I will not be surprised

I will not be surprised if the Mueller investigation finds that the President of the United States has been compromised by Russia. There is too much lying, ignoring and self-preserving going on by the man in the White House. In fact, if it turns out he is not, that will surprise me. At the very least he is an unwitting agent of Russia. Just ask yourself why he did not impose sanctions on Russia nor has he shown alarm over the Mueller findings that Russia has attacked the US and is still doing so?

I will not be surprised if Congress does not do a damn thing about better gun governance. I am so proud of the young people calling for a march begging for action. Yet, Congress and the President don’t have the backbone to do the right thing and do what a significant majority of Americans have asked for – background checks and elongated waiting periods. These actions should be no brainers, but the NRA dictates subservience to Republicans and some Democrats.

I will not be surprised if Congress cannot reach compromise on the immigration bills, especially with the ever-changing President putting his fingerprints on discord. He upset the proceedings on Friday, a few weeks after he stabbed Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin in the back and asked Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue to lie for him. What all legislators have discovered is the famous self-proclaimed negotiator is not trust worthy. If you do so, it is at your own peril.

I will not be surprised if we have more school shootings in the near future. I will not be surprised if the British parliament decides against Brexit. And, I will sadly not be surprised if one of the leader of Norh Korea and United States does something too provocative. On the school shootings and North Korea issue, I hope I am dead wrong. On the former, with our gun laws, it is very hard to stop a dedicated individual shooter. On the latter, I am not confident that judgment can temper ego with respect to these two leaders.

 

Advertisements

Bless his heart or God love him, we are all imperfect

There are two expressions that either precede or follow a phrase where someone’s imperfections are mentioned. A Southern minister once told a group that “Bless his heart” is used to sand over a more offensive indictment. In other parts of the country, “God love him” would fill that role.

“She does not have the sense to get out of her own way, bless her heart,” someone might say. “He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, God love him,” another might add. Invariably, the author of the quote would have their own imperfections.

We are an imperfect lot, all of us. Mark Twain famously said, “Common sense is not all that common.” Having been a manager of people and a HR consultant, one of the observations a colleague made sticks with me. “Every employee thinks they are above average, but that cannot be true.” If you contrast the self-grading performance to that of managers or peers, the self-grading would tend to be higher.

So, maybe we should use “Bless my heart,” when we self-reflect. “I need to do better at giving people the benefit of the doubt, bless my heart.” Or, “I need to not be critical of something I know little about or without knowing the context it was offered, God love me.”

Let me close with a great lesson from Dr. Wayne Dyer, the late, renowned self-improvement speaker. He used a term to “defend the absent.” So, if he was in a conversation which went in a direction of running someone down, he would defend the person’s actions since they were not here to defend themselves. “You know that does not sound like something (that person) might say,” he would interject.

We are all imperfect, bless our hearts. Let’s do better to listen to each other and understand points of view and the context in which they are offered. I am reminded of a Black man who convinced KKK members to turn in their robes – he did so by asking questions and listening to the answers. What a novel idea!

Strange definition of good men

Someone famous has come to the defense of two men, in essence, claiming each is admirable or a good man. While defending people is normally a good quality, choosing to defend these men, and being relatively silent on women they impacted shows a lack of judgment, ethic and empathy. Saying good things only about the accused and not the alleged victims or the issue shows a tone deafness to women who come forward.

These two men are accused of domestic violence against their three ex-wives. Rob Porter had two restraining orders against him from each of his two wives, Colbie Holderman and Jennifer Willoughby. So, two judges thought the claims of the women were valid so as to issue such an order. David Sorenson was accused by his ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, of being verbally and physically abusive. These accusations were shared with the FBI, which is important, as lying to the FBI is a crime.

The fact these two men were still awaiting security clearance to serve in the White House is important. A boss might ask of the FBI, “Why is this taking so long? Is there a problem?” Or, per some news reports, they may have been aware much earlier. But, the story goes beyond these two men and to two other men – John Kelly and this famous man, Donald Trump. They have both botched this mess and, instead of acting as leaders, they are relatively silent on the victims or what the two men are accused of.

The President did not say one word about the victims on Friday or the alleged heinous act of Porter, choosing only to defend Porter and wish him well. Then, even after the rightful push back, he doubled down on Saturday using different words to say the same thing. The closest he got to the victims was to call the accusations “some true and some false.” The other sad story is Kelly’s reaction and concern over when he knew. Kelly is supposed to be the grown-up in the room, but this is yet another time when he has said or done less than thoughtful things, just like his tempestuous boss.

At least the Vice President gave recognition over his concerns over the actions and the victims. One can defend someone, but not condone the actions and support the victims. Domestic violence experts note it is not uncommon for an abuser to make up for (or hide) his heinous actions by being over-the-top pleasant to others in the work place. So, Porter can be a great guy to have on your team, but be a criminal abuser at home. Domestic violence is all about control, so the abuse is not just physical, it is mental.

As for the President, I view this as a proxy for defending himself, as everything goes back to him and his fragile ego. He has been accused by 19 women of sexual misconduct. He has had numerous affairs, one of which he financially settled before the election. His first wife accused him of raping her in divorce court testimony, but later recanted. And, he would be his worst defense if ever put on trial as he has admitted to recurring sexual misconduct on at least three occasions, the most blatant of which is the Access Hollywood tape.

And, in the past few years, here is a summary of whom he has chosen to defend and not defend. He chose to defend Judge Roy Moore accepting his truth over the teenage girls (now women) whom he sexually harassed, stalked and assaulted. He chose to defend former Fox News President Roger Ailes who was alleged of sexual misconduct where settlements were reached and was eventually fired by his Board. The same support was given to Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly, who also settled claims with several women who accused him.

Trump described all of these accused in varying ways as good men. Yet, one man he did not defend was a prisoner of war and Senator, who he denigrated as “not a hero because he was captured.” He did not defend and denigrated two Gold Star parents who lost their child in war as they dared criticize him for not knowing what the constitution was all about. More sadly, I could go on.

Based on this man’s history of sexual misconduct and litigation, I remain incredulous he was elected President of the United States. His five biographers noted before the election, do not think this man will change and all of sudden become Presidential. When he slips up and does something that is such, it is actually newsworthy. Defending people is one thing, but not tolerating what they are accused of and giving credence to the victims’ claims is essential. Porter may be a good guy to you, but two judges thought he had to be restrained from seeing his wives.

Note: In the volunteer work I have done with working homeless families, about 1/3 of our clients lost their home as a result of a domestic violence situation. DV is all about control. If you know of anyone who cannot explain bruises or is missing family events on short notice or confides in you, encourage them to get help and find a way to get out. The abuser will not change, as the success rate of such is low.

Tick, tick, tick – young folks please raise some holy hell on this

Tick, tick tick…the US debt of $20.7 trillion is expected to increase by $10 trillion by 2027 even before the December Tax Bill and last night’s Budget Bill were passed.

Tick, tick, tick…per the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the Tax Bill is projected to increase the US debt by $1.5 trillion or so by 2027.

Tick, tick, tick…last night’s Budget Bill which has now been signed into law is expected to increase the debt by $400 billion over the next two years.

Tick, tick, tick…unless something is done about it, the debt will be close to $33 trillion in 2027. The scarier thought is that might be low.

Tick, tick, tick…the added dilemma we are facing is the interest rates are increasing, since we may have overheated a good economy. That will add further to the annual interest cost on the debt.

If I were in my twenties, I would be raising holy hell about this. I just called several members of the Freedom Caucus, telling them I am an Independent and former Republican voter. While they were right to raise issue with the $400 billion, I said it was hypocritical to vote for a Tax Bill that increases the debt by $1.5 trillion.

Invariably when I called I spoke with a nice young staffer in their twenties, because I asked them if they were. During our conversations I asked them “you do realize we are leaving this problem for you?”

In December, 2010, the US debt was over $13 trillion. The reason this date is important is the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee presented their findings and recommendations in that month. In essence, they recommended a series of changes that followed a ratio of $2 of spending cuts to every $1 of revenue increases. Since Democrats did not like the former and Republicans the latter, the Committee’s good work was shelved.

Fast forward to today and not only have we not done much about it, we have made the problem worse with these two bills. In Congress, it is both parties’ fault. It is President Obama’s fault for shelving the Simpson-Bowles study and it is President Trump’s fault for not making this an issue and promoting tax cuts. It is President Bush’s fault for passing tax cuts against the advice of his Secretary of the Treasury after being handed the baton on a balanced budget.

Our deficit was $666 billion in the last fiscal year. It will be over $1 trillion at the end of this one. This is not good. Please let your Congressional representatives, Senators and the President know we need to do something about this. We need revenue increases and spending cuts. The math will not work otherwise. Please check out the websites for the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Fix the Debt and The Concord Coalition for more information.

 

 

A little bit of this and that

It is a rainy Sunday, so it is a great day to drink coffee and read. Since I am struggling for a longer post subject, here is a little bit of this and that for your reflection and thoughts. In no particular order:

There are many people who will tell you what is wrong with the Middle East, but I don’t believe it is a solvable problem. There are too many passionate religious and tribal differences that cross borders. Unless like minded people had control over their situation, did not need to rely on others and could respect the rights of others, peace is simply not achievable. In my simple view, the best anyone can achieve is to place lids on simmering pots on a stove.

The global economy is expected to grow by 3.9% each of the next two years, up from slightly lower results in 2016 and 2017. Yet, Christine LaGarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, cautioned at Davos last week over concerns of socio-economic inequity and the rising debt in the US. Not everyone is benefitting from the growth which will cause greater uncertainty and unrest.

In a very interesting and not unexpected development, Canada and other nations completed the TPP, which is the Asia-Pacific trade agreement the US exited, When the US tried to negotiate a bilateral agreement with Japan, the Japanese trade leaders suggested the US reconsider the TPP instead. The US finds itself on the outside looking in. I find it interesting that the US President said in an interview which will air tonight that he would reconsider the pullout from Paris. It is hard to have a relationship when you are not in the room with others.

On a related subject, if Brexit follows through with the commitment to leave the EU, other cities will continue to benefit from EU headquarters migration from London. Paris, Dublin and Frankfurt are each benefitting from conpanies moving EU headquarters. A softer Brexit will help reduce the migration, but it will continue.

I guess if there is a theme to all of these subjects it is working together across country borders and regions within is more productive than going it alone. Yet, one thing remains true – collaboration is hard work. It requires give and take. If one party gets everything it wants, then the others will not, so detente is harder. So, when I hear someone who likes to win say an agreement is a disaster, I don’t put as much credence in those comments. Lifting all boats makes more money for everyone. A man won a Nobel prize for this concept. So, let’s work hard together for peace and prosperity for all. It beats the hell out of the alternatives.

 

And the band played on

Earlier this week, a fifteen year old decided that he should bring a gun to school in Marshall County, Kentucky. Two teens are dead and 18 more are wounded. Less noticed is that there were 81 other shooting incidents that same day in America leaving 28 dead and 40 wounded per the LA Times.

Per the New York Times, the Marshall County shooting was the eleventh on school grounds just this year, with three occurring the very same week in Winston-Salem, NC, New Orleans, LA and Italy, TX, Just toward the end of last year, there were shootings at the following high schools:

– 9/13/2017: Freeman High School in Rockford, WA where a 15 year old killed one and wounded three students.

– 9/20/2027: Mattoon High School in Mattoon, IL where a 14 year old wounded one student.

– 12/7/2017: Aztec High School in Aztec, NM where a 21 year old former student killed three students.

The two horrific shooting tragedies last year at a church in Texas and concert in Las Vegas were not enough to elicit action – now isn’t the time to make knee jerk actions we were told by serious minded leaders in the pocket of the NRA. I am still dismayed that after Sandy Hook Elementary shooting which killed twenty-six, now was not the time was said then as well.

Well, let me ask a simple question. When is the time? How many children, teens and adults have to die for it to be time. The LA Times reports that 60% of Americans want  gun laws to be stricter. An Elon Univeristy survey a couple of years ago pegged universal background checks and elongated waiting periods at even higher rates of preference by Americans.

To be brutally frank, we are well passed time. For those who give the standard NRA fed response that certain changes would not stop certain crimes, the answer is “obviously doing nothing isn’t preventing them either.” Politicians it is time to stop worrying about keeping your job and start doing your job. We need leaders to think  more like parents and grandparents and less like politicians scared of lobbyists.

Headwinds and Tailwinds to the Economy

Presidents get too much credit and blame for the economy. They can provide headwinds and tailwinds, but global market forces tend to control what happens. By headwinds, I mean the wind is against the economic growth, with tailwinds aiding economic growth.

In the US, we are under the third longest economic growth period in our measured history with 103 consecutive months of growth. We have also had seven consecutive years of 2 million plus jobs created. And, the stock market more than doubled under Obama and continues its rise under Trump. These are great numbers. But, before we pat ourselves on the back too much, not everyone has benefitted and wealth disparity among economic classes has been widening for the past thirty-five years.

Economists I have watched project the good news to continue for the year, but several have cautioned about the future and if we don’t address the inequity, we will have major problems on top of other concerns.

On the tailwinds ledger, the global economy continues to grow and the World Economic Forum projects a 3.9% increase for the year. In the US, the cut back on regulations, plus the reduction in new ones over the rates of the past, have given more confidence to businesses (more on this later). Plus, the reduction in corporate tax rates will help fuel some growth, provided these companies who are sitting on cash, choose to invest it in their people and business. And, with more money in many people’s pockets, this will add some fuel.

On the headwinds ledger, several economists have noted we are robbing Peter to pay Paul, leveraging our future with even more debt. Not only did we not address the expected increase in debt taking it from $20 trillion to $30 trillion in 2027, the tax law will increase it by $1.5 trillion. The interest cost thereon will take a greater bite out of our budget. But, other headwinds are of concern. Retrenching from global markets and trade agreements replacing them with binary ones, will be dilutive to growth. Not investing as much in science and innovation is a major concern to Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics.

This will be heightened if we restrict immigration. What seems to get lost in the argument where some have become too cold-hearted in my view, is immigration is accretive to the US economy. Plus, the people immigrating tend to be more entrepreneurial and better educated, in many cases. These sh**hole countries that someone demeaned are sending us more educated people than reside here in the states, on average.

We should not fail to remember that “innovation is portable” so says David Smick, an economic advisor to Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Jack Kemp, one of the smartest Congresspersons who considered a run for President. If we do not provide an inviting place, innovation may be hindered. I should note that Steve Jobs was born to Syrian immigrants to the US. What if they had been denied entry? Apple might not have ever come to fruition.

Finally, not all regulations are bad, so restricting regulations may cause headwinds down the road especially with more freedoms given to pollute the environment and take advantage of customers. This is a developers mindset. Remove obstacles to build, but leave the clean up for others. Unfortunately, we taxpayers are the others. We citizens, that must drink and breathe more polluted waters and air and realize the impact of climate change, are the others. As coal ash deposits have taught us, there is a cost to environmental degradation.

So, we need to be mindful of what we are facing. I have communicated with numerous Congresspersons, Senators and the President, that we are avoiding some elephants in the room – debt, climate change, water crisis and income inequity. In my view as an Independent voter, passing a tax law that increases the debt was extremely poor stewardship, as we cannot cut our way out of this problem. The math won’t work.