. What else is new?

The President’s standard line that growing the economy will “make America great again” fails the smell test should a process actually begin to deport these DACA Americans. Mexicans are religious, hold strong family values, and work tirelessly to better themselves and their families. Can this be said of many American citizens?

President “Braveheart” tapped his Attorney General to make the public announcement and in his sniveling way, Jeff Sessions, tossed out one easily refuted excuse after another. The net effect showed that the Trump Administration neither cares about the facts or appreciates the strategic implications. Why would the President approve of ending DACA?

The most popular explanation says President Trump is just following his political base’s wishes. The more sophisticated of this base favor a sharply divided American electorate and see division as the best route to reelect President Trump in 2020.

A second reason shifts the responsibility away from executive orders to Congress where laws are suppose to originate. Money and special interests have thwarted previous attempt at comprehensive immigration reforms and earlier versions of aid for the “dreamers”. But why not ask Congress to act before ending DACA?

Most Trump critics see phasing out DACA and shifting responsibility to Congress as a cop out (shifting the blame). The likelihood of Congressional action is extremely low. Look at seven years of “repeal and replace” Obamacare and failure to do so when Republicans finally had control.

The Mexican Americans caught in the DACA category are here in the US through no fault of their own (parents brought them to the US as children).  DACA, for those current enrolled,  should not be ended based upon a fairness and justice argument.

US history would demand some sort of accommodation for these worthy residents. Just as important, immigrant labor, given the low American citizen population growth, is even more important than the past. Most economists favor this view and predict a slowing US economy if undocumented workers are purged.

The President’s actions are both cynical and sinister. Immediately these dreamers will suffer but in the fullness of time (lacking a change of Presidential heart or Congressional action), it will be the American citizens who pay the price.

Remember, Americans elected Donald Trump and we all own the consequences.

Leading From Behind, II

September 5, 2017

America’s two major political parties have spent the last decade identifying issues which their supporters held sacred and then blaming their political opponents for supposed transgressions, regardless of what was best for our Country. One of the best examples might be Republican’s claims that President Obama was weak on foreign policy and specialized in “leading from behind”. Evidence abounded, Republicans claimed. Look at the Middle East, North Korea, and Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Hmmm.

Hypocrisy overflowed with each criticism of President Obama. It was on Republican President George W Bush watch that Iraq was invaded and occupied and when Afghanistan’s police mission morphed into nation building. And, it was a Republican controlled Congress which refused to vote any authorization for Middle East military action while the world watched Syria melt down.

So, today we have a Republican President and a Republican controlled Congress. What type of global leadership does America present now?

The first statement that can be made is that when foreign affairs is measured in “tweets”, American is in a leading position.

The second statement might be President Trump believes in “strategy-free” foreign affairs. This second statement enables the President to speak sharply about a subject and then undercut his emphasis with a completely unrelated comment whose consequence is to negate any positive effect his first statement might produce. Witness the call for China to help reign in North Korea one moment and then threatening to punish China with trade restrictions.

The President, of course, is trying to have it both ways (delight his supporters with tough talk towards both North Korea and China while blindly thinking tough talk is enough or that China could care the least about North Korean threats towards the US).

The third statement might be the “proof is in the pudding”. Has President Trump succeeded at anything domestically or in foreign policy? Has President Trump or Congress lined up global leaders behind any Trump policies, especially any aimed at making the global community economically stronger and more secure?

Do world leaders think better of President Trump than his predecessor former President Obama?

The world is a very complicated place and the days of US overwhelming economic and military superiority versus the rest of the world is over. Nuclear weapons lie in many different countries’ hands. Developed Countries are wealthy by historic standards. Further, the national interests of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, India, China, Russia and Europe are not aligned other than to think the US already has too much and they have too little. Hmmm.

President Obama left a legacy which President Trump has worked to negate. President Obama comprehended global events as complicated and complex, and requiring thoughtful, integrated US response.  The Paris Climate Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership were two worthwhile and potentially useful initiatives which worked on real issues while building trust and partnership.

So President Trump’s attacking or walking away from policies which could help bind nations together (or at least keep them from drifting further apart), seems a bit short sighted.

I wonder if President Trump’s “tweet driven” style could be seen as “Leading From Behind, II”.  Do you think it is as thoughtful as former President Obama’s foreign policies?

What Will Happen If The President Has a Personality Disorder?

September 3, 2017

This past week, a semi-authoritative, randomly controlled, White House “leak” routine reiterated a worrisome observation. President Trump was ticked and Economic Advisor Gary Cohn, National Security Advisor HR McMaster, and Chief of Staff John Kelly were the but of his anger. Unnamed sources claimed the President was so “pissed” at being told what he should do (sounds like the job of advisors) that he lashed out at former Marine General Kelly in extremely harsh and demeaning terms that these unmade sources were themselves shocked. Hmmm.

In fairness, I can say frankly that I was not in the White House and did not hear or see the incident personally. Unfortunately these unofficial statements have not been denied and do conveniently fit the emerging Presidential personality. President Trump is a bully who often acts more like a spoiled child.

Cohn, McMaster, and Kelly all are successful professionals who do not need validation from a second rate President. If they remain in service to the President, they do so for reasons of their own. In short, Cohn, McMaster, and Kelly do not need “at a boys” from our President to feel self assured.

The important question, however, is what if the unthinkable were to happen, that is, President Trump pushed his boorish behavior far enough that either one or all of these advisors quit or was/were fired? What would happen to the Country’s leadership, let alone, sense of direction? Would the Commander in Chief become the “Rudderless Commander in Chief”?

In a world where flowers bloom, animals dance about, and war gives way to peace permanently, abdicating White House control to someone seriously considered psychotic, might not make a great difference in American lives. In the world we know, there may be far more concern about a President who hires and fires simply because he can, than one who does that sparingly and only for rational cause.

Hmmm.

Could President Trump’s personality disorder lead to the coming of President Pence, courtesy of the 25 Amendment and a White House staff revolt?