Context does matter

In our sound bite age, where context cannot be squeezed into a five or ten second bite, we tend to only hear or see someone say sensational things. Someone who is provocative and uses slogans will get on the air twenty times before someone of substance can get any footing. We are seeing this in the presidential race in America, where one person dominates the news.

The sad truth which this candidate knows, it does not necessarily have to be great publicity as any publicity works. And, if he said something truly awful like is his wont, he will accelerate a replacement sound bite for the next news cycle. The news stations do not have time or interest in offering context as his pace is relentless. So, in his view, give them something new to talk about.

in the US, we crave entertainment in everything. We would rather have an interesting buffoon as president, than a boring competent one. Many may be too young to remember a very smart presidential candidate Senator Paul Tsongas (pronounced Song-as). He was a marvelous policy wonk and may have been a good president. But, he spoke quietly in a monotone and came off as boring. It was so bad, his critics used Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Sound of Silence” and called him “Sound of Tsongas.”

Yet, context does matter. Words matter. We have a presidential candidate who is an embarrassment to our children, with his language, name-calling, bullying and narcissistic persona. How can we as parents tolerate such behavior, if we don’t want our children doing it? He does this as he is short on substance and reasonable policy ideas. Much of what he speaks of doing is illegal, immoral, infeasible, or goes against the grain of our country’s ideals. And, per our many retired generals and current and past defense leaders, much of what he says will not make us safer.

We cannot torture people unmercifully and it is illegal to go after the relatives of the captured suspects. Building a wall between Mexico would cost roughly $30 Billion and cost that much to maintain. Plus, it would do little to stop immigrants. Global warming is not a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs; it is a real problem and we need to accelerate doing something about it. We are not the most taxed country in the world, not even close. Reducing taxes under his plan would increase our $19 trillion debt by $12 trillion. Yet, he says he can reduce the debt in eight years – how?

Please ask lots of questions. Please read and watch reputable news sources. Understand the context, but listen to the words not the style. Being politically incorrect does not give someone license to lie or be a bully. Those who use name-calling tend to have the weakest argument.

Addendum: I read this morning about violence that broke out outside of a Trump rally in California. Folks, that is not what civil debate needs to look like and it needs to stop. Protest is one thing, but violence serves no purpose, regardless of who instigated it. Trump supporters have the right to assemble, just as Sanders or Clinton do. This takes the debate off the issues.

Wearing jeans and passing out ball caps doesn’t make you a common man

The two leading candidates for the Republican nomination like to hob knob with the common folk. To show they are one of them, Senator Ted Cruz is wearing jeans and shirt with no tie. Donald Trump likes to wear his ball cap and hand them out as souvenirs. Yet, there is a big snag in their efforts.

Both Cruz and Trump have put forth tax proposals that have significant tax cuts for the wealthy. And, to make matters worse, both tax plans would materially increase the deficit to the extent there are not enough spending cuts to reduce the deficit, per former Republican Senator Alan Simpson.

While the tax cut for the rich is vintage Republican fare, the fact that both proposals increase the deficit run counter to the Tea Party concerns over reducing the deficit and debt. In Cruz’ case, it is especially hypocritical as he personally shut down the government in October 2013 and we would have defaulted on our debt if it were not for ten female senators who told Cruz to get out of the pool. Cruz said he did not care as he wanted to prove a point about the deficit. Yet, his tax plan would materially increase the deficit.

I have often said any Tom, Dick or Harry can get elected saying they will cut taxes. But, we need better stewardship than that. We need to pay down our debt and spending cuts cannot do it alone. That was the conclusion reached by the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan.

One thing is for sure. Neither Cruz or Trump can claim common status by doing exactly what the Republican establishment tends to do – favor the wealthy. That is not quite the revolution their fans are likely hoping for. Plus, being poor stewards with our debt strikes me as salesmanship and not governance.

Isn’t he CUTE – my four favorite Trump lies

Since my memory is so poor and the lies told by Donald Trump in this campaign season so prevalent, I resorted to the use of an acronym CUTE to remind me of my four favorite Trump lies. These are not necessarily his best ones and with a track record at year-end 2015 of telling the truth only 24% of the time, there are too many to choose from.

I mention these as people will tell me that they are for Trump because he tells the truth or says what we want to say. As for the latter, I would grow concerned if you really wanted to say some of the bigoted and xenophobic stuff he babbles on about. As for the truth, based on his history and campaign statements, I would not equate what The Donald says with the truth. So, if the opportunity presents itself at a future cocktail party, remember the 24% figure first. But, if you need a few fun examples, here are four CUTE Trumpisms which are not truthful.

C = Crime: To inflame a crowd, The Donald said 81% of white homicides are committed by black assailants. Actually, the percentage is more the opposite as the FBI notes that it is only 15%. I think this exemplifies Trump at his worst as it is intended to enrage a strident fan base and blame a group of people. There is a reason so many white hate groups, like the KKK and Nazi party, endorse The Donald.

U = Unemployment: The Donald said the current unemployment rate of 4.9% is not correct. He heard it was more like 30% and one report said 42%. This number is published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is 4.9%. When you look at underemployment, it is higher, but nowhere near 30% or 42%. It should be noted if unemployment were that high, we would be in a severe depression.

T = Taxes: He has said this numerous times including the New Hampshire debates, where no one corrected him. The Donald said we are the most taxed country in the world. Not even close.  Per one measure ratioing taxes to GDP, we are 27th out of the top 30 wealthiest nations. Using a measure of taxes per capita, we are 17th. In fact, per the Paris based Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, we are well below the average taxes per GDP rate for their 33 surveyed countries.

E = Environment: His most colorful lie may be the most ludicrous thing said by any candidate, including some of Ben Carson’s inane statements. The Donald said global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs. Really? I guess those 97% of scientists, 195 countries, and every major science organization who follows these issues, are all wet. I guess since Trump said it, we don’t have to worry about it. Rather than quote facts, let me ask if it is a hoax, why is Exxon-Mobil being sued by the New York State Attorney General for misrepresenting to investors and shareholder the impact of climate change on their business? Why does Duke Energy factor climate change impact on their water reservoir evaporation loss models?

The sidebar story is there is a reason some of the GOP candidates are reluctant to call Trump out on these untruths. The reason is they are an extreme or even mainstream version of the narrative the GOP wants Americans to hear. The last statement on global warming is ludicrous, but not too different from other candidates who deny climate change. John Kasich is a lone wolf in this slate of GOP candidates who notes the real concern of man-influenced climate change. No one corrected Trump on the most taxed country in the world comment, as that is what the GOP wants Americans to believe. The other two fall into the category, as well.

As I have said  before, our world is complex. It is hard enough to govern when we use factual information. What we don’t need is people advocating stuff that either they know is a lie to gain votes or don’t know which is equally bad. Given his track record of making stuff up, my money is on the former. And, that is no way to govern.