What are other leaders saying about our election?

Since we Americans are mired in the presidential campaign, it sometimes good to step back and gain a different perspective. What are other leaders saying about our presidential candidates? From what I read, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have more notoriety, while Bernie Sanders is a lesser known candidate, which is not necessarily bad. But, what is profoundly interesting, the difference between Clinton and Trump outside looking in is startling.

As former first lady, US Senator and Secretary of State, Clinton is more widely respected by other leaders outside the US. In a poll of European and western Asia national leaders, only Vladimir Putin would support Donald Trump, with the rest going to Clinton. Why? Two reasons, in my view.

First, she has traveled to almost every major nation on earth in her roles. She is widely known and as a woman is an exemplar like Angela Merkel and Christine LaGarde that women can succeed. With women being maltreated around the globe and even here in the US, she shows a path forward. Her experience in these relationships show that she will be starting out on good footing.

Second, Donald Trump’s racism, bigotry and bombast is not restricted to our shores. Leaders are looking incredulously at our consideration of someone who not only lacks knowledge of global affairs and has already made the world less safe with his remarks, would not know diplomacy if he tripped over it. They see a man and party who publicly denies climate change which would take us backward as a planet. They see a thin-skinned, narcissist who is not the kind of person you want leading anything and are sharing that concern openly as did David Cameron, the prime minister of our longest ally, Great Britain.

I recognize fully Clinton has her imperfections. I also recognize that the criticism she receives is fair and unfair, as stories are re-aired that were not true to begin with. The would be Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy let slip last fall that the continuation of the Benghazi hearings have been a smear campaign of Clinton, which was known but not uttered. He had to end his candidacy for speaker as a result. On the flip side, her unforced error on using her own email server is worthy of legitimate questions.

Many Americans may not see clear differences between the two, but other leaders are hoping Clinton wins and don’t mind saying that openly, which is rare.

 

Weary from travel with time to think

These old bones have been in a car the last few days and the older I get, the more it wears me out. I will be the guy at the rest stop stretching by his car, before he gets back in and tacks on a few more miles. But, It does give me time to think, so what follows are the musings of a “rambling man” (I figure I can use that line since I passed through The Allman Brothers’ home state of Georgia).

Before they count ol’ Bernie out, Democrats may need to take serious stock of what happens in California and the remaining states. I will vote for either one against The Donald, as he is about as bad a candidate as they come, but it will be interesting to see what unfolds. If Bernie runs the table, with Hillary’s email issues, those super delegates may need to do some serious reflection.

By the way, the best Presidential candidate of either party is not running and that is Senator Elizabeth Warren. She may be drafted as a Vice Presidential candidate, but she has more street credibility and has taken on Wall Street successfully with her pushing through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a huge success for Obama that no one has ever heard of. Republicans hate it because it punishes banks, insurance companies and credit card companies for fraudulent and aggressive marketing practices and over 90% of the penalties go to financial victims. Think of banks selling you (or your 80 year-old mother) something you did not ask for.

It is not surprising how the GOP is trying to make an abnormal candidate look normal. Everything people need to know about The Donald’s lack of veracity as a candidate is in his history and it is not hard to find. How this exploitive narcissist can portray himself as the champion of the common people may be the biggest con job I have ever witnessed. Whether he wins or not, he will be on trial for alleged misrepresentation to students and seminar goers under now defunct Trump University, one of his many failed enterprises. Yet, it is his thin-skin and false bravado of how tough he is, that show he should never be near a nuclear weapons command.

Finally, one thing I have observed about Clinton, while she may be imperfect, she is far tougher than Donald Trump. Leaders do not have to pat themselves on the back. Leaders can take criticism. It is apparent that Trump can dish it out, but he cannot take it. On the flip side, Clinton has had and will have her share of criticism, both fair and unfair. Benghazi was a smear campaign, as admitted by Kevin McCarthy who would have been Speaker of the House, but he let slip this fact which has been known, but not uttered. Yet, Clinton does need to answer questions about the emails which are legitimate.

People often accuse me of being a Democrat and the above will likely not change that. As an Independent, I left the GOP in 2006 because of their stance on climate change, guns and social issues and tendency to make things up with the aid of Fox News. In my opinion, I see a party that is on the wrong side of most issues – climate change, economy, guns, healthcare, LGBT issues, voting rights, etc. I also see a party who is too busy listening to its extreme voices and not reasonable voices.

I do not mind people being conservative or liberal, as most folks are combinations of both. I am fiscally conservative, but socially progressive. What I do care about is people lying and not using real data to make decisions. Governance is hard enough without people lying about the real story. It should be noted Trump is on record as lying over 75% of the time in this campaign, setting fact check records. Note, he says the fact checkers are part of the liberal media, but he cannot be judge and jury on his own lying. This is prima facie evidence of a problem with his candidacy.

 

Example of how the media promotes conflict

In my business career, I became accustomed to the US regulatory process. Congress would pass laws and the Department of Labor (DOL), IRS, EEOC, etc. would pass regulations to administer the laws. And, they used to be reported as such. The DOL released proposed regulations today, e.g.

Now, to promote conflict, these departments are rolled up into one category – the Obama Administration. This likely started before with George W. Bush, but to me it is done to represent that the President must be extending his powers. When, in fact, it is these departments doing what they have always done, nothing more or less.

The process works usually like this. A department will propose new or revised regulations to address a new law or an outdated one. There will be a formal comment period where feedback is sought. Then, the proposed regulations will be revised and another comment period may occur. Then, the regulations will be released.

To their credit, the departments do listen to feedback. And, sometimes if the pushback is so severe, they will be pulled and redone. Back in the early 1990s, there were some regulations passed that were so-God awful (called Section 89 to regulate non-discrimination in healthcare benefits), they were pulled.

While regulations come in all shapes and sizes, I want to take the chance to mention my favorite regulations issued by the IRS. I call them the Mea Culpa regulations, but they are better known as the Voluntary Compliance Program. In essence, if an employer discovers an error in compliance, it can remedy the problem and approach the IRS with its solution. They would pay a set small fine from a menu of choices and demonstrate how they fixed the problem. Often, it would be restoring lost benefits or financial restitution to affected employees. This happens more than you would think, but it is a great example when government gets it right.

So, the next time you hear reference to the Obama administration doing something. Let’s not jump to conclusions. It may just shoddy reporting on a mundane task. Continue reading

Quick comparison of Trump and Clinton Tax Proposals

The Urban-Brookings Tax Center has provided two excellent comparative write-ups on the two proposed tax plans of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I will provide the links below. They also used three tax experts, whose credentials are noted below, that grade the two proposals on four key factors. Those factors and the average of these grades is noted below:

Factor                          Trump      Clinton

Legislative Feasibility         D                C

Economic Growth             C-               D+

Fiscal Responsibility          D-               B-

Impact on Tax Payers        D+              B-

Overall Average*                D+             C+

*My composite calculation using a four point scale (A = 4, B = 3, etc.) with 0.3 modifier for +/ – like colleges do in grading. Note, the articles did the composites of each factor.

The Urban-Brookings Tax Center found that the Trump plan was disproportionately beneficial to the wealthy, and would greatly increase the national debt.

“His proposal would cut taxes at all income levels, although the largest benefits, in dollar and percentage terms, would go to the highest-income households,” the TPC analysis found. “The plan would reduce federal revenues by $9.5 trillion over its first decade before accounting for added interest costs or considering macroeconomic feedback effects. The plan would improve incentives to work, save, and invest. However, unless it is accompanied by very large spending cuts, it could increase the national debt by nearly 80 percent of gross domestic product by 2036, offsetting some or all of the incentive effects of the tax cuts.”

“Looking at economic growth, Wiiliam Gale (see below) said that the Clinton plan “will probably be close to a wash in terms of economic growth over the medium term.” Gale also said that the increase in tax rates might hurt growth in the short-term. But he said that a reduction in debt under the plan “should help growth in the long-term.” However, the Tax Policy Center analysis of Clinton’s plan used by Gale doesn’t address Clinton’s long-term spending proposals and the effect they might have in raising the long-term debt.”

This is consistent with the measurement of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation that showed Trump’s plan would increase the $19 Trillion debt over the next ten years by approximately $12 Trillion. Clinton’s plan would reduce the debt over the next ten years by about $500 Billion. In my view, neither of these numbers is enough to reduce the debt, but at least Clinton’s is in the right direction.

Truth be told, there are not enough spending cuts to make up for Trump’s increase in debt and we need serious discussion on reducing the debt from both. And, per the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan and ideas shared by Fix the Debt and The Concord Coalition, we will need both revenue increases and spending cuts. To say otherwise, is misleading the American people.

 

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/taxes/experts-weigh-donald-trumps-tax-plan-and-find-it-wanting/ar-BBtatQD?ocid=spartandhp

http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/taxes/grading-hillary-clintons-tax-plan/ar-BBtatQL

___________________________________________________________________

The Fiscal Times convened a panel of experts in tax and fiscal policy to analyze the Clinton and Trump tax plans. Details of each plan were reviewed by three well-respected policy experts: William G. Gale, the Arjay and Francis Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy at the Brookings Institution and co-director of the Tax Policy Center; Doug Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum and a former Congressional Budget Office Director; and G. William Hoagland, a vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former Republican Senate budget official.

The liberty to discriminate is different from being discriminated against

There is an important, but subtle difference between the argument of liberty to discriminate and being discriminated against. The latter is what we have fought for and evolved to over time. No citizen should be unfairly discriminated against because of a group he or she belongs to including, but not limited to, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual preference and gender orientation. To do otherwise, goes against the essence of who we are as a country .

Yet, the right to be not discriminated against unfairly, does not give us the right to unfairly discriminate against others because of our beliefs. That is a bridge too far and is a reason Religious Freedom bills run afoul of our constitution.

Let me use an extreme example. Suppose I am a Jewish dressmaker and own a shop. It would not be constitutional to pass a law that permits me to not make a wedding dress for a Christian wedding. Suppose I am a a Muslim baker. It would similarly not be constitutional if a law permitted me to avoid making a wedding cake for the same wedding. The same would hold true for Sikh photographer.

The last time I checked, I live in the United States of America. That first word is United. If I am a gay Atheist, I have every right that a heterosexual Muslim and a lesbian Christian have. That right is what our soldiers fought for. I do not have the right to persecute Christians or Jews or Hindus or Muslims or Sikhs or gays or lesbians or women or Latin Americans or Blacks, et al.

This week I was utterly ashamed of our US Congress and its Republican leadership. In a narrow vote, the House decided it was OK to discriminate against gays and lesbians who federally contract with the federal government. Legislative leaders in our elected US Congress said it was OK to discriminate. This is on top of my state’s Republican led General Assembly excluding gays and lesbians from a protected group within an already unconstitutional transgender bathroom law.

Folks, we live in the United States of America. If this is what it looks like to make America great again, then those who are pushing this agenda deserve every bit of ridicule they are getting. This does not make us great. It makes us petty and small. We can not be the shining light on the hill, when we push people off of it.

Learnings from a Baptist Minister (about transgender people)

Our blogging friend Michael Beyer at https://catchafallingstarbook.net/ guided me to an article penned by Baptist Minister Mark Wingfield which is posted on the Baptist Global News website. I found the article compelling and feel it is worth reading by all Christians and non-Christians. The article speaks for itself.
 

Seven things I’m learning about transgender persons

OpinionMark Wingfield | May 13, 2016

“I don’t know much about transgender issues, but I’m trying to learn.

How about you? How much do you really know about this subject beyond all the screaming headlines and concerns about who goes to the bathroom where?

The truth is that I don’t know any transgender persons — at least I don’t think I do. But with the help of a pediatrician friend and a geneticist friend, I’m listening and trying to learn. This is hard, though, because understanding the transgender experience seems so far outside what I have ever contemplated before. And the more I learn, the more theological questions I face as well. This is hard, even for a pastor.

Here’s some of what I’m learning from my friends who have experience as medical professionals dealing with real people and real families:

1. Even though LGBT gets lumped together in one tagline, the T is quite different than the LG and B. “Lesbian,” “gay” and “bisexual” describe sexual orientation. “Transgender” describes gender identity. These are not the same thing. Sexual orientation is about whom we feel an attraction to and want to mate with; gender identity is about whether we identify as male or female.

2. What you see is not always what you get. For the vast majority of humanity, the presence of male or female genitalia corresponds to whether a person is male or female. What you see is what you are. But for a small part of humanity (something less than 1 percent), the visible parts and the inner identity do not line up. For example, it is possible to be born with male genitalia but female chromosomes or vice versa. And now brain research has demonstrated that it also is possible to be born with female genitalia, female chromosomes but a male brain. Most of us hit the jackpot upon birth with all three factors lining up like cherries on a slot machine: Our anatomy, chromosomes and brain cells all correspond as either male or female. But some people are born with variations in one or two of these indicators.

3. Stuff happens at birth that most of us never know. It’s not an everyday occurrence but it’s also not infrequent that babies are born with ambiguous or incomplete sexual anatomy. In the past, surgeons often made the decision about whether this child would be a boy or a girl, based on what was the easiest surgical fix. Today, much more thought is given to these life-changing decisions.

4. Transgender persons are not “transvestites.” Far too many of us make this mix-up, in part because the words sound similar and we have no real knowledge of either. Cross-dressers, identified in slang as “transvestites,” are people (typically men) who are happy with their gender but derive pleasure from occasionally dressing like the opposite gender. Cross-dressing is about something other than gender identity.

5. Transgender persons are not pedophiles. The typical profile of a pedophile is an adult male who identifies as heterosexual and most likely even is married. There is zero statistical evidence to link transgender persons to pedophilia.

6. Transgender persons hate all the attention they’re getting. The typical transgender person wants desperately not to attract attention. All this publicity and talk of bathroom habits is highly disconcerting to people who have spent their lives trying not to stand out or become the center of attention.

7. Transgender persons are the product of nature much more than nurture. Debate the origins of homosexuality if you’d like and what role nature vs. nurture plays. But for those who are transgender, nature undeniably plays a primary role. According to medical science, chromosomal variances occur within moments of conception, and anatomical development happens within the nine months in the womb. There is no nature vs. nurture argument, except in cases of brain development, which is an emerging field of study.

This last point in particular raises the largest of theological questions. If Christians really believe every person is created in the image of God, how can we damn a baby who comes from the womb with gender dysphoria? My pediatrician friend puts it this way: ‘We must believe that even if some people got a lower dose of a chromosome, or an enzyme, or a hormonal effect, that does not mean that they got a lower dose of God’s image.’

I don’t know much about transgender issues, but I’m trying to learn — in part because I want to understand the way God has made us. For me, this is a theological quest as much as a biological inquiry or a political cause. How about you?”

I felt this was a sincere attempt to understand transgender people. I think it will speak to many folks who have been preyed upon by fear in this discussion opened up by the recent North Carolina law which generally discriminates against the LGBT community and specifically targets transgender requiring them to use the bathroom per their birth gender.
My wife and I attended a celebratory dinner for a friend’s daughter this past weekend. We sat at a table with a delightful, unmarried heterosexual couple. She oozed with Southern charm and wit and is a very attractive woman in her fifties. We traded stories about Charlotte (the city) and had a delightful time. My wife had met her before and shared with me later that this lovely woman used to be man and had an operation many years ago to align her physical gender with her internal make-up.
As the new law in North Carolina stands, this beautiful woman would be required to go in a men’s restroom. Even if she had not had such an operation, the identification as the opposite sex from a birth identification, should not preclude this woman from going into a woman’s restroom.

Imperfections

I think one of the reasons I treasure the eclectic and eccentric, is I appreciate imperfection. Let’s face it, we are an imperfect lot with a wide of array of likes and dislikes. But, we should be less concerned with perfection.

Without getting too risqué, I love imperfections in women. I prefer women to be more true to their look and less inclined to modify their imperfections. I also recognize fully there is psychic value in looking one’s best, but I am speaking to major changes to fix a perceived or actual flaw.

To me, these imperfections add character and beauty. We need not have identically looking women to find beauty. A crooked nose, a beauty mark, differently shaped eyebrows, curly hair, straight hair, full lips, thin lips, small breasts, large breasts, too thin, too heavy, lithe legs, athletic legs, rounded bottom , flat bottom, etc. makes the female varied and beautiful to me.

Yet, women are bombarded by magazines and ads to look a certain way. It adds to a neurosis of appearance that need not exist as much as it does. Of course, we prefer a healthy version of ourselves and would like to remain as youthful as possible, yet these efforts need not be over-engineered. Granted, we men contribute to this with our wandering eyes and sometimes wandering hands. And, I know we men are no day at the beach with our imperfections.

But, the beauty I find most appealing is the ability to laugh, to feel, to converse, to love. There is an old saying that is true to me – the woman picks the man. He just better be aware that she is picking him. What I did not understand until I watched the documentary called “I Am,” is the heart gives off a magnetic signal that can be sensed many feet away. If that heart is a flutter, it can be sensed by the person who made it flutter. There is nothing more attractive to a man than a woman interested in him.

So, if your imperfect self makes an equally imperfect man’s heart flutter, it could be as close as we get to nirvana. Being an imperfect man, we appreciate your imperfections. We certainly have our share. And, together, we can be more perfect than separately.