Budgets, Deficits and Debt

Thinking About Long Term Ramifications


Reading time – 4:33; Viewing time – 7:08  .  .  .

Ed. note: Read to the end – there are two treats waiting for you there.

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First, a heads up.

I talked with a woman who is involved with supply at our local hospital. I offered supplies I have on hand, including a handful of masks and a couple of large boxes of vinyl exam gloves. She said that they are in the process of setting up a receiving station for donations and will be posting on their website what their needs are expected to be. It’s not too big of a leap to expect that all 6,146 hospitals in the country will need that kind of help. So, call your local hospital or clinic or look at their website and find out what they need. You just might have it.

As this woman told me,

“We can see the train is coming fast and we’re still laying tracks.”

If they are going to be able to help others – perhaps even you – they need our help NOW. Pick up the phone.

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Everyone is stressed both by the immediate changes in our lives due to the coronavirus and by the unknown that seems to be all around us. It certainly is waiting for us up ahead.

I’ve been thinking about possible longer term ramifications of this pandemic on levels beyond our day-to-day lives. There are a lot of areas to explore and right now I want to have a look at how some might exploit this upheaval-by-pandemic for their own benefit and to the detriment of us.

First to come to mind is Donald Trump. Given that his sole focus is on what is good for himself, I can easily imagine him using this national emergency to cancel the general election in November and make himself king. Congress and the courts are going to have to grow a spine in order to stop such an outright theft of America and I have my doubts about whether they’re up to it. Trump-Republican legislators have shown conclusive proof that aren’t capable of the task and we have to wonder if the Trump-stuffed Supreme Court would would have the courage to decide against him. Trump has toyed with this idea of never leaving office and that was before there was a pandemic he could use as an excuse.

Next on the list is Russia. I don’t know what Vladimir Putin might try, but he’s all about self-enrichment and restoring his country to USSR status on the world stage (read: ego puffing). His methodology doesn’t much include growing Russia or the welfare of his people, but instead he’s all about taking down other countries. It’s the classic inferiority-complex bully tactic – making someone else less-than in order to be on top. Perhaps he’ll have Russian tanks invade neighboring countries while we’re weak. There’s nothing new about Russia doing that sort of thing. Maybe he’ll extort European countries by withholding Russian gas and oil next winter. I’m not clear what he might do to take down western democracies including the U.S., other than stealing elections using his cyber thugs, but I bet he is.

China is entirely about world domination and the U.S. is both its biggest obstacle and its easiest tool. They will come out of the pandemic months before the U.S. with a billion and a half workers who are healthy, hungry and subservient to their manipulative, diabolical government. China has issued government subsidies to help Chinese companies under-price American goods and they took over 3.7 million jobs from the U.S. just since 2001. Plus they’re holding $1.1 trillion of U.S. debt, about a quarter of our total foreign debt. That’s a lot of leverage. Would they crack down on Hong Kong or swallow Taiwan during America’s time of weakness? As with Russia, I’m not clear what they might do to harm others for their benefit, including harming the U.S., but I’m confident President Xi is.

What about North Korea? The coming months might be just the time when Kim will make a move on South Korea to annex it, to create “One Korea,” knowing that the U.S. is only hobbling along in a weakened state and can’t or won’t do much about it.

Here are the key questions:

  1. Who in our government is thinking about such things? Given the bumbling, reactionary, transactional nature of this administration, is anyone thinking strategically and beyond next Thursday?
  2. Are there plans on the shelf to deal with these threats and are they up to date? If not, who will do something about that and when?
  3. Will anyone pull the trigger on these plans if one outcome of doing so is unfavorable to Trump’s personal welfare (e.g. no Trump Tower-Moscow)?

Who and what else do you think might be in position to seize advantage over the U.S. in the next 1 – 3 years? Put your notions in the Comments section to help us all see clearly.


Now, a Long Term Ramifications Mini-Feature

There’s something about we human beings that, whatever the issue, we typically don’t really get it until it’s relatable to us personally.

So it was for Pharaoh enduring the plagues, Exodus tells us. He wasn’t motivated until the 10th plague, the slaying of the firstborn, which took his own son. Then it was personal enough for him. That’s when he got it.

That same inability to get it without feeling a personal impact is with us today.

Mark and Heaven Frilot of Kenner, LA weren’t much moved by claims from our medical community of the coming and rapidly spreading pandemic and many in their town scoffed at warnings, believing them to be just political ploy. They did that right up to the moment when Mark wound up in the hospital and was diagnosed with COVID-19. He hasn’t been able to breathe on his own since then and friends and colleagues are wondering if contact with him has caused them to be infected. Heaven and her neighbors aren’t scoffing at the virus now, but it had to come up close and personal for them to really get it.

As the author of the report about Mark and Heaven Frilot writes, “Crises are political only until they are personal.” And people scoffing and refusing to believe the experts until they themselves are touched by this disease will inevitably be cavalier or worse about transmission. Their flip disregard will make it spread faster and farther. This age of disbelief in science, learning, experts and provable fact is fertile ground for enormous suffering and unnecessary death. And that’s a very long term ramification.

You can  read the full story about the Frilots here.

* From Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889):

“Words realize nothing, vivify nothing to you, unless you have suffered in your own person the thing which the words try to describe.”


Finally, from the “I wish I were making this up” file  .  .  .

At his press conference on Monday, March 23 President Trump explained that George Washington kept two desks and implied that one was used to run his personal business, the other for Presidential duties. He compared himself to Washington and whined that nobody complained about what Washington did.

Then he reminded everyone for the umpteenth time that he has refused the presidential salary and whined yet again that no one has thanked him for doing that.

In other words, in a time of worldwide sickness and death and economic hardship, a time of disruption and fear when all in this nation are looking for leadership, someone to trust to have their welfare in his heart, someone with clarity to lead us out of this darkness, instead it’s all about Trump and how he’s a poor victim.

Yes, many of our governors and mayors are stepping up and providing wonderful leadership, but there are some things only the federal government can do. We need reason to have confidence that they’re being done to the very best of our ability as a nation. We’re still looking for that.

Leadership is a peculiar thing and it’s most necessary in times of crisis. If it doesn’t show up soon, what are the long term ramifications of that?


P.S. #1 – Read Elizabeth Warren’s requirements for the proposed government bailout. Then see P.S. #2.

P.S. #2 – From the “How Does This Make Sense?” file: Does it make any sense to you that Congress is preparing to spend $2 TRILLION of our money – I mean yours and mine – without so much as a single public hearing or floor debate? That everything is being done in secret? That 80% of Americans don’t trust or approve of the job performance of the very people working in dark corners to spend us into unfathomable debt? What are the long term ramifications of that?

P.S. #3 – How ’bout something to make you smile? In this time of great stress, watch this. It will brighten your day. Many thanks to JA for the tip. And for sure listen to Neil Diamond sing Sweet Caroline, adjusted for our current circumstances. You supply the descending “bum-bum-bum”.

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Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so

  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 to be better informed.

Thanks!

The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Sometimes I change my opinions because I’ve learned more about an issue. So, educate me. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.

JA


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Why So Many Are Angry


Reading time – 3:59; Viewing time – 5:42  .  .  .

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was promoted as a surefire way to increase the wages of working Americans and promote the hiring of additional workers. “More than 70% of this [tax cut] will be returned to workers,” said White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reading from official White House notes. It didn’t work out quite that way.

Corporations used far more of their tax savings on stock buy-backs than on anything that would directly benefit workers. The total used for stock buy-backs has surpassed $1,100,000,000,000 and the primary beneficiaries of that are people who are already wealthy.

Let’s try one more example.

After filing for bankruptcy, Sears closed many of its stores and the pink slips they put into workers’ pay envelopes told them that there would be no severance pay for them due to the bankruptcy. Now they’re giving out $25 million in bonuses to top executives. These are atta-boys for the very geniuses who drove the company into bankruptcy.

Want another example?

Wisconsin voters elected to boot Republican Gov. Scott Walker out of office and replace him with a Democrat. The lame duck session of the Republican state legislature then passed a series of bills designed to dramatically limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor and Walker has signed those bills into law. That keeps power in the hands of the people who lost the election and effectively thwarts the will of the people.

This post isn’t about railing against fat cats or Republicans. Rather, it’s about why we citizens are angry. It’s about real grievances rooted in the lives of millions who suffer while the powerful few enrich themselves.

I’m all for capitalism, but it, like anything, can be used to abuse, which is why we have regulations. Sometimes those regulations are ignored by those in power. Sometimes they pass laws that either directly or indirectly pad their own pockets and those of their “donor class,” often at the expense of the rest of us.

One last example.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was President Trump’s first national security advisor. He was lobbying for a foreign government at the same time that he was receiving top secret U.S. national security briefings. What’s wrong with this picture?

Flynn lied about it. Trump tolerated it. How are you feeling about the performance of the primary job of the federal government – to protect our country and ensure national security? Flynn got $600,000 for his deceit.

When it consistently feels like you’re the screw-ee, there comes a breaking point for all of us and we get very angry. Some want to carry torches in the street and burn it all down and they will vote for whoever speaks to their rage. As long as that rage is continuously validated, all other leadership outrages can be ignored, like putting numbers on the forearms of child detainees at our border concentration camps instead of assertively dealing with the crisis of people seeking asylum.

One of the reasons we remain so very angry is the continuing Russian propaganda machine that has permeated our nation. Russia has worked to divide us, polarize us, confuse us, sow dissent and stoke our anger against anything that we used to see as bedrock of our nation. The people in our national security agencies are working to unravel that, but the most important point is that the leader of our country refuses to crack down on the Russians. Rather, he continues to create chaos – distracting, America-defeating chaos – making the stock market tumble, shaking our international alliances and making foreign autocrats applaud.

All of that and more is why so many of us are angry.

One more thing in two points .  .  .

First, the government is shut down. That isn’t about immigration. It isn’t about national security and it isn’t even about a wall. It’s entirely about Trump’s infantile ego. He declared on TV, “If I don’t get what I want, I’ll shut down the government.” (Play the audio below for the recording.) That has absolutely nothing to do with what’s best for our country.

Trump is promising to hold his breath and turn blue until he gets his way. And he thinks that’s what we should care about.

How is that working for you – or for the thousands of federal workers who won’t be getting paid?

Second point: Trump’s tweet that he will swiftly remove our troops from Syria came as a surprise to literally everyone, including our own Defense Department. Trump intends to cede the entire middle-east to the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians and abandon our allies, the Kurds, again. That is past the line of what Gen. Jim Mattis can tolerate, so he’s leaving the Defense Department. That’s shaking up our allies because there are no longer any adults in the room.

Main point: As important as these two issues are, recognize that Trump has effectively changed the national story away from the known 17 current investigations into the Trump Crime Family. Keep your eye on the ball.

Last minute correction: I’m informed that the numbers being written on the forearms of detained kids at our southern border are being written by welfare workers. I don’t know how that makes a difference from the same thing being done by government workers, but I’m told that it does. Just get that if these kids hadn’t been separated from their parents there would be no need for Gestapo-like numbers on their arms or any other form of ID. And get that this tattooing is being done in your name.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want 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 that goal requires reaching a lot of people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Social Musings v 1.0


Reading time – 2:42; Viewing time – 3:46  .  .  .

This has been simmering for a long time and I know I’m not alone, because I’ve checked with many people whose experience is identical.

 

My day job is to deliver keynotes and workshops focused on leadership. Following each session I commonly receive requests to contact individual attendees to talk about what I might do for their company or because they want to connect me to an organization for which I would be a good fit. Being a simple kind of guy, when someone asks me to phone or email them, I do exactly that. That’s when the plot thickens.

The vast majority of people simply don’t answer their phone. Calls go to voice mail. That in itself is worthy of discussion, but the lack of a return call is the key point.

I’ll commonly follow up several times, which seems reasonable, given that I was asked to call. I’ll leave a series of voice mails, often including a suggested time to talk so that we don’t play phone tag. The result: crickets.

The same thing plays out with emails and text messages, almost all of which never get a reply.

To back up just a step, all of this is in an effort to contact people who have asked me to contact them. And they don’t respond. We don’t connect. And, as I said, this is commonplace stuff, all of which is leading to my question: What’s going on in our society where people are routinely blowing off one another and it’s apparently okay to do that?

I’ve noodled over this to find an explanation for the behavior and have come up with a few guesses:

  1. People are significantly more conflict avoidant than were earlier generations and they simply can’t bear the anxiety of saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
  2. People are insanely self-focused and have no conscious notion that what they do has an effect on others.
  3. It’s a control thing: “I control if an when I make contact with others.”
  4. People don’t like to be distracted, even as they are so distractible, so they try to focus on whatever is in front of them at the moment. In that scenario, a call, email or text is unwelcome. And quickly forgotten.
  5. The best game in the world is deleting emails, voice mails and texts. Don’t you feel lighter just thinking about doing that?
  6. This is really a subset of #5: People are overwhelmed with things to read, tasks to accomplish, places to be, and the deluge of information that assaults our senses every day, so avoiding is a satisfying thing and may even feel like a survival scheme.

Any of that could be true and, really, the blow off behavior may be due to a completely different set of crazies. Nevertheless, my start as an early Boomer gives me sensibilities that tell me that it’s simply rude to blow off others and rude has somehow become acceptable. If true, what does that say about us?

Finally, the president, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had a photo op in conjunction with their budget discussions on Tuesday. Right in front of the cameras they got into bickering about the wall and even with multiple invitations from Schumer and Pelosi Trump refused to remove the press and have a private conversation. So, we watched temper tantrums on display for the world to watch. I was so embarrassed seeing that behavior that I turned off the TV.

That display was courtesy of the president we call the leader of the free world. Can you imagine any world leader who would want to follow him?

Click me

A post post – During that embarrassing exchange in the Oval Office, Trump interrupted Chuck Schumer 3 or 4 times; he interrupted Nancy Pelosi 16 times. Click the pick and see for yourself. Then decide if there was any sexism – or you can call it disrespect – going on.

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Ed. Note: I don’t want 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 that goal requires reaching many people, so:

YOUR ACTION STEPS:

  1. Pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe (IT’S A FREEBIE!). No subscriber information is ever shared with anyone, anywhere, any time.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all be better informed.

Thanks!


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

If Only Someone Could Name One


Reading time – 2:15  .  .  .

It’s time to focus on Trump’s policies and policy actions and what they mean to us.

“America First” is more a campaign bumper sticker than a strategy, so that’s not a helpful guide. All I’ve been able to find are Trump’s various tactics to accomplish  .  .  .  something. Here are some examples.

I can’t name Trump’s foreign affairs policy. I do know that:

He moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thereby shoving a big U.S. thumb in the eye of all Palestinians and most Arabs and further undermining the possibility of lasting peace in the region. And he pissed off a lot of Muslims, creating a new recruiting poster for ISIS and al Qaeda. Not helpful to us.

He fired off a bunch of missiles at Syria, killing many people while avoiding hitting many of Assad’s chemical weapon stockpiles and production facilities, so the multi-million dollar fireworks show was essentially no help in stopping Assad from gassing his people. We did make some more fervent enemies.

He continues to play softball with Putin and his oligarchs, even after all the plain, visible evidence that Russia, an avowed enemy of the United States, cyber-attacked America. You fill in the blanks as to what that means to our democracy.

I can’t name Trump’s economic policy. I do know that:

He has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum coming from some of our closest allies and trading partners (the EU, Canada, Mexico), incentivizing them to retaliate. That is to say, he’s started a trade war. It is forecast to raise prices in the U.S. and cost many thousands of American jobs. And that makes Putin smile.

During the 2016 election campaign Trump promised to bring jobs back from China. He recently visited with President Xi and oddly declared that ZTE, manufacturer of cheap cell phones that China uses to spy on America, had a problem and we had to support them and save 70,000 jobs – in China. Immediately thereafter China made a $500 million cash infusion to Trump’s private resort project in Indonesia. The results are fewer American jobs and unlawful emoluments for the president, which further erodes our system of justice.

Trump enthusiastically promoted and signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which decreases federal taxes for most people for a short while and lowers taxes for corporations in perpetuity. 83% of the personal tax savings go to the super-wealthy and the Act will create $1.5 trillion of national debt. Do the math for your kids.

I don’t know what Trump’s civil and voting rights policy is. I do know that:

One of his first acts as President was to create the Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity and make former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach its lead. Both the charter of the committee and Kobach’s personal purpose are to end the non-existent scourge of voter fraud by preventing lawful but poor or non-white U.S. citizens from voting.

Trump has tried three times to prevent Muslims from entering the U.S. That’s a subversion of the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion.

Trump’s immigration practices are designed to prevent anyone but white, European Christians from entering the U.S. To enforce this, he has instituted the practice of ripping thousands of children from their parents when they show up at our southern border to apply for entry. Are you okay with that, Mom?

And of course there is Trump’s tweeted temper tantrum against Samantha Bee for her crude statement about Ivanka, matched with his complete absence of criticism of Roseanne Barr for her most recent racial slur. Apparently, bad mouthing Ivanka is inexcusable, but racial hate speech is okay anytime.

I can’t name Trump’s policy regarding preserving and protecting our democracy. I do know that:

He has carried on an unrelenting demonizing of our system of justice and the agencies that ensure that we are safe, like the Justice Department and the FBI, this for his stated purpose of undermining public confidence in those agencies.

He has attacked our press with his stated purpose of undermining pubic confidence in our Fourth Estate so that the American people won’t believe negative reporting about Trump.

There’s just a snapshot in understated terms of Trump’s policies. My promise to you is that I’ll henceforth do my level best to avoid reactions to Trump’s temper tantrum tweets and his constant stream of lies. Instead, I will focus exclusively on preserving our democracy and on his policies. Now, if only someone could name one of those policies  .  .  .

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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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Republican Juggernaut Against Government


Reading time – 2:10  .  .  .

In a recent conversation, a friend wondered why working-class voters vote for politicians and support policies that are at odds with their own interests. It’s my belief that these voters don’t think through the situation. All they recognize is that a program of small government and low taxes sounds good. That’s the promise that has been lied to them. But the promised decrease in taxes means that there is less money to pay for the services that taxpayers want. That’s the part they don’t see and nobody tells them it’s coming.

George Will has said for years that Americans want about $300 billion more in services than they’re willing to pay for. That, of course, leads to politicians telling otherwise sensible Americans that they can have those services without paying for them – just, “Vote for me!”

And we do. We all like something for nothing. And that’s what it looks like we’re getting as we vote for small government and lower taxes. It’s only later that we learn that our child’s school room has 37 kids, the books are 36 years old, the roof leaks and the walls are water damaged and the boys bathroom is out of service and the teacher has to buy the paper and markers for the kids, as well as the Band-aids for bruised knees. Then the teachers reach the point where their personally funding the education of everybody’s kids is unsustainable and they wind up in the rotunda of the West Virginia or Oklahoma state house carrying signs. That is when, in a stunning admission of failure, the governor says he doesn’t have money to pay them more or to upgrade schools.

This is what the people voted for, perhaps without recognizing those inevitable consequences. But the citizens of Kansas, the land of Gov. Brownbeck’s miserably failed experiment in state strangulation, could have told them this was coming.

We can be fooled very easily. George W. Bush sold his tax reduction plan by sending a check for $300 (or $600 if you made more money) to every taxpayer. That cash in hand – seemingly something for nothing – sold his  plan to give away billions of dollars to rich people. Slick politics, indeed. That blunder was magnified as he lied us into two wars at the same time, which meant that we not only had a bigger cost to run the country, but we had hamstrung ourselves with less revenue for the fundamental services Americans want.

Oh, wait – I forgot that the reduction of taxes on rich people would pay for itself because of the stimulus to the economy that Bush’s tax reduction would create. We’re still waiting for that windfall to reach the rest of us. Worse, our 115th Congress and President Trump just fooled us into this very same tax deceit once again with a tax plan that ensures that 83% of the tax reduction benefit goes to our ultra-wealthy citizens.

That false promise of small government and low taxes has brought us trillions of dollars of debt, a grotesque equity imbalance and our kids still aren’t getting a good education, except in high income neighborhoods.

The Republican juggernaut against government has consequences. Failing our children is one of them.

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Ed. note: I don’t want your money 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 2020 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.

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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 2020 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.

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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 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Plans for What?


Reading time – 2:45; Viewing time  – 3:58  .  .  .

Healthcare is our current favorite distraction from the Russian cyber invasion of America and the possible involvement of Trump groupies, so let’s have a look at what the geniuses in Congress have proposed for the health and well being of all Americans.

It’s well established that the House and Senate attempts at delivering on the brainless “repeal and replace” mantra have little to do with healthcare delivery to Americans. Healthcare is simply the cover for an $800 billion dollar gift to already rich people. In the unlikely circumstance that you aren’t fully enraged by that, consider that part of the windfall for the wealthy is a reimbursement of taxes paid on financial transactions, money that was used to fund Medicare expansion for our poor under Obamacare.

That’s right: these plans dig a deeper hole of debt for America because the 1% need more money. I guess I missed that turn when Republicans stopped obsessing over debt. Nice to know that it doesn’t matter any more, so it’s okay to slather more cash on the rich.

Enough about the struggling wealthy. We’ll let them pull themselves up by their Gucci bootstraps and instead have a look at how the House and Senate plans will affect you.

Click me to see the 5 things to know about Mitch McConnell

If you’re poor, you’re screwed. The Congressional Budget Office”s analysis is that under the House plan 23 million more Americans will be cut out of healthcare insurance entirely, which will effectively leave them without primary healthcare; under the Senate version that number drops to an only slightly less cruel 22 million more Americans whose medical needs we’ll ignore. Either way, tens of millions of Americans will have nothing but a last ditch, begging for mercy trip to the emergency room as their primary healthcare. Those trips are always made well after medical attention is needed, so the conditions presented to emergency room staff are far worse and often irreversible. That means people who might have been cured will die.

Plus a visit to the emergency room costs more than any other way to deliver healthcare, driving our overall cost much higher. Be clear that every hospital is required to deliver healthcare to whoever shows up at their door, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. That means that the cost to care for a poor person who drags into the emergency room and receives that expensive care is passed along to all the patients who can pay, like you. That’s how slashing Medicaid will drive up your cost of healthcare.

Click me to link to the article

The Kaiser Family Foundation has crafted a nifty way to learn how the various cruel congressional plans stack up against the ACA (Obamacare). Access the comparison with the Senate plan (“BCRA”) here; link to the comparison with the House plan (“AHCA”) here. Just enter your age, income and the state in which you live. Then click on your county, review the results and decide which plan you like best. Be sure to look ahead to what these plans will cost you 10 or 20 years from now. Good chance you’ll be surprised – and not pleasantly so.

But that’s just you. Before deciding which plan to support be sure to consider the poor people who will have no place to go but the emergency room for medical care under either congressional plan. Also, don’t forget the rich people who need your financial support.

Click me to link to the article

The net of this is that both the Republicans in Congress and the president are so desperate to “get a win” that they are sucking up to the wealthy and abandoning our poor. That is to say, the win means more to them than life or death of our most vulnerable.

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

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

 

 


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Intolerables – Redux


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

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

Trump tax plan to benefit the wealthy. CLICK ME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news

CLICK ME to download the flyer

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The D. S. of A


What if our state and federal legislators were held to this standard?

What if our state and federal legislators
were held to this standard?

Reading time – 2:55; Viewing time – 4:39  .  .  .

At a time when a high school education is so often woefully inadequate for success in a global, interconnected world, where old time manufacturing skills have given way to computerized everything and where millions of employers are frustrated because they’re unable to find people with the proper training to do the jobs they have open, Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin continues to slash support for the formerly wonderful state universities in Wisconsin.

Rick Snyder, Republican Governor of Michigan, headed the drive to allow the state to take control of any municipal government in Michigan that the geniuses in Lansing deemed was in financial distress, the sanctity of the municipal voting ballot be damned. That led inexorably to the poisoning of the children in Flint, MI due to the diabolical economic decision to change the source of the drinking water for that city. Instead of the safe Great Lakes water they had used for a century, the Lansing imposed Flint dictator decided to provide water from the Flint River, water which is corrosive, and that resulted in the city drinking water becoming laced with lead. Nobody knows the human toll or the financial cost that ingestion of lead will exact over the long term, but it will be enormous. Snyder and his Republican legislature in Lansing are doing a tap dance around accountability and as of this moment they are still dragging feet on fixing their mess. Meanwhile, the residents of Flint are trapped in a water quality disaster and an economic squeeze of Rick Snyder’s doing.

Sam Brownback (R-KS) promised Kansans that if they elected him governor that he would slash taxes and that would magically result in increased revenue for the state because of the dramatic economic expansion that lower taxes would induce. So, they elected him governor. Instead of the results he promised, his plan resulted in way lower revenue for the now nearly bankrupt state and a depressed economy across Kansas. Who might have even guessed that reducing the state’s income might reduce the state’s income?

Bobby Jindahl is the Republican governor of Louisiana. His state is a financial disaster. It is ranked the worst in the nation in educating its children. There’s lots more – and none of it is pretty. Let’s just move on.

Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) is the titular head of the state with more real estate in peril as the oceans rise than anywhere else. The streets of Miami Beach are often under water and much of south Florida is at or only slightly above sea level, so it doesn’t take much of a wave or much of a rise in sea level to flood it. And Rick Scott, a former fossil fuel homie, denies global warming and the human imprint on it, so he does nothing.

And, of course, right here in Illinois where we have a bottomless pension debt, our governor is so out of touch that we’ll call him Bruce Rauner (R-Pluto). He hasn’t offered a thing to fix the pension crisis and he continues to govern by refusing every attempt to establish a budget. Yes, that’s right: Illinois has been operating without a budget for well over a year and Governor Rauner seems to think in the way of Ted Cruz, that if we just shut down the functions of government that somehow all the best things will happen. That hasn’t work out too well for Illinois college students, as threats of shutdown of entire institutions were imminent, nor did it work out for our mentally ill who, because of the governor’s draconian methods, were not even getting their meds. Let the games of the rich continue, because they aren’t affected by their restrictive policies, even as those who are most needy continue to suffer.

These are the D. S. of A, the Disaster States of America, although not all of them. The Republican leaders in these states proudly and self-righteously thumb their noses at our bloated federal government and the over-taxation of the public. Yet, oddly, as they fail their states, or their states face crises, like Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, they expect the federal government to bail them out of their catastrophes. Either that or they just do more of what doesn’t work and declare victory.

How are you feeling about that? Keep that in mind as you vote for your state legislators on November 8.

Thanks to Steve Sheffey for pointing out this video.

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

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


Copyright 2020 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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