Inequality–Our Biggest Problem

Jan 14, 2021

Donald Trump rode to his populist Presidency by seizing upon the frustrations of mostly white male blue collar workers. His own life was far from that–inheriting $40 million from his wealthy father, (mis) managing a real estate empire from luxurious offices and chauffeur driven limousines. He’d probably never been to a farm or factory, and was not a church goer. But, as he began his campaign, he discovered the frustration of this large constituency which had not been addressed by policies in previous administrations across the past 50 years. Not since the 70s had the working class enjoyed a fair shake in regard to jobs, opportunity, and wages. He suddenly became a Christian and began to promise return of jobs lost to China, plus protection from immigrants, increased security, gun rights, and opposition to abortion–popular with this group.

I have argued for years that inequality should be our greatest concern. It’s not so much that the ranks and wealth of the top 10% have been skyrocketing. They have, but turns out the working class is not so disturbed by that. The concern of the bottom 50% is that they cannot enjoy a decent life in the meantime. Unable to afford a safe and decent home. Not enough job opportunities. Wages insufficient for family health care, good education for the kids, even food. These seemingly indisputable rights of life in America have been denied the working class for almost 50 years. Democrats and Republicans are to blame. Frustrations were increasing.

These workers have been vocal–as at Trump’s rallies. They can also be violent, as at the Capital on January 6. Republicans argue that their grievances are legitimate. The “grievance” that the election was “stolen” is NOT legitimate. However, their basic needs being overlooked repeatedly by the governments of both Democrats and Republicans are indeed fully legitimate. No wonder they have lost confidence in our institutions and are attracted to a populist who offered both fake culprits and fake solutions, and who promised to “empty the swamp” in Washington.

Can anyone deny that the protests of blue collar males has little to do with their incomes, their opportunity, the lackluster services or help from the government? If not these, as primary and entirely legitimate grievances, then what? Does anyone really imagine they are behaving this way because they hate immigrants, they hate foreign countries, or solely because they were told by their President that the election was stolen?

Their plight never gets better. And, whenever a downturn comes, be it the economic downturn of 2007, the Covid downturn of 2020, or the advancing impact of climate change, the poor suffer more. The top 10% continue to prosper, but the working class struggle pay the bills for basics–housing, food, education, health.

According to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), the collective wealth of America’s 651 billionaires has jumped by over $1 trillion since roughly the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to a total of $4 trillion at market close on Monday, December 7, 2020.

Meanwhile, ordinary Americans have not fared well during the pandemic:

  • Nearly 14.9 million have fallen ill with the virus and 284,000 have died from it. [Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center]
  • Collective work income of rank-and-file private-sector employees—all hours worked times the hourly wages of the entire bottom 82% of the workforce—declined by 2.3% from mid-March to mid-October, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
  • Nearly 67 million lost work between Mar. 21 and Oct. 7, 2020. [S. Department of Labor]
  • 20 million were collecting unemployment on Nov. 14, 2020. [S. Department of Labor]
  • 98,000 businesses have permanently closed. [Yelp/CNBC]
  • 12 million workers have lost employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic as of August 26, 2020. [Economic Policy Institute]
  • Nearly 26 million adults reported their household not having enough food in the past week between Nov. 11-23. From Oct. 28 to Nov. 7, between 7 and 11 million children lived in a household where kids did not eat enough because the household could not afford it. [Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (CBPP)]
  • 4 million adults—1 in 6 renters—reported in November being behind in their rent. [CBPP]

Trump did nothing for this group. But the problem of neglecting them predates Trump by decades. It began to explode under Trump. The neglect, the suffering, and the cocktail of Trump rhetoric lit a bonfire which will not be quenched by voting Trump out.

If there is any positive to four years with Trump, it is this: He awakened the disenfranchised, and they’re angry and vocal. Maybe our newest government will be forced to seriously address their legitimate needs. We are all to blame for negligence–spending money on tax breaks for the wealthy, increased military, and numerous pork projects, while a new breed of terror is rising up from inside our country–demanding solutions, with some prepared to use violence to achieve their ends.

Source: Inequality.org, dec 7 2020

What’s Missing

Jan 13, 2021

The Republicans are now making a big deal out of what they describe as the righteous indignation, totally justified, that a big segment of the 74 million who voted for Trump feel the election was stolen.

Stolen, and they want it either restored to Trump, or at the very least, a convincing process engaged to study, analyze, and verify the election results. That’s what they want.

What’s missing?

Three things are missing. First, the 50 States each studied and analyzed their election returns, several of the “battleground” states re-counting and taking other measures to study any questionable ballots in regards to signatures and other factors. They all reported that they were entirely satisfied with their results. They all reported that even if the very small number of discrepancies were further studied, they could assure that the changes from such a small number would never be sufficient to change the outcome of the election in their states. Subsequently, some 60 lawsuits were turned down by judges in state and federal courts across the country, including our Supreme Court–finding absolutely no merit to the only anecdotal evidence offered.

Furthermore, the Federal Election Commission reported that they had done their own preparations thoroughly and that this was the most secure election in American history.

So, there was no one,. no official body, no court, no state Attorney General or Secretary of State, who found evidence that a court considered valid to show the election was stolen.

So, no one.

But the third reason is the clincher: Who was it who created the illusion that the election was stolen, in the face of all this evidence to the contrary? President Trump did that. President Trump from the day of the election and daily after that, in speech after speech, rally after rally, tweet after tweet, incited his base with the belief that the election had been stolen.

That’s what’s missing. That’s what the Republicans do not mention when they are trying to gain sympathy for millions of disenfranchised Americans who believe the election was stolen.

Since the perpetrator of the lie is not going to recant his claim, and the genie is out of the bottle now. there is little that can be done to assuage the frustration of those millions who bought the lie.

Biden’s team is certainly studying a review of the election as a possibility, but it’s not that simple now. Given the level of passion Trump has incited, who can devise, who can imagine, a process that would really be sufficient to resolve that falsehood? It’s next to impossible.

Can anyone imagine a process that would convince Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz?

Trump Fading into Oblivion

Jan 10, 2021

With the Trump incited mob attack on the Capital this week, following by social media giants halting his access to his megaphone, the Donald is now inevitably headed for oblivion. He’s not going to succeed in another try for the Presidency, no matter whether he is indeed impeached and convicted. He is not gong to be a major voice in the (new) Republican Party either.

Admittedly, these are my convictions, but increasingly also those of many others. Not just the dreams of the entire Democratic Party, although clearly that is our fervent hope. Increasingly, moderates and even notably Republicans like Toomey and Murkoski are calling for his early departure from the Presidency. Others like Sasse and Graham have severely criticized his rhetoric leading to the capital rampage. Clearly, his “base” will be significantly shrunk by these recent events. This alone will dramatically lower his influence over the more politically aspirant members of his party. The fear that his “tweets” (presently permanently suspended by Twitter) or other channelled criticisms will destroy a Republican’s re-election chances have diminished significantly. This was one of his most powerful weapons and measures of Party control, now weakened if not destroyed. Members of his staff and even Cabinet members have resigned. Some notable politicians and media personalities previously praising his every action, have turned critical–e.g., Matt Schlapp, Chris Christie, Mark Levin, and others. Even Mitch McConnell strongly denounced Trump’s behavior in his speech to the Senate at the meeting for electoral vote count.

Trump is facing a possible 2nd Impeachment or removal by 25th Amendment, and is likely to be facing multiple federal and state investigations and civil lawsuits after departing office. He is blamed by many for costing the GOP the Georgia Senatorial runoff elections, thus denying Republicans the Senate in 2021, due to his persistence in claiming elections cannot be trusted.

The counter opinion? A duly elected President ending his term with 75 million votes, will most certainly continue to be a major force in American politics and has a high probability of being re-elected in 2024. After all, he is able to command a “base” of followers numbering 80 million on Twitter (until denied access only recently). He was able to gather tens of thousands to dozens of rallies he conducted across his four years. He is applauded on a wide variety of right wing media, including Fox and other Murdoch sites and publications, and also extremist media. He is popular among those who subscribe to conspiracy theories and those who believe in white supremacy. Regrettably, these are no small number of Americans, and taken alone enough to assure the continued relevancy of the clear leader of such beliefs in the way to Make America Great Again. Furthermore, his policies appeal to many: Abolishing abortion, preventing immigration, fighting with allies over relative world power, lowering taxes and reducing regulations. Blaming immigrants and foreign nations for our problems. Insulting anyone who disagrees. Even lying repeatedly, daily, decrying the media as “the enemy of the people.” Even this, all of this–popular with millions of Americans.

Finally, on his side of the future role ledger: Given that these beliefs have widespread support, Trump’s disappearance will not make them go away. Instead, they will sustain and will need a populist leader to lead them. Who better than a former President who has been unfairly treated by the Left and by the “swamp,” and by our failed institutions. Who better? After all, his whole persona has been described as built on grievance.

OK. Maybe. But I don’t think so. One major reason is my conviction that a majority of Republican politicians do not really like Trump, but have simply feared him. Many will be glad to get him out of the way. For one thing, the Republican Party wants to get on with restoring itself to its Conservative ideals, which Trump certainly did not exemplify. For another, no matter the media’s controls continuing or not, no longer President, he wields far less power and influence over their political futures. For many, their constituent balance has now likely shifted away from Trump, on balance. Finally, many Republican politicians have ambitions of their own for the Presidency–including Rubio, Cruz, and others. If they continue as sycophants to a departed ‘unhinged’ President, support him for a 2024 run he might again win, they must wait at least 8 years from now for their own chance. That’s too long. Human psychology on a personal level will play in. My allegiance only goes so far when it is up against my own opportunity.

He’s done. He’s relegated to nothing more than a far Right voice, if he can find a new megaphone. He isn’t even consistent, has no unifying meaningful political philosophy, and is left to a weakening voice, primarily casting blame on the innocent. It will be a sad scenario, as he loses power and fades into oblivion.

Think Richard Nixon, who was popular right up to the end, but immediately faded into oblivion.