Trump’s New Fatal Dilemma

May 9 2020

With all the pain and anguish in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, there has emerged a political reality which may offer a huge positive opportunity for America. It may portend the end of the Trump Presidency.

Trump has a “base” of supporters. He has galvanized them around anti-immigrants, gun rights, and “law and order,” among other things. He is widely perceived as racist. These are what raised him up among those on the Right who believe in this kind of world. These are now what could bring him down. The Floyd death has thrust the US into a new era, or perhaps even a new order. This era is most certainly anti-police. It could even be labeled “anti-law and order.”

His new problem: He cannot step up and support Black Lives Matter and defunding of police departments. He can’t because that would be a complete reversal of his “send in the troops,” law and order, and all of that. If he were to do that, he’d risk the loss of a big part of his base, with which he only won the previous election by a narrow margin, losing the popular vote. Losing a big slice of his base would guarantee him a loss in the upcoming elections. When taken with the economic problems coming from the pandemic, and his negative polls in handling of the pandemic, he’d probably be finished.

He can’t take the route that Biden clearly is seizing —to endorse the new movement wholeheartedly.

Even among acquiescent Republican Congressmen, there is a private desire to be rid of this lying pretender. Republican Congressmen would quickly galvanize around a far better Republican in a flash, if they were convinced that his base had eroded substantially. They’re sticking with him because they fear the elective power of his base in turning all deserters promptly out of office.

So, he’s stuck. On the one hand, he is married to his “law and order,” and “send in the troops” proclamations. He must know he really can’t send in more troops and beat his law and order drums more just now. But he can’t back off in his rhetoric. He can’t offer sympathy to the new movement. Many say he doesn’t even know empathy.

On the other hand, as the nation’s titular leader, he needs to respond supportively to this huge vocal contingent. It’s a great leadership opportunity. But he’s trapped. He can only retreat into the Oval Office and hope for the furor to quell—as indeed it has in the aftermath of many another black man’s death by police in our country.

But so far, this one feels different. There is a massive uprising among people of all colors, ages, and types, throughout our country, and, indeed, throughout the world. An Editor of the New York Times is out because he allowed a Tom Cotton editorial in support of “send in the troops.” Ellen Degeneres got in trouble over well intended remarks that went wrong and went viral. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was forced to apologize for speaking out against “disrespecting the flag.” This new powerful movement that could even be labeled “anti-law and order” is only gaining steam. The groundswell of frustration with “law and order” is likely to motivate a turnout among Black Lives sympathizers of all ages and colors, strong enough to significantly increase the voting among liberal progressives in November.

So, even if Trump sticks with his right wing positions, which he most certainly will do and must do, the groundswell of sympathy for the downtrodden is likely to result in far more progressives voting in November.

That’s my prediction.

President Donald J. Trump is caught in a  fatal Catch-22.

 

 

Time for Recovery

Mistakes and Recovery

It’s really, really bad

It’s too bad

We made a mistake

A big mistake

 

Something went wrong

Very wrong

3 years ago

 

We were complacent

Asleep

Lazy

Absent

Didn’t think it could happen

 

Didn’t think he

Could be elected

A liar

A narcissist

A fraud

Big talker

Fake Christian

A showman

A trickster

A con man

Charlatan

 

Only favors the rich

Insults his opponents

Protects his cronies

Forgets the poor

Antagonizes allies

Denies our shores to the threatened

Undermines our press

Cares only for himself

 

A barker at a carnival

Turning our nation

Into a carnival

 

While we were asleep

This is what happened

 

So, it’s on us

We can’t blame others

We failed at the voting booth

 

There were enough of us

To change the outcome

To prevent this disaster

But we didn’t show

 

What’s done is done

No sense crying in our milk

No time for excuses

 

It’s time to recover

 

It’s not all lost

Tougher challenges to this young nation

Have been conquered

Along our way

 

But the time is near

We get another chance

We must choose

There are only two choices

 

One way is domination

Deceit

Subordination

Lies

Prejudice

Economic havoc

 

The other

Honesty

Truth

Freedom of speech and press

Hope

Compassion

And collective good

 

One thing for sure

If you lean Right

And you had unfounded hope

For a better leader

A better time

 

Those hopes have certainly been dashed

 

See you at the voting booth!

 

 

 

Your Purpose

Purpose

Workers–remember

Everyone must have a purpose

That’s what they say

 

A noble calling

Maybe born with it

Or your parents decided

You just thought it up

On your own

Doesn’t matter

How you got it

 

But you hafta have one

It’s the meaning of life

 

Doctor

Lawyer

Scientist

Executive

Preacher

Mayor

Governor

CEO

President

This is the List

 

 

You can choose

But these are the best choices

Best you take one of these

 

Don’t choose activist

Or social worker

God forbid!

 

There’s no excuse

For not having a purpose

Or failing to achieve it

 

That’s what they say

 

They say it doesn’t matter

Whether rich or poor

You must have a purpose

And you must achieve it

Just takes determination

 

Here comes a pandemic

30 million of you

 Unemployed

No paycheck

 

What’s your purpose?

 

What?

You say

You didn’t have time

Or energy

For a purpose?

 

Providing

Is all the purpose

You could afford?

 

And now, just surviving,

Avoiding starvation

Homelessness

That’s your purpose?

 

Only that?

 

You say

41% of Americans

Can’t come up with $250

For this emergency?

 

Is that right?

 

But those in the List

Those with money

They have a purpose

Lofty

Noble

 

Pandemic only a blip

For them

Just ride it out

 

But doesn’t their purpose…

Doesn’t their achievement

 

Depend on you?

Don’t they know that?

5/6/20

 

If You Ever Doubted…

May 5, 2020

I’ve been writing about inequality for some years. I have consistently argued that inequality is the biggest problem of our time–even more than nuclear weapons or climate change–for the US and the world.

Why? Because tens of millions in the US and billions in the world face a range of dire health and living condition outcomes, including food shortage, for those living in the lower levels of inequality. This translates to  the fragility of life, desperation, and undoubtedly one way or another, to millions of deaths globally, annually.

And because the consequences of poverty are immediate, while we have a little time yet to deal with nuclear proliferation and climate change. That’s why.

More than 30 million Americans are suddenly out of work. They are filing for unemployment and desperately waiting for the government checks. My bank says they are fielding thousands of desperate calls from their small business customers.

The early mortality of our poor in the US most likely annually far exceeds the current estimate of 134,000 deaths from the virus. Suffering early mortality or starvation, or poverty related health issues, suicides, etc. Because we can’t develop precise statistics, Americans often dismiss the tragedies of inequality.

Today, I want to emphasize: We have a new context, a new crisis, and a vivid example of the fragility of our economic system.

From today’s Marketplace and Market Morning podcasts:

60% of people say they would have a hard time coming up with $1,000 for an emergency such as this.

41% say they would have trouble coming up with $250 for an emergency such as this.

And, as usual, the % of Blacks and hispanics having trouble with only $250 was significantly higher than 41%.

Here’s the point: What better evidence to illustrate, to prove, that we have evolved into a society, an economy, which does NOT focus on the working class. Does not focus on structuring a new economy to enable everyone who wants to work, to have a stable living wage. Does not even enable its working class to have enough set aside to meet a $1,000, or even $250 emergency need.

If one doesn’t even have that small nest egg, he/she probably can’t even make it a couple weeks to wait for the government check. And, what economists call “windfall” solutions to such an emergency–those are gone also. This includes opportunity for extra hours of work, or help from relatives–who are now in the same boat.

We know the government checks will soon terminate, but jobs will return only slowly,

Income inequality in the US is the highest in all G7 countries.

Wealth inequality is worse, and is worsening year by year.

Bloomberg reports that when the bottom half of the US is added together, this group in aggregate has a negative net worth.

Inequality by any other measure is horrific–white/black, white/hispanic, generational, educational, college/non-college, gender, etc.

Answers include improvements to cost of education, health care, and housing.

But more than anything: We simply need a complete restructuring of our economy, with focus on the creation of living wage jobs for all that want to work. How to do this is an opportunity yet to be designed.

But a good start would be for the President of the United States to put US inequality high on his agenda, and mean it–with constant focus on  the progress of a new economic design. There should be quarterly reports on all forms of inequality, with specific targets set.

  • That would be a good start.

  • The US 2020 economic society is clearly unsustainable.

  • If you ever doubted that inequality is a huge problem in our country:

  • 41% of Americans would have trouble coming up with $250!

Clearly unsustainable!

 

 

Dale Walker is a retired financial services executive, living in San Francisco. He currently serves on the Boards of Beneficial State Bank, the Graduate Theological Union, Cambridge Science Corporation, and Pacific Vision Foundation. He is an active member of Patriotic Millionaires.

BTW: The previous post was written with a touch of sarcasm. I’m on the opposite side of this one–just wanted to poke a little fun at those on the far right, such as Trump and McConnell.

 

You Don’t Need No Help!

May 4, 2020

I Made it On My Own

 

Tell those rabble-rousers

Those pesky protestors

Tell them to get off their butts

 

Tell them to stop taking welfare

Stop living off my damn tax dollars

 

Tell them to go out and get a job

Plenty of jobs out there

 

Remind them this is America

Home of Horatio Alger

Land of independence

Anyone can make it

If only they try, try, try

 

Tell them how many times

Col. Sanders tried to sell his recipe

Before he got a start

1,010 times

That’s what!

 

That’s the spirit

That’s the kind of drive

That’s all about America

There’s no excuse here

For any other way

Unless you’re handicapped

In which case, we’ll just have to

Check you out

Make double sure

You’re not lying

 

God knows

There’s a lot of liars

A lot of lazy bums

Let’s deport them

To wherever they came from

Africa or Mexico

Or Islam

Wherever that is

 

You complain the minimum wage

Is only $7.25 per hour

That’s $14,000!

Get a 2nd job

Have the wife get two jobs

 

Then you’ve got it made

Save money

It adds up!

 

That’s the spirit

 

 

You say I had advantages?

I had help?

I was dependent?

 

Because I’m white?

Because I’m a WASP?

Col. Sanders was a WASP too?

Because I had good parents?

Because my uncle got me a scholarship?

Because college was cheap back then?

Because good jobs with good wages

Were plentiful

Back then?

 

Nonsense!

 

Don’t try to hide behind

Such excuses

 

That’s what I’m talking about

 

That’s the attitude of a loser

That’s what’s wrong with America

It ain’t what it used to be

 

Listen to me!

 

I’m talking to you!

P.S. I actually know people who feel this way!

An Apology

Please excuse me in taking a new direction entirely. It’s not that I consider myself a muse or a poet. Just that I have some things to say at this stage of my life and my country, albeit in my small voice and limited literary skills.

Apology

I’m here to apologize

For 1963

To the days

Of that year

Every single day

Sorry it’s taken so long

I’ve been away

Elsewhere

Distracted

Something was happening

In 1963

But I wasn’t there

I apologize to Martin Luther King

He had a dream

I didn’t really know about it

Or if I did

I wasn’t paying attention

I apologize to Bob Dylan

And Joan Baez

They told it in song

“Like a Rolling Stone”

I was into the Beach Boys

I’m here to apologize

To a whole bunch of people

Maybe nobody told me

Something was happening

Something important

Maybe they told me

But I wasn’t listening

It didn’t sink in

Not like the beer

And the parties

At the Sigma Chi House

Or the girl in my Chemistry Class

Not like the courses

The grades

That might assure me

Safety above the fray

The fray of what was happening

What was more important

What was changing America

I came here to apologize

It was all on TV

Radio

It was all in the papers

Can’t blame it on my friends

My parents

Professors

Can’t exactly

Find a good excuse

I wasn’t blind

Or Deaf

While people were protesting

Brothers were dying

In Vietnamese forests

And Negro towns

And someone was

Killing the President

I was somewhere else

Oh, you say let go of it

Don’t fret yourself

Forget about it

It’s in the past

You’re not alone

Just look out for yourself

That’s the real America

Anyway

They didn’t really

Make much of a difference

You can’t change America

You say

But I wasn’t there

What could have happened

If I had been there?

If all of us had been there

I came here to apologize

 

And there are some other years

I need to apologize for

1964, 1967, 1974

And some others too

Actually

A lot of them

Maybe all of them

5/3/20

Inequality Propounded

3/26/20

Inequality has steadily escalated since the days of Reagan and Thatcher. It’s now deeply ingrained in every aspect of our society. My focus, economic inequality, is a major factor in every other kind of inequality–social, racial, religious, gender, etc. And, no matter what the major problem of the world, the less equal always get the short end of the stick. The environment is a good example. As we continue to pollute our water, who is forced to live by the polluted lakes, streams, and rivers? The poor, of course. The rest of us can live on high ground and drink bottled water.

So, here we are again. This time it is the Coronavirus pandemic. Sure, it is affecting all of us. Even a billionaire or two might succumb to the disease, no matter his access to the very best health care. But in the total population, the losers are going to be the underprivileged, the poor, the economically unequal.

First, their living conditions are far from optimal to maintain social distancing. They can only afford less effective health care, if any at all. Many are still uninsured, a tragedy for a country of our wealth. On top of all that, they have little or no economic protection, living paycheck to paycheck, as many of them do. So, when the airlines, cruise lines, and hotels lay off thousands, when those are followed by the small businesses, restaurants, and even the laundries, cleaning services and all of that, what can they do? They can only survive a few weeks or a few months, usually even that by exhausting their retirement or emergency savings.

What then? This week, the government will approve measures which reportedly protect those people (on average) for a few months. “Few” being like maybe 3. And, “averages” means some will last a little longer, but some far less. For example, if your inner city rent is $5,000, not uncommon in our major cities, we’re talking maybe only a month or two. And if these folks had any savings, say a 401K or whatever, that’s been diminished as of today by about 30%.

Now to the debate of the day: Continue to “Shelter in Place,” or open up the system and go back to work? The Left is aghast at the idea that we might lift the Shelter regulations. The Right is paranoid about the harm to the economy, and perhaps to the stock market.

I can’t resist chiding my friends who pushed back on my concerns for inequality when I argued that our unequal have little benefit from a stock market. They argued that everyone has some sort of retirement fund, however small it may be, and it is invested in stock–therefore we ALL prosper from the stock market. Well, that’s pretty academic now. I have less, but the “unequal” have little, very little, if any, after all this is dealt with.

What’s the answer? Shelter or go back to work? The sad and brutal reality is that both alternatives involve loss of life. Yes, if we sent too many back to work too soon, there will inevitably be additional loss of life, before we get to Tony Fauci’s guesstimate of 18 months to a vaccine. That’s a regrettable reality.

However, many of these, our middle class, our blue collar workers, and our poor, will die  of lack of food, housing, health care and other necessities, if they can’t go back to work. To imagine any other scenario, one would have to make a highly improbable assumption–that government is able and effective in sufficiently compensating every one of our bottom 50%, some 62 million Americans, reported to be holding only 1% of national wealth and with only $11,000 in net worth.

Even if the average income of the bottom 50% is only $30,000, and if this half of our citizenry can somehow live off that, for government to provide for that for 62 million Americans would take a staggering 1,860,000,000,000. Check my math. That’s about $2 Trillion, and that’s just for staying alive, doesn’t cover the needs of airlines, hotels, cruise lines, small businesses, health care, etc. And that’s just for 12 months.

I’m not an economist, but it’s doubtful even the US economy could survive stimulus of that magnitude. And if it can’t, or can’t do it efficiently (a near certainty), that leaves little alternative.

At some point in the continuance of this pandemic, if it doesn’t relent, our “unequal” will have to go back to work.

We have to face the twin dangers of the pandemic. There is no easy solution.

One can only hope that this tragedy is enough to wake up our legislators to the desperate need to begin to restructure our entire economic system to enable real shared prosperity. If not, revolution could be a lot closer than we ever imagined.

The Quandary of Cause vs. Solution

Donald Trump rightly saw the economic distress of a large swatch of American workers as the opportunity to build a base for his eventual election. Workers had been suffering with no real wage increases for 40 years, ever since Reagan. And neither Democratic nor Republican Presidents had even slowed the steady advance of inequality. Inequality was approaching the level of the Robber Baron era of the 1920, and inequality has subsequently increased under Trump. Inequality in the US is the highest among developed countries.

Trump put his energy into excoriating immigrants and foreign countries as the cause of the economic woes of the working class. They were the “cause” in his hundreds of speeches. The workers were hungry for identifying a cause, culprits, and they bought it. It was simple (too simple), easy to understand. It gave them opponents to focus on, to rail against. Thus, all the working class support for the wall. This, notwithstanding extensive economic analysis showing only rarely do immigrants reduce wages, and as a whole they make a huge positive contribution to our economy, far in excess of any government assistance they may receive.

We have dramatically and tragically witnessed how easy it was to identify tangible culprits, and how easy to sell simple causes to a generation of economic woes for our workers. Regrettably, these were not the real causes. These were fake causes. It was not immigrants who caused the problem. It was not Mexico or China, or any other of our trade partners. Every legitimate economist took great exception with the trade wars. Peter Navarro was ridiculed by Larry Summers of Harvard and others who explained that the trade deficit is a fake cause and “fixing it” is a fake solution.

As an example of the problem: I took a class under Summers and Robert Lawrence, who spent several sessions carefully walking us through the workings of the global economy, explaining why the trade deficit is a fake problem and that fixing it is a fake solution. It’s not simple, but it’s absolutely clear when explained. With the cost of education as it is, with wages as they are, how many of our workers have the opportunity or even the time to take such an economics class? No wonder they’re vulnerable to simple solutions offered by a President who appears to have little understanding of economics.

Properly identifying the causes is complex and challenging. Voters need opportunity and information and education to get to a decent understanding.

But here’s my main point today: Identifying the causes is not nearly as important as offering a good solution. That’s really complex. Otherwise, how is it that every President since Reagan, regardless of your political affiliation, failed to arrest the advance of inequality, failed to fix the income tragedy of our workers? It wasn’t because none of them cared. It is complex!

Trump’s solution was to kill or punish the identified fake culprits. How has that worked? Wages are up 3% after 40 years of no real wage increases. Is that success? No. Probably just the result of a global recovery which is now slowing. Our gdp is now back to a sluggish 2%.

What’s the real solution? Well, it would take a huge study, a great collaborative effort to design it, and it wouldn’t fit into anyone’s blog post.

Here’s what it’s not:

  • It’s not reducing immigration or fighting trade wars. None of that is going to bring back manufacturing, as promised by Trump.
  • It’s not as simple as universal basic income alone, or taxing the wealthy and corporations, or wealth taxes, or free health care or free education, any of these taken alone. These are possible components, but not a comprehensive solution.
  • It is not a solution built primarily around increased welfare to the working class.

Here’s what the solution must include:

  • A steady reduction in inequality to a more moderate and sustainable level.
  • The realistic achievable of living wages for the vast majority of workers–in a generation.
  • Engagement of all stakeholders to make this happen: citizens, communities and states, corporations, educational institutions, and our federal government.

This is our opportunity and our necessity. Let’s get to it!

Critical 2020 Issue for Democrats

When I had the privilege of studying at Harvard during 2017, I focused much of my study on economic inequality. I had previously decided inequality is the greatest problem facing the world today–greater than climate change, greater than drug prices, greater than opioids and many other also legitimate concerns facing the US and most other countries around the globe.

Why? Because human existence depends on a safe level of income.  Without sufficient income to provide for one’s family, decent housing, health care, education, and healthy food, without these fundamental basics, how can one hope to advance even minimally on Maslow’s ladder? Every day for many of our workers is all about survival, and only survival. It’s immoral and also dangerous (for all of us) for us to allow such conditions to exist widely throughout our country.

Inequality has now risen to the level equal to that of the Robber Baron era of the 1920’s. All the gains from WWI and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society began to be erased with the neo-liberal economic era begun with the Presidency of Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Thatcher in the UK. Decades of both Democratic and Republican administrations have failed to arrest the steady advance of inequality. Inequality in the US is the highest among developed countries.

High levels of inequality slow economic growth, expose vulnerable populations on the bottom to dangerous levels of crime, drugs, pollution, and health, reducing longevity. Inequality at this level results in homeless camped outside gated communities, children without housing or available parents.

No Liberal wants total equality, not even Bernie Sanders. But we need a significant adjustment. There’s a lot of room for that, without reducing motivation for innovators and investors to take risk.

If we do not reverse the pendulum, the nation will face a revolution–perhaps in the next generation–ala the French Revolution or the Chinese Revolution. No one should welcome that solution to the problem, least of all our wealthy.

in my year of study, one thing was clearly indisputable: It is virtually impossible to fix (even to just measurably reduce) inequality without economic growth. The Trump administration doesn’t appear to care much about inequality, but at today’s 2% GDP growth, they couldn’t do much anyway.

I am asking our 12 Democratic candidates to focus on inequality. Fixing it with higher taxes on the wealthy financing more in government welfare for the working class is not the solution: (1) it won’t sell to the voters; (2) workers don’t want handouts–they want work with living wages; and (3) the welfare approach is not sustainable fiscally and economically.

Fixing it means creating faster gdp growth. The fillip to growth from the Trump tax cut has now burned out, so Democrats must show a way to stronger economic growth. In fact, the history of the last 70 years shows Democratic administrations have consistently generated greater growth than Republican administrations.

Then, fixing it means creating a new environment of work in the US, braced against the winds of technology replacing workers and foreign countries offering better sources of some of our simpler and less complex goods and services. This means much more than Trump’s trumpeted low unemployment rate. Unemployment rates do not translate into wages, and wages for the working class are far short of “living wages.”

It’s nice and good to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations, add a wealth tax and estate tax, use the money to pay for better health care and more affordable education. This is all good, but it’s not sufficient to win the election or to reverse 40 years of job and wage degeneration in the US.

DEMOCRATS: Your challenge is to lay out a plan involving communities, educational institutions, employers, and government motivation, to spawn the beginning of a new work paradigm for American workers.

A Word of Caution

My 12 Democratic candidates for US Presidency, you’re all far more capable than our President. I’ll vote for any one of you who is our final candidate. I hope all Democrats will do the same, regardless of your differences.

Here’s my word of caution: I believe the ultimate platform has to focus first on jobs and income for the working class. I believe the tragic state of 40 years of no real wage increases were the primary problem/vulnerability that resulted in the Trump presidency. Of course, we know he sold a fake set of reasons–immigrants stealing jobs, foreign countries stealing companies and jobs, weak trade deals, etc.

The opportunity we have is to show that 4 years of Trump’s focus on these fake culprits has only resulted in a 3% wage increase for the working class–and that this is NOT satisfactory. Unemployment rates do not translate to living wages for American workers! Of course, this sets aside that he simply inherited a global recovery.

At this time, I know you’re trying to distinguish yourselves with primary personal foci–e.g., climate change, environment, wealth and income taxes, women’s reproductive rights, universal basic income, etc. All of these are valuable, and perhaps you all agree with my point, but you’ve planned to get to the key issue at the right time.

But if you’re not thinking this way, please give serious consideration. Two reasons: (1) to the Trump supporters, I am 100% convinced this is the basic issue–how to make a living, care for my family, provide for health care, education, and see some real wage increases (not 3%). They are vocal about guns, abortion, Israel, and other concerns, but it should be very clear that a good living is fundamental. (2) What can be more essential than basic living conditions for me and my family, and opportunity for me to realistically hope for a better future for myself and especially for my children? If I don’t see this, I’m sorry, but I can’t get around to worrying much about the environment or abortion, etc.

So far, I haven’t seen any of you clearly enunciate a plan which offers the working class better working and earning and living opportunity. Additional welfare will not sell to voters as the answer, plus our citizens don’t want government assistance except where that’s critical. They want to make it on their own–but working two jobs in a low unemployment/low wage economy is NOT leading a promising direction.

If we have nothing more to offer than that, nothing more than $1,000 per month in UBI for everyone, nothing more than free health care, etc., we will not beat Trump in 2020! He won on promising the workers a better life. If you want to give him credit, he delivered a tiny tax cut and a tiny wage increase, along with destroying alliances, skyrocketing the deficit and debt, etc. We must show that (a) this is totally unsatisfactory, an abysmal failure: and (b) we have a plan to offer something believable, far better, that is realistic, achievable.

If we don’t do this, I doubt our success in 2020. Decades of both Democrats and Republicans have failed to deliver such, inequality continues to increase. Now is the time to address and sell the beginning of the future for American workers.