poor

D’oh!


Reading time – 3:09; Viewing time – 4:28  .  .  .

Trump’s temper tantrum list – and this is just a short, partial list – came to me in a true Homer Simpson moment. Here’s what he’s done:

  • – Backed the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, a plan for global climate protection that was agreed to by 195 nations
  • – Eliminated the 2012 CAFE standards that would dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming
  • – Backed the U.S. out of the TPP, thus giving enormous leverage on international trade to China, yet another step toward the U.S. becoming Number 2
  • – Cancelled DACA, putting nearly a million kids and young adults at risk by betraying them
  • – Opened our national parks and other protected lands and oceans to fossil fuel exploration
  • – Backed the U.S. out of the JCPOA, a successful, single focus agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, leaving us a future choice between accepting Iran as a nuclear state or starting a war
  • – Promoted and signed a tax plan that overwhelmingly (85%) benefits already very wealthy people and corporations and blows off the rest of us in just a few years

This started when President Obama committed the greatest of sins, the most heinous of indictable crimes when he mocked Donald Trump at White House Correspondents Dinners (here at about 20 minutes).

Trump, a whining, sniveling little victim always, was infuriated and we know that whenever he thinks he’s been wronged (which is pretty much every day) he goes into full court press attack mode. And that’s what he’s been doing since he got his hands on the reins.

Trump has stupidly, childishly, clumsily done everything possible to erase the legacy of Barack Obama. The sole exception occurs whenever he can blame anything, whether real and imagined, on his predecessor. It doesn’t matter a whit to Trump if what he does harms our people or our country or the entire planet. He doesn’t care if he puts us at risk of civilization destroying nuclear war or any other consequence as long as he can diminish Barack Obama. That is the tyrant child we have as a president.

And another thing  .  .  .

Many Republicans in Congress and our nominally Republican president hate the very notion of helping poor people. “It’s your fault,” and “Help yourself,” intoned the pizza king presidential candidate, Herman Cain. Conservatives hate welfare, like the food stamps that make it so that poor children have something to eat.

Making that cruelty to our most at-risk people even worse are the slimy  reforms proposed by conservatives. People like Paul Ryan call for welfare changes that they brand with chest thumping, patriotic sounding names and then they lie about their programs and the adverse effect they’ll have on poor people. That’s the slime.

Repealing all welfare is likely politically impossible, but there must be a solution somewhere to this anathema to the conservative soul. Well, I just happen to have a solution that should satisfy everyone.

A kid in a family with an out of work coal miner dad in West Virginia doesn’t have the same resources for building an economically successful life as, say, little Donald Trump did. He began life with huge wealth in his lap, and just look at what he claims to have built from that. It’s obvious from that comparison – the poor kid in West Virginia and the rich Donald in New York – that the solution to our welfare mess is for everyone to start with a fortune.

That is why I propose that we give every current and future poor person a one-time $1 million stake to use to create their own life of wealth. Just imagine the millions of Americans with enormous wealth that this insightful program will produce. We’ll do away with all other welfare programs and that will make conservatives happy.

Best of all, the rest of us won’t have to listen to any more disingenuous and slimy conservative welfare reform schemes.

————————————

Ed. note: I don’t want your money (DON’T donate) or your signature on a petition. I want you to spread the word so that we make a critical difference. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!).
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Behavior Geek


Reading time – 3:19; Viewing time – 4:36  .  .  .

When I see or hear behavior that stands out, one of my first responses is to wonder what’s behind that. For example, when Donald Trump demands a military parade and faintly lauds the Nazis in Charlottesville and insults Gold Star Families and imposes import tariffs that will create a net loss of over 100,000 jobs – and worse once our trading partners react – and he lies two-thirds of the time, I scratch my head about what drives those behaviors. That’s after I calm down. Fortunately, mental healthcare professionals have offered their expertise about Trump’s behavior by demonstrating that he exhibits nearly all of the telltale indicators of a sociopath (here and here and here and here and here). Voilà! The behavior geek in me is satisfied. Mostly.

That information helps to explain Trump’s bizarre acts to destabilize others (“I like being unpredictable.”) and his destructiveness of our country, often displayed multiple times per day. What it doesn’t do is explain why millions of people dismiss his anti-social behavior, saying things like, “That’s just Donald being Donald,” as though that makes okay his Access Hollywood admission of assault of women, his constant attacks on his predecessors in office and his refusal to aggressively interdict Russian efforts to subvert our elections and to impose sanctions. Why would those who wave the red, white and blue tolerate for even one second Trump’s obviously anti-American behavior, his grabs for autocracy, his dereliction of duty?

They aren’t all racists, homophobes and misogynists and they don’t all think that mass gun slaughter is just the price of freedom. Please, get over those notions and the need to demonize those who are different from you. That’s the disease that has swept our nation and you can self-inoculate against that virus. Seeking to understand is a really good way to do that. I really mean just seeking to understand. Be a behavior geek to see the world as they do so that you can understand them. Be clear, though, that doing so is not for the faint of heart.

I recently presented my Money, Politics and Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want program and had a unique experience. The program is non-partisan and focuses solely on how the Big Money people are getting what they want, but We the People are not. I’ve presented this program to groups from all over the political spectrum and have never gotten push-back. But that isn’t what happened at this recent presentation.

There were people sitting at the edges of their chairs, wagging fingers, interrupting, and aggressively going off-point, seemingly unable to focus on the content. They seemed to want to defeat what they experienced as an attack on their cherished beliefs and I was hard pressed to avoid engaging in a verbal battle. I felt attacked and wanted to hit back. I refused that knee-jerk response, though, and repeatedly tried to redirect back to the primary point about Big Money in our politics, but to no avail.

At last some clarity came to me and when the room quieted I said that in that room we were a microcosm of America today. We seemed to be unable to simply talk to one another and be heard. There was refusal to tolerate different views and insistence on being “right.” And, yes, that describes what was going on inside me, too, as the near-chaos had ensued. It took a formidable force of will not to verbalize some of my reactions. That’s why that seeking to understand business is not for the faint of heart.

The only good that I see having come from that meeting is the clarity of what we in America have become. It isn’t pretty and I don’t get what’s behind it – the behavior geek stuff – not fully.

We have to look outside our smug bubbles in order to learn, so I’m looking and will report what I find in subsequent posts. For now, we all need to understand how self-destructive we’re being on a one-to-one basis and nationally when we demonize one another; when we refuse to allow others the same right of opinion as we demand for ourselves; when we hunker down in those smug bubbles. When we’re ready to peer outside our defended zones, things will begin to get better.

For now, stop listening to the haters.

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Challenge For Moderates


Reading time – 4:51; Viewing time – 7:44  .  .  .

Preface

If in these darkly polarized times you and I aren’t in the same bubble, if our notions about politics, policies and what it means to be an American aren’t in lock step, try this on for size and decide then how far apart our bubbles really are.

———————————-

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday arrived and with it a number of references to his Letter From A Birmingham Jail. Oddly, I had not read it before, so I had a look and was stunned at how much of what he had to say in 1963 resonates in various ways with the America of today. He wrote,

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Do you believe that to be true? Are we interconnected? If we do harm to one of us, are we all affected?

Dr. King wrote of the clear obstacle that segregationists were to progress, the obvious discrimination they practiced, the brutality and the subjugation of an entire race of people in our country. As striking was King’s grave disappointment with what he called “white moderates”. He wrote:

“.  .  .  the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Klu Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;”  .  .  .  Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection”

The white moderates of King’s time have been supplanted today in part by legislators who spinelessly refuse to stand up to the infantile bully on our national playground, as he acts to harm our citizens and demeans whole continents of people. They are the representatives, senators and even the cabinet members who bald face lie for the president, leaving their integrity far behind and all of us worse off for their cowardice. This is the greater frustration and bewilderment, magnified tenfold by those who stand silent to the outrages.

We aren’t living in the Jim Crow south anymore, but Republicans across the country are using various means to take the vote away from people of color, from our young and from our elderly. Their voter ID laws and the closing of poling places and voter registration offices are today’s version of a poll tax or literacy test or having to divine the correct number of jelly beans in a jar in order to vote. These are the “people of ill will” today, the present day thieves of the right to vote and the right to be a full and equal citizen of our country.

Sadly, the “white moderates” of today aren’t standing up to these thieves. They are Americans who sit at home instead of fiercely protesting the cruelty that is in front of them. They refuse to recognize that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” They are those who live in their self-imprisoned ignorance of, “What can one person do?” They sympathize silently and then change the channel on the television, numbing themselves into apathy. They are the ones who go along to get along, who won’t make waves and who avoid conflict, even in the obvious screaming need for conflict with what is plainly wrong.

King made clear that, ”  .  .  .  freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Yet those in power refuse to listen to those being oppressed today, as our citizens’ voting rights are stolen from them simply because those who are doing the stealing are allowed to get away with it by those who don’t demand justice. There is more.

A reader of these essays wrote privately in reply to my recent post, “Leadership and the Tax Bill”, reminding me of Emma Lazarus’ poem, The New Colossus. It is inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. We all know the end of the poem, but it deserves to be read in its entirety.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
.
Every one of us save Native Americans is either an immigrant or is descended from immigrants who were welcomed by this Mother of Exiles. That means that your family wasn’t born here, but instead came here from somewhere else, surely for good reason. Perhaps their decision to leave all they had known was famine or discrimination or poverty or war and it’s quite likely your people weren’t royalty. Almost surely they were poor people, perhaps peasants, exiles. They were tired and poor and yearned to breathe free. They might even have been the wretched refuse of the teeming shore of a shithole country. If they were to try to come here today, would they be admitted? Would we lift up our lamp beside our golden door for your people? Would you allow your own ancestors to immigrate to America?
.

If you would, then you are not allowed to be what Dr. King called a “white moderate”, a passive presence. In fact, you aren’t allowed to be a moderate at all. If you would allow your family to breathe free here, then you must stand up for today’s immigrants.  And you must stand against the vote thieves ripping apart our democracy. You must mount the battlements and fight the loud and cruel oppressors of today.

Emma Lazarus’ voice is calling for you to take action, to lift our lamp beside our golden door.

Dr. King implores you to not be a moderate, but to stand up to injustice, because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and that includes justice for you.

At the Women’s March – Chicago 20, 2018. The woman holding this sign said that she now knows she would have been a conductor in the underground railroad, saved Anne Frank and more. She knows that she could not stand idly by in the face of injustice. I don’t know her name, but I’m grateful for her courage, her passion and for being a role model.

Your own family is calling you – counting on you – to speak up in their name, the very name you bear.

From “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown:

Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.

Back to my comments in the Preface: What would happen if we – you and I – were to join our bubbles that we imagine to be so far apart and we refuse to be moderate?

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

There’s a Surprise On The Way


Reading time – 3:57 seconds  .  .  .

I admit that I got a kick out of this picture from a Tea Party rally several years ago. First and most obvious is that Medicare is government, so there’s no way to have Medicare without government being in it. Second, there’s no way this guy is old enough to qualify for Medicare, so, what’s he doing with that sign?

Then this pic popped up. C’mon, people. Medicare is socialized medicine. It seems that some neurons may not be firing properly for this guy, or he’s confused because medicine is a science-y thing and we don’ need no stinking science-y stuff.

Later that same year, we went about tackling the Medicaid problem but, as you can see, did it without using spell check. And there’s that same vexing problem again, that Medicaid is government. What’s a Tea Partier turned Trump supporter to do?

This really is laughable stuff from Trump country, so it’s easy to dismiss and ridicule, which I confess I did. Now it isn’t quite as laughable because these unsuspecting folks are about to get thrown under the bus.

“From” on, dood

That’s because your Congress and your President just passed a sweeping tax act that is designed to create over $1 trillion of additional debt. And we just can’t have that additional debt because true blue Rs hate debt, right? Well, yes and no. Hint: we just reentered the “yes” phase.

Republicans hated debt during the Reagan, H.W. Bush and Clinton years – at least they said so, even as they created the largest debt in the history of the world. Then Bush II came along. With him came their clever verbal reversal on this issue, as Dick Cheney declared the new Republican truth, “Deficits don’t matter.” So Dubya doubled the debt. It seemed that debt really didn’t matter any more.

Until Obama came around. Then the Republicans told us that deficits and debt were the worstest things of all, and any additional federal spending should be rejected, regardless of the need.

Now your Republican Congress and President have set about dumping over $1 trillion of tax act debt onto the backs of our children and grandchildren, so I guess once again debt doesn’t matter. But wait!: The Republicans are telling us that we’re now back to hating deficits and debt.

Let’s see, we’ve already lowered taxes on our wealthiest citizens, especially the big donors to legislators, and we all know that we can’t reverse that because that might adversely affect politician’s sources of campaign cash, so there’s only one thing to do to prevent the debt we now don’t like any more: we’ll just spend less. Hmmm, where should we cut?

Before the new tax plan had even gone into effect Paul Ryan was already talking about cutting the very programs that Trump nation demanded he leave his slimy government fingers off. That’s right, the fundamentalists and white supremacists and citizens in so-called flyover states, the disgruntled mid-west factory workers, the coal miners in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, the absolutists in North and South Dakota and all the Bubbas in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana who refuse to see the reality that is right in front of them are about to have something dropped on them that they cannot ignore or rationalize.

The Republicans have declared open warfare on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and it’s going to hit these folks hard. It’s possible that Trump will stand up to the Congressional Rs for a while with chest-thumping declarations that he is taking care of his people, this so that they worship him with yet greater fervor, but don’t count on it. These programs are on the chopping block and Trump has no policies or any firm principles, so you can’t rely on him for protection from those benefit sucking government hands.

Have your answer ready by Monday, January 15, 2018

So, Trump voter, if you’re a poor mom, start thinking about what you’re going to cut from your meager budget in order to pay for your healthcare once they put their government hands on your Medicaid. If you depend on Social Security and Medicare in your later years, don’t count on a nice retirement. Grabby government hands are headed directly toward those programs to cut funds from them.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) told us several years ago what’s coming: it’s the comprehensive, low cost Republican healthcare plan, which is, “1. Don’t get sick; 2. If you do, please die quickly.”

The services you were promised won’t be there for you. I know, you just don’t want to believe it, but that bus is headed directly at you and when it arrives you’re going under it. After all, we can’t keep supplying the services you were promised and at the same time stuff the pockets of big political donors and other rich people. Something has to give. Looks like it’s you.

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Leadership and The Tax Bill


Reading time – 5:12; Viewing time – 8:03  .  .  .

Others, nearly everyone, really, are doing a fine job of chronicling the insane Trump administration as revealed by Michael Wolff in his “best seller before it’s even released” book, Fire and Fury, and the stupid reactions of the Temper-Tantrum-Tweeter-in-Chief. So, I’ll have a look at a different piece of the crazy.

Following the passage of the “Actually, Not The Biggest Tax Reduction in History Act”, the Republicans in Congress and the Vice President fell all over themselves praising Donald Trump and his near-magical leadership, his blinding brilliance and his deal-making wizardry. That sucking up was rekindled last week when replays of Orrin Hatch debasing himself in this way were shown following his announcement of his retirement. With their over-the-top praising, these Republicans insulted and embarrassed:

  • – Themselves
  • – The Republican Party
  • – Congress
  • – The United States of America
  • – You and me
  • – All humans with any sense of self-respect
  • Every exceptional leader throughout history – go see the current film Darkest Hour for an example of great leadership. Then compare and contrast. If you were inclined to fawn over Trump before, you won’t be afterward.

Mom would have said to these suck ups, “Shame on you, Trump fawners. Shame on you.” But today unethical, false, phony and sleazy words and deeds go wanting for perps who will own up to their bad behavior. Nevertheless, Mom would have been right.

Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating to make a point, but I mean this exactly as stated. This is the kind of praise that Supreme Marshall and Dear Leader of the People’s Republic of Korea demands from his citizens and his goose-stepping military. This is the kind of sycophantic obsequiousness (thank you, Allan Shuman, for the words) worthy of cowards, fools and invertebrates. The suck up was so great that it’s amazing they didn’t all pass out from oxygen deprivation. Next will be a Caligula-worthy announcement of Trump-as-god.

This is exactly the kind of stupid stuff that has to stop if we’re to come together as a nation. It’s not just the polarizing “we’re so right” self-congratulations and the “Trump is my Dear Leader” sucking up; it’s that the vast majority of Americans didn’t want any of what is in that tax act and are more negative about it than we were about either the Clinton or H.W. Bush tax increases, this even as the sucking up continues.

If you want to see how bad this bill is, have a look at Thomas Edsall’s review of the analyses done by professional number crunching people, the type of resource the Republicans DID NOT call upon for guidance in writing the bill. Be sure to note the very real cruelty built into this fraud of a tax reform. If you want to see what Corporate America has announced it will do with its upcoming windfall, read this piece from Reuters and you’ll put aside any hope that this forked-tongue tax reduction was ever about job and wage growth. For context on all of this, have a look at Christopher Ingraham’s very clear piece about wealth distribution in America and you’ll understand how undemocratic and counter-productive this bill is for nearly all Americans. And to understand How Republicans Learned to Sell Tax Cuts for the Rich, read Isaac Martin’s piece.

Donald Trump and many Republicans in Congress went to great lengths to tell we Americans that the tax plan would primarily benefit ordinary Americans, yet that is untrue. Every independent study of the plan tells us that at least 80% of the tax benefit goes to the wealthiest 1% of Americans, while our poor and working class children will be saddled with an additional $1 to 1.5 trillion of debt in order to send all that money to already rich people.

Trump repeatedly told us that the tax plan will not benefit him or his wealthy friends, but that’s factually wrong, too.

There are only two possible ways to understand Trump and the Congressional Republicans telling us these false things:

  1. These guys are ignorant of the facts. They are either too lazy to learn the truth or too dim witted to recognize it and then too foolish to keep their ignorant mouths shut. Or,
  2. They know the truth and are intentionally telling us something at odds with the truth. This is commonly called lying. It’s why you got grounded. It’s why you felt ashamed of yourself and you learned not to lie. It’s possible Trump and the Congressional Republicans had a different kind of upbringing and consequently they just don’t recognize what ashamed feels like or what they’re supposed to do about it.

Let’s be clear that I think neither my judgment about the colossal fawning over Trump, nor my bashing of this miserable tax bill, nor the DC types lying about it are in conflict in any way with the “come together” message of my last post of 2017. We are supposed to discern between what is good, fair and truthful versus what is simply reprehensible. The fawning and the tax bill and the lying are reprehensible.

And another thing  .  .  .

Last September President Trump pulled the plug on DACA – The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, commonly known as the Dreamers policy. It affects about 700,000 people who were brought to this country as children, who have known no other country, who speak English the same way you do and who are doing the same things your children do and likely you did. They’re now in school or working jobs and hoping to advance, just like you did. In every respect except for the geography of their birth, they’re as American as you.

Let’s see if we can bring the impact of Trump’s plug-pulling down to a manageable number that’s easy to relate to.

Every three minutes 2 Dreamers – maybe one them is a friend of yours – lose their protection from deportation. Every three minutes 2 more Dreamers live in fear of ICE agents banging down their door and hauling them away.

Is that okay with you? Just in case it isn’t, it’s important that you know that nobody in power listens to Dreamers because they have no political muscle, so they need you to speak up on their behalf. Call your senators and representative and tell them what you want. Tell them that if they don’t do what you want that you will fire them this coming November.

Note, too that 39% of American children – that’s 9 million kids – get their healthcare through the CHIP program, which our leader also cancelled in September. That means that state-by-state, all those kids will lose their healthcare. Add these cute but poor 9 million children to the list of people our government doesn’t care about. Go ahead and tell your legislators what you want done about that, too.

Oh, and by the way, fundamentally the same “Who cares about you?” message is still being delivered by our government to everyone in Puerto Rico – that’s 3.4 million people. 50% of the people there still don’t have electricity and many have no clean water and little food. People are still dying from the aftermath of the hurricane and we’ve pulled the bulk of our support services from the island. You might want to mention that, too, when you make your calls to your legislators.

Exactly when did the Republican Party become the “Who cares about you?” party?

Just for fun  .  .  .

from The Onion, of course!

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Address to Congress, January 3, 2018


Reading time – 4:52; Viewing time – 7:07  .  .  .

Mr. President, colleagues, fellow citizens, I rise today to speak to the obvious. That I do so is grounded in the Confucian admonition, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Once so named, the resultant clarity may spawn wisdom.

If we take as most fundamental and do so in unanimous agreement, that we are here to act on behalf of and for the benefit of the American people, and if we use that understanding as the standard by which our actions are to be valued and judged, then it is possible – even likely – that we are falling far short of the mark and that we do so with frightening regularity. Such a condition implores us to identify and name the causes and then deal with them so that we do what we were sent here to do. That it is important that we do so can be substantiated by our approval ratings from the American people, which have languished at a disreputable level below 20% for most of the past two decades. It’s possible we’ve been missing something important.

In a recent report from the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the working of Congress, they wrote that, “.  .  .  we  in Congress need to be much better able to absorb, organize and use knowledge to make laws and policy.” In other words, while living in this age of the avalanche of information, we are woefully deficient in knowledge and poorly skilled at using what little knowledge we have.

Colleagues, I’m confident you’ve experienced this deficit repeatedly and know from frustrating experience that your votes are all too often supported by ignorance and confusion. That isn’t particularly important when we are naming a new post office or agreeing unanimously that the hybridization of watermelons to be seedless has added mightily to the quality of life for all Americans. Yet there are times when we are dealing with issues of great substance and which will have enormous impact on our country and on our countrymen. In such times, ignorance and confusion have no place and serve only to ensure the least beneficial outcomes.

The impact of our ignorance is exacerbated by our own actions designed to protect ourselves, our position, our power and our wealth. We have enacted rules that ensure that predatory sexual behavior by one of our members can be hushed; that allow manipulation of Congressional districts to the benefit of incumbents, rather than that of constituents; that effectively permit one-party rule by declaring the reconciliation of a bill; and that allow leaders to prevent the filling of a Supreme Court vacancy for over a year in order to tilt the court.

Most recently we passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which may have been attractively named, but which was created and enacted in a most undemocratic fashion. I speak now primarily of the process, not to the substance of the bill; that has been examined in numerous exposés and found to fall somewhat short of the suggestion of the label affixed to it. Nevertheless, it is useful to unmask a few examples in order to find our way to a larger view.

Contrary to the claims boasted to our citizens, this bill is not the biggest tax reduction in U.S. history, nor is its design likely to benefit primarily our poor and working class Americans. Indeed, the over $1 trillion debt it will create will be will be summarily dumped upon the backs of our poor and working class, even as it enormously benefits our ultra-wealthy, all protestations in conflict with this notwithstanding. This bill is fundamentally regressive and unlikely to generate higher wages or more jobs for Americans, at least not in numbers remotely resembling those claimed by proponents. Furthermore, like much legislation, it contains provisions that have nothing whatsoever to do with tax reform, some of which greatly benefit many of our own members, but which impact Americans substantively and most often negatively. All of this is listed solely for the purpose of making obvious the question of how we in this deliberative body could have done this.

One answer to that important question lies in our process. This legislation was crafted in secret and by one political party only – everyone but Republican ideologues were excluded. There were no Democratic voices heard at all and few moderate Republican voices. There were no tax or economic or financial experts called upon to provide their wisdom and their calculations of the far reaching effects of this massive change. For the estimate of the impact of this legislation we were left to rely solely upon people largely ignorant of the complexities. So much for our having the necessary knowledge of the impact of what we were doing.

Perhaps as crippling as anything, there were no deliberations on the floor of either house of Congress. There were no open session hearings. There was only the cramming of a poorly considered law through the chinks in our system, this at 1:50AM on a Saturday when nobody was watching.

The entire process for creating this hugely consequential Act spanned only six weeks, the reason for which was the entirely valueless goals of meeting a timetable which was based on nothing more than a Presidential whim, along with gaining the opportunity to crow of having a “win” before the end of the year. The artificial deadline made careful deliberation impossible and that undermined and at last devastated any hope of focusing on benefit for the American people.

To summarize, our process guaranteed that we would be deficient in the knowledge required to create the vehicle most likely to engineer what is best for our people. Further, our rules and our process ensured that we in this august and hallowed hall, with the echoes of giants still reverberating in this chamber, succumbed to enhancing our own security, power and wealth, all to the detriment of our fellow citizens.

With the Confucian admonition in mind, the obvious has been stated and things have been appended with their proper names. It now falls to us to find the wisdom. The voices of our Founders ring through the centuries directly to us, with an unambiguous call that we find that wisdom and act in accord with it. Our people deserve no less and it is our duty to do far more.

Mr. President, I yield the remainder of my time.

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

A Special Message to Congress on Your Win


Reading time – 2:05; Viewing time – 2:54  .  .  .

Dear Congress:

Well, really not all that dear.

This week we had a train wreck in Washington, as an Amtrak train flew off the tracks near Tacoma. People have been injured and some have died; perhaps yet more will die.

We’ve had another train wreck in Washington, as our Republican majority Congress (that means YOU, Republican senators and congresspeople) has managed to pass tax legislation that will further injure an enormous number of Americans and will allow many of us to die prematurely.

In both cases you who are in charge seem to have forgotten that your job is to protect and serve the people and to do it with care.

With the passage of the Republican-only, so-called tax reform act, once again you have managed to do exactly the opposite of what the American people want you to do.

By an overwhelming majority we Americans disapprove of your hateful bill and wanted you to stomp it to death. You didn’t do that.

Study after study have shown that we want sensible gun safety laws, universal healthcare, protection of our national parks and wilderness areas, clean air and water, excellent public education, an end to our endless wars, a solid battle against global warming and more; but you consistently deliver the opposite.

This time you managed to put yet more billions of dollars into the pockets of already rich people, create an additional $5,000 of debt for every one of we 320 million Americans and you dumped the burden primarily on the backs of our poor and middle-class children. Congratulations on successfully sucking up to your rich donors, padding your own pockets and the pockets of the President and blowing off the rest of us.

You Republicans passed this junk legislation without any input from Democrats, with no input from tax experts and with no hearings in Congress, listening only to yourselves and those rich interests that have their hands up your back. This is exactly why we don’t trust you.

See if you can answer these three simple questions:

  1. We want you to do things cooperatively and help to end our culture wars, not to make them worse. Exactly what is your problem with that?
  2. How you can be so dumbfoundingly deaf to the voices of the people?
  3. 81% of Americans disapprove of you (that’s you, personally) and the job you’re doing. Can you figure out why?

C’mon now, Republican congresspeople – you’ve been in charge for 7 years and ought to know by now what we the people want. Yet we’ve known for a long time that you don’t want to hear from us, but we want to hear from you. Answer my questions.

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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 (IT’S A FREEBIE!) and engage.  Thanks!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin


Reading time – 3:16; Viewing time – 4:51  .  .  .

Maureen Dowd gave her Sunday column to her conservative brother Kevin on November 26 and we learned that he isn’t tired of winning. I’m sure that’s true, as Trump hasn’t won anything, but Kevin Dowd’s remarks deserve comment, so this is a letter to him.

You begin, Kevin, by telling us, “Every time I hear Neil Gorsuch’s name, I smile.” Hold that grin, Kevin, because you would never so much as know Gorsuch’s name were it not for Mitch McConnell’s bedrock dishonesty. We keep hearing that elections have consequences, and so they do. Barack Obama was elected President twice, which means that he had dibbies on who to send to the Supreme Court. Does your smile fade just a bit because you know that Merrick Garland, however you may dislike his views, rightly should be there? Is getting your way more important than following the rules?

You admire Trump for his resilience against “an unrelenting and unfair press” – really? The press is supposed to be unrelenting – you remember: the Fourth Estate holding politicians’ feet to the fire – and it has been unrelenting with every President you can remember, so get over that. And tell me about the unfair reporting from the mainstream press. Not the wacko stuff from the publications telling us about the woman with three breasts and the guy who was abducted by aliens who probed his navel. You’ll easily find reports that condemn Trump for his malfeasance or a stupid tweet or his more than five lies per day, but none of that is unfair. C’mon, name just one unfair report.

Until this week Kim’s rockets could only hit the west coast, so you wrote, “we’re probably alright until he can hit a red state.” Did you actually write that? Is that some kind of comfort for people in red states, willing to sacrifice the people of Washington, Oregon and California – any blue state – as long as it doesn’t nuke the red-staters?

You claimed that Trump is undoing Obama’s executive orders, and so he is. The problem is that he’s doing it just to spite Obama and there is no strategy or even any logic that goes deeper than that. He’s getting his federal judge nominations through because McConnell blocked more of Obama’s nominations than any Senate leader in history.

Thank you for your admission that, “The N.F.L. players were disrespecting the American Flag  .  .  .” because you reveal your bias for refusing to see what is right in front of you.

Thank you, too, for pointing out that while we haven’t seen a direct connection between Trump and Russia, Mueller’s investigation has found collusion with Hillary and the D.N.C. on the dossier. You also snarkily claim that she has several donors on Mueller’s staff, “ready to offer legal advice.” The public evidence continues to mount of nefarious Trump connections with Russia and your comment is about how crooked Hillary is? Classic switch and attack, but your comments have nothing to do with Trump’s likely illegal and treasonous activity. Nice job, too, of urging the prosecution of Loretta Lynch and James Comey. Got nuthin’ to do with crooked Donald, but it’s a fine distraction from what’s important.

The real value of your essay, Kevin, is the way you have displayed the Trump supporter mindset – the deflections from core issues, the conscious enthusiasm to ignore outrageous wrongs, the blissful attitude that if it doesn’t hurt you directly it’s okay and your impenetrable blinders for harm to others.

But here’s the thing, Kevin: there are others out here beyond your skin who are affected by his behavior and do have a problem with things like encouraging hatred, cancelling DACA, multiple vacuums where strategies should be, taunting a murderous nuclear dictator, trying to trash the only thing standing between us and a nuclear Iran, pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord as though we aren’t on our way to frying the planet, his trying to refuse healthcare to tens of millions of Americans, his letting the people of Puerto Rico suffer because Trump’s pals on Wall Street want money and his trying to pass a tax bill that primarily enriches wealthy people and does so on the backs of poor and working class Americans and leaves us with a $1.5 TRILLION debt.

Ah, Kevin, it must be nice and comfy to ignore the harm this President is doing and just bask in the glow of the raised middle finger that is Trump nation.

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Monopoly – The Game


Reading time – 2:49; Viewing time – 4:03  .  .  .

You’re 12 years old and you’re playing Monopoly with a few friends. One of them is “that guy” – the one who nearly always wins. You’ve played your best, but you’re watching your pile of cash disappear, as you land on yet another of his hotel properties. Your frustration grows and you find you have an urge to wipe everything from the board with both hands, sending houses and hotels, tokens and the Chance cards flying. Been there, done that. And we have a national case of that same frustration.

Many of us watched in horror last November when a thoroughly unqualified narcissist won the election to be President of the United States, commander of the nuclear codes. It took a while for the reality of events to fully register and the press has been chock-a-block with attempts to explain how this could have happened ever since that most fateful of days. How, indeed, could Americans have elected a schoolyard bully, a misogynist, a liar, an adulterer, a know-nothing, a destroyer of things? Last week I found a likely explanation.

I’ve written several times about the enormous impact of globalization and the profound upset it’s causing people in the industrialized world. We haven’t come close to figuring out what to do about this and not long ago it led to Brexit, a knee-jerk reaction by millions of displaced and angry Brits who responded to the uninformed, visceral calls of a braying bully. Just wipe the board. Smash what is. Vent the frustration. There’s a connection of that to what happened here last November.

Jill Filipovic provided insight in her recent essay in the New York Times. Here’s the Monopoly and Brexit connecting paragraph:

Resentful of the changing order of things, some men have simply leaned in to chaos. If the system no longer serves them, it will at least be fun to blow it all up. Which is exactly why the old rules of political engagement don’t work with Mr. Trump or his base.

There are millions of frustrated, angry Americans for whom the American Dream, the bubble idea of the way things work and will be, has burst. It’s a bit like teens who rebel when they at last learn that the world doesn’t remotely correspond to the fairy tales they were told to believe in. There is a mountainous, “IT”S NOT FAIR!” resentment and the echoes of that primal scream get reinforced every day.

There is no question whether the system is equitable; it’s not. For example, you already know about the great productivity gains of the past few decades and how nearly all of the wealth from those gains has gone to the rich, while workers have stagnated or moved downward on the economic ladder. All those globally displaced workers know it, too, and they’re living with the consequences of both globalization and economic unfairness. Little wonder they want to “wipe everything from the board with both hands, sending houses and hotels, tokens and the Chance cards flying.”

Steven Bannon may have left the White House staff, but he continues to be one of Trump’s advisors. Frighteningly, Bannon is specifically dedicated to bringing it all crashing down. Just look at what has already happened to our dramatically understaffed State Department and the other agencies of government that make this country function. We don’t have people in place to do what needs to be done.

I don’t know what Steven Bannon’s and Donald Trump’s psychological issues are, but these destroyers are incrementally wiping the board into chaos. Put some thought into what will fill the void. It’s a different game when you can’t even find the houses and hotels, the tokens and Chance cards that went flying and you probably won’t like what happens.

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Reality


Reading time – 4:46; Viewing time – 7:03  .  .  .

My pal John Calia comments now and again on these posts and he recently declared me to be a far left liberal. “Not so!” I protested, and proceeded to show him a bunch of my views on issues about which the vast majority of Americans agree. For example,

We want sensible gun safety legislation.

We want big money out of our politics.

The wealthy should pay their fair share – and it’s more than they’re paying now.

We oppose privatization of Social Security.

The Earth is warming at a dramatic pace and humans are a key driver of that. We need a climate moon shot if we’re to be able to live in what are now our coastal cities.

Russia is not our friend and we must take action to protect our democracy.

Stop lying to us about “trickle-down economics.” We’ve seen this movie over and over for 40 years and we know how it ends, and it’s not well for almost all of us. Instead of the same old stupid stuff, do something that actually helps the lower 99%, like,

Pass an infrastructure bill to rebuild America.

No more unnecessary wars – and stop the ones we’re in.

There is lots more, but my notions seem to coincide with middlin’ views, methinks. John challenged me to take the quiz on the Pew Research site, so I did. Lo and behold, they say I’m a Solid Liberal, along with 15% of the American public. That’s far left, not centrist. I could look for a second opinion, but that feels more like a desperate attempt to prove I’m right, rather than just accepting reality. My friend Ozzie sensibly instructs, “Reality always wins. Our job is to get in touch with it.” Inconvenient, perhaps, but he’s right.

Annoyingly, there is a lot about our current reality that plagues us and we better get in touch with it. You know about the reality of the Trump craziness that pits Americans against one another and focuses on outrage and petty victimization, while creating roadblocks to accomplishing anything to deal with our vexing problems.

At the same time, though, Trump enjoys huge support from ordinary Americans, irrespective of his terrible job performance rating (that’s down to 36.9%). That support leads to Congressional spinelessness, Senators McCain, Corker and Flake notwithstanding. Indeed, the legislators in Congress who live in scandalously gerrymandered districts keep getting reelected in spite of our disdain for Congress (now with just a 13% approval rating). They don’t fear a challenge from the other party, but are terrified at being primaried from the right by an angry extremist candidate. That’s because we’re living in the era of Extended Middle Finger America. Indeed, as Victor Davis Hanson wrote in the National Review, ”  .  .  .  Trump is a symptom of widespread disgust  .  .  . What created him was furor at a smug, entrenched Republican political establishment.”

Arguably, this anger at the establishment began long ago with the assassination of President Kennedy and the Warren Commission’s apparent whitewash of an investigation. It was abetted by the lies of Lyndon Johnson about the war in Vietnam and the lies and crimes of Richard Nixon and the resignation over corruption charges of his Vice-President. It surely was helped along by Bill Clinton’s – let’s call them dalliances.

Our anger was nurtured by Ronald Reagan, who told us that the 9 most feared words in America are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” He told us that, “Government is the problem.” He repeatedly encouraged us to be angry at our government. Actually, we had some solid reasons to be angry.

When the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis we were delivered a very clear heads-up that we have infrastructure problems, yet precious little has been done in the intervening 10 years to protect the American people and ensure our solid presence in the world. In contrast, former third-world countries are modernizing at a ferocious pace, leaving us less competitive in this global economy. That’s a huge trust killer for us, just as our refusal to fix our education system and governmental infighting to prevent poor people from receiving good healthcare undercut our belief in our systems.

Gasoline was poured on the flames of anger at government by Newt Gingrich’s madness in rabidly attacking Bill Clinton on everything and shutting down the government; then George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied us into two unnecessary wars. It was worsened by John Boehner telling us that it was all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” and yet opposing every attempt to create legislation that would encourage job growth. The furies were angered still further by a Republican Congress that was solely focused on ensuring that Obama had no wins, instead of looking out for the American people.

The worst thing, though, is the ongoing drumbeat of how awful our government is, including blatant lies by legislators and by polarized commentary by the likes of Breitbart, Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones. That has led to a very angry citizenry. And that has led to the election of a president who is incrementally tearing down the very things that make this country work. Somehow, his supporters, otherwise good, solid folks, are so angry that they are willing to ignore Trump’s awfuls. They have and continue to be prepared to elect representatives and senators who spew vitriol.

All of that is backward looking. What will we do about it?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m confident that what is called for is inspired and inspiring leadership in a new direction. We need a Lincoln to call upon our better angels. And we need insightful ideas that are offered in inspiring ways. Who will do that?

It’s self-defeating to live in, “.  .  . the sublime relief of deferred responsibility, the soft, violence of willful ignorance,” as phrased by Lindy West in a marvelous piece in the New York Times. Her reference was to the normalization of the hate of the alt-right, but the phrase works well for all of our current reality.

Back to my friend, Ozzie. The companion piece to “Reality always wins” is this:

If you want to know the future, create it.

What is the future reality you want? The time to start creating it is now.

————————————

Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s 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!

Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

1 2 3 4 5  Scroll to top