Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Far Right Gets Closer

Be honest; you thought that maybe this presidency and the direction of the country couldn't get more offensive or obnoxious or dangerous. And yet, here we are.

The administration is beating the war drums over Iran, and what did you expect? I've always thought that anyone who would give John Bolton any responsibility over foreign affairs truly knew nothing about how to conduct foreign affairs. He served as a recess appointment under George W. Bush and managed to alienate almost every one of our allies. But now he's a major spokesperson for an executive who clearly doesn't know what his advisers are doing. After all, any president who is quoted as saying he doesn't want to go to war has clearly allowed events to get ahead of him. But then, when you don't know policy, you're beholden to the most reactionary of your staff. In fact, the president said yesterday that he wanted some assurance that the Iranians were not going to be able to build a nuclear weapon any time soon. We had that assurance in the treaty with Iran that the president took us out of. I really wish I was making this up.

As for China, the president actually caught a bit of a break this past week because it was President Xi who upended the trade negotiations, perhaps gambling that he could snooker Trump and be seen as the more sober-minded executive/dictator. Normally, that's not a bad bet, but this time it backfired and now Xi has to either backtrack or double-down on his mistake. He seems to have chosen the latter. This gives President Trump something he's rarely had; the moral high ground, and he's using it to threaten, and then restrain himself, on new tariffs that would seriously hurt the American economy. Luckily for us, Trump thinks that the stock market is the only number that matters economically, and when the market dove last week, he got cold feet. We will likely still see the tariffs and higher prices and lower profits over the next few months. So much winning.

The worst, though, are the new reactionary, destructive laws concerning reproductive choice and health care passed in Republican controlled states. The most noxious is, of course, the Alabama law that not only would ban abortion, but would also criminalize doctors who perform them and not make exceptions for women who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Missouri followed suit with a fetal heartbeat law that would allow require rape and incest victims to carry their fetuses to term.

Normally, I would say that these law would go nowhere because of controlling court decisions, but we are in a new universe where conservative justices might decide that we have no right to privacy and strike down Roe, Loving and Griswold in one fell swoop. In sum, they could rule that states can pass whatever laws they want in the name of states rights. Many conservatives say that the Roe decision is the worst Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott. These people never mention Plessy v. Ferguson as a terrible decision because it would allow states to treat anyone they don't see as normal as a second-class citizen. Forget separate but equal; we're looking at separate and deport, marginalize, and jail.

If you still don't believe that this administration and the religious fanatics who support it are a danger to free thought, equal protection, and democratic values, then you need to realign your thinking. Just make sure you're registered and that you vote.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, May 5, 2019

No Taxation With Representation: Corporations Seem to Have Both

I love it when the media runs stories about huge multinational corporations that do not pay any income tax. Why? Because it inevitably leads to...crickets. Oh, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats will make angry speeches, but they disappear after a few days. Then the corporations fight back and say that they're paying what the law says they should pay. And then they write out no check and continue to plow their profits into overseas factories and their stock price.

Ain't Capitalism grand?

In fact, this is a national disgrace and there should be protests in the streets whenever any company pays zero tax. And the tax laws should be written so that huge multinational corporations should always have to pay taxes every year, and not just income taxes.

Corporations should have to pay a percentage of their profits to support public education, the environment, and infrastructure. They should offer much larger pay packages to all of their employees that include affordable health insurance, and larger 401(k) matches when an employee opens an account. Executive pay should be adjusted and cut so it doesn't dwarf the salaries paid to the workers who actually create, deliver, support and innovate.

But that doesn't happen, and it won't with the current gang of Republicans and most of the Democrats we have currently serving in the Congress, because they are bought and paid for. And so is the president. After all, this is man so terrified of releasing his tax return, because he knows it will show something ugly and/or illegal about his business practices, he will go to any lengths to grovel at the feet of the ultra-conservative wing of the party and select only the most anti-government cabinet members and Supreme Court justices to protect him in case the Democrats sue or subpoena his files.

The worst part, though, is that we are at a point in our history where wealth and money and excess and things and things to hold the things we have too much of which makes Marie Kondo a celebrity and box office numbers and player salaries and companies that are worth a billion dollars but are really worth very little are part of of our national culture. Our national conversation. Our national, and personal, aspiration. This creates the false assumption that we can all be wealthy and that the capitalist system works because free markets work.

This is why we don't march in the street when a new tax law creates a scenario where corporations pay nothing but middle class homeowners have to pay more.  Because we believe we are next to hit the jackpot. And we're not a little scared that if we do march, we will be fired.

It's time for the tide to turn and for some fairness in the system. Think about that next time you're in the voting booth.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest