Sunday, April 28, 2019

Whither the Family?

I think I'm rather glad that there's nobody in the conservative movement who/s doing what Phyllis Schlafly did in the 1960s and 1970s. After all, why would we need a person who says that women should stay home, take care of their families and be obedient to their husband, while at the same time jetting around the country (and not being with her family), running for Congress, and joining conservative organizations? Please don't misunderstand me; I'm saying that we need activists of all genders and orientations to carry forward positive, useful messages that will bring encouraging change to this country. Mrs. Schlafly preached one message and lived quite another, all the while attempting to scare people into thinking that the Equal Rights Amendment, which she can take credit for defeating, would require unisex bathrooms, women forced into the labor market, and gay marriage. Then again, she was right, but for the wrong reasons.

With the conservatives back in charge of most of the government, it's their time to talk about what they rue as the breakdown, or dormancy, of the family. But of course, this argument comes down to how you define the American family. If your idea is of a man and woman and children and perhaps a pet or two with the man working and the women staying home full or part time, then yes, we have a family system in decline.

But if you define a family differently, with, say same sex couples, unmarried couples, single parents or many adults living, working and being responsible for each other and offspring, then the issue looks different.

And if you also see the decline in the family as a result of changes in the economy, then it looks even more different. Part of the conservative lament is that women have entered the work force, which raised incomes and family spending power, which led to rising prices and the cost of family-related services and thus the decline of purchasing power. This then necessitated both men and women to work more hours to keep up which resulted in children being kept in child care for longer days, more family stress, and pressure on career couples to work harder just to keep up.

At the lower end of the income scale, the problem seems to stem from the fact that there are fewer jobs for men that would allow them to make a decent living, which is scaring off the available women who are deciding (deciding!) that they might be better off having a child and not getting married because, well, the man might be more trouble than he's worth. And since single women are at the very bottom of the income scale in this country, they have to run faster just to keep up.

Some of the proposals in the article I linked to would allow families to borrow from their Social Security by taking paid leave now and having to work longer in their 60s to make up for the amount they borrowed. After all, it's revenue neutral for the federal government. Of course, the federal government under the GOP had no problem slashing the corporate tax rate by 15% and giving the wealthy huge tax cuts ever since 1981, both of which resulted in trillion dollar debts to the federal budget.

But helping families get 12 weeks of paid leave? Sorry--must be revenue neutral.

And of course, let's not get started about families headed by gay couples or LGBTQ Americans who love their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, theyfriends, biological children, adopted children, foster children, and pets. We know that conservatives might pay some lip service to these arrangements, but beneath the surface, social and religious conservatives are hoping that Brett Kavanaugh will undo the abominations of a fellow Republican, Anthony Kennedy, who actually understood differences and accepted them as American, pure and simple.

The problems associated with the family are, to a great extent, related to the enormous income inequality that's been foisted on the American Republic since the election of Ronald Reagan. If incomes don't stagnate, then families and workers have a chance at earning real money and could cover the costs of services they need to function effectively as a family. If the government would recognize the dire need we have today for subsidized child care, paid family leave, and government programs that actually supported people who need the services, then we could have families that wouldn't be stressed about missing work or school to take care of their needs. Having to borrow from Social Security to pay for child care is an unnecessary burden that wealthier people do not have to carry. And it's also a cruel joke on people who will likely need their Social Security at an earlier age than wealthy people.

I want strong families. I want healthy, well-educated children to have an opportunity to succeed in this country. I want people to be able to spend time with their loved ones, share experiences and contribute to the country. Let's elect people who will share in this desire.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Mueller Report Is Worse Than I Thought

I'm actually glad that the Mueller Report found no credible evidence of direct cooperation between the Russians attempt to infect the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. It would be terrible, shocking and dispiriting to know that an American presidential candidate was working with an enemy to undermine our democratic institutions.

Then there's the rest of the report. The disgraceful, dispiriting, venal, vile attempt by the president to stop the investigation, intimidate witnesses, subvert the investigative process, and otherwise use his office as a blunt instrument to bludgeon those who would question his utterly questionable behavior is proof positive that when it comes to draining the swamp, Donald Trump is an utter failure. In fact, Trump has brought so many mosquitoes into the swamp that Washington could run out of blood by the end of the year.

What saved the country, and indeed his presidency, were the actions of many of the president's subordinates who refused to carry out his orders, stalled, quit, or in some ways redirected the president's anger to other concerns. They are not heroes, but they do qualify as capable public servants who knew the constitution and our democratic processes better than the president. 

And, as is usual, most of them no longer work in the Trump White House because they defied his destructive instincts. The ones that are left, including Attorney General William Barr, seem to be more committed to the president than the workings of their offices and their responsibilities to the constitution.

What's worse is that the president believed he had to undermine the free press, questions people's loyalty to the country, and pay fealty to his most ardent supporters by making himself out to be the victim of some misbegotten prosecutorial overreach. What we now know is that the press is alive and vital, proving that it was the president and his press secretary who did not have their facts straight. And those former underlings who had their loyalty questioned or who were fired and/or testified against the president turned out to be the ones with the correct stories.

The president might not have cooperated with the Russian attempt to subvert the 2016 election, but he did absolutely nothing to stop it and everything to goad them and Julian Assange to feed the press stories that would not only hurt Hillary Clinton, but would denigrate our intelligence services and law enforcement agencies. He expressly denied that it was even the Russians who were the main actors, despite the CIA conclusion to the contrary. He tried to get his Attorney General to stop the investigation, and fired James Comey, thinking the whole problem would go away.

Tell me where, in all that heavy traffic, he made that tricky u-turn back to being completely exonerated. There might not have been collusion, but there was active ignorance. No crime, but plenty of attempts at breaking the law. And the president blew lots of hot air, but that only fed the fire. he has set a terrible example for the country and has made it clear that he is only interested in appealing to the minority of people who voted for him in 2016. We deserve better and I hope we get that in 2020.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Stranger Deserves Better

A year ago, I wrote this post about Passover, Easter, and immigration.

Here we are again, but the problem seems to have gotten worse. And by problem, I mean what the president says and does about people who want to escape violence, have a well-founded fear that their political views will get them jailed or killed, or who live in countries where they belong to the wrong social, ethnic or religious group. He speaks about a crisis at the border, but much of crisis is based on decisions he has made, such as separating children from their parents and creating camps that, in any other country, would ignite a firestorm of criticism for human rights violations.

But my main point now, as it was a year ago, is that the president and those who most fervently support him on religious grounds have simply betrayed their beliefs. The Bible is clear about how Christians and Jews should treat those who are strangers or poor or in need in our countries. There's really no debate. Or contradiction. We should all welcome those who are less fortunate or need food or shelter both realistically and metaphorically.

If the president wants to make good on his threat (threat!) to allow immigrants to go to cities where they will be welcomed, then I say let him issue the order. There is nothing behind such an order but contempt, fear and distrust because he's assuming that other Americans see these migrants in the same way that he does: as criminals, gang members, job and benefit thieves, and worse. Somehow, simply by presenting one's self at the border, a person changes from a citizen of another country who wants a better life into a marauding threat.

This is a disgrace. It serves no other purpose than to stoke fear and reprisals. A serious president would ask for Congress to do nothing else for the next two weeks than to get a bill on his desk that will address the immigration issue with a recognition that both sides need to compromise. The great deal maker could go into the room and not come out until there's a bill. But that would require serious ideas and discussions, something that's been sorely lacking in Washington.

Should everyone be let into the country? No. The law says that each case must be heard and that people must provide evidence that they cannot go back to their country. But those who do show cause should be allowed to stay. After all, this country's growth is based on immigration. If we are to sustain our economy, we'll need more workers to do the jobs that Americans can not or will not perform. We're not making enough Americans to grow the economy and without growth we will be in real trouble. Immigrants have always provided this growth. It's time to stop the fear.

It's also time for religious people who support the president to live by the words they pray and to demand that he stop the harmful rhetoric.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Anti-Semites Never Left

There have been a number of articles and posts lately about the rise of antisemitism around the world, with the main point being that we're seeing a rise in attacks, defacements and comments that question whether Jews are really trustworthy citizens. That a US member of Congress, Representative Ilhan Omer was also guilty of saying such things is troubling, to say the least.

But it's important to note that antisemitism has been alive and well for, well, for as long as there have been Jews in the world, and the rise in antisemitic attacks is more directly related to the rise in global nationalism and populism than anything else. Because when people feel threatened, they lash out at those they believe are responsible for their problems, and since the stereotypes of Jews are related to money, power and nation, we are a convenient scapegoat at a convenient time.

It's disturbing enough to see the rise of this hatred in other counties. It's even worse when we see it in the United States, and it's not just Representative Omar who is a problem. The rise and nurturing of the far right is fueling anti-every minority hatred in the country, and although the president says that he's the best friend Israel ever had, many of his supporters are the worst perpetrators of racist and antisemitic vitriol.

The truth is that antisemitism has friends on the right and the left, so on this issue, there are no uninterested parties. Jews have historically been seen as others who are not part of the nations they inhabit or are allied with its enemies, financial interests, dark conspiracies, and communist revolutions.

The climate is better than it was, but like the real climate, antisemitism is heating up and belching poison into the atmosphere. We will need to be diligent and strong if we are to beat back this latest insurgency.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest