For Whom is the Economy Good?

I have to wonder why some folks think our current economy is so good. It’s primarily the economists who say that plus the highly partisan political leaders on the right.  My guess is that the average American doesn’t feel that way– whether it’s because they think taxes are too high or because they think wages are too low.

My question is: If our economy is so good, why aren’t we doing more to share its goodness with the general population? Why don’t we embrace Medicare for all? Why don’t we payoff the massive student debt? Why don’t we spend as much on education as we spend on the military? Why have we not made any dent in the numbers of homeless or the people below poverty?

A related observation is that it seems that our global threats these days are economic, political, and technical. We are not being threatened by invasion of murderous hordes, unlike some of the world’s countries, despite the rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration. The threat of some rogue country sending atomic missiles at our heartland and major cities is minimal. We simply are not facing threats that call for a large military equipped with high-tech toys. The U.S. GAO recently released a study showing that the greatest threat to our weapons systems is not more advanced systems from other nations but rather cyber-hacking.  Russia or China or even ISIS don’t need large missile and weapons systems to attack and immobilize the U.S. armed forces– they just need a smart high school student with access to a Raspberry Pi and wifi. The money spent on weapons systems and large items like fighter jets and submarines is being wasted on tools that can be readily hacked and disabled.

So I guess that’s two issues that I wonder about: 1) by many accounts our economy is strong and therefore we should be able to afford projects that improve the lives of our citizens (e.g., health care, education, efficient transportation); and 2) we’re spending trillions now on military hardware and forces when those tools are not what we need and should instead be spending that money on education and life-improvement for those who threaten us.

There is a better way.

Trump, One Month In

Feb. 16, 2017–  I just watched the full 75 minutes of Trump’s news conference today.  I had read online articles about it earlier.  About how bad it was.  How Trump ranted and raved.  How he focused almost exclusively on the poor job of the media.  And I felt I wanted to see how bad it was.

But I come away troubled.  Troubled by the state of journalism.  Troubled by the state of politics.  Troubled by the state of our country.

I want to be clear:  I abhor Donald Trump.  I think he is a failing, dishonest, corrupt businessman with little intelligence or integrity.  His modus operandi is to say whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear.  That’s a good sales strategy and helps him when making deals.  It typifies what is wrong with capitalism and our greed-fed economic system.  He should not be President and my constant prayer these days is that he won’t lead us into a no-win nuclear war.

But I am also baffled by what the response has been to him and to how journalists are handling it.

The video I watched started with some 15 minutes of mostly silent footage showing several television reporters standing at the front of the East Room waiting for Trump to appear.  They each seemed to take time being allowed to record introductory comments for whatever media outlet they represented.  It was excruciating.

They stood silently looking over the room, self-absorbed and distant.  Occasionally they’d pull cell phones out of their pockets and study whatever information was on the screen.  They preened and pimped, adjusting ties, suit coats, eyebrows.  And then they would have 15 to 30 seconds to record sound bites for inclusion in the evening newscast.

This is journalism?  God I wish Hunter Thompson was around for this show.  At least we would get some damned honest drama and insight.  This is a post-gonzo President who needs to be confronted by the best that gonzo can throw at him.

But what also troubles me is that I’m not sure the media yet understands the Trump phenomenon.   Throughout last summer and fall, I (and Michael Moore) said that we needed to be very careful– that Trump could win.  Many of us, including many among the mainstream media, discounted his chances and believed Nate Silver’s prognosis that Clinton would easily win.  Trump was treated as an aberration, a clear outlier who had no chance of winning.

Clearly we failed to listen to the people.  People were unhappy, dissatisfied.  They had been promised for decades that the latest Presidential winner would fix our dysfunctional national politics and government.  After the Nixon debacle, we briefly hoped Carter would save us.  But that didn’t happen and Reagan became the next great hope.  But he only instituted a more deeply rooted, equally corrupt theocracy that left the “common man” weaker and further abandoned.

Bill Clinton came along as an outsider Democrat whose policies and agenda looked more Republican than Democratic.  His tenure was marred by petty scandals and nonsense that only deepened a growing distrust and disgust with American government.   The second George Bush was saddled with 9/11 and proceeded to follow a pattern of “shock and awe” that just underscored how weak the U.S. had become.

And then came Obama.  The Great Black Hope.  He was inspiring.  He effused hope and integrity and intelligence.  But he was black and the political powers that Reagan and his Southern Strategy had planted simply could not allow Obama to succeed.  And so the GOP embarked on eight years of all out obstructionism and negativity.

By early 2016, the country was deeply divided and tired of false hope.  We were ripe for something dramatically different.

Two beacons of unconventional difference arose:  Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.  The disarray of the GOP made it easy for Trump to win their nomination.  The arrogance and corruptness of the Democrats made it inevitable that Sanders would lose.  In the end, it was no contest:  the people wanted something different, something unorthodox.  Clinton didn’t have a chance against Trump.

And now, here we are with President Trump and the media is wringing its hands and acting like they are martyrs.  Their portrayal of Trump focuses on Trump himself rather than his message to the people who voted for him.  And that’s where they’re wrong.

The problem with Trump is that his answer to the distrust and disgust many in America feel is not at all an answer to the problems and circumstances that have bred that distrust and disgust.  He has surrounded himself with the super rich, greedy businessmen (with some token women) who have gotten where they are thanks to the Reagan-era trickle-down theories.  With people who made the 2008 Great Recession a reality and survived the debacle unscathed.

Promising more jobs by “bringing back coal” and restarting failed manufacturing plants might be nice, short-term tactics.  But that approach fails to recognize the fundamental shift that the American, and world, economy has been undergoing.  Promising to destroy the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) fails to honor its popular and righteous goal of quality healthcare for all Americans.  Promising to deport millions and prevent the entry of thousands flies in the face of America’s heritage as the land of the free that welcomes the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

That’s the message that the media is ignoring.

And their coverage of today’s news conference doesn’t give me any hope.  Trump looked good today.  He sounded concerned about “the people” and their safety, security, and well-being.  Like a good salesman, he said the things his audience wanted to hear.  Yes, he badly maligned the media.  But I would guess that most people who watched the news conference and who were not already adamantly opposed to Trump would like what they heard.  Certainly I don’t think they would believe that he ranted and raved.  He looked calm and sounded almost rational for much of the event.  I can well understand how many of those who are dissatisfied with the current state of the U.S. economy and the decades of political obstructionism in the “Other Washington” watched Trump’s performance and thought “Now that’s what we need in D.C.”

And that’s the real danger of the media’s failure:  letting Trump’s audience accept his message without careful, reasoned challenge and counter-balance.


Core Issues in the Trump Resistance

In an earlier post, I suggested I wasn’t happy with a reject everything posture for resisting the Trump empire.  So here are my initial thoughts on what my core issues are that will capture my attention over the next 4 years:

  • Universal Healthcare
  • Free Public Education
  • Strong Personal and National Security
  • Strong Communities and Neighborhoods

Jobs and infrastructure are important but they can also be seen as byproducts of the core issues.  To expand access to healthcare, to improve education, to strengthen personal and national security, and to provide strong communities and neighborhoods all require more quality, reasonable paying jobs.  The will also require improvements and ongoing sustaining of our infrastructures.

International trade is a nonissue.  Do we in the U.S. worry about trade across the artificial borders of states?  Of course we don’t (at least not that much).  So why worry about trade across the artificial borders of nations?  It does seem that expanded free trade truly does help raise all boats.  So make it a nonissue, one that requires no debate beyond insuring that it is done fairly to all parties and in an open manner.

But equally important to those issues is the question of how we organize our resistance to Trump and the GOP.  I don’t have a clear answer for that yet but it is my focus.

“Difference generates new thinking.”

This title is a great quote from a conversation between Walter Hood and Shannon Jackson about the project that Hood and UC Berkeley is pursuing with the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA).  The conversation was included in a recent issue of Boom and initially caught my attention because my daughter, Caitlin, works at OMCA.  But the discussion between Jackson and Hood is enlightening and exciting in it’s own right.

Well worth the read!

I don’t think this is OK either…

Two articles brought me here this morning and influence my own approach to resisting the current state of affairs.  First was Finji’s blog entry, This Is Not OK.  It was a nice summary of the sorry state that has become reality with the takeover of U.S. government by Trump and Friends.  Like many others, it is a statement that they do not accept what has happened and will be an ongoing voice and force for change and resistance.

I applauded that post.  The second article was about The Indivisible Guide.  Like Finji, these folks want to resist the Trumpian era and do all they can to restore decency, integrity, and honor to American politics and leadership.

But the Indivisible Guide suggests tactics that I am not comfortable with.  Their tactic is simple: block everything, don’t offer alternatives.  Even the folks at offer some sort of alternative (yes, I consider anarchy an alternative).

I have no problem with resisting and blocking the coming tide of indecent, dishonest, and harmful moves that are the goal of Trump, McConnell, Ryan, Roberts, and friends.  But I also believe we need to provide a vision of a healthy, inclusive, and affirming alternative.