Blame the Stock Market for Economic Inequality

Sometimes when you sit in the cheap seats, up in nosebleed territory, the world below seems far away and small. Although the individual actors may lose definition, the view offers compensations in terms of seeing overall patterns, movements and strategies. Watching the economy from the cheap seats is very different because all the action is above where all the rich folks are, and the cheap seats are below, sometimes far below. When doom befalls those in the pricey seats, the fallout reaches to the cheap seats, and although the impact is less, it makes already difficult lives tougher. But in the pricey seats there can be mayhem – some win – some lose – some topple back to the cheap seats. When those in the expensive seats, the box seats, win, the people in the cheap seats can watch the celebration but they are not invited to the after-party.

What my analogy says is that you don’t have to be an economics major to know about the ebb and flow of money in the world. And you don’t have to be an expert to draw some interesting conclusions. Listen to the news. Pundits quite often point out that people at lower income levels do not own stocks, but most economic decision-making must consider how bills, laws, regulations, taxes, all things economic (even tariffs) will affect the stock market. That means that the economic needs of folks who do not own stocks don’t matter much in decisions that affect the economy. Even so, the whole economy, top-to-bottom is affected by whatever economic measures are taken. The poor can get poorer, or there may be times when a flourishing economy at the top temporarily lightens economic stresses at the base.

Progressives blame Capitalism for the economic inequality that has become increasingly apparent both in American and globally. But if you listen from your cheap seat you eventually understand that a lot of the blame belongs with the stock market. Capitalism can and did exist without stocks or stock markets, but once the stock market turned investment into a game that anyone with money could play, it was as if Capitalism went on steroids.

In order for the partnership to work, industry and business have to keep the investors happy with ever-bigger profits, rising stock values and higher dividends (if they are offered). This means that workers only get higher wages after owners and stock holders get paid. Since businesses get more investments when profits go to stock holders than when they go to workers guess who gets robbed?

When there were strong unions, workers could demand a share of the pie and then stop working (walkout, go on strike) if they were ignored. Conservatives have always opposed unions, but in the past decade they have managed to weaken unions by passing right-to-work laws which have stripped workers of much of the power they once had to act as a balance against the demands of stock holders. The market is doing well, worker incomes are not.

The profits that go to shareholders keep making those who have stocks and those who own businesses richer, and since money equals power, these particular citizens are able to exert a lot of pressure in Washington and can keep getting laws passed that favor those who are already wealthy. Lobbyists, PACS that fund elections, laws like the Supreme Court decision that gave free speech (and votes) to dollars (money equals speech, corporations are people) have expanded the power of wealthy Americans who own stock. And because those who cannot afford stocks know that everyone is hurt if the stock market tumbles they are afraid to oppose even the most outrageous legislation (like the Trump tax cuts) because they don’t know how their opposition will affect the overall economy and their own everyday lives.

The stock market becomes a rocket that delivers more and more money to those who already have it and turns workers into statistics in a global worker market where American salaries already seem too magnanimous.

If it is the stock market that is responsible for a lot of the economic inequality that exists then do we do away with the stock market? Well, good luck with that. And although this conclusion was reached in the cheap seats, when the question was put to the “Google” it was clear that there are already expert articles which show that economists were ahead on this. It can take longer to draw valid conclusions about money when you have always been in the cheap seats.

https://promarket.org/how-market-power-worsens-income-inequality/

“With income, the story is a familiar one of rising inequality. In 1989 and 2016, the poorest fifth had 3 percent of pre-tax family income. But the top fifth of families saw their share of income rise from 57 percent in 1989 to 64 percent in 2016. Put another way, the bottom group’s share remained miniscule, the top group’s share rose by 9 percentage points (or one-sixth), and middle America saw its share diminish.

For corporate equity, we find that the lowest-income fifth of families had 1.1 percent of corporate equity in 1989, and 2.0 percent in 2016 (over the same timespan, the second-bottom quintile share went from 3.5 percent to 1.6 percent, so the total share of corporate equity of the bottom 40 percent fell). By contrast, the highest-income quintile had 77 percent of corporate equity in 1989, and 89 percent of corporate equity in 2016. Hence, corporate equity is considerably more skewed than expenditure or income, and has become considerably more skewed over the past three decades.

Even if the shares had remained unchanged at their 1989 levels, excess market power would have exacerbated inequality, because stock holdings were considerably more skewed than consumption. But because consumption inequality remained little changed, while inequality in stock holdings worsened, the effect of market power on inequality was even more substantial in 2016 than a generation earlier.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304387817300858

https://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/uer/vol15/iss1/7/

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/07/business/us-stock-market-income-inequality.html

A solution I like better than trying to close the stock market (which would be even harder than passing sensible gun laws) is for everyone to “inherit” some stocks when they turn 18, or 25, or, even better, at birth – and not risky stock, good solid stock, in accounts they cannot cash in until a real need arises (college, training, buying a house, starting a business) that also will serve as an investment. Medical emergencies would be handled in another way. Then everyone would have a reason to follow the market, to wish the economy well, to learn about investing and to experience an opportunity to have an economic goal and to reach that goal. This would also go far to lessen economic inequality, and reparations could be managed by giving those who have been held back by racial discrimination a larger share in the market.

You can start laughing now – but it could work and it would be so much more peaceful than a revolution.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Wall Street Journal, Giphy.gif

 

 

 

2020 Citizenship Question: Wrong Time, Wrong Administration

 

2020 Census Citizenship Question: Wrong time, Wrong Administration

As it turns out questions about citizenship have apparently been included on many census questionnaires throughout the decades, but it is not a mandated question, and sometimes it does not appear on a particular census. Deep in the first term of the Trump administration, and as we head toward a Presidential election, however, seems like a particularly suspicious time for the President to be so intent on including a citizenship question that he would be willing to defy a ruling by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, in June 2019, upon learning that information found on hard drives of a late Republican consultant named Thomas Hofeller, had shown the Republicans the way to use a citizenship question to their advantage decided against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The information specifically revealed to the Court the Republican plan to use the citizenship question to “rig” the vote by creating paranoia among immigrants “both legal and illegal” which would result in, it is estimated, at least 6.5 million Americans avoiding the census altogether.

The hard drives also revealed why Republicans thought this plan would achieve two cherished goals on their list of strategies for winning elections. 1) Including a citizenship question would result in an undercount of Democratic voters, which would allow for redistricting, and change the number of votes in the electoral college in states with large numbers of immigrants (and Democrats) – New York, Florida, and California for starters. 2) It would affect federal budget appropriations to the states because appropriations-math involves population figures, which would then be distorted by low participation of minorities in the 2020 Census (affecting the same states and, hopefully, other blue states).

Because the hard drives clearly laid out an underhanded partisan political strategy to “rig” votes in an election the Supreme Court turned down the citizenship question until a better rationale could be provided.

But, we should be aware that there could be far more disturbing reasons to ask a citizenship questions in a year when the President wants to deport a million undocumented people. Usually the names on individual census forms are not revealed, although census records do keep track of where census completers live. If you have worked on your family tree you may have benefited from the fact that a census saves such information. Lots of other data is mined from the census without naming the respondents individually.

Trump once asked every state to turn over to him their voter rolls (Jan., 2017). He said he wanted to prove that there are people voting more than once, or that “illegal” immigrants vote. Since Trump cheats constantly he sees cheating all around him and he seems to have always believed that there are thousands of illegal votes cast in American elections, although studies suggest this is not so. Voter rolls would have given Trump names and addresses of every voter in America. Who knows what kind of “witch hunt” he might have gone on if so many states had not declined. However, the census gives him another source for the information he seeks.

It is also not impossible to conclude that a census that includes a citizenship question strikes 45 as something that may help him ferret out and arrest immigrants who may be too fearful not to obey a government decree and will fill out the census to their detriment. Then it becomes a matter of “I know where you live”.

Given the attempts to end legal asylum practices, the separation of children and parents, the appalling conditions in the detention centers and the fact that time constraints in the law are being ignored – given the all-consuming nature of the President’s passion to evict immigrants – to allow only highly-skilled Christian, Europeans (or Norwegians) to come to America, it hardly seems far-fetched to fear that Census information about whether someone is a citizen or not could be abused for either taking away voting rights or in a “witch hunt”. A lawless President does not, by definition regard or follow our nation’s laws, as we have seen so often. Will Trump defy the Supreme Court or will the Supreme Court cave? Will Trump’s chaos strategy inspire enough fear to keep many Americans, who are already paranoid about government, from filling out the Census?

Need more proof: Try this article from the NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/07/us/politics/ice-drivers-licenses-facial-recognition.html

 

July 4th 2019 – Celebrate or Mourn?

July 4, 2019 – Celebrate or Mourn

Some of us want to celebrate July 4th this year as we do every year because it marks the birth of this nation we love. But we can’t. We think we may have to mourn the demise of the government our forefathers bequeathed us. We’re too sad to celebrate (although we do love fireworks). I feel sadder today than I did during the Vietnam War. The opposition to the war split America much as it is split now. In fact, this divide may date all the way back to the days of that unjustifiable war – which we lost. However the opposition was so energetic then and the war was only one issue, not a complex Gordian Knot of conflicting ideas and behaviors as we are faced with this Independence Day.

Republicans wanted to take us backwards, but they just wanted to take us to a past before contraception, before the end of the peak of the Industrial Age, to a time when Americans went to church, to a time when we could burn all the coal, gas, and oil we pleased, to a nation where the South won the Civil War (it sounds more sinister as the list progresses, doesn’t it).

Well, we are going backwards, but to a time we never had to experience in America, not the way Europe did. We have a lawless authoritarian President and so this July 4th, because of him, we have “camps” at our Southern border and a President who ignores a ruling of the Supreme Court so he can suppress the vote of Democrats, who he sees as enemies. These awful facts (and many more) make this July 4th feel more like any of the years when Europe fell under the thrall or the tanks of a mad, racist dictator – and he almost won.

Now there is opposition to our own leader who we are reluctant to see in quite such desperate terms, but Americans seem too sad, too dispirited and exhausted to call forth any of that old sixties energy. On this Independence Day we have tanks on the mall in Washington. Is this display of power just for our President’s ego, is it supposed to impress other nations, or is it perhaps seen as a bonus that it might serve to intimidate Americans who oppose this president?

We can celebrate and ignore Trump’s rally because, for now, we still have our democracy/republic, but it is in greater danger every day. So, many of us will prepare to mourn the end of our legacy of freedom until we see the white supremacist, the man who tramples on our Constitution, that person who currently occupies our White House, led away in handcuffs.

Cheers to the home of the brave and the land of the free, for now.

 

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Getty Image (News and Guts), NPR, The Washington Standard, The Verge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 2019 Book List

July 2019 Book List

If you are a fan of real space travel, there is a list of books related to the Apollo 11 moon landing, which happened around the same time as Woodstock, 50 years ago this year. I also found both interesting fiction and nonfiction available in June, enough titles to make me wish I could read faster. Print the list out, mark it up. Remember you can almost always find a summary on Amazon and at your library or your library’s web site. Some people get a lot of reading done in the summer. Happy 4 th of July.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes  *

Deep River by Karl Marlantes

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess  *

Stay and Fight: A Novel by Madeline Ffitch*

Very Nice: A Novel by Marcy Dermansky  *

The Great Unexpected: A Novel by Dan Mooney  *

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead  *

The Lager Queen of Minnesota: A Novel by J. Ryan Stradel

The Most Fun We Ever Had: A Novel by Claire Lombardo *

In the Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark *

Mysteries and Thrillers

Lock Every Door: A Novel by Riley Sager

Lady in the Lake: A Novel by Laura Lippman

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson

The Possession (The Anomaly Files) by Michael Rutger

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The Friend: A Novel by Joakim Zander

The Need by Helen Phillips

Wanderers: A Novel by Chuck Wendig *

The New Girl (Gabriel Allon) by Daniel Silva *

Big Sky (Jackson Brodie) by Kate Atkinson  *

Biographies and Memoirs

Stronghold: One Man’s Quest to Save the World’s Wild Salmon by Tucker Malarkey

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir by Daniel R. Day

Hitler: A Life by Peter Longrich

This is Not a T-shirt: A Brand, a Culture, a Community – A Life in Streetwear by Bobbie Hundreds

The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip by Jeff Guinn

Casting into the Light: Tales of a Fishing Life by Janet Messineo

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Elsinger, Steven Scott, illus. Becker – Memoir

The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing and Coming Out by William Dameron

George Marshall: Defender of the Republic  by David L. Roll

The Life of John F Kennedy Jr.: America’s Reluctant Prince by Steven M. Gillon

Nonfiction

Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It all with the Greatest Chef in the World by Jeff Gordinier

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey through the Heart of America’s Fast Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Killer of the 21stCentury by Maureen Callahan

The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting by Ben Lewis

The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History and of the Outbreaks to Come by Richard Preston

Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein *

I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch by John Zada

Science Fiction and Fantasy

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

Wanderers: A Novel by Chuck Wendig  *

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep: A Novel by H. G. Parry

The New York Times Book Review

June 7

Fiction

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Loudermilk by Lucy Ives

Bakhita by Véronique Almi

Spring by Ali Smith

Crime

This Storm by James Ellroy

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

Murder in Bel-Air by Cara Black

The Body in the Castle Well by Martin Walker

The Shortlist

The Selected Works of Abdullah The Cossack by H. M. Naqvi

There’s a Word for that by Sloane Tanen

Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe by Evan James

Nonfiction

The Queen by Josh Levin

No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder

Generation Wuss by Bret Easton Ellis

The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum

The Pioneers by David McCullough

Range by David Epstein

Gropius by Fiona MacCarthy

Moneyland by Oliver Bullough

June 14

Nonfiction

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

L.E.I.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated Female Byron by Lucasta Miller

The Death of Politics by Peter Wehner

The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro

Clear and Present Safety by Michael A. Cohen and Micah Zinko

Women’s Work by Megan Stack

The Conservative Sensibility by George Will

Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks

The Case for Trump by Victor Davis Hansson

Fiction

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Where We Come From by Oscar Cásares

The Short List (from France)

Life of David Hockney by Catherine Cusset, trans. by Teresa Lavender Fagan

Exposed by Jean-Phillippe Blondel, trans. by Alison Anderson

Lie With Me by Philippe Besson, trans. by Molly Ringwald

June 21

50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

Hasselblad and the Moon Landing by Deborah Ireland

Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landing by Roger Launius

Shoot For the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan

Apollo To The Moon: A History in 50 Objects by Teasel Muir-Harmony

Chasing the Moon: The People, the Politics, and the Promise that Launched America Into the Space Age by Roger Stone and Alan Andres

American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by David Brinkley

One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman

Nonfiction

The Plaza by Julie Satow

War and Peace by Nigel Hamilton  *

Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer

The White Devil’s Daughters by Julia Flynn Siler

Assad or We Burn the Country by Sam Dagher

Fiction

Original Prin by Randy Boyagoda

Orange World by Karen Russell (Short Stories)

Strangers and Cousins by Leah Hager Cohen

Big Sky (Det. Jackson Brodie) by Kate Atkinson  *

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

The Poison Thread by Laura Parcell

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

Children of the Ghetto by Elias Khoury

Walking on the Ceiling: A Novel by Aysegül Savas

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames *

All the Good Things by Claire Fisher

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

June 28

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner  *

The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates

America Was Hard to Find by Kathleen Alcott

Juliet the Maniac by Juliet Escoria

Riots I Have Known by Ryan Chapman  *

Nonfiction

Democracy May Not Exist But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone by Astra Taylor

The Problem of Democracy by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein

The America: The Case for The Nation by Jill Lepore

Never Lovely So Real (Nelson Algren Biography) by Colin Asher

People, Power, and Profits by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Ill Winds by Larry Diamond. *

Spying of the South by Tony Horwitz

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene

Bottle of Lies by Katherine Eban

Picnic Comma Lightning by Laurence Scott

Publisher’s Weekly

June 7

Elderhood, Redefining Aging, Tranforming Medicine, Reimaging Life by Louise Aronson (NF)

Bunny by Mona Awad (F)  *

Recursion by Blake Crouch (Thriller)

Honestly We Meant Well by Grant Ginder (F)

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Rosalie Lim (F)

The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason (Thriller)

The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History by Marc Stein (NF)

Paris, 7 A. M. by Liza Wieland (Based on life of poet, Elizabeth Bishop) (F)

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner (F)

The History of Living Forever by Jake Wolff (F)

June 14

The Body Lies by Jo Baker (F)

Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (F) *

Roughhouse Friday: A Memoir by Jaed Coffin (F)

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone (Science Fiction). *

The Capital by Robert Menasse (F)

Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel (NF)

Conviction by Denise Mina (Thriller)

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda (Thriller)

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (F) (YA to Adult)

Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life by Darcey Steinke (NF)

June 21

Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler (NF)

Happiness, As Such by Natalia Ginzberg, trans from Italian by Minna Zallman Proctor

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (F) *

The Maze of Transparencies by Karen An-hwei Lee.(F) *

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O’Neill with Dane Piepenbring (NF) (True Crime)

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada, trans. from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai (puzzle mystery)

The Friend by Joakim Zander from Swedish by Elizabeth Clark Wessel (Thriller)

June 28

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21 st Century by Maureen Callahan (NF)

The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Vol. 4 by Neil Clarke (Science Fiction Short Stories)

Second Sight by Aoife Clifford (Crime Novel)

Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky (F)  *

Betrayal. In Time: A Kendra Donovan Mystery by Julie McElwain (F)

Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff by Anthony McCann (NF) Cliven Bundy and Son)  *

Maggie Brown and Others by Peter Omer (Character Sketches)

The Me I Used to Be by Jennifer Ryan (F)  *

Lock Every Door by Riley Sagar (Thriller)

The Public Option: How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity, and Promote Equality by Genesh Sitaramen and Anne L Alstott (NF) (Favors public opinion)

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig (F)  *

 

 

If Donald Wins in 2020 Blame the Mainstream Media

Reading the reactions of pundits and press to two nights of Democratic Party debates should actually soothe Donald Trump’s anxieties. The press, especially the mainstream press along with a few temporary volunteers from the Conservative Party, is going to do Trump’s job for him. We are being whipped up into a sense of panic for a number of reasons, all related to the reactionary judgments of people who have reached “a certain age” and beyond.

The angst over the use of the word socialism could be enough all on its own to put DT back in the oval office. Progressives are not trying to turn America into a socialist nation. Some progressives may one day manage to overturn capitalism, but not today. Most Democrats see ways to be progressive without displacing the capitalist system we have. Admittedly it would be much easier if wealthy capitalists pitched in to help keep America’s core values alive, but change can be legislated step-by-tedious step if necessary. Or we can start with blue states and use envy to get working Americans to insist that their red state follow suit. If we the people decide to make a budget that offers social programs rather than an obscene tax cut for billionaires, it’s a democracy, we can do that. All we have to do is get enough other Americans to agree. As long as the media keeps asking Democratic candidates about their view of socialism this will remain an unsettled question in the minds of many voters. Democratic socialism is not the same as socialism.

As more Democratic candidates design more and more programs to meet the needs of parents in a world where two parents probably work, or where there are many single-parent families, the mainstream media raises questions about their ability to get these things done. As long as they vow to pay off everyone’s college loans, pay reparations to Americans of African Descent who have been held back economically by discriminatory practices, offer everyone free medical care even though you might have to pay taxes that are a bit higher (offset by free medical care), make the economy more equal, and many more great ideas, the mainstream media passes on the message that these left-wingers are fringe people who will not be able to deliver on their promises. Then the media reminds us of how centrist most Americans are, and implies that we the people don’t want these things and will, as usual, vote against our own best interests. Clearly it is unlikely that all these benefits can accrue to working Americans at once. There are designs that must be debated, bills that must be written and passed. These things take time. And, although all of these programs would be paid for by the federal government they would be paid for with our money and most likely would be run by free-standing agencies with federal oversight.

Everyone who offers Progressive ideas admits that we will have to raise taxes on those at the top of the economy. There are justifications for this. Whether you think they are valid depends on your own ideological bent and perhaps how big you bank accounts are. (Most of us have only one bank account; some of us have none.) The biggest argument offered up so far is the “you did not build it”/”you did not build it alone” impasse in which some people say (“the makers”, in this scenario) that without the business they established society would be poorer. They call the rest of us “the takers”. Well that can’t be right. Without workers they could never have made such great products or offered such in-demand services and they would have stayed very small or failed. What they mean is that, now that they have found new workers, cheap workers, they don’t need us anymore. Except now we are their best consumers. And we can’t consume as much as they would like because they did not share the wealth with us. Workers did not think of themselves as “takers”. It’s insulting. Workers thought of themselves as partners, as family, but now they have been disinherited. New worker families are reaping the benefits of corporations and they are slowly becoming new consumers.

Are corporations American corporations, or do they belong to whatever country has the least expensive workers? If they can switch nationalities for economic reasons, haven’t they switched their nationalities altogether. If they strive to pay as few taxes into the government of the nation they still like to claim as their own, are they still patriots? If they pay no taxes can they still lobby as insiders for more favors from a federal government they no longer support? If they do not contribute to the federal budget should they have any say in deciding how the budget is divvied up?

I believe that if corporations continued to invest in America and American workers this nation would blossom and could, once again, become the hot crucible of innovation that it used to be. The media keeps telling Americans how centrist they are, how moderate. They do not ever get Americans excited about how lifting away some of our worries might free the nation to explore new technologies, medicines and medical treatments, ways to keep the planet clean and healthy and to solve lots of pesky problems that seem inherently solvable, but never get solved.

And finally, Progressive or Moderate, whoever becomes the Democratic candidate must not be obstructed by a moderate mainstream press from having a real shot at beating Donald Trump because he is an existential threat to our democracy/republic. Unless we have decided to stop flirting with authoritarianism and to actually become an authoritarian state; unless we kiss the forefathers goodbye – you tried, you lasted two and a half centuries – but close only counts in horseshoes and (I forgot the other one) but Google says it’s hand grenades. In the 2020 election there are only two choices, Trump or the candidate the Democrats choose. You cannot afford to be an independent voter. Not this time. You cannot afford to sit this one out. And if you saddle us with Donald Trump for four more years we may not be as nice to you as we have been so far.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Left Voice

Gerrymandering Wins: Why This Decision has Dangers for America

 

Gerrymandering Wins: Why This Decision Has Dangers for America

Today, 6/27/19 the Supreme Court passed on making a ruling on gerrymandering which has been practiced in a hyper-partisan extreme way by the GOP in recent years. Two especially egregious test cases had been brought before the court, North Carolina and Maryland.

Today’s Washington Post gives us pertinent sections of  John Roberts’ argument in basically siding with the Conservatives by deciding not to make a decision about gerrymandering. WaPo says, “The Supreme Court’s conservatives decided Thursday that federal courts do not have a role to play in deciding whether partisan gerrymandering goes too far.” Roberts says, “ We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between two major political parties…”

This is a big setback for Democrats who were hoping that someone could decide how much gerrymandering is too much. Gerrymandering is drawing voting districts that favor one party over another in an election. Extreme gerrymandering can guarantee that a minority party will always win. Both parties have used gerrymandering, which is done at the state level, and there have been times when gerrymandered districts were tortuously contorted, almost on a house-by-house basis. However gerrymandering is not considered part of fair governance and it does not honor everyone’s voting rights. For example, since the GOP sees minority voters as Democrats, they can engineer the boundaries of a district to exclude all minority voters. They may claim that this is strictly partisan, but since it robs minorities of voting power it is also racist.

There is a plan among Conservatives to use Article V of the Constitution to trigger a Constitutional Convention to amend the US Constitution so that it will more nearly conform with Conservative views. Two-thirds of the states must apply for such a convention. Through gerrymandering and the actions of the Conservative group ALEC, that has actually dictated bills to state legislatures and then lobbied to get these bills voted into law, the Conservatives already have collected applications for a Constitutional Convention from 28 states. They only need 6 more states to make up the required number of 34. There are 6 more GOP states who have not applied for a Constitutional Convention so far. The two strategies, extreme gerrymandering and collecting states so that Conservatives can call a US Constitutional Convention show a sophisticated kind of long range planning which could almost amount to a bloodless coup in which one party, the GOP gets to take over the US government and move it as far to the right as they wish.

Since the court will not help overturn the gerrymandering that is most extreme, it becomes even more important for the Democrats to win in 2020. If they win in a census year they may have some control over gerrymandering. However, since gerrymandering happens at the state level, and since Conservatives have won over so many states it may be too late to prevent a Constitutional Convention. A Constitutional Convention called by Conservative states could be a disaster for Democrats and for we the people given the partisan divide right now in America.

Fortunately, the court also decided on this same day to deny the right to put a citizenship question on the census. A citizenship question, as evidence recently discovered proves, is another way the GOP is attempting to discourage minorities from voting. Since minorities often vote for Democrats and since minorities may be leery about answering a citizenship question, this could again suppress Democratic Party votes. President Trump, unhappy with the court’s decision about the citizenship question has asked if the census could be delayed until the court can be provided with better information. Has this ever happened before? Maybe. But the Supreme Court was never intended to do the bidding of a president.

Photo from a Google Image Search: Washington Post

Immigration: “We Are Better Than This”

Immigration: “We Are Better Than This”

A warehouse full of children. An air conditioned warehouse full of children with concrete floors, no beds, only two scratchy wool blankets. An air conditioned warehouse full of cold, anxious children with too few adults to care for them – children sleeping on concrete floors who have not been given clean clothing or a chance to shower or even a bar of soap, a towel, and a toothbrush. Does any of this sound like America to you? But it is happening in America. It is happening right now in America.

We have a President who has told us that the people coming across our southern border are animals. Do you believe that he is telling the truth? Are these people dangerous? Are they less than human? Why are they coming? The President thinks it is a planned challenge to his immigration policies, that Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle countries) are “pranking” him somehow. Reporters who have visited these three nations tell a different story however. They tell a story about a once fertile triangle of farm land shared by these three nations. They tell us that the land is no longer fertile because the rainfall, once predictable, is now erratic. There are long periods of dry weather in recent years followed by too much rain all at once. This disruption in the usual water cycle could be temporary, but it could be due to climate change. The area is also threatened by gangs of men who snatch girls for trafficking purposes or for their own use and who snatch young men to increase memberships. These gangs are at war with each other and innocent citizens are killed in the ensuing violence.

People usually love the country they were born in. They don’t want to leave it. If large numbers of people are migrating from one country to another country far away there is always a reason for it. People migrate when their home nation cannot offer enough food, or enough safety, or any opportunities for a better life. People of means may travel out of a sense of adventure, or to broaden their experiences, to enjoy other cultures and the beauty of foreign places. However, unless they stumble into a place they know is unstable and hostile, tourists do not end up sleeping in warehouses with concrete floors. And neither should people who are seeking asylum from a nation that no longer offers a viable life to its people.

We cannot solve problems that arise from climate change, especially with an administration in charge of America that does not believe in climate change. But offering aid to a nation in need is something that we do know how to do. We cannot get rid of local gangs. We are not even doing well with keeping our own gangs under control. But we do know that when people are offered opportunities to learn a trade or get a college degree and find employment violence tends to decrease and the influence of gangs declines.  Aid can also be perceived to be nation building, can be seen as imperialistic interference done for personal gain rather than altruism, so the way help is offered matters. While giving aid it is not polite to see what resources you can steal from a nation that is suffering.

If one way to tackle the flow of migrants is to improve the conditions in the home nations, another way is to streamline our procedures for handling migration when it happens. Denying migrants access to the laws that govern immigration does not seem to stop people from immigrating. Separating children from parents does not seem to discourage the flow of immigration. Denying children showers and soap and toothbrushes may make them miserable but it doesn’t make them disappear (unless they die). Is that the plan? To let squalor do its work. Is that a plan Americans can live with?

“We are better than this.” Whenever I listen to panels of experts talk on my news channel (MSNBC) someone always says this. We can do better than taking children who came here with a parent or who have a contact who is a relative already in America, than housing them in a cold soulless shelter, leaving them in wet diapers and dirty clothing, allowing them to live with lice, and sending them to bed hungry with only a scratchy blanket for company. We are America. We are organized. We are humane. We are a can-do nation. If the system is overwhelmed then hire more people. Warehouse supplies, not people. Better yet, don’t detain children at all. Set to work immediately getting them to their destination if they have one, or finding them a family to act as a temporary sponsor.

What the President would like to do is immediately deport them, but the law says they have a right to a hearing. He says that if they are released with a hearing date they will not return. Statistics say that the return rate is really good for adults. How do you give a hearing to a toddler who may be nonverbal? Applying the same practices for children that we have for adults makes no sense. HHS (Housing and Human Services) is full of experts in the care of displaced children. They should be called upon to suggest ways to handle minors separated from parents or guardians. Many experts have been making valid suggestions without getting much attention.

The chaos we are seeing in the immigration system is due to this administration’s attempts to solve the problem by circumventing immigration laws, in other words by using approaches that are lawless, approaches for which there are no precedents and no organizational plans. Orders are given and they must be accomplished although no resources are offered to accomplish what the administration wants. If everyone is to be sent back home why aren’t they loaded immediately onto planes? Because no logistics have been designed to make this possible. So migrants seeking asylum are caught between a rock and a government-engineered hard place and they cannot solve their own dilemma. But we can. “We are better than this.”

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Cut

 

 

 

 

 

Compromising with Segregationists and Old School Bipartisanship

Compromising with Segregationists and Old School Bipartisanship

Biden talked this week about compromising with some pretty stubborn and reprehensible segregationists because it was the only way anything could get done. You would think someone who said hateful racist things every day in Congress and blocked programs designed to effectively lift up the children of slaves and other Americans of African descent would have a difficult time in Congress and in elections. You would think s/he (usually a he) would be shunned and ignored. But this has not been the case in America or in the American Congress. Because these men loved to make outrageous racist arguments to prevent black Americans from assimilating into mainstream culture, the media knew that giving these crude voices a bullhorn was a moneymaker. We seem to enjoy whatever is most outrageous, or perhaps some of us just enjoy feeling outraged, however powerless we feel to do anything about it.

So when Biden says that he compromised with segregationists and got things done, it is possible to conclude that the compromises that were made in Biden’s days, and throughout our history, gave us legislation with all the teeth taken out of it.

Conservatives and segregationists may not have had rabid racism in common but they do not like spending money on social programs and they all do have that in common. Because they don’t believe desegregation is desirable or is the province of government every program is assembled piecemeal out of stony opposition and supposedly plain-spoken debate that is actually prejudice, and by the time the assistance program appears in its final form it is watered down almost beyond any hope of proving effective.

Conservatives also worry about the few people who will abuse the system far more than they appreciate the numbers of people who could benefit from the system. To counter real and imagined felonious tendencies of recipients of programs – programs that are supposed to help equalize opportunities for all Americans, to at least provide for basic needs in order to allow people to satisfy higher needs like owning a home or getting a certificate or degree to lead to a better job – the process of obtaining assistance is made so onerous that receiving what was supposed to offer a lift up becomes stigmatizing and demoralizing.

Why have the problems of our inner cities been so stubborn? Why have some black folks been essentially trapped in our inner cities, or in segregated neighborhoods? Given all the time and money dedicated to eradicating differences in opportunities why are so many black people still so poor? Why are so many black people in jail? Why have other groups been eventually accepted in the fold and able to climb the economic ladder?

Conservatives like to pretend that Americans of African descent have low IQ’s and that this makes them inferior to white people. How much of this is still resentment about losing their property? How much of this is still resentment about losing the Civil War? How much of this is about the way the demise of the plantation system changed the entire economy of the South and left it languishing until factories began to leave the North and migrate to the old slave states? How much of this is simply about the color of someone’s skin?

How much of this is the fault of these ancestors of the very people who snatched Africans from their homes to enslave them? How much of this is because of laws that did not allow slaves to learn to read and write? If you prevent people from being educated you really cannot turn around and deride them for being “ignorant”. How much of Conservatives’ active moves to undermine all attempts at desegregation arise from fear that vengeance will be wreaked one day?

We understand the roots of racism pretty well, but we have been far less successful at ridding ourselves of this unwarranted prejudice. So when we passed a welfare program to give struggling folks living in areas of stubborn poverty a living wage recipients became Welfare Queens and those Welfare Queens were not white.

Pretty soon poor white and black folks, many of them single females with children or families with absent fathers, were required to either go to work or go to school, even though they might have to make less than satisfactory arrangements for their children. This put their children into situations that left them behind other children in school, or perhaps exposed them to traumatizing adult situations that then made it difficult for them to socially adjust to schooling.

We funded housing programs, but white neighborhoods with better schools were made unavailable to black folks through informal white segregationist practices like red-lining. Thus people could get assistance with low rent housing with all its inadequacies but they could not buy a home outside of the inner city neighborhoods. These neighborhoods had the advantage of creating and solidifying black unity, and the disadvantages of gangs and violence that come from a need to have control over at least a small corner of the world as your own space and a pathway, however illegal, to wealth.

The intent of these programs may have been to tear down invisible walls that were separating black and white people, especially economically. However we will never know if these programs would have worked if they were allowed to stick to their original configurations and intentions. Compromising with segregationists turned them into reluctant and temporary kinds of assistance that subjected recipients to a loss of personal pride and did not end up lifting any one up. We chose a path and we will never know if the other path would have been better.

I think that today’s Progressive Dems and the apparently despised Liberals are saying that perhaps those Democrats who felt that compromise was a good thing were wrong; that giving in to racists cannot offer any benefits to America or to Americans.

They may also be sad that fifty years or more were wasted. It is likely that we have caused the very problems that haunt our inner cities by allowing what should have been supportive services designed to end segregation to be subverted by segregationists through the very compromises that allowed the laws to be passed. In other words, compromise took all the heart out of the laws and injected meanness.

If bipartisanship means compromises like these blasts from the past, Democrats can no longer afford to compromise at all. This is even more true because Mitch McConnell, drunk on the power of “no”, will never allow for bipartisan compromise as long as he controls the majority in the Senate.

Photo Credit: The Federalist

Razzle Dazzle 2020 – Trump Announces

Razzle Dazzle 2020 – Trump Announces

A visit with the Queen in the UK who found him the most amusing man she has ever met in her six decades on the throne.

A visit with the head of the illiberal government in Poland.

Saber rattling at Iran.

Sending weapons to the Saudi’s to add to the threat against Iran.

Promising to deport millions of undocumented Americans in a big putsch(push).

Suggesting that all will be made right with President Xi of China next week at the G20.

 

Winking to his followers about a private meeting with Putin. (next week at G20).

Leaking that we have cyber malware in place to shut down the electrical grid in Russia if they try to activate the malware they have placed in our grid and then acting clueless. Using the opportunity to “whale” on the failing New York Times.

Promising he will release his excellent new health care plan in a couple of months.

These are only the opening salvos Trump has delivered to his base to get ready for this day Tuesday, 6/18/2019, when Trump formally announces his run for a second term as President of the United States. ( picture actually from Melborne)

What other tidbits could Trump have in store for his base (which the rest of us will be unable to ignore) in what promises to be a long contentious election.

The adoring crowd camping out in Orlando last night to be in the front rows is supposed to be just a foretaste of the packed and howling rallies to come.

Trump’s rallies bear a strong resemblance to what it must have been like to attend a fight to the death in the Colosseum in Rome,

or to ride the cage at Thunderdome (if it was real).

Here we go folks- Razzle Dazzle 2020. As if he hasn’t demanded we pay attention to him for the past 2+ years, now there may not be any oxygen left for his opponent in the Democratic Party, whoever that turns out to be.

Perhaps this would be a good time to take part in that experiment where we all try to do without our tech stuff until after the election.

What stunts would Trump get up to if no one was paying any attention to him. Skywriting?

Tweets from space?

If you believe Trump’s claims you are probably wearing something like this.

 

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches: BBC, US Embassy in Poland, The National Interest, Reuters, CNN, BBC, Mediate.com, Fortune, NYT, ABC News, Fox News, The Right Scoop, Intersections, the federalist.com, Orange County Business Mixers, NBC News, Balkon 3, Florida Today

Does a President Have Unlimited Power?

Trump is claiming that the President of the United States has unlimited powers. He has been steadily exercising Presidential power without accepting any checks on his power. He is hugging more and more power to himself much in the way he hugs the American flag.

Trump has become increasingly authoritarian since the Democrats became the majority power in the House and he lost the backing of an undivided (totally partisan) Congress. If he cannot have an inert Congress, loyal to him (Him) and willing to offer little or no obstruction, not even the token attempts to rein Trump in if he seems likely to take us into existential danger, then he will act like Congress does not exist. Because, to his mind, Congress has no power over the President or how could the President perform the duty of the President to be the unchallenged boss (Don) of America.

The Constitution only applies to all those other people in the government, who are actually unnecessary because all the nation really needs is a President. This is even more obvious as this 45 th President is a stable genius who is doing the greatest job ever of running the country. If Trump states it, it has to be true.

I don’t believe we knew the full extent of Trump’s mental delusions until he got ensconced in the Oval. Now he has us stymied about how to rid ourselves of him and save a democracy/republic which this man obviously has no respect for. Our democracy cannot work as long as Trump is President but he has mesmerized almost half of America. We are in deep trouble.

We must keep democracy alive in our hearts and, if we don’t win the 2020 election, we must prepare ourselves to live in a world that is crumbling around us even as the leader thinks the nation is thriving. We must steal our hearts to human rights violations and humanitarian violations that we cannot immediately redress. We can take no solace from science as the environmental conditions on our planet turn more and more hostile, because our President is a fatalist in this regard. We must live two lives, an external life and an internal life. And it looks like we must prepare ourselves for war against Iran and what will that like? How will the nations of the world align? Will America start the next World War?

This is getting scarier by the minute as we put our faith in the system, common sense, an election and our Constitution to set things back to some kind of normalcy. One woman, Nancy Pelosi, is carrying an enormous burden, pitting herself against a President who is drunk on power. At least that’s how it looks some days. We the people are doing little except to help maintain the notion that everything is normal, nothing to see here until we get through the next election.

An article in the NYT 6/17/2019 discusses this same topic.

Judge for Yourself

Here is a condensed version of Article I and Article II of the US Constitution. Do you think our founding document gives a President of the United States unlimited power as Trump claims?

A Condensed Version of the US Constitution with more Contemporary Language. (by Nancy Brisson)

Article 1 of the US Constitution

Section 1:

Establishes Congress which is granted all Legislative powers and says that Congress will be made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives.

Section 2:

Members of the House of Representatives are chosen every 2 years.

Members must be at least 25 years of age, a US citizen for 7 years and a resident of the state s/he will represent when elected.

Describes how taxes and representatives will be portioned out among the states, but this part was revised because it was racist.

Says that states will replace members if their seat becomes vacant between elections.

Gives House of Representatives the right to choose their Speaker and Officers.

Gives House of Representatives the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section 3

Senate will be composed of 2 senators from each state, chosen in a state election.

Senators serve for 6 years.

Each senator has one vote.

These six year terms were staggered in the very first Congress so that 1/3 of the Senate must run for election every 2 years and then stay for 6 years until it is their turn to run again.

Vacancies during recesses are refilled temporarily by the appropriate state until the next meeting of the Legislature when they are filled permanently.

Senators must be at least 30 years old, a citizen for nine years, and live in the state s/he will represent.

The Vice President of the US will be the President of the Senate, but only votes when there is a tie.

The Senate will chose their other officers and also a President pro tempore to serve when the Vice President has other duties or must take over for the President.

The Senate has the power to try impeachments. When the President is tried the Chief Justice presides. Conviction requires a 2/3 vote of all the members.

The Senate can remove someone from office and disqualify them from holding office in the future, but the party, once removed, convicted can then be subject to normal Indictment, Trial and Punishment.

Section 4

State Legislatures decide the time, place, and manner of holding elections, but the Congress has oversight except in the matter of the places where elections are held.

Congress will assemble at least once a year on 1stMonday of December unless a different day is specified by a subsequent law.

Section 5

Each House of Congress regulates elections and qualifications of its own members.

A majority constitutes a quorum to do business, but a smaller number can meet from day to day and can decide how to persuade absent members to attend.

Each House can decide the rules for how it does business and punish members for disorderly behavior and can expel a member with a 2/3 vote.

Each House will keep a journal with a record of yeas and nays when members wish this info to be recorded, and will publish all parts of the journal from time to time unless secrecy is needed.

Congress will not adjourn for more than 3 days when it is sitting or move proceedings to a new location.

Section 6

Senators and Representatives will be paid.

They will be privileged from arrest while Congress is in session or while traveling to and from Congress except for Treason, Felony, and Breach of Peace.

Members of Congress cannot be held liable for a speech made in Congress even when Congress is not in session.

You cannot be in Congress and hold any other office in the government at the same time.

Section 7

The House of Representatives makes all bills for raising revenue but the Senate can amend or vote on amendments.

Bills passed in Congress must go to the President who can either sign it or return it. (veto power) But if the bill is reconsidered and passes in both Houses of Congress by 2/3 vote it can become a law despite the President’s veto. If the President doesn’t return a bill to Congress in ten days it becomes a law, unless Congress adjourns to prevent the return in which case it does not become a law.

Each law that is passed by both Houses must be sent to the President except for the matter of adjournment.

Section 8

Powers of Congress:

To ask for taxes, collect taxes, charge shipping fees, pay debts.

Provide for the Common defense and general welfare of the US.

Any fees, etc. must be the same throughout the states.

Can borrow money on credit of the US.

Regulate commerce with other nations, among the states, and with the Indian Tribes.

Establish rules to become a naturalized citizen.

Make uniform laws of bankruptcy throughout the states.

Coin money and regulate value of US money and foreign money.

Decide the standards of weights and measures.

Decide punishment for counterfeiting securities and money.

Establish post office and post roads.

Promote the progress of Science and the Arts through trademarks and patents.

To form courts under the Supreme Court.

To define rules about piracy and conduct on the high seas and offenses against the laws of nations.

To declare War and make appropriate rules about captures.

To raise and support Armies – no appropriation of money for longer than 2 years at a time.

To provide and maintain a Navy.

Makes rules for government and regulation of land and naval forces.

To provide for calling forth the militia (to execute laws, suppress insurrections, impel invasions).

Gives broader control over the Militia, organizing, arming and disciplining.

Have power over land ceded to government for forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, etc.

To make laws that accomplish these goals and all other goals mentioned in the Constitution.

Section 9

Specifies a fee for states that import or migrate people before 1808. (slave states?)

Writ of habeas corpus (the right to go before a judge) cannot be denied except when in a rebellion or invasion when public safety may require it.

You cannot pass a law that is retroactive and that denies the right to appear before a judge.

You cannot tax by head count without a census.

You cannot pass a law that charges for interstate trade.

The same thing applies to ports. The government may not show preference for the port of one state over another. States cannot charge other states port fees.

Congress cannot draw any money unless it is budgeted by law and records must be published from time to time.

Congress cannot grant titles of nobility.

No person holding any office can accept any present, Emolument, Office, or title of any kind whatever from any King, Prince or foreign state (Emoluments clause) unless Congress consents.

Section 10

States cannot make treaties or alliances or do any of the things that Congress cannot do.

States can charge duties for executing inspection laws, but the money shall be for the use of the US Treasury and Congress has the right to review and control these state laws.

States cannot keep troops, or ships of war or enter into any agreement with another state or foreign power or engage in War unless under immediate threat of invasion.

Article II

Section 1

Executive Power is given to the President of the United States of America.

He has a term of 4 years.

Also a Vice president will serve for the same term.

Describes the election process including the Electoral College, although not by that name.

Congress determines the dates for elections, with the same election day throughout the states.

President must be a natural born citizen.

Must be at least thirty-five years of age.

Must have resided fourteen years within the United States.

Describes order of succession should we lose the President – VP would become President.

(Congress has subsequently decided a more extended order of succession).

President will be paid but may not accept any other emoluments even from the states.

Oath of Affirmation: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Section 2

Designates President as Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy and Militias of states when called into service.

May require principal officer in any Executive position to submit a job description.

Has the power to grant pardons and reprieves, except in cases of impeachment.

Has the power to make treaties with approval of 2/3 of Senators.

Appoints, with advice and consent of the Senate, Ambassadors, public ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and any other officers who appoints are not otherwise provided for.

Congress may by law give the power over appointment of inferior officers to the President alone, or to the courts or to the heads of departments.

The President can fill all vacancies that happen during the recess of the Senate by granting commission, but they expire at the end of the Senate’s next session.

Section 3

Provides for the State of the Union address.

President can recommend measure s/he considers expedient or necessary to Congress.

President can on extraordinary occasions convene both houses, or either of them and if they cannot agree about adjournment s/he can adjourn Congress until a time he designates as proper.

President can receive ambassadors and other public ministers.

S/he shall take care that the laws are faithfully executed.

S/he shall commission all Officers of the United States.

Section 4

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – NPR, Lawfare, www.senate.gov, GovTrack, business insider.com