An imperfect woman for an important job

Former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton will never be accused of being a perfect person. She has taken more grief than most politicians, some of which was thrown at her husband or when she defended her husband. Some of the criticism of her is fair, but the lion’s share is unfair. The trouble is it is hard to tell the difference between what is fair and what is Republican smear tactics dating back to the 1990s. But, make no mistake, she is eminently more qualified to be President than her main competition.

Clinton will bring to the table global experience, credibility and relationships. In fact, many allied leaders have gone out of their way to advocate for her Presidency. The only leaders who have supported Donald Trump have been Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, neither of whom would be accused of being highly democratic. It should be noted that it is unheard of for other leaders actively promoting a candidate for US President.

I have mentioned before that being the first woman US President should not be sneezed at. One of my concerns for a our planet which prevents better solutions from occurring is the maltreatment of women. The book “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn highlight the global maltreatment, which is so brutally unfair, but stands in the way of economic progress. A region that treats women like a possession that can be sold, mutilated, demeaned and killed is not only brutal but competing in a world with only half of its intellectual capital. Much of the progress in poorer regions occurs when women become active small business owners and can pursue education.

Through action and notoriety, Clinton has made a visible statement to the world that women and girls matter. She has led numerous meetings both during, before and after her role as Secretary of State. Change does not occur over night, but her Presidency would immediately elevate women’s issues by the nature of the position. By itself, this is a major factor to why she should be President.

Clinton also brings a much better temperament to the position which requires a tough-minded person who is not going to act impulsively. Her main opponent could not be accused of having either of these positive traits as indicated by his history and his ill-timed and inane comments made throughout the campaign. The President of the United States is one of the most important jobs in the world and temperament and stability matter. I would sleep much more comfortably with her in the White House than a thin-skinned, demonizing and bombastic narcissist. I would add she is much tougher than Trump, who does not like anyone who disagrees with him or asks him questions.

And, at the end of the day, policy positions matter. My greatest fear is we end up with a President who does not understand climate change for the problem it is. Our planet cannot afford to stop progress or retrench on this issue, as we lost eight years under the last Republican President. Clinton understands this issue. She also sees the need to specifically address the increasing number of people in poverty and decline of the middle class. Her position is far more than a changing bumper sticker platform used by Trump which should not be mistaken for policy.

I recognize fully she has issues. I recognize fully many of those issues blown out of proportion. Yet, she deserves more credit than she gets for what she has achieved. It might help for more people to look beneath the rhetoric and see what she has to offer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be impressive.

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Tuesday afternoon

As I think of the fabulous Moody Blues’ song, let me share a few random musings on this cloudy Tuesday. Technically, it is morning here, but since Greenwich time is five hours ahead, the title has merit.

If we look at the US presidential election, what are the signals telling us? The Democrat candidate is being supported by major party leadership, some of whom are on the campaign trail. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who scares Republicans because of her history of fighting for those who have been screwed over, has joined with Hillary Clinton to advocate the message of helping the middle class and those in need with actual programs. There is no better advocate for the disenfranchised than Warren.

On the flip side, the Republican candidate has leaders bailing on him and hiding when he says his latest inane thing. Conservative columnist Michael Gerson has been against Donald Trump and what he represents from the outset and George Will just left the party because of Trump’s presumptive nomination. And, no living president supports his candidacy with the only foreign leaders who have advocated for him are Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

In Scotland, Trump noted what a good thing Brexit is, yet the financial markets, debt downgrading, and the lowest pound in over 30 years are giving many pause. Plus, he said this in Scotland who voted to remain and have started plans for another referendum to leave the UK and stay in the EU. This is supposed to be the candidate with the best business acumen, but yet again he shows little grasp of the issues, even financial ones. What the Remain camp failed to explain is the number of jobs created in the UK by being in the EU, with companies who have placed their European headquarters and plants there to have duty-free access to Europe.

The US Supreme Court handed down several important verdicts this week. The first one was a tie, but left standing a lower court ruling that President Obama went a bridge too far on his immigration executive orders after Congress failed to act for so long. Next, Affirmative Action was upheld in a Texas lawsuit that argued college admissions could no longer use race to determine acceptances of applicants. The Supreme Court said the colleges could continue to use race as a factor. A lesser publicized ruling noted that people who had been convicted of domestic violence crimes could be denied access to gun purchases in a state that said it was illegal. The court upheld Maine’s right to deny gun access.

But, the biggest ruling was against Texas 5 to 3 that overturned a lower court ruling on abortion clinic access. The Supreme Court ruled that what Texas did, which was use arguments for women’s health as a ruse to close down too many clinics. The data and examples of other less safe procedures that were allowed to go on in clinics revealed a purposeful attempt to severely limit women access. This was a huge win for women’s rights on allowing what to do with her body. Experts have noted this is the most important ruling on women’s right to abortion since 1992.

That is all for now. Have a great Tuesday.

 

 

We are pulling for you, but you have an uphill climb

When a good friend does something that you suggested he or she not do as it is fraught with peril, you are concerned, but still care for them and pull for them. This is especially true when, as an outsider, you can see more clearly the troubles with a decision to do something. It gives you a sick feeling, but you will do your best to help them soldier on.

That is how many feel about our friends in the UK with Brexit, a vote to leave the European Union. I recognize the EU is imperfect like any government entity and needs improvements, but the global construct is more beneficial than it is not, due to more trade and freedom of movement. Working collaboratively, also helps lessen the risk of national turmoil which can cause unhealthy behaviors.

The global financial markets have shown an immediate displeasure with the change with significant declines and the pound priced at a 35 year low. Watching BBC World News America and PBS Newshour, where many global financial and political experts spoke, the sense is this is not just a short term aberration and that the Brexit will cause more long term financial anguish. Plus, with Scotland poised to initiate another referendum to leave the UK, this time to rejoin the EU, coupled with Northern Ireland considering the same, this does not look promising. June 23, 2016 may be remembered as the beginning of the end of the current UK construct.

All of this is unfortunate. Clearly, the UK citizens have a right to decide on their own country. Yet, in addition to Scottish and Northern Irish voters wanting to remain, the people under the age of 35 clearly wanted to remain, as they see the continued job opportunities with a solid EU. So, this is not a universally appreciated decision. What these folks see is non-UK companies setting up headquarters in the UK for their Europe business. With this change, my guess is some will consider relocating those to the Republic of Ireland or on the main continent. London’s loss may be Dublin, Paris or Frankfurt’s gain.

The UK will soldier on and the US will continue to support it. We will pull for you, but the climb is now more uphill. We should be reducing barriers to trade, not erecting them. No one is relishing redoing trade agreements with all of these entities. The uncertainty created just by this process alone will cause issues. Plus, it adds the uncertainty of other EU countries following suit. The more disruption, the harder trade becomes and creates opportunities for unhealthy nationalism.

The EU does need to do a better job of governance. The EU does need to do a better job of allowing the pipe on immigrants to be tightened and loosened dependent on the labor demands of an individual  country. These are fixable problems, but they need to be worked at collectively and with due consideration of one’s country’s labor market. Leaving the EU makes everything a little bit harder to accomplish.

I know the “Leave” voters are happy, but the rest of the world is saddened (with some exceptions), that the vote to remain was defeated. And, that is unfortunate. It would be my sincere hope is that the next few months will allow the UK to reconsider its decision and proceed with a new vote. This may be precipitated by a need to ward off Scottish and Northern Irish votes to leave the UK.

 

Don’t cede your power

Several blogs have been focusing on the impact narcissists have had on their lives. These narcissists have controlled their lives through an overbearing presence which is built on a foundation of deceit and greed to elicit devotion and attendance to their needs. When the victim does not kowtow enough, the narcissist makes the victim feel he or she is to blame and lessens his or her standing.

An old friend who counseled teenage students at school would often say “Don’t cede your power.” You choose to react to situations, not others, so don’t give your control or power away. True, it is harder to do this with a narcissist, as the abuser is very adroit at making others feel they are at fault. Donald Trump accuses others of lying and cheating when he has lied and cheated at a record clip in his life and during the campaign and is on trial for such, as we speak, in three separate court cases.

I worked for the longest time with a narcissist who leaned into people all the time. His overbearing manner and position would get folks to do his beck and call. Over time, the smallest slight would cause these people to snap and his response would invariably be “What did I do?” The straw that broke the camel’s back was small, but after a year of tolerating his narcissism, the victim blew a gasket, to mix metaphors.

Rather than let it fester to the point of disproportionate reaction, do your best to remain in control of how you react. “I am sorry you feel that way,” is one response placing the feelings back where they belong. “That was not my intention, so I am sorry you misconstrued that” is another. Voting with your feet is another. What I mean is reduce or eliminate exposure if you can. This may prove difficult, but it is well worth it.

One thing I have learned in my fifty-seven years is you cannot please a narcissist. You can only placate them. When I learned this about the individual I knew, I managed accordingly. I stopped going to lunch with him, I would offer pushback as needed and encourage him to see the other’s point of view. I also did not trust him at all, as I knew he would talk behind my back just as he did every one else. I did not need evidence as I just knew, but every once in a while a piece of evidence would float my way.

Narcissists are abusers. It is about their control. So, do your best to not cede yours, and if you cannot, then seek other avenues limiting or eliminating exposure to his or her negativity. You will be very glad you did.

 

Our declining middle class – an International Monetary Fund perspective

On PBS Newshour last night, a news report on the findings by the International Monetary Fund of the declining middle class in America was discussed. Judy Woodruff interviewed the Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde. Below is a link to the interview. The IMF findings support the concerns raised by several, which indicate the US middle class has declined from 60% in the 1970s to 50% today, a precipitous drop.

She notes that a vibrant, spending middle class has been a key to the economic success of America, as the wealthy do not spend as much and the people in the lower class have less money to spend. She notes this spread creates polarization which leads to mediocre economic growth. One of the things she notes is the aging demographics and the role they play on our economy.

The U.S. population is aging, like in other economies of the world, and, as a result, the participation of active workers in the economy is declining. Now, we cannot stop the course of time, but what policies can do is encourage people who are not joining the workplace, the job market, to actually do so.

And I would point to a couple of policies. One is support given to women. And, by that, I mean maternity leave policy that would help them face the decision of, do I stay or do I go? Second, child care support, and not just child actually, but the kind of support that would help families look after a child or look after an elderly, because, with aging, we will have to support more parents or grandparents.”

She also mentioned two other policies that would aid in our economy. One is the earned income tax credit. She said there seems to be bipartisan support to do something that would help low-income wage earners. The other is an increase in the minimum wage. This would help those in service jobs at least garner more income which would go directly into spending. I like the fact she reiterated a Ted talk theme by a venture capitalist, that when people consume more, manufacturers have to make more and, as a result, have to hire more. In short, consumers create jobs.

She was also asked about today’s Brexit vote and was hopeful the British citizens would vote to remain in the European Union. Since she has been in her position, I have found her to be a voice of reason about our world’s economy and someone who we should listen to. Her comments above are no exception.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/gloomy-imf-report-on-u-s-economy-cites-dwindling-middle-class-growing-income-equality/

 

Serious need for a US Peace Train

One of my favorite Cat Stevens’ songs is called “Peace Train.” It is also one of his more memorable hits. Here are few lyrics:

I’ve been crying lately
Thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating?
Why can’t we live in bliss?

For out on the edge of darkness
There rides the peace train
Peace train take this country
Come take me home again

We should heed its words around the globe, but especially here in the US. It did not come as a shock to me in the annual Global Peace Index, the US ranks fairly low coming in 103rd out of 163 countries. Per the  attached article:

“The index, put together by the Institute for Economics and Peace, an international think tank, defines peace as ‘the absence of violence or the fear of violence.’ It covers three ‘domains’: the level of ongoing domestic and international conflict; the level of ‘societal safety and security’ (things such as murders, terrorism, and riots); and the level of militarization, both domestic and international.”

The US scores poorly on the amount of money we spend on incarceration and militarization, both domestically and abroad. Plus, we have more gun deaths than in the other 23 wealthiest nations combined. The highest scoring and most peaceful countries are Iceland, Denmark and Austria. The least peaceful were Libya, Sudan and Ukraine.

The article notes the world is a less safer place than in the previous year. So, we all have our work cut out for us. But, we could start at home by being more civil to one another, shining spotlights on bigotry, reducing incarcerations for petty crimes and having better governance over gun access. At least that is my opinion.

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3060968/in-case-it-wasnt-obvious-the-us-ranks-very-low-on-the-global-peace-index

Debt collections declining in states who expanded Medicaid

Since not every state fully implemented the Affordable Care Act, data now exists that can contrast those who did with those who did not. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid, with nineteen states still remaining.

For those who do not follow this closely, the ACA uses Medicaid expansion as the vehicle to deliver health care coverage for people beneath 138% of the poverty level. The federal government would front 100% of the cost for three years, eventually declining to 90% thereafter. Yet, the Supreme Court said states could opt out of this feature, which 19 still have done so.

Per the attached article, The Federal Reserve Bank of New York in a study finds a benefit to people in states where Medicaid expansion occurred is debt collections have declined. I have written before that the principal reason for personal bankruptcy is medical debt. The study’s authors note:

“U.S. counties that had a particularly high uninsured rate prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act have seen the per capita collection balance fall if their state embraced the Medicaid expansion. If not, the collection balance continued to climb.”

Yet, in states where Medicaid was not expanded, debt collection is noticeably more in comparison. Per The Commonwealth Foundation, Kaiser Family Foundation, RAND Corporation, Economic Policy Institute and a George Washington University study, expanding Medicaid helps those in need, helps a state’s economy and helps hospitals, especially rural ones who have high indigent and uninsured costs. The hospitals in Medicaid expanded states are seeing fewer uninsured patients and seeing better operating margins. Now, evidence shows it keeps more folks out of bankruptcy.

Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, who was the most reasonable GOP presidential candidate in the view of many, said expanding Medicaid was a no brainer. He said it would bring $13 Billion to his state over the next several years when announced. It also helped his constituents. During the campaign he remained a supporter of Medicaid expansion, which swam against the GOP tide. It is hard to be a lone advocate in a sea of political animosity.

It is past time for leaders in the remaining states to stop thinking like party representatives and start thinking like financial stewards. Several states gave serious consideration, such as Oklahoma, Alabama, Idaho and Wyoming, to expanding during the spring, but in spite of strong data showing its benefits to the state, its hospitals and people, Republican animosity toward the ACA defeated the proposals. Medicaid expansion would help many, including those Republican constituents in poverty living In rural areas. It should be noted that these are the same folks who feel their party is not doing more for them.

Make a move legislators and help all your people, but especially your constituents.

http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/06/13/states-that-embraced-health-care-reform-seeing-les?eNL=575f314b140ba09f23187fc4&utm_source=BPro_Daily&utm_medium=EMC-Email_editorial&utm_campaign=06142016