Threat to our own country – short letter to the editor

I sent this in to my local paper. If you like this, please feel free to adapt and use. Fingers crossed on whether they print it.

As an Independent and former GOP voter, the untruthful and bullying bents of the president are bothersome. His mishandling of COVID-19 which continues has harmed Americans. But, seeing a US president make several efforts to derail confidence in the voting process and endorse white supremacists are beyond the pale. The FBI arrested thirteen people plotting to kidnap the Michigan governor and these groups are emboldened by this president’s lack of criticism and tongue-in-cheek support. I truly never thought I would see a US president be a threat to our own country. Taking this president at his word is not only a fool’s errand, it is dangerous.

PS – Different subject, which I covered recently. This morning’s opening remarks by Senator Lindsey Graham to discredit the ACA made me ill they were so misleading. In short, he said the ACA is not working for South Carolinians as more money goes to three states. He did not say SC did NOT expand Medicaid, so that money goes elsewhere. And, he did NOT say, that more premiums subsidies go to three states as they have larger populations and, of course, get more subsidies. They also pay more taxes. This is an example of misleading people and why folks like Graham and Trump need to be voted out.

Here is a link to piece I wrote two weeks ago.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2020/10/03/just-a-quick-refresher-on-the-aca-animosity-in-the-republican-party/

Two articles speak volumes

Two articles are worth noting as we head into the election. The first is “Trump’s handling of coronavirus pandemic hits record low approval: Reuters/Ipsos poll’ by John Whitesides of Reuters. Here are a few paragraphs.

“Americans are steadily losing confidence in President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with his net approval on the issue that has dominated the U.S. election hitting a record low in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The poll taken Tuesday through Thursday, after Trump’s COVID-19 infection and weekend hospitalization, found 37% of American adults approved of the president’s handling of the pandemic and 59% disapproved.

The net approval rating of negative 22 percentage points is the lowest in the poll dating back to March 2 and has steadily declined over the last 10 days, as Trump’s illness and his return to work in the White House dominated news headlines.”

The second article was reported by Randy Tucker in the Cincinnati Enquirer is called “Mitch McConnell says White House’s lax COVID rules are why he hasn’t visited since August.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday said he hasn’t visited the White House in two months because of what he saw as lax coronavirus practices. “‘ haven’t actually been to the White House since Aug. 6 because my impression was their approach to how to handle this (pandemic) was different from mine and what I insisted we do in the Senate, which was to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said during an appearance in Northern Kentucky.

These excerpts and articles speak for themselves. To be frank, while bad, I am surprised the disapproval rating of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 response is not higher. We are just shy of 218,000 deaths in America, yet that does not seem to be a problem or a debate question worth answering. It just shows how little news actually gets to people that need to see it. That is what this independent voter thinks.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-s-handling-of-coronavirus-pandemic-hits-record-low-approval-reuters-ipsos-poll/ar-BB19Q8zM?ocid=msedgdhp

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/mitch-mcconnell-i-havent-visited-white-house-recently-because-of-lax-covid-rules/ar-BB19PyTp?ocid=uxbndlbing

Social distancing and masking up are musts, even for presidents

With US approaching 210,000 COVID-19 deaths, we learned the president and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19. I wish them well in their recovery. Their testing positive follows a day after Hope Hicks, a key White House staff member who traveled with the president tested positive.

Today, more announcements of public figures testing positive occurred. Republican Senators Mike Lee from Utah, Thom Tillis from North Carolina and Ron Johnson from Wisconsin all tested positive. Also testing positive are former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former White House staff member Kellyanne Conway, Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel, campaign manager Bill Stepien, the president of the University of Notre Dame, and three White House reporters.

In terms of tracing, I heard the tail end of a report that some of these folks may have all been together at the announcement of SCOTUS candidate Amy Coney Barrett. The NPR report noted there was a White House lawn ceremony followed by an event indoors, neither of which followed all of the protocols needed.

This may or may not be the link, but it reminds us that we must be careful. We must avoid large gatherings, especially indoor ones, and follow social distancing and mask wearing protocols. Also, hand washing is essential.

While I am saddened that public people or any one, for that matter, gets COVID-19, what is happening to the president and people who have been near him is not a surprise. Flouting all of the requirements and choosing to not only not wear mask, but being flippant with those who do, is not conducive to cautious behavior.

To be frank, pandemics are not to be trifled with. While those who have to work in jobs that cannot be done from home are most at risk, pandemics truly know no zip code or income status. And, those who are the most fragile have the greater risk, if tested positive.

Let’s wish everyone, including the president and first lady well, but let’s also be smart and following social distancing and mask wearing protocols. Maybe, those who have not, will start to take notice. If we do not have universal compliance, the risk remains, especially as the colder weather force us more indoors.

Bob Woodward – a few tidbits from “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday

For some reason, the president of the United States agreed to be interviewed by Bob Woodward, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and author. This is a writer who, with Carl Bernstein, helped uncover the truth behind the corruption and deceit of Richard Nixon leading up to and following the Watergate break-in. So, the most untruthful and corrupt president, in my lifetime, including the aforementioned Nixon, sat down for recorded interviews with Woodward.

Relating to the “60 Minutes” interview between Woodward and Scott Pelley, I found the three paragraphs from a news summary by Ted Johnson called, “Bob Woodward Tells ’60 Minutes’ Why He Made A Judgment Call That Donald Trump Was The ‘Wrong Man For The Job: ‘It’s A Conclusion Based On Evidence'” revealing

“In his last interview with Trump in August, Woodward said, the topic again was on the coronavirus, as the pandemic continued to spread throughout the country. Trump insisted during the interview that ‘nothing more could have been done’ to curb the virus.

‘Nothing more could have been done. Does he remember what he told me, back in February, about it’s more deadly than the flu?’ Woodward told Pelley. ‘I mean it almost took my breath away, that there was such certainty, when he was absolutely wrong about the issue that defines the position of this country right now.’

Meanwhile, Trump continues to downplay the potential for the virus to spread, as he has mocked his rival Joe Biden for wearing a mask. His campaign continues to hold rallies in which supporters are tightly packed together and many not wearing masks. In fact, just as the 60 Minutes interview was airing, the Trump campaign was getting ready to hold its first indoor rally in three months, an event scheduled Sunday evening in Henderson, NV. Masks are recommended but not required.”

What troubles me about the last paragraph is even after the beans were spilled that Trump knew of the danger and lied about it, he still continues to hold rallies. It is akin to inviting people to a party where you know some of the food has spoiled. Trump has called Woodward a “wack job” and his book as “fake,” but most of the trouble from Woodward comes from Trump’s own words. His followers might want to listen to what Trump said.

Five minutes of your time – listen to candid wisdom on COVID-19 mishandling

If people want to get a sense of the failure of the president to lead us during the COVID-19 pandemic, following his admission and confirmation he lied to the American people (and continued to do so) about the risk of COVID-19, please click on Scottie’s post which has a five minute commentary by a very smart man who goes by the name Beau of the Fifth Column. Even a few minutes of the commentary will give you the gist.

The fact the president misled Americans on the dangers of COVID-19 is not news. The fact he admitted he knew and lied is. What the president fails to realize then, during his misleading press conferences and tweets, and even today, is too many people believe his BS. And, too many sycophants furthered his lies and downplayed the danger.

Too many Americans have died and more will. Too many Americans have gotten sick and more will. And, putting this in terms the president might understand, dying and sickness is not good for the economy. When people get sick when we reopen stores, schools, rallies, etc. without seriousness of purpose, it is predicted and predictable people will get infected.

I will say this bluntly. This calls for the resignation of the president.

Let’s talk about Trump, Woodward, and bad days….

An interesting economic tidbit – trade deficit

A relatively small economic news item is worth noting given the amount of attention given by the president. In an article by the AP’s Martin Crutsinger entitled “US trade deficit surges in July to 12-year high,” the US trade deficit “surged in July to $63.6 billion, the highest levrl in 12 years…”

Per the article, “the Commerce department reported…the gap between what America buys and sells to foreigners, was 18.9% higher than the June deficit of $53.5 billion. It was the largest monthly deficit since July 2008 during the 2007 – 2009 recession.” The increase was “driven by a record 10.9% increase in imports” with a corresponding “8.1%” fall in exports.

Let that sink in. We are living in unique times with the pandemic. But, the whole world is exposed, not just the US. There are two points to be made.

First, the president has placed tariffs on major trading partners, who responded in kind. As economists have long noted, no one wins a trade war. Buyers just find less costly sources.

Second, America has so woefully handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is aghast. With around 4% of the world’s population, the US has around 22% of the global COVID-19 deaths. And, sadly the deaths continue. This truism runs in direct contrast to what the president touted at the RNC.

With other countries less impacted than we are, they can get closer to normal than we can. But, our folks can still buy from home. So, these numbers are not a surprise. As with any issue, the only way to solve a problem is to admit it exists.

Predicted and predictable

Nate Silver is the genius behind 538, one of the most accurate predictors of election results. 538 weights various polls based on their relative veracity. What his polls showed in 2016, after the late Comey announcement, that while the median favored Clinton winning, Trump could win within acceptable standard deviation. People focus too much on the median and not the range.

With this background, Silver said something of import recently, that many of us have said less succinctly. He said the COVID-19 contagions that are cropping in schools and colleges are both “predicted and predictable.”

When people get together without strict adherence to social distancing and mask wearing, exposure to COVID-19 will occur. And, the virus spreads exponentially, not arithmetically. This means when ten people get it, they infect ten more, who infect ten more…This is why the president was forewarned of the pandemic risk in January by US intelligence and why his misinformation and mishandling is so problematic.

Let me go further. If all people don’t wear masks, socially distance, wash hands and act with some common sense, COVID-19 will be with us much longer. I know we want to get back to normal, but managers, owners, deans, school executives, and elected officials must understand that corralling the virus cannot occur unless we all do our part. Even if a vaccine is created, a recent survey said only about 70% of Americans would take it.

This is why telling people the truth is so critical. Only then, will people follow instruction. And, sadly in the absence of truth tellers who must be supported not demeaned, conspiracy sources get listened to. As an example, measles had been eradicated in the US, until the anti-vaxxers spread their conspiracy information and now it is back.

Further, unless we have a president who tells the truth, we will not solve many problems. And, as an epidemiologist and historian said, telling the truth is mission one in dealing with a pandemic.

The nonpartisan Concord Coalition on the absent relief package

The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan group that researches and educates on the US deficit and debt problems. The following was in my inbox from that group and it speaks for itself.

“The following is written from the perspective of Concord Coalition Policy Director, Tori Gorman.

Avid readers of The Lookout will notice that my missive today is unlike any of my previous entries. If you are accustomed to the colorful charts and technical policy analyses that usually accompany my posts, my sincerest apologies. Those features will return, but today’s post is from the heart.

Last week I fully anticipated that I would be spending my waking hours prior to publication of this newsletter buried in legislative text, frantically distilling the latest coronavirus relief package from Congress for our readers. Instead, I find myself staring at an empty desk while federal officials jet home for their sacrosanct August recess. Why? Because despite over 160,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, a record-setting decline in economic activity, over 31 million people collecting some form of unemployment, and millions of children unable to return to school, lawmakers refused to compromise.

Unconscionable.

Each side has expressed support for another pandemic relief bill and each side has tendered their initial offer. The House-passed HEROES Act would spend another $3.4 trillion whereas the Senate Republican package of proposals would spend closer to $1.2 trillion. Clearly there is plenty of playing field in between to reach agreement.

On what planet is an acceptable outcome ZERO?

To add insult, on August 8, President Trump announced with great flourish a series of toothless executive memoranda from the ballroom of his eponymous Bedminster golf club – actions that will have virtually no effect except to make any further negotiations more difficult: A payroll tax proposal that neither side in Congress supports, a pseudo-unemployment insurance scheme virtually no state can navigate nor afford, an eviction ‘moratorium’ that isn’t, and student loan action that could have been, and should have been, more robust.

At some point in our political history ‘compromise’ became a dirty word. Somewhere it became acceptable in an election year for Congress to punt the people’s work until the November results were known. In today’s environment, however, where twin crises are leaving a trail of death and destruction, it is imperative that lawmakers rise above the low expectations they champion, return to Washington, and do the work they were elected to do.

Americans deserve no less.”

What the president has fashioned with executive orders is beyond his authority. Congress has the purse strings given to them by the Constitution. What the president has proposed is unworkable in parts and unwieldy in others. But, again we are not an autocracy and Congress needs to do its job.

What I also find interesting is the president’s executive order did not include a price tag on debt impact. I have done some back of the envelope calculations and it is likely nearer the $1.2 trillion GOP figure, if it is not extended, but we just do not know. I also feel that cutting FICA taxes will be harmful to Social Security and Medicare, at a time when they need more funding not less.

Yet, what no one has done is calculate what we need to do, including all three parties, the Senate, the House and White House. The House at least passed a bill on May 15, but the Senate could not bring themselves to debate and vote until the bewitching hour. Frankly, that is poor leadership by Senator Mitch McConnell and the president. Crisis planning is often not the best of planning.

You would think our so-called leaders could take the time to do some homework. But, what do I know?

Brief letter to Senators and Congress people (sent Saturday morning)

I posted the following on the my two Senators (and select others) and Congressman’s websites.

I am disappointed that Congress has failed to reach a decision to help people. As with any communication problem, it is the fault of at least two parties, so the president’s attempt to blame only the Democrats is just more posturing than fact. Please find a way to make a deal. Americans are hurting and the president does not have the authority to do what is needed.

I am big believer we must deal with the debt, but the hypocrisy of the Freedom Caucus and others astounds me. They had no trouble in voting for a $1.5 trillion tax bill when it helped the wealthy and businesses at a time when we should have been reducing debt with a pretty good economy. So, we wasted that debt cost to make a pretty good economy a little better for a little while. Now, we need to help people.

Is the Democrat request to high? Likely. Is the GOP insistence of helping employers escape liability an insensitive move? Likely. A payroll FICA tax cut is not the answer as it won’t be as accretive to the economy as extended unemployment benefits. People with jobs will save more of the money and pay down debt, but those without income will spend it.

I beseech you to get back to work and do your job. It needs to be done in the right way and not left to a perception-focused and autocratic bent president. We cannot give any president more power than they have, but especially this one.

Please feel free to adapt and use, now that the president has made an executive order doing things he does not have the authority to do.

Some very stupid questions

It is disappointing the US Congress cannot come to an agreement to help people in these difficult times. Republicans and Democrats are to blame, in spite of the president’s modus operandi to blame only the Democrats. It takes at least two parties to have a communication problem.

In this case, three parties as the White House is not on the same page with its own Republican legislators. And, one of its negotiators, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, has had a career of blowing up legislation when in Congress. Let’s hope this is worked out this weekend, as the last person to try to make changes, because he is limited legally and facts are secondary, is the president.

So, with this in mind, let me ask some very stupid questions on this and other issues.

– One of the sticking points is giving companies liability protections from employees who are forced to work in unsafe conditions and exposed to COVID-19. Since many who have gotten the virus work in jobs where they do not have choices and must come to work even when sick, how does this help people other than the employers?

– The president wants to have a FICA tax payroll cut, a large one. Since you must have a job to pay FICA taxes, how does this help the unemployed folks? A corollary question is how do you know people working will spend the extra cash and not save it and pay down debt? If they do this, it will be less accretive to the economy, than giving money to those without income.

– The pandemic is now reaching into more rural areas and states that had not as much exposure. Right now, South Dakota has an influx of 250,000 motorcyclists for an annual event, who are mask less and not socially distancing, as South Dakota has not had such requirements. How will this not impact South Dakota folks and the attendees in a negative way? If 10% need to be checked and 10% who are tested have COVID-19, that means 2,500 of these bikers may have it. Even if it is less, this virus does not spread arithmetically, it is exponential.

– The US intelligence folks note they have evidence that Russia, China and Iran are trying to influence the election, Russia being the most active since it has been doing it effectively since 2014. Russia again is helping Trump, as they see him as the best weapon to disrupt America’s power and influence. China wants Biden, as they are tired of dealing with such an unpredictable person. China’s ascendency has been enabled by Trump with his retrenchment from global agreements and tariffs, yet China would rather deal with a rational person than the mercurial and perception-focused Trump. With this confirmation, why has this president and Congress not done even more to assure the elections are protected? This lack of interest and urgency, which includes the reluctant Mitch McConnell, dates back two years or more.

– Several states have relied only on mail-in voting and about thirty-five states have used it to more than a minimal extent. The president again is stating fraud risk for something that works well and, as per usual, offers no proof. Why is the president so against mail-in voting when even Republican legislators support it? The answer is the same as above, if he loses, he wants to have reasons to claim fraud and sue. Quite simply, the president’s ego does not handle losing very well.

– Finally, we have 160,000 plus COVID-19 deaths and the president behind the curtain keeps telling us everything is going well. When asked in an interview last week about the 1,000 deaths per day, he said “it is what it is.” Why does he not treat this pandemic with a seriousness of purpose – wearing a mask routinely, requiring the wearing of masks, condemning people who are critical of people trying to help, requiring social distancing, and supporting decisions on how states and communities reopen?

I have many more stupid questions. But, let me pick up on the president’s quote, which I have never liked when used by anyone – “it is what it is.” How can reasonable people not use this same quote to try understand why the Trump presidency is replete with chaos, incompetence, lying, bullying and corruption? I guess “it is what it is.”