Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trump Again--Dec 7, 2011

December 7, 2011

Dec 7, 2011, Donald Trump goes public with his view that Barack Obama is arrogant! From the most arrogant guy I know in the whole media scene--how ridiculous! Does it not occur to him that he is widely regarded as the kind of arrogance?

And, his recent "disclosure" of his wealth at $7B, regrettably one indicator to many of his wisdom and acumen, is very likely to be wildly distorted to the upside. Forgetting all the banks and others who have lost fortunes in association with him in his past failures, we can only say: "Donald, produce all the details to support these claims--property addresses, descriptions, valuation calculations, etc." It's highly doubtful that he can legitimately claim a fraction of this if subjected to proper scrutiny.

It's just too much to really believe, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Republican Primaries--Dec 6, 2011

December 6, 2011

The latest blip in the Republican Presidential polls favors Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney (and all the others). This is a disappointing reflection of our political process, because Newt is not the kind of leader we need for the critical next four years. His personal life is a concern, his positions have been A-Z on some key issues, he shoots from the hip, and he's arrogant to the extreme--seemingly believing he is the smartest and wisest person on earth, a rather disgusting trait. In this regard, Romney is much more the man we'd like to have dinner with, the man we'd trust to carefully consider decisions before advancing. Even better would be Huntsman, but that choice is regrettably academic at this point.

To emphasize our point, Gingrich's recent decision to seek the advice of Donald Trump pretty much wrapped up our willingness to respect his judgment. Trump has already revealed his lack of knowledge and wisdom on most key issues. Is Donald Trump the kind of adviser President Gingrich would turn to for advice in making decisions, such as those on China, where Trump clearly doesn't even understand the country, the issues, or how to negotiate with them?

So, the Obama presidency has been less than what we'd like to see, and perhaps many of us are vulnerable to voting for a new regime, especially one with a more fiscally conservative bent. Seems a perfect opportunity for the Republicans to take full advantage. However, they've done the opposite so far. The only good we can see is that, at least we are not forced to consider Sarah Palin, and we are finally rid of Herman Cain.

A word on Cain--we don't know whether the multiple allegations are true, but it seems highly likely that some are. He may well have been able to salvage his campaign if he had come clean, admitted his mistakes, and apologized. But, this way, we'll never know and we have to assume he had something to hide--the potential of dishonesty weighs heavier than this possible mistakes. However, if all of it were true, admitting and apologizing would have been woefully inadequate. Is that why he dropped out?

We are not the only ones who would seriously consider voting Republican in 2012--but--the only really credible candidates stand no chance of being nominated. The developing primary race so far has been a 3 ring circus.

A perfect opportunity for Republican conservatism to capture the country may be lost due to the lacklustre array of candidates to lead the Party and due to the intransigence of the Republican Congress to do something to address debt and stimulus through compromise. They seem to be betting everything on keeping us suffering until 2013. But, beware! We may turn to the Democrats again, considering this woeful lack of conservative leadership.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gridlock--Citizens Responsible? Dec 3, 2011

We've been disappointed with the disappearance of Center in American politics. It seems that the "wingnuts" on both sides predominate at this time. While we keep thinking there will be some compromise on major issues, such as debt reduction/stimulus, the report of the special congressional committee ("we cannot reach agreement") is a ringing clarion of the trouble abroad in the land.

December 3, 2011

Here is one perspective on the issue: Maybe the problem is that we are a democracy. Political representatives certainly must listen to the people. Their failure to try to do that can't be the problem. The problem must be that the voice of the people is not clear--the people simply voice frustration with the inability of Congress to agree. We don't tell them what they should agree on. The voice of the people does not speak out a recommended solution. If we had one, they would have to listen. It isn't helping that we complain, protest, occupy, because we are not clear in what we want. This leaves Congress an enormous amount of freedom to do as they individually believe--and the political lines are drawn on this one.

Maybe the problem is that this one is a complex issue and many of us do not want to take the time to develop an opinion as to the right solution--will tax reductions significantly stimulate growth and employment? This is a question on which highly educated economist do not agree. If we were to agree that they would, then wouldn't we have to demand reduction in our entitlements? That's not happening!

The answer certainly depends on the nature of the particular tax deduction. Given our highly complex tax code, most Americans don't really know how any change would affect them individually. If we wanted their opinions, we'd have to provide everyone with an estimate of the impact of the tax reduction on them.

And, is debt reduction for the US more important than my entitlements in medicare and social security, to mention two of the at-risk budget items...? Maybe, but you'd better be clear as to the benefits to employment and growth to justify sacrificing your own wealth to make this happen. Most Americans are simply not sure those benefits would accrue to tax reductions and entitlement reductions. It's as if Americans are pounding the table demanding a magic solution. We are enabling Congress to behave this way, because we have no intelligible voice!

So, is there any solution? Well, it's not likely that the American people are going to take a good course in economics suddenly and make informed decisions about all these actions and effects. So, in the absence of that, why don't we all simply demand a clear "no smoke and mirrors" 50/50. 50% of the $1.3 trillion comes in tax increases, and 50% comes from budget reductions, including medicare, social security, and defense. 50/50 always had a good ring to it. Let's do it and get on with it.

The details follow--e.g., what tax reductions and for whom, what entitlement reductions affecting whom? Let's Congress work out this detail--they can do that if we tell them we want 50/50.

If we're not able to speak with a strong voice as to what we believe will be best in one extreme or the other, why can't we just demand a compromise and get on with it?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Citizen Responsibility in a Democracy--April 29, 2011

April 29, 2011

It's so dismaying to see who the "Average American" seems to be these days. I say "seems to be," because it's important to acknowledge that those who make noise are not necessarily the true average Americans--representing the vast majority of us. Nevertheless, even if the outspoken are not truly representative, they are numerous and their voice is very troublesome. As an American, I am frequently embarrassed by what those elements say publicly.

There are those of us who give Donald Trump a standing ovation in Las Vegas. There are those who watched the recent BBC presentation "The Chinese are Coming," and filled the comments section on You Tube with vitriolic criticism laced with vulgarity of stunning proportions--criticism of the Chinese, the "whites" and the BBC. There are those who apparently actually think Sarah Palin would be a good candidate for US President! There are those who want to continue to debate whether our President was indeed born in Hawaii, as his birth certificate clearly states. There are those who want to associate Planned Parenthood with something subversive to our government and/or racist. There are those who would argue that foreign countries are responsible for our employment problems. And, sadly, those who would like foreigners to return to their countries of origin, especially those of Islamic faith. And on and on. What about our TV? The Kardashians? Charlie Sheen? The Apprentice? Reality shows?

Sometimes I wonder, "...what have we come to?" Is this the changing face of America? If it is, it's embarrassing and shameful. And, it's certainly no wonder that "The Chinese are Coming," and no wonder that their country is forecast to eclipse the US in wealth and power in the 21st Century. If this is us, then we have done it to ourselves, and we certainly can't blame anyone else! Just based on the vocal elements in part identified above, one might think that all Americans are red-necks, that we are too lazy to study the issues and come to reasoned opinions, that we can't stand to hear others opinions (witness the behavior in recent town meetings when citizens disagree), that we only see the easiest answer--someone handy to blame, that we don't take responsibility for our own actions and outcomes, and that we can't even bear to tolerate, much less respect and accept, those who have different religious beliefs than ours.

I haven't lost faith in the US. There are still many who, even today, on national TV make it clear that they feel (as I do) that Donald Trump is a travesty in terms of Presidential candidacy, and who agree with me that we can hardly imagine a greater fool in economics and in international relations.

And, thanks be, there are many leaders who understand that the benefits of foreign trade far outweigh the loss of jobs in industries or companies which cannot compete. In the BBC series, some workers from Youngstown feel the Chinese stole their steel industry and their jobs. Indeed, we lost lots of jobs, but we still build buildings and bridges with steel (some from China) and as a result of our ability to get it much cheaper, we build more and make more progress--and there is more employment in other places in the US on the other end of this process. Here in San Francisco, we are building a new bridge with cost well over $10 billion, and most of the materials are manufactured and shipped from China. Does one imagine that local authorities did not even try to find US manufacturers who could compete with the Chinese bid? The differential was just too great to pass up the massive savings--and those savings go to benefit other programs in our state and city. In the case of cheaper foreign products, who should we be thinking to benefit--the US company making the more expensive products (and their employees) or those who are buying the competing product from abroad? That's a decision, I suppose.

I will in most cases argue to let the (international) market play out. Of course, if there is foreign government interference in the free market, we should take steps, but many of our protectionist proposals and regulations and taxes are at the behest of a company or an industry, and our protecting through such actions might also be examined as US government interference in the free market. As individuals, if we want to express our choices more clearly, we can avoid Walmart, where much of the merchandise comes form outside the US, and we can patronize local merchants--and pay the higher price that comes with that. That's a good way to express individual patriotism--and let others decide which they prefer to do! There is a good reason Walmart's parking lots are full! Don't we understand you can't have both--no foreign competition and lowest possible prices?

And, the fear and hatred of those of Islamic faith--again, just a way to blame someone for our failure to stop and listen and understand that these people (most of them) agree with all the key principles we hold so dear, and do not intend any harm to others. We forget that we have our own Christian extremists here in the US, and we have our own bombers and terrorists--born of several generations of US parents. And, we don't assume that all Americans are dangerous as a result of this reality. Why should we make the opposite assumption regarding Muslims?

We are a nation founded on principles of justice, fairness, openness, equality. Let's try to remember that and behave accordingly. And, let's try to remember to value in our officials those of good judgment. Let's listen to others and make our own decisions of who and what to support, but give space and respect to those who come to other conclusions.

And, I will try to remember that we also value freedom of speech. I just dearly hope some of the "speech" of recent times does not represent our true values.