The Continuity of a Lie: Failed Reaganomics Morphed into Trumpenomics

President Trump loves to claim credit for the positives and deny any blame for the negatives that have occurred since his election. He likes to brag about matters that, if true, require no expression of fact, i.e. his being a stable genius.  Such things are self-evident, or lacking, as the case may be.

He reminds me of the old Road Runner cartoon and Wile E. Coyote.wileecoyote

The latest claim is the positive increase in the Stock Market. Now, there is no question the market is booming.  But the factors which impact such growth are infinitely more complex then Presidential tweets and as yet to be fully appreciated tax cuts.

But, for comparison purposes, let’s see how Mr. Trump stacks up.

Here’s a fascinating analysis, http://www.macrotrends.net/2481/stock-market-performance-by-president, and remember historical market numbers are easy to verify.

At this mark in the Obama Presidency, the market was up 25.8%. Mr. Trump is at 27.3%.  That’s as far as we can measure to this point. So how is it Mr. Obama was able to nearly match the performance and be the reported “big spender” in government Mr. Trump and others portray?

Because he wasn’t, more on that later.

As a point of interest, at the same point in the Reagan administration, the market was down 8%. At the 2-year mark, the market under Obama was up 48.6%, 16.1% under Clinton, and 13.6% under Reagan.

Gives one pause. To put a final perspective on it, at the end of the four previous administrations, the market performance was as follows.

Clinton + 228.9%

Obama  + 148.3%

Reagan  + 147.3%

GW Bush -26.5%

Mr, Trump claims the tax cut will benefit businesses and spur economic growth al la Reaganomics.

Let’s look at that. The last President to have a balanced budget was Clinton.  The Office of Management and Budget estimate the budget will be balanced again in 2027 (this was projected BEFORE Mr. Trump assumed office and based a variety of complex economic, social, and financial factors.)

Federal spending grew more under Reagan than Obama. spending2_1https://mises.org/blog/federal-spending-grew-more-under-bush-and-reagan-under-obama

Any success of Reaganomics was as much to do with increased government spending as his perceived tax cuts.  One aspect everyone forgets about during the Reagan years was Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI  aka Star Wars).

While the SDI program never achieved the expected level of success, one can argue it stimulated the development of Silicon Valley and other technology gains.

Now Mr. Trump has succeeded in passing similar tax cuts with the idea that this will stimulate growth. Trump touts the benefit of reduced government spending as another stimulus to economic growth.

The analysis of the previous effort by President Reagan would say otherwise in the absence of government spending.

It remains to be seen how Trumpenomics works out.  But a review of the past does not bode well. Mr. Trump lacks the ability of Reagan to build coalitions (his ability to work across the aisle with Democrats), the calm, analytical manner of President Obama, or the characteristics of a statesman given his casual references to nuclear war as a realistic national policy.

I fear we are in much trouble given all of the complexities of the world.

 

 

The “Gift” of a Life?

How do you gift a human life?  Someone’s interpretatBible Quranion of the Bible says you can. Read these stories,

Giving my child away because the Bible says I should

Six wives and counting

If there’s an urgency to destroying radical Islam, shouldn’t there be an equal or greater urgency to target fundamental Christians who “gift” a human? Why is it so easy to recognize a twisted interpretation of a Christian doctrine as contrary to most Christian beliefs, but not so when it is within Islam?

Why are we willing to act out of fear and destroy those we do not understand because we see them as broadly representative of an entire religious tradition, yet, when confronted with similar examples of a “Christian” atrocity, we argue it does not represent most Christians.

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the slobbering vitriol to “destroy” these enemies of all that is good?

My issue with religion is the certainty of adherents that their own theology is the correct one and all others are wrong. They hold this secret despite protestations to the contrary. As I am often reminded,

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Those who embrace the fundamental aspects of any religion are equally dangerous in my mind.

One lashes out with bombs strapped to brain-washed adherents who believe they’ve booked a trip to a “Virgin” nirvana.

Another will use cruise missiles or perhaps nuclear weapons to blanketly target 1.5 billion adherents because of the actions of a few.

All in the name of God.

Where’s the “Christianity” in that?

 

Neither a Democrat nor a Republican Be…

Not all that long ago, there was a time in this country when people defined themselves, politically at least, as either Republican or Democrat.

Voters took pride in entering a voting booth and pulling the master handle to vote for a candidate not for their positions on issues, not for their record of achievement, not for their ideas or proposals, but for their party affiliation.

Party affiliation.

Sounds eerily similar to the politics of the Soviet Union or Mao’s China instead of the promise of the Constitution and the brilliance of the Founding Fathers.

Which brings us to the politics of 2016. While in many places the master lever is a fading memory, the propaganda (there is that similarity again) of the parties is the same.

Depending on your political leanings, either the Republicans, representing a conservative approach, or the Democrats, representing a progressive approach, are the ONLY choice.

There is NO room for compromise, no room for a blending of ideas, no chance that anything proposed by one party will gain support by the other.

I have a friend who had an opportunity to have a private discussion, in a setting far removed from the media or public eye, with a former Speaker of the House. My friend lamented the lack of cooperation across the aisle and the seemingly endless process of erecting roadblocks to cooperation.

The Congressman assured her it was not as bad as it seems. This is good news, at first blush.

But upon reflection, it is one more indication of the dishonesty, disingenuousness, and outright lying that goes on for the sake of getting elected and, more importantly, staying there.

Either the politicians think so little of voters’ ability to recognize the necessity of cooperation and compromise in Congress and play to that ignorance or they have come to understand if you give the voter what they want to hear, they vote for you.

Then, you do what you want.

All parties have their heroes, their bright shining beacons that represent the best the party has to offer.

The Republicans had Reagan. Held up as the standard-bearer of less government. His famous quote during his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem” touted as the best example of wise policy.

Reagan then went on to lead the biggest increase in government spending in decades. His Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which ultimately failed, led to enormous increases in technology research. This policy almost single-handedly built Silicon Valley and the technology corridor outside of Boston, Ma.

Reagan expressed his despise of big government. His legend used as the example of getting government out of the way. The reality is his SDI program, a holy crusade against the evil empire of the Soviet Union, was a huge government funded program.

Moreover, it worked. Contrary to all his vaunted statements, government programs worked.

Do I even have to mention Richard Nixon?

We ignore the truth for the sake of a slogan or false premise.

The Democrats have had similar icons. John F. Kennedy, whose short time in office created such hope and promise, also set the stage for our entering into the war in Vietnam. His promise of “we shall go to the moon…” stimulated a generation of optimism that we could do anything we choose to do.

President Clinton, his presidency marked with much success, supported and signed the ridiculous Defense of Marriage Act. His boldface lying to the American people corroded the many good things he accomplished.

Yet each of these Presidents, none of them perfect, succeeded by compromise. They sought cooperation to blend a solution.

Which leads us to today. The same, perhaps wider, chasm divides this country. Sanders is a socialist. Hillary is a liar. Cruz is a religious nut. Rubio cannot balance a checkbook. Trump is… I am not sure there is a word for it.

Each of these candidates has something to offer. Yet it seems the politics of this era compels us to pick one path, one philosophy, one political policy.

We deserve more.

If the reality of compromise and cooperation does exists away from the cameras and 24/7 media storm, the American people deserve to be trusted with that knowledge.

In our everyday lives, we make choices; we balance the things we want against the things we need. That is being an adult.

Those that scream the most about the evils and dangers of those they disagree with are like schoolyard bullies, trying to shout down and intimidate.

Standing up to a bully is the right thing to do.

A politician who claims to have all the answers, offers nothing but disdain and criticism of opposing views, and insists his (or her) policies are the only choice is not what we need. It is what we have been afflicted with for the past few years and it is time to seek a better solution.

Resolutions: The best intentions

The first step is admitting you have a problem.

There are few complete truths. One undeniable truth is that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time. Either you will do something or you will not. Setting some arbitrary date for a change does not insure anything, or make it any more likely to succeed.

The money spent on unused gym memberships alone would come close to balancing the budget.

I do have one suggestion. A resolution well within the reach of everyone reading this. I concede there is a bit of a conflict in my method for suggesting this.

Some might say I’m being hypocritical. That my vehicle for delivery is a clear contradiction of my goal.

However, it is unavoidable. In fact, one might argue it underscores the need for such a resolution.

We have texts, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, email, instant messaging, Facetime, and others. We have social networking reminders of our memories from last year, the length of our ‘friendships’ on Facebook, and myriad other regurgitations of our online postings.

We consider 142 character messages profound and spelling does not count. As a matter of fact, spelling and grammar are a waste of the character count.

My entire early education wasted and made obsolete by an arbitrary limitation. While brevity is the soul of wit, somehow brvitisthsolofwit loses something in translation.

We are a society in the midst of a technology generated evolutionary curvature of our spines. Soon, humans may be like the flatfish. Our eyes migrating down our face. A better view of the screens on our devices.

So here is my idea, instead of TBT let’s have a TFD-Technology-Free Day.

A whole day (or more if you are so inclined) without email, text, cellphones, or any of the other “advanced” communication technologies.

We could talk to each other. Hold a real book in our hand. Go for a walk and listen to nothing, or the sounds of the world.

We could just think.

Start slow if you like. Try to go an hour without. Work your way to two hours and so forth.

Set a goal. Mine is a whole day. No text, email, messaging, or other.

On the Appalachian Trail, we went days without Wi-Fi or cell service. I miss that. There existed an understated revulsion by most when we saw hikers wearing headphones. You are in the woods, listen to nature for goodness sake.

If you cannot go even one hour without your iPhone, iPad, Android, Laptop, or Facebook, that should give you pause. The world will survive for a day with you out of communication.

So read this, pick a day, and go for it. If I do not hear from you, I will just assume you “like” it.

Dilemma

This is from a series of short stories I am working on. Posted here for your reading pleasure and review.  All comments welcome.

My cell rang. I didn’t recognize the number. Thought about ignoring it, then decided to give the telemarketer some shit.

“Hello.”

“Tommy, AJ.”

“AJ? What’s this a new phone?”

“I need your help.” AJ’s tone imparted a more serious patina to the four simple words.

“You always need my help,” I answered. “What is it this time, you get thrown out again?”

“Come outside, I’m parked in the lot across the street.

“Why are you parked across the street?” I asked. Silence. After a moment, I realized he’d ended the call.

Grabbing my jacket, I walked to the door. “Where are you off to?” my wife asked.

“I don’t know. That was AJ, said he needs help with something.”

My wife put her hands on her hips, “Tommy, I don’t care what he’s done this time, no money. Promise me.”

I smiled, “No money, I learned my lesson with his last scam,” I opened the door, the cool fall air rushing in. “I’ll be right back.”

Walking down the driveway, I looked across the street. AJ was leaning against the hood of his car, arms folded around himself, staring at the ground. As I got closer, he heard my footsteps and stood.

I’ve read that ninety percent of communication is non-verbal. AJ’s body was telling me this was not one of his ordinary, self-created problems.

“Hey man, what’s up?”

“Tom, Tommy,” AJ stuttered, glancing around. “I need help buddy. Big time. Can you take a ride with me?”

I saw something in his eyes I’d never seen before, genuine fear. This was a man who once took on three bikers in a bar and got his ass kicked. He returned two days later looking for the three bikers. The same thing happened. He went back several more times, but the bikers never showed up again.

They must have recognized crazy.

AJ wasn’t afraid of anything.

“A ride, where?”

“Please man, just come with me.” His body language now in full alarm mode.

“Ah, okay. Let me call Karen. Tell her I’ll be gone for a bit. Where we going anyway?”

“No,” AJ shouted, then glanced around. “No calls.”

“No calls?” I replied. “If you want me to go with you I will after I call my wife. A philosophy you should have adopted years ago. Saved yourself a ton of trouble.”

I could see AJ’s mind racing as he paced back and forth. “Okay, tell her I need help moving something, that’s all.”

I stood there a moment, holding my phone, studying my now frantic friend. Shaking my head, I pushed the call button. “Hey, it’s me. AJ needs me to help him move something. What? I don’t know, hang on,” holding the phone away from my ear I said. “She wants to know what you need moved. How long will it take?”

AJ threw his arm up, slapping them back to his side. “I don’t know, something heavy. You’ll be back in, ah, a couple of hours.”

“There’s a bunch of stuff, I guess. Won’t take long,” listening to her response I smiled at AJ. “Yeah I know; I don’t have any money anyway. I’ll call on the way back.” I walked to the passenger side. “Okay AJ, tell me the story. What’d you do?”

“First, turn off your cell.”

“I’m not turning off my cell, asshole. What is this about?”

“Look, trust me on this. You’ll understand shortly,” pointing with his hand at my phone. “Turn it off and pull the battery. Then I’ll tell you what this is about.”

*****

“You what?” I said, shaking my head and looking out the window. “I don’t believe this. You’re kidding,” trying to gauge the look on his face.

“I’ll show you,” he said as we pulled into a dirt road used by off-road vehicles.

“You can’t drive this thing down here,” I said, my hand on the dash as AJ dodged the ruts and dips in the dirt track.

“Yes I can, I checked this out before.”

“You checked this out… I don’t believe this.”

Checking the rearview mirror, AJ drove several hundred yards. Making sure we were far beyond the houses bordering the property.

“Ready?”

“AJ, please tell me this is all bullshit.”

“Look,” he said, opening the door.

I watched as he walked around to the back of the car, motioning for me to join him

I opened the door, put one foot on the ground, glanced over my right shoulder at AJ as he looked all around the area.

I got out and stood next to him.

“Ready?”

I laughed. “Okay, you got me. What’s the joke?”

I heard the click of the trunk release, watching as it popped up. AJ reached over, opening the trunk.

As I looked in, my mind went into denial.

I looked from the trunk to AJ and back. Voices in my head screamed, ‘Run, you idiot, run.” But my legs remained paralyzed in place. I tried to speak, but my throat was sand. I tasted the adrenaline rushing through my body. The fight or flight response to my brain’s recognizing a problem.

A big problem.

“I had to do it, Tommy. He beat her, put her in the hospital, he molested my granddaughter.”

Words eluded me. I backed away, trying to absorb the reality.

“Tommy, I need you to help me here. I need help getting rid of it.”

For fifty years, AJ had been my best friend. We had grown from GI Joes and baseball to girls and beer to married with kids, together. We’d spent twenty years together as cops, righting wrongs, trying to make a difference.

He’d been there when my first wife died of cancer. He held me in his arms, covered in my blood from the bullet wound in my arm, when they drove me to the hospital.

Never leaving my side.

But this? This was beyond it all. This was too much. I knew the stories. The hospital visits to his daughter. The on again off again boyfriend sliding through the system.

But this? They say friends will be there when you most need them. But this?

As my heart rate slowed, the rationale me resumed control. The panic passed and the realization of the choice I faced came clear.

I knew what I had to do.

I looked at my friend. The tears welled up, the emotions uncontrollable. I took a deep breath and walked back to the car.

“AJ, I’m sorry.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone, walking to the side of the car, away from my best friend.

His eyes showed regret as the enormity of what he asked, what he’d done, set in.

I tossed the phone on the seat. Reaching into the back seat, I grabbed the two shovels and the bag of lime.  I’d spotted them when I got in the car. Hoping I was wrong.

Walking to AJ, I handed him a shovel.

“That’s what friends are for.”

 

 

Celebrating a Lie

To borrow a line from Paul Simon’s song, Kodachrome;

When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder I can think at all…

Although much of the “Lie” I write about began in the first years of my education. Having taken the time to undo and uncover many of these ingrained falsehoods, it is indeed a wonder I can think at all.

In this particular instance, I am talking about Columbus Day and celebrating those things (all false) we were taught about this man and that period of history. To summarize;

  1. Columbus proved the world to be round (False, the fact of the world being round was well established)
  2. Columbus discovered America (False. Not only did he not discover it, he didn’t even know where he was)
  3. Columbus had a fine relationship with the “Indians” (False, he captured many, compelled them through brutal measures to reveal treasures and infected them with European strains of viruses and bacteria that killed them (this last part might be a stretch since they didn’t understand the science of infection but nevertheless this was left out of the “history” books I was compelled to read))

My point here is why do we continue to “celebrate” a man responsible for the devastation and enslavement of many Native Americans (they did not even know they needed to be discovered) and attribute false claims of discovery to his journeys at the expense of the truth.

I think it might be time for this country to start celebrating truth, not patently false fairytales intended to obscure the realities of the atrocities visited upon the true Native Americans.

We need to describe Columbus as he truly was, one of the first in a series of Illegal Aliens invading this land.

Maybe there is something to preventing illegal immigration, albeit some Five Hundred Years too late.

Cold Memories and Critical Thinking

The recent cold brought back memories of when I was a young boy growing up in Cumberland. We had a trash barrel in the backyard where, a few times a week, we would burn our trash.

I know this is giving the environmentalists among you nightmares, but it was a different time.

During the cold months, my father and I would stand close to the flames.  He sometimes told me stories of the Korean War, fighting in temperatures of minus 30 degrees.  He hated the cold.

I was thinking about this in light of some recent headlines.

In one headline, state legislatures want to eliminate funding for Advanced Placement History classes, because these classes are critical of America.  According to one of the Oklahoma lawmakers, these classes only teach what is “wrong with America.”

The other headline is from Rudolph Giuliani talking about President Obama.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

Giuliani believes Obama is too critical of past American policies and decisions.

How does this all relate to Cumberland, Rhode Island in the winters of the 60’s you ask?

It matters because our government made decisions, against the evidence, sending my then 18-year-old father to Korea.  These decisions put him, and thousands of other Marines, at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in November of 1950, surrounded and outnumbered by the Chinese.

General MacArthur ignored evidence of a sizeable Chinese presence on the border.  He ignored his own intelligence reports that the Chinese might enter the war; in fact, they had already crossed the Yalu River.

The Truman administration ignored a message from the Chinese, delivered by the Indian Ambassador to China, that if the US crossed the 38th parallel, China would respond militarily.

The horrors experienced by my father haunted him his whole life.

I have another memory from those years; my father screaming in the middle of the night, thrashing around on the bed, my mother desperately trying to hold him until the nightmares, reliving the battles, drove him to exhaustion and he fell asleep.

I believe those experiences contributed to my father’s battle with alcoholism and death at the relatively young age of 65.

To argue that we need eliminate classes that educate our future leaders in critical analysis is ludicrous. This country needs more critical thinking, not less.

The decisions in Korea were not an aberration.  In 1965, we did it again, sending American troops into the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons despite knowing the impossibility of the mission.

During WWII, we supported Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese yet, twenty years later, we sent our soldiers and Marines to fight him. It cost the lives of almost 60000 Americans, along with millions of Vietnamese. We failed to understand the nature of the conflict.

We did it again in Iraq, ignoring or fabricating intelligence, in pursuit of a doomed policy.

In each case there was evidence against the efficacy of those decisions, we knew it, we ignored it, and we did not learn from it.

Giuliani says President Obama does not love this country because he is often critical of it. Giuliani has it all wrong.  No one demonstrates love of country better than through a willingness to seek the truth, no matter how critical or difficult, in pursuit of improving our future decision-making processes.

I understand sometimes going to war is inevitable.

However, critical analysis shows there are opportunities to avoid them. Perhaps, if critical thinking took center stage rather than blind patriotism or hubris, we might have found such an alternative.

The freedom to criticize government is the foundation of our political system. Freedom of speech is the First Amendment for good reason. The founders recognized the absolute necessity of open and free discourse without fear of governmental intrusion.

Critical analysis of past actions can lead to a better future.  Many of the founding fathers owned slaves.  It took almost 70 years after the creation of the Constitution before we abolished slavery.

“All Men are Created Equal.” When these words first appeared on paper, All Men meant white men.  Black men were not included until the Civil War and women not until much later.

It was critical analysis of the errors of the past that righted those wrongs.

Legislative discussions should not be about reducing funding for advanced courses; it should be for increasing the funding.

Perhaps, with a stronger understanding of all the good this country does, tempered by recognizing our weaknesses and mistakes, future generations will not send young men and women into the nightmares of warfare absent full, and continuous, critical analysis.

Miranda Warnings: Why do we name monumental USSC decisions after the perpetrators, rather than the victims?

On March 13, 1963, Ernesto Miranda was arrested. The arrest was primarily based on circumstantial evidence linking him to the kidnapping and rape of a 17-year-old woman 10 days earlier.

After a prolonged interrogation he confessed. The conviction was reversed by the United States Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona. The “confession” was ruled inadmissible. A little known fact is he was retried and convicted again.

Every Lawyer, Police Officer, Law & Order fan, convict, and criminal alive knows the “Miranda warning”, no one knows the victim’s name.

Many probably think it was Congressional Legislation that created the “Miranda” Warning. It even became a verb in the form of “Mirandized”

“Did you Mirandize him?”

The name of a (twice) convicted rapist of a 17 year old girl became a cloak of protection, or a manner of invoking the protection.

“Hey man, I know my Miranda rights”

Ernesto Miranda himself died of stab wounds after an alcohol fueled bar fight a few years after his release from prison. On his body the police found “Miranda Warning” cards that Miranda would autograph for money.

Perhaps naming it for the perpetrators is the right thing to do, it reminds the government of their failure to exercise due care in the protection of their citizens rights.

Perhaps, by perpetuating the names of criminals, we as a people will demand better from our Police Officers, Prosecutors, and Judges.

It serves as a reminder of our failures, not a tribute to the defendant.

My original thought was to complain about the naming of decisions for perpetrators rather than the victims.

Then I realized that naming it for the perpetrators was correct, we need to be reminded of the names of evil and the benefit of living in a country that values justice for all.

And why would we want criminals to invoke the name of a Victim to insulate themselves.

My daughter aspires to a job wherein the fundamental tenet is everyone, regardless of the depravity of their act, is entitled to all the protections of justice.

Proud doesn’t even come close.

It is truly a wonderful commentary on a society that can raise individuals who can devote their lives to protecting all.

Those that can separate the person from the principle.

Justice from Justifiability

The ends from justifying the means.

So that is why I know decisions like Miranda v. Arizona and Escobedo v. Illinois are not an indication of a weakness in our system of justice.

It is not a fault that perpetrators names live on while the victims are long forgotten, but rather a reminder of the greatness of our system.

Leave the victims in peace and let the bad guys invoke other bad guys for protection.

If it ever stops, well, then we are truly in decline.