Tea Party

Invertebrates

Not so long ago the Republican Party proudly boasted of being the party that stood for law and order. They let us know in no uncertain terms that they were the guys who would defend against international threats. They were the tough guys who were best suited to ensure our national security.

Apply Trump’s words about voters to the majority of Republican members of Congress.

Now, though, they cower before the Mad Goon-in-Chief, doing his bidding and refusing to challenge his dishonesty and his devotion solely to himself, rather than to our nation. He’s callously made 1.8 million DACA kids (his number) mere pawns in his game of chicken to get his stupid, unnecessary wall, the security tool that assumes that Mexicans don’t know about ladders or tunnels. That’s the wall he told us time and again that Mexico will pay for, but now he wants each of us to pay hundreds of dollars for it. Today’s Republicans are sucking up to this scoundrel by playing his game and have abdicated their responsibility and their oath of office to protect and defend. They’re no longer the fierce guardians of our Republic; they’re the cowering lapdogs.

It took just 96 years for H.L. Mencken’s prophesy to come true.

Trump leads them in taunts to diminish our  institutions, like the press, the FBI, the CIA, the entire Justice Department and specific people in those agencies. He has Senators Ron Johnson (R-MN), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and others making flagrantly idiotic, scary sounding accusations about the FBI, substantiated solely by hot air, demeaning the very people who make sure we’re safe. That doesn’t sound much like the party that used to stand for law and order. That sounds more like self-serving people being manipulated by moneyed interests and lacking a spine to stand against what they know to be wrong.

Rep. Devin Nunez (R-CA) is cavorting about DC right now with a memo he wrote, claiming McCarthy-like that his memo contains a smoking gun that has the fingerprints of the evil FBI on it. The memo contains classified information that he carelessly didn’t review. And he carelessly has shown that classified information to most of the Republican members of Congress and is threatening to carelessly release it to the public. That whooshing sound you hear is Devin Nunez sucking up to Donald Trump.

The Justice Department has pushed back, making clear that Nunez will do damage to our national security should he release the memo. To understand the full importance of that, you need to know that at the same time that Nunez is doing his Trump suck-up dance, a tsunami of Russian bots is inundating our social media, calling for the release of his memo. Did I mention that the memo contains classified information? In other words, Republican Nunez is brainlessly playing directly into the hands of the Russians.

So, let’s be clear about what’s important:

Think: Congress

  • What is important is that unlike Nunez and the rest of the suck-ups, you and I see this for what it is: the next self-serving, transparent attempt at misdirection from what is important, the Russian hack of our election.
  • What is important is Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible conspiracy – not collusion: conspiracy – by Trump and his organization to get the Russians to help him win the election.
  • What is important is the investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Trump.
  • What is important is to discover if Trump – the President of the United States – has been part of a massive money laundering scheme and whether that has made him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

The good news is that Mueller doesn’t care about Nunez’s dingbat grandstanding or Trump’s demonizing attacks or the spinelessness of what passes for Republicans in Congress today. He cares about justice. So do we.

We care about the abdication of duty to country by the jellyfish in Congress.

We care about the baseless attacks on the very people we count on to keep us safe.

We care that the people who thump their jellyfish chests about how strong they are for America are the very people who have abandoned their integrity and, through their obstruction, are enabling Russia to hack our next election.

These Republicans, the ones who are making fatuous accusations about the FBI, as well as all those in Congress who stand silently by and won’t call out Nunez or the president – and that especially includes Spineless Speaker Paul Ryan – have sold out their country to appease the infant tyrant, Trump.

The late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan summed up the aspiration of everyone in this country: “What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”

We aren’t getting that America from either the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch of our government. And we’re going to remember that this coming November and in 2020.

————————————

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.

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.

Un-Republican

Reading time – 2:58; Viewing time – 4:31  .  .  .

I used to think of myself as a Republican – an Eisenhower Republican. At this point, though, I don’t know what it means to be a Republican. Or a conservative. It seems that extreme-ism is the battle cry of the 21st century and now the Republican Party is casting off any semblance of moderation and even simple respect for opposing views.

Ronald Reagan told us he was a true conservative. He believed in small government and low taxes. Then he bloated the federal government and raised taxes six times. What’s conservative about that?

David Stockman was Reagan’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who famously declared in an interview for The Atlantic entitled “The Education of David Stockman,” that, “I mean, Kemp-Roth [Reagan’s 1981 tax cut] was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate…. It’s kind of hard to sell ‘trickle down.’ So the supply-side formula was the only way to get a tax policy that was really ‘trickle down.'” In other words, trickle-down was a ruse to get tax cuts for rich people. That dishonesty created decades of stagnation for middle class and working people. What’s conservative about that?

George W. Bush started two avoidable wars against countries that did us no harm. Then, instead of raising the taxes needed to pay for his wars like every other war president in American history, he drastically reduced taxes, which assured massive debt in the trillions of dollars. What’s conservative about that?

Then the Tea Partiers came and shut down our government to prevent the raising of the national debt limit. The debt limit was and is about authorizing the issuing of debt instruments so that we can pay for what we’ve already purchased – essentially it’s about keeping our word to pay our bills. The Tea Partiers – Republicans all – tried to make us into a dead beat nation. What is conservative about that?

Restrictive voting laws have been enacted in many states to prevent our almost non-existent voter fraud. The effect of these laws is to prevent tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of legal voters from voting. That’s anti-Constitutional, so what is conservative about that?

Kris Kobach, the face of dishonest voter fraud claims.

Now Kris Kobach, the former flame-throwing Secretary of State of Kansas who made his bones by railing against non-existent voter fraud, is heading a commission – a fraudulent commission (also here and here). He and his band of liars and thieves are trying to institutionalize voter suppression, this from the federal level. Be clear that this is yet another Republican Trojan horse, in that the real purpose of the Kobach Commission is to extend the last gasp of control for a vanishing white majority. What’s conservative about the pernicious lies of these lying liars (thank you, Al Franken, for the descriptive words)? What’s conservative about stripping voting rights from the young, the old, the poor and those of color?

The Republican Party has verbally championed conservatism, but it seems to want to conserve the kinds of things that are at odds with anything that is conservative or even patriotic. Whatever happened to loyalty and justice and the rule of law, the kinds of things that Republicans used to want to conserve? They keep telling us that they’re the party of Lincoln, but they do things that Lincoln would have found both abhorrent and illegal.

Charlie Christ, former Republican governor of Florida, switched parties, declaring that he didn’t leave the Republican Party; rather, the Republican Party left him. He’s right. So are all the other former Republicans, like Rep. Patrick Murphy (now D-FL) and those who threw up their hands in disgust and quit, like former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN). Perhaps today’s Republican Party needs a new name: The Un-Repubican Party.

Wait, though. We the People keep electing these extremists, so, sadly, we’re getting what we deserve. Perhaps we have to wake up and smell the Constitution. Otherwise, we can start calling ourselves We the Un-People.

————————————

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

Insidious

putin-on-a-bearReading time – 1:49 plus 44 seconds for the Bonus Section; Viewing time – 2:31  .  .  .

Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale University and he penned a most interesting essay in the New York Times entitled How a Russian Fascist Is Meddling in America’s Election. It is a worthwhile read if you want to understand a bit of Vladimir Putin’s anti-America behavior. It seems that Putin, the object of Donald Trump’s heart-pitty-pat bromance, is much enamored of the now deceased Ivan Ilyin, whom Snyder described as “a prophet of Russian fascism”.

Ilyin was all about the demise of individuality and democrace, which he saw as evil, both of which he saw as evil. He believed in some idealistic oneness of Russia ruled by a “national dictator” who would be “inspired by the spirit of totality,” whatever that means. If you are an ordinary Russian citizen and a hammer and sickle Russian fanatic, that might sound pretty good to you, And it will stay that way until the commissars snatch you from your home in the middle of the night and send you to a Siberian labor camp. And why wouldn’t they do that if individuals – you – are evil and have no individual value?

It’s so very Soviet Union yesterday.

Which isn’t the main point for us, but it does provide context. Snyder writes,

“For a decade, Russia has been sponsoring right-wing extremists as “election observers” – most recently, in the farcical referendums in the Crimea and in the Donbas region of Ukraine – in order to discredit both elections and their observation. Since democracy is a sham, as Ilyin believed, then it is right and good to imitate its language and procedures in order to discredit it. It is noteworthy that the Trump campaign has now imitated this very practice, supplying both its own private “observers” and the advance conclusion about the fraud they will find. [emphasis mine}

“The technique of undermining democracy abroad is to generate doubt where there had been certainty. If democratic procedures start to seem shambolic, then democratic ideas will seem questionable as well. And so America would become more like Russia, which is the general idea. If Mr. Trump wins, Russia wins. But if Mr. Trump loses and people doubt the outcome, Russia also wins.” [emphasis mine]

How in the world can Donald Trump be about making America great when all that he says and all that he does rips at the very fabric of our democracy?

BONUS SECTION – PLEASE ASK THIS QUESTION AT THE DEBATE:

Mr. Trump, before and during this campaign you have said ugly things about women, including calling them dogs and worse, as well as fat-shaming one of your own Miss Universe winners. You have steadfastly refused to moderate your comments and you have refused to apologize to people you have harmed with your cruel words, much less to the rest of the women of America. Now we have seen a video of you clearly objectifying women, making cruel and lewd statements about them and claiming with pride that you are free to commit sex crimes with women because you’re a star. You responded to the unveiling of your horrific statements with a limp apology.

Given that your words and your actions loudly proclaim your disdain for women, explain to all Americans why we should even consider the possibility that as president you would care about and respect over half of us – girls, women, daughters, spouses, mothers, sisters, friends – and look out for their welfare. And don’t tell us yet again that you respect women, because it’s manifestly clear from your words and actions that you don’t.

————————————-

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 and engage.  Thanks!  JA

– See more at: http://jaxpolitix.com/7836-2/#sthash.J67dlWgD.dpuf

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

A Reality Check for Trump Voters

Reading time – 67 seconds; Viewing time – 2:34  .  .  .

You’re flashing the bird at the “establishment” – the authority figures, the big money kids, the guys in the expensive suits and power ties. They have been screwing you for so long that you can’t even remember when you weren’t being screwed. You have no recollection of the last time anyone from any establishment said something that didn’t ring phony. You’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore.

Got it. You’re right – you are being screwed.

And you’re being screwed in ways you might not realize.

Because the crazies with the megaphones have been tweaking your nose over immigration, God, guns and gays. They’ve been fanning your flames with absolutist junk, like, “You’re either with us or you’re not an American” and they have made your blood boil. And all the time they were doing their misdirection trickery they were picking your pocket.

It started with Reagan’s “supply-side economics,” which was supposed to “trickle down” wealth to you from the fat cats. How’s that been working for you? The answer is that it’s not working at all, because the fat cats kept it all for themselves. And they’re still keeping it and protecting their rights to keep their claws deeply embedded into your wallet, thanks to the laws your legislators enacted that created tax breaks only for already wealthy people. You didn’t catch even a little break.

They told you that it was all about jobs, jobs, jobs. That sounded good. Then they defeated every attempt at job-creating legislation except the one for vets. And the Republicans had to be shamed into passing that.

That’s right: They distracted you with tweaky social issues while they ate your lunch. And they’re still eating your lunch.

Just get this: Donald J. Trump has been and is an integral part of the establishment misdirection scheme that got your pocket picked. His claws are holding your cash and he’s proposed cutting taxes even more for the rich kids – but not for you. Trump won’t be trickling any money down to you.

You know a phony when you see one, even if he sounds like a really good circus sideshow barker. So, when November comes around, put your hand on your wallet and keep it there as you vote.

————————————-

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

The System Is Not Supposed to Work

NY Times 12-19-15On December 19, 2015 The New York Times ran an opinion piece by Kevin Baker entitled Political Party Meltdown, which put perspective and a smidgen of clarity to the opaque and toxic swamp that is our Congress. I urge you to read his insightful essay now. Then have a look at the exchange between my friend Dan Wallace and Kevin Baker. Whatever comes up for you in reviewing the words of these smart and informed guys, put them in the Comments section below. Help us all to learn even more. And perhaps the frustration we feel over our dysfunctional and often non-functional government just might abate just a bit.

———————-

Dan Wallace wrote:

Kevin – I loved your essay in the NYT, and I had a thought/question on which I’d love your opinion.

I worked for a moderate Republican senator in the early 80’s (about when I think the shift from 4 “parties” to 2 really started – the Reaganites were very intolerant of anyone to their left). I left Capitol Hill believing that the Founders had intentionally designed the institutions of the Federal government, and especially Congress, to require lots of horse trading because that would ensure that resources were apportioned reasonably fairly over time. It seems to me that it worked beautifully as long as resources were growing, which is all the Founders could have imagined they would do, but that it stopped working around 1975, which is the last year the US ran a trade surplus and therefore, I would argue, marks the point at which the US actually became intrinsically non-competitive in the global economy. Our political institutions simply have no capacity to take things away from people, which is really what they’ve needed to do for 40 years, and so they have behaved in a very distorted fashion. The main form of distortion has been to paper over our lack of competitiveness with massive deficit spending. “Conservatives” (and remember, my instincts are those of a moderate Republican, not a liberal Democrat) don’t like to remember this, but the deficit spending was kicked off in earnest by Reagan. We were running deficits of $50-60 billion/year until the tax cuts passed, at which point they jumped to about $350 billion/year, which is pretty much where they’ve stayed ever since, except for ’98-99 surpluses, and 2008-present, when they’ve been closer to $1 trillion/year. And the latter, I think, can be seen as simply one piece of reckoning for the can having been kicked down the road by institutions (not just people) who intrinsically don’t have the capability to do anything else.

The discourse certainly was much more civil in 1983 than it is now, but my experience tells me that Congress was no better at actually solving a difficult problem then than it is now. It just failed at lower volume.

That’s my 30,000-foot view of how this has played out. I would be REALLY interested to know where you agree and disagree.

Warm regards,

Dan Wallace

————–

Kevin Baker’s reply:

Dear Dan,

Thanks for reading—and writing.  You make some interesting points. Just some quick reactions to them:

—While I’m hardly an expert on them, I’m not sure that the Founders, for all their virtues, really did foresee a lot of constructive horse trading.  They never seemed that at home with a party system; I sometimes [think] they envisioned high-minded debates in which the overwhelming logic and beauty of their arguments swept all away.  When that situation failed to materialize, they turned immediately to scandal sheets and pistols.

—I don’t think I’d agree that our institutions are incapable of taking things away from people.  I think Americans have a generally good record of sacrifice in times of war, and I would say that decades of generally stagnant incomes mean that many people have had a lot taken away from them. For that matter, the minimum wage still is not the equivalent of what it was in 1968, and didn’t the famous Reagan-O’Neill deal on “entitlements” entail a payroll tax increase on the vast majority of Americans?

—Did the trade deficit really mean we were inherently unable—or less able—to compete in the world economy?

I would question that.  I think the increased competition with the likes of Japan and Western Europe then was generally a good thing, which forced our companies and workers to get better.

But competing with a host of other nations, all over the world, that employed such tactics as using child labor, outlawing unions, banning civil liberties, and erecting tariff barriers?  I think that was, and is, crazy—and also, as I’m sure you know, very much an anomaly in our history.

William McKinley, for instance, would never have contemplated the idea that Americans should have competed against, say, labor from Italy in his time, much less from China.  But now, for some reason, both parties generally embrace it.

—Beyond that, I’d say our economy, and our society, both have deeper structural problems.  My thoughts on this are far from original, but in general I would say that these include doing much too little to support wages for the 70 percent of the population who still do not get a bachelor’s degree; shifting more and more of the tax burden onto the working and middle classes; and so structuring tax codes and financial regulations [such] that, more and more, the best minds of our nation are lured into the mere manipulation of money.

I don’t think most people aren’t sacrificing enough.  Instead, they are in overdrive:  scrambling to work 2-3 jobs, working desperately to send their kids to private schools and universities that charge ungodly amounts of money, and at the same time trying to take care of aged parents who now live longer than ever, with less and less capacity.

It’s a big reason why, I think, the establishment narrative from both parties—work hard, obey the rules, get an education, and you’ll be fine—seems increasingly absurd to them.

Anyway, nice corresponding with you.  Just out of curiosity, which Republican did you work for?  Many in my family were Rockefeller Republicans, and I’ve always had a certain admiration for old Rocky.

All the best,
Kevin Baker

————————————-

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

Keep Heart

Oh no ThinkerReading time – 46 seconds  .  .  .

We Americans have a short little attention span.

Does anyone remember the terrible floods in the desert country of Oman in June or the floods in Los Angeles 3 weeks ago or the students who were killed at Umpqua Community College in Oregon just last month?

Our news is currently obsessed with terrorism in Europe and Africa and with Syrian women and children refugees (have a look at this for a fresh perspective) who might come to America and kill you. We see talking heads speculating endlessly over things about which they have no facts. Experts rattle on as though oracles of the gods, while relatives of victims and witnesses to terrorism are interviewed in bouts of heart-tugging pandering for the cameras.

The good news is that this will pass. It will happen just as soon as the next sensational awful thing happens. The even better news is that the political stupid stuff that’s being sprayed in toxic levels over the current events will also start to abate, but the political pandering will have made its mark.

Ben Carson’s support has dropped 40% because people are at last realizing that he is clueless. Support for the circus barker with the strange hair has gone up because he is sucking up to people’s need for security with his inane pronouncements. And Ted Cruz sounds ever more like the idiot that he is not and ever more like the manipulator that he most surely is.

So much certainty and so little wisdom is vying for our attention. What’s a thinking person to do?

Keep your eye on the ball: The mother lode of our political and governmental dysfunction is the big money influence on our elections and lobbying practices. Fix that and the rest of our challenges will be handled promptly and well.

So, keep heart and work hard to elect a Congress – your senators and congressman/woman – that will reform our criminal campaign finance system. And work extra hard to elect a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices who aren’t wacko righties bent on creating an oligarchy and subverting your rights.

————————————-

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

The New History – Texas Style

TEAReading time – 41 seconds  .  .  .

Norman Goldman likes to rename our southern states because in so many ways they resemble third world despotic countries. I’m talking about things like voter suppression, denial of women’s rights and more. So, for example, Goldman has renamed Texas, calling it Texassistan (“tex-ASS-i-stan”), and with good reason.

Texas is one of several southern states vying to be the most fervently ignorant among an unenlightened few which deny the brutal reality of the “forced migration and enslavement of Africans in America.” * They even deny that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. I understand that denial of guilt-provoking reality feels better than facing the truth, but it doesn’t change what happened. It does change people’s perception of reality, and that’s a problem for the next generation.

In a recent New York Times article, How Texas Teaches History, author Ellen Bressler Rockmore discusses how slight grammatical construct changes and focus shifting can dramatically alter our understanding. For example, she looks at a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt text called Texas United States History and points out that,

” .  .  .  in the sentences that feature slaves as the subject, as the main actors in the sentence, the slaves are contributing their agricultural knowledge to the growing Southern economy; they are singing songs and telling folk tales; they are expressing themselves through art and dance.”

Really? That’s what slavery in America was about – singing songs and telling folk tales, art and dance? Apparently, there’s no need to dwell on the unpleasant stuff, like slave owners and field foremen beating, whipping, branding and killing slaves, children ripped from their mothers’ arms and sold down the river. Dem happy blackies, jus’ singin’ ‘n’ dancin’ and havin’ a good ol’ time** is the history of slavery that Texas wants to teach its children.

And that Pablum version of slavery gets multiplied, because Texas is by far the largest purchaser of school texts in America – they buy for 5 million school kids – so creating books that satisfy the Texas State Board of Education is a financial imperative for publishers. What that means is that history text books used throughout the nation are getting poisoned by the Texassistan far right wing dishonesty and cruelty. The result is that your kid is reading that version of history.

If you click through to Rockmore’s article, be sure to review some of the many comments. They’re enlightening, something that cannot be said of the Texas State Board of Education.

——————————————–

*That phrase is lifted from Rockmore’s article referenced in the next paragraph and is done so because it so accurately captures the truth.

**I do recognize how deeply offensive those stereotype words are and I intend no offense to anyone who has even as little as a mere foothold in reality. Those words are used to illuminate the deeply offensive attitude expressed in Texas’ revisionist history and they are used mockingly toward the Texas State Board of Education.

————————————-

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

Education

Iran DealReading time – 53 seconds  .  .  .

Robert Dold (R-IL) represents the 10th congressional district of Illinois and it is quite obvious that he not only took a speed reading course, but he may have invented a hyper-eyeball version of it. I say that because he delivered a blistering rejection of the Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a 159-page document, on the floor of the House of Representatives mere minutes after it was released. As you know from reading this column, Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) verbally blasted the agreement on Morning Joe on MSNBC immediately after it was announced. How do these guys absorb so much complex material instantaneously?

Of course, the answer is that they don’t. What they do is to prepare in advance carefully worded, vacuous attacks for the purpose of their own self-interest and especially in order to ensure the goal named by the 15 Republicans who met the night President Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009 – that he would be a one-term president. Oh, wait – that didn’t turn out too well for them. Regardless, the tactic of opposing anything President Obama supports, the strategy decided by the 15, is still in play, the needs and best interests of America be damned.

The point is that a lot of Rs are slinging partisan red meat into the cages of their “base.” I love that term, as though it forms some kind of foundation. Its true identity is a bunch of knuckle-dragging angry guys who believed Ronald Reagan when he told them that government is the cause of the problems in their lives and who fondly remember good old days which actually never happened.

Don’t bother yourself with the noise of the hyperbolic rhetoric of bloviating politicians. Instead, listen to this podcast from the Wilson Center and consider what a group of well-informed and thoughtful people have to say about the Iran deal. If you’re feeling ambitious, read the deal yourself and make up your own mind. Free yourself from Washington bumper sticker talking points and doomsday idiocy crafted for election season.

This is all about your own education about one of the most important international agreements of the past 50 years, one destined to have critical long term impact for the United States and the world.

————————————-

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

1 2 3  Scroll to top