This, that and another thing

Now that the state of the union and Democrat rebuttal are behind us, it would be nice if an independent voter had a turn. On the talk (and some shouting) shows, the independent views do not get heard enough and that is disappointing. For once, it would be illuminating for a member of neither party to share their thoughts.

For example, we might learn:

  • Global warming really is a concern and we should be doing something about it. On Bill Maher’s Friday show,  he noted that Senator Marco Rubio used the argument against the President for declaring a national emergency to build the wall, as what would stop President Kamala Harris from doing so to address climate change? Maher correctly pointed out the latter is becoming a national emergency, while the wall is not even a top ten issue and is overblown as a solution. He also noted, with the very real concerns over Miami, Rubio may become the Senator of Atlantis.
  •  A growing debt which is around $22 trillion with an annual deficit about to hit $1 trillion is a problem, especially with the deficit in a good economy. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget models the debt to be around $34 trillion at the end of the 2027 fiscal year. We must have spending cuts and revenue increases both. The math will not otherwise work. If a politician tells you differently, he or she is lying to you. Don’t let them.
  • The Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing. So is KyNect in Kentucky. Too many people still don’t realize this in the GOP. But, don’t look to politicians to solve this, as they really do not understand how our complex healthcare system works. We need to stabilize the ACA and stop sabotaging it, as the GOP has done.  My recommendation as a retired benefits consultant, actuary and manager is to fund money promised to insurance companies to pay for adverse selection and committed to deductibles, copays for people beneath 2 1/2 times the poverty limit. I would also expand Medicare as a pilot, measured effort to retirees below age 65, such as 60 or 62. This will reduce the cost rate in the exchanges and Medicare. The remaining states need to get off the dime and expand Medicaid – it is a no brainer per GOP Governor John Kasich.
  •  Addressing America’s crumbling infrastructure would help rebuild assets and provide good jobs. We also need to build on the community college system with some added funding to retrain people to do the jobs of the future, as technology claims even more (this is the major threat, not immigration or trade). Also, building on the bipartisan idea pitched to the President last year by Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman from Ohio, we should co-invest with car manufacturers to retool plants to make the cars in demand and keep the factories open. This idea was ignored and the President was offended when GM announced some plant closings.
  •  There are so many more ideas around rethinking ill-conceived tariffs and trade fights, poverty issues, and gun governance, but let me make a general statement that is important. Start treating our allies and citizens with fairness and dignity. Stop the adversarial BS. A country and business makes more money long term by having a productive long term relationship. We need to stop measuring success on short-term transactions. Listen to your advisors as they actually study our problems. And, stop beating up on a free press. From where I sit, they are not perfect, but the true journalists try to get it right. The main source of fake news in the country sits in the oval office and he only cares about looking good.

Well, that is enough for now. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Advertisements

America falls on the Corruption Perceptions Index

This is probably not what those Americans with red ball caps with MAGA on them envisioned when they signed up on Team Donald. Per watchdog group Transparency International, in 2017 the US fell four grade points from 75 to 71 on the Corruption Perceptions Index falling out of the top twenty. A score of 100 means a country is very clean and a score of zero means it is very corrupt.

Per an AP articles called “US Rank on corruption index seen as a ‘red flag,'” The “ratings reflect a deterioration of rule of law and democratic institutions, as well as rapidly shrinking space for civil society and independent media,” the Berlin-based organization said.

The organization also said, “A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balance, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.” Full democracies scored an average of 75 on the CPI, meaning we have fallen beneath the curve.

This is not a surprise and is confirmation of what I have been asking of Senators and Congressional representatives to do. My questions have been two-fold. (1) What will it take for you to remember to whom you swore an oath and do your job pushing back on a President who is damaging our relationships with our allies and demonizing the free press and anyone who dares criticize him. (2) Is this the man you wish to spend your dear reputation on?

To be brutally frank, I am at a loss and I tell them so. Unfortunately, the staffs are the only people who hear my concerns and emails get a boiler plate response. It truly saddens me to say I don’t believe a word the President says, as the odds are in my favor. It further saddens me that so-called leaders of our country have looked the other way when simplistic solutions to complex problems are deployed as panaceas. It is hard enough to govern with truth and facts, but nigh impossible when the man in the White House has run off his advisors and wasn’t really listening to them in the first place.

Please join with me and ask our leaders to remember their oaths. Doing the right thing should not be as hard as it has become, but we must go down that path. We have some hard truths that continue to evolve about this President, with six of his relationships pleading guilty or being convicted and one under indictment. As the 37th President found out, when people are going to jail it is no longer a witch hunt. And, it is not ironic the man under indictment also worked for the 37th President.

We are better than this. If we told the US soldiers, that freed the remaining Jews from the death camps at the end of WWII, the leader of the free world in less than 75 years would be Germany, they would not have believed you. It is hard to fathom, but it is true. That is what is at stake. Is this what MAGA means?

$60 Billion, James Mattis and ISIS

Here is a sample letter I posted to a few Senators’ websites. Please feel free to adapt and use with your Senators and Congressperson. I encourage people to reach out to their legislators, commenting on good work and needed efforts.

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

Senator, three thoughts to chew on:

– the southern border wall will take $30 billion to build and $30 billion to maintain – it is not a just $5 billion issue. It also will do little to solve a problem which is blown out of proportion (per new Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney when he called it a “simplistic solution” in 2015).

– James Mattis’ resignation is very troubling as we lost a brilliant mind who understands the value of global relationships and the history behind them. We lost a key governor of a mercurial and ill-informed man and the world and our nation is a less safe place. A wall cannot overcome these concerns.

– I understand the reason for leaving Syria, but the work is not done and this was handled in a very offensive way, not conferring with allies, Congress and our military leaders. It shows a lack of good faith dealing which is par for the course with this ego-centric President.

Please protect our nation’s interests addressing real problems. Also, please safeguard Robert Mueller, as this investigation may be our best hope to remedy a major problem in the White House, which is fast-getting out of control. The Trump legacy will haunt our planet, nation and the Republican party, which has lost its footing.

Good faith dealings

The passing of former President George H.W. Bush has highlighted the many positive attributes of the imperfect 41st President. Of course, we are all “fixer uppers,” and our willingness to know this about ourselves keeps us humble and in a constant state of self-improvement.

Many positive things have been highlighted about the elder Bush this past week, with many of us nostalgic to how we all should conduct ourselves, especially our leaders. Here are a few things I took away:

– a communication advisor to an early campaign noted he made a big mistake from which he could not hide. Thinking he would be fired, he recalled Bush telling him “I know you will knock the next opportunity out of the park.”

– a friend noted he played golf often with Bush when he was President. He noted the clubs Bush played would invariably try to “comp” his green and cart fees. Bush insisted that he pay for his and his friends fees. He noted it would not be right for a golf club to not expect him to pay.

– a Democrat Senator noted that it was not unusual for Bush to invite a handful of Senators or Congressional representatives to the White House on late Friday afternoons for martinis, which Bush made. He would also give them a tour of the White House, if any had not seen it before.

– many noted that Bush was a voracious note writer and they took pride in words of encouragement, support, sympathy or thanks; these notes were received by media, foreign and domestic leaders, public servants, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.

– after he retired, the son of one of his secret service guards was struggling with Leukemia and losing in his hair due to the Chemotherapy. Bush shaved his head in solidarity with the son to lift his spirits,

– many leaders and public servants noted that Bush had many relationships around the world and here in the states, which benefited him and our country in troubling or challenging times. His ability to tap these resources to build coalitions to do things is paramount to several successful endeavors.

– relationships matter at home too, with a lovely marriage to Barbara for 73 years and a beautiful family of children and grandchildren. Marriage is hard work – this speaks volumes about the Bushes.

– Finally, in today’s times it is hard to convince some that perception is not reality. We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time polishing our own apple or thinking those that do it well rate more highly as a result. One magazine defined Bush as a wimp when he ran for President, primarily because he was an obsequious Vice-President. Here was a man who flew 58 combat missions in WWII and was shot down. He was not raised to brag on himself. It would not have been false bravado for him to do so. False bravado seems to be mistaken for actually bravery these days. But, the reason he was called a wimp due to being obsequious is while he offered criticism to  President Reagan in private, it would have been detrimental to call him out in public.

Each of us could be better people. Our leaders should be among our better angels. Character matters. Dealing with people in a good faith manner matters. Telling the truth to the media, colleagues and the American people matter. Being accountable matters. Real courage is usual quietly borne and not bragged about. We should remember these truths. We should do our best to emulate them.

 

Diversity remains a strength

Our friend Jill noted today yet another episode of an American chastising someone for not speaking English. People who feel they are the annointed natives giving them the right to berate people for not speaking English, need to be reminded of a few historical items.

The English language came from England, which means it came with immigrants. The first natives spoke a variety of dialects. But, we should also recognize they came here as immigrants over an ice bridge in the Bering Sea. Then, came the Vikings, Spanish, French, English, Irish, West Africans, Eastern Europeans, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Syrians, Russians, Philippinos, Australians, Iraqis and so on. Please forgive if I overlooked a group as the list is long.

One of America’s strengths is its diversity. We are indeed a melting pot of people with all of their strengths and weaknesses. Plus, our constitution and bill of rights tell us that no one is more American than another. My rights are no more important than another’s and vice-versa.

Just from a practical standpoint, we have access to a variety of ideas, innovations, inventions, foods, music, art, religions, prose and poetry. Newcomers tend to be hard-working and more enterpreneurial. Immigration is accretive to the American economy, Just because a so-called leader masks over that fact, does not make it go away. If we close our doors, we would retrench. And, we cannot shrink to greatness.

 

We should listen to rational experienced voices

In 2002, Jim Webb penned an op-ed in The Washington Post cautioning the US about going into Iraq. Who is Jim Webb? He is a former Marine, Secretary of the Navy and US Senator from Virginia. He has a law degree from Georgetown and has been a member of both political parties serving under multiple Presidents.

Two paragraphs from his pre-invasion op-ed piece are telling:

“The first reality is that wars often have unintended consequences — ask the Germans, who in World War I were convinced that they would defeat the French in exactly 42 days. The second is that a long-term occupation of Iraq would beyond doubt require an adjustment of force levels elsewhere, and could eventually diminish American influence in other parts of the world….

Other than the flippant criticisms of our ‘failure’ to take Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War, one sees little discussion of an occupation of Iraq, but it is the key element of the current debate. The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years.”

It should be noted we have been in Iraq for  over fifteen years. Maybe, the chest beaters should listen to those who have fought and have experience rather than people who understand less what fighting and occupying a country mean.This was a crossroad moment in our history and we have not been the same since. Many thousands of American and allied troops died, even more Iraqi troops and civilians died, our reputation has suffered and our debt is much higher. Plus, he was right on the money about American influence being impacted around the globe. Lying to allies and others about weapons of mass destruction has that kind of effect, not to mention misunderstanding the landscape.

Right now, almost 200 former military and intelligence officers have penned letters being critical of the US President’s decision to withdraw security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. This follows earlier criticism of the same President on his siding with Russia over his intelligence officials or not heeding the advice of his more experienced folks.

Call me crazy, but maybe we should listen to the more rational and experienced voices? They may be telling us something we need to hear. We owe it to Amercans fighting for our county to take the time to get it right.

A speech in my dreams

With everyday life seeming more nightmarish with a divisive leader of the world’s current largest economy, I must retreat to a daytime reverie to find a speech I would dream to hear. It would go something like this:

“My fellow Americans, I have come to the realization my Presidency is a lightning rod for division. I have no one else to blame, as President Truman said so well, the buck stops here.

While I did not create division, I used it to get elected. I decided to accentuate a we/ they environment which worked too well. Unfortunately and to my chagrin, I continued to use this approach to govern. Now, we are more divided.

That stops now. We cannot condone people acting on their bigotry toward other people. We are all protected under our constitution with equal rights. We all must have the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

From this day forward, I will become a better President. I will endeavor to tell the truth at all times. I will treat all Americans and our allies with respect. I will do my best to make Americans proud and be a role model in the world.

I realize I am my biggest enemy. My lying and demeaning behavior has made me less trustworthy. The sad truth is our country is now less trusted as a result. I must change and be the leader you deserve.

But, I need all of you to treat others like you want to be treated. Listen to each other to understand, not just respond. I will do my best to change, but hold me accountable. If I do not change, please ask Congress to admonish me. It is that important.

We have a great country, but I need to live up to our ideals. I have not done so thus far. For that I am sorry. ”

President Donald J. Trump

A person can wish can’t they?