Archive for the ‘the economy’ Category.

Taking a Step Back and Reflecting

This is a long one, but lays out I think, all the connecting of dots for our way forward.  In Florida the mob is out with the pitchforks and torches over the death of elderly residents at a care facility in Hollywood Florida. There was an immediate call for criminal proceedings. Why? Certainly it was a tragedy as these folks basically died of complications from heat stroke. But other than that we don’t know what happened. Wouldn’t we want a thorough investigation before you erect your gallows? I am not here to argue who did what or did not do what, I am just using this example to show how we tend to want to blame first, and find out facts later, maybe leaving many innocent victims in our wake.

It is with this in mind that I watch Hillary being interviewed and pushing her new book. I have been clear that I just want her to go away, in a sense blaming her for Donald Trump. But as a great article in the Atlantic by James Fallows makes the case, she does have something to teach us. You don’t have to agree with her to learn something here and on many things she is direct and right. As James put it:

If you’ve read this book, with Clinton’s repeated reminders that blame for this historic disaster begins with her, you’re more likely to start yelling at the TV—or the newspaper or the website—when you see pundits, mainly male, saying that it’s time for Hillary Clinton to “step back” or “stop whining” or “get off the stage” or “stop making excuses.” She’s telling an interesting and important tale—and one with uncomfortable implications for the press among other institutions.

So as one of my friends reminds me, she still commands the respect of millions and maybe we ought to allow her her podium. I listened to the Rachel Maddow  interview on MSNBC and on many policy issues she has great insights, and unlike the idiot we have in office, actually knows their history and the players. There is no argument here that she would have been much for better the country than the train wreck we are on right now.

Her point about the press fixating on SQUIRREL! (emails) and Trump’s understanding of this to get 24/7 coverage of his lies is critical to her loss and has not been fully reconciled by the press as they continue their nonstop coverage of the Village Idiot in Charge when he or his surrogates say nonsense. The White House Press briefing has become an arrogant fuck you America and we still get it live every day, giving them a megaphone to spout lies.

But in that interview with Rachel and in her book (which I have not read yet, but will, so I am judging here from excerpts), I can find no real reckoning with the massive loss of Democrats in state and federal government positions over the Obama years. Rachel did not ask the hard one here about why Democrats could not get the vote out. And that I think is my critical criticism of Hillary and Democrats in general and why I have argued in the past that I wish she would just go away. They have not come to grips with this except as a bunch of tactical errors, not why they do not excite the electorate.

I withdraw my just go away critique and I think we can learn from her, as long as she is never a candidate again. Her advice on policy and knowledge of the players may be invaluable, but on the big issue of strategic vision, she is sorely lacking. Right or wrong there is just too much baggage and a lack of trust. It can’t be won back.  There is too much history and a history of calculating on isses and following the herd (gay marriage for one).

So why did Democrats basically get relegated into also rans? Now before I answer this question, I want to bring up one other question that has driven me nuts: Why do most Americans reside in Fantasyland? Why is it that facts became relative? They aren’t you know. If the last election were run on issues and facts, Hillary would have won in a landslide. Democrats in general would fare much better in the polls. Facts, data, and science are mostly on their side. Donald and the Republicans have repeated lies and misrepresented the facts and Donald’s White Mob (his base) is as Hillary said, deplorable. Yet he got elected and so did the Republicans. How is that?

Well there is a great book that goes a long way to explaining it called, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History, by Kurt Anderson. Basically he gives us this great condensation:

The short answer is because we’re Americans, because being American means we can believe any damn thing we want, that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else’s, experts be damned.

He tells of Stephen Colbert riffing as the conservative character he created on his invented word, truthiness, and summing up that philosophy is this monologue:

Now I’m sure some of the “word police,” the “wordinistas” over at Webster’s, are gonna say, “Hey, that’s not a word!” Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true. Or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart…. Face it, folks, we are a divided nation… divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart…. Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.

He tells us of all the mystical fanciful things we like to believe (religion, witches, Obama is a Muslim, Angels, Devils, Heaven, black helicopters, etc.) and makes this assertion about us:

By my reckoning, the more or less solidly reality-based are a minority, maybe a third of us but almost certainly fewer than half. Only a third of us, for instance, believe with some certainty that CO2 emissions from cars and factories are the main cause of Earth’s warming.

I called this faith-based thinking and I have argued in a similar vein that our religious training and beliefs gives rise to this duality of thinking, rational and faith-based, that starts crossing lines and gives us what we want to believe instead of what is.

I am in that third, solidly reality-based group.  Certainly I have my prejudices and things I want to believe, but in the end, facts, science, and data inform me.  If tax cuts for the wealthy really worked I would jump on it.  If unregulated markets are really the best solution for all things, I would be all for them.  If for profit healthcare really did give us the best system, I would fight for it. If global warming really was a hoax, I would be against legislation to recognize it.

If transsexuals really were a problem in the military, I would be for banning them.  If the Muslim ban were anything but counterproductive, I would be all for it. I could go on and on. If the poor are poor because they are lazy, well it is just deserts. But we have tons of data, facts, and science that tell us otherwise and I have written extensively about all of them in this blog with links to reliable sources, facts, and data.  None of it matters to what people want to believe.

So why is this import to the question of why the Democrats have fallen out of power?  Were the Republicans just better liars?  Let me introduce another idea, that of optimal and suboptimal solutions.  I think Thomas Friedman came up with this concept a few years ago:

But while our culture of imagination is still vibrant, the other critical factor that still differentiates countries today — and is not a commodity — is good governance, which can harness creativity. And that we may be losing. I am talking about the ability of a society’s leaders to think long-term, address their problems with the optimal legislation and attract capable people into government. What I increasingly fear today is that America is only able to produce “suboptimal” responses to its biggest problems — education, debt, financial regulation, health care, energy and environment.

The concept is fairly simple.  Take healthcare.  What we know from the rest of the world is that universal healthcare (everyone has it, not necessarily single payer) is the model that drives down costs and delivers better care.  It has been implemented in many forms from doctors and hospitals that are government owned, to single payer like Medicare.  There are even forms of it as private insurance (Switzerland) although highly regulated (no profit taking for basic well-defined benefits policies).  So what did we do here?  We went for a suboptimal Obamacare because we could get it. Now it is under continuous attack. There is a lesson here.

Back in what I like to call the semi-rational days when Republicans had not gone totally off the rails, Democrats and Republicans would compromise on suboptimal solutions, which is the very essence of compromise.  If you watch what happened and you are honest, the country went right with Bill Clinton, more like a moderate Republican than a Democrat, and conservative economic ideas took over the nation.  De-regulation and Wall Street ruled. As Democrats tried to accommodate the country’s drift right with more economically conservative positions, the real threat to our Democracy grew, economic inequality***.

During the Bush years we had disastrous tax cuts with no jobs and giant deficits, and finally through deregulation helped by Bill Clinton, the market crashed and burned.  Guess what?  Self interest did not drive wise decisions. Then when Obama came along and improved the markets, there was no flow down to Main Street, thus the birth of the Tea Party.  They were tired of suboptimal solutions that did not work for them.  The trouble with their optimal solutions, balanced budgets, slashing government spending, gutting government regulation, and blaming everything on immigrants is that it was based on what they wanted to believe, not reality, and we are back to Fantasyland.

Eight years of Obama and nothing really changed for those middle class working stiffs.  They saw the rich guys get richer and they languished, and worse, their children’s prospects languished. What arose from all this was the election in 2016 where the mood in the country was anything but the establishment that had proven ineffective to dealing with our problems.  Both sides were seen (accurately) as part of the problem. Democrats did, and you still hear it today, want to be hands across the aisle.  Working together is the goal instead of optimal solutions based upon data, facts, and science. It polled well although the reality was people never vote that way. It is a recipe for failure. You can (and I have) blamed the failure on Republican control of the media, gerrymandering, the filibuster, but in the end, Democrats failed to present a strategic vision of their way forward.

Other than on social issues, Democrats failed to really stand for anything and their economic policy (and Hillary’s) was Republican Lite. So you had a choice between Republican Lite, socially progressive, and real Republicans who stood for a grand strategy, although one built of a Fantasy world.  Voters picked the guys who stood for something, albeit all the wrong somethings.

Standing for something means standing for optimal solutions, based upon facts, science, and data.  Things that work, not fit neatly into an ideology about what should work, or politically easy.  But in that standing for those optimal solutions, there has to be a grand strategy, a strategy of how what we are proposing fits into a whole that will make all our lives better.  Hillary, at least I have yet to hear it, has not ever done this in a believable way.  For the young voter’s perspective, while she has some good policies and certainly would be better than Trump, is still part of promoting the economic establishment that is at the heart of all our problems, racial***, social, and economic.

The grand failure of the Democratic Party is that they lost what they stood for and it became working within the existing system assuming that the existing system was not fundamentally flawed. Being against what Republicans were for, but not real there, there. In trying to accommodate right trending popular politics, they lost who they were.  The book Listen Liberal should be required reading for everyone.  It’s painful, but the truth is Democrats became like Republicans, really blaming the victim, using education as the tool to innovation and a better tomorrow.  We don’t like to believe it, but we became elitists too. This last election was a giant flashing sign that the electorate was pretty much done with establishment politics because it wasn’t working for them no matter who was in power.

The Democrats tried to reinvent themselves within the establishment with their “Better Deal”.  Then they introduced some policies to support that.  It fell flat.  Better Deal connotes that the existing system just needs some fixes and everything will be hunky dory.  Donald Trump and the Obama voters that voted for him are data that says that does not work or that no one believed it.  They know the system is against them and they are right.

Bernie got that, but the Democratic establishment did not want to hear that message, and we got Trump against Hillary and this should have been a cake walk.  I thought it would be.  But I have learned from this election, and Hillary and establishment Democrats do not appear to have. Their still arguing tactics and not understanding that their grand strategy was non-existent. We are the non-Trump party did not wash when people wanted to break things.  They wanted a new way forward.

Okay smart guy, what is the way forward?  What is the strategic vision? Well remember that old document, The Declaration of Independence.  Remember this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, …

Well change it to this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and a level playing field. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, …

That is the strategic vision.  Money begets power, which begets the loss of equality.  Powers seeks to consolidate its favored position, and all the rest is history.  Economic inequality throughout the world is growing and is the root of all the rest.  This does not mean that meritocracy should not rule, but within bounds and be fair meritocracy, not one based upon position and power (read money).  And what the Republicans who represent the 1% forgot was that last part, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men …”.  They defined it as securing their rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at your expense when your life, liberty or happiness conflicts with theirs, and as wealth accumulates with the few, there are lots of conflicts.  In other words, economic inequality is the root of all inequality***.

Once this reality is recognized,  that  our system is structured to increase economic inequality under the false assumption that a high tide lifts all boats, then you recognize that the system has to be changed in fundamental ways and we have look at what works effectively, those optimal solutions that get thrown away as “not politically feasible” when in fact, they are our goals.  Bernie laid it out for us, but he is a socialist so don’t listen to him, was the response of Republicans and many Democrats.

He said the obvious, the system is not working for the average guy.  It has to be fundamentally changed so that more of us share in the wealth of our nation.  That says we have to rewrite the tax code, laws that regulate intellectual property, trade agreements, property and contract laws to name a few.  We need a fair minimum living wage.  We need major investments in our infrastructure.  We need to recognize science, and fight global warming.  We need universal healthcare and a Social Security system that insures everyone with a secure retirement*.  We need to fundamentally rethink debt and investments in our future.  But all of this cannot be just policies, but a vision or structure and a systematic approach to improving our lives and our children’s live’s for the future. It has to be couched in the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and a level playing field.  

The solutions to all of the above cannot be suboptimal solutions, but optimal ones.  Does not mean you will get there on day one, but that is the goal, that is what we stand for. And with that we become a party of well-defined principles again. We will still have a capitalist solution, but one regulated to prevent monopolies, abuses, and excessive profit taking.  It will take some of the proceeds and invest them in tomorrow.  Instead of looking for corporations and CEO’s to define tomorrow, we the people will, and rewrite the rules to benefit all of us, not the wealthy few.

That is radical change.  And we already know the solutions that work, except for those who reside firmly in Fantasyland.  But that will fail too and Fantasyland looks bleak when your beliefs don’t get you anywhere.  That may be why electing Trump was probably the only way forward to see the failures of Fantasyland. And if some of  those solutions we progressives so believe in don’t work, we can change because we are wedded to science, data, and facts, not ideology. That is the key.

So the grand vision of our next Democratic Party, if they are to survive, is simple:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and a level playing field  — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, …**”  Hillary would buy into that in a minute, but not understand the fundamental changes in our economic system that has to take place because she is perceived as too wedded to the old power structures.  Then again maybe she would, but the time is past for Hillary and this is what the New Democrats have to bring to the table.

*One of the things that helps innovation and social mobility is a strong safety net.  Our European friends have shown us that with a strong safety net, people are more willing to take chances, create businesses, and innovate.  Too bad we can’t learn from them.

**Mustn’t forget that second part about “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  Market places and competition do not secure a level playing field.  In fact they do their best as they accumulate power to do the opposite.  Government secures that level playing field.  Yes that big bad government is our salvation if we want real freedom and equality.

*** Racism wants to reserve a special place for themselves with special solutions.  That may be somewhat true when considering systemic racism in our institutions (policing), but if you believe that money is power, then leveling the playing field should also give them power. Leveling the playing filed is really an approach to all, racism, economic, social, or class.



Our Brains Are Being Fried

Have you noticed that if you listen to the daily news on the cable shows, they keep trying to justify what Cheeto-Head does as somehow crafty or intentional to keep everyone off balance.  Then you watch (if you watch MSNBC) Rachel, Lawrence, or Joy take it apart and show it for what it is, irrational floundering.  The latest is that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is being taking to task for not staying on message with the State Department, meanwhile Cheeto-Head threatens war on the Korean Peninsula.  Say what?  And the media legitimizes this by saying no one really believes his bluster anymore so it is okay.  Really?

Today he said he found the presidency surprisingly hard.  Again, really?  He wanted to be king or maybe James T. Kirk (although Kirk had way more humanity than Cheeto-Head) saying, “Make it so Scotty.”  The wall has to be built —sometime.  NAFTA must be repealed and now it just needs to be renegotiated (that could be good or bad).  China is a currency manipulator and now no they are not.  Now with all this back tracking, would you think his followers would be upset?  Nope.

Republicans claim they are going to reform healthcare to make it more affordable and keep the good stuff, and then they propose marketplace solutions that basically guts required coverage, and will raise rates for those who need it most, not mention the 20 or so million who will lose health care altogether.  Then Cheeto-Head promises tax reform and then floats a 1-page plan that is basically a massive tax cut for the wealthy.  Would you now think his followers would be upset? Nope.

So the first thing you can say is that his followers brains already are fried*.  Oh, he is down today in Atlanta talking to the NRA.  Yep, we need more guns and a federal concealed carry law that will let some nut job from a red state carry into your state.  He needs their cheers and applause while he legitimizes killing thousands each year.  But much of our press and pundits have fried brains also.  They keep allowing people who try to rationalize what is going on talk as though they are making sense, and when he does even modestly normal things, they say he is learning the job.  The fact that he governs on the basis of fake news and ignorance is just normal now, hence our own brains are being fried.

What scares me the most is that we were moving toward a global society.  The European Union was the model, with an excellent safety net and the freedom to move beyond borders for jobs, culture, and change.  It had its problems, especially in the Euro.  But our diversity was considered a strength instead of a threat.  And tolerance was a virtue.  “The world is going America’s way,” Fareed Zakaria wrote in 2008. “Countries are becoming more open, market friendly and democratic.”  What I think happened was economic inequality that created a whole class that did not see any of the benefits and were ripe for withdrawing into themselves. The elites in both parties were benefiting and the many only saw stagnation. As R.R. Reno wrote today in a gigantic attempt to legitimize Cheeto-Head which is basically change terrifies us and we must withdraw:

Most commentators struggle to explain Mr. Trump’s electoral success, because they assume he has no coherent political philosophy.  This is myopic [or insightful].  As a public figure, Mr. Trump has articulated a consistent message that speaks to a fundamental political challenge facing the 21st-century West:  We must affirm nationalism and fight globalism.

Read nationalism as intolerance.  R.R. Reno is trying to legitimize Cheeto-Head as the new Republican instead of the demagogue he is.  The responses (comments) to this nonsense were priceless. But he and another writer today, Pankaj Mishra both pointed out something Democrats should be aware of in their failure this election. Pankaj called it:

Extravagant promises by ruling elites, and their unexamined assumptions, are at least partly to blame for this moral breakdown in the world’s most powerful country. In 2011, for instance, Mr. Obama had claimed, “We are perfectly poised to make the 21st century again the American Century.” But such onward-and-upward narratives seemed to mock the suffering, despair and frustration exposed in different ways by Black Lives Matter or the white Rust-Belt proletariat. Mr. Obama, who recently accepted a very lucrative speaking engagement on Wall Street, now looks like just one of the fortunate members of historically depressed minorities who mistake their own upward mobility for collective advance.

R.R. Reno called it thusly: “Globalism poses a threat to the future of democracy because it disenfranchises the vast majority and empowers a technocratic elite.”  Reno and Mishra called out the elite that I would call the establishment that has not recognized the real problem, economic inequality and are too tied to the status quo. Reno actually thinks Cheeto-Head represents the future of the Republican Party in recognizing the need to withdraw as an answer to stagnation caused by all the benefits going to a few.  I think he is full of shit. But they both nailed that the elites who did run our country were totally out of touch with the real malaise in the country that was not getting better.

Cheeto-Head just became the person who could manipulate badly misinformed and ignorant people.  I do not sympathize with middle America as many journalists want us to by “understanding their plight”.  Their choice was moronic.  I strongly recommend that you read these two editorials and especially the comments.  My recommendation is to select the reader choices on the comments.  I will leave you with two that deal Reno’s op-ed and with Cheeto-Head’s voters.  Reno’s Op-Ed:

Stop justifying Trump. Please stop. Also please stop justifying xenophobic response to your fears of being left behind in a progressive world. “Patriotic Solidarity” is one of the dumbest euphemisms for nationalism. Tell me one period of history where nationalism ended well vs global openness.

You can’t because it doesn’t.  The world is constantly changing – Buckley (unintellectual hack- if you cut through his affected manner and vocabulary you get vapid thoughts) and conservatives can’t deal with change- it frightens you.

“Why can’t we keep doing the same thing instead of being bothered by the fight for equal rights by women, people of color, gays, and foreigners?”

Suck it up and realize your ideas are being left behind – sorry, it’s called progress – it’s what created vaccines, airplanes, and the iPhone. Every time you benefit from technology realize conservative thought would have never imagined changing from the squalid state humanity has been in for most of history.

On Trump voters (he nailed it):

“John Q. Public is not stupid.” As a gross generalization, this is probably correct. But the quintessential Trump voter – the beaten-down, marginalized, fatalistic, repeatedly-conned, non-urban, usually white, working class voter – is frequently incurious, gullible, defiantly ignorant, or under-informed (or two or more of the foregoing). This tends to produce the same results — in terms of who gets elected and the poor quality of resulting public policy — as actual “stupidity.” Am I an “elitist” for pointing this out? I suppose that I am.

Yeah, me too, but nobody has fried my brain yet.

Democrats, Tyranny, and Keystone Cops

First on Democrats.  No this has nothing to do with tyranny.  Democrats could never achieve the level of coordination and cooperation to bring about tyranny.  That would be Republicans.  No, Democrats are having a hard time deciding who they are and what they should stand for.  The latest is that they should concentrate on economics and be more flexible on cultural issues.  Now I have weighed in on what that economic stand should be, Progressives policies that recognize that economic inequality is the real issue that is a threat to our Constitution and democracy.

So should Democrats win back the white middle class by going soft on cultural issues?  By cultural issues I am speaking of abortion, gay and lesbian rights, transgender rights, religion in politics, immigration reform, and Black Lives Matters.  The argument is once again to move right except on economics.  Lets be Republican Lite on cultural issues while middle America catches up, and progressive on economic issues.  And of course we have the Howard Dean wing of the party who wants to be Republican Lite on economics.

On cultural issues, the intolerance is born out of ignorance and religion.  Most culturally conservative views ignore science and depend upon religious intolerance.  Let’s just take a woman’s right to choose.  Here is a very good argument that economic equality depends on a woman’s right to choose. Note that most arguments from right and the misinformed are really about their right to discriminate or legislate their religious values on the rest of us (women, gays, lesbians, transgenders).  Now here is the critical difference.  Republicans and conservatives want to limit you choices.  Democrats want your options open.

In a woman’s right to choose, Democrats simply say you have the right to believe what want and treat your body accordingly.  You can have that abortion or not.  Republicans and conservatives want a law that says they will make that decision for you.  Democrats should be lite on that?  The same argument can be applied to gays, lesbians, and transexuals.  We should be lite on their rights as Americans and human beings because someone’s religion doesn’t like it?

Let’s look at global warming and coal.  We have Democrats from coal states who resist attempts to rein in global warming.  Should we have big tent and just say there are differing opinions about global warming?  Sounds like we are becoming science challenged Republicans.  How about immigration.  I think on this one there is room to compromise if the compromise is based upon reality.  Obviously a wall is an abomination.

If we want to solve the Muslim extremist policy, we need to resettle Muslims who are looking for a better life, not force them into war zones.  If we want labor that most Americans won’t do, we need a border policy that allows easy flow of labor back and forth and allows people more economic freedom.  How we get there could be debated, but those are the facts.  Democrats should not tolerate the hate all brown people the underlies Cheeto-Head’s immigration policy.

So, the bottom line is that being a Progressive on economics makes you a progressive on all the other cultural issues.  It is about personal freedom, and not the one that Republicans demand, the personal freedom to discriminate.  So no, it is time that Democrats finally become a party that stands for the 21st century values and not be pulled back into the 19th century where Republicans and most middle American seem to reside.

Okay, second item is basically the Keystone Cop drama we are watching in the White House and Congress.  Would you be ashamed to come up with a tax plan on one sheet of paper?  Would you bring out Voodoo economics again, and totally junk offsets?  The balanced budget party doesn’t care about the deficit anymore (unless you believe the magic asterisks about dynamic scoring)?  Oh, and they have a health care reform bill?  One that if it gets the necessary votes in the House, will never get by the Senate? If it is not revenue neutral it is subject to the filibuster. Then there is the whole Senate going to the White House for a security briefing on North Korea which was nothing more than a photo op.  Who is in charge?  Oh, I think we know.

Meanwhile Cheeto-Head is outraged about the Ninth Circuit Court which has upheld the Constitution once again on his sanctuary city Executive Order to deny them the funds they deserve.  So he is going to break them up.  Where have we heard this before?  Was it Venezuela or some banana republic as the first step to tyranny?  Consolidating executive power and defanging the judiciary should scare everyone.  The Ninth could be wrong, but there is a whole judicial system to sort this out.  The man has no idea how government works.

So here we are, the Democrats having a hard time figuring out who they are and maybe falling back on old pandering politics instead of finding a way forward based upon a vision of who we should be.  Meanwhile the White House and Republicans are running amok.  Cheeto-Head keeps pinging off the walls and changing his mind, while hating anyone who disagrees with him.  House Republicans are living in La La Land, raping health care and so divided they will never get there.  As Talking Head’s David Byrne once sang, “How did I get here?”


The Way Forward

The DNC has picked Tom Perez over Keith Ellison to lead the DNC to rebuild.  Tom did a really smart thing by acclaiming Keith Vice-Chairman.  I am not really sure how I feel about that yet.  Keith was the candidate of Bernie and Tom was the candidate of Barack.  Maybe some Democrats will have a temper tantrum like they did when Bernie got beat.  But I don’t think the issue is Democrats, it is all those who want change and rejected the Establishment of either party whether Democrats or Independents.  

I hear language like we have to fight a 50 state strategy and engage in every state.  We need to get out their and listen to everyone and show that the Democratic Party represents them.  What I don’t hear yet is a grand strategy, a vision of what we stand for, a vision that presents a very different vision than Republicans.  I know what that is, but I am not sure they do yet.  That is why I wrote the series The Real Fight.  I am an intellectual guy (I am not claiming to be smart, but I think about things), but the key here is to understand where we as Democrats went wrong (Listen Liberal), how we failed Progressivism, and to provide the logical foundation for rejecting Republicans and their economics (Economism).  Oh, and along the way I tried to show how the Republicans created a Fifth Freedom* (separate from FDR’s Four Freedoms), freedom of the market place which is in conflict with the other four freedoms except for the very wealthy.

Thomas Frank took us on a journey in Listen Liberal to explain how we lost the New Deal and the economics we used to believe in.  This is important because to rebuild the Democratic Party you have to really understand why it is not appealing to more people.  To make a long story short, Listen Liberal, showed how we bought into Economism and became Republican Lite, all the while the market place is failing millions of Americans and economic inequality grows by leaps and bounds.  

In Economism, James Kwak basically explained why our view of what is possible is now controlled by an underpinning of conservative economic theory that makes government the problem and free markets the solution.  Then he lays out why that does not work and gives us the ammunition we need to push back. It turns out that the Fifth Freedom is a self serving belief that allows economic inequality to grow exponentially.  Democrats going forward are going to have to connect with white working class millennials and get people back to the polls.  They have to have a vision (Progressive) and the arguments to show how that is their only path to control the Fifth Freedom (freedom of the market place) and put a dent in economic inequality.  

I just hope Perez and Ellison have read this stuff, and have a plan to turn it into an approach to give Democrats the arguments to win our future.  Frank and Kwak have done an amazing job of allowing us to put this into a logical construct to begin to dismantle Republican Economism so we can move the country forward.  Most Americans are not cerebral.  Logical arguments are not going to win the day, but as Hillary found out, without a overarching narrative, policies don’t make Progressivism.  Relating to people and making them understand that we have a a vision they can share is the key.  And now we understand where we went wrong, and how to fight.  Let’s get at it.

*The Fifth Freedom concept came from a lecture by Professor Jeffery Engel from SMU.

A Morning Perusal

Well the first day of insanity is over.  Did you watch it?  Me neither, although I did channel surf through it a couple of times.  So what do we know.  First there is the platform, probably the biggest attempt at regression this country has ever seen:

Mr. Trump’s anti-Muslim phobia and fantasy wall across the Mexican border are front and center, along with his protectionist views, which deny long-held positions of the party. No less alarming is a raft of planks that ideologues pushed through to banish any notion of moderation and present-day reality from the party’s credo.

This majority has triumphed in securing retrograde positions that include making no exceptions for rape or women’s health in cases of abortion; requiring the Bible to be taught in public high schools; selling coal as a “clean” energy source; demanding a return of federal lands to the states; insisting that legislators use religion as a guide in lawmaking; appointing “family values” judges; barring female soldiers from combat; and rejecting the need for stronger gun controls — despite the mass shootings afflicting the nation every week.

The platform also makes homophobia and the denial of basic civil rights to gays, lesbians and transgender people a centerpiece. It repudiates same-sex marriage, despite strong support for this constitutional right in the nation at large. The party invokes “natural marriage” and states’ rights for determining which bathrooms transgender people may use, and it defends merchants who would deny service to gay customers.

Then there was the attempt to release delegates from their pledged votes, quashed in a way that could further cause dissent within the Party.  Next was Melania Trump’s speech that according to some sources was lifted from Michelle Obama in 2008.  What was the significance of the white dress?  Purity? Oh well.  Then there was the Op-Ed this morning by David Brooks basically saying the Donald is unhinged and we could elect an unhinged President.  Like that was a surprise?  Welcome to the party David.

As I would pass through the convention on my way to a baseball game (A’s won!), I would see the talking heads interviewing basically fat old white men about how wonderful everything is going.  Do they ever get tired of being the front people for the spinners.  I saw little real critical analysis maybe except on MSNBC very late in the evening when they had one (yes only one) Democrat on to point out all the hypocrisy and fluff.  Was there any discussion or fact checking going on?  Only in print journalism which only old guys like me read.

So on day one, if you step back and take in the big picture, here is what I see:  A Party not much different that the Taliban or ISIS except they haven’t blown anything up yet except the Constitution.  Basically they have gone beyond just believing their economic ideas about the market place solving all problems as a religion.

They have brought in real religion to use government to make others follow their ideas, whether it is discrimination toward gays/transgender or women’s right to choose.  They will use religious test to see who gets into the country and by extension to make a religious test for citizenship.  Let’s not forget everybody be afraid, the world is coming to an end and only the Donald can save it with “law and order”. Oh, and their leader, the Donald,  a narcissist who gets more vindictive by the day, and seems to have less and less control over himself as his defense mechanisms kick in when reality is pointed out to him.  Basically it is a Party about tearing down everything the Founders built.

And the News Media happy reports none of this as they pretend all this is normal and people just have different opinions.  Yep, we are going over the cliff and this was only day one.  What oh what will we get today that everyone will pretend is normal political dialogue?  I think I will go lose golf balls at the golf course.

Conservatism is the Problem

I have argued that conservatism has morphed into a faith-based belief that cannot be rationally addressed.  We like to think about conservatism as pre-Newt Gingrich when conservatism was about moderation and protection against revolutionary changes that could have unintended consequence.  That conservatism does not exist any more.  Conservatism morphed into a rigid philosophy (flow down, all government is bad, cut taxes) that in fact is now being rejected by the Republican base because it has not worked for them.  But, this morning I wanted to maybe give you some of this from other voices or an example of the level of denial the Republican Establishment is in.

First Fareed Zakaria, who is appalled watching Donald Trump rise to the top of a very bad Republican ticket and knowing the parallels with Europe and Fascism, wrote this (Where were Republican Moderates 20 Years Ago):

Here is a much simpler explanation for Donald Trump: Republicans have fed the country ideas about decline, betrayal and treason. They have encouraged the forces of anti-intellectualism, obstructionism and populism. They have flirted with bigotry and racism. Trump merely chose to unashamedly embrace all of it, saying plainly what they were hinting at for years. In doing so, he hit a jackpot.

The problem is not that Republican leaders should have begun to condemn Trump last year. It is that they should have condemned the ideas and tactics that led to his rise when they began to flourish 20 years ago.

I would argue that ideology as a faith drove them to it.  Winning became paramount because the other side is just plain wrong (infallible faith) and the ends justify the means.  In effect they jettisoned what the Constitution is based upon, rational argument, debate, and compromise.  All that was important was winning because they have the only right answer.  Jihad anyone?

But it gets richer.  After Fareed opined this, he had two guests on to discuss this, a conservative, a Wall Street Journal columnist, Bret Stephens, and Paul Krugman*.  It was painful to watch because Mr. Stephens interrupted and controlled the conversation.  See the problem from Mr. Stephen’s point of view is Obama’s lack luster economic performance giving rise to populism, and that Trump does not represent real conservatism. And of course Not acknowledging their own guilt in pushing candidates or looking the other way when these kinds of racist (birther anyone?) attacks were made by their favored conservatives (Remember even Mitt went for the birther vote).

Now what is funny about this is that it tells you everything you need to know about conservatives.  They are in denial and in a defensive crouch.  First, no acceptance of how Bush crashed the economy, or that conservatives have blocked everything the President has tried to do to stimulate it.  In fact this is all Obama’s fault.  Do we see a theme here?  But the best is yet to come.

“Trump is not a real conservative.”  Of course he is not because for most of the base conservatism has failed to help them.  We have the largest economic inequality in the history of the nation and this is primarily due to conservative economic ideas in action. The base understands that real conservatives are into flow down (supply side economics), small government, less regulation, which helps corporations and the rich, but not them.  So while they still buy into the racism and blame they have been fed (“anti-intellectualism, obstructionism and populism”), they want someone who is free from establishment conservatism if it helps them.

Conservatism is crumbling because it does not work for the average American.  The Republican party is in chaos because they cannot come to grips with this failure or adjust their ideology to take in reality.  But to stay in power they have created a base who has rejected reality and embraced racism, xenophobia, and hatred of government to distract them from rational thought.  Now that base is rejecting them because conservatism hasn’t worked for them and this releases a very powerful, irrational, and negative force in American Democracy.  Yet they are in denial about it all.  But not to worry.  If Trump doesn’t win the nomination, they have Ted Cruz the other “true” conservative.  Just amazing.

*Fareed kept Paul on to talk about what to do to get the economy going and it is basically what we all know.  Austerity does not work, we need to be spending now on public works and creating demand in our economy.  All things these conservatives would fight and even the Donald is for.  Interesting isn’t it?

One More Thing This Morning – Form over Substance

It is amazing to me how our media, and just about everyone gets distracted by the glitz and misses the substance of what is going on.  I remember early in the McCain presidential election when MSNBC’s Chris Mathews was gushing over Sarah Palin before the reality that she was an air head sunk in.  Captured by the glitz.  John Boehner, who everybody likes (form), was a raving conservative whose tactics were just less offensive than the Tea Party caucus.  Right now the form over substance exhibit A in Presidential politics is Carly Fiorina.

She has been coronated the winner of the debate and the answer to the Republican’s woman issue.  That selection is because she is a slick salesperson who came on strong with confidence and detailed criticisms unlike most of the other debaters.  The problem with that assessment is that most of what she put forward was inaccurate from the wiggling baby on the harvest table to her record as CEO of HP.  And while she is a tough talking woman, she would take away their right to choose, equal pay for equal work, and defund Planned Parenthood based upon a lie.

After every debate it is a beauty contest, who looked strong, who was aggressive, who delivered the best zinger, with absolutely little or no examination of who lied or misrepresented the facts the most,  You have to go find that yourself on the web.  If it is glaring and enough people raise the issue, then our press might careful couch their repeating of the falsehoods in some lame “questionable” veracity statement.  They fear that directly confronting a lie is somehow biased.  It is why it pays for politicians to just blatantly lie.  If they do it aggressively and forcefully enough, well it must be believable.  It would seem that our talking heads in the press are either fact challenged or fearful of offending, but either one does all of us a great disservice. No we don’t have to all get along if it means ignoring blatant lies.

I have always felt bad for Paul Krugman in this form over substance world.  Paul is not a forceful speaker.  He is right about most things and he has the substance (evidence) to prove it.  But his presentation lets others walk over him and we lose his important insights because most of us are into the form, not the substance.  But back to Carly, Steven Rattner has an op-ed in the New York Times pointing out the facts of her alleged successes as a CEO:

Investors were so down on her that H.P.’s shares jumped by almost 7 percent on the day of her firing. And in ensuing years, she appeared on several “worst C.E.O.” lists, including those of CBS News and USA Today.

In 2009, Portfolio magazine ranked her the 19th worst C.E.O. of all time and described her as a “consummate self-promoter” who was “busy pontificating on the lecture circuit and posing for magazine covers while her company floundered.” (That sounds like good preparation for running for president.)

I wonder why the press doesn’t read this stuff and challenge her on it instead of the ever polite banter that tells us nothing.  It is the new fair and balanced.


Really? Vote Republican?

Okay, your old, white, ignorant, or evangelical.  I get that.  I get that you have not figured out that gays are people just like you. I get that things like global warming are scary. I get that people who act differently (we call that diversity) are threatening.  I get that there are even some of you that think the United States government is about implementing your idea of religion on earth.  For that bunch, there is no hope.  But that is a small percentage of voters.  What about the rest of you?

Really, I am asking what is it the Republicans are offering you in the way of policy?  The Donald is giving you, ‘I am smart, I will fix it’.  And because he is wealthy and a purported successful business man, well, the gullible think that shows he can.  Try to remember he started out wealthy and there are lots of train wrecks in his “path to success” as well as bodies strewn along the way.  So it does beg the question how are you going to fix it?  For that matter what about the other Republican candidates?  What are they telling us they will do?

The upcoming debate tonight is truly a distraction from that question.  The press is hoping they will attack each other for entertainment value.  I wish someone would just ask what they are offering that is not retread policy from before.  So let’s get at it and see what they are telling us:

Immigration will be first up because the Donald has said we will build a wall (neither practical or feasible) and deport all illegals (neither practical or feasible).  The first question you might want to ask is why is immigration a problem?  It is not of course in the sense that illegals pose any kind of a threat.  The real problem is the shadow working environment, and that we actually need more workers for jobs Americans are unwilling to do.  Having said that what do they offer? Well they basically want to do what Donald wants, maybe let some stay, but no path to citizenship.  It doesn’t solve the problem and tries to maintain immigrants as the boggy man.  They had a plan the Senate approved and the crazies in the House killed it.  And that is where they are standing now, pandering to the crazies.

Obamacare is their collective hatred and I cannot figure out based on what since the facts are it insured an additional 8.8 million, lowered healthcare costs, and made sure you are not subject to junk plans (the healthy loved them until they got sick).  Sure it has problems and if it were me, I would junk it and offer Medicare to everyone.  But that is heresy to the free market crowd who can’t seem to learn from the rest of the world.  But here is the really critical thing about their hatred.  They have no viable alternative.  It’s not there.  They have no ideas.

Global Warming may not be mentioned at the debate, but it is one of the most critical issues we face.  Republicans have a real problem here because the solution involves big government so the only response they have is to either ignore it completely, it does not exist, or say it exists but we can do nothing.  Either stance is irrational.  The science is now undeniable, and to say we can do nothing about rising sea levels, drought, and extreme storms is to say civil engineering does not exist.

On social issues, they are scary.  First a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman?  Well not all of them, but most.  Some don’t care, but they can’t afford not to condemn it because they have to play to their white evangelical base.  Meanwhile the nation has moved way beyond them.  Abortion, they are all against it and would outlaw it if they could.  The policies range from taking away a women’s right to choose all the way to denying contraception.  Once again, why would an intelligent woman vote for the these misogynist.  Oh, and speaking of woman hating, no equal pay for equal work and no minimum wage.

Religion in government is truly scary, where they are all standing on the religious freedom train which is nothing more than disguised government sanctioned discrimination and allowing government to establish a religion, evangelism as the religion of our nation.  The other scary part of this is their faith-based thinking that bleeds into government policy.  Why do we want to deny the lessons of the Enlightenment and begin again religious wars in government?  Yeah, please vote for these candidates who wear their religion on their sleeves.

Foreign Affairs is a mixed bag but they all hate the Iran Nuclear deal.  Their alternatives are based upon fantasy, which includes upping the sanctions which everyone knows won’t happen because our other partners are done and moving on.  So they want to rush to war is the only other explanation.  I can only assume they are all locked into the evil empire analogy and any way to try to solve this peaceably is moot.  In Syria and Iraq we have the spectrum from nothing to invade now.  The reality is nobody has a good answer and most would probably do what Obama is doing when it comes to committing troops (except Lindsey Graham).  Most are against the Cuba initiatives and really want to return us to the cold war (Putin).  Some of their thoughts on China border on lunacy.  It is a world economy and we are now all connected, get over it.

On Economics, they are truly scary.  It is trickle down economics and be afraid of the debt.  This is where we have been and it has done real damage to our economy.  So we will do more of the same, cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy and waiting for the trickle down that does not work. Oh, and let’s unregulated the banks again. Since they are all pledged (except Donald) to no new taxes, we can’t afford to invest in our future (along with panic-stricken about increasing debt).  So how are they going to create jobs and deal with economic inequality?  Cut taxes, reduce the size of government, and repeal regulations.  How has that worked so far?  The market place that crashed our economy in 2008, will save us, right?  Oh wait, big government saved them.

I am sure there are more critical issues (paying for college anyone?), but in each case they have no ideas.  That is why the Donald is leading right now.  No ideas gives them hope he really can change things since the rest of them are waving the same old flags that have gotten them nowhere.  Note that a couple of the Donald’s ideas, taxing the wealthy and taking money out of politics is playing well with his supporters which do not play well with all rest’s supporters.  Meanwhile Democrats from Bernie who really sees the systemic problems in our economy that ensure growing economic inequality, to Hillary who wants at least some of this stuff are offering real change.

So why again are you voting Republican? Have you liked the last 40 years and want to do the same things all over again.  Will the result be different?  Will the other side now compromise?  Oh get real.




How Conservatives Think

Well I am always trying to figure out how conservatives think and I am stuck with my general population for examples here in El Dorado County.  But here is a conversation I had that might give some insight into many of them, expecially seeing that the Donald is holding strong in Republican support in the polls after the debate.

A friend of mine was explaining to me that he was an economic conservative but wished the party would ignore that social stuff.  Now, I could have a field day with that one, but it would be wasted breath.  But what was important was that his belief system came from his life experiences, not an intellectual examination of his assumptions.  This is important and I will get to it in a minute.  He views the economy and what are prudent decisions based upon the decisions he must make to run his business.  That would be microeconomics.  Trying to explain that macroeconomics does not work that way would be wasted breath.

Let me give you an example.  He is worried about the debt.  So how big is our debt (I did not confront him on this because he is my friend)?  The answer I would have got was xx trillion dollars.  I would say what does that mean.  He would say really big and out of control.  I would tell him the number is meaningless unless we know what percent of our income it represents.  Take most of us and figure in your home mortgage, car mortgage, and maybe student loans and that number is probably 2-4 times our yearly income (or more).  So let’s say 300% of our income. Our national debt is less than 100% of GDP so what is the issue? Interest rates are at all time lows and inflation is almost nonexistant.

He would probably say, well wait a minute, most of those debts are secured on the value of property so it really isn’t 300% of income.  And I would say, does not the United States have assets?  Oh, and I could say we can increase the money supply anytime we want but that would blow his mind so I just would leave that out.  I would also point out that for him to retire, he has to be on a schedule to reduce these debts because his income is going to decrease, but a country goes on forever and our income (so far) continues to grow. Okay he would change the subject.  I would also bet that he has no idea that our deficit (as distinct from our debt) has been coming down at a record pace.  That is not focused on in his favored news source (if you are worried about the debt) because it does not stir up paranoia.

But he is an economic conservative and he is mad at his party because of all that social stuff.  He said he doesn’t care about it.  Now that is an interesting point of view.  I care about a woman’s right to choose, equal rights for all our citizens, and general fairness in government.  My guess is that none of these things touch his life so he doesn’t care.  Are you getting a trend here.  A conservative is part and parcel of his experiences and nothing else.  Some of us call that a lack of empathy.  If he experienced an injustice he would be concerned, but since the injustice he perceives is government interference with his business, well government is the problem.

Okay finally I said, we can solve the immigration problem, you and I, on a napkin.  His concern there is his workforce.  I finally pointed out that the problem was the radical right in his party, what I heard was the both sides do it bull shit.  So I pointed out that “both sides” in the Senate had in fact come up with a bill he could live with (stringent path to citizenship, and border security) and although it would pass in the House if voted on, it was not brought to the floor because the radical right objected to a path to citizenship, any path.  I don’t think he knew that.  And that is the really scary part.  If you get you news from Fox News and you take it on face value because they are reporting what you want to believe, well…  And tomorrow the whole conversation will have been forgotten.

So another day in conservative land where you are not sure whether to get out a blackboard, or just drink your wine and shut up because they are going to go back to their echo chamber and not have to really examine what their beliefs have wrought.

As It Ever Was

I had a nightmare last night that I heard Marco Rubio tell us we need to get tough on defense, reject the Iran Nuclear Treaty, and we live in a new age of economics where Dodd Frank has to go.  Then I woke up and realized that is exactly what he said.  2000 here we come again and the Republicans learned nothing from George Bush and are bound and determined to repeat those errors.

I will say this though.  Fox News did show us that the emperors had no clothes.  Interesting if not scarry that none of these people could run our country and make things better, except for maybe Kasich, and he does not have enough red meat throwing capabilities to get past the primaries. It is going to be a really long year till the election.