Telling the Sad Truth at Last

taxes

 

You can disregard all of those economic goodies Donald Trump promised previously. He finally told the truth on Monday in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club. And it turns out he doesn’t have a magic wand, after all. What he has is the same old recipe for disaster Republicans have been touting for generations.

And it’s pretty much the same plan as every other Republican candidate promised during the primary debates.

If he gets to be President – God forbid – he will slash taxes for the rich and global corporations, hoping a few crumbs would trickle down for the middle class. As for the poor, the sick and the aged, they would be even more neglected, more abandoned.

brownback2Trump’s new plan is chillingly reminiscent of Paul Ryan’s infamous soak-the-poor proposals rejected by voters four years ago. It’s depressingly similar to the mess Sam Brownback has made in Kansas. In short, it is the same supply-side nonsense that has failed and failed and failed…

But that’s what Trump is stuck with – like it or not.

Assuming he has a Republican Congress to work with, that’s the kind of legislation he would get on his desk. All of his earlier promises are just hot air. The American President does not dictate policy. He signs the laws that Congress passes.

Of course as President, Trump could propose policy initiatives, and members of  his party would be expected to follow his lead. But there is no evidence of that happening.

Party leaders are not going to discard their traditional Republican dogma to follow Trump’s heresies.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, for example, is on a different path entirely from Trump. And Trump’s Monday speech reflects Ryan’s vision.

The Ryan vision denies reality. Channeling Ryan, Trump declared, for example, that:

Our lower business tax will also end job killing corporate inversions and cause trillions in new dollars to come pouring into our country.

Really? Recent news stories indicate that global corporations are using write-offs to dodge their taxes now. Why would corporations that pay no federal taxes respond so favorably to another rate cut?

What would they gain by moving the money they have sashed abroad back to the US?

If you want to know the likely result of slashing corporate taxes, look at what happened in Kansas. There are no jobs to show for it, and the state is bankrupt.

The Kansas experiment

Trump’s splan

Trump’s speech – fact and fiction

 

In the Age of Robots

jobs

 

Say hello to the future. And, probably, goodbye to your job. The robots aren’t coming. They’re here.

When the police send a robot to blow up that mass shooter in Dallas… When drones fight America’s battles abroad and spy on us at home… When the Washington Post uses robots to cover the Olympics… you know times have changed. And I’m not sure the change is for the better.

Hrobotow do you sustain an economy in which human workers are replaced by automation? Robots don’t buy cars. Robots don’t go out to dinner, watch ball games, attend rock concerts, play video games, buy smart phones…

And (I’m talking to you Jeff Bozos) robots don’t read newspapers. Or buy the goods advertised in newspapers.

Robots don’t need anything that keeps money circulating in a consumer society like America’s.

Of course someone has to build, program and maintain the robots. Human hands keep them in good repair and human eyes oversee their processes.

But you know those jobs will be pitifully few compared with the millions lost to automation. And you know those robots are likely to be made abroad. Americans don’t make stuff any more.

The vast majority of American jobs are either the egghead type, which require advanced degrees, or the kind you get at Macdonald’s, Costco or Walmart.

Americans generally keep those multitudinous dollar bills circulating by waiting on one another, selling stuff (probably made abroad), caring for the sick and injured, or performing some other service. Productive endeavors like farming, fishing and manufacturing are dwindling as globalization takes over.

And no, Donald Trump can’t fix that – alone or with his team of big shot businessmen. There is no magic wand for him to wave.

To survive in the age of automation, America must hope that “the next big thing” keeps coming, that homegrown entrepreneurs keep brainstorming innovations ahead of the rest of the world. Innovations like the Internet.

The most effective thing the new President – and Congress – could do is to encourage research and development, promote higher education and stimulate experimentation.

Hillary is betting on green energy. And that could be the answer – if America develops a way to produce cheap, abundant alternative energy ahead of countries like China (which is eagerly pursuing that goal).

The dumbest thing in the world would be to try and revive the demand for coal (as Trump promises to do).

Which path we take depends on November’s election.

Click for the Post’s robotic reporters

More on green energy

The next big thing?

 

What Hillary Really Said

trump

There he goes again… Donald Trump has unleashed a new attack ad that shows Hillary supposedly saying, “We are going to raise taxes on the middle class.” It’s doctored, of course.

As Chris Hayes demonstrated on MSNBC last night, what she really said was, “we aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class.”

The dirty tricks just keep on coming.

How low can Donald Trump stoop? Lower than a snake’s belly, as the old folks used to say. Lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.

But he is not alone. He has company in his wagon rut. His trumped up smear is being echoed by the right-wing noise machine.

Newsmax repeated it, and Yahoo News picked up the Newsmax report to brighten my morning.

As one TV pundit observed last night, we are living in “the post truth” era.

Here’s another example.

The Wall Street Journal, which used to be a fairly reputable newspaper, recently published a story accusing President Obama of bribing the Iranians to get US hostages released.

(Wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who did that?)

Actually, Obama – as usual – was trying to do the right thing. America owed Iran $400 million and he was paying them back. Decades ago, when the Shah was in power, the Iranians paid America for aircraft that never got delivered. The Iranians sued in the International Court to get their money back.

With all those years of interest, the payment could have been in the billions. But Obama managed to make a deal with Iran to reduce the debt.

Trump  jumped on the false report (of course), and he keeps repeating a story about seeing a video of the cash being offloaded in Iran. He even described the plane that supposedly transported the loot. No such video exists.

Why anyone still listens to Donald Trump beats me. He just makes up stuff as he goes along.

And the rest of his party are joining in. They’re “blasting” the President for being honest and paying America’s debt to Iran.

The pundits may call this kind of thing “post truth.” I call it lying. Bald-face lying.

The Newsmax story

The truth

Check her web site.

The Iran cash payment

Reagan’s Iran ransom

 

Just a Wasted Vote

stein2

 

You know as well as I do that Jill Stein (above, right) is not going to be America’s President. Not now. Not ever.

You know as well as I do that Gary Johnson  (above, left) isn’t ever going to be President either.

But they will get more votes in this election than ever before.

Not since Ross Perot has there been so much “third party” support in America.

You know the reason as well as I do. A lot of voters dislike Donald Trump. A lot of voters dislike Hillary Clinton.

I personally think the public distrust of Hillary is unwarranted. I think it’s the result of savage character assassination that has been going on for years. I personally think Trump is scum and deserves to be shunned.

But even if I were among those who dislike both candidates, I would hold my nose and vote for one of them.

Voting for Stein or Johnson – or any of the other splinter-party candidates – is simply wasting your vote. And, no, it’s not a “protest vote.” It’s just a dumb vote.

Nobody  pays attention to “protest” voters.

Surely you must know that Jill Stein cannot “cancel student debt”? Surely you must know that Gary Johnson can’t legalize recreational drugs?

The President of the United States is an executive who administers policies approved by Congress. And, yes, there are some things he or she could do by executive order, but those actions are subject to being revoked by the next President. And they don’t include canceling student debt or legalizing recreational drugs, anyway.

Candidates like Stein and Johnson can promise you anything. They know they won’t ever be in a position to keep their promises. They know they’re just blowing smoke.

So if you’re planning to vote for Stein or Johnson (I’m talking to you, Janice!) you might as well stay home. Why waste gas and pollute the environment by driving to the polls?

Stein’s platform

Johnson’s platform

 

Moving to the Center

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) wave to the crowd during a campaign rally at Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale, Virginia, U.S., July 14, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

This could be the year America’s yawning political divide begins to close. Thanks to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, voters have seen the far left and the far right, and – to many of them – both look too scary for comfort.

The shift toward the political middle is evident all over the country. In Kansas, for instance, moderates have defeated conservative extremists in this week’s Republican primaries. And a lot of responsible Republicans are denouncing Trump’s radical rants.

Hillary Clinton’s choice of Tim Kaine (above) as her running mate is also evidence of the prevailing centrist trend.

Yes, I know, the Democrats have adopted the most progressive platform in living memory. But if you look at the platform, there isn’t much there that a sensible conservative couldn’t live with.

There are no Marxist proclamations, no slogans calling for class warfare. Just proposals for addressing the critical problems facing America today.

And if you check out Hillary’s web site, you will see no extravagant tax-and-spend proposals. Instead, she identifies America’s most pressing problems and explains what she would do to fix them.

What’s especially interesting is that her fixes do not involve more deficit spending. In every case, she shows how she will pay for her reforms.

Yes, there would be new taxes, but only on those who can really afford to pay.

America’s super-rich and the global corporations have been getting away with murder, and I can’t think of anyone who would want to give them more tax breaks – except, of course, Donald Trump.

It’s time to streamline and rationalize the tangled tax code. Everybody agrees on that. It’s scandalous that the richest companies in America pay little or no federal taxes, while middle class wage earners, professionals and business owners pay through the nose.

Elimination of costly red tape, which is especially onerous to small businesses, would help to compensate entrepreneurs for any increased tax burden.

Nobody likes taxes, but everybody agrees they are necessary. (Except a few crazies, who have managed to intimidate members of Congress to the detriment of the country’s economy.)

The obvious need is to invest those taxes in ways that produce revenue. By rebuilding the infrastructure, for example.

President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system is an example of sensible government spending that produces benefits for generations. And you know Ike was a Republican.

There’s a lot of room for sensible government in America’s political center. Of course, we must always keep in mind that the Founding Fathers conceived of this nation as a work in progress, and envisaged a continuous effort toward “a more perfect union.”

For that, we need progressive policies as well as good government. But it looks as if this is a time for caution in our quest, not radical experimentation.

More on the political center

 

It’s a Racist Election

Donald-Trump-Cartoon

 

After exhausting all possible defenses of Donald Trump, a neighbor finally disclosed his real reason for supporting the Republican presidential candidate. In a barely audible whisper, he grumbled something about the white race being “pushed around.”

No, I did not order him out of our home. In fact, we invited him and his grandmother, who lives with him, for dinner the next night.

The way I see it, this is no time to get on my high horse. It is time to counter emotional misconceptions with calm persuasion. Indignation and condemnation would only add fuel to the fire.

There is real white resentment out there. And refusing to acknowledge it won’t make it go away.

Some white Americans feel that minorities get all the breaks – civil service jobs, Affirmative Action, and so on. And they see minorities bypassing immigration red tape to  flood the job market – at their expense. They feel unfairly treated.

How do we respond to these folks?

Do we cite slavery? They might reply that their ancestors never owned slaves. Most of today’s Americans could point out that their families came here long after slavery was abolished.

Do you cite the palpably biased criminal justice system? They personally don’t have much to do with that. The cops generally leave them alone and they generally don’t go looking for trouble.

High minority unemployment? Inferior schooling? Lingering prejudice throughout American society?

They are not emotionally programmed to appreciate those things. They are receptive to the racist diatribes that contaminate the Internet and talk radio. It’s a deliberate campaign, and it has been raging for a generation or longer.

The loss of mostly white blue-collar jobs to foreign low-wage workers has created an economic climate of apprehension and distrust, while a rapacious elite has made the situation even more flammable by funneling the country’s wealth into their own pockets.

The election of America’s first black President created a backlash among America’s racists, and now Trump has come along to give racism a veneer of legitimacy.

This is a dangerous situation. White voters are still a big majority in America’s electorate.

We can only pray that a significant number of white voters are not infected by the racist virus that seems to be afflicting my neighbor.

Click for more on white resentment.

 

When the System Works

court

 

At a time like this, with dark clouds gathering almost everywhere I look, I am encouraged by some recent examples that America’s system of checks and balances is working.

Federal courts have just blocked attempts by three Republican state legislatures – North Carolina, Wisconsin and Kansas – to keep minorities and the poor from voting.

And earlier this month, a federal court struck down a Texas voting rights law considered one of the nation’s most restrictive ever.

But I am not celebrating yet.

These oppressive measures aren’t dead. Their fate will be determined by the United States Supreme Court. And with the vacancy on the court created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, the court’s ruling will depend on the results of November’s election.

With Scalia gone, the court is evenly divided between conservatives and liberals. And it will be up to the next President to appoint Scalia’s replacement.

The next President is also likely to make several more appointments as aging justices near retirement.

The continued effectiveness of America’s system of checks and balances depends on the character of the justices who get appointed.

The prospect of a scalawag like Donald Trump making those appointments fills me with dread.

Click for the AP report.

More on the court’s future

 

Giving Liberals a Bad Name

protesters

 

The bad behavior of protesters at both the Democratic and Republican conventions is a reminder of the reason “liberal” has – unfairly – become a bad word for so many Americans.

To me, there’s nothing “liberal” about burning the American flag – or any country’s flag for that matter. It’s just disrespectful. And there’s nothing “liberal” about booing convention speakers or shouting them down. It’s just rude.

If you’re old enough to remember, you will recall that people who were mistakenly called liberals did that kind of thing during the Sixties. Some even resorted to violence and sabotage.

They weren’t liberals then. And they aren’t liberals now.

They are, in reality, fascists.

Liberals are, above all, tolerant. They respect other people’s opinions, and they defend the right to express ideas with which they disagree.

Fascists impose their doctrines by force. They do not tolerate dissent.

Ironically, some Bernie supporters are acting like fascists while ostensibly embracing his socialist ideas.

To me, Hillary’s acceptance speech last night exemplified the liberal view of society. How any Bernie supporter could still doubt her sincerity beats me.

In my view, these folks are not really supporters of Bernie Sanders. They are just soreheads who jumped on his bandwagon. Mindless rebels looking for a cause.

It’s people like that who make real progress and social justice so hard to achieve in a diverse society like America’s.

 

America’s Sanity Test

bloomberg

 

After watching both party conventions on TV, I am convinced that this election is a test of America’s sanity.

The Republicans were frothing-at-the-mouth crazy, screaming for Hillary’s blood.

The Democrats were emotionally appealing and intellectually compelling.

Their convention was as warm and fuzzy as a Hallmark movie. But it was more than that. It was a showcase for progressive ideas and common-sense proposals to make America an even greater country – for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

And it wasn’t just a Democratic convention. It was a convention for decent, responsible Americans of any  – or no – party.

Mike Bloomberg (photo above) is no Democrat. Leon Panetta is no Democrat.  But they are decent, responsible Americans. And they left no doubt about their choice for President.

It was not Donald Trump.

The question I have is whether the electorate is in any mood to listen to decent, responsible Americans.

Even at the otherwise decorous Democratic convention, some Bernie supporters insisted on  displaying how rudely ignorant people can behave.

Trump’s base is also “the poorly educated.” How do you reason with “the poorly educated”?

They are not only uninformed and disinformed, they are also enraged. They want a scapegoat for their perceived wrongs. And they might not have the mental capacity to see how self destructive their revolt could be.

They might perceive the decency and common sense apparent at the Democratic convention as just more of the same sweet talk from the hated “elite.”

They might still vote for Donald Trump.

The rest of us can only pray that there will be  more decent, responsible voters than enraged rebels in November’s election.

Signs at the convention in Philadelphia declared that “love trumps hate.”  Let’s pray that decency and sanity will trump blind rage.

Bloomberg’s speech

 

The Silence is Deafening

putin

 

I am bemused by the muted attention Donald Trump’s Russian connection is attracting. The media are more agog over emails by Democratic Party staffers suggesting they wanted Bernie Sanders to lose his primary bid.

Surely, it’s more shocking that Russian hackers are meddling in America’s elections?

As expected, the Russians deny they hacked the DNC computers, but FBI investigators  have hard evidence that they did. And highly credible sources, such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, have repeated the charge in public.

Furthermore, it’s the kind of thing the Russians do. They have a history of hacking into computers and releasing embarrassing information to influence democratic elections all over Europe.

And Trump’s top campaign advisor, Paul Manaforte (known as “the torturer’s lobbyist” because of the sinister dictators among his clients) has close business ties to Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian ex-president of the Ukraine.

Listening to public radio in my car yesterday, I was astonished to learn that the Russians have significant investments in Trump’s real estate empire. According to a Washington Post columnist, it was Russian rubles that bailed him out recently, when he encountered  financial problems.

Sitting in my den here on Post Lane in Lakeland, Florida, I obviously can’t vouch for any of this. And it sounds like a lurid spy novel rather than real life. But I am prepared to believe lurid things about Trump. Aren’t you?

I believe, for example, that financiers associated with the Mafia bailed him out in one of his frequent financial collapses.

I understand Yanukovich is a mobster, and he is one of the oligarchs who funneled cash into Trump’s coffers. I also understand that Vladimir Putin is head of a Russian “mob” made up of former KGB agents like himself.

And it is common knowledge that Trump worked with Mafia figures in some of his Manhattan developments.

As primary rival Ted Cruz once suggested, Trump could respond to these charges by releasing his tax returns and other financial statements. But he hasn’t.

Why, I wonder, do the media pay so little attention to the horrible possibility of an American presidency controlled by global underworld forces?

Why do they find Hillary Clinton’s inadvertent use of the wrong computer so alarming?

Why is it so shocking that some campaign workers in the DNC made derogatory remarks about one of the party’s primary candidates?

Where is the media’s sense of scale?

Trump’s Russian connection

Manafort’s connections

More on the Russian hackers

More on Trump’s Mafia links