Now The Fun Starts . . .

The Administration has been looking a lot like “The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight” the past few weeks.  Everyone inside the Beltway is out to get them and self-inflicted tweets from the Big Guy doesn’t help.  With the budget’s details coming out over the next week and with the many “interesting” changes — deep cuts to taxes and social programs along with a healthy belief in supply-side economics — this Administration needs to be focused on legislation rather than “other” issues.

I read a recent op-ed from Karl Rove in yesterday’s (Thursday May 18) “Wall Street Journal,” and whether you consider him a Sith Lord, or a brilliant political tactician, it’s an opinion worth reading.  His key point was that the the Comey/Russian mess has become a major distraction.  Rove stated, “This presidency has reached a critical moment.  For months, true-blue Trump supporters grimaced at tweets and winced at needless controversies, but stood firm. Now many are questioning whether their man is up to the job.  Mr. Trump will not restore their confidence with the behavior he’s shown so far.”

Although I don’t agree with some of this Administration’s direction, I think that the President represents a significant portion of our country and those thoughts should be debated and if they have value should become part of country’s legislative fabric. And if found wanting, then we move forward as we have for the past 240 years.

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The Great Divide

Now that the Republicans have put forth some options to replace ACA, one of my favorite topics, I could comment on the proposed legislation and its potential effect on small business as well as individuals, but I’ll let that slide.  Not enough REAL substance to opine about.

I could talk about the Russians and the U.S.  Nah, too easy.  And as an avid Cowboy fan, why not discuss what folks in Dallas, Denver, Houston, and Kansas City are arguing about regarding Tony Romo, the talented but oft injured quarterback.  Nope, ain’t going there.

Let’s talk about the growing divide between the electorate and the fears which are being fed by 24-hour news channels and the blogosphere (I guess that’s me).

As with many individuals who have retired (or semi-retired), I find myself consuming TV and reading more than I have in the past.  Which in itself is a good thing, but given what I’m seeing from the news channels and other media very concerning.  Don’t like what you hear about the President or current political issues on CNN – then go visit Fox or comedy channel du jour.  Odds are you won’t even see the same topics discussed.  Is this any different than what we saw from the newspaper industry in the past century, probably not.

It’s today’s near-hysterical messaging which concerns me. Publishers in those days did not hide their opinions – but they weren’t constantly exposing their audience with statistics, consultants, and nuanced messages on a 24-hour basis. My hope is that today’s audiences will grow-up and realize that the world is full of bias and for lack of a better word – fake news.  Once we begin to discern between the facts and spin, we’ll all be much better off – and so will our country.

Politics Are Local

OK, the fat lady is singing and the parties are over — so to speak.  We now have two candidates running for president which create heartburn for many “centrist” like myself.  For all the hate Hillary gets, I could have “accepted” her as president until the Democratic Party’s Platform made a big shift to the left.  In my opinion the Trumpster is totally unacceptable as an individual who has the chops to lead this country – and don’t give me that cr*p that he’s a business guy and understands how to lead.  Mr. Trump is a wealthy entrepreneur and they don’t do well in organizations.  Trust me.  Plus, his economic ravings concern me as much as the Democrat’s Platform.

So, what does that leave us?  Your local elected leaders.

There are 535 individuals (100 senators; 435 congressman) who ARE the folks who create laws – not the president.  They’re the folks we need to be electing — and more importantly – making sure they hear our opinions.  And don’t fall for that “they’re bought and paid for” by special interest groups (on both sides).  Yes, they’re being lobbied on a regular basis – but it’s the voters who keep our representatives employed.  So, it behooves us to make sure we have the right kind of folks representing us – not just folks who are listening to a vocal minority.

I have been fortunate over the years to be in the “belly of the beast” (Washington D.C.) working on behalf of the printing industry, and it’s a messy business. Yet, when it gets all set and done, it’s about that representative getting re-elected. So, if you don’t like the choices for president, make sure that your congressman or senator (and their staff, who really get the job done) hear your concerns and more importantly remind them that you’re a voter.  So, come November, let them her your voice!

 

The World Of Economics and Politics

Do you notice all the promises that the presidential campaigns have been throwing around?  Bernie with stating how easily we can afford to pay for everyone’s college.  Trump with his making trade better by bashing other countries; and Clinton with her comments saying that we need a universal health plan.  I’m not going to get in a discussion of the merits of any of those issues – I don’t have the time or temperament at this time.  BUT, what I do find of interest, and have for many years, is what an OpEd piece in this morning’s Wall Street Journal touched upon.

“The Weekend Interview” was with Russ Roberts the host of “EconTalk” a weekly podcast.  Roberts is an economist by trade; so he’s no empty talking head.  For anyone who has studied economics, you know that there’s as much black art as there is science.  Yet, over the years, an entire priesthood (cult?) has been created by politicians to show their promises are backed by experts.  And if you don’t like the answer – get a new oracle!

My concern, and has been one for years, is that people take a sound bite from their media of preference and it becomes dogma.  To quote the OpEd, “All the incentives push us [economists] toward overconfidence and ignore humility  — to ignore the buts and the what-ifs and the caveats.  You want to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?  Of course you do.  So you make a bold claim.  Being a skeptic gets you on page A9.”

As Roberts opined in the article, economists are people who have bias and often that will influence how they approach an issue – and why we have so many contrary opinions.  He feels that economists should be more humble – and I don’ have an argument with that statement. I’ll take it a step further. Those of us who feel strongly about our side of the political argument should be the same way.  Be humble. Listen to the other side. Study the FACTS – not just one person’s or side’s opinion.  If we truly want to continue being a great nation, our electorate needs to be well-informed.  And if we really don’t know the answer to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – say so.

Cuba. Why Not?

I’m of an age that I vividly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs fiasco.  Yet, the world has moved on, and I think it’s time that we do as well. So, I have no problems in creating an Embassy in Havana, or for that matter working hard to create “normalization,” which very well could mean lifting embargos.

Are the Castro Boys our BFFs?  NO, but neither are the majority of the world leaders.  One has to remember, if you read your history, we didn’t do the Cuban people any favors prior to 1953 when the Cuban Revolution began.  Nor did we handle the situation in our best long term interest during the six years of Batista’s fight with Castro.  There’s plenty reasons to harbor ill-will — on both sides.

Today, more than ever, we need to consider the Monroe Doctrine.  Not in terms of creating puppet governments, nor military might, but in economic power to create stability.  Cuba has been our sore spot for over 50 years, let’s find a way to salve that wound rather than keep fighting the same old wars.  If there’s a lesson to be learned from the turmoil in the mid-east, it is that people tend to hold grudges and fight to the death over issues which began in the 7th century.  So, let’s not go there.

Supremes Support Subsidies

I may be in the minority within the group of folks who don’t care for Obamacare, but I think the Supreme Court got it right with their 6-3 ruling this morning (June 25).

This was a crazy gambit from the folks who felt that blowing up what is in place was a solution.  It’s not.  Healthcare is a major mess in this country (in how it’s funded) and if the subsidies had been overturned, I feel it would have created MAJOR turmoil within the healthcare system.

So, now that this has been perceived as a win by the Administration — and many in the U.S. — it’s time to really look at Obamacare and see what is good (yes, there are good aspects of it) and what really needs to be changed to make it better.  I’ve given up on any idea of getting employers out of the system — that’s tantamount to the IRS supporting a flat tax. So, does Congress have the guts to find a way to address this issue?  Sad to say, I don’t think they do, and even if things turned Republican in ’16, Congress may not have the cojones to truly address healthcare.

Balance — It’s Not a Bad Thing

“May you live interesting times,” states the ancient Chinese curse.  Although I think that today we live in times which are more than “interesting.” We face the Russian Bear once again, as well as a China which is not only militarily strong, but also economically dominant.  We are in the midst of economic doldrums which have spanned nearly seven years, and we face a political landscape which gets more and more polarized daily.  We see a Middle East that is becoming more explosive and threatening as the fervor of religious animosity raises its ugly head all over the world.

Many lash out at the perceived and real threats and become more staunch in their beliefs.  Others adapt by ignoring the “real” world and immerse themselves in today’s technologies and live their life as a digital avatar or through the voyerism of social media. It’s much easier to ignore the world, or scream at it than to find ways to address the issues.

My concern is that we as individuals — and as a country — are becoming isolated behind the  walls we are fabricating.  The solutions are much more complex and require individuals who are willing to see the long-term and accept that the world is no longer what they grew up with.

I hope that over the next 12-18 months as we begin the process of voting for our national leaders, that we become engaged in REAL thinking and analysis and not just repeat the phrases we’ve heard from contemporaries who spin the idealogical mantras of “conservatism” or “liberalism.”

More than ever we need balance in our complex world.  Being a moderate shouldn’t be a bad word.

Doing The Right Thing, Or Doing It Right

President Obama went on TV last night to announce his Executive Order regarding Immigration, “sticking [his] finger in the eye of the recently elected Republican Congress,” to partially quote Senator Lamar Alexander (R., TN).  While I may not like anyone in the Executive Office bypassing the legislative process developed by our Founders, I have to give Mr. Obama kudos for taking a step that may not help the Democrats politically (or the Republicans if they’re not careful), but is best for this country.

We have ignored the approximately 11 Million illegals in this country and that is not right.  People will cloak themselves in the righteousness of “they broke the law, we can’t excuse them” to the “we are a country of immigrants, we can’t ignore them.”  AND I agree with both sides.  Yet the reality is that over the past 30+ years a system has been created which allows (quasi legally) illegal immigrants into this country.  Congress has been irresponsible in not dealing with this issue and Mr. Obama is going to force the issue – and for that I give him credit, even if I did not vote for him or think he’s a model President.

By issuing this Executive Order, the gauntlet has been thrown.  It’s time to recognize that we cannot continue to ignore what many consider a insignificant amount of our population (3.7%). Yet, especially in the southwest, these individuals comprise a major part of our service economy, and there is a significant portion of these individuals who have been raised here, and have no future because of the actions of their parents wanting a better life.  Can we continue to ignore these 11 Million?

Is this an easy answer? NO.  But what many in Congress fail to remember, is that we’re dealing with people — not just numbers.  We’re dealing with economics and jobs.  We’re dealing with a future generation which will be ostracized and detrimental to our wonderful fabric of inclusion and diversity.  We’re especially dealing with developing a system to stop the illegal immigration (creating a police state within our border states is not the solution) AND allow economic growth.  Not an easy task.

What I’m afraid is going to happen over the next few months is a ugly political spat will break out and the real issue will be ignored.  Do we do the right thing?  Or just continue to ignore the situation, as we tend to ignore our gardeners, construction workers, laborers, and farm workers?

Eye Of The Beholder

Last week you could hear the glee in people’s voices as they observed politicians in Washington throwing verbal hand grenades at each other.  If you were a Democrat, you observed the conservative wing of the Republican Party closing down (ransom was the preferred word) the government — and you had visions of a political rout in 2014 when angry voters would retaliate.  And Republicans gladly watched Obamacare’s public exchanges come to a stand still.  How could the government provide health care if they couldn’t get the websites to work properly, giggled members of the Grand Old Party.

Sad to say we saw the results of a system that isn’t working — for either side.  And we still are going to have to deal with the upcoming debt ceiling argument.

Reality says that regardless of how concerned we are that the “other” guys have it wrong and are taking our country down the road to hell, it ain’t going to happen.  I for one feel that our country is very resilient and we’ll get it right.  It may not be an easy path, but we can get it right.  How?

First, we have to understand and accept that our system moves painfully slow to the left or right — and that’s OK.  Second, we need to accept that in our republic form of governance, compromise is essential.  We need the left and we need the right — but we need to moderate the voices from the extreme left or right.  Third, politicians aren’t going to change — no matter how much we think they should.  Fourth, advocacy (lobbying) is essential in a complex society such as ours — and we can’t sit on the porch and watch the parade go by.  We must be involved.  Fifth, and I’ve said this before, we need to find away to get rid of gerrymandering.  One of the reasons the Republicans were willing to close the government is that in the majority of cases they represent a constituency which won’t vote them out of office.  They’re bullet proof — as are the Dems who condemn them and are supported by their constituency.  But create districts that are more geographically representative, and you’ll see a change in how we govern.

But then again, I’m just looking at it through my eyes.

What Do You Think Of . . .

The Washington Post.  No, I’m not talking about its editorials which are not tolerated by many Texans.  I’m talking about its acquisition by Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos.  Bezos is an avid news hound – but tends to like it delivered electronically.  Yet, this marriage (of desperation?) could be the start of a new model of blended delivery.

Johnny Football.  I’m still old school when it comes to athletes.  Today’s athletes are too often spoiled emotionally, and when you add to that equation, everyone fawning over them, the result is an individual who will not be someone you’d like to have as a friend.  Think Mr. Orenthal James Simpson.  On a football note, one season does not make a football player, and the NCAA really needs to rethink its definition of amateur athletes.

George W.  Wow, 43 just had a stint put in yesterday.  Here’s a guy who seemed to eat right and exercised regularly, but still had a heart problem.  So before you start thinking about hanging up your jogging shoes and taking a permanent position in front of the boob tube, consider where 43 might be if he hadn’t been exercising.

Patent Trolls.  Nasty blood-sucking bottom feeders.  They wear the robes of the law to supposedly protect the little guy while using the broken patent system to extort money from hundreds of firms.  A group of printers in North Texas just recently said – “Come and Take It!” and with the support of PIA’s R&D folks may just give the Trolls a taste of Billy Bob Gruff’s horn.