Sunday, June 24, 2018

And You Thought Immigration Was Bad. Just Wait.

The pictures, dismissive commentary, rationalizations and policy contradictions (if there really is a policy) surrounding immigration have shown that the RepubliTrump party is morally and ethically bankrupt.

But that's not really the worst of it. In fact, all of this immigration horror might be a sideshow to what the party really wants to do to the country. And it's all here.

That's right, my fellow Americans; the conservative firebrands who have hidden behind the president's coattails are finally in a position to undo the social safety net programs that have cushioned the middle class, protected the elderly, and given those who were neglected, left behind or just poor a fighting chance to be an integral part of American society.

Forget about the president's dream of returning to 1984. We're on our way back to 1884.

The tax cut that was passed last year was the first step. It created a huge budget deficit that the Republicans have no intention of addressing in any other way than with massive cutbacks in government spending to social programs. Combine the Labor and Education Departments? Great. Stop federal spending on research and development? All the better. Eviscerate the EPA? Already being done. And quite effectively, I might add.

The goal, of course, is to restore the government back to the role that conservatives view as the intended place of the federal government according to the Constitution and the debates of the 1780s. They also want to give big business free reign to run their affairs with minimal government oversight. Remember the last time that happened? It was called the Gilded Age and it resulted in the most massive redistribution of wealth and resources the country had ever seen And welfare was something you received at church.

Welcome to the restart. We've already seen regulations being rolled back, voting restrictions being implemented, crackdowns on immigration, Supreme Court decisions that treat corporations like people, and a tax cut that is providing a huge windfall to businesses while making many middle class earners pay more. The president says that he'll never make cuts to Medicare and Social Security because those elderly voters elected him, but I can't really trust that the GOP won't try something to include those programs in their reorganization.

It is true that there are many programs that need to be pared back or cut. The problem is that the present administration has no nuance. All regulations are job-killers, all people on public assistance are lazy scheming trough-suppers, all immigrants are criminals, all Democrats are unpatriotic. All, all, all.

So get ready for the real work of the conservatives. It will be done as quietly as they can. It's our job to yell it from the rooftops.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Rooting for the World

I understand that the reason the United States is not in the World Cup tournament is because of poor play, suspect coaching and stubborn woodwork, but there is a bit of poetry involved in that the present administration wants to isolate us and have us not play nice with the rest of the world.

So we're not.

Of course, I would certainly want the United States to be in the World Cup and to represent us on the world stage, but we'll have to wait until at least 2022 in Qatar. We are of course shoo-ins for 2026 because the Cup will be played here and Canada and Mexico. Call it the NAFTA Cup. If NAFTA is still around.

The international situation is, as always, dire. Right-wing, nationalist, isolationist, anti-immigrant despots are rising the world over, repudiating the post-World War II consensus that the way to avoid another world war is to cooperate, integrate and communicate. That this consensus is breaking down, and is indeed being led by the President of the United States, is troubling and potentially dangerous. The Chinese have essentially called President Trump's tariff bluff and the ensuing escalation could mean higher costs, prices and tensions. And don't forget that the only person to have left Shanghai last week with one less international chip was...President Trump. And this was after he excoriated and denigrated our allies while complimenting one of the world's most savage political beasts.

The antidote for me is the World Cup. It's greatness lies in its competition and how the players represent it. Many of them play on club teams together, and while they are not always friends, they do have respect for what their opponents can do. Sometimes they hug each other, help each other up, apologize for an inadvertent hit, or, get this one, smile. It's a joy to watch. The closest thing we have in this country is the NBA, where the players have become noticeably more conversational and cooperative with each other, even while elevating the level of competition.

It's also fun to watch because many of the country's teams represent what many of the demagogues in power don't want to see: integrated teams that include players of different races, religions and immigrant backgrounds proudly representing their nations. It's the ultimate rebuttal to closing borders, sending desperate refugees back across the sea, separating children from parents, or imprisoning, beating, harassing or killing those who are different. It is the ultimate reminder that every life is precious because you don't know what talents someone might contribute to their nation if you only see the threat that most of them will not become.

I can also root for another nation's team and not think twice about it.

For the next month, then, I will be reveling in the beautiful game. Join me.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Donny Dictator Defines Deviancy Down

I'm always amused when there's a president in the White House with whom you don't agree, and friends or others ask, "But you want the president to succeed, don't you?" And I suppose, in the abstract, the answer always has to be yes because the success of the president is tied to the success of the country. If the president fails or does things that are detrimental to the country, then it hurts everyone, right? We all want prosperity for all and justice and equality and excellent education and affordable, comprehensive health care and clean air and water and for people to respect each others' differences in the name of democracy and decency and humanity.

But now we have a president who does not represent those values or those hopes.  Over the past week he's supported a lawsuit by 19 states that would allow health insurance companies to charge more for people with pre-existing conditions who want coverage.

He's called law-abiding citizens who want to send a protest message to the country unpatriotic, and has raised the citizen soldiers who serve and protect the United States above others by giving them near-exclusive possession of the national anthem, as if the only ideas they were fighting for are to obey the president and be quiet in the face of injustice and racism. Last I knew, our military has been fighting to protect the rights we have and the democratic values that are attached to them, which include the right to protest publicly and unashamedly.

And just this weekend, the president has called for his good friends in Russia to be readmitted to the G-7 and has embraced his other good friend, Kim Jong-un, in advance of Tuesday's summit meeting, while simultaneously slapping tariffs on our allies and engaging in a trade war that will seriously harm American farmers. And he's doing this under the delusion that the main sin a country can commit is to have a trade surplus with the United States.

Good thing we elected a businessman who has little clue about how international business and trade works.

But the biggest threat the president poses is that he just doesn't seem to understand that he has a responsibility to the law and that presidents are not above it. Saying that he can end any investigation and that he can pardon himself might, according to some legal experts, be constitutional. The problem is that a responsible president wouldn't even broach the subjects. They would allow the justice system to do its job without interference or threats. They would not see this as a personal attack, but a system that only survives when it seeks justice for all.

What the president is doing is defining deviancy down, making what should be outlandish, outrageous, immoral and illegal perfectly normal for him.

Our allies are the enemy and the undemocratic dictators of the world are great men.

Treaties are not binding, but can be changed on a whim.

Insults, bragging and lies are the stuff of official policy.

To oppose the man (not the office) is treason.

To reform Washington, appoint selfish, greedy, anti-science, anti-education know-nothings in every corner of government.

So do I want the president to succeed? Not if he is going to pursue an isolationist, obstructionist, reactionary, unjust, petty course while in office. These make him, and the country, seem small. It's deviance from what we as a country have tried to accomplish up to this point.

That's what we'll get with Donny Dictator from now on.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Absolute Power Grab: Ignorance of the Law Becomes Trendy

There's nothing like studying the Watergate scandal to remind you of what can happen when one person gets more power than they can handle. President Nixon thought he was above the law, but the Supreme Court said otherwise.

Now we have Nixon redux or, more likely, Trump acid reflux, in the form of a president who believes that he too can ignore the law because he has "unfettered authority over all federal investigations." If you're not frightened by this statement, then you are either are too young to have lived through Watergate, and I'm sorry but learning about it in school, if you ever did, is not the same, or you don't really understand the fragile balance of power between the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches of government.

For the president to acquiesce in this power grab doesn't surprise me, but it is disturbing. As Indiana Representative Samuel B. Pettingill said of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the debate on the court packing plan of 1937:

"This is more power than a good man should want and a bad man should have."

Of course, President Trump came into office and was immediately frustrated by how much he could not do simply because he was president, but now that he has advisers who share his disdain of constitutional limits on the executive, he's feeling untouchable and more secure. And while it is true that the president can terminate the investigation by firing the Special Prosecutor, that does not mean that Congress can't step in and prosecute the president for any crimes or misdemeanors that the prosecutor has uncovered. Then there's public opinion, which, in Nixon's case, was the undoing of his administration after he ordered the firing of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, precipitating the Saturday Night Massacre.

Yes, President Trump could fire Robert Mueller, but that wouldn't mean the end of the drama. If nothing else, the American people understand the importance of concluding an investigation and publicizing the results. Firing Mueller would necessitate suppressing the evidence, which would result in more lawsuits. And more suspicion. Because the more the president talks about how unfair the investigation is, the more guilty he looks.

What this all comes down to is the fact that the president believes that he is untouchable and that he can control the news cycle with his juvenile tweets, empty threats and folksy phrases, all served up with a 6th grade vocabulary and lots of !!!!. The courts will have the final say, and based on past decisions, and the constitution, the president will likely lose.

For the sake of the republic, I certainly hope so.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest