Posts tagged ‘lack of leadership’

The Great Leader is a Bust

From the NYT:

President Trump lashed out at the mayor of San Juan on Saturday for criticizing his administration’s efforts to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, accusing her of “poor leadership” and implying that the island, which lacks electricity and has limited cellphone service, water and fuel, was not doing enough to help itself.

In a series of early-morning messages on Twitter from his New Jersey golf club, where he is spending the weekend, Mr. Trump dismissed the statements by the capital’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, as political and asserted that his administration had organized a response by federal workers who are “doing a fantastic job.”

The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017

…Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017

Mr. Trump said his critics in Puerto Rico should not depend entirely on the federal government. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” he wrote. “10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job. The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed.”

He does not seem to understand the difference between an island and say Houston. Well, he did say big water around it, really big water. And as he and his colleagues did their best to not help the island when the banks and corporations were raping them, now they blame them for their plight. The mayor of San Juan just got tired of kissing ass and nothing happened. Even the General deployed down there has said he does not have the resources.  But the DIC blames Puerto Ricans.  I wonder if they are brown makes a difference?

Yesterday I blogged what should have happened day one after Maria. He sat on his ass and did not pay attention. And as always there is no truth to power (everyone is covering their asses) so everything is working out fine. “Your doing a great job Brownie.” Now when people are desperate, he blames them instead of solving the problem.

Oh, and it is really rich that he is doing this from his New Jersey golf club. I hope he got two scopes of ice cream on his desserts. The man has no idea how to manage and he does not give a flying fuck about the little people. As a leader, you solve the problems first, then later look to see what went wrong. This was a ticking time bomb and it finally went off. He has no idea how to keep his eye on the ball, or which ball is the one he should be watching. Can’t wait to see how he is going to handle North Korea.

This really, really smart man is a dotard. Kim Jong-un got that dead on. Maybe all the folks in Puerto Rico need to take a knee next time they play the national anthem. Maybe then they would get some attention.

Oh and one other thought.  Maybe it is time to give those folks in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands the vote.  Then we might not get an idiot for President.  Just how dispicable can he get before Republicans quite legitimizing him?

What Do I Think They Are All Missing?

Two things, really:  Global Warming is a national emergency on a global scale; and the economy doesn’t work the way the majority of people assume it works any more (economic inequality is the result).  That is it in a nutshell.

On the first one, to say that is described by many as “alarmist,” but it isn’t.  We are facing a climate and ecological disaster that will have far-reaching impacts both on our economy and on foreign relations.  The models that are predicting it keep having to be updated as the trends accelerate faster than the models predicted.  The data is now overwhelming, but its threat is not at “the gate” (Barbarians at the gate) yet so we have a whole segment of our society that denies it.  They have to because they don’t think government should do big stuff, and this threat requires really big stuff.

Second, and what most partisanship is about, is how the economy works.  We have had this model that says if businesses thrive, all of us do.  So far so good.  Now we get into the great divide.  Basically the majority of Americans are fiscally conservative, that governments should do little (little spending) and with less regulation and low taxes businesses will in fact thrive.  There were environments where that worked, but it depends on one other important factor, demand.  After WWII, we had pent-up demand, income and savings to support it, and an economy ready to transition from a war machine to a domestic machine.  We invested (G.I. Bill) in education and we took off.

The trouble is we don’t live in that world anymore. We don’t have pent-up demand in the form of disposable cash to support spending.  We live in a world where jobs are being offshored that decreases domestic income and spending power.  And finally, more and more of what we do earn stays with the very rich (economic inequality).  Is that the fault of the world economy?  Maybe partially, but it is reality and you can’t shut it out.

So as domestic consumption, especially in the middle class, stagnates, investment moves overseas to wherever markets exist, and competition for competing goods drives labor markets also overseas to find the lowest labor costs.  Couple all that with the failure of government to invest in our own infrastructure and people (cutting government spending), has created an economy that doesn’t operate any longer by normal rules.

We have built an economic system through rules, regulations, trade agreements, copy rights and intellectual property laws, lack of support for unions, and a stagnating minimum wage that favor wealth accumulation for the few assuming it will flow down, and it does not.  So domestic demand has shriveled.  Now come our economic assumptions:  If we just lower the interest rate, business will borrow and invest, jobs will be created, and we will all thrive.

Except it hasn’t worked.  Interest rates are at record lows and businesses are not making the projected investments.  They are already cash rich, but they don’t see the demand, at least domestically, to support expanding.  It isn’t about confidence, government regulation, or low taxes, it is about whether there is sufficient pent-up demand (and spending to support it) to expand.  Their answer: No.

So the next thing the Fed did was “print” money.  They created additional money supply to buy back some of their loans.  Conservatives told us the interest rate would go out of sight.  It did not.  So we have very low interest rates, more money put into the system, no inflation, no soaring interest rates, and the economy remains sluggish.  Say what?  The Fed wants to raise interest rates because they feel the unemployment rate now supports it and they want to head off inflation.  What inflation?

Inflation happens when too many people are trying to buy not enough things and prices rise. Or there is not enough labor for jobs and wages rise. Neither has happened. In fact a little inflation would help us because it would force businesses to quit hanging on to cash and invest it.  Bottom line, the economy is not working they way we assume anymore but we keep doing the same counter productive things assuming it is.

The good news is that both of our critical issues , global warming and the economy (economic inequality), can be solved by the one thing we absolutely refuse to do:  Spend to create demand.  Long story short, we invest massively in infrastructure upgrades including necessary mitigation measures for global warming effects, and in R&D to transfer us off of carbon based fuels.  Combined with that we revise tax codes, regulations and all the stuff listed above to make sure that there is a fair sharing of GDP increases.

We incentivize investments in production and new facilities and de-incentivize investments in financial instruments.  This then provides good jobs that increases domestic demand and the multiplication factor throughout the economy has been estimated at about 1.5.  For every dollar the government spends you get about $1.5 in economic activity. Note that it works in reverse.  For every $1 cut from federal spending, you lose about $1.5 in economic activity.

Where does the money come from? We borrow it because interest rates are so low that when you factor in what inflation there is, it is free money.  Won’t that balloon our debt and then we are in big trouble right?  Define trouble.  We have been scared shitless by debt rhetoric that has no basis in reality.  Debt becomes a problem when no one will loan to us and interest rates rise.  But we can print money to pay it off or invest it directly.  Then inflation might occur and our dollar would be worth less, right?  Well a little inflation would also be good for exports and they make our goods cheaper while making foreign ones more expensive.  So buy domestic.  The reality is we have seen neither effect in this new economy and until we do, we are shooting ourselves in the foot heading off a phantom problem.

If our economy takes off as many of us think it will, this will increase tax revenues and decrease the impact of deficit spending.  And it not just spending, it is spending for stuff we need for the future.  In good times, the return on investment could just help pay down that debt.

Now the Conventional Wisdom from most corporations and Wall Street is all this is bad because their whole structure is based upon the world economy that makes them rich while making the rest of us poorer.  That is where the money comes from that flows into Washington.  That is what drives conservatism and moderate Democrats to hang on to that fiscally conservative thing.  But in the new world order, it is a losing game for most of us and that is what our current crop of politicians don’t get or don’t care to get.

If we don’t get a handle of economic inequality and we don’t invest in fighting global warming, our deteriorating infrastructure, and our people, it will soon become the world of corporations and the workers.  But that won’t work either because sooner or later they have to realize that if people are working at slave wages, who has the income to buy their stuff?  And while all that is going on, global warming will impact rain, available water, coastal regions, and start whole new international competition (read wars and conflicts) for the “high ground”.

It is just a no duh moment and right now we have one candidate who denies that whole reality, and another who thinks she can inspire with incremental fights at the margins.  That is what they don’t get. In this case, Chicken Little is right.  The sky is falling.

The Idiots We Call Our Leaders

“‘I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa,” the nurse, Kaci Hickox, wrote in an essay on the website of The Dallas Morning News, in collaboration with a friend who works for the paper. “I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear, and most frightening, quarantine.’

Ms. Hickox, 33, was placed in quarantine under a new policy announced on Friday by the governors of New York and New Jersey. All people entering the United States through Newark Liberty and Kennedy Airports will now be quarantined for 21 days if they had direct contact with Ebola patients in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, even if they show no symptoms of infection.”

Apparently Illinois has followed suit. It is the most counterproductive thing they could do, encouraging people to lie, further discourage anyone from helping in Africa, and pandering to the terrified rabble that is their electorate. Instead of leading, showing that the sacrifice of this woman and other care givers is greatly appreciated and respected, we punish it and make conditions for the spread of the disease more likely.

We have become the “selfie” nation where our love and promoting of self is what we we see everywhere. It has bleed into our mainstream where doing the right and honorable thing is only possible if it is convenient, and the polls say its okay. Leadership is dead.

Obama Missing in Action

The man never fails to amaze me.  On 1 June in an interview with ABC News, he stated that he thought that if he won the election, then Republicans would relent and work with him on the economy (their fever on taxes will break).  The other amazing gaff was to tell us that the private sector economy is doing fine.  Huh?  Both indicate a gross disconnect with the reality of the economy and the fight the lies in front of him.

Okay, you can say the private sector doing fine thing was just a misstep, but it wasn’t.  It was a major screw up and reinforced the message that Republicans have been hammering, that Obama has no clue on the economy.  Well, they have less of a clue, but it does indicate to me that he has no concept of the real policy debate about which way to go with our economy and where he comes down on that, and he still doesn’t understand the Republican’s hatred of him.

We are approaching another depression and he is oblivious with the present situation today where we need to forget about the deficit in the near term and go after jobs. Maybe he is believing his own BS that the economy is improving every day and everything they did was just right.   It really makes you wonder if he has a clue about what we need to do quickly.    He still thinks he needs to be the accommodater, not the leader.

Republicans are now saying to Mitt Romney that he needs to  draw a distinct line between him and Obama and he can’t just be the anti-Obama, but has to provide a plan that people can latch on to.  As an aside, not sure what that would be except more Bush 2, but Obama could take the same advice.  He needs to quit blaming and present a firm plan forward that he will fight for, he will not give up for, and if the Congress won’t help him, he will work to have them removed in the next election.  Those are the real stakes here.  He needs to state what will fix the economy, show how the Republican’s plan will destroy us, and how he will fight until he gets his plan implemented.  So what is the Obama plan, more compromise with the Republicans or a plan that he will fight for even if he loses the first round?

The Real Reality

Well, the job numbers suck and the only thing that is surprising is that anybody is surprised.  This blog has said over and over, we have fixed nothing and we are just standing around waiting for things to get better.  Meanwhile states are laying off more and more workers so disposable income is dropping. Said another way, we are implementing our own austerity program here and expecting different results than we see in Europe.  And people are surprised the economy is going nowhere?

I listened to a reporter on MSNBC tell us that if all the automatic cuts take effect, you know as part of the deficit reduction package the Republicans are demanding, then the economy will really suffer as money is taken out of the economy.  Then she feed us the pablum that it was both sides fault.  Really? Who wants to give tax cuts to the wealthy, who I might add are hanging on to their money, and eviscerate government spending to pay for it?  Who will not allow any new revenue?  Who killed the Jobs Act?  Who benefits from a poor economy at election time?  This woman is a moron and she represents the problem of the conventional wisdom of the Beltway Press. See Mann and Ornstein’s new book, It is Worse Than It Looks, putting the finger squarely on how the Republicans are the problem.

But putting all the blame game aside, who has a plan for the future?  Well we know the Republicans do not since they simply have proposed going back to the good old days of Bush except they promise to end government as we know it to pay for all their tax cuts.  Isn’t it amazing that more than half of Americans cannot see this reality?  Meanwhile the Democrats, ever timid, offer us Republican lite. Neither solution looks at what we know or should know about what reality is and has told us.

It is almost mind boggling that we have not examined our basic assumptions and then adjusted accordingly.  So here is what we should know but are ignoring and they are just two simple facts that if we understood them, could fix all our problems:

  • There has been a mass transfer of wealth from the many to the few and the nation as a whole has declined.  There are multiple studies that show that when the few gain power and control the system, the country and its economic status decline.  That is where we are today with the plutocracy of the very wealthy.  They game the system for their benefit and we all suffer.  Worse the have left the middle class with insufficient income to sustain the economy.  When all the spoils go to the wealthy, who is going to buy the stuff their companies make, the Chinese?
  • The whole analogy of the home budget as applied to our economic system is wrong (our economy is not a microeconomic system).  When everybody tightens their belts, the economy declines.  So the whole austerity thing will not bring out the confidence fairy and spending will resume.  What happens is that our total economy declines and our debts just get worse.  See Irving Fisher circa 1933 and see where we or Europe are today as real time examples of these policies.  Companies are sitting on trillions of dollars and they won’t spend them creating jobs because (forget confidence) there are not people with cash to buy things.  Only the government is going to create that demand in our weakened state (See Depression 1929).

Once you accept these facts as facts, then there is a path forward.  And here is what is really critical: What is the accepted wisdom that we must game the system with what is politically feasible must be thrown out.  There is only one way forward and if the political system won’t allow that way (the exact situation we are in today), then the system must be changed by standing up and showing that the comprromises simply won’t work.  No more Republican lite, and no more compromises with failure to look bipartisan for the undecided middle.  It is time to point out why these policies and compromises would fail and be firm about our path forward.  Remember FDR’s famous speech where he welcomed the hatred of his opponents?  He understood that compromise was failure for the country and they had it wrong.

So what are we up against to get there and turn our country around? Well I think if you really want to see where facts challenge ideology, watch this clip of Paul Krugman elegantly taking apart the arguments against him on austerity in Europe until he finally exposes the bottom line which has nothing to do with deficit, but an ideological hatred of government action:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18281669

What is most amazing is we are watching Europe and the Euro collapse under their failed austerity program and they don’t care and won’t change course even when facing the obvious failure of their policies.  Well welcome to the United States of America where Republicans and their imminently worse policy of austerity for everyone except the wealthy is widely accepted, and where we can’t seem to grasp those two simple facts presented above even with all the mounting evidence.

We are no longer the greatest country in the world and we are in decline if we can’t push ideology aside and react to what reality is telling us. Or more simply said, if we can’t simply do what works anymore.  Watch Europe bicker when the fix is obvious and then realize we are emulating their behavior. To me it is just criminal that we have wasted the last four years not rebuilding our country and putting our citizens back to work with the lowest interest rates and cost of material and labor we will ever see, and when we finally see the light it will be too late.

Monday Night Update

I am working on a blog on the economy and the thoughts of early 20th century economists about The Great Depression and how they apply today and we are ignoring them.  It is taking more work than I thought so in the interim, a couple of thoughts:

  • First I heard an analysis today on the news about President Obama’s pending news conference on the payroll tax cut.  Here is what is going as unchallenged conventional wisdom:  “We will see if the President comes out with me against the Congress and nothing happens or he comes out more conciliatory to try to work with the Republicans.  If he takes the second approach maybe something can get done toward creating jobs.”  Total bullshit.  First, how often have the Democrats fallen for this and then given away the farm?  Second, nothing is going to happen because the Republicans have made clear that they want him to fail.  Third, any compromise will not involve taxing the rich, so where does that leave us?
  • Second, as usual when President Obama came out and actually spoke, he left it to Congress to work it out.  Don’t you just love his ability to step into a fight and tell us right where he stands?  Tell me Mr. President, is there a right way or a wrong way to fund this?  Good God man, take a stand.  Please take a stand.
  • Third and most important insight of the day revolves around the clown show called the Republican Presidential Primaries.  This has become a cartoon of a reality show with the Donald becoming king maker.  Does it occur to anyone that the likely Republican nominee is none of the above and will be chosen at the Republican National Convention this summer?  Apparently not yet and it could be someone who would be a much more formidable foe than the present clowns.
  • Finally, and here is the best part, when all the dust settles has either side presented a real plan to move the economy forward?  It is do nothing except favor the rich or let’s do some minor alterations around the margins.  This is American exceptionalism?

I have to say that up until today I was just appalled with the politics of the Republicans and the failure of Obama to step up.  But now it is just becoming too ridiculous not to enjoy the humor of it.  Sadly that is where we are at.  A President who won’t lead and challengers who are clowns.  You could not make this stuff up.

Everything You Want to Know about What is Wrong

Today on Chris Mathews, Chris asked his guest what Obama should do in his job speech, go conservative, go down the middle of the road, or go big.  John Heileman of the New York Times gave this very accurate political analysis of his choices that tells you everything you want to know about what is wrong with this country:

Well this is the contradiction Chris, I think that the President and his people recognize that the likelihood of the Republicans approving anything that would substantially alter the economic conditions in the United States between now and election day is virtually zero. It would require a really big figure to pass and the Republicans are not going to pass something like that.

The problem is that if he proposes something really big and that shows the kind of fight  that a lot of populists and people on the left really love, it is not going to be that popular in the country because the truth is most people in the country and we can say they may be wrong about this, but most people in the country are against big spending programs.  They don’t look at the stimulus and say it was a success.  Again put aside the merits of the argument, politically the thing that would show him to be a big thinker  or big bold political leader are things that are not necessarily popular in the middle of the country, would not  necessarily help his political prospects so the White House is looking at this as a political speech.  It puts him in a very difficult box trying to do something that is both big and bold but is also broadly   popular  and there are not many things that fall into that basket.”

The first thing is he is absolutely right about nothing, no matter what he proposes will get past, but here is where America loses it way.  So if you want to play politics you should propose something politically popular, not necessarily effective.  And the fatal flaw is that if he wants to be a leader, not a politician, he needs to decide what will really work and start convincing the nation so that in 2012 he has the mandate to actually start fixing the country.  Instead he will propose what he knows is popular, but won’t really help much, show up the Republicans, but if he wins where is the mandate to do what he needs to do?  My guess is he doesn’t know what that is and he will be a politician, not a leader.  FDR believed in Keynesian economics and he used his bully pulpit to run on it, convince the country, and implement it.  He did not take a poll to see what they wanted so he could be politically correct.  He sold them what they needed.  The country desperately needs a leader.

The Upcoming Debate

We are all focused on the budget debate which is about 2011, but it is just the preamble to next years budget.  And here is the really sad part of this debate so far:  The Republicans, controlled by the Tea Party, want to dismantle Medicare, aid to the poor, education support, well you just name it.  The Democrats are a bout limiting the dismantling.  That is not a debate and in my mind either approach is destructive to our future.  We shouldn’t be tearing down, we should be building up.

The Democrats say they are for working people and investment in our future,  but the debate as framed by the Republicans is about neither.  It is about cutting government.  The Democrats have offered no counter to this debate except we should not cut quite as much.  Listen to Democratic politicians as they say things like “we all know there needs to be serious cuts, but….”.  Really?  Is that the Democratic position which is Tea Party lite?  You know, I have discussed this before, but the issue is not what they think the voters are wanting, but what will actually work and improve our future.  So far they are pandering to the mindless instead of becoming a party that stands for something.

Paul Ryan came out with the first salvo for next years budgets and they are getting serious about where the real money is, entitlements.  But if you look closely at his plan for Medicare, you will learn all you need to know about Republicans; they’ve got theirs, screw you.

Ryan’s plan addresses a real problem, the rising cost of health care.  But instead of dealing with the root cause, he simply provides a plan to offload the costs to elderly and the states.  Will give them vouchers and then through the magic of the market place, costs will go down.  You still believe that?  The root problem is private health insurance and incentives to over treat.  The Obama Health Care Reform Bill actually reduced some costs in Medicare, although it shied away from the real problem, for profit medical insurance.

I really have to laugh at Republicans because they want us to make “hard choices”.  The really hard choices involve recognizing that our way of funding health care is flawed (see the rest of the world), and making hard choices about what and how we pay for it.  It is not offloading the cost to those who can’t fend for themselves and then turning your back.  But that is part and parcel of Republican ideology:  If you are suffering, somehow you deserved it and I have no responsibility to help you.  Note to anyone who has a clue.  When you hit 65, no one wants to cover you.  That is why we turned to the federal government.  How has that problem changed?

But there has to be another side to the argument.  There has to be somebody who says, “This is the wrong debate”.  We should not be having a debate about how much to disenfranchise the poor and middle class, but about what is a more fair system of taxation and benefits that makes us all equal partners in our success.  Right now the playing field is tilted toward the top 2% and they own both the Republicans and many Democrats.

In order to be successful and to start winning back our future, Democrats need to start standing for something.  They have to make the argument that the cutting is one sided and is counterproductive.  They have to actually say out loud, that there is too much wealth concentrated in too few, and then put policies in place that have that 2% pay their fair share.  They have to start standing up for working Americans.  The President’s absence in Wisconsin says everything you need to know about his failure of leadership.  In other words, the Democrats need to set the agenda on the debate instead of letting it be set for them.  And most importantly, they need a leader who will lead.

If the Democrats don’t soon get their act together, build a vision of the future based upon smart government and having all of us share in its bounty, then they are destined to loose as we keep sliding slowly further right and the country wallows in discontent and disharmony.  I just don’t see how that leader is going to be, as the present crop (Obama, Reid, Pelosi) have sold out too many times.