Retiring Republican Congressman shares concerns

In an article in Politico by Nick Niedzwiadek called “Fred Upton: Slim House majority could spell trouble for post-midterms GOP,” the Congressman makes a few key points.

“Outgoing Rep. Fred Upton on Sunday said fellow Republicans may find it difficult to unite the various wings of the party if they prevail in taking back the House in the November midterms….

Upton said that if Republicans only obtain a slim majority, that would give additional leverage to firebrand members like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) who could complicate leadership’s ability to corral votes on key issues such as raising the debt ceiling.”

It should be noted that Upton is one of the more rational Republican legislators having called the former president and his sycophants on the carpet for their lies and misdeeds. I remember calling his office three or four times to compliment his political courage. In this respect it is sad to see him go.

Yet, as a former Republican and Democrat and now Independent voter, I must encourage voters who believe in addressing the real issues of the day, rather than the ones fabricated and created by the Republican party to garner votes, to not vote for any Republican. Per conservative pundit, Michael Gerson, the GOP is in “decay.” In my view, they are adrift untethered to the truth and lawfulness. The real RINOs are those beating on their chest in support of the deceitful, bullying and seditious acting former president. A party cannot denigrate its truth tellers, like Upton, and exalt its liars and those who won’t call out the liars.

Climate change is a huge issue that 70% of Americans believe must be addressed, which would be higher if not for the misinformation and disinformation pushed by the fossil fuel industry through their funded legislators. Better gun governance must be addressed. The attack on civil and voting rights must be addressed. The debt and deficit must be addressed. Health care access is critical to many. Democrats are far from perfect, but at least they are trying to address issues.

All I see from folks like the Texas and Florida governors and others is an invention of social issues that they contend are demonizing the country. Sadly, these fear tactics work. Rewriting history works, as well. The former president lost a fair election, but his ego is too fragile to be man enough to accept it. The former president inherited an economy that was the third longest growth period in our history at 91 consecutive months, with 2 million plus jobs for six straight years and a more than doubled stock market under his predecessor. He did not create that, nor does any president for that matter, but it did continue for thirty more months until the pandemic hit.

Please focus on the issues. There are good Republicans to consider, but they seem to be outgunned or are too silent. I disagree with Rep. Liz Cheney and Senator Mitt Romney on a number of issues, but they at least telling the truth about the decay of the party and the seditious actions of the former president.

I have shared with numerous Senators and Congressional representatives that we need a viable Republican party who can put forth conservative ideas. Right now, we don’t have one, as it has been pirated away by the likes of the former president, those two governors, and a host of strident demonizers, the real RINOs. Unfortunately, fear sells. The fact is too few consider the lack of veritas of the fear peddler. And, too many are willing to go along for the ride as it takes too much political courage not to.

Are we really that far apart?

Too many people are arguing points of view that seem to be antagonistically created by Public Relations (PR) folks to divide us. Fear sells. It always has. So, to win elections and sway opinion, certain PR folks and candidates create a we/ they mentality. The other tribe is painted as evil.

But, are we really that far apart? I feel we too often are arguing the points of view of the most extreme among us. I feel most people are closer together if we only talk about it. If we could only discuss what we agree on as much as what we don’t, then civil disourse could occur. If we do that, those areas where we don’t agree may not seem such a high hurdle to overcome.

A good example is before the last former president, Republican leaders would not attend CPAC conferences. Why? Because CPAC represented the extreme side of their party. Republican leaders knew this and stayed away. Now, CPAC is reported as a main stream part of the party, which has taken the Republicans down a narrow path into the woods. To me, that is unfortunate, because I believe most Republicans would not favor some of the extremism of this wing of the party.

On the Democrat side, what is reported online is the more progressive thoughts of the party. To me, they are interesting points of view to consider, but don’t represent fully what more moderate Democrats might believe, at least in tone. I am not dismissing these thoughts at all, but what we lose sight of in this country on both ends of the spectrum is at some point we have to step up and pay for things.

Here are a few common themes that many of us may hold, but it is worth the discussion to confirm agreement.

-elected officials do not work very hard to serve the needs of the people; they focus on helping their major funders and marketing for more funding.

-collaboration to solve problems long term should not be such a foreign concept.

-freedom to do things is important, provided we are not hurting other people and we understand that freedom has a price tag of responsibility.

-name calling is not civil discourse; it is an intended short cut by someone who has not thought through an argument.

-shouting over comments by someone who does not agree with your comment is not an argument, it is playground taunt.

-opinion hosts online, on TV or on radio are most often not sharing facts, they are sharing opinion. The old saying is true, opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one.

-finally, people who name call, who shout and who share opinions as fact (such as “everyone knows this”) have earned the right that what they say should be taken with a grain of salt. This is especially true, if their track record indicates a highly untruthful nature.

Thinking of the above, the one comment that I can make in conversation that will resonate with even the more strident fans of the former president is “Donald Trump is his own worst enemy. He would serve himself better if he did not tweet so much.” That simple comment conveys an awful lot.

Issues. Let’s discuss issues, not personalities. What is the problem and the underlying reasons? What are the possible solutions? Who benefits, how long does it take, how can it be implemented, what is the cost and will it solve or help solve the problem? I could care less what teams wins or loses with a decision. Plus, it must stand the test of time and be monitored and improved or eliminated if it is not working well.

Please focus on the news

Yesterday, in my browser feed was the headline Tucker Carlson said (whatever). That is not news. Carlson is an opinion host whose modus operandi does not always include the truth, which is actually a generous comment. What he, Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity, Lawrence O’Brien, Laura Ingraham et al, espouse is not news. It is opinion. And, in Carlson’s case, includes purposeful disinformation as he covers for the untruthful and seditious bent of the former president.

I have been a broken record that the news too often covers things that are not news. I do not care who wins or loses by an action or inaction, I want to know what it is, who will benefit, what it costs and when will it be implemented. Congress largely does nothing but run for office. The fact we have to wait, every time, to fund the government at the last minute is a travesty, in my view. Stop the stop gap measures and do something with more forethought and action.

One thing I fault the media on is focusing on too many little things with the former president. Yes, he did all those things, but by focusing on little faux pas, the bigger transgressions get overlooked. Here is an example. In the middle of the 2020 election, the former president’s foundation was ordered by a judge to be disbanded and Trump repay money he used from people’s donations for personal use. The repaid monies would be distributed per the foundation’s bylaws by a group of new trustees with no one named Trump among them. Yet, this news got overshadowed and not many people knew it occurred.

I mention this example as it is a precursor to what is happening with the Trump business today. The former president and his children have been ordered to testify in court in the criminal proceedings against the company regarding misrepresentation of financials. It should be noted the Trump accounting firm resigned from the account and said do not rely on the last eleven financial statements, which is extraordinary. This is not a witch hunt, nor was the foundation story above. This is alleged malfeasance.

This must be focused on as this person is still considering running for president again. This is in spite of his Big Lie that the election was stolen from him that he has been unable to prove in spite of a lot of money, effort and now suspended attorneys’ time. This is in spite of the investigation that the former president committed seditious actions against a branch of government leading up to and on January 6. No, Mr. Carlson, this was not a false flag operation.

These are needed news stories. Yet, I would rather we talk about addressing climate change, water concerns, shoring up electrical grids to meet the growing renewable energy production, investing in the new jobs of the future, improving healthcare access, dealing better with our debt and deficit, etc. Yet, we still have to talk about the former president’s poor stewardship, untruthful nature and alleged malfeasance and sedition.

I hear you talking, but I am not buying it

When a philandering husband tries to explain why he reeks of someone else’s perfume as he saunters in after working late, most wives are not buying it. They hear him talking, but they certainly are not buying it. The failure to communicate begins with a man who thinks the perfume smell will just go away when he leaves his working late partner.

President Bill Clinton actually has numbers to prove he was an effective president, but he still was a skirt chaser, always has been. When he famously said very slowly as he pounded the dais, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” we heard the words, but very few of us was buying his story. Sure, Bill.

President Richard Nixon liked to often say after the Watergate story became bigger than he could handle, “I am not a crook.” Running a burglary ring from the White House and trying to cover it up does not sound very lawful. Nixon was forced to resign by his own party leadership before he was impeached and convicted. Yes, he was a crook.

President Ronald Reagan said on national television that he was not involved in any effort to illegally sell arms to Iran to fund the Contra rebels in Central America. Known as the “Iran-Contra Affair,” Reagan had to go on TV later and say he lied. Per his own son, what his father did was an impeachable offense, but Oliver North fell on the sword and took the rap.

President George HW Bush got in trouble for a campaign promise when he emphatically said “Read my lips, no new taxes.” When the deficit got larger, he ended up raising taxes and was not reelected. I think the emphasis on “read my lips” made it a bigger fall.

President Barack Obama did something similar promising with the Affordable Care Act, “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” He did not know enough about healthcare management to make such as claim. That would come back to haunt him and taint the roll out of the program.

President George Bush, the son, over saw the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction. The WMDs story was a narrative that Hussein wanted his enemies to believe, but we used faulty intelligence to create a need to invade. An independent UK Commission several years later condemned both Bush and PM Tony Blair for misleading the British people. People died because of this.

President Donald Trump could fill a book with his assertions that turned out not to be true. All politicians are untruthful, but his numbers as president are tens of thousands of untruthful statements. The “election was stolen from me” will likely rank as one of the more devastating lies in our country’s history (the “Big Lie” as it is known). “COVID is a Democrat hoax,” said often and early during the start of the pandemic still echoes today even though it is terribly untrue. “China will pay for the tariffs” said quite often even though economists would add each time he said it that consumers pay for the tariffs as the cost is passed down to them.

What bothers me greatly is when sycophants perpetuate these lies even when they know they could be harmful to people. Pandemic studies of COVID-19 note that an additional couple of hundreds of thousands of people died due to our poor response in the US. There are people who have been sentenced and others standing trial for participating in an insurrection caused by the Big Lie. The truth matters. People get hurt.

The Pentagon Papers are likely the most famous example, which is why Nixon went to great lengths to keep them out of the newspapers. Yet, he wasn’t just covering for himself – he was covering for a fairy tale that hid the fact the US could not win the war in Vietnam, a fairy tale perpetuated by Eisenhower, JFK and LBJ as well. Too many more American soldiers died and huge numbers of Vietnamese citizens were killed as well.

Yet, Nixon’s biggest lie did not come out until years later, when recordings were found from a week before the 1968 presidential election. Nixon the candidate was heard in a recording before the 1968 election asking the South Vietnamese leader to stall the current peace negotiations and he would garner a better deal. The ultimate peace deal took four more years and more American and Vietnamese people died. What Nixon did was a seditious act, but LBJ chose not to publicize it, although he did speak with the Senate Majority Leader about his concerns.

We need politicians to tell us the truth. They owe it to us. I know they all embellish taking credit for good things they have little to do with and blaming others for things they have little to do with, such as the economy. But, today lying seems to be done with impunity. We need to make folks more accountable. We need to demand their sycophants stop covering for the lies or rationalizing them away. Followers will believe their BS not realizing they are being lied to. And, some will get hurt, even killed. We especially owe it to our troops to tell the truth as too many pay for the machinations with their lives.

Letter to my Republican Senators on Debt Ceiling

I posted the following letter on my two Republican Senators’ websites. If you agree with its theme, please feel free to modify and use.

Dear Senator, as a retired business consultant and manager, I am disappointed in the Republican Party stance on the debt ceiling. I am glad eleven Republicans did the right thing and passed a measure to allow it to be raised for several months, yet I was disappointed you were not one of the eleven.

I have long been concerned with our building debt and annual deficit that has gotten worse. We need to address this issue when we discuss spending and revenue, not with the debt ceiling. Our reputation to our creditors is essential. To be frank, as an independent and former Republican, my former party is only concerned with debt ceiling when they are not in the White House. It did not seem to bother the party when it increased under Trump.

Yet, what also concerns me is the hypocrisy of both parties. The GOP passed a tax reduction in December 2017 that raised the debt by $2 trillion, approximately. And, we passed two pandemic aid bills that to me should have been directed at employers to keep people employed and not furlough them, as well as helping folks not working. We missed opportunity and spent poorly.

We need the infrastructure improvements which are ten years overdue. Yet, we must figure out ways to start bringing the debt down before the interest cost approaches the military spend in our budget.

Solving this problem requires data and effort, not sound bites. I have seen the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget do an exercise in Rotary or college groups that ask tables of people to solve the Social Security deficit. Armed with about two dozen ideas and price tags, these tables can solve the Social Security deficit in 90 minutes.

Solving the bigger problem can be done and will take time, but not if we never start to do so.

Grandstanding is not governance – not even close

As someone who follows the news and used to hold most elected officials in higher esteem, I am continually frustrated with the absence of good governance in Washington and various state capitols. Rather than governance, I see grandstanding for sound bytes to beat the other party over the head with. The purpose is to remain or regain power, where they will be in charge of doing nothing to govern.

Several Congressional representatives and Senators have retired or are retiring. The principal reasons are the disillusionment with the open hostility between factions and the fact over 1/3 of their time (some said 40%) is fundraising for the party. Let me say that last part in a different way. We taxpayers are paying for elected officials to hit us up for money between 33% and 40% of the time.

In essence, elected officials are more interested in keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. A further frustration is the number of folks who just don’t bother to reach out to all constituents and only care about their own party. The truth has become a casualty. And, what is sad is those who pay attention to the news know many of these elected officials are lying and know they know they are lying, but they lie anyway.

Grandstanding is a pronounced way of lying drawing attention to the person so doing. To me, it is akin to a gorilla beating on its chest to make an opponent cower and not fight back. Right now, we have an entire party that is OK with the US defaulting on its debts. Increasing the debt ceiling is to address what we have already spent or decided to spend, which the same folks did not seem to mind doing. Or, they cut revenue which also increased the debt.

In fact, many of these same folks voted on a tax bill in December, 2017 that reduced taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals which raised the debt by $2 trillion, approximately. In essence, we added to debt to make a pretty good economy a little better for a little while. Per the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, we must do both – cut spending and raise revenue to address our deficit and debt. The math will otherwise not work.

I have shared with several Senators it is OK to push back on spending to make sure we consider the best investments, but grandstanding on a debt limit that you helped make worse is not the place to do it. Before the pandemic, the US was around $22 trillion in debt with a $1 trillion annual shortfall on our budget ($3.4 trillion in revenue on $4.4 trillion in expenses). After needed pandemic stimulus, we are even worse off on debt and scheduled to be even further behind.

The last time we had a debt limit standoff was about eight years ago, led by Senator Ted Cruz (who by the way voted for the tax bill increase noted above increasing the debt). Our allies pleaded with us not to renege and when the US was within twenty-four hours of defaulting, ten female Senators from both parties told Cruz and others to get out of the pool for an adult swim. These ten women resolved the matter and the US did not default.

Our debt and deficit has been caused by both parties. Do not let either party say it is the other one’s fault as that simply is not true. And, we need for both of them to be involved to remedy this. Unfortunately, no one has the stomach to do what it really takes to resolve this. Any elected official can spend money and reduce taxes. Any elected official. But, that is precisely the problem. We need serious discussion with data and not grandstanding. Grandstanding is not governance.

Letter to Editor on Wedge Issues

The following letter I sent in to my local newspaper was published in its entirety, which is rare. Please feel free to modify and forward if you like the message.

It amazes me how so much time can be spent on created wedge issues for political gain and so little on real ones. The global (and US) water crisis and need for accelerated climate change action are key environmental issues. Investing in deteriorated infrastructure while also reducing the US deficit and debt are at odds, but both are needed, so we must be judicious with spending cuts and revenue increases, as both are needed to solve the math problem.

And, we must stop this degradation of civil rights that were long fought for. Attacking the right to vote under the guise of staged and unproven election fraud claims is abhorrent in the eyes of this independent voter and should be in the eyes of more elected officials.

The ice is going to break – a retelling

The following post was written a couple of years ago, but remains relevant today. We have one party that would rather talk about issues they have told their following are desperately important, but are over-inflated and another party who is having trouble pushing some of these issues, while ignoring the last one.

The title is a crucial line from a movie called “The Dead Zone,” based on the Stephen King novel. I use this line as a metaphor for ignoring real problems. Let me explain the context. The movie stars Christopher Walkien as Johnny who, because of a car accident, could see the future after touching someone. But, if the future was less clear, a dead zone as he described it, he could alter the outcome.

A boy he was tutoring was supposed to practice ice hockey on a frozen pond with his demanding father as the team’s coach. But, when Johnny touched him, Johnny saw the ice breaking. His father said that was crazy, even though both men knew the father did a background check before hiring the tutor. Johnny slammed his cane on a chess board and said “the ice is going to break!” The son stayed home, but the father went ahead with practice and four kids drowned as the ice broke.

So, Mr. President, members of Congress and various state legislators, let me state obvious problems with this metaphor in mind.

– We have a global water crisis including in the US with the World Economic Forum identifying it as a top long term risk. Farmers are having to fight harder to protect their diminishing water rights. It will be made even worse by climate change, especially the droughts, wildfires, encroaching seas into aquifers and greater evaporation of reservoirs.  And, the problem is exacerbated with the significant water loss in fracking and lead pipes tainting some of the dear water.

– That climate change thing is a problem in its own right. Our federal government and several state government need to pitch in more and help. The former president backing out of the Paris Climate Change Accord is as poor a decision as could have been made, especially when it came the day after ExxonMobil shareholders voted to order management to inform them on what they are doing about climate change. Getting back to the table is the adult thing to do. Fortunately, strides have been made, but we need to accelerate these efforts.

– I learned today (note this was in 2019) our EPA is turning a blind eye to asbestos. Since Brazil stopped production of this toxic product, we now are importing asbestos from Russia. As a metaphor for this the former president, each bag of toxic asbestos imported from Russia has Donald Trump’s picture on it. A toxic material imported by a toxic man from another toxic man. While all of this is going on, you can easily watch TV commercials advertising about getting compensation for the use of dangerous asbestos without your knowledge.

– Although, debt is not an environmental concern, our so-called leaders are ignoring this huge and growing problem. As interest cost grows to a greater part of our budget, it will hinder our ability to do other things. Both parties are to blame for our increasing debt which has only been made worse by the pandemic relief and 2018 tax law change. At some point, some poor soul will address this issue assuring he or she will not get reelected. It should be noted that it will require spending cuts and revenue increases, as the math will not otherwise work, per the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The ice is going to break. We must heed the warnings now. If we don’t, we may be the ones who drown.

Thursday thunderbolts

What is happening in Afghanistan is awful, but it is not a surprise. The Taliban taking over was bound to happen no matter when the allies pulled out. Truly, the only surprise is the haste of the change. Afghanistan has long been called the “graveyard of empires” because no invading nation has ever been successful.

The US failed to heed that lesson, even after a reminder of the USSR failure in the 1980s. The opposing force is too distributed and the terrain too mountainous and arid-like. And, the Taliban carries through on its threats against locals who favor the enemy. As a result, the locals are scared to cross them.

Sadly, this failure falls on many presidents, even dating back to Ronald Reagan when Congressman Charlie Wilson helped secretly fund and supply the Mujahideen to drive out the Soviets in the 1980s. What we failed to do is help the country after the Soviets left and the US became more mistrusted and things deteriorated.

But, with George W. Bush authoring the invasion after 9/11, Barack Obama’s continuing push, Donald Trump’s acquiescence to the Taliban and Joe Biden’s decision to honor the agreement to leave, we have shown an inability to solve problems, leaving behind more. Since we dove in, leaving entirely should not have been the answer, as it is like the husband leaving the wife when times got hard. They needed to stay together to make it work. So, now our trustworthiness is even lower than if we never invaded.

Yet, this is not the only problem we let fester because of lack of focus or courage to analyze, discuss and try to solve problems. Reasonable immigration efforts have moved forward on a bipartisan basis, but they fell flat. A pretty good bill passed the Senate in 2013 under the tutelage of a “Gang of Eight,” but the House would not take it up. This led to the Obama DACA executive order which is not the way to govern hard issues.

Both parties talk about the debt and deficit when they are not in the White House, but show little appetite to do things when their party gets there. George W. Bush was actually handed a balanced budget by Bill Clinton and he proceeded to make a tax cut that his Treasury Secretary adamantly said was unneeded (and was fired). Outside of a sequestration approach (which said if we don’t make changes, these cuts will go in place), nothing substantive has come out of Congress to deal with the deficit and debt since Clinton. The debt will soar past $40 trillion by the end of the decade.

Then there is climate change. The naysaying mandate pushed by the fossil fuel industry which has known for several decades about the climate change risks, is appalling. Many do not realize that Dick Cheney, the second Bush VP, came out of the oil industry. Cheney and his old colleagues wrote key language in the 2005 Energy Act to give frackers a hall pass on scrutiny by the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Air Act. In my view, we lost twelve years of more demonstrative action in the past twenty years.

We have other big problems that we have let fester under multiple presidents. But, the above shows what happens when we do not address them. They do not go away. They just build steam like a pressure cooker. We need to do something before they explode.

Find your moments

The talk has turned political. You are at work, a reunion, a party, at church, etc. What should you do? Do you exit the conversation voting with your feet? Do you lean-in with disagreement? Or, should we channel our inner Daryl Davis and listen? Listen not to respond, but listen to hear first, understand second. Then, you can respond..

Who is Daryl Davis you may ask? Davis is a black man who has had numerous discussions with members of the KKK, actually convincing over 200 of them to quit the KKK and give him their robes. How does he do it? He asks them questions. Then he listens. He said people just want to be heard. If you listen, then you have the opportunity to ask questions.

What you choose to do is your call, but if you give like you want to get, you might get heard. If you look for some common ground, you might get heard. If you avoid name calling, you might get heard. If you do the opposite of the above, you will be just getting a glazed over look. I also recognize you must pick your audience and time, as some folks are more strident in their views. Plus, being critical in a large group puts people on the defensive.

On this latter point, one could say “That is an interesting viewpoint, let’s talk about it after dinner?” I have spoken with friends and relatives who are ardent MAGA fans. I have also spoken with some relatives who like to argue.

But, even with these folks, you can find common ground. The most strident of MAGA fans will usually agree with this statement, “I wish Donald Trump would tweet less as he is his own worst enemy.” I can usually say something like this without getting someone’s dander up. When he was removed from Twitter, they did all of us, including the former president, a favor. We now hear fewer of his divisive opinions.

One of the other things I have found will get heard is focusing on real issues, not contrived ones. Issues like concern over the decline in fresh water, the increase in plastics in the ocean, the impact of climate change making forest fires, droughts and flooding worse, the increase in food waste, the increase in US debt and deficit, the decline in our infrastructure, etc. are safer than wedge issues created to divide us.

If someone wants to speak about wedge issues or issues that you disagree with them on, find your moments. If you ask questions and listen, you may find an opportunity to discuss. But, the key is to listen – hear them first. I have found that too many people are not too keen on the why’s and far too keen on the who’s. My tribe said this, so this is what I believe.

If you listened to them articulate what an opinion show host said or what someone on social media said, then you can say, “I hear what you are saying, but do you truly believe that?’ Or, you might say, “I must confess, I don’t find that to be true.” Again, if we listened, we can push back in the manner we wished to be pushed back on. Yet, if you lead without listening, your push back may not get heard.

I recognize fully the above discussion won’t solve our problems, but if our goal is to get heard, we need to start by listening. Last night, I shared with my sons that Senator Bernie Sanders is out talking with Republicans to hear what they are saying, so he can share his thoughts. I do not agree with everything Bernie says, but I have always appreciated his candor and being forthright with folks.

Wedge issues are designed to divide us. Often they are designed to sell fear which wins elections. Fear does not solve anything, so we must move past that and speak with others who may not hold our opinion.