Money

Placating the Haters

Reading time – 1:38 seconds; Viewing time – 2:19  .  .  .

Click for the story and video on CNN

The recent massacre in Charlottesville, Virginia brought out the worst of Donald Trump – again. Here’s coverage from CNN quoting Trump’s speech:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said during a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey. “It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”

The President did not mention white nationalists and the alt-right movement in his remarks, and later called for a “study” of the “situation.” [emphasis added]

Once again Trump failed to apply the words “racist” and “racism” and “antisemitism” and”bigotry” and “violence” solely to the white supremacists, where it belongs. Once again he has failed to call out the haters, except this time he made them sound as though they’re equivalent to those who object to and protest the hatred. Yes, he equated those protesting hate with a murderer in a silver Dodge Charger and the skinheads across the street.

Trump has claimed that he’s the least racist person you’ve ever seen, but he discriminated against blacks in his New York buildings. He was happy to have David Duke’s endorsement and had to be pressured into disowning it. He’s called Mexicans rapists and tried to exclude all Muslims from America. Perhaps it’s his bigotry that causes him to issue mealy-mouth, disingenuous statements about those who harm innocents who aren’t of Christian European ancestry.

Or maybe it’s because this president’s ratings are in the tank – he only has support from 37% of Americans – his “base” – and he can’t afford to lose any more popular support, so he continues to placate the haters. That is to say, once again, he’s made it all about Trump, the president with absolutely no sense of morality and no purpose other than self-aggrandizement, all this as our people bleed in the street.

In Other News

*Reuters is reporting that President Trump is removing white supremacist, alt-right groups including the KKK, Aryan Nation and neo-Nazis from the national terror watch list. Read the report all the way down to the chart, where you’ll see that these domestic terrorist groups are twice as likely to commit violence in America as al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

Reading time – 6:20; Viewing time – 9:38  .  .  .

This is the continuation of my notions of a national platform begun in the last post. It’s necessary to make an addendum to point #5 regarding healthcare.

Memo to Lawmakers: Only 20% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and that number hasn’t varied by more than a few percentage points since 2006. The disapproval rating of Congress stands at 74%, meaning that 3 out of 4 Americans think you’re doing a really lousy job. You really should feel terrible about that. Here’s what you need to know.

A big piece of the public disapproval of you is due to your making back room deals – sleaze behind closed doors – like what the Republican senators have done with their cruel healthcare plan that keeps millions of Americans from getting healthcare at all. That’s why We the People don’t approve of you.

All you have to do is to craft something that provides healthcare for everyone and do your deliberation in public, opening the process to comments from actual American people who will be impacted by what you do. This is not complicated and you really can do this.

Memo to Republicans in Congress: We the People know that your American Health Care Act (“AHCA”) isn’t really about healthcare. It’s about giving an $800 billion cash windfall to already rich people. Can you be any more disingenuous? Shame on you.

8. George W. Bush may go down in history as our worst president because he started two unnecessary wars which are likely to continue for decades. Donald Trump is trying to one-up him by tweaking the nose of an infantile nuclear dictator, thumbing his nose at our strongest allies, buddying up to Vladimir Putin and refusing to endorse Article 5 of the NATO charter.

Memo to lawmakers: You already know that only Congress has the power to declare war. Put on your big boy/girl pants, take a stand and fulfill your obligation. We don’t need perpetual war initiated by autocrats.

Economic teaching moment: War robs us of huge amounts of money – trillions of dollars. The cost of every bullet or rocket that’s fired is lost forever; in contrast, the money spent in America, on America gets recycled nearly perpetually to the benefit of all of us.

Mortality teaching moment: Our military people who get killed in our unnecessary wars really don’t come home and resume their lives. They’re dead and if you didn’t stand against our unnecessary wars, it’s your fault. Do you support our military? Then stop sending our people off to die for no good reason.

9. If Trump gets his way we’re going to de-fund the National Institutes of Health, the EPA and gut our diplomatic corps. so we’ll cut spending on cancer research, let our air and water get polluted again and make the military our only foreign affairs tool, all to save less than a couple of percent of our budget.

Memo to lawmakers: Really?!!! Please wake up and tell us you’re not that self-defeating. Put on those big boy/girl pants and take a stand for America.

10. Stephen Bannon wants to tear down our established order and so far Trump seems to be his puppet in charge of dismantling what makes the American government work. At the same time Trump is collapsing the international coalition that has kept us strong and safe for 100 years, while at the same time sucking up to vicious autocrats around the world. Using duck logic, this looks, walks and quacks like a duck that is in the process of the self-immolation of America.

Memo to lawmakers: Get a grip on reality, stop this un-American president and put our government back together. Note that once again this will require that you put on your big boy/girl pants.

11. Fossil fuel is on the way out because we’re choking on its exhaust and the planet is warming at a staggering rate that will cook us all. We need clean energy, not more oil extracted from ecologically perilous places.

Memo to lawmakers: You’ll be okay without Big Oil and Big Gas campaign contributions – I promise. So, stop the idiocy of, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know about global warming.” Craft legislation that will drive a complete transformation of our energy infrastructure – a moon shot – like solar collectors on all roofs, solar farms, wind energy, tide energy, a new smart grid and all the rest. If you don’t care enough about your grandchildren to do this, then do it for mine.

12. 100 years ago graduating from 8th grade was a fine accomplishment and enough education for someone to get a good job with good pay. A few decades later a high school diploma was needed for a good job, so we made high school tuition-free for our kids. The world has changed and even more education is needed today. Right now there are 6 million jobs going wanting, many because employers can’t find people with the education required for those jobs.

Memo to lawmakers: Make state college education tuition-free. And find a way to get past property taxes being the primary funding for our schools, because this antiquated system leaves kids in poor areas unable to get a good education. That sentences them to a sub-standard life and robs us all of their contributions to a better America. And stop the efforts to privatize education because that isn’t the answer, even if big donors want you to believe it is. Yes, all of this will have tax implications, just as the switch to tuition-free high school did. Figure it out.

13. Russia is not our friend. Russia is an opponent and, considering their ongoing cyber attack on the U.S. and our allies, they may be considered our enemy. Failing to vigorously oppose their behavior and impose penalties on them is ineptitude in the extreme and possibly treason. It’s true that the Executive branch conducts American foreign policy. It’s also true that both the House and Senate are investigating Russian hacking and possible collusion from within. The problem is that those investigations are cumbersome and glacially slow, which means that the president has plenty of time to undermine American security.

Memo to lawmakers: I really don’t care how much money the president owes to Russian interests or the pictures they may have of him or any other pressures Putin can put on Trump. I don’t care about Trump’s notion of making friends with Russia. They are antithetical to our beliefs, our way of life and our safety. Find a way to stop the foreign policy disasters that Trump is creating.

14. It’s absurd to be able to say this, but we are living in a world where millions actually believe in alternative facts and fake news. Surprise, Donald Trump didn’t invent it. This has been going on for a long time. The concept of shame for one’s despicable actions like lying no longer seems to exist and people are prepared to dismiss provable facts. Indeed, millions regularly dismiss reality because they have been told by self-serving types that others are lying to them. That itself is a lie, but it’s crafty stuff for those wanting power and for whom integrity isn’t high on their list of personal attributes.

Memo to lawmakers: Are you lying or misleading the public? Stop it. Stop manipulating to get control of the Supreme Court. Stop telling Americans that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and then doing nothing to stimulate job growth. Stop saying we’ll have better healthcare at a much lower cost when you can’t deliver either one. Stop telling the American people that those who report on you are liars when they report on your dalliances. Stop claiming your programs won’t privatize Social Security and Medicare when that’s exactly what they will do. Stop creating enemies like the press just to gain popular support for you, because now the truth has become an enemy and that is corroding our society. One last time: Put on your big boy/girl pants and tell the truth.

Final memo to lawmakers: What I’ve outlined in this post and the one prior is what Americans want. This isn’t fringe stuff, but doing this won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. There are competing interests and some are legitimate and quite valuable, with the exception, of course, of the issue of lying. Nevertheless, everything is either a negotiation and a compromise or it is stagnation through polarization. It’s your choice. Choose well, especially when it’s hard.

Unavoidably, our solutions come down to a 4-letter word: WORK. Roll up your shirt/blouse sleeves and get to work. Not the hateful, in-your-face behavior that we see so often or the misleading, hyperbolic idiocy that dominates the news, but work that’s focused on a better America and improving the lives of all Americans. If you can’t do that, just resign, because otherwise We the People will be sending you home real soon.

Get to work.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 1

Reading time – 6:40; Viewing time – 9:54  .  .  .

This post was created in the days just before the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and the injuring of 5 others at a baseball practice. Clearly, the shooter had problems; yet that event has put into stark relief the extent of our political polarization, the frustrations of the American people and the extremism that some of our leaders have helped to deepen, all of which underline the points that follow.

DC is crazy and everyone knows it’s crazy. The president thinks everything is all about him and that his job is a popularity contest won by appealing to extremists. Many of those in Congress think their job about is serving special interests. The Republicans who speak loudly are anchored in the primordial Reagan ooze as though there is something holy about continuing to do what has never worked. Democrats don’t seem to be able to do much other than be against Trump and Republican extremism.

Meanwhile, We the People think it’s about America and Americans. That leaves it to us to be sane about the future of America, so here are the first seven of my Platform Points in bite-size portions. The key is that the vast majority of Americans are in line with these notions and our solution comes down to a 4-letter word. Note that my more aggressive comments are for the folks with big, extremist megaphones and not for the reasonable legislators who only want to make things better for everyone.

1. A minimum of 78% of Americans believe that big money infects and distorts our democracy and they want that changed. They want a We the People Amendment that negates the craziness of Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, McCutcheon v. F.E.C. and the rest of the enabling decisions and legislation that allow the rich to buy America and impoverish the rest of us. Said another way, Americans want Congress to prevent the buying of Congress so that instead we can have an actual representative democracy.

Memo to Lawmakers: I understand that the present system requires you to grub for donations and seek the big buck donors. In fact, the system is the problem. In order to stop that, vote for the We the People Amendment to the Constitution. Get on the side of Americans, on the right side of history and end your begging for dollars. You’ll be glad you did it, because you know you hate begging for cash.

2. Just before the vote on the 2008 legislation that created Medicare Part D, Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA) inserted an amendment into the legislation that prohibited the U.S. government, the largest purchaser of meds in the world, from negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies for better pricing. That sure was good for Big Pharma. Billy Tauzin didn’t run for re-election that year, preferring instead to go to work for PhRMA, the lobbying organization of Big Pharma. They gave him a pay increase to $2 million per year.

Memo to lawmakers: We the People are angry about the revolving door between Congress and lobbying. Clean up this sleaziness. Make the Tauzin behavior illegal. And change the Part D law so we can negotiate better pricing with Big Pharma.

3. Until a few years ago when the NRA went on a campaign to change the meaning of the Second Amendment, we all knew that violent offenders and those not mentally stable shouldn’t have firearms. We still know that, but now over half of all deaths by firearms are suicide (also here) and many of those are our returning vets. A gun within arm’s reach makes suicide and homicide real easy and we have to wonder if that shooter at the Republican baseball practice would have taken any action at all if he were not able to obtain an AR-15 assault rifle. Over 80% of Americans want sensible gun safety legislation, including a huge majority of NRA members.

Memo to lawmakers: NRA campaign contributions are nice, but you’ll be okay without them. And the “cold, dead hands” mantra may bring about a satisfying testosterone rush, but it’s killing Americans. Pass sensible gun safety legislation.

4. The FDA has dragged feet for years on an Obama era requirement that restaurants display calorie counts on restaurant meals. “Now the FDA has indefinitely postponed the implementation of the rule which would require food manufacturers to list added sugars along with more visible calorie counts and clearer serving sizes.” They’ve also refused to require labeling that would let us know if a food product contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Why doesn’t the government want us to know what we’re eating?

Memo to lawmakers: You already know the answer to the question: It’s the Big Food lobby. They fear that if we consumers know the crap they put in their products that they’ll sell less of it to us, so they “incentivize” lawmakers and agencies to stall disclosure laws. This isn’t a key issue, but it is another case of Big Money buying our government in large and small ways, getting what it wants at the expense of We the People. Labeling changes cost next to nothing. Make them do it.

5. The American people don’t want bickering over how many millions of us should be shut out of healthcare by the various idiotic proposals being considered. By a significant margin, we want Medicare for all, universal healthcare, single payer – call it what you will. The statistics show that Medicare costs about 25% less than care that is provided through private healthcare insurance – that’s for equivalent healthcare procedures and outcomes. The cost differential is largely due to the overhead costs of private insurers, like marketing, sales expense and really high pay for their C-level executives. Switching to single payer will make a significant dent in our bloated spending for healthcare and will save individual Americans a lot of money.

Memo to lawmakers: Yes, it’s true that single payer will put out of business many of the private healthcare insurance companies that make lovely campaign contributions. The buggy whip makers had a similar challenge 100 years ago when something better came along. Those formerly making buggy whips figured out how to get along; so will our healthcare insurance folks today. Single payer is what Americans want, so your choices, lawmakers, are to continue to do the stupid dance over this issue (now being done in secret to jam it through the Senate) or you can get on the right side of history.

6. Trickle down economics never trickles down. It was factually wrong when it was proposed and it has consistently failed for nearly 40 years. Supply side stimulus doesn’t grow businesses; demand does, but demand isn’t stimulated by the upside down economics of trickle down. Let’s be specific about what actually happens: Giving more money to rich people with the expectation that they will expand their businesses and hire lots of Americans and pay good wages doesn’t happen. Making this worse is that because their personal wants and needs were already met before any tax windfall, rich people don’t spend the new trickle down money, so we don’t get a boost to the economy. Instead, overwhelmingly, rich folks have put their trickle down money into their investments so that nearly all reward has gone to them. The rest of us have stagnated.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop the dishonest schemes that only enrich the wealthy, like Bush’s tax cuts, Trump’s one-page “tax plan” and the disingenuous AHCA which would give huge tax breaks to rich people, funded by refusing healthcare entirely to 23 million Americans. The tax breaks will not redound to the rest of us, as history shows. Come up with a progressive tax plan that makes sense for all. And don’t ever again say “trickle-down” or “supply side” or we’ll know you’re lying.

7. Everyone knows that our infrastructure is failing. We have 55,000 bridges that need substantial repair or complete replacement. Our roads need a huge amount work. Our airports and trains are second rate compared to most of the industrialized world. The water and sewer pipes in all our major cities are over 100 years old. In short, there is a long list of what needs to be done if we are to remain the world leader.

Memo to lawmakers: Stop whining that the Obama Recovery Act (the “stimulus”) didn’t work. The spending you authorized was about half of what was needed for all those “shovel-ready” projects; then you gave half of it to rich people in the form of tax breaks that, once again, didn’t trickle down. The stimulus plan could have worked and our bridges would have been safer by now, but in your mania to ensure that Obama had no wins you submarined it. America is falling apart and you finger pointers with a big megaphone are a key reason why. Cut the crap and pass a major infrastructure plan.

This is the end of Part 1 of the Platform. You’ll find Part 2 in the next post and it will include the unveiling of that key 4-letter word.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Nixon Again?

Reading time – 2:45; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

Crude alert: This post contains a little crudeness near the end. Sensitive readers should squint while reading those parts.

Parents are cautioned to separate the person from the deed, such that when little Johnny kicks the dog he’s not a bad boy. It’s just that he did a bad thing. It’s important that we don’t crush his budding self-esteem by giving him any “You’re not an okay person” message that would carry into adult life and at last cause him to be a doormat for others or a “hit you back first” abuser or a milquetoast failure.

And so it is with our president. It’s important that we don’t label him with personality damaging, ego bruising labels. For example:

He wasn’t a liar, thief and cheat when he repeatedly refused to pay his contractors; he just did a bad thing. Repeatedly.

He’s not a sexual abuser and misogynist; he just crudely brags about abusing women and publicly demeans them. Those are bad things, too.

It’s important that we not call him a traitor; we should at least wait for the FBI report about his conspiring with the Russians and then be gentle and say that perhaps he did some questionable things.

Again, it’s important that we not call him a traitor; he just publicly pinpointed two of our ultra-stealth nuclear submarines, so we should offer positive correction. And too bad for the crews of those subs and our entire military.

He’s not a liar; he just uses special math for his budget that he calls balanced but which adds $2 trillion to our debt. We’ll get him a math tutor.

He’s not a liar; he’s just a little misguided about his promised healthcare plan that will be better and cheaper but instead is a scheme to send billions of dollars to rich people by preventing tens of millions of Americans from having any healthcare at all. Just a little oops. Anyone could make that mistake.

You already know that this list could be very, very long, but in each instance it’s important that we describe the act and not demean the person, right?

Oh, screw that. Trump is a cruel, amoral cheat and liar, a betrayer of the first order (just ask the Israelis) and without any qualities required of a president or even a satisfactory human being. He’s a back-stabber of friends and allies and a supplicant to tyrants and murderers.

CLICK HERE for more information (PDF)

Honestly, I don’t care a bit if Trump’s fragile ego gets bruised. I just want him out of power so that he can’t hurt America or Americans like you and me. I want him in a place that’s safe, say, Danbury Federal Correctional Institution or the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Either one. And for a really long time.

Back in the Vietnam War days when Richard Nixon was president there were lots of protests against the war and against the president who continued it because as he said, “I’m not going down in history as the first American President who lost a war.” That is to say, it was all about Nixon’s self-image, which was far more important to him than the lives of the additional 28,000 men and women who would die because of his self-obsession. A sign commonly found at street protests then read, “Dick Nixon before he dicks you.”

And now we have another president who is similarly all about himself. You and I better stay clear about that and take action before this president dicks us all.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

 

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Intolerables – Redux

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 5:24  .  .  .

A couple of months ago I wrote about the concept of intolerables – that which is intolerable to you and you’d fight it to the death. It’s critically important for each of us to know our intolerables, because they bring sharp focus to our North Star. As motivational speaker Les Brown makes clear, “You have to know what you stand for, or you’ll fall for anything.”

Trump tax plan to benefit the wealthy. CLICK ME

Amazingly, trickle-down, “voodoo economics,” is once again being shoved up our noses, this time by President Trump with his new tax plan (have a look at the 1-page “plan” here). He tells us that he’ll boldly reduce the top corporate rate from 35% to a miserly 15%. Further, he assures us that there’s no need to end any special interest loopholes. That’s because our economy will have a veritable explosion of growth. And the growth will be such a win – you’ll be sick of winning! – and companies will make so much more money that even at the new reduced tax rate, tax collections by the government will stay as they are. His magical thinking plan will be revenue neutral! Note that that’s what Sam Brownback, governor of Kansas, promised Kansans 5 years ago. Instead, he’s driven his state into recession and borrowed from the state pension system just to stay afloat.

The best part of Trump’s plan, he tells us, is that the taxes saved will put so much extra cash into the tills of corporations that they will immediately start a hiring frenzy. JOBS! So many jobs you’ll be sick of jobs and there will be so much joy that CEOs and marketing executives and janitors will skip and sing merrily in the streets, hand in brotherly hand. There’s just one thing: reduced taxes don’t create jobs. Increased demand is what creates jobs and Trump’s plan won’t increase demand. I guess we can forget about the singing and dancing in the streets.

In order to get we rubes to go along with his cockamamie plan he’s going to buy us off by slightly reducing and simplifying our personal taxes. Of course, those tax reductions will apply to Trump, too, but with lots more digits to the left of the decimal point for him than for you. In fact, applying his new scheme to the one Trump tax return we’ve seen would put over $30 MILLION into Trump’s pocket in that one year alone. It’s a zombie tax plan, according to Forbes. Trump figures you won’t notice his self-aggrandizement because he thinks you’re dumb enough to be happy with a couple more bucks in your jeans.

George W. Bush pulled that same “buying your support” crap by sending you just a few hundred bucks as he put billions into the pockets of billionaires with his first tax cut. He, too, told us the government revenue shortfall would be made up through economic expansion and the extra taxes that growth would generate. How’d that work out for us? Mmmm  .  .  .  not so well.

Bush even had the gall to pull that tax reduction trick a second time, even though we were at war and we were spending money like a drunken politician. He’s the first president in our history to take us to war and reduce taxes at the same time, instead of raising taxes to cover the cost of his war. We’ll be paying for his fiscal stupidity for a hundred years.

“. . . major major conflict with North Korea” CLICK ME

Trump wants to cut taxes, build national infrastructure, build the damn wall, cut taxes (yes, I know I already said that), rattle sabres at North Korea, fire $30 million worth of missiles at Syria, do who knows what with his bromance buddy Putin, eliminate regulations and, of course, cut taxes. And it’s all being planned by his Goldman Sachs buddies. What could possibly go wrong for middle class and poor Americans?

Ronald Reagan started this trickle-down idiocy in our government nearly 4 decades ago and it has never worked. Let me repeat: It has never worked. Benefits from lower taxes never trickled down. If you were poor, you became poorer. If you were middle class, you stagnated. All that money poured instead into the pockets of CEOs and shareholders who stuffed that cash into their investment portfolios. All the job growth we experienced over the years can be attributed to other factors, like the technology boom of the 1990s and the stimulus program of 2009, neither of which was a trickle down gimmick.

I told you in that earlier post that one of my intolerables is lying, like Paul Ryan telling us that his plans for Social Security and Medicare won’t privatize those programs – except that’s exactly what his plans would do. Trump is now telling the same lie to us that Reagan and the rest of the free market radicals have lied to us about since 1980.

Is that intolerable? We have to know, or we’ll fall for it again. Are we that dumb?

Both Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli liked to say, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” How would you categorize trickle-down economics? How would you categorize nearly anything Donald Trump says?

In other news

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Big doings in Elgin, IL next Sunday. Come join us as our presenters give us the inside skinny on healthcare, the Canadian pipeline planned to go through Illinois and Money, Politics and Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want. The sessions are free, open to the public and offer you an opportunity to learn without any of the all-too-common Washington spin. Join us.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Love Thy Who?

Reading time – 3:43; Viewing time – 5:41  .  .  .

At an evening meeting on April 20th the discussion drifted to the issue of our political divide. The characterization of Trump voters included words like moron, racist, ignorant and a few other choice descriptors. The demonizing fell from lips as easily as rain from the sky – or manure from a barnyard animal – my protestations notwithstanding.

It’s just a guess on my part, but I don’t think character assassinations will be anything but destructive, this in a time when more than ever we need to come together to solve perhaps the largest accumulation of Gordian knot challenges we have faced.

Our vexing political divide is the focus of this post.

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Ezra Klein and Alvin Chang did a report on the issue of political identity – our political divide – for Vox entitled “Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate. They found what you already know to be true, that we politically polarized Americans seem to be unable even to talk with our neighbors who hold political views different from our own. People are even selecting where they will live based upon whether the neighbors are politically aligned with them. And woe be to a daughter or son who marries someone with membership in the other political party.

The dysfunction we see among politicians is exaggerated because we tend to elect zealots; however, we’re not doing a very good job ourselves of even tolerating our “other party” neighbors, much less loving them. Indeed, we seem to be in an age where “other-ing” is not just accepted, but is encouraged.

In my pal Brian Muldoon’s book, The Heart of Conflict, he identifies what he sees as the fundamental reason people are so often unable to talk about differing religious beliefs without the conversation devolving into conflict. He says that it’s because any challenge to our fundamental beliefs challenges our sense of identity and that shakes our tectonic plates, so we go into fight-or-flight mode the same way our caveman ancestors treated threatening saber tooth tigers.

It appears that our political views have reached the same kind of base-of-the-skull level. As Klein and Chang write in their article, “  .  .  . rising political polarization was showing something more fundamental than political disagreement – it was tracking the transformation of party affiliation into a form of personal identity that reached into almost every aspect of our lives.”

It seems to me that invites fight-or-flight into arenas where there are no actual mortal threats; nevertheless, we treat ordinary opinions – like political differences – in the same life-or-death manner we do religious differences.

In the face of this we’re told to love our (“different from me”) neighbors. That’s a tough assignment for we human beings.

Nevertheless, that is the assignment. Should we fail to complete the assignment and get a great grade, our democracy will be at mortal risk. We better figure out how to do something other than fighting or fleeing.

In other news

House Joint Resolution 48 is what we need. It’s what I’ve been calling for in my presentations to groups all over the country since that dark January day in 2010. This is a cure for the deepest ailment of our democracy.

HJR 48 is a bill to reverse the tsunami of corporate and fat cat cash in our politics that was unleashed by the disastrous Citizens United decision. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors; that’s where you come in.

Call your representative now and request that s/he cosponsor this critically important bill. Do this even if your representative is already a cosponsor – they need your support for this.

To find your rep’s phone number, go to www.House.gov and enter your zip code in the box in the top-right corner of the page. Then pick up your phone, dial it and tell the nice staffer who answers that you are a constituent and you want your rep to cosponsor HJR 48.

Do it now, and we’ll slay this mother of our political dysfunction.

Finally, we have a whole new level of stupid coming from Washington. From The Root:

Paul Reickhoff

According to the Military Times, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) has drafted legislation that would charge soldiers $100 a month for access to the GI Bill. The bill would deduct a total of $2,400 from each soldier’s paycheck to make them eligible.

“Pushing this GI Bill tax proposal on troops in a time of war is political cowardice,” said Paul Reickhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America “Some politicians would rather make backroom deals than raise taxes or find other ways to support our troops as bombs continue to fall overseas.”

Let’s see, the geniuses in DC want to send our young off to fight and die for the oil we have to stop using if we’re to avoid hard boiling the planet, and also in order to fill monstrous political egos. As a way to say thanks, our legislators want to tax our troops.

Yes, really.

Bonus Section

Watch this Vox piece for clarity about cable news manipulation and the advancement of “alternative facts.”

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Bus Daydream

Reading time – 2:44; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

In anticipation of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the U.S. and her discussions with President Donald Trump I was struck with a BFOTO (blinding flash of the obvious), that Merkel is in a unique position – that’s “unique” as in: she’s the only one who can do it – and I started to daydream.

The dream began with the clarity that Merkel presides over the strongest economy within a 2000 mile radius – maybe further. She grew up in Soviet communist East Germany, so she has no false illusions about life in a totalitarian regime. And her having come of age in post-WW II Germany means that Merkel has a solid understanding of the horrible consequences of a country electing a charismatic, sociopathic leader. She knows what happens when the people don’t stand up to a tyrant.

So, I dreamed that all of that and more put Merkel in the unique position to stand up to Trump, to refuse to put up with his vacuous diatribes. I dreamed that she ignored Trump’s fatuous claims and scoffed at his baseless bragging. I dreamed that she talked with him on an equal footing about NATO and pushed back on his blinders-in-place foreign policy nonsense and told him to listen to his generals, who tell him to expand, not contract our diplomatic corps, instead of expecting that we can bomb the world into Trump’s cartoon vision of trade arrangements that work for him.

My daydream was about Angela Merkel telling Donald Trump where the bus stops. It was about Merkel speaking to the world, imploring us to stop this self-important manipulator before it’s too late. She’s the only world leader who can do that.

Then my daydream ended and I realized once again that we the people are standing up to this tyrant and will continue to stand up and tell Donald Trump where the bus stops.

In Other News

President Trump and the Republican leaders in Congress have proposed a new healthcare bill that is so dramatically flawed that almost nobody likes it. I heard it said on the NPR show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me that this Republican healthcare plan could be labeled like the album of rapper 50 Cent, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”

Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have promised unspecified additional legislation at a later date to fix this hollowed out program, which is lovely if you like pie in the sky. Now they say they’re open to adjustments and amendments, this in hopes of being able to squeak the bill through the House.

But the bill will send hundreds of billions of dollars to already wealthy people at the cost of cutting over 50 million Americans out of health insurance altogether and it will impoverish millions more.

Some of us want to help our mostly wealthy legislators to feel what that’s like. We want them to walk in the shoes of, say, a 60-year-old making $25,000 per year whose health insurance cost will balloon to devour over half of their income. Here’s how you can help these disconnected legislators feel the pain.

Sign the Change.org petition calling for removing healthcare subsidies for members of Congress and their families. See how they like that.

There are nearly 600,000 signatures on this petition already and it’s heading for a million, so be sure to post the link to the petition on your FaceBook page.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Danger – There’s Bad Stuff Coming

New York Times, April 9, 1944

New York Times, April 9, 1944. Click the graphic to download the full article as it appeared.

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 5:35  .  .  .

We need a good and optimistic start for the new year. That message is for next week. Let’s first establish in a blinding flash of the obvious and in a compelling way why we need that good and optimistic start.

You don’t need a pundit, a pol or a blogger to tell you that American institutions are at risk and look shaky. There is bad stuff staring us in the face in so many venues and there is a chance you’ve wondered how bad it can get. The answer is, very bad. Here are some examples.

Under the ultra-thin, see-through veil of ensuring decorum, Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House and beloved Republican brainiac, the proposer of changes to Medicare and Social Security that he says don’t privatize those programs, except they really do, has proposed banning live streaming and photos from the floor of the House. This comes as a knee-jerk reaction to Republicans having been sucker punched by Democrats who demanded an up or down vote on universal registration of sales of firearms. Ryan ignored them and they responded witih a sit-in. Ryan tried to quash the event by closing the House session, which turned off the CSPAN cameras, but smart phone live streaming foiled his attempt at abridging free speech. Now Ryan and Republican hissy-fitters want to further restrict speech by fining Democrats and perhaps telling their mommies on them. Start thinking about abridgement of rights and be clear that practice will extend to your rights.

President Elect Trump notoriously retweeted hate group tweets and offered mealy mouthed responses to calls that he repudiate hate groups. During his campaign rallies he repeatedly called for protesters to be beaten up and demeaned them as though they were sub-human. He continues to refuse to repudiate hate groups and has brought Steve Bannon, alt-right hater of all things not white and anyone not worshiping male dominance, to be his chief strategist. Oh, and he wants to deport 11 million Hispanics and register Muslims. Start thinking discrimination and scapegoating.

Trump has hired lunatic fringe Mike Flynn to be his National Security Advisor. This is the same Mike Flynn who retweets phony stories and conspiracy crap, one example of which motivated North Carolina resident Edgar Welch to drive from his home to DC to invade a pizza parlor, believing he was rescuing sexually abused children from the basement. He believed that because Mike Flynn brainlessly retweeted the bogus story. The good news is that the bullets Welch fired into the floor of the pizza restaurant didn’t hurt anyone. The bad news is that Mike Flynn, the fool who didn’t have the sense not to retweet this blatantly false story, is and will be advising the new president on when and where to use America’s military might, including nuclear weapons. Start thinking about military adventurism giving rise to horrific catastrophes.

There are many more examples of the democracy killing efforts underfoot, including Trump’s ridiculing and criticizing of the press so that you won’t find credence in reports from investigative journalists who report on Trumpian malfeasance.

To bring this to a focus, let’s check in with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice-President, Henry Wallace. He knew something about the harm that authoritarian regimes do to democracy and the world and has agreed to speak to you from his day and explain this fully and clearly. Click here to download a PDF copy of his comments as originally published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944. Click here to download a highlighted, easier to read version. Read it, especially the highlighted parts and you just may see a parallel between then and now and you’ll begin to realize just how bad the bad stuff we’re facing really is.

No one knows who said it first, but it’s often attributed to Sinclair Lewis:

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.

appoint-merrick-garland

Click me and sign the petition – because you can fight fascism right now.

Fascism? In America? Do the reading. Do an online search of fascism in America. The alarm rang a while ago, the snooze button is broken from our banging on it, hoping the alarm would go away and we all have to wake up.

I’ve heard it said and am beginning to believe that we are one or two ISIS-related terrorist attacks in America away from Mr. Extremist, everything in the false language of unearned greatness President Trump declaring martial law and suspending civil liberties. Just look at those he surrounds himself with, consider his absolutist, power-grabbing, self-congratulating nature, factor in his pathologically thin skin and the retaliatory abuse he heaps on innocent people. This just doesn’t look good for our nation.

If you had already caught a glimpse of this you likely have wondered what can be done and who will stand up to the bullies. Start with this: It’s up to us.

In addition, both some help and some hope are on the way and will be in the next post. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, it’s your turn now – in the Comments section below.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Pruning

Reading time – 69 seconds; Viewing time – 2:53  .  .  . 

Pundits and non-pundits alike have been continuously baffled, as Trump has brayed out his fact-less, mean-spirited, anti-Constitutional idiocies. Why don’t people abandon him as he proves yet again that he hasn’t a thought in his head, other than promoting Trump? That seemed to be a continuously repeating departure from the norm of candidate stupid stuff harming or killing a campaign. Wuzzup?

Turns out it wasn’t and isn’t a departure from the norm. When people are angry it’s pretty standard that their concern over being respectful or even being accurate vanishes. Our country was founded with a huge piece of resentment powering the revolution. But is there a chasm of stupid that’s just too wide for even Trump followers to leap?

He may have found it this week, as he managed to anger everyone on both sides of the abortion issue. Not even angry people like it when their mouthpiece demeans them and lies about an issue they care about.

Trump was never a viable contender in a general election and I predict that he has now sealed his fate as a failed primary election contender. You can stop worrying about a President Trump. And there’s more.

Now that the DC Madam’s lawyer has promised to release records that he asserts will impact the 2016 presidential race and implicate someone as a “client” of this so-called, high-end escort service, be prepared for a bit more pruning of the ranks of contenders. Confession: I do hope that the soon-to-be-found out john is a self-righteous, Bible-thumping, wrapped-in-the-flag type. I just love the unmasking of a hypocrite.

Note, though, that we’re electing a commander in chief and not our national pants zipper monitor, so a private dalliance shouldn’t be a job dis-qualifier now, anymore than it should have been for Bill Clinton. On the other hand, we as a nation haven’t fully moved past our Puritan roots, so our neurotic sexual hang-ups will continue to rule. I guess we didn’t turn all the way around that corner in the ’60s.

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BTW:

  1. As of April 1, 2016 $412 million has been raised by SuperPACs in support of the remaining presidential candidates. The SuperPAC Billionaires for Bernie has raised exactly $0. What do you think of that?
  2. Yes, I know they stole your country and you want to take it back, especially if you live in a deeply red state and your neck is the same color. Read This Before You Say Anything Else About ‘Taking Back America’. Thanks FL for the pointer.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Things Could Be Worse

Reading time – 2:13; Viewing time – 4:15  .  .  .

In a most accessible article in the November 10, 2014 Christian Science Monitor, author Henry Gass reviewed a fresh examination of wealth inequality, comparing 1929 America to today. Here are selections of Gass’ writing:

In the late 1920s, the top 10 percent of Americans possessed 84 percent of the country’s wealth. Since then, wealth inequality in America has followed a U-shaped trajectory, declining through the Great Depression until the mid-1980s, then steadily increasing since then.

Professors Saez and Zucman found that the richest 0.1 percent of Americans [today] have as much of the country’s wealth as the poorest 90 percent. Both groups control roughly 22 percent of total wealth .  .  .

While the bottom 90 percent of Americans and the top 0.1 percent control about 22 percent of the country’s wealth each, the top 0.01 percent of Americans now control 11.2 percent of total wealth. That share of the wealth held by the country’s richest 0.01 percent .  .  .  is the largest share they’ve had since 1916, the highest on record, according to the study.

Wait a second: the study’s authors said that, ”  .  .  .  wealth inequality in America has followed a U-shaped trajectory, declining through the Great Depression until the mid-1980s, then steadily increasing since then.” What do you suppose happened in the 1980s to cause that shift? Could it be trickle-down economics that really only trickles up? Could it also have something to do with blind faith in unregulated free markets, with Adam Smith’s invisible hand blessing only the already wealthy?

Perhaps it’s pleasant to have so much power that one can influence laws and regulations in order to continually expand one’s power and wealth. On the other hand, this is exactly why the Founders abhorred monopoly (it had been forced on them by the Crown) and it is why we passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890. “Trust” was what monopolies were called then, and the last time that law was invoked was in 2000 in a case involving Microsoft and its bundling of apps that unfairly restricted competition (Read: put other companies out of business, kept prices unnaturally high and Americans lost jobs). The time it was invoked before that was before Reagan was elected. He refused to use the Act and that hands-off approach and absolute faith in “the market” has led to the enormous roll up of companies in industry after industry, with the result that competition is severely limited and, prices escalate and wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of a very few Americans.

For example, we used to have seven major air carriers in the U.S. Due to mergers, we now have only three. American Airlines just completed the purchase of US Air, claiming that doing so would have no adverse effect on competition. But it is reported that they will be devaluing their Frequent Flyer program in the second half of 2016. And, in a January 29, 2016 conference call, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker explained how American will be increasing revenues by charging more for things like room for your knees and things that they haven’t charged for before. That is to say, now that they own a former competitor, prices are going up.

That’s just one small example of how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in today’s rigged economy.

Given enough economic jabs, people will become angry, and that Chinese water torture of wealth inequality expansion could lead to something ugly. It certainly has given us a crazy election season, the essence of which was captured by one South Carolina supporter of Donald Trump, who explained, “We’re voting with our middle fingers.”

Things could be worse. Unfortunately, we keep proving that to be true.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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