A little bit of this and that

Too many issues and events are percolating in my head. Rather than do a deep dive on any of them, here is a little bit of this and that.

Not unexpectedly, Trump sycophants in Congress are rationalizing their support of Donald Trump over E. Jean Carroll’s accusation of Trump raping her over twenty years ago. They “believe the president” rather than the accuser, with some saying they heard Carroll has a “credibility problem.” Let me state the obvious. If you have not noticed, Donald Trump has a huge credibility problem. 

Before 2017, we had a recurring immigration problem where efforts to solve it have died in one house or the other. The current president used fear to make the problem a winning issue blowing it out of proportion. We now have a huge immigration problem at the border on Trump’s watch due to diminished funding of Central American countries, demonization of immigrants from south of the border, threats to build a wall, and not providing sufficient judicial support to process migrants seeking asylum.

Treating children like animals is not who we are. This is not how we make America great. Yet, one thing that I harken back to is about sixteen months ago, this president had a bipartisan agreement with Senators Graham and Durbin for $25 billion for a wall and making DACA a law. There were other measures therein. That was in the morning. Before Graham and Durbin got to the White House in the afternoon, hardliner politicians got in Trump’s ear saying he should be even more unwelcoming. That was the day of the “sh*thole countries” comment.

Speaking of that credibility problem, our allies are not too keen to support the US on Iran. The other six countries in the Iran Nuclear deal said Iran was in compliance and encouraged the US not to pull out. Our intelligence staff agreed, but the president’s gut knows better. Coupling this with his bullying and untruthfulness along with the WMD fiction that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney pushed on the world, makes the US and this president untrustworthy.

Finally, Peter Wehner, a former member of three Republican White Houses, and a Christian, has written a new book called “The Death of Politics.” Last night on PBS Newshour, he said divisiveness started before Trump, but he clearly has made it worse, even reveling in the divisive seeds he sows. He also noted how his fellow Christians are too silent on Trump’s routine bad behavior. He is critical of those who rationalize his many indiscretions, and says Christians need to speak “truth to power.”

I did not want to write a solely Trump concerning post, but our tribal behavior is having reasonable people rationalize abhorrent actions and words from the White House incumbent. I can argue policy decisions all day on Trump’s decisions, but how he conducts himself, how he treats allies, colleagues, Congress, media, et al, is well beneath what she expect from a leader. His lack of a moral compass is disturbing. And, getting back to Ms. Carroll, his defense is “she is not his type.” Well sir, apparently you are not hers. She likely prefers her men not to force themselves on her like you have done with others.

Friday follies

I hope you have had a great week. Since there are several issues bouncing around inside my head, here is a summary review of the follies for the week.

The Brexit clock keeps ticking while the British parliament keeps placing their collective thumbs in their more southern orifices. A second Brexit vote would likely end with a different conclusion, but it would take more time than they have and would involve another decision by an uninformed public. Let me give Parliament its out, but it will take more courage than they have. They should either accept May’s terms or vote to remain. I would urge the Brits to remain, as I would hate to see Northern Ireland and Scotland leave the UK.

Here in the US, Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was sentenced to 47 months in prison. While a much lighter sentence than many felt, he does have another sentence coming in another court. If Trump is as innocent as he proclaims, with the guilt of Manafort and other Trump associates, Trump is not very good at judging friends and associates. Yet, as I have witnessed time and again as a consultant, an organization takes on the personality of its leader. So, if subordinates are guilty of lying, cheating, and criminal behavior…

China’s slowing economy is impacting orher countries as expected. It was reported yesterday that China is buying less from abroad and using those dollars internally. The US trade deficit with China has grown not lessened the past year. And, the EU banks have softened economic projections as a result. What continues to surprise me is how little the US President understands how trade deficits and tariffs work. This may be the best metaphor of his Presidency as economics were supposed to be his strength.

Finally, populists are popping up in more countries in greater numbers. To me, a name that implies a broader appeal should not give greater license to spread hate and bigotry. In spite of all of our many faults here in the US and some leaders who need to find a conscious, we have benefitted greatly from being a melting pot. Diversity is a strength. I fully understand the need to govern the numbers of people immigrating in, yet painting all newcomers as evil, is not appropriate. What frustrates me is issues over immigration should be fact-based and reflective of the country’s mores and ideals and not sold on fear.

That is all for now. I know I have overlooked a great deal. Have a great weekend.

 

 

Tuesday’s gone with the wind (and context)

One of my favorite songs from the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd is “Tuesday’s Gone,” written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zandt. Here is the first stanza:

“Train roll on, on down the line,
Won’t you please take me far away?
Now I feel the wind blow outside my door,
Means I’m leaving my woman behind.
Tuesday’s gone with the wind.
My woman’s gone with the wind.”

This song is a quick lesson in context. If you listen to the song, you get the impression the singer is doing the leaving in the relationship. Yet, there is one simple line that reveals the context of why he is on that train.

“Tuesday, you see, she had to be free.”

The woman did the leaving. And, the man decided to leave town to escape the source of his blues.

Many things in life and in politics are heard or read without knowing the full context. Context matters to enlightened understanding. We are told that immigration is a huge problem and immigrants are taking American jobs. Immigration is a concern, but it is not as big a problem as portayed and the jobs being taken tend to be those which Americans don’t flock to. If immigration was stifled, certain industries would be in a heap of hurt.

We are told we must place tariffs on China, but why are we placing them on our friends? What we are not told, is there are mechanisms we could tap with the World Trade Organization with the support of our allies to gain concessions from China. Economists note that we are forgoing working together as a unified front. But, a key contextual item is collaboration is hard work, where the collective group gains.

Context matters. Songs, poems and stories can reveal context in a subtle matter. But, it is important for us to ascertain the context. Otherwise, we may solve the wrong problem in the wrong way.

A simple economic question

As the US President seeks to close our borders and retrench from global markets, there is a simple question to ask. Let’s set aside what’s right or wrong from a humanity and safety standpoint. Let’s focus on a simple economic one.

Do we grow our economy more by letting people bring their ideas, work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit to our country and making it easier to do business with us, or do we accomplish more economic growth by closing our borders and forcing other countries and businesses therein to look to other markets for sales and supplies?

This thought struck me Sunday morning as I caught the Women’s Open Championship in the UK. What struck me is there were not any American golfers among the top two pages of the leader board. Thinking back to the World Cup in Russia last month, the American team was not present for this global event.

I recognize these are sporting events, but they are metaphors. If you don’t keep up, the world will move on. But, not keeping up does hit our economy, as well. In the US, unemployment is low, but we are having a hard time filling higher tech manufacturing jobs. US customer service jobs abound in Asia and the Philippines. And, many of our IT jobs are being done by people in India or who have moved here from such locations.

The first book which spoke to this is The World is Flat,” by Thomas Friedman. We live in a global economy with a global workforce. Employers need the best, cheapest talent they can find. The more commoditized the job, the pendulum swings to cheapest. The less commoditized, the pendulum swings to best. If we cannot fill the jobs here, they will be filled elsewhere. And, it should be noted that companies are leasing robots for $18 an hour, if they cannot fill the job.

We must be mindful of a key data point, immigration is accretive to our economy. Since Innovation is portable, new talent coming here brings more innovation. And, jobs are created around the Innovation. So, we need to be welcoming with better governance over immigration.

We also need to be easier to work with than we have become. When an entity makes it more difficult and less profitable to partner with, its trading partners look to other sources of sales and supplies. This has been happening for the last several months. And, as one farmer said, a subsidy won’t help if the customers go away.

Sadly, this issue has now been politicized, with fear and over-emphasis of causes. As I briefly noted above, the key reasons some areas are suffering are due to chasing cheaper labor and technology. The last issue is the larger concern as a CFO noted  in the book “The Rich and the Rest of Us,” by Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, “employers would do without employees if they could.”

So, look back at the simple economic question. What kind of country do we want to be? Then, add in the seasonings of doing the right thing and being safer. Global commerce actually makes the world safer, as you are less likely to go to war with your trading partners.

 

Straight talk on immigration from a Republican statesman

In Senator John McCain’s book “The Restless Wave,” he devotes some time to the subject of immigration. Rather than use my words, I will borrow from his straight talk.

“There are politicians today who would have Americans believe that illegal immigration is one of the worst scourges afflicting the country. Some who espouse that nonsense believe it to be true. Their opinions were formed in restricted information loops as they communicate mostly or exclusively with people who believe the same….Decent, hardworking people who mean no harm are blamed for crime, unemployment, failing schools, and various other ills, and become in the eyes of many the objects of hate and  fear.”

McCain goes on to debunk four claims, from a vantage point of a state that has a significant level of immigrant population. Per McCain, “Here’s is a little straight talk:”

“First, there are eleven to twelve million immigrants, give or take, residing in this country without permission. Most of them are never going to leave, and there really isn’t much we can do about it or should we want to do about it….Two-thirds of the adult unauthorized immigrants have been here for at least a decade. They’re integrated into the fabric of our communities…

Second, the great majority of unauthorized immigrants came here to find work and raise their families, like most immigrants have throughout our history. They are not rapists, killers, and drug dealers of fevered imaginations on the Right….They’re decent people working hard to make better lives….

Third, since 2007 most immigrants who come here without permission simply outstay their visas. They don’t cross the border illegally. And since the Great Recession, net illegal immigration has been flat or negative as more immigrants voluntarily returned to their native countries as jobs were scarce. A wall along the southern border isn’t going to solve the problem….

Fourth, unauthorized immigrants aren’t depriving millions of native-born Americans of employment. Most jobs taken by immigrants are low-paying, and have the hardest conditions. Their employers have trouble filling payrolls. Many jobs are seasonal or otherwise irregular employment. Unauthorized immigrants are not sucking up all the blue-collar jobs in the country as their most hyperbolic antagonists insist.”

I wanted to share with you McCain’s words as they directly contradict those espoused by the President and those who have gone along with that argument. This argument is based on fear and one of the talents of the President is he knows what sells. Yet, that does not make it right.

We need thoughtful discussion around our immigration issues. We need to remember our ideals. We also need to use data and analysis. One data point is immigration is accretive (additive) to our economy. Another data point is our nation is one of immigrants. Yet, another data point is our country has off and on turned the spigot slower on immigration and then opened it up again. Often the nozzle was closed with fear as a selling tool.

McCain cited a speech from President Ronald Reagan. Paraphrasing it, when people immigrate to another country, they do not become nationalists of that country, although they become citizens. Yet, when they come to America, they become Americans. We are the melting pot of the world. These words are found on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Fear may sell, but it does not solve problems very well. Why? Because fear is often based in large part on a lie. In my view, we should heed the words of a statesman like Senator John McCain, who is a hero in my book. Whether one agrees with McCain or not, I find he speaks plainly and from his heart.

Infrastructure, India and Intellectual Capital

These are three very powerful “I” words – Infrastructure, India and intellectual capital. They are related in one key fashion. The failure of the US to address each of these issues has hastened its forthcoming demise as the world leading economy. China, of course, plays a key role, but we sometimes lose track of the other fastest growing economy in India, who has been creating a technology proficiency that rivals and may surpass Silicon Valley.

Per Vice News, India is well positioned for two key reasons. They have one billion people and are much more heavily focused on STEM education than the US. Even if the US had the same focus, India is three times larger and has been doing major call center and technology outsourcing for US and other companies for years. Now, they have companies that only focus on the domestic market in India. And, one other key is important. Indians who have traveled to the US to be educated are returning home rather than staying here. Why? Opportunity back home and the fact the welcome mat has been thrown away by the current US President for immigrants of color.

The other two “I” words are crucial. India is investing in their infrastructure and intellectual capital. The US has forgotten what got us to a world dominant economy. In the book “That used to be us: How America fell behind in the world it created and how it can come back,” by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, it describes an America that used to invest along with a blend of local government and private funding to do great things. Now, we are more concerned with cutting revenue to dare fund things like our dilapidated infrastructure and intellectual capital.

Both the US Chamber of Commerce and labor unions have been pleading for years to invest more in our infrastructure. While interest rates were low, it was the ideal time to borrow to invest in depleted assets. Infrastructure investing also would create jobs and enhance productivity, the latter through saving of time by reducing the time when roads, canals, locks and bridges have to be shut down for repair. The President rightfully noted this need on the campaign trail and then shelved a report to do anything about it one month into his Presidency. Who says so? The man he asked to do the report.

Like India, we should be investing in new technologies and our infrastructure. Plus, we should be more welcoming of immigrants, especially those who are educated here. Innovation is portable, so if these folks leave the US, the Innovation will occur elsewhere. This coupled with a better and protective patent system will promote growth.

Like America, India is not perfect. But, they are focused on the future moreso than the US leaders are. We tend to be focused more on protecting legacy industries, than greasing the skids for new ones. Fortunately, other Americans are more forward thinking, in spite of our leaders. But, it would be nice if we helped them out more.

Media please focus on the big issues

With a man occupying the White House who has hard time with truth, civility, history and criticism, there is a bounty of things the media could focus on. And, that is part of the problem. I look at various news feeds and sources and see too many pedestrian foibles that get discussed. Yet, the countless criticisms dull our focus on the more important issues.

My concerns are several, so let me highlight those areas:

– we are borrowing from our future to make a long performing economy a little better, doing the opposite of what is needed to limit our debt from increasing from $21 to $33 trillion by 2027.
– we have ignored our allies and reasonable voices in the US to pull out of various multiparty agreements hurting trade, environment and security.
– we have pulled back several regulations making it easier for industries to pollute and ignoring the federal government’s role in fighting climate change.
– we have blamed immigration for a host of problems and focus on remedies that won’t help people or solve problems.
– we have held up the constitution as sacrosanct, while ignoring the sections on protecting the rights of all citizens, protecting the right and importance of the media and ignoring the clearly defined roles of the three branches of government. It is of vital importance to respect the judiciary’s pursuit of truth, even if the President does not like it.
– we have continued down a path which ignores truths and facts tolerating a man who makes more than a few decisions off misinformation and even disinformation. Governing well is hard enough when we use real facts, it is nigh impossible when we make things up.

Of course, there are other issues, but I attempted to group several concerns into larger categories. In closing, please remember these three cautions – we cannot shrink to greatness, we cannot continue to pee in our global swimming pool, and we must respect the rights and opinions of all people, not just people who agree with you or compliment you.