A mean spirited, dishonest budget

On PBS Newshour last night, Mark Shields and David Brooks defined the President’s budget succinctly. They said it was a “mean-spirited, dishonest budget.” I had been searching for the right words to define a proposed budget that kicks people in poverty in the teeth. Fortunately, Senator John McCain said the budget was “dead on arrival.”

The budget is bothersome in so many levels as it severely cuts Medicaid and food stamps, as well as other programs. The latter has grown because of the greater number of people in need. Yet, while these cuts are occurring, tax breaks for the wealthy would be provided.

But, it does not end there. It has been reported about the extra rosy and very hard to achieve projections on revenue growth. While this is not too uncommon, it is still sleight of hand. When people say tax cuts pay for themselves, that is as believable as the check is in the mail. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget will say there often are some revenue improvements, but nothing near paying for the entire cut.

Yet, there is more dishonesty. Former Secretary of the Treasury, Larry Summers said in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post that there is some double counting of revenue sources, an obvious error. Per Summers, “You can’t use the growth benefits of tax cuts once to justify an optimistic baseline and then again to claim that the tax cuts do not cost revenue. At least you cannot do so in a world of logic.” Summers noted he has not seen something like this in a budget proposal in 40 years and a business person should know better than to double count like this.

To be brutally frank, this is not what the President advertised in the campaign. He touted his business leadership as something the country sorely needs. Yet, former Speaker John Boehner said with the exception of foreign policy, Trump’s presidency has been a “complete disaster.” I would argue his point on the foreign policy omission. But, it should be noted is how this budget, the AHCA bill, and other measures harm the very constituents that rose up to vote for this newcomer. He is screwing them and they still lack awareness that is what he is doing.

Getting back to Brooks, I have cited his earlier observation after the horribly planned and executed travel ban. “This White House is equal parts chaos and incompetence.” Summers used the latter word in his piece, as well. We can now add “mean spirited and dishonest.” These are not words that he had hoped to elicit when elected.

 

 

Good news for NC voters

Amid the pervasive news out of Washington, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appellate case that ruled the North Carolina Voter ID unconstitutional. This is excellent news for all voters, but in particular African-American, older and college student voters.

Within the law were highly discriminatory provisions designed with “surgical precision” per the US Court of Appeals in the 4th District to infringe upon African-Americans. It was designed to “kick Democrats butts,” so said a Buncombe County GOP leader on The Daily Show, a tape of which was shown during the court case. It should be noted the leader resigned the next day.

When I made reference to this law as “unconstitutional and Jim Crow-like,” to members of the NC General Assembly before it was passed, one of its authors strongly disagreed. My response was simple, “as a 56 year-old white man and former Republican, we both know what this law is about.”

It also attempted to solve a problem that is not significant. Voting fraud is not pervasive as some would let you believe. Numerous studies do not support the claim of more than very small numbers of voting problems. It should be noted that the attempt to discredit our Presidential election through claims of voter fraud was a key part of Russian meddling in October to create doubt.

And, a final key comment is important. The problem we face in our country is not enough people voting. To be such a significant democracy, we don’t have enough citizens participating in the process. We should be doing everything in our power to encourage not discourage voting. And, if voter fraud is such a concern, why did the NC General Assembly not include absentee voting in the law, where there is more fraud (still not a lot) than at the polling sites? The answer is who tends to vote in larger numbers as absentees.

Right now, my strong advice to the NC General Assembly is to not do what they are thinking about, trying to rework the law. The General Assembly has now had four laws passed in the last few years ruled unconstitutional. The solution is stop passing laws that are unconstitutional, not trying to see what you can sneak through.

All the President’s Men

Not to overstate the obvious, but it would behoove those who serve the President to remember the famous title of the Watergate movie – “All the President’s Men.” While President Nixon was pardoned for any crimes that led to his resignation, over twenty of his colleagues went to jail.

Our current President has many challenges that continue to be problematic. His biggest character flaws are his large ego, thin skin and disdain for telling the truth. Yet, what makes these attributes even worse is he cannot remain silent when that would be the wiser course of action. As a result, he has unforced errors.

A month ago, the bookies in London had the odds at even money, this President would resign or be impeached before his first term ends. My guess is the odds are now better than 50/50 that he won’t make four years.

While the proof has yet to be found, this President is acting like a guilty man with respect to Russia collusion. But, what may also be his undoing is his vast number of conflicts of interest. I personally believe he is using the Presidency to make more money, as caring for others has never been his modus operandi.

So, I would recommend people to stop lying for this man and start doing their job. They will stay out of trouble that way.

Extremely poor form, but not surprising

Rather than focus on the obvious concerns about the timing and reasons given for the firing of FBI Directior James Comey, I want to focus on the absence of common decency exhibited by our President. Firing someone should be hard, but one thing you must do is let the person know before you tell others not involved in the process. Apparently, Comey found out while making a speech across the country after someone saw it on a TV news report.

That is extremely poor form, but not a surprise given our President’s history of taking advantage of people. It should be noted that a White House source said the President kept the firing close to the vest, so the roll out was chaotic, even beyond their normal chaos level.

As a former manager, I have had the misfortune of having to let someone go. Even after vetting the issue to make sure this action was ultimately needed, it still bothered me to have to ask someone to leave and it showed when I did it. The process must be handled with as much grace as possibly can be mustered.

Yet, our President did not take the time to make sure Comey knew beforehand. Comey served our country for many years and deserved better. When a senior person was being let go in my office by the bold line matrix management, I asked if I could sit in to honor the man’s thirty five years of service. We owed him that.

To me, it is very obvious this President is hiding something. The fact he wanted to get the firing announced in time for the evening news is telling. The fact he wanted to do something to respond to Sally Yates saying he knew well before Flynn’s firing that Flynn is trouble is telling. The fact Comey was fired after he wanted to expand the scope of the Russian investigation per several Senators is telling.

But, let’s set that aside. The fact our President fired someone and announced it before the employee acknowledged it is telling. It tells me exactly what kind of leader our President is.

Saturday in the park

With due respect to the legendary band Chicago, let me use one of their songs to take a walk in the park to opine on various and sundry topics.

The French election is this weekend. The choice is between a woman who reminds many of the worst of Donald Trump using fear to sell her candidacy and a man new to politics, but far more reasonable than his extreme opponent. Macron values the EU, while Le Pen would want to yank the French out of the EU. I have said this before with our US President, you cannot shrink to greatness, as global collaboration increases growth.

Prince Phillip of Great Britain has decided to retire at the age of 96. I hope to be able to do anything at 96, so I applaud his longevity. Of course, his job is not too onerous, yet he has always carried himself with dignity. I see his wife going strong and wonder if she will outlive her heir to the throne. Prince Charles may have the shortest tenure as King, once it is his turn.

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has reiterated concerns over our President in continually making trouble for our relationships with other countries. He is focusing this time on offending our friends in South Korea asking them to pay for something after it was agreed upon that they would not. In our efforts to deal with the bellicose neighbors to their north, it would behoove us to work well with our allies. Krauthammer called this an unforced error that HR McMaster had to walk back. He went on to register concern over the 3 am call when something hits the fan. This conservative columnist said he hoped they would let General Mattis take the call instead of the man in charge.

While the man offends allies, he continues to be a groupie of thug-like leaders. He has apparently invited Philippine President Duterte to the White House. This invitee gleefully talks of having people killed and has insinuated he has played a role in one. To our President, when you lie down with Wolves, you may get more than just fleas.

Now, forget all of this stuff and enjoy your Saturday. And, to all French people, please vote. If you don’t, you may end up like we have in the US.

Friday Freakiness

This title is actually a misnomer in some respects, as the behavior is normative while the statements are not altogether true. In no particular order:

Representative Robert Pittenger from NC described the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau as dictatorial and bad for the economy. In his one sided argument, not once did he mention the CFPB has fined banks, credit card companies, pay day lenders, etc. over $12 Billion for fraud and aggressive marketing practices. Over 90% of these fines go back to consumers. Banks and their funded politicians don’t like the CFPB, but this is government oversight at its best.

In a sadly comical moved during a scary time with North Korea, the US ships that we were told were heading toward North Korean waters were headed in the opposite direction. To see Sean Spicer try to explain away chaos like this adds to the farcical nature of this White House.

The state of Arkansas has decided it wants to be known for executions rather than something more productive. It turns out their killing drug of choice is about to expire, so the Governor and Attorney General decided a dozen death row inmates had to go. With new DNA techniques and the Innocence project, we can not be certain that all twelve are guilty, with at least one still claiming innocence.

Finally, another shoe has dropped on the election influence with a detailed Russian plans being revealed from a think tank who advises Putin to abet Donald Trump’s efforts. What is also interesting is when this think tank thought Hillary Clinton was going to win in October, the strategy shifted to drumming up concerns over voter fraud. It is also interesting that  this is about the same time Trump ramped up the voter fraud issue and said he had to wait and see if he would support the results. To be frank, for anyone to say these efforts did not affect the election results is selling a story without proof. From where I sit, the survey percentile ranges shifted notably after James Comey’s announcement handing the election to Trump.

That is all the freakiness for one Friday. Have a great weekend.

Mr. President, if climate change is not real, then why are you deleting data?

Prominent climate scientists are concerned as research papers and supporting data are disappearing in the halls (and websites) of our US governmental agencies. It is to the point that several cited links in professional publications are no longer valid and the authors are scrambling to defend their work. As feared, there appears to be concerted efforts to delete climate change information off important government websites.

So, my question is simple, “Mr. President, if climate change is not real, then why are you deleting data that supports it exists and is man-influenced?” To me, this is a legitimate question to ask the President, Scott Pruitt, his EPA Secretary or Sean Spicer, his White House press agent. I would not let him escape without an answer. To me, this is telling. The President’s argument is so poor, it cannot stand up to scrutiny and he must destroy the evidence.

It is not dissimilar to when President George W. Bush’s White House Council for the Environment was having scientific papers rewritten or redacted if the words “climate change” or “global warming” appeared therein. It is akin to Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida who forbade their state officials from mentioning climate change or global warming in speeches or official papers. With Florida surrounded on three sides by sea water, that is not the best stewardship for his state not to mention country or planet.

Yet, there is another key facet. The US is a leader in climate change research with NASA, NOAA and EPA, to name a few agencies. We are not only harming our planet by stepping away and deleting papers and research, we are giving away a leadership position. This is not how you make America great again, for whatever that means, and is certainly not how you conduct yourself as a world leader.

So, Mr. President, what is the answer to my question?