Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Real Rankings: Trump, Putin, Xi. Then America.

It's tough having a president who's ready, at the drop of a hat, to throw the country under the bus. President Trump likes to say that he will put America first, but he has a strange way of showing it.

For decades, the United States lead the world economically, militarily and morally. Sometimes we did some extremely bad things and we've made our share of mistakes, but most of the world knew where we stood and we remained a place that other people wanted to come to, and they were generally welcomed.

Not any more.

By supposedly putting America first, the president has done great damage to our reputation and what we stand for. When the Russians clearly tried to influence the 2016 election, the president never spoke out about foreign interference, and instead worried obsessively about how it would make him, and only him, look bad.

Now we find that the president, perhaps the most gullible man in the political world, believes Vladimir Putin when he said that Russia did not interfere with the election. And he's siding with the Russian leader over his own CIA and members of Congress from both parties.

You know, Americans.

How did Trump come to this conclusion? By asking Putin if his country interfered, of course. Isn't that what international power politics is all about? Everyone tells the truth, right?

As Bugs would say, "What a maroon."

The president's trip to Asia was also a me-first excursion as the president essentially said that he, and only he, knew what America's best interests were and that he was going to make sure that any future deals benefited this country.  He's already shown the folly of that statement by withdrawing us from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Accords. Both of those agreements would have enabled the United States to have major influence over trade, intellectual property laws, and economic policies that would help guide the world toward a more environmentally responsible future.  We've now lost a good deal of that influence and China has immediately stepped into that power vacuum and is ready to fill it, as President Xi said in his remarks immediately after Trump finished speaking on Friday.

And what did our president say to that? He essentially threw every previous president under his smog-belching bus by saying that America's past leaders were to blame for our terrible trade deals. We can certainly blame previous leaders for today's problems, but the rule is that you defend your own in public while excoriating them in private. For Trump, though, there is only one person he will protect: himself.

But the president is not only hurting America abroad. His support of the health care repeal that would throw about 20 million people off their health insurance was reprehensible. And his support of a tax bill that would raise taxes on millions of people in the middle class while allowing hedge fund managers to continue to pay a lower rate on their incomes, and for other wealthy people and corporations to get a huge cut is immoral. The president would also benefit immensely from this tax bill, but since he won't release his tax returns, we don't know by how much.

The real evidence, though, is that the president is not putting America first because he continues to deliberately divide this country. He's made no real effort to include his opponents or those who voted against him. He's content to throw twitter bombs and to blame everyone else (women, immigrants, Muslims, Democrats, NFL players) for our problems without recognizing that he is the president of all the people.

Effective presidents are ones who recognize that they might not bring their opponents over to their side, but that for the greater good of the country, they need to make an effort at unity and conciliation. I have little hope that President Trump will do this because his first priority is himself.  Not the country, and certainly not anyone who deigns to point out when he is wrong, or illustrates his disdain for, and lack of understanding of, our constitution.

We will always be second.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tired of Russia and Taxes? Here's The New Jersey Election Special!

For the moment, I'm going to put aside the frenzy over the Mueller investigation and how the Russian hacking and fake Facebook posts were all Hillary's fault even though GOP campaign operatives lied through their collective teeth about their contacts with said Russians, and I'm going to postpone any comments on the new GOP Let's Give a Sop to the Wealthy and Corporations Act of 2017, which, at first glance, will have me paying more in taxes, because I believe that the Senate will correct many, but not all, of the egregiously disgraceful ways in which the GOP wants the middle class to pay for the corporate tax cuts and blow up the deficit.

So no comment at all on those two issues.

What's instead?

New Jersey is going to elect a new Governor on Tuesday!

Yes, I know you're going to miss Chris Christie, who has sunk so low in the ratings lake that divers are rooting around the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald looking for Christie's poll numbers. It's gotten so bad that even a great public program to combat opioid addiction, which Christie proposed, couldn't pry any money out of a president who supposedly is still considering Christie for a replacement part in his administration, on the off chance that someone will leave it soon. Which they will. And Christie will remain in Mendham where he belongs.

So who will win the election on Tuesday? Democrat Phil Murphy has a big lead in the polls, but of course we know about poll numbers. After all, it was only last year that Hillary was supposed to win the national vote by a couple of percentage points. Which she did. So all polls must be wrong, right? Not when you have a 14 point lead. Which Murphy has. If Democrats go out and actually vote, he'll win.

But what of Republican Kim Guadagno? She served as Christie's Lieutenant Governor for a glorious eight years, and that's exactly why she will not win. She's run a decent campaign, but she just can't get out of Christie's shadow on any issue, even the ones where she differs from him. He's that unpopular.

Not that Murphy has been a dream candidate. He's gotten tripped up over immigration and making New Jersey a sanctuary state. He's also promised to fully fund public schools without being specific about how he's going to pay for them, and he's promised the teachers that he will fully fund their pension without, again, saying how hes going to pay for it. But he's a Goldman Sachs guy and we know all about their fiscal acumen. Not really.

And I'm not really enthralled with his choice of Lieutenant Governor, former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. You remember her. She's the Democrat who shepherded the Pension and Benefits bill through the Assembly in 2011. That's the bill that reduced teacher take home pay for four years and stripped away our collective bargaining rights when it comes to health insurance.

Yes, THAT Sheila Oliver.

She only ran the Assembly. What of the State Senate? Glad you asked.

The New Jersey Education Association is currently committing political hari-kiri by supporting the opponent of Steve Sweeney, the Senate President who got enough Democratic votes to pass the pension bill in his chamber. The problem is that his opponent, Fran Grenier, is a Trump-and-Christie-supporting far right Republican who really dislikes almost everything the NJEA stands for.

But since Sweeney also committed the political sin of  not posting a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the state would fully fund the pension system, reading the public, correctly in my view, as being opposed to it, the NJEA wants him gone. Which won't happen on Tuesday or any other day this week. Which means that the NJEA, which I support on most other issues, will now have an adversary instead of a friend just when Democratic control of the entire state government is probably going to be a reality.

In this case, gun control measures would have stopped the NJEA from shooting itself in the foot.

Nice job.

I expect that Sweeney and the NJEA will make nice up to a point, but I wouldn't be surprised if he took something out on the organization sometime in the next four years.

But of course, the main thing to do this Tuesday, no matter where you live, is to vote.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Weeks Ahead: Pressure, Not Panic

Hoping for something special on Monday when Robert Mueller has promised to unseal the first legal action relating to his probe of Russia's involvement in the election? Speculation is rampant and the Republicans must be nervous or they wouldn't be dredging up Hillary stories. My favorites are the ones that say the Democrats are the ones who colluded with Russia. That's going to be a tough sell when it was members of the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign whose emails were hacked.

But by now we know that facts are not the GOP's, or the White House's, stock in trade. And this was the week that the Republicans paved the way for a tax cut bill that the rest of the country hasn't seen and doesn't allow for much debate because that might open it up to scrutiny. Or debate. Or criticism. Or the very real possibility that many middle class taxpayers will pay more taxes just so corporations can pay much less.

But the Democrats had better be very careful about what they wish for. President Trump will not be impeached, and by calling for such action the left is courting a very serious backlash. After all; it's one thing to vehemently disagree with the president. It's quite another to threaten legal action based on what he's done so far, which is monumentally bad and retrograde and backwards and the opposite of making our country the envy of the world. In fact, the Republicans are already running their 2018 campaign on the premise that a Democratic Congress will seek to impeach the president,which most people do not support.

In short, calm down and let the legal process work itself out. Robert Mueller has the respect of most of the country. Let the news drip for a while. Oppose the policies and keep a sharp eye on what the White House does, rather than on what it says.

On the tax bill, point out where the middle and lower middle classes will lose because of this bill. Remind people that corporations will pay less, but they won't because someone has to pay for the tax cuts. Talk about fairness, because in  the end, that's what this bill is all about, and that's where it ultimately will fail.

And of course, agitate, agitate, agitate.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest