American Priorities at a Crossroads: Trump’s Budget Leaves America Behind

The Trump Administration released its 2018 Budget Proposal and the picture is a disturbing set of priorities aimed at increasing military and law enforcement spending over the next 18 months by $100 billion, while slashing spending on domestic programs that will adversely affect health and human services, education, and scientific advancement.

If this is putting America First, then there are surely tough times ahead for the majority of working Americans and families.

Increasing spending on the military budget is a monumental waste of money that would be better used to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure, create jobs, and shore up entitlement programs that are in need of sensible reform: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Currently, military spending accounts for 54 percent of the federal budget (2015 figures). That means for every tax dollar raised in revenue, over half of it goes to spending that does not directly benefit American workers and taxpayers. The benefits we do get from such lavish spending in terms of national security is largely indirect in the form of a subsidized belief that the bigger our military, and the more money we spend on it, the safer we are. That is a false argument to be sure.

Spending more money on the military in a time of social, economic, and political crisis is a failure of Trump to live up to his stated priorities of putting Americans back to work and ensuring that economic prosperity is spread around to those states, and the working class citizens in them, who feel they have been left behind in the wake of trade agreements, technological innovation, and the forces of globalization.

Many people who voted for Trump may “feel” that his budget proposal reflects their values. But when the anti-tax Congress refuses to fund vital programs, including a much needed overhaul of our nation’s infrastructure, and jobs do not suddenly materialize by returning from overseas, they will once again be left holding the bag. We may have the most powerful military in the world, but the most powerful nation it protects will not be able to provide good paying jobs for its workers, while the streets and bridges crumble under their very feet.

Trump’s Travel Ban Voided by Courts

The ill-fated attempt by President Donald Trump to keep immigrants and refugees out of the U.S., in some cases indefinitely, met stiff resistance not only from concerned citizens, the Democratic Party, and even members of his own party, it was also greeted with skepticism by the federal courts.

Judges from New York and Boston, to Seattle and Los Angeles, effectively put the ban on hold by issuing injunctions against its enforcement while legal challenges to its constitutionality are heard by the courts.

As a result, individuals who were barred last week from entering the country are now able to travel to the U.S., as officials at Borders and Customs, as well as Homeland Security and TSA, announced they would not be enforcing Trump’s executive order given the intervention by the courts.

Trump was ill-tempered in his reaction. On Twitter he posted the following message: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

Poor Trump. He doesn’t understand how the U.S. Constitution works, with all those division of powers between the three branches of government, and the doctrine of checks-and-balances to make sure no single branch, whether Executive, Legislative or Judicial, can run riot over the others. Trump doesn’t understand this, and for that reason assumes that whatever executive orders he sings automatically become law. He just doesn’t get it. So sad!

Trump continues to cyberbully, further proving he is unfit for the office

#RealNews from today’s New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Thirty years as a union boss in Indiana have given Chuck Jones a thick skin. But even threats to shoot him or burn his house down did not quite prepare him for becoming the target of a verbal takedown by the next president of the United States.

In what one Republican strategist described as “cyberbullying,” President-elect Donald J. Trump derided Mr. Jones on Twitter, accusing him of doing “a terrible job representing workers” and blaming him for the decisions by companies that ship American jobs overseas.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!

12,14912,149 Retweets 45,63945,639 likes

The Twitter message from the president-elect at 7:41 Wednesday night, and a second one urging Mr. Jones to “spend more time working — less time talking,” continued Mr. Trump’s pattern of digital assaults, most of them aimed at his political rivals, reporters, Hollywood celebrities or female accusers. On Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump used Twitter to assail Boeing for escalating costs on the development of a new Air Force One.

But rarely has Mr. Trump used Twitter to express his ire at people like Mr. Jones, the president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, who described himself on Thursday as “just a regular working guy.” With the full power of the presidency just weeks away, Mr. Trump’s decision to single out Mr. Jones for ridicule has drawn condemnation from historians and White House veterans.

Read the full article here.

Trumpism: The Dangers of Disruption

From today’s New York Times (Opinion Section):

by Francis Fukuyama, Senior Fellow, Stanford University

In Silicon Valley, where I live, the word “disruption” has an overwhelmingly positive valence: Thousands of smart, young people arrive here every year hoping to disrupt established ways of doing business — and become very rich in the process.

For almost everyone else, however, disruption is a bad thing. By nature, human beings prize stability and order. We learn to be adults by accumulating predictable habits, and we bond by memorializing our ancestors and traditions. So it should not be surprising that in today’s globalized world, many people are upset that vast technological and social forces constantly disrupt established social practices, even if they are better off materially.

Of course, globalization has produced enormous benefits. From 1970 to the 2008 financial crisis, global output quadrupled, and the benefits did not flow exclusively to the rich. According to the economist Steven Radelet, the number of people living in extreme poverty in developing countries fell from 42 percent in 1993 to 17 percent in 2011, while the percentage of children born in developing countries who died before their fifth birthday declined from 22 percent in 1960 to less than 5 percent by 2016.

Yet statistics like these do not reflect the lived experience of many people. The shift of manufacturing from the West to low labor-cost regions has meant that Asia’s rising middle classes have grown at the expense of rich countries’ working-class communities. And from a cultural standpoint, the huge movement of ideas, people and goods across national borders has disrupted traditional communities and ways of doing business. For some this has presented tremendous opportunity, but for others it is a threat.

Mr. Trump’s ascent poses a unique challenge to the American system because he fits comfortably into the trend toward illiberal democracy. He validated himself through popular support, but his entire career has been spent trying to bypass inconvenient rules — like the requirement to pay his own subcontractors. Much of his popularity rested heavily on his willingness to break existing customs about political correctness. This seemed politically bracing at first, but quickly became worrisome when Mr. Trump suggested that as president, he would “open up our libel laws” to initiate civil suits against his media critics. His pitch to the American voter was “I alone” can fix the country’s problems through sheer force of personality, and not through a reform of the country’s institutions.

That Mr. Trump expressed admiration for Mr. Putin, and that Mr. Putin returned the favor, should come as no surprise. Like Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump seems to want to use a democratic mandate to undermine the checks and balances that characterize a genuine liberal democracy. He will be an oligarch in the Russian mold: a rich man who used his wealth to gain political power and who would use political power to enrich himself once in office. And like Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump was able to create alternative narratives that often went unchallenged by his supporters.

Read the full article here.

Fake News, #Pizzagate, and the Ugly Turn to the Right after Trump

From today’s New York Times:

The North Carolina man who was arrested on Sunday for firing a rifle in a popular Washington pizzeria confirmed he was motivated by the storm of fake online news about a suspected child trafficking ringallegedly running out of the restaurant and led by Hillary Clinton.

Edgar M. Welch said in an arraignment released on Monday that he had read online that the Comet Ping Pong restaurant in Northwest Washington was “harboring child sex slaves, and he wanted to see for himself if they were there,” according to court documents.

Read the full article here.

Kellogg’s pulls ads from white nationalists, Breitbart calls for un-American boycott

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Breitbart News is asking its readers to boycott Kellogg Co. after the cereal maker said it would no longer advertise on the conservative news website.

In a post on Breitbart News on Wednesday, the publication called on readers to sign a #DumpKelloggs petition against the manufacturer, whose brands include Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies and Cheez-It.

Kellogg on Tuesday said it would pull its ads from Breitbart News after consumers notified the manufacturer that its products were appearing on the site. A company spokesperson told the Associated Press, “We regularly work with our media buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that aren’t aligned with our values as a company.”

Breitbart fought back hard. “Boycotting Breitbart News for presenting mainstream American ideas is an act of discrimination and intense prejudice,” Alexander Marlow, Breitbart News editor-in-chief, said in the Breitbart News article.

The anti-Kellogg petition accused Kellogg of trying to “placate left-wing totalitarians.”

In a statement, Kellogg said, “To be clear, our decision had nothing to do with politics.”

Breitbart News, a hard-right site know for scorched-earth populism, has been popular with the “alt right,” portraying immigration and multiculturalism as threats. The site’s critics say it has explicitly embraced white nationalism.

The site’s former chairman, Stephen Bannon, helped run Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and is now poised to become one of the president elect’s top advisers in the White House. Since the election and Mr. Bannon’s appointment, scrutiny of Breitbart has intensified.

Trump Cabinet Signals Embrace of Wall Street Elite

We told you so, America. Trump voters have elected a billionaire business man, with a myriad of conflicts of interest between his private companies and his new public position, and who has deep ties to Wall Street and the wealthy and political elite of this country. There will be no change under Trump; only more of the same status quo economics that has hurt ordinary working Americans and enriched the wealthy even more. It almost belongs in a Charles Dickens novel. So sad!

From The New York Times, December 1, 2016. Read the full story here.

In a campaign commercial that ran just before the election, Donald J. Trump’s voice boomed over a series of Wall Street images. He described “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations.”

The New York Stock Exchange, the hedge fund billionaire George Soros and the chief executive of the investment bank Goldman Sachs flashed across the screen.

Now Mr. Trump has named a former Goldman executive and co-investor with Mr. Soros to spearhead his economic policy.

With Wednesday’s nomination of Steven Mnuchin, a Goldman trader turned hedge fund manager and Hollywood financier, to be Treasury secretary, a new economic leadership is taking shape in Washington.

That two investors — Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Ross — will occupy two major economic positions in the new administration is the most powerful signal yet that Mr. Trump plans to emphasize policies friendly to Wall Street, like tax cuts and a relaxation of regulation, in the early days of his administration.

While that approach has been cheered by investors (the stocks of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been on a tear since the election), it stands in stark contrast to the populist campaign that Mr. Trump ran and the support he received from working-class voters across the country.

Don’t believe economic lies that Trump peddles this election

From today’s NYT article on Trump’s economic policy speech:

“But the economic agenda Mr. Trump described included many traditionally Republican policies that offer little to no direct benefit to working-class Americans, while giving a considerable financial boost to the wealthiest.

For example, Mr. Trump called for ending what Republicans label the “death tax.” He did not mention that the estate tax currently exempts the first $5.45 million for an individual and $10.9 million for a married couple — meaning that only the very wealthy pay even a dime. If Mr. Trump’s net worth is as large as he has says, his heirs would have a great deal to gain from eliminating the estate tax; the typical displaced steelworker or coal miner, or even a relatively prosperous retiree, would have nothing to gain.”

If disaffected workers want to make gains, they should not vote for someone who will institute “labor” reforms that make the already wealthiest American even more wealthy, while leaving workers themselves farther behind. The only way American workers will be able to make gains is by advocating for and passing labor reform that improves wages, while limiting the income gains of the wealthiest Americans who, let’s face it, already have enough to get them by comfortably.

Just 9 percent of eligible voters chose Clinton vs. Trump

The New York Times has an excellent interactive graphic that illustrates just how problematic American democracy is, given widespread skepticism about the choices voters face in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Some facts:

  1. The United States is home to 324 million people. Each square in the graph represents 1 million people.
  2. 103 million of them are children, noncitizens or ineligible felons, and they do not have the right to vote.
  3. 88 million eligible adults do not vote at all, even in general elections. (THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM THAT NO POLITICAL PARTY IS ADDRESSING.)
  4. An additional 73 million did not vote in the primaries this year, but will most likely vote in the general election. (TAKEN TOGETHER WITH FACT #3, THIS MEANS 161 MILLION ELIGIBLE VOTERS DID NOT VOTE FOR ANY CANDIDATE DURING THE PRIMARY ELECTIONS.)
  5. The remaining 60 million people voted in the primaries: about 30 million each for Republicans and Democrats.
  6. But half of the primary voters (30 MILLIONS PEOPLE!) chose other candidates. Just 14 percent of eligible adults — 9 percent of the whole nation — voted for either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton.

When only 9 percent of eligible voters choose the candidates from the two major political parties, and so many other people are either (a) unhappy with those candidates and voted for someone else or (b) didn’t show up to vote at all, it shows there is a debilitating weakness in America’s democratic process.

How can we strengthen democracy in America without addressing the stranglehold that the two-party system has on it? Republicans vs. Democrats, Democrats vs. Republicans? No wonder there is such polarization in our politics, because the system is rigged to benefit the major political parties. And neither party is doing anything to encourage the majority of eligible voters who are not showing up to the polls at all (and likely won’t in this election given the dissatisfaction of the electorate with both candidates).

Cal State Faculty Unions protest Chancellor Tim White’s campus visits, prepare themselves for strike

Hundreds of thousands of Cal State students will not have to worry about their professors going out on strike after the union representing faculty members failed to authorize a work stoppage on Tuesday.

That reprieve may be temporary, however. The leaders of the California Faculty Assn. warned they could still hit the picket line in the near future if their salary demands are not met.

“Faculty are ready and willing” to go on strike, said union President Jennifer Eagan, a professor at Cal State East Bay in Hayward.

The union, which represents nearly 26,000 professors, lecturers, counselors, librarians and athletic coaches at the 23-campus system, and Cal State administrators have been in deadlock since June 2015 over salary increases for the 2015-16 academic year.

The union has demanded a general 5% pay hike. Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White has offered a 2% increase, despite the lack of any raises over the last six years in the post-recession climate.

Click this link for video clip of today’s rally at Cal State LA:  IMG_7744