The Democratic Dilemma – Where to Go from Here?

George S LedyardThe Democrats are in flux. They have a very real set of issues.
First, the wealth divide, which can also be seen as a generational issue. The democrats moved away over time from their working class roots towards looking to the liberal elites who have made their fortunes in finance and tech in order to raise the kind of money it takes to run modern campaigns.
The Bernie Sanders progressives are far to the left of the bulk of the Democratic voters who are still part of the baby boom generation and while they are extremely supportive of civil rights and diversity issues, they are a bit gun shy of what the right wing propaganda depicts as socialism. That’s why we haven’t been able to get to single payer before now.
Campaign Finance ReformIf we can get the big money out of the electoral process, the party can place more focus on the young voters who are quite a bit to the left of their parents. Studies have shown that millennials are actually fine with describing their political positions as some variation of socialism. My generation, which was born at the time of the Red Scare and McCarthy stayed far away from that term.
But as long as it takes such huge sums to mount an effective campaign, it’s hard for the Dems to shift direction towards an agenda that their big bucks liberal supporters might find to be a bit much. Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Hillary Clinton were all quite successful with their centrist focus, at least in terms of having the kind of fund raising machines it takes to win. The Dems may have lost the heartland but it wasn’t for lack of money, it was more where and how they spent it.
Bernie Sanders showed that a Presidential candidate can raise enough money from a real grass roots fund raising effort made up of small contributors. But the fact is that there is no state and local network of progressive candidates or a progressive party organization to mount down ticket races that requires the support of a national organization.
What Kind of Money It Takes to Run for President
Bernie’s fund raising supported his campaign but progressives have yet to demonstrate any staying power. They have not yet shown they can create the structure of a national movement. Bernie’s Movement was in some ways a “cult of personality”. It was all about making Bernie into the Great White Progressive Hope.

Democratic Baby Boomers
Hillary Clinton’s Supporters Were Older

Anyway, clearly the future belongs to the young. However there are probably more young, non-college educated, working class folks out there as there are nice educated liberal / progressive millennials. They will not be able to carry elections on their own for a number of years. The Baby Boomers, like myself, are more moderate and centrist. And They look to be around as a voting block for another three or four election cycles.|

Cornell West and Bernie Sanders
Dr. Cornell West and Bernie Sanders

The second is race. Like it or not, the developing progressive movement has not connected with minorities very well. Hillary Clinton did far better with Black voters than Bernie did, despite the endorsement of Bernie by a number of famous Black activists. In many ways, the Bernie Progressives were as much a white phenomenon as Trump’s Tea Party supporters. In the actual election Clinton got 88% of the Black vote cast but the numbers of Black voters who stayed home was in the  millions.
How Bernie Sanders Lost the Black Vote
White Young Bernie Sanders SupportersAfter eight years of Barrack Obama, the Black community is disillusioned with the whole system, They have consistently supported the Democrats with no measurable change in economic status, without changing the war on drugs, unequal imprisonment, unequal justice in the courts, grossly unequal violence at the hands of law enforcement. The white, college educated professionals who flocked to Bernie Sanders have not connected with minority voters to any large degree. This has to be figured out before we are going to see anything but cynical apathy on the part of minority voters.
So, the Democrats absolutely need to find candidates going forward that can appeal to minority voters and white liberal elites at the same time, as Barack Obama did. And they have to develop a platform which they strongly push at the local, state and national level that addresses the wealth divide. They are not going to win any support away from Trump, heartland supporters, on the social issues that liberals and progressives consider non-negotiable.
These issues represent a culture divide that will not be breached until the income and educational chasm is addressed. But, if, over time they can show they actually have a real plan that would benefit the poor and working class folks in this country without scaring the liberal elites with the money too badly, over time they should be able to get back that old Democratic identity as the party that represents the working and middle classes. The Progressives will have to stop assuming that success and money equal corruption or they will drive away the very support they will need to shift the Dem Party towards a more progressive agenda with progressive candidates.

Watergate and Its Relevance to the Trump Administration Scandals

George S LedyardFor those that are impatient to be rid of Donald Trump, it is good to remember that Watergate, the worst scandal in US history, took 26 months to unfold.
The Nixon people had a war with the journalistic establishment every bit as vicious as what we are seeing with Donald Trump and company.
Initially, the GOP attempted to shield the President but as more and more information came out, they hung him out to dry and began to distance themselves.
The importance of having an independent investigation in bringing Nixon to justice can’t be overestimated nor should the integrity of various members of his administration who refused to go along with his attempts to shut the investigation down.
Our current scandal isn’t just one of political evil doing… it’s about foreign influence over our electoral process, possible collusion with a foreign power by current members of our administration,and even potential penetration of the administration by Russian FSB agents.
I was in college when the Watergate scandal broke. I was quite the aficionado of all the details. I knew the names of all the Watergate burglars, the names of all the “Plumbers” inside the white house. Everyone in the country watched the Senate hearings presided over Sam Ervin. Every day more details emerged of just how much illegal activity has been occurring. It was stunning.
The biggest thing I came away with was the extent to which people will go when they are “true believers” in a cause. Nixon and comp[any really believed that everything they did was necessary and justified in order to protect the nation from Socialism at home, Communism abroad, and dissent from liberals, minorities, women, etc who didn’t understand the realities of world power politics.
These people had a “mission” and they believed that it was their job to save the rest of us, often from ourselves. The law was inconvenient and could justifiably be circumvented for the greater good, as determined by… themselves.
The similarities with today are too many to ignore. We have a sociopathic leader for whom truth is what currently suits him, surrounded by zealots. Some are religious zealots some are captains of capitalism once again saving us from creeping socialism. Some are single issue zealots on issues like abortion, others are big picture Global strategists in the East West culture wars fighting for the lest vestiges of white Eurocentric American culture. But the one thing that Trump’s people all have in common is that they are all “true believers”  in much the same mold as the old Nixon minions.
They all are on a “mission”, they all see themselves as important figures in turning back the forces of progressivism, of undoing just about every advance we have made since the New Deal in terms of the government role in protecting civil rights, providing the social safety net, and managing those areas we have deemed “public goods” such as clean air, drinkable water, workplace safety, safe food, and so on. Some are fighting what they see as the result of globalization which is diversity itself. They are “crusaders” for America first”. which really means white America first.
I bring this out as a way of understanding that for “true believers” there is seldom any behavior that is out of bounds in advancing the agenda. Couple that with the very real possibility that one or more of the administration figures may have been compromised by the Russian FSB and are compelled to do their bidding and one can see just how threatening the current situation is to our democracy. This is a crisis of the first order, potentially worse than the Watergate scandal.
Robert Redford has written a wonderful piece on Watergate and its relevance to what is happening now. Take a look, it’s a great piece of work.
45 Years After Watergate, The Truth is Again in Danger
Trump as Nixon and Watergate - Russian Hacking

Hidden Costs – You Are Already Paying for It

George S LedyardToday, Donald Trump and the GOP failed to achieve the single most visible part of their agenda, namely the repeal / replacement of the ACA. This means that, at least for the foreseeable future the ACA remains in place. This is great news but it doesn’t mean we can stop worrying.

There are any number of problems with the ACA. In the short run the Democrats should immediately start proposing legislation to make needed adjustments to the program. At least a few Republicans having seen that their own party won;t produce anything positive, might come along to make the current system better.

But the fact is that we are simply not going to get what we want without creating a single payer system, which I prefer to call Medicare for all. Every other country of any note in the world has a national health care system. Somehow, we as Americans were convinced that anything that came from the government was Socialism and we were terrified of it. The rationale for not having a Medicare for all system is that we can’t “afford it”. If one understands the facts, one can readily see that this is a completely false narrative.

Like many things in American society, we have basically hidden the true costs of how we do things which creates a false impression of what reality is. First of all, the United Sates has the highest per capital health care costs of any major nation in the world. The narrative that says that a single payer system would cost us more is easily disproved by looking at any other major nation. They all spend less on health care than we do. That’s a fact.
Now it is true that a Medicare for all system would increase your taxes. But it is an illusion that you would actually pay more out of your household budget. It would simply be a cleaner system without all the hidden costs. We have what is called an employer based system in which most people get covered through their place of work. For the vast majority this isn’t completely without charge, usually the worker pays a portion of the premium and supposedly the company pays the rest as a benefit.

But the fact is, this is an illusion. Companies do not pay for your health care. The consumers of the products those companies produce are paying for your health care. Companies pass on the costs of insuring their workers, assuming that they do provide benefits, into the cost of the products or services they sell. They have to. That’s how a business makes a profit.
So, in every single thing you buy, every service you purchase is the cost of the insurance that is supposedly being provided as a benefit by the employer. They aren’t really paying for your health insurance, you are paying for it indirectly through the cost of goods and services. It is a hidden cost which artificially creates an illusion of what you are paying for health care.
The fact is that you are paying a whole lot more than you think you are for health care in the US. I’m sure you have already experienced the ridiculously high premiums which seem to go up every single year. I am also sure you’ve noticed those deductibles which also seem to get larger all the time. What many people are unaware of is what they are paying indirectly via the hidden costs that do not get labelled as health care costs when they pay them.
First of all is the cost to the rest of us of every uninsured person. The folks who do not get any health care coverage typically do not have the money to buy their own. So, they end up not getting the preventive care they should, which leaves them less healthy and when they experience their inevitable health crisis, they use our emergency medical system as their health care provider.  This is far and away the most expensive way to provide care and it typically is un-affordable for these people, who then cannot pay, and the hospitals end up writing off the debt. Those losses get passed on directly to the consumers of health care who can pay. You and I are already paying those costs in the prices we are paying.
Then there is the cost of the inadequate insurance that many people have because it is the only thing they can afford. Before the ACA many people’s plans were inadequate to really protect them, especially against catastrophic illness. The ACA had provisions which set certain minimums services that had to be covered in an insurance policy to be considered as adequate. The repeal effort specifically targeted these provisions. The repeal would have put us back to the days when people would have insurance and feel secure only to find that their coverage didn’t come close to covering their real needs in a crisis.
But even with the ACA in place, it is a fact that the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is medical costs. It is still the case that in our country we have decided that it is acceptable for families to be wiped out financially, a disaster that actually effects multiple generations not just an individual or a couple, due to the cost of medical care. Quite apart from the social cost of family bankruptcy, every time an individual declares bankruptcy, someone, like the banks and their other creditors eat that debt. So. once again, those costs get passed on to the rest of us via increased interest rates, higher service charges, and the increased cost of goods and services. We do not see them as costs associated with health care but they are.

If we can get to a Medicare for all system, we would have none of those hidden costs. We would know exactly what we were paying for. Yes, Federal Taxes would go up. But there could be some relief at the state level as Medicaid, which is administered through the states would not be necessary anymore. The states could save a huge amount.
We wouldn’t have the costs of the uninsured or costs of the bankruptcies being passed on to everyone else. But most importantly, it Medicare for all would almost certainly bring down costs. For profit health care has an automatic built in pressure to raise rates and decrease service. That is precisely how a business increases its profits. Anyone who thinks that competition and market forces are sufficient to bring costs down simply hasn’t looked at the realities of private health care. There is no evidence whatever that this works.

Not having an employer based health insurance system could also drive wages up bu giving the worker more freedom to choose employers. Right now, many folks stay at jobs they hate, or work at pay the is inadequate to cover their expenses simply because they hesitate to lose theior insurance. Essentially, they are held hostage by the employers who offer benefits and don;t feel free to move around. With  Medicare for all system, it would be much cleaner with workers making their decisions about staying or leaving a work place based on wages and work conditions and not on trying to protect the family’s benefits. Over time, this greater choice would create an upward pressure on wages.
Insurance works by distributing or spreading the risk pool. A medicare for all system would mean that 100% of our citizens would be participating in the system. Everyone who pays Federal taxes, either themselves or indirectly via the cost of good s and services they purchase would effectively be paying into the system. Federal income tax is a progressive system so the wealthy would pay proportionally more and the poor might pay very little.
This isn’t rocket science. Every body else has figured this out but us. Are there issues in other countries? Certainly. Every system can be tweaked and improved on. But it is just plain true that the down side of our health care system, which is fast getting un-affordable by anyone but the elites, really outweighs the upside. There is a very good reason that in no other country in the world are they looking at the US system and saying that they want what we have. When you hear any foreigner extolling the US system it is invariably a rich person who can afford to pay whatever the market as asking to get their care. It sure as hell is not the average person. They look at us and think we are crazy.
Let’s get behind Bernie Sanders and make single payer the issue of the day. Help educate the working class folks out there who are being hammered by the current system and educate them why this is in their direct self interest. Help them see through the right wing propaganda and scare tactics. If one gets passed all the BS, it is actually a rather straight forward issue.

The Health Insurance Debate

George S LedyardThe issue of health insurance in America should be a lot simpler than it’s made out to be. All the way back in the 1930’s our country made the decision to go a different way that every other major democratic nation by opting for an employer based health insurance system. This decision was entirely ideological in nature. Right wing opposition to anything that even hinted at the great bugaboo “Socialism” made it impossible for us to have a national health care system like every other major nation.
This decision made major problems with our health care in the US inevitable right from that moment. Our system virtually ensures that millions of citizens have no insurance whatever. First of all, there are the unemployed. No job, no insurance. Add to that, our massive number of “underemployed”. Congress rightly decided that small businesses couldn’t afford to provide insurance to their employees so they were exempted. Additionally, only full time workers generally received benefits so larger corp[orations used as many part time workers as was feasible to avoid paying benefits. The chronically “|underemployed” could be working two, even three part time jobs, just to pay the bills and receive zero benefits.

Eventually a patchwork system of work-arounds brought the number of uninsured down. Medicare covered the citizens over retirement age. Medicaid was set up at the state level to cover the poor who otherwise couldn’t afford to be covered. Of course this left large disparities between the states as to how well they took care of their poor.

So, even with the additional programs filling in some of the gaps, as many as 48 million citizens were still uninsured (a 2012 figure). These many millions tended to end up using the emergency care infrastructure for their basic health care which was, by far, the most expensive way to provide health care services. Additionally, we got to the point at which even for those who had coverage of some sort, many had plans that denied coverage for existing conditions, had huge deductibles which made it impossible for the unwell to afford to get care. The result was that under our system, the number one cause for personal bankruptcies in the US is medical costs.

So now, the Republicans are in power. They have steadfastly opposed the provisions of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, since it was passed. But the effort to repeal and replace the ACA is revealing an ideological divide on the right. The Trump / Ryan plan does a massive tax cut that goes mostly to the wealthiest Americans, puts up to 26 million people back into the ranks of the unemployed, pushes more costs onto the consumer and also places a heavier burden on the states, which probably do not have the tax base to fill in the void.

But, the repeal is running into problems, not from the outnumbered Democrats who appear to be 100% against the repeal on principle, but from the ultra right wing of the party. These folks are the radical “libertarian” wing known as the Freedom Caucus in the House. These people, if left completely to their own devices, would have almost no government role in health care at all.

health care reform, Ryancare, Trumpcare, uninsured

So, what the Republicans are struggling with is a choice between two plans, one of which screws the poor, the elderly, disadvantaged women, and so on and reduces the share the wealthiest pay to support the system and a complete devastation of the health care system that would pretty much screw everyone not able to afford his own insurance at free market rates. This is a fight that totally leaves out GOP moderates… It is between far right  Congressional representatives who wish to shrink the government role in providing health care but are mindful of voter back lash and are worried about pushing the effort so far that they get demolished in the 2018 mid-terms and the ultra right libertarian fanatics who simply do not care about the voters at all and see themselves as fighting for small government and maximum privatization, screw the folks who can’t afford it. These are the folks that see any and all government benefits as removing the incentives of the poor to get jobs and get to work.

In other words, Democrats may rejoice that the GOP is divided and this temporarily is delaying the repeal of the ACA, but the negotiations about how to compromise on the Trump / Ryan plan and get the Freedom Caucus people on board will not result in any improvement but rather result in a compromise plan that is even worse, if possible, than the original. It will result in tens of millions losing coverage, sky high deductibles, more excluded conditions, the middle class covering more of the costs relative to the super rich, and so on. It is an unmitigated disaster for health care in the US and will result in far higher medical costs for the country in the end.
Once again we see the Republican commitment to take from the poor and give to the rich fully revealed. It is a morally bankrupt effort and we as a country should be ashamed that this is the direction we are choosing to go.
Check out:
How We Ended Up with Employer Based Healthy Care

Five Charts Which Explain the Ryan Plan

House Vote to Repeal is Delayed

Deomocrats and the “Forgotten” Heartland

George S LedyardMuch of the conventional wisdom since the disastrous electoral loss in Nov 2016 is that the Democratic Party lost because it had become too focused on identity politics and the educated liberal urban bastions on the two coasts. Bernie Sanders has maintained that a lack of an economic agenda that clearly benefits the working and middle classes was what turned voters away from the Democrats.
But a recent article in Vox provides a very different take on this issue. It points out that populism is on the rise all over the world in democracies which have far more socialized economic systems than what we have.

This had occurred to me a while ago. I had been trying to envision what possible Democratic / Progressive platform would have brought any significant number of Donald Trump’s supporters to our fold. My answer was, there isn’t one.
diversityThe whole basis of the Democratic / Progressive liberal agenda is diversity. It is about championing the rights of minorities and vulnerable populations. It is about LGBT rights, It is about a woman’s right to choose.  It is fundamentally about ensuring that all Americans have a level playing field when it comes to economic opportunity.
Of course, as Bernie Sanders has so aptly demonstrated, liberals have fallen far short of achieving this level playing field. But the Vox article is fairly convincing in maintaining that this wasn’t actually the reason we lost the election.
The fact is that I cannot envision what agenda would both preserve the fundamental focus on civil rights, minority rights, women’s rights, maintaining the social safety net, and be based on the philosophy of mixed public / private management of the country’s economy. It is fundamental to Liberal and Progressive philosophy that the government has a crucial role in managing those things which we determine to be “public goods” on behalf on the American people.
These include clean air, clean water, the environment in general, our rivers, the ocean, endangered species, fish runs, and the social safety net (sometimes called the welfare system). Health care has, since its inception, been a mixed bag. The government has policies which heavily “regulate” the industry, and via medicare, medicaid, and the veteran’s administration covers some financing, but the majority of our system is private. It is an “employer based” system and insurance is provided by private insurers.
Trump SupportersSo, what do we see on the right? It certainly is not a monolithic group. The GOP base is made up of a disparate groups and philosophies. But one unifying element is an almost visceral dislike of the Federal Government. The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, which has hijacked the Party’s agenda, wants to see smaller government, less regulation, a strong focus on property rights (as opposed to the public good), and far less Federal civil rights interference in state and local matters.
It is impossible to separate our current “populism” from “nativism”. The core demographic supporting Donald Trump and the farther right politicians is non-college educated whites. And they are Christians. This group is adamantly opposed to immigration. It wants to see deportation of undocumented residents. It wants to see a Wall built on the Mexican border. It wants to see an almost total ban on immigration from Islamic countries.
This group has gradually been influenced over a period of decades to become an anti-diversity, increasingly white supremacist group. They are convinced that diversity is a war against our Eurocentric values and heritage. They are xenophobic and more isolationist than we have seen for many years.

The Alt Right
The Alt Right Movement

My point here is that these people are rabidly opposed on a very fundamental level to almost EVERYTHING we liberals and progressives stand for. They do not believe that the government should have much of a role in anything beyond defense and law enforcement. They believe that the social safety net is a giveaway of public money to undeserving minority moochers. They are made uncomfortable by cultural values different than their own, especially when they are introduced into their previously homogeneous communities.
So, I would ask, would an vehemently anti-abortion person be persuaded by an economic program designed to benefit their demographic to vote for a Party that is firmly committed to “choice”? I would say nothing would do that.

I would ask what would persuade a voter who hates the Federal Government, is convinced that all politicians are corrupt, and feels that just about everything the government does that he sees is bad, to vote for a candidate that believes in a single payer, national health system administered by the government? I would say nothing.
Black Lives MatterI would ask what would persuade a voter who is fundamentally frightened by minorities and immigrants, who wishes to see the clock turned back to when white exceptionalism was the rule in our country and minorities just had to go along, to vote for a candidate from a party that is fundamentally associated with equal opportunity and rights for all… that has made “inclusion” the basis of its philosophy? I would say nothing.
I think it is time to understand that the country is polarized between extremes that really are not going to be reconciled. One side is not going to be persuaded to join the other side. This is a conflict that is going to have winners and losers. The losers will not be happy. And nothing we can do as liberals and progressives will change that fact.
Diversity PictureSo, no, the Democratic Party does not have to abandon its focus on diversity and identity politics. What it needs to do is incorporate a more progressive agenda into a plan that targets it liberal / progressive base. It isn’t about winning over the Tea Party folks in the heartland, or the uneducated workers on the rust belt. It is about finally coming up with a program that actually does improve the lot of the folks that have been Democratic supporters all along.

ACLU Civil Rights

Let’s make it clear to our minority populations that we have a real commitment to ending the war on drugs, shifting decriminalization to support via education, rehabilitation, mental health services, business development in the urban centers, etc. Let’s have a comprehensive plan to provide economic incentives and create educational / vocational alternatives for our workers who will be increasingly replaced by the robotics revolution.
To take back the country we need to motivate the folks that have traditionally been our base of supporters, not try to win over a group of folks that isn’t going to be won over no matter what we do. Instead, we need to maintain the focus we have had but actually start to deliver the goods. It was disinterest in our base this election that gave us Donald Trump, not a huge mandate.
Check out the article on Vox
No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism

The Real Trump Agenda and the Transition

George S LedyardMy beef with many journalists right now is that they insist on trying to normalize Donald Trump by applying traditional historical standards to analyzing his actions.

If one does that, Trump seems irrational, his team incompetent. The pace of the transition is incomprehensibly slow. But this is not a normal administration. Steve Bannon, Trump’s closest policy adviser has described their agenda as a “radical deconstruction of the administrative state“.

Trump - Bannon

When a journalist states that Trump will find he can’t get anything done without the staff at these various agencies in which management positions stand open, that presupposes that he WANTS to get anything done. In point of fact what we see is a move to radically de-fund and dismantle much of the Federal government structure. Trump doesn’t intend to fill these spots, he intends to eliminate them.

Anti New Deal Billboard
Business Sponsored Anti New Deal Billboard from the Great Depression

One needs to understand that Trump not only doesn’t care if he can get things done in the way most journalists would use the phrase, he actively wants to do nothing. His goal is to create a profound power vacuum in which private corporate market forces can function in a completely unimpeded fashion. This is an extremist attempt to take us back towards the free market capitalism that they believe existed 150 years ago, before the New Deal changed how we thought about the role of government.
The other factor that commentators seem to be missing in the “slow” Trump transition is that unfilled spots in the various Federal agencies means more centralized power at the white house. Trump outright stated that most of those unfilled jobs, he didn’t actually need filled… he had all the people he needed right there at the white house. This is the Emperor keeping everyone close at hand under the watchful eye of his most loyal henchmen. Trump is centralizing and consolidating power in an alarming fashion and the traditional media commentators keep on acting surprised that he isn’t doing what Presidents before him did.
Our journalists need to wake up and start looking at the real agenda here. This is not, in any way, shape, or form a normal Presidency. This is a radical and profound revolution in devolving how we approach the role of government. Nothing Trump is doing makes any sense if you don’t look at it through that filter.

New York Times President without and Administration

Trump Goes on the Offense – Here Comes the Witch Hunt

George S LedyardBy now. anyone who pays even the least attention to politics, knows about the issues with potentially inappropriate ties to Russia on the part of Donald Trump and associates. The number of campaign workers, even family members, who had meetings with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, also known to be Russia’s top spymaster in the US, during and after the campaign seems to grow almost daily.

Sergey Kislyak with Vladimir Putin
Sergey Kislyak at the center

The timing of many of these meetings seems suspicious as various events took place around the same times, such as the change in the language of the GOP platform regarding the Ukraine (a softening of the position vis a vis Russia) and the release of the hacked emails which are seen by members of the intelligence community as almost certainly coming out of a state sponsored Russian hacker effort.

Russian influence scandal, Sessions, Flynn, Kisyiyak

Mike Flynn met with the Russians and said he didn’t and has resigned. Now Jeff Sessions is in the spotlight for precisely the same thing. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner is also known to have met with Kislyak, a fact kept quiet until just recently,  and the question remains about all of these meetings, what was being discussed? Why were members of a camping team having multiple contacts with the Russian Ambassador?
Suffice it to say that this whole affair has occasioned something of a crisis within the new Trump administration. Try as he might, Trump has failed to shake this widening scandal and comparisons with Watergate and Richard Nixon abound.
So, what is Donald Trump’s response to these perceived attacks on his new regime? What it has always been throughout his career, go on full counter attack. In a series of tweets is has accused Barrack Obama of having Trump Tower wire tapped during the campaign. Today, he is calling for an all out Congressional investigation into these supposed wire taps, while calling them a form of McCarthyism.
Well, the GOP has closed ranks behind their leader and so far, steadfastly refused to initiate investigations into the Russian hacker activity and whether it improperly influenced the election. Now, the President wishes to turn the tables and loose his GOP controlled Congress on the former Obama administration.
This is clearly, transparently, a standard Trump response to any attack he can’t make go away or from which he can’t distract attention with outrageous behavior, and that is attack. Trump learned this tactic as a young man from his friend and mentor, Roy Cohn, the vicious lawyer behind Joe McCarty and a New York mob lawyer and ruthless litigator.

Roy Cohn and Donald TrumpThe attacks against the previous President serve multiple purposes for Trump. First, they fit his on-going narrative that Obama administration holdovers are waging a guerrilla war from with the various government agencies via leaks that embarrass the administration. This has been an only partially effective tactic given the fact that Trump would probably not be President if it weren’t for the infamous email leaks which targeted the Clinton campaign.
Also, these accusations now dominate the news cycle, giving the Trump team some time to regroup. They also put the GOP members of Congress in a position where they have to start choosing sides. While it is clear that virtually all of the Republicans members of Congress are perfectly happy to stone wall any possible investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement in Russian interference in the election, they have been able to sit back on the sidelines so far.
Bannon and Miller, Donald Trump advisers, Russian scandalBut now, Trump’s strategy, no doubt worked out with his closest advisers, is to attempt to turn Congress into a weapon to be used against the enemy. Because Trump has been in full control of the government, having won the election and with a GOP controlled House and Senate, Trump hasn’t had anyone to act as a foil for his inherently aggressive instincts. Obama and Clinton are gone, former Obama administration officials are being purged, and the Democratic Congress is powerless to do much at all. So, the Trump tactic of finding an external enemy to go after has not been helping him.

Trump tweet Obama wire tapNow, completely out of the blue, he is trying to turn his Russian problem into a Congressional witch hunt focused on the previous Obama administration.  Of course, as usual, his diatribe against Obama has no basis in fact. The President of the United States has no power to order such wire taps. It requires a court order to do so. This begs the question, if there were wire taps, what was the probable cause that justified them? This may actually be Trump’s attempt to expose and discredit a classified investigation into his own campaign by the intelligence service and the FBI. Either that or this is another one of his completely fictitious creations which are so hard to refute because there’s no factual information involved at all.

This also serves to force the media into devoting their limited resources to another investigation. Hours spent digging to verify a potentially unverifiable accusation translates into hours not spent looking more deeply into Russian penetration of the Trump administration.
But, this whole thing may backfire on the Trump regime if it serves to make public the reasons a court would grant a surveillance order involving Trump and his associates. The Russian influence / hacking scandal when combined with so many of Trump’s associates having extremely close ties to Russian government and business figures takes one very close to the line past which we start talking about espionage or spying. Trump may not like what comes out now that he’s opened another can of worms.
Joe McCarty, Roy Cohn, Trump Russian scandal, wire taps, ObamaIn any case, Trump is ready to take us back to the McCarthy era. He wants to initiate a Congressional investigation into his perceived enemies. If he can get this started, one can rest assured its scope will expand from wire taps during the campaign to searching for anti-Trump “leakers” within the various government agencies, especially the FBI and the intelligence services. If he can get this started, it will turn into a witch hunt. I believe this is Trump’s excuse to go on the offensive and identify and purge the government of any resistance to his administration.
We have not seen a vicious, attack dog, like this in the white house since Richard Nixon. Trump and his minions are every bit as ruthless about consolidating power as anyone who has ever been in the office. This is not a man who plays “defense”. After a couple weeks of taking hits, he has rallied himself and his minions and the have gone into full attack mode. Expect to see this played out today (Sunday) on all the talk shows.

Trump and Putin, Russian influence scandalWe cannot let this counter offensive succeed. Our representatives must keep on pushing for a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian hacking scandal and possible related improper relationships with Russian officials / spies. We must encourage the media to stay focused on the real story and not let Trump get away with distracting them. And we have to keep our representatives focused on the continuous effort to get Trump to release his tax returns. All of his outrageous behavior is designed to protect him from what could be politically lethal revelations and we should not allow that effort to succeed.

“Merit Based Immigration” Ignores the Needs of Regular Americans

George S LedyardMerit based immigration” is a disguised “class-ist” system. Right now the US is allowing highly skilled workers to come from overseas and take positions in American companies. We benefit from their expertise and that seems like a good thing.

But the fact is that we need to bring in high level expertise from overseas because our own schools are not turning out sufficient numbers of skilled workers to fill the openings we have. Importation of foreign expertise removes market pressures to fix our education system. If we didn’t allow H1B workers to satisfy the demand for skilled workers, our corporations would be pressuring Federal and State government to fix our educational system to produce the educated work force they require.

 H1B visas, merit based immigration
We have a massive income divide in the US and a middle class that is under pressure. Current debates about jobs, bringing manufacturing back to the US, etc largely ignore that robotics / automation is a revolution on the scale of our industrial revolution. It will not be too long before most of the jobs performed at the low income level of the economy will be performed by machines. Even now, the jobs being created via economic growth are jobs that require higher education or at the very least, extensive vocational training.

Who are the H1B Visa recipients? More often than not, these people represent the elite of the countries from which they come. They come from the top strata of society that could afford to send their children to the very best lite schools. They can then come to the United States and gain valuable work experience. Some choose to stay here and other return home, taking that valuable experience with them and many end up in businesses that directly compete with our own companies.

But that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is that the American middle class has been in decline for decades. It is increasingly difficult for the average American worker to find jobs that actually pay enough to maintain that middle class status. The opportunities for movement up the economic ladder for most of our middle class folks is decreasing all the time.
We have a country in which the average citizen reads at around an 8th grade level. These people simply do not have the education or the skills needed to fill the new economy jobs which are opening up. Even if Donald Trump succeeds in bringing back manufacturing to the US, these people will not be getting those jobs that return.
A merit based immigration program allows American business to get the expertise it needs without the country making the investment in its own citizens required to meet these corporate requirements. It is a system in which we let someone else shoulder the burden of creating an educational system that produces these highly trained people and then we bring them in and put them to work. All the while, our own citizens are struggling. We are not investing in getting them ready for the jobs of the future.
H1B, merit based immigrationWe have allowed an income divide to develop over time that simply leaves most Americans behind. A huge percentage of our citizens are underemployed, which means that they are working very hard at one, often two jobs, but are still barely able to survive. This income divide exists all over the world. Now the children of the economic elite of one country can come to the US and be a part of the economic elite of our country while no effort is made to better the lot of the folks already here who exist at the bottom.
So, while I am at pains to say that I am not at all anti-immigrant, the so-called “merit based” immigration system obviates the need to do something about our school system’s failure to produce enough skilled workers to ensure decent wage paying jobs for our own citizens. The jobs may be there but our own people aren’t prepared for them. It produces an upper middle class of technical elites that actually makes upward mobility for the rest of our citizens more difficult.

Fascism Alert – Asset Forfeiture, A Tool to Destroy Dissent

George S LedyardNot only is legitimate news under fire from our developing totalitarian administration, but the ultra right is incrementally setting up the means to shut down dissent. Initiatives are systematically being introduced in state legislatures all over the country by ultra right GOP legislators. This is a nationally coordinated effort and, if successful, will allow the authorities to basically destroy any individual or group that is involved in protests.

Check out this article on a successful effort in Arizona to pass this type of oppressive legislation.

Arizona Senate votes to seize assets of those who plan, participate in protests that turn violent

Suppressing dissent

This is not using existing laws to prosecute individuals who break the law by becoming violent at a demonstration. It is making it possible for the government to go after any group that organized the demo, any sponsor of the demo, even the other individuals who participated even though they may not have broken the law.

Seattle Women's march

This is an incredibly insidious effort. It is escaping notice largely because the right has chosen to operate at the state level rather than the Federal level. The right has found ultra right legislators in states all over the country to sponsor this legislation. It is virtually identical and was clearly constructed by some shadow group behind the scenes and disseminated to sympathetic supporters at the state level.
Do not be deceived. This is a concerted effort to give the government unprecedented authority to supersede all existing laws to destroy those who organize dissent. It is presented as a way to get violent protesters to pay for damages caused by their violent actions. But the wording allows a much broader application than simply holding individuals responsible for their actual behaviors. It also serves to make the use of provocateurs much more effective in destroying peaceful dissent. A few individuals involved in violence can cause the entire demonstration, organizers and participants,  open to asset forfeiture.
Authoritarianism, Trump, asset forfeiture, suppressing dissentThis is a hugely powerful and dangerous step towards authoritarian government. Coupled with the unprecedented and concerted attack on legitimate mainstream media you are seeing an effort to prevent the ordinary citizen from being presented with any alternative points of view which might oppose what the administration is pursuing.

Donald Trump and the White Supremacists

George S LedyardI think that there is no doubt that Donald Trump is not anti-Semitic. His daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. He is a huge champion of the State of Israel.
But throughout the campaign and right up to the present day, he has repeatedly past up opportunities to disown the support he was receiving from the Alt Right, the Neo-Nazis, the KKK, and other white supremacist groups.
I Think this is largely due to the fact that he is thoroughly Republican in his bias against people of color. The radical white supremacist fringe is quite aware that Trump isn’t one of them. But they also have understood that he has been willing to accept their support and that he is at least sympathetic to some of their biases.
Alt Right, White supremacist, Neo-Nazis, Aryan Nations
They seem to have believed that they could use him to further their own ends. But Trump is a developing would be dictator. If the racist, white supremacist movement crosses a certain line with regards to violence against the Jewish community, I think that Trump will loose the full weight of the law enforcement establishment upon their heads.
Church burnings, neo-nazis, KKK, Aryan nationsTrump might be willing to put up with gay bashing. He might overlook violence against followers of Islam and Mosques. He might choose to remain ignorant of church burning and other anti Black violent incidents. But if these people push their anti-Semitic agenda too far, Trump will abandon them just as Mao abandoned the Reg Guards and turned the PLA loose on them when he decided the Cultural Revolution had gone too far.
Anti-Semitism, violence, Neo-Nazis
white sumpremacistsBut in the mean time, we watch as the power of these groups is growing. Our Jewish community becomes increasingly alarmed at the failure of the government to take these threats seriously. The latest news that the Trump administration had instructed the Homeland Security Department to take domestic right wing hate groups off the terrorism watch list and focus on Islamic terror threats has done nothing to reassure anyone that the white supremacist threat will be dealt with before they commit some truly heinous act of violence. Under Trump, “Never again” starts looking more like “Probably not again” and that is truly frightening.
Article from The Hill – Jewish community centers receive new wave of bomb threats