Mr. President, please refrain from weighing in…

The continuation of this title is “Mr. President, please refrain from weighing in…
– if you do not know the facts;
– if your comments are more harmful than helpful;
– if what you are about to say is untruthful; or
– if you do not know what you are talking about.”

Being a narcisstic man who is in a position of leadership, he feels emboldened to opine on anything. Seemingly innocuous issues become contentious, as result. It truly wears me out.

Unfortunately, he does this with intent to find wedge issues to divide, but often he just cannot help himself. If he is talking or tweeting, most likely he is being untruthful, harmful or both.

This week proved to be no exception. Top of mind:

Рhe denied knowing a man who he appoInted as interim Attorney General, despite evidence that he routinely met with him because he did not like being briefed by Jeff Sessions;

– he had the White House release a doctored video prepared by Infowars to portray reporter Jim Acosta in a worse light;

– he criticized, by name, Republican Congress members who lost for not genuflecting enough to his greatness, trying to distract from the negative impact he has sown;

– he accused the states of Florida and Arizona of election fraud without supporting proof;

– he was hypercritical of three African-American reporters who asked questions he did not like, yet they were legitimate questions, as most are with this President.

These are only a few of this week’s statements. I have gravitated toward the word tumultuous, when thinking of this President. He is the walking embodiment of trying to hold mercury in your hands.

So, please Mr. President, do not feel the need to weigh in on so many issues. Especially, given the extended title in the first paragraph. I do not believe a word you say, anyway, as the odds are well in my favor not to do so.

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You don’t have to be cruel to be strong

Today on CBS Morning News, veteran broadcaster Bob Shieffer quoted FDR reinforcing his point that this vote is a referendum on us. FDR said, “a nation does not have to be cruel to be strong.”

This quote sums up the actions of the US President who has self-proclaimed he governs off “fear.” He has lied to and bullied allies, the media and anyone who dares criticize him. He paints groups of people as evil and enemies of the people. Why is the question we must ask?

My mantra is do not mistake kindness for weakness. But FDR says it a different way. We don’t have to be cruel to be strong. Strength is using your power only as the very last option, not the first. Leaders who want to wage war tend to be the ones who have never fought.

Let me close with a lesson from Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” When Atticus showed restraint when the real criminal spit in his face after Atticus fought to save a black man on trial, that showed a courage which too many did not understand. Atticus did not give his power away to this reprehensible man.

So, what kind of country do we wish to be? Do we want to be civil and strong or cruel and untrustworthy?

What are we voting for?

So, much of the focus has rightfully been on countering the most divisive US President this Independent voter has witnessed. He has bullied, denigrated, lied and made himself the center of attention on far too many issues.

Yet, let’s look at this record he touts as his reason to give him free rein. His followers say he has done what he promised. To me, therein lie the problems.

While the economy is going well, the economic growth has lasted 9 1/2 years, the second longest in US history. We have also had over 8 years of job growth. The tax law and deregulation have helped make it a little better, but we are doing so on borrowed time with increasing debt and less governance.

We have announced the pull out of the Paris Cilmate Change accord and are an outlier in the world. The President lied to people about climate change being a hoax and has added insult by damaging our environment through enabling industrial polluters. He is borrowing time the world does not have.

The ill-conceived tariffs are bad enough, but bullying and lying to our allies far exceed the damage tariffs will do. We are harming our relationships, which are a key strength of America. We are also less trustworthy. As Trump’s former economic advisor said after telling him he lied to the Australian PM, Trump is a “professional liar.”

We have focused on immigration as a major problem, but it has been sold on fear and is not as big a problem as advertised. We have made immigrants the bogeymen and have lost sight of the impact of domestic terrorists already here. Yes, we should fix immigration, but three promising bills before this President were waylaid for political reasons.

We have allowed a President to build off Republican leadership efforts to sabatoge the Affordable Care Act making premiums higher than they otherwise would be. His party has screwed Americans to win a political argument. And, now the GOP has the unmitigated gall to say they want to protect pre-existing conditions.

We have put in place two very conservative justices, but the President forced the Senate to move away from a super majority to a simple majority. This has made it easier to get a less moderate Justice on the court. I want well-tempered jurisprudence, not partisanship. The most recent Justice lied to the Senate.

We have allowed a President to make money off the Presidency, which he has been sued over. The trial is permitted to move ahead. We have not criticized a President enough for denigrating rhe media. Trump is on record  as lying more than any other politician. Our democracy is at stake because of these two issues. He is President, not King.

Finally, civil rights are under attack with this President. His hate speech and bullying have greased the skids for white supremacists. The President is a racist and misogynist.

This is his record. And, I have not even discussed the Russian issue. I would give him kudos on discussions with North Korea and some deregulation. The tax cut helped some, but went too far and is hurting our debt. And, we have done little to better govern guns or invest in our infrastructure.

That is what I think as an Independent voter, who left the GOP over ten years ago. We need to better govern this President. He certainly is not up to the task.

 

You can’t play with them

Little Donnie came home in a huff and went to his room to sulk. When his mother asked him why he was so upset, he said because Johnny is playing with Steven and Joey.

His mother asked why he did not go play with them? Donnie said, “Because I am mad at Johnny and told him he is not my friend anymore. I told Steven and Joey they could not play with Johnny either if they wanted to be my friend.”

Seeing where this was going, his mother said, “Well you can sit here alone, you can go play with other friends or you can go make amends with your friends. But, if you choose one of the first two approaches, you may just get mad at them, too. So, why don’t you go make peace with Johnny?’

“Mother, I cannot do that as I will look like a weakling. It is important that they know I am tough. Plus, he made up stuff about me. I cannot believe Steven and Joey fell for his fake story about me. And, Uncle Roy told me never to apologize about anything.”

His mother sighed and said, “Well, it is up to you. Uncle Roy is smart, but he does not have many friends. So, take his advice with a grain of salt. If I were you, I might want to go see Johnny and become his friend again. Friends are like gold. Treasure them.”

“Mother, that is not true. Friends are people you use to do favors for you. If they don’t, then they are not your friends. Believe me. That is what Uncle Roy and Father said.

“Oh, boy,” said his mother to no one in particular.

*******************************************************

Fast forward to 2018. Turkey, France, Germany and Russia meet to discuss ending fighting in Syria. China and India are continuing to trade with Iran for oil, as the world’s supply cannot support their needs outside of Iran. And, the first anniversary of an Asia-Pacific trade agreement is approaching which includes all TPP partners, but one notable exception.

The sugar high is beginning to wane

The volatile and recent downward trend in the stock market is an indicator.The slowing of global growth, uncertainty over trade, increasing business costs due to tariffs and increasing interest rates are causing a dampening effect.

While the US economy had 3.5% annualized growth in the 3Q2018 following 4.2% in 2Q2018 (it was 2.2% in 1Q2018), imbedded therein are two numbers that should give pause. Business investment was much higher in 2Q2018 at 8.7%, partly due to getting stuff in the hopper before the tariffs started. Yet, business investment fell to 0.8% in 3Q2018. That is an ominous sign. This concern is also apparent in several third quarter earnings announcements by major corporations.

While we should finish 2018 with annual growth north of 3%, economists have predicted that 2019 will have 2.4% annual growth, falling to 2.0% growth in 2020. I should add they feel the impact of the tax cut for corporations is waning (which is sad because it is an imbedded profit margin increase). In other words, the companies view this tax reduction as a “sugar high” that won’t last.

When the tax bill was passed, the White House and Congress touted that it would take GDP growth to 4% and pay for itself. Tax cuts have never paid for themselves and the best they have done is abet the economy enough to save maybe 20% to 30% of the foregone tax revenue. But, the tax bill was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to increase the already $21 trillion in debt by $1.5 trillion over ten years. And, the tax bill did nothing to address the projection the debt would increase by $10 trillion by 2027. Absent any change, we are looking at debt of $33 trillion by 2027.

It should be noted the annual deficit increased in the government fiscal year just ended to $779 billion from $665 billion, partly due to foregone $166 billion in tax revenue. The deficit is budgeted to be $985 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, on projected expenses of $4.407 trillion and revenue of $3.422 trillion. The deficit is expected to grow past $1 trillion in fiscal year 2019-20.

The US President has tended to be a short-term thinker. He is too focused on doing things that look good now. This is one reason he has had six bankruptcies. The problem is the sugar high is going to end. And, we spent $1.5 trillion to add more sugar to a pretty good economy. We are now beyond 9 years in economic growth (the second longest in US history) and 8 years in job growth, with a bull stock market dating back to March, 2009. Plus, we took one of our levers off the table with an unneeded tax cut. I was all for lower corporate tax rates, but we went well beyond deficit neutral.

This is not a new concern of mine, as I have been actively writing about our debt and deficit for several years, well before the current President took his oath. One of my concerns over Obama was his not doing anything with the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction plan. Both he and Congress just put a very good working draft on the shelf. Our building debt is a ticking time bomb that will cause a huge day of reckoning. And, one things politicians don’t talk about it, is it will take tax increases and spending cuts to get there. The math will not otherwise work. That is the conclusion of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Simpson-Bowles effort.

A Day in the Life of Trump

I am currently reading the excellent book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” by twice Pulitzer Prize winning author and Watergate reporter Bob Woodward. The book is excellent and very believable with its depth of reporting and consistency with known facts.

Many things jump out while you read, but I felt the following two abridged examples of a “day in the life” of the Trump White House are revealing of his modus operandi. I will reserve judgment until after the anecdotes.

First, is the infamous tweet Trump sent out which said the military would no longer accept or allow transgender people “after consultation with my Generals and military experts.” This is a blatant lie.

This tweet was sent at 8:55 am and followed up by two more tweets at 9:04 am and 9:08 am. These times are important as he agreed earlier in the morning to meet with his Generals and Defense Director at 10 am to discuss the pros and cons of four options Trump might want to consider. The options ranged from the more legally supportable to what Trump announced on his own before the meeting which was later ceased by four federal courts.

Trump not only surprised his Generals, he lied and said they agreed. The sad truth is there are numerous stories like this about how this man flies by the seat of his pants and drags others down with him.

Second, after grave concerns over Trump’s open disdain for NATO, the EU, trade agreements and our allied relationships that have kept us safe and prosperous, the Generals, Rex Tillerson, James Mattis et all invited Trump to a retreat at the Pentagon to go over why these are important. After listening for awhile, prodded by Steve Bannon, Trump went on one of his rants, as an attendee described in Woodward’s book.

“The president proceeded to lecture and insult the entire group about how they didn’t know anything when it came to defense or national security. It seems clear that many of the president’s senior advisors, especially those in the national security realm, are extremely concerned with his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn, as well as what they consider his dangerous views.”

This is the meeting where Tillerson uttered his famous criticism due to his frustration over how the Generals were treated. He said Trump is a “f**king moron.”

These two examples paint a picture of a dangerous loose cannon who bullies and lies. We are not safer with this man in charge. And, the sooner his sycophants listen to voices who know better and have the courage to act, the safer we will be.

Sunday summaries

I hope your weekend is going well. Several topics have toyed with me writing a full post, so I will resort to a brief summary of a few. In no particular order:

The royal family of Saudi Arabia has done a pretty inept job of lying to the world about what happened to Jamal Khashoggi. It is so unartful that even the US President, who is not known for truth and wants just to do transactions, is being forced to admit they must be lying. I applaud other world leaders and even more than a few US Senators for stepping up to cry foul. My guess is this will eventually lead to the fall of Crown Prince MSB as he is embarrassing the family and country and this is adds to a growing list of notorious screw-ups.

Heading north to Great Britain, there were an estimated 750,000 British folks that protested in the streets of London yesterday asking for a new Brexit vote with actual facts being disseminated. While I fully understand the rationale of those who want Brexit, from the outset, Brexit will be harmful financially to Great Britain. Many financial companies and EU headquarters have either moved or are planning to move to an EU site. Plus, Scotland and Northern Ireland continue to talk openly of votes to leave Great Britain should it occur. If that is not enough, it is believed that Vladimir Putin has had a hand in the disinformation as he did with the 2016 and current 2018 elections in the US.

Returning to the US, candidates of my old Republican Party are taking a lot of heat over their positions on healthcare over the years. They should. Not only has this party not tried to improve and stabilize the Affordable Care Act, they have sabotaged and made it worse. It should be noted politicians don’t seem to understand a lot about healthcare. Here is a letter I sent to my newspaper that will give you a sense of what has transpired.

It seems healthcare is a key issue this election. Surveys the last eighteen months have indicated the majority of Americans want the Affordable Care Act stabilized and improved. Yet, the GOP leadership has tried to repeal it and actually has sabotaged its success making premiums higher than they otherwise would have been. The Senate’s defunding by 89% of adverse selection payments to insurers, the President’s defunding of payments to insurers to help people in need with co-pays and deductibles and the fight in states like NC to not expand Medicaid have increased exchange premiums and driven more carriers out of markets. This retired actuary, benefits consultant and benefits manager believe these measures have harmed Americans and people should know this.

Finally, a story that should get even more airplay than it is relates to the voter suppression attempts by the Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp in his role as State Secretary. Whereas an ethical person would recuse himself from overseeing elections, Kemp has been pretty blatant in his efforts to make it harder to vote. I do not like the voter ID laws, gerrymandering districts and aggressive voter suppression tactics being done in my own and other GOP led states. These are Jim Crow-like. Yes, Democrats have done similar tactics, but what is being done the last eight years has been an orchestrated effort by a group called ALEC, funded by the Koch Brothers.

I am pretty tired of this the “ends justifies the means” rhetoric. I see what can happen when people cheat. They cheat to get elected and cheat once they are there. The US President is not only enriching people who donated to his efforts, he is enriching himself by using his position to make more money. This self-dealing is actually illegal. And, when people cheat, it devalues our country and state governance.