Election day

For being the year after a presidential election, this past Tuesday was pretty hopping on the national political scale. Special elections and combative party politics left the people wondering if a message had been sent to the presidential administration or not. If you’re Republican, you’re probably thinking not (especially if you’re a Trump-supporting GOPer). If you’re Democrat, much of the day may have left you hopeful for next year’s midterms and the coming 2020 election.

But ultimately, what does it mean? When is our Country going to find its leadership again? The politicians fight and jockey for favorable position, seeming more interested in staying in power (or gaining more) than in fixing broken systems.

They call out to their prospective sides, bell ringing the “major issues”, and practically ignoring all others.

I heard a very interesting perspective the other day, regarding immigration. One person described it not as an issue of illegally crossing a border, but rather an economic issue. Here are people of South American cultures, growing up in tight-knit family units. The land they live on is fertile and usually quite gorgeous, and yet they can’t make a living wage working in that area. And that’s even taking into account the dramatic reduced cost of living in those areas.

So what option do they have to leave their homes, and their families, hoping to safely cross borders and make enough money to send back home, either to bring family here or to help them live down there? An issue of economics. Rather than increasing the money spent on detaining immigrants, on border patrol and on some kind of Great Wall of America, invest in means to provide South American countries to promote living wages.

Certainly there are those that would argue for the same in the US. And I agree. When families can’t afford to live by working full-time, the capitalist system is just as broken, especially when stocks markets continually break records, in earnings reports, valuations, and sales targets.

So many issues to tackle, and the nation’s leadership can’t seem to find ways to cooperate. Hell, we’re lucky when the majority of them are being civil.

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What does it say about us as a country that erroneous stories can sway our opinions or, more accurately, reinforce the notions that we already have? Social media companies such as Facebook and a Twitter are under fire for their culpability in foreign agents interfering with the 2016 elections. President Trump routinely calls out “fake news media” for their production of stories critical of the Donald. Organizations such as Politifact provide truthfulness assessments of statements made in the political arena. 

Somewhere amid this cacophonous environment rests the average American. The average American, whose concerns are financial stability, work/life balance, and finding meaning in their own life. Most average Americans appear to be dissatisfied, and that dissatisfaction can be with their financial stability, their work/life balance, the seeming meaninglessness of it all, or even with the political arena at the local, national and international level. When a story comes along that reinforces our biases we say, “See. I knew they were out to screw us.”

And yet, day by day, we struggle along. A part of this nation, and the two hundred year old experiment. Finding our place, and hopefully a bit more. Why is it so easy for misinformation to affect us? Because we’re all constantly looking for something. 

How do we politicize everything?

Another week, another controversy (or three). Still we’re on the NFL players taking a knee. Still we’re seeing Puerto Rico suffering in the aftermath of the storm. White nationalist speaker at the University of Florida. President Trump’s seeming callousness in response to solders’ deaths overseas. 

The right is calling the left out of touch with America. The left is calling the right out of touch with American ideals. Both sides are calling the other elitist. Former presidents are critical of the current administration, and the current administration seems able to be critical of everything. 

Nothing can occur in this environment without someone taking issue, and sides forming, bolstering one or the other. I’ve imagined it would have come to a head already, but it seems to keep going.

This is the environment that has led me to investigate how I feel about politics. About what the nation is doing right, and wrong. The citizenry is on the whole disconnected from our elected officials, and in the highest echelons of the political spectrum, it seems that corporate interests have more sway than the common voter. 

We weren’t supposed to be this way. The American experiment is facing another critical moment, one of who knows how many in its 240 years, and there is nothing but the disconnect that seems to be guiding us. As I continue to write, post, and focus my thoughts into what I hope will be more informed (and better written) going forward, I fear that for the forseeable future we wlll have more controversy to cover. 

More on welfare

Here it is, Friday, and I’m finishing up a job. At least, finishing it for the week. After a contentious lunch, wherein the conversation at the table included someone saying that he wasn’t watching football anymore over the National Anthem debate (I’m keeping my mouth shut). He’s giving up drinking Pepsi, because they haven’t pulled sponsorship of the NFL (I’m keeping my mouth shut).

Now it’s the end of the day, I’ve got a date I’m excited to get to later that night, and it’s all going well. Then he brings up welfare, and people not wanting to work taking tax payer money (dammit, I am keeping my mouth shut!).  And finally, immigration.

“Don’t you think that we should keep the immigrants out?”

Well, shit. I’ve tried keeping my mouth shut, but now you’re asking me a direct question.

“No, actually. My grandparents were first generation Americans, and I think the backbone of the American system is immigration.”

“My ancestors were immigrants, too,” he says. “But I’m not talking about those.”

“Oh, you mean the Mexicans and the Muslims.”

This conversation goes on for a little while, back and forth, about whether welfare recipients are deserving, about legal vs. illegal immigration.

There is a cultural bias in this country, and it’s fragmenting how we view what’s happening around us, and around the world. This conversation was merely another example.

 

Divided Nations

Dear Abby:

I’m torn. I’ve been in an open relationship for quite a while now. We share partners between us. There’s a few. Occasionally one will quarrel with another, but on the whole it’s worked out really well. Until recently.

Within the past year one of the lovers has become increasingly erratic. He takes time to berate some of us, then tries to be nice. Though, we don’t actually believe he’s sorry for what he said. Actually, he doesn’t even apologize.

He lauds over us his superiority and says that his stuff is more important than ours. He has always given more to the communal property in the relationship, but now he’s saying that he’s been doing too much.

I just don’t know how long we can last with him. Some of our neighbors are actually threatening him. He just goads them, tells them to go ahead and try. I’m afraid any fight is something some or all of us will get dragged into.

We’re at our wits end! What should we do?

Sincerely,

-Formerly United Guys and Gals

Of course, this is a thinly veiled commentary on President Trump’s rhetoric regarding the United Nations.

The United Nations, or UN was founded by president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and 50 other member states in 1945. Its function was mainly to provide defense and secure against another world war.

Intergovernmental associations of OC the utmost importance to national security and prosperity, and downplaying the cooperative nature of the United Nations is a danger to all.

Rebuilding

Following natural disasters, how does the government respond? Where does the money come from, and aren’t there ways that we can be better prepared?

Early estimates are that the total cost of Harvey and Irma are $150-$250B. In perspective, the cost of Katrina was $160B. How do we pay for that? What are other economic factors that need to be considered?

The United States annual budget is roughly $3.8 trillion. So, those two hurricanes comprise approximately 5% of the annual budget.

When I worked in municipal government, I dealt with the Office of Management and Budget from time to time. Check how much overall was left for the office until the end of the fiscal year. Request transfers from one category to another. Those kind of things.

I’m neither an expert on budgets nor on government expenditures.

That being said, it seems that the Nation has a problem. Debt is required to make up the deficit in the budget (already), and more debt will be needed to pay for the damage.

Following Hurricane Katrina, John W. Schoen had this to say when asked who’d foot the bill: “The simplest answer: our children and grandchildren will get stuck with the bill. They’re the ones who will ultimately have to pay off the debt Congress has authorized to keep spending on the war in Iraq and now the rebuilding of damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes. In the short-term, the cash is coming from the sale of Treasury bonds, which will have to be paid back decades from now.”

I’d say great, but I’ll probably be alive to see my taxes increase for that. Probably won’t have Social Security benefits either.

Regardless, the question of handling national disasters comes down to the matter of handling the National Budget. And given that the Country was created partially through the borrowing of money (to finance the Revolutionary War), we have always been a people of debt.

The American Dream was founded on debt.

Is it sustainable? Probably not. Are we going to suddenly have to become a Chinese State? Highly doubtful. Still, planning for the budget deficit in responsible ways has become even more important in recent years.

The Treasury Department was cerated to handle the Country’s finances (thank you Alexander Hamilton – I’m a theatre guy, please keep that in mind).

From a website showing US Government Spending, we get these charts:

usgs_chart4p01

“When charted in dollars the total accumulation of federal debt looks huge. Looking back over the last century, the debt back in 1900 doesn’t really register.”

usgs_chart4p02

“But by charting accumulated debt as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP), you get a look at government debt compared to the size of the economy at the time.” This looks like a more reasonable time comparison, though having debt at 100% of the GDP is certainly not a desirable method of running the Nation’s finances.

So where does that leave us? Raise taxes? Cut spending? That’s the crux of the Democrat-Republican debate!

But in the short term it unfortunately doesn’t matter which side is right, if either side can actually be right. The cost of repair when destruction hits needs to be paid.

 

Legislative Agenda

From my point of view, it seems that president Donald J. Trump came into office with one incredibly focused agenda – overturn as much Obama-era policy that he could.

Counterpoint. I’ll admit that Trump was elected president, and during the campaign he ran on the platform of draining the swamp, not being a political toadie, and appealing to a broad swath of the Republican base. Not all the GOP, very few democrats, and about half the independents. Much of his campaign was to be critical of the previous administration.

Counterpoint. I do not claim to have seen a copy of president Trump’s agenda at any point in the campaign, or since he was elected. This is merely speculative, though I feel the evidence does in part support that possibility. So, I pulled up some legislative accomplishments of the Obama Administration, and picked out a few that have been of interest to President Trump since inauguration.

Let’s start with Health Care. A major campaign promise of then candidate Donald Trump was the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. And boy, did he try. Every tactic he could think of, from coercion to Twitter rants. Even now Obamacare is a program with a tenuous hold.

More recently DACA, the Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals. This policy, enacted during the Obama Administration, gives consideration to the 800,000 children brought here illegally, through no fault of their own, by immigrating parents. It gives them the opportunity to receive an education and legally apply for work permits in renewable windows. President Trump said the policy didn’t work, and it’s up to Congress to resolve what happens to those “Dreamers.”

Transgender in the military – According to CNN, “President Donald Trump on Friday directed the military not to move forward with an Obama-era plan that would have allowed transgender individuals to be recruited into the armed forces, following through on his intentions announced a month earlier to ban transgender people from serving.”

Dodd-Frank was another policy Trump took aim at, and there have been steps moving towards its repeal from the Administration and the GOP controlled Congress.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seemed to be coming to a close during the Obama Administration. Now, it seems that troop increases and prolonged occupation will be our nation’s future. Also, here.

These are just a few, with many more not listed, as well as new proposals coming on what seem a weekly basis. When the current Administration runs out of Obama-era policies to try and overturn or reverse, I suppose we’ll see which direction President Trump wants to take.