The 47%

May 24, 2016

There are a laundry list of reasons why Americans are angry, disillusioned or filled with anxiety these days. For some they feel the country is headed in the wrong direction or is directionless, for others they do not trust President Obama, others are concerned about the impact of diversity on the white population, and others just see Washington as broken and a partisan mess.

Let me add another reason to this laundry list of national depression. In a recent issue of The Atlantic, Neal Gabler, an award winning writer, talked about the travails of the middle class. In his piece he referenced a yearly survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Board that monitors American consumers. One of the questions asked was how the respondents would likely pay for a $ 400 emergency. The answer from 47% was that they would cover the $ 400 by borrowing the money, selling possessions or they would not be able to come up with the cash. Let me say that again, 47% of American consumers polled said that they could not come up with $ 400 for an emergency.

Now these Americans without the $ 400 are likely a cross section of our country – some may be receiving assistance, some are seniors on a fixed income, some are making minimum wage and some are folks from what used to be the solid middle class. (  I suspect a goodly number of the respondents were from what is generally described as the middle class since we are talking about a huge number- 47% of those who answered the questionnaire).

You want to know why people are angry and in a foul mood toward political and economic elites, the lack of $ 400 to cover an emergency is certainly at the top of the list. Income inequality is a fancy term used by economists to describe that in our economy there are winners and losers, but in the last twenty years, especially since the Great Recession, the number of losers has exploded and the middle class is in tatters.

Sadly, there is no short term solution to the $ 400 dilemma of the 47% – a comprehensive minimum wage increase is years away and is a band aid; significant pay jumps  for workers are not in the cards, only incremental cost of living bonuses; corporations are either sitting on trillions in cash and doing little with it or are shipping it offshore to avoid government-sponsored distribution programs; and any talk of freebies, whether college tuition, universal health care, parental leave or day care, are dismissed as socialistic and contributing to a furthering of that gaping hole in the national debt.

So the short and long term condition of the middle class is an acceptance of economic and financial struggle as a fact of life and a continued erosion of the American dream.What’s astounding is that at first glance $ 400 is really not a lot of money, but tell that to the 47% of American consumers.


The Trump Strategy

May 4, 2016

It is abundantly clear that Donald Trump is not a detail guy or policy wonk or fact checker, but he is most effective and politically savvy when it comes to making horrible accusations or cruel declarations against his opponents or those who are not part of his white America voting bloc. He certainly will not change his strategy once he begins to unload against Hillary Clinton. This campaign will be run in the gutter and largely void of serious dialogue on issues that are critical to the future of this country.

So what can we expect from the Donald and what will Hillary have to deal with as this country wades through the muck until this worst campaign ever is finally over? Here’s a snapshot of Trump’s strategy and Hillary’s lament.

He will follow the Republican playbook and claim that the Benghazi deaths were Hillary’s fault and that she was lying to her teeth – lying Hillary

He will state that Hillary didn’t have the human decency to speak to the families of those who died in the Benghazi raid – heartless Hillary

He will claim that Hillary likely divulged state secrets by using a personal email server and that if not for a Democratic Justice Department and weak FBI she would be in handcuffs – criminal Hillary

He will assert that she is a pawn of Wall Street while he is beholden to no one, certainly no one in Washington – money hungry Hillary

He will charge that she knew about all of Bill’s flings and the shady dealings to make his lady friends go away – cover-up Hillary

He will hint that maybe just maybe Hillary always liked women rather than men and was carrying on a secret life – in the closet Hillary

He will of course question her ability as a woman to be tough, decisive, strong-willed and all within the context in which a woman’s biological and anatomical differences creep into the charges – Hillary as Megyn Kelly

I could go on and on but I think you get the gist of the Trump strategy. One can only hope that Hillary has her own strategy to counteract the gutter and that the American people still yearn for a policy debate on the issues and the future of this country rather than a mud fest. One can only hope, but don’t count on it.

 


Tough Choices

April 20, 2016

Please answer these questions honestly.

  1. How many of you really, and I mean really, like your boss?
  2. How many of you get along with your next door neighbor?
  3. How many of you have ever argued with a police officer when you knew you were in the wrong?
  4. How many of you believe you have been ripped off in a business transaction?
  5. How many of you dislike your in-laws?

Now take those answers and apply them to the two likely candidates for President of the United States – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There is not a poll around that does not show that these two front runners have huge negatives, in short a vast majority of voters either dislike them, don’t trust them, are scared of them or simply believe they are the wrong people to occupy the White House.

But if your answers to the above five question show that you have “issues” with people who don’t live up to your expectations or lifestyle, then take a hard look at Clinton and Trump and make an adult decision between two tough choices. I am sure that you would agree that no one is perfect and surely these two are clearly in the imperfect category, but if the real world we live in is imperfect then when you make your choice for president carry over that same acceptance of imperfection that you encounter everyday. So my advice, get over the fact that Clinton and Trump are no angels and deal with them as you would your boss, next door neighbor, police officer, business associate or the dreaded in-laws.

I have a hunch that many voting decisions in November will come down to personality and trust and fear rather than policy concerns. So start thinking of Clinton and Trump as really no different than the people you deal with everyday, that is unless you encounter only angels as you walk through life.

 


Political Ramblings

April 10, 2016

Thank God for the new baseball season because most of us deserve a distraction from the nastiness and craziness of the presidential campaign. But watching the Red Sox does not completely eradicate the burning desire to comment on what Lincoln called the last best hope for mankind, that would  be the United States. So because there is just so much “stuff” out there to comment on, here are a few political ramblings:

The candidates for the White House are so bad that Barack Obama’s approval rating is now above 50%, the first time in years. Could our president leave office as a popular president?

My wife came home yesterday with a few new clothing items, two of which were from the fashion house of Ivanka Trump. Should I be concerned that Carol has gone over to the dark side?

If Hillary wants to win she may consider putting ol’ Bill on ice. Bubba has lost his fastball and maybe should go back to eating meat.

It was certainly prudent for the Secret Service to outlaw guns at the Republican convention in July since it could have ended up as the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

Speaking of the Republican Convention, Cleveland is often called the Mistake on the Lake- an appropriate slogan for the elephant party as they gather to implode.

It may seem a mere technicality, but Jeb Bush only suspended his campaign; he didn’t end his campaign.

The Republicans in the Senate who refuse to take a vote on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee may have made the correct political decision since I don’t hear a mass outcry in the country for a vote.

It is not the same thing as Mike Dukakis riding in a tank wearing an oversized helmet but what benefit does Hillary gain from riding a New York subway for a few blocks?

Ted Cruz condemns New York values, but what are Texas values? Could they be murder, executions, hate groups,seceding from the Union, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and big hair?

Trump’s brain trust – Palin, Christie, Carson, and Giuliani – talk about the four horsemen/horsewomen of the apocalypse.

Remember what Lincoln said – the last best hope for mankind.

 

 


Who Do You Trust?

March 31, 2016

No this is not the title of a new game show. Rather it is a question about the status of the media and their coverage of the presidential candidates. New opinion data shows that nearly 60% of the America people have scant trust in the national media, which corresponds to the lack of trust for most of the people running for the highest office in the land. We have become a country of deep skepticism of the fourth estate and an unwavering refusal to view the politicians running for the White House as champions of honesty and integrity.

As many voters see it, the major television news networks are biased toward Hillary, Fox has a well- deserved reputation as providing the highest level of misinformation and mistrust, CNN is all opinion all the time, without the facts, no one watches MSNBC because it is boring and the New York Times, the newspaper of record that few read, is irrelevant as it campaigns unsuccessfully to trash Donald Trump.

We have come to a stage in American print journalism, television political reporting and endless social media apps where far too many voters just refuse to listen to the pundits or worse yet show little respect for what they are selling in the way of commentary or investigation. Perhaps it is a function of 24/7 news with its information and analysis overload; perhaps it is that there isn’t a mother or father figure delivering the news like Walter Cronkite ( only those over 50 will remember), or perhaps it is that Americans are so angry and disgusted with the establishment that they are unwilling to see the merit in the mainstream media and would rather rely on the words of charlatans or websites with no legitimate standing.

Whatever the reason, facts now take a back seat to ratings and ranting, talking heads rule the day and serious debate is the stuff of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. We are now experiencing another blow to popular democracy where an informed electorate is fading and mistrust in those who make and report the news is rampant. A successful democracy depends on professional journalists who report the facts and take on the powerful to get at the truth. Sadly, trust in journalists and the media establishment is in steep decline as are the prospects for a vibrant democracy.

 


The Corporate Mindset and the Ignorance of Democracy

March 24, 2016

Running a corporation like Donald Trump’s real estate empire is a lot different than running a constitutional democracy, which is why the presumptive Republican candidate for president is so scary. Put aside for the moment his hateful view of women, Muslims, Hispanics, African-Americans, and in a special category Megyn Kelly, and concentrate on how a CEO operates compared to a president who embraces the laws and traditions of our form of government.

First of all we are country of laws not men or women, which simply means that those in positions of national power must recognize the constitution, the statutes passed by Congress, the rules set by the bureaucracy, where applicable the laws of state governments and of course the views of the people expressed through elections or other methods of free expression. A corporate CEO may have to listen to shareholders or key players holding large blocks of stock, but such institutional checks are quite weak and often ignored as the ol boy network comes into play to jack up salaries and give an occasional slap on the wrist of a wayward executive. Trump can fire people, push for torture, boast about deal making and insult friends and foes alike but that mode of behavior comes out of the corporate mindset and has little real world connection to the way a democracy works. We live in a governmental system of separation of powers, checks and balances, the rule of law, set procedures, democratic traditions, public opinion, and  constitutional guarantees. Simply stated, you can’t run the United States government as if it were Trump Inc.

Secondly, James Madison supported the concept of factions, what we call today lobbying organizations.  In Madison’s view, the more factions the better as a means of avoiding the excesses and irresponsibility of the masses. Corporate CEO’s are used to buying off special interests or making  insider deals that benefit both sides. But in our system there are thousands of lobbying groups, many not tied to the 1%, many capable of changing the course of legislation or at least forcing compromises. Donald Trump seems to have no conception that Madison’s factions cannot be ignored or bought off and that public opinion stirred up by lobbying groups is not a behavior that can be intimidated with thuggery. Trump has no idea how complicated our political system is and how difficult it will be to govern in an environment where thousands of lobbying groups seek to influence public policy. This is where the disaster of a Trump presidency lies.

Finally, the art of the deal is Trump’s mantra, and in some respects that is what Washington used to be- deal-making. Trump seeks to bring back the deal but he easily forgets that making a deal as CEO of his real estate company is different than making a deal with the Democrats or the Chinese, or the Mexicans. Trump deals may be made through bullying and threats but in the real world of Washington and the rest of the planet deals are negotiated not forced, quiet talk not bluster achieves resolution, a kind word or flattering remark often carries the day with adversaries, and most of all a half a loaf is usually what makes for success not some boast about winning it all. You can’t be the leader of the free world if you are an authoritarian bully schooled in the art of corporate control. In real world there are no easy answers, no shortcuts, no pushovers. CEOs like Trump have sold too many Americans with the corporate mantra but a simple look at our democracy, our constitution, our freedom of expression and our political realities should convince those willing to listen and study our government that we live in a republic not Trump Inc.

 


Hookers 4 Hillary

March 15, 2016

Yes, in this crazy election season there is a organization called Hookers 4 Hillary, women  like Entice Love and many others in the world’s oldest profession, who want to express their political views and support a presidential candidate. As Ms. Love stated to the Politico website, “A lot of people think… we’re just hookers and all we know is how to have sex and we don’t know anything about politics. But that’s not true.”

Now I don’t believe that Hookers 4 Hillary will have much impact on the primary season and beyond, and I suspect that Hillary Clinton is not overjoyed with the endorsement, but at this stage in the delegate race to the convention in Philadelphia, Hillary can use all the help she can muster. For someone with all her political experience- an army of aides and consultants and millions in the campaign war chest- one would think that Hillary would be the runaway choice of Democratic voters. Instead she is fighting for her political life against an unlikely foe, Bernie Sanders- an aging, Jewish, socialist from Vermont where cows outnumber people.

In a nutshell, Hillary simply has misjudged the American voter, especially the young voter; she mistakenly thought that a campaign geared to the senior set, women over 50, Latinos and African-Americans would carry the day. Instead she is being hammered by the millennial generation, white workers, and progressive voters who nod in agreement when Bernie talks about a rigged economy, the evils of Wall Street, and working class angst. Meanwhile Hillary is talking about health care, children and women’s rights, valid issues but not the core of voter interest.

So what we see with Hillary is a series of resets as she shapes her speeches to counter what Bernie has been saying all along; now she is against free trade, now she mildly criticizes Wall Street, now she appeals to the working class who have lost their jobs and millennials who are seeking jobs. Give Bernie credit- he is consistent and on message; as for Hillary – she is the ultimate political chameleon.

Hillary may still end up as the Democratic nominee, in fact it is likely, but along the way she will be required to answer for her shifting positions and her out of touch divide with the new American voter. On second thought, in a close election Hillary just might need Hookers 4 Hillary.


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