Archive for the ‘Politics’ category

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.   

Running To The Left

March 3, 2019

Political pundits are aghast that Democrat 2020 Presidential hopefuls are trying out “leftist” each other.  “The Green Deal”, “Medicare For All”, and “Free College Education” are slogans which can trigger the label “socialist”.  Republicans and President Trump smile and see a pathway to victory.  Why?

I think the reasoning goes as follows, 35% who identify as the President’s “base” would not vote for someone else regardless of what Donald Trump has done or will do.  So the task becomes attracting 15% more from the population in general.  The GOP’s reasoning is to play the “communism/socialism” card and create enough fear that otherwise sensible citizens will vote Republican.  Hmmm.

It is difficult to imagine any other strategy available to Republicans.  Could they run on “more walls”, “more green house gas emissions”, or “more tariffs paid for by US tax payers”?  For sure “abortion” and “another Supreme Court Justice” are Republican crowd pleasers but those promises are already foreseen in the 35%.  So, let’s try the socialist path.

Democrats need to take a deep breath and appreciate that “The Green Deal” is about protecting the environment for future generations not providing jobs, “Medicare For All” is about truly affordable healthcare for all Americans, not free healthcare, and “Free College Educations” is about producing a population that can think critically and possess the necessary skills to provide a living for themselves and their family.  In short, Democrats should be about helping the average person thrive and have a chance to see their children do even better.

Practically speaking, without a sweep of the Senate and House along with winning the Presidency there is no chance that the “Green Deal” or “Medicare For All” or “Free College Education” could be enacted into law.  So why promise something that arguably can’t be delivered? 

Aspirational objectives with promises of manageable incremental steps is more believable and less likely to scare voters.  Add to that commonsense trade objectives, a return to our time honored respect for immigrants, and a promise to return fiscal sanity to our nation’s finances should complete the list for Democrats.

Unfortunately this perspective does not include what candidates think is necessary to win the nomination (how each candidate can make themselves distinctive).  The notion of running far left in the primaries and then tacking towards the middle is an oft practiced tactic.  With social media as it is, this “extreme to middle” approach is open to unkind surprises.

Hmmm.

Year End, Is It Hopeless?

December 31, 2018

As 2018 comes to an end, news reports continue to described yet another law, regulation, or long standing precedent which has been revoked, overridden, or flaunted.  The United States has mislead allies with threats. lies, and egregious tariffs while at home denigrated long standing institutions like the FBI, the Military, and the press. Is the future hopeless?

The President and his Republican Party allies in congress 

  • have tried mightily to take away health care from Americans, especially the most vulnerable.  
  • have pushed for greater industrial use of carbon emitting materials while the evidence underscoring global warming and supporting green alternative energy sources  are mounting.  
  • have, with income inequality growing, chosen to introduce an unnecessary and unfunded tax reduction, providing little relief for the average person while rewarding corporations and the very wealthy.
  • have created a mythical Mexican border crisis, while the facts on the ground show Mexican undocumented immigrants as a steady share of our population (at 11 million !!!), not a drain on our criminal or social welfare systems (compared to our documented population), and are decent, hard working, family oriented residents.
  • made a mockery of the Office of President, taking a holiday from truthful communications, and living the life of amoral bully.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The good name of the United States as well as the Office of the President have been besmirched, especially in the eyes of allies around the world and back at home, by successor generations of potential public servants.  

In most all countries, there exists (well mixed into the general population), residents who call themselves “nationalists”.  This population cut are highly susceptible to political rhetoric which blames others, absolves “nationalist” for personal shortcomings, and promises “impossible to achieve” future benefits.  The President has targeted this segment as “his base” and pictured the majority (every other American) as somehow part of the problem.  Have you heard or read about this behavior before in history?

As this post has written before, President Donald Trump is the President for all the United States.  He won the office of chief executive fair and square and until removed by impeachment, death, or vote at the end of his term, President Trump will remain our President.  Elections have consequences.  

There is a flicker of hope, however.  Democrats have won control of the House of Representatives and with that victory there will be no further destructive legislative actions.  The Senate can still confirm far right appointees, and the regulatory departments can attempt to reverse previous regulations.  But throttling back on future legislative missteps represents progress, and with a Democrat controlled House, “oversight” will become a part of Congress again. 

The Mueller Investigation, the upcoming Democrat “oversight”, and as the birds come home to roost (the fruits of Trump’s first two years become clear), President Trump will be kept very busy and in continual risk of impeachment or criminal indictment.  The next election in 2020 will provide the opportunity to seal President Trump as a one term disaster.

IMO, voters will step back from another “Trumpian” President in 2020.  The elephant in the room remains, however, the obscene amounts of money driving the behavior of our elected officials.  But that is a problem for another day. 

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. 

More Than A New Voice

May 30, 2018

For many who believed Donald Trump was a terrible choice for America, there is little in his first term that would give one pause over that belief.  President Trump has been a national disgrace in dealing with foreign affairs and foreign leaders.  The President has been for, and then against, a wide range of domestic issues.  And, the President’s wanton disregard for the “Emolument” clause has brought the specter of a two bit, third world Presidency to the forefront. 

The Republican controlled Congress has amazingly been silent on President Trump’s behavior and cheered his partisan behavior on issue such as unfunded tax cuts, abandonment of 11 million undocumented residents, and naked attacks on groups hated by evangelicals such as LGBTQ, pro-choice, and women’s rights.  

As midterms approach, the question being asked more often is whether Democrats can put forward a “voice” whose message will persuade enough voters to return Democrats to control of Congress.

So, what might that voice say to voters to earn their vote?

Jobs.  From the 2016 Presidential election results it should be clear that emphasis on any other issue(s) without first establishing believable policies which will produce better jobs are non-starters.  “I’m With Her” or “Inclusion”, while admirable, miss the hot button for most Americans.   Even retraining proposals, while essential, are not the “voice” under employed or out of work Americans want to hear.

Keeping America’s Promise.  Republicans see the growing deficit and debt as an opportunity to make the case for sharp reduction in entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) and a wide range of healthcare and “safety net” programs.  Republicans are prone to say when referring to the growing national debt, “America has a spending problem not a taxing problem”.  For most Americans, however, even the ones who are resolutely Trump supporters, simply cutting entitlements, healthcare, and safety net items is tantamount to breaking a promise the US Government has made to all Americans.

Restoring the American Dream.  The bulk of Americans (bottom 98% of incomes) do not believe they will achieve more than their parents.  Income inequality has continued, if not accelerated, to grow under President Trump.  Democrats need to emphasize policies which will allow ALL boats to rise, not just the top 2 % of earners.

But is that all it will take?

Maybe.  These three points will speak to most Americans.  If Democrat candidates follow a reasonably moderate path and speak animatedly about Jobs, Keeping America’s Promise, and Restoring the American Dream, the chances of Democrats gaining majorities in Congress are good.  But is that enough?

Probably, it is enough to flip Congress for the next two years but Americans are suspicious of politicians and their slippery words.  Sustaining Democrat control and winning the White House in 2020 will take more.

What is needed, more importantly, is a quiet commitment for integrity and avoidance of personal gain associated with Congressional business.  There is no way either party can deliver on campaign promises when Congress members are preoccupied with personal gain or distracted by integrity issues.

The Progressive Missteps

April 26, 2018

Today, the Republican Party and especially its extreme conservative and libertarian wings are undermining our  country’s social safety net, environmental protections, and world standing. Will future generations be able to put the Country back together?  

We hear from our Conservative and Libertarian friends that their policies are based upon the firm belief that money earned is ones personal property and not the province of the government.  Reduce government spending (on everything but defense) is the prescription.  This will allow the government to lower, if not eliminate income taxes.  

Most Americans are still stuck in the “free lunch” phase.  Who doesn’t prefer lower taxes?  But since there are no free lunches, Americans will soon learn “you get what you pay for”.  As this realization settles in, voters will have an opportunity to shift the balance of power back to progressives.

But what were the Progressive Missteps which facilitate the Republican take over?

  • How about electing the first woman President
  • Or, nominating the first openly gay or lesbian Mayor
  • Or, applauding the first transgender
  • Or, hailing government support for wind and solar energy while not announcing confirmed retraining programs for displaced coal workers.

One might think these missteps were simply a messaging issue.  Maybe these choice were just messaging but the perception too many Americans received was that being gay, lesbian, or transgender was more important than merit qualifications for the job in question.  

Without a doubt for some Americans the woman’s place is in the home, gays et al are an abomination, and America is being bullied into killing coal.  Far more Americans, however, are interested in results and merit and the color, gender, religion, or country of origin are irrelevant.  Fairness and earning the chance on the basis of ability is the American way. 

In addition, the advancement of automation or renewable fuels, no matter how sensible, appear naked without some reference coupled with action for those left behind (retraining, supplemental aid, new jobs).

The 2020 Presidential election will test whether Democrats, liberals, and progressives have learned from the bitter 2016 election.  There will be no shortage of real world examples of the poor choices the Trump Administration has made.  

The 2018 midterms will offer progressives a chance to offer new messaging.  For the sake of the country, let us hope there is more to the “messaging” and center and left of center candidates have meaningful policies too. 

If not “missteps” will change to “marching in the wrong direction”.

Unfit From Any Angle

February 11, 2018

The current crowd that comprises the Republican Party’s Congressional members are unfit to govern. So tell me something that I didn’t know already. Hmmm.

Throughout the Obama years, Republican leaders postured time and again about Obama Administrations incompetence. Republicans pointed to the slow growing US economy, the size of Federal Deficits, and the ruinous impact the Affordable Care Act was having upon jobs were rallying calls. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Republican message never the less kept reinforcing the dooms day outlook.

From the day former President Obama took office, while the US economy was steadily slipping into the dangerous territory between recession and depression, the Obama Administration pushed for a balanced approach between Keynesian economic stimulation and “doing the right thing” legislation.

The 2008 economic decline bottomed out and the Affordable Care Act came into law providing healthcare for millions more. General Motors was saved from itself, consumer protection measures were put in place, and human rights enforcement became the Justice Department’s focus.

The Economy grew around 2-2.5%, unemployment steadily decreased, while America’s GDP growth lead the pack of developed countries. In foreign policy, the Obama Administration proposed that the Middle East policies should not cloud or block America’s view that an emerging super power China must be dealt with. Also, Iran and North Korea both were subject to diplomatic efforts aimed at controlling those countries’ nuclear programs while also recognizing the limits of military force. And, climate realities were met straight on with the US announcing it would join the Paris Climate Agreement in hopes of a global effort to confront global warming.

During President Trump’s first year, the past 8 years have been “denied”. The President has appointed, and the Republican controlled Congress has confirmed, Cabinet Secretaries who were either unqualified or were avowed opponents of each Department’s goals. Turning the Asylum over to the inmates would summarize the executive branch.

Important trade alliances were cast aside and the “what does this mean” slogan America First was substituted. America First is sure fired, naive call which is certain to result in less international cooperation. But the best was yet to come.

The Congress tried it best to repeal and replace Obamacare only to find that strong grass roots support for the Affordable Care Act existed and a repeal threaten the electoral viability of Republican Congress Members. Disappointed but not deterred, the Congress moved on to “tax reform” which in short order emerged as “tax cuts”.

The rush for tax cuts was strange since most business people would ask what would be the spending plan against which levying taxes could logically be set. Republican leaders and spokespersons, however, tried to frame the tax cuts as a means to grow the economy faster and magically paying for themselves.

The tax cuts passed with Republican votes and America woke up to the news that these tax cuts would add another $1.5 trillion to the deficit. Republicans then touted the GDP growth rate as already accelerating, (a near impossibility due to any recent cause and effect).

Republicans claimed that economic growth was now 3% and heading north. Republicans did not say that other modern countries were also experiencing economic growth and relatively speaking, the US was growing no faster than its major trading partners.

Even worse was the recognition that when the US economy heats up, the risk of inflation increases too. So the perfect storm is forming.

Inflation is around the corner, unemployment is near bottom (so where are the workers going to come from to man the heated economy), Republicans’ anal Mexican policies are severely restricting much needed labor, and after 10 years of expansion, sooner or later a real contraction must take over.

But there is more.

This week Democrats and Republicans compromised, not on prudent budget cuts, but instead on fiscally irresponsible, unpaid government spending. This compromise resulted from a basic inability to set national priorities and in order for one group (like Defense spenders) to get their funding, they had to go allow with Democrat favored domestic policies.

Americans will have the GOP to thank for

  • expensive healthcare
  • rising inflation
  • no tools left to stimulate the economy (taxes have already been cut and interest rates are still low) when inevitably the economy slows and slips into a recession.
  • Trading partners will take care of themselves first (as instructed) taking away a consumer of our goods and services.
  • Federal Debt interest rate costs will begin to choke out other spending.
  • A darkening view of the utility (not mention the honesty) of elected officials will occur to more Americans.
  • The American Dream and the necessary “can do” spirit will be stunted.

In real life, most Americans do not have the experience or the time to understand what their Republican elected leaders have put in play.  America First sounds good, and who is not in favor of lower taxes.  For unexplained reason, for profit insurance companies standing between Americans and their doctors sounds better than Government (as in all other modern healthcare systems around the world).

There are many reasons Republican Congress Members are unfit.  Most likely the corrosive effect of money is at the root.  Wealthy individuals have organized and fueled ideologues to frame issues and mold public opinion.  Money speaks, lots of money speaks louder.

The Republican Party has found ballot box success parroting these wealth back conservative think tanks.  Americans are about to find out from real experience, Republicans are unfit to govern.