#308 Can We Talk? What Economic Policies Should the Federal Gov’t Really Implement, Please?

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.

Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a “sense check.”  Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective.  Entries #300 and #301 are the most recent “sense checks.”  Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments, please.

Scene: Jordan’s office, Washington, DC, start of workday

092615_2031_Characters7.gifGelly:  “Good morning, Jordan.  Sorry I didn’t make it back from the conference yesterday.  Long day.  How was your visit with Walt?”

Jordan:  “Visit was great.  His thinking seems to have returned to normal.”

Gelly:  “So his ‘de-brainwashing’ of Trumpism really helped.  The whole idea of brainwashing someone or some group seems a bit odd to me but it must have worked.”

BrainwashedJordan:  “Worked on Walt and millions of hard-core Trump supporters.  Say, what’s with the sling on your left arm?”

Gelly:  “That’s why it was a long day yesterday.  On the way out of the conference, I slipped on something and landed on my left elbow.”

Jordan:  “Yikes that must have hurt?  Go to ER?”

Gelly:  “Yes, it did hurt.  Fortunately my doctor’s office is close to where I fell.  Went to the office and got an X-ray.  PA said my elbow was fractured.  Then I got this cast.  Well, not really a cast but keeps me from moving my elbow.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “Any idea how long in the sling?”

Gelly:  “Apparently 6-8 weeks.”

Jordan:  “Can you work at all?  Seems as if we should get someone in here to help…at least for a couple of months.”

Gelly:  “Some help would be great.  As far as work?  I can hold a cup of coffee in my left hand but not much else.  Serious typing, trying to file or even moving anything is out for a while.”

Jordan:  “OK, then let’s get somebody in here no later than tomorrow morning.”

Gelly:  “Now, back to business.   At the conference there was a lot of discussion about the effect of government economic policies.”

Jordan:  “Such policies as…?”

Gelly:  “The topic for one of the sessions was Federal government economic policies following the Revenge Revolution.  A couple of speakers kept touting that Trump’s economic policies in the first two years in office were highly effective and should be the basis for future government economic growth.”

Tear PaperJordan:  “You mean such policies as tax cuts for the wealthy, tearing up trade agreements with other countries that the US drafted after WWII, efforts to severely restrict immigration and then allow only people with money to get green cards and finally citizenship.  Those kinds of policies?”

Gelly:  “Yes, but the speakers seemed so convincing.  In the past I’ve heard you debunk those policies.   What I’d like to learn is a simple, but meaningful way to decide which government economic policies are appropriate for certain conditions.  Can you help me?”

Know NothingsJordan:  “Of course.  I have three guidelines – really basic questions that might help you.  The first question is about tax policy.  Ready?”

Gelly:  “Yes, have on my thinking cap.”

Jordan:  “If the Federal government is going to use personal income and taxes to help spur economic growth, to what kind of people should it direct most of the effort?  Who, for example, is likely to spend say $1,000?  A person or family making $35,000 per year with little savings or a person making say $235,000 with a decent stock portfolio?”

Gelly:  “The person or family making $35,000.  That person probably has 5-10 things the money could be used for.  The person making $235,000 will likely never notice the $1,000 and just leave the money in the bank.”

Unemployment2Jordan:  “Question #2.  If the Federal government wants to stimulate employment, which policy would be more effective – trying to create even more new jobs when unemployment is already low or trying to create new jobs when unemployment is high and a lot of people ae looking for work?”

Gelly:  “Why would the government try to create more jobs when unemployment rate is already low?  That makes no sense to me.  Create more jobs when unemployment is high.”

Jordan:  “Question #3.  If you’re the Federal government, when is a better time to save money and pay down the Federal debt?  When Federal tax revenues are high and maybe likely to grow or when federal tax revenues are falling and likely to fall more?”

Money BagsGelly:  “When tax revenue is high.  That’s when government should pay down debt and save for a rainy day.  When the economy starts to get bad is when the government should start spending more money and create more jobs.”

Jordan:  “Gelly, you are on your way to becoming an economist.”

Gelly:  “Those questions and answers seem so basic.  But the left-over Trump supporters kept spouting exactly the opposite of what we just discussed.  They kept taking about more tax cuts for the highest income people. Their argument was if the government doesn’t reduce taxes for people with the most money, they won’t invest, build new plants and create more jobs.  A lot of people seemed to buy in to that argument.”

Jordan:  “Here’s another question.  Say you own a business and the government just reduced income taxes…but mostly for very wealthy people.  And let’s say your factory produces chocolate candy bars.  Are you going to increase production of candy bars in hopes that people will eat more chocolate?”

StupidGelly:  “No, that would be stupid.  Sounds like a waste of money.”

Jordan:  “When would you add production capacity and hire more workers?”

Gelly:  “When I kept having to produce candy bars on overtime and it was hard to keep up with demand.”

Jordan:  “You’re right.  The idea of ‘build it and they will come’ works only in the movies.”

Gelly:  “Then why did Trump promote all those economic policies that seem illogical?  And, even worse, why did the Republicans in Congress pass the legislation?”

Me FirstJordan:  “Short answer is greed.  The Donald was never, ever for anyone but the Donald.  He did not care how economic policies affected the country as long as he and his family could make more money.”

Gelly:  “What about the Republicans in Congress?  Could they have been brain-washed like Walt was?”

Jordan:  “Some maybe.  I think the old adage about ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ applies to Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and some of the committee chairs.”

McConnellGelly:  “When you mentioned McConnell you know what popped in my head?  The scene from ‘The Graduate’ where Elaine is in Benjamin’s rented room near Berkeley, she’s just screamed and the landlord is headed toward the room and turns to Benjamin.  The landlord says to Benjamin, ‘You are scum.’  Seems to fit Trump, McConnell and some others.”

Jordan:  “I’ll buy that.”

Gelly:  “Have you got time to explain more economics to me, please?”

Jordan:  “Of course.  Keep in mind not all economics is as basic as we just discussed.  And some parts are counter-intuitive.  We can talk more about fundamentals…after I refill my coffee.”

Gelly: “OK and I’ll call the temp agency.”

 

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#307 Good Witch Saves US from Becoming Banana Republic (#6 of 6)

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.

Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a “sense check.”  Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective.  Entries #300 and #301 are the most recent “sense checks.”  Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments, please.

Scene: Jordan’s office, Washington, DC.  Jordan having coffee with Walt, a friend from college days.  Conversation began entry #302.

Jordan:  “OK, Walt, I know your head hurts from all the conversation about your ‘de-brainwashing’ of Trump.  But, what you’ve gone through is really interesting.   If you have time, have a couple more questions.”

Baldheaded ManWalt:  “I agree it was an interesting experience.  Yes, I’ve got time for a couple more questions, then I’m outta here.”

Jordan:  “Let’s start with Bob Woodward’s book about Trump.  You know, ‘Fear.’  How’d you react?”

Walt:  “React in what way?  Not sure what you mean.”

Jordan:  “First, did you believe what Woodward wrote?”

Woodward and Book CoverWalt:  “Yes. Best I can tell, Woodward is about as credible a journalist as you can find.  I’ve never heard what I call a true Washington journalist say he’s anything but top drawer.  Forget what the talking heads say about him.”

Jordan:  “You mean talking heads like Limbaugh and Hannity?”

Walt:  “Those two guys and their ilk are not journalists.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “How’d you react when Trump claimed the book was full of lies and made-up quotes?”

Walt:  “Before I was ‘de-brainwashed’…is there a different term than ‘de-brainwashed?’…anyway, before being ‘de-brainwashed’, I would have believed Trump.  But when I was able to cut through the mental fog and start looking at the facts, I had to laugh.”

Jordan:  “You mean laugh at Trump?”

PinocchioWalt:  “Yes, and sometimes at myself for having believed him.  Trump lied who knows how many times a day.  He was a serial liar…even about stuff that didn’t really matter.  He made Pinocchio look like a penny waiting for change.  So the serial liar claims this highly respected journalist made up key parts of the book…and then the serial liar expects rational people to believe him.  C’mon.  At that time Woodward had written I think 7-8 books about presidents.  And he’s going to make up quotes?”

Jordan:  “What about your reaction to the general theme of the book?  Woodward described the Trump administration as operating more like what you’d expect in a banana republic.”

ScreamWalt:  “Woodward’s book title was spot on.  The word ‘fear’ was a great descriptor.  Fear among the White House staff and the agencies about what crazy stuff Trump might try to do and fear of the consequences for the country.”

Jordan:  “You think Woodward…and some others…helped bring Trump down?”

Walt:  “Trump put himself in self-destruct mode during the campaign…even before the campaign.  One thing I can say about Trump – he was an incredibly effective bully.”

Jordan:  “You think Woodward’s book took away his bully pulpit, as it were?”

Walt:  “You know what came to mind when you were just talking?”

Jordan:  “I’m game.  What?”

Witch Bad OzWalt:  “The scene from the ‘Wizard of Oz’ where the bad witch tries to bully Dorothy to give up her ruby slippers.  Then the good witch – in this case Woodward rather than Glenda – shoos off the bad witch and protects Munchkin Land.”

Jordan:  “Pretty good, Walt.  A bad witch gets intimidated by a good witch – as you said the good witch being Woodward.”

Walt:  “Or the good witch could have been Mueller.   The scene from Oz seems to make perfect sense since Trump kept calling any investigation about him a witch hunt.”

MunchkinsJordan:  “When bad witch was shooed off, the Munchkins…aka Republicans…had the opportunity to return to normal.”

Walt:  “Unfortunately, the Munchkin Republicans waited too long before showing any spine and the country ended up with the Revenge Revolution.”

Jordan:  “I agree the Republicans were wimps, especially Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.  Both so-called Congressional-leaders enabled Trump’s bizarre behavior rather than restraining it, but…”

Walt:  “…But what?

Jordan:  “I think the US was headed toward a Revenge Revolution anyway.  The population was too polarized and Congress did nothing to bring the country back together.”

Walt:  “If that’s the case, are you saying Trump and Woodward had no effect?”

BananaJordan:  “No.  Trump’s actions made the polarization much worse.  He allowed the wacko fringes to come out of the closet.  In fact he seemed to promote the wacko far right.  Maybe even worse, his economic policies and efforts to control the judiciary accelerated the country’s slide to becoming a banana republic.”

Walt:  “What do you think Woodward accomplished?”

Jordan:  “You tell me what you think Woodward accomplished.  You’re the former Trumpster.”

Emporer No ClothesWalt:  “Woodward…along with a few others…confirmed what a lot of people suspected about Trump.  Except what Woodward showed the situation was much worse than most anyone thought.”

Jordan:  “The emperor with no clothes and it was pretty ugly, huh?”

Walt:  “Very ugly.  We, as in collective ‘we,’ owe Woodward and the others a big ‘Thank You’ for helping stop Trump.  And helping stop the US from sliding into a banana republic.”

Jordan:  “A certain percentage of the populace still views Woodward as the bad guy, not the good guy.”

Walt:  “That’s the ‘shoot-the-messenger’ crowd.  Most of them are all talk and no guts.”

Trump KingJordan:  “Or, as they say in Texas, ‘All hat; no cattle.’  That’s the same group who wanted staffers to resign if they didn’t totally agree with Trump.  ‘Hail the king.  He can do no wrong.’”

Walt:  “You been in that kind of situation before?”

Jordan:  “Yes, a couple of times, although obviously not at the White House.  Let me tell you in those situations, it is very high risk to try to get the truth out.    The messenger is often the one shot and the real message gets lost in the sound of the gunshots.  We can save those stories for another time.”

Walt:  “OK.  In the meantime, here’s a toast to the good witches – Bob Woodward and the people in the Administration who tried to act like adults.”

Jordan:  “Hear, hear.  To the good witches, ‘Thank you.  And yes, we have no banana…republic.”

Walt:  “I’ll let that one pass.  Now, I have to go.  Great visit.”

#306 What Happens if We Don’t Counter Trump’s Trash Talk about Judiciary? Banana Republic. (Part 5)

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.

Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a “sense check.”  Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective.  Entries #300 and #301 are the most recent “sense checks.”  Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments, please.

Scene: Jordan’s office, Washington, DC.  Jordan having coffee with Walt, a friend from college days.  Conversation began entry #302.

Baldheaded ManWalt:  “So, you want my thoughts on next steps to help the US recover from Trump and his brainwashed supporters, right?”

Jordan:  “That’s what I asked.”

Walt:  “First step would be to rebuild trust in the judiciary system.  Look, I used to cheer when Trump would talk about the crooked FBI or how unfairly he was being treated…and all that crap.”

Know NothingsJordan:  “What changed your mind?”

Walt:  “Like most things about Trump, after a few real facts…not Fox facts…but real facts penetrated my brainwashing cap, I asked myself, ‘Why would the FBI all of a sudden switch from being good guys to bad guys?’”

Jordan:  “And your answer was?”

RantWalt:  “I couldn’t come up with a good answer.  I also thought if the president had been a Democrat and had done 1/10 what the public knew Trump had done, Republicans would have been ranting and raving, demanding impeachment and jail time.  Just look at how long Republicans were obsessed with Hillary’s email server.  Even when no one could find any evidence of criminal activity, they kept probing.  They wouldn’t give up no matter what the evidence was.”

Jordan:  “Well, how would you compare Trump’s behavior to say presidents Clinton or Nixon?”

Walt:  “Clinton was no one’s angel.  Yes, sex in the White House might be tawdry, but Monica a threat to national security? C’mon.”

NixonJordan:  “What about Nixon’s behavior?”

Walt:  “The Watergate break-in was illegal.  The cover-up worse.  But, again, was there any threat to national security?”

Jordan:  “Only if you consider Nixon might have become so unhinged about the investigation that he’d try to start a war as a diversion.  But I think the military would have ignored the orders.”

PutinWalt:  “Trump, on the other hand, set a new standard for illicit behavior.  OK, most everybody can overlook being in bed with porn stars.  But in bed with the Russians?  No way.  Think about it.  The president of the United States, and much of his immediate family, in bed with the Russians.  Some of his sleaziness was well-known and not a surprise.  So, with his known background, why did Republicans let him on the ticket, let alone get nominated?  When the info on the Russian connection started to come out, why did Republicans sit on their hands and do nothing to get rid of him?  I admit I’m not innocent…for a while I retweeted some of his stuff.  But what about Republican leaders in the House and Senate?  They had access to confidential information and did nothing with it.  They’re still in denial.  Bunch of whims.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “You know why they’re in denial.”

Walt:  “Probably same reason as I was – brainwashing.  And that’s my point — now that there has been the Revenge Revolution , the next step should be to start rebuilding confidence in the judiciary.  The country needs a credible counter to the Congressional clowns — the judiciary.”

Jordan:  “Stating the obvious…or at least what should be obvious to the populace…if a country does not have a fair-and-objective judicial system, there can be no democracy.”

BananaWalt:  “We’ve joked…maybe more like gallows humor…about how the US could slide into becoming a banana republic.  You really think that’s possible?”

Jordan:  “Yes, and let me give you an example.  An example of what happens when an fair-and-objective judiciary and a fair executive branch are ignored.  The result is lack of sustained economic growth…and for some countries the result is so bad that ‘Yes, we have no bananas.’”

Walt:  “You really think there’s a link between a fair judicial system and economic growth?”

Jordan:  “No question about it…but for some reason many people don’t make the link.  And politicians don’t talk about it — maybe they don’t know it either.  Here’s a chart that I keep close at hand as a reminder why fair government matters.”

ArgentinaWalt:  “If I read this chart correctly, in about 1900, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita was about the same in the US and Argentina.”

Jordan:  “I’ve seen some studies that indicate Argentina was actually ahead of the US.”

Walt:  “Wow, look what happened over the next century, and especially after WWII.”

Jordan:  “Amazing huh?  Argentina migrated to less and less of a democracy with a less objective judiciary — one that favored the wealthy.  And what happened?  Economic growth stagnated compared to the US.”

Walt:  “So by 2016, real GDP per capita in the US was 4-4.5 times greater than Argentina.  I never knew that.  And you’re saying a lot of the difference was due to a fair-and-objective judicial system.”

Jordan:  “That’s not the only cause but I think the foundation.  Sure, the judicial system in the United States has never been perfect, but until Trump tried to pack the Supreme Court and lower courts with benefit-the-rich only cronies, the system had been reasonably objective.”

HitlerWalt:  “At the same time, we had Trump trash talking, claiming the judiciary was crooked.  Remind you of someone from the 1930’s?  Anyway, when I suggested it was important to rebuild confidence in the judiciary, I never considered that without a fair judiciary, sustained economic growth was not possible.”

Jordan:  “I’m not sure many of Trump’s wealthier supporters didn’t realize that either.  Do me a favor.  Next time someone claims that only economies with minimal government oversight can grow, ask them about the value of an objective judiciary.  After the blank stare, then remind the laissez-fairer’s about what happened to economic growth in Argentina compared to the US.”

Walt:  “I will.  I confess, I never realized for the country to grow its wealth, there must be an objective judiciary.  And the judiciary must not just protect businesses and/or those with money…but an objective judiciary must protect everyone.  You know what?  I need another break.  My post-Trump ‘de-brainwashing’ is emotionally draining.”

 

#305 Republicans Brainwashed by Trump? So, Truth Isn’t Truth? (Part 4)

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.

Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a “sense check.”  Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective.  Entries #300 and #301 are the most recent “sense checks.”  Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments, please.

Scene: Jordan’s office, Washington, DC.  Jordan having coffee with Walt, a friend from college days.  They just returned from getting a coffee refill.  Conversation begins entry #302.

Baldheaded ManWalt:  “I’ll tell you another event that penetrated the brainwashing cap.  In fact, I still shake my head when thinking about it.”

Jordan:  “Which was?”

Walt:  “Remember when Rudy Giuliani, then Trump’s attack dog, stated on ‘Meet the Press’ that ‘truth isn’t truth’?”

Jordan:  “Remember it well.  I did not see the live broadcast…think I was doing something important like playing golf…but saw the video several times.”

Walt:  “Did you see the look on the host’s face?  What’s the guy’s name?”

Jordan:  “Chuck Todd.”

ConfusedWalt:  “That’s it.  Todd looked more dumbfounded than a deer in headlights.  Then he tried to let Giuliani correct his mistake.  But Giuliani in true Trump fashion, refused to admit an error and proceeded to straight-jacket himself.”

Jordan:  “You know Giuliani was right…if you add just one word.”

Walt:  “Not sure what you mean.”

Jordan:  “Giuliani’s right if you state it as, ‘Trump’s truth isn’t truth.’”

Alarm BellWalt:  “Hadn’t thought of it exactly like you phrased it but Giuliani’s comment was so stupid an alarm bell went off in my head.”

Jordan:  “So you had two Trump-related brain-penetrating epiphanies in a couple of weeks.”

Walt:  “Like I said before we went to get more coffee, after Trump’s order to revoke security clearances for high-level people who could protect the country, I began asking myself, ’Self, what have I been thinking?’  Then other Trump actions started to migrate from logical to questionable.”

Jordan:  “You think Giuliani’s ‘truth isn’t truth’ could have accelerated the questioning?”

Alternative FactsWalt:  “Probably.  But I’m still embarrassed to talk about my brainwashed state.  I mean, when I was brainwashed, Kellyanne Conway’s claim about ‘alternative facts’ never caused me to pause.”

Jordan:  “Not to press too much but didn’t you think Conway’s statements were pure BS?”

Walt:  “No.  I even repeated her stuff in discussions about Trump.  One time while having coffee with a friend of mine the conversation turned to Trump.  He made an assertion and I responded that you have your facts and I have mine.”

Jordan:  “How’d he respond?”

Walt:  “After I repeated the claim about alternative facts, he said I was brainwashed, then left the restaurant.”

Jordan:  “Ever get back together for coffee?”

Walt:  “The next time he asked me to provide a data source supporting some Conway-like claim I’d made.”

Jordan:  “And…?”

PinocchioWalt:  “I asked him if he was calling me a liar.  He asked again for the source of information.  I repeated my claim he was calling me a liar…then I left.”

Jordan:  “Seen him again?”

Walt:  “No.  Maybe I should call him.  He was right all along.  But see, that’s another example of being so embarrassed about past behavior.  I mean, what do I say?”

Jordan:  “Why not call him for coffee and let the conversation take its course.”

Walt:  “Good idea.”

Jordan:  “Were there any other what you might call epiphanic events that caused you to think you might have been brainwashed?”

Walt:  “The incident might not qualify as an epiphany but one that I still find humorous.”

Jordan:  “There was humor in the Trump fiasco?”

Walt:  “Well, guys probably think it’s funny.  Not sure about women.  Most guys never progress beyond sophomoric humor.”

Jordan:  “I’m game.  What was the event?”

Walt:  “Remember when Trump’s so-called confidants started to flip?”

Jordan:  “Started with Michael Cohen.  What’s so funny about Cohen flipping?”

Nat'l EnquirerWalt:  “Nothing.  What still makes me smile was when the owner of the National Enquirer was granted immunity.”

Jordan:  “You mean…?”

Walt:  “Yep.  Who ever thought a Pecker could be granted immunity?  Had we known a pecker could be immune from prosecution our college life could have been a lot more fun!”

Jordan:  “That is pretty funny…and so sophomoric.  Seriously, anything else stand out?”

WhyWalt:  “Once the brainwashing cap got penetrated, I started to look at the flood of Trump’s tweets a lot more critically.  What I noticed was that virtually every tweet laid the blame for a problem on someone else or on some Federal agency.  Trump seemed to forget he was in charge.”

Jordan:  “So, now you’re beginning to view Trump a bit more objectively.  What happened to your political position?  Did you start to shift left?  If so, how far?”

Walt:  “I shifted to probably right center.  Still basic conservative values but with a social conscience.”

Jordan:  “Reminds me of how Bush43 tried to position himself – compassionate conservative.  Then he got steamrolled by the neocons and lost focus.”

Walt:  “Guess my ‘right center’ is more like pre-Reagan Republicans.  That was before the party got pushed way right and eventually just refused to work across the aisle.  I know the Democrats seemed to shift to but at one time the Republicans and Democrats actually worked together to get things done.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “OK, now we’re in a new era.  Trump is gone and the country has gone through the Revenge Revolution.  And you’re more open to crossing party lines.  What about other former Trumpsters?”

Walt:  “Some will never get it.  Remember after Nixon resigned, there was what, 20-25% of the populace still supported him?  So those people will stay in their Trump cave.  But the rest of us need to start working together to avoid becoming a banana republic.  People don’t think the US can slip that far but it can.”

Jordan:  “I’m delighted you want to make the government work again.  Now, what’s next?”

(Continued)

#304 Republicans Supporting Trump Brainwashed? How One Supporter Was Cured. (Part 3)

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.

Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a “sense check.”  Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective.  Entries #300 and #301 are the most recent “sense checks.”  Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments, please.

Scene: Jordan’s office, Washington, DC.  Jordan having coffee with Walt, a friend from college days.  Conversation begins entry #302.

(Last comment, previous entry.  Jordan:  “Walt, have you ever studied how people think after they’ve been brainwashed?”)

Walt:  “Are you implying that I’ve been brainwashed?”

BrainwashedJordan:  “Just asking a question if you knew the logic stream of people who have been brainwashed.”

Walt:  “Who else is in the office? Gelly still here?”

Jordan:  “No, she’s got a meeting in another building and will be out for at least an hour.  Why do you ask?”

Walt:  “Because I’ve never told anyone…well other than the psychiatrist.  Sure Gelly’s not here?  And you’re not taping this conversation, right?”

Jordan:  “She’s not here.  I saw here leave.  And, no, the conversation is not being taped.  What’s the big deal?”

Baldheaded ManWalt:  “OK, you’re right.  I was brainwashed by Trump.  It’s embarrassing to talk about it.”

Jordan:  “I can understand that.  How’d you figure it out?”

Walt:  “I don’t remember exactly.  It’s not like I woke up one morning and said, ‘Gee, I’ve been brainwashed.’”

Jordan:  “Well, what did happen?”

Walt:  “The realization was gradual at first, almost like baby steps.  I do remember being taken aback in late summer 2018 when Trump started to yank security clearances from former high-ranking people who’d been in the FBI, CIA and NSA.”

Trump KingJordan:  “What about Trump yanking the security clearances made you take pause?”

Walt:  “I remember seeing an interview with John Brennan…might have been Clapper but I think it was Brennan.  Anyway, the guy said a security clearance was not for the benefit of the individual but for the benefit of the country.  I’d never really thought of it that way.  And here goes Trump acting like a king and taking away security clearances from people who know more about threats to national security than he does.”

Jordan:  “And…”

Walt:  “…and I kept asking myself ‘Why take away the clearances?’  Then I began to think it was his fragile ego was hurt when some of these guys raised questions about the Trump Administration’s policies. It began to bother me that Trump’s actions to satisfy his ego could really hurt the country.”

Jordan:  “After that revelation, did you change your mind about a conspiracy among the US national security agencies to get rid of Trump?”

Ping PongWalt:  “Not all at once.  I bounced back and forth.  It was as if I was playing ping-pong by myself.  One day a conspiracy theory; the next day no conspiracy.”

Jordan:  “But each day you were less and less supportive?”

Walt:  “Gradually I became convinced there was no conspiracy.  One day I said to myself, ’Self, Trump is the problem, not the FBI or CIA.”

Jordan:  “Then what”

Walt:  “When I started to put claims of a conspiracy theory into a different context, then a lot of other claims Trump was making started to fall apart.”

Jordan:  “How long did it take you to change your mind?”

Humpty DumptyWalt:  “Once I got though the conspiracy analysis, then like the baby who now knows how to walk, the pace picked up considerably.  And finally, Trump became more like Humpty Dumpty.”

Jordan:  “Did you talk to anyone about your change of support for Trump?”

Walt:  “How could I?  For three plus years…during the campaign and then when he was in the White House…I’d tweeted about why Trump was so, so right.  To admit I’d changed my mind would have been embarrassing to say the least.  In fact, I still can’t talk about it.  You’re the first one who knows.”

Jordan:  “Well, I’m glad we’re talking about it.  But go back to the time you really started to change.  How’d the psychiatrist get involved?”

mirror-clipart_jpgWalt:  “As I looked in the mirror, I just couldn’t believe what I’d been doing.  I needed to find out why.  What had made me act that way?”

Jordan:  “So you found a psychiatrist?”

Walt:  “I first did some research.  In fact one of the experts on behavior modification was a professor who I think you took a class from at MIT.  Ed somebody.”

Jordan:  “Ed’s class was a seminal event for me.  Very insightful and frankly, changed my life.”

PsychaitristWalt:  “Well, I poured through a couple of his books.  Then I decided to see a psychiatrist.”

Jordan:  “Good for you.  How’d you find the right one?”

Walt:  “Looked through their stated specialties and a lot about what they had studied and where they studied.  Narrowed in down to a couple and then chose the one who was more familiar with Ed’s work…and who knew him professionally.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “Walk me through how you guys worked together.”

Walt:  “First couple of sessions were really me laying out: (i) what attracted me to Trump, sources of information I used, what actions I took, etc.; (ii) how I felt when Trump took certain actions or made certain statements.  Did I always support him?  Did I have any doubts?  The sessions were background information.”

Jordan:  “Then what?”

Walt:  “Next few sessions were trying to understand how I thought I had changed.  Content was much like you and I have talked about but a lot more detail.”

Jordan:  “After you laid out all the history, what was next?”

Walt:  “The next sessions were fascinating, frustrating and embarrassing.  Some of the time we talked about how people become brainwashed.”

Case StudyJordan:  “You became your own case study.”

Walt:  “I was a case study in a course I didn’t want to take.  Anyway I really had no idea I was being brainwashed.  For a long time, all Trump’s ideas seemed to make sense.  Trump seemed so right…and everyone who didn’t support him seemed so wrong.  The world was black and white.”

Jordan:  “But somehow you managed to break out of the brainwashing.  How did that happen?”

Wall BrickWalt:  “Look, I’m no brainwashing expert but as was explained to me, there are ‘holes’ in most brainwashing caps.  If reaction to an event or an idea goes through one of those holes, it accesses the pre-brainwashed mind.  Think of it as a being on either side of a wall or maybe as separate partitions on a computer hard drive.”

Jordan:  “For you the idea of Trump using security clearances for political reasons slipped through one of those holes.”

Walt:  “Yep, and at least part of me was accessing a different partition of my hard drive.  Part of me was back to my pre-brainwashed days.”

Coffee cup StarbucksJordan:  “This discussion is absolutely fascinating…but I need a break bad.”

Walt:  “Me, too, and I could use another cup of coffee.  Now that I’ve confessed, I can quit claiming Starbucks is part of a liberal conspiracy and is just a coffee shop.  Even more embarrassing for me, I like their coffee.”

(Continued)

#303 Trump Supporters Really Brainwashed? (Part 2)

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.

Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a “sense check.”  Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective.  Entries #300 and #301 are the most recent “sense checks.”  Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments, please.

Scene: Jordan’s office, Washington, DC.  Jordan having coffee with Walt, a friend from college days.  Conversation begins entry #302.

Jordan:  “So, Walt, how’s the coffee?”

Coffee cup StarbucksWalt:  “Great!  Where’d you get it?  Don’t tell me.  It’s from that liberal bastion, Starbucks.”

Jordan:  “Yes, Starbucks.  But why does everything in your world have to fall into a bucket?  Why do institutions have to be labeled liberal or conservative?  Starbucks is a coffee shop, not a political party.”

Walt:  “You don’t get it do you?  Or maybe you don’t want to understand.”

Jordan:  “You’ve lost me.  Understand what?”

Walt:  “Many of these institutions are part of a conspiracy.  A Few years ago that conspiracy was focused on getting rid of Trump…and was the primary cause of the Revenge Revolution.”

bang-head-against-wallJordan:  “C’mon.  Stop me from banging my head against the wall.  I admit I find your logic fascinating, even humorous at times…but your logic is also incredibly frustrating.”

Walt:  “Why so frustrating?  Seems pretty straightforward to me.”

Jordan:  “Start with the conspiracy assumption.  A conspiracy requires a group of people.  But the group is usually fairly small since it’s hard to keep a secret, even within a small group.  And now you’re talking about some conspiracy with hundreds, if not thousands, even tens of thousands of participants.  That logic does fly.”

Baldheaded ManWalt:  “But it’s true.”

Jordan:  “Just think about.  How could one possibly coordinate the activities of all these organizations, let alone people within the organizations?  As I said, Starbucks is just a coffee shop.”

Walt:  “Here’s an example.  Before the break you said we were going to discuss my thoughts on the Mueller Witch Hunt.  I know, you think it was an investigation but it was really a witch hunt.  The FBI’s behavior was a perfect example of one group that conspired to stop Trump from getting elected.  Then the FBI tried to get him out after the election.”

Jordan:  “Statements claiming the FBI conspired to elect Hillary make no sense to me.  The facts suggest the opposite.  Actions of the FBI likely helped Trump get elected.”

Walt:  “See, there you go spouting off the liberal fake news.  You need to watch Fox News and start getting the truth.”

FBI LogoJordan:  “If the FBI was trying to get Hillary elected, then why did Comey hold a press conference a few days before the election effectively reopening an investigation about Clinton that found no laws were broken?”

Walt:  “I think laws were broken.  She should have been punished and locked up.  But Comey’s real purpose in criticizing Clinton just before the election was to gain more sympathy for her…and encourage the Democrats to vote for her.”

Jordan:  “Huh?”

PutinWalt:  “Same thing with Obama.  He knew the Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee HQ and were releasing emails to the public.  But he didn’t do anything about it.  Why not?”

Jordan:  “You tell me since the Russians were helping Trump?”

Walt:  “The Russians weren’t helping Trump.  Why didn’t Obama make any public announcement?  Because he didn’t want the make the DNC and Clinton look like they were not on top of things.  I’m telling you, Mueller should have investigated Obama and not Trump.”

ComplicatedJordan:  “Just for fun, please tell me, in Trump world, does the sun come up in the east or west?”

Walt:  “Whadda mean?”

Jordan:  “Never mind.  Back to the FBI.  Let’s turn the situation around.  Suppose the FBI had strong evidence that the RNC had been hacked and the Russians might be working with the DNC to get the Democratic candidate elected.  What would you want from the FBI?”

American FlagWalt:  “A thorough investigation.  Why should the FBI allow a foreign country, especially a known enemy of the US, try to influence the outcome of a presidential election?  If the FBI didn’t investigate, it would be dereliction of duty.  All of them should be fired…and some tried for treason.”

Jordan:  “Let me see if I understand your position correctly.  If the FBI had credible evidence a foreign country, and especially an enemy like the Russian, had infiltrated a campaign and was trying to influence the election, you’d want the FBI to pursue the investigation vigorously, right?”

Walt:  “Yep.”

Jordan:  “And it would be unpatriotic, possibly treasonous if those who had credible information didn’t pursue an investigation and prosecution.”

Walt:  “Yep, again.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “Yet, when the FBI had very credible evidence that the Russians had infiltrated the Trump campaign and the campaign was likely conspiring with the Russians, you supported the Republicans in Congress who objected.  Those same Republicans thought the investigation should be stopped.  Why did you support them when you just said there should be an investigation?”

Walt:  “You don’t listen very well do you?  I told you, the FBI favored Clinton and therefore the FBI evidence and Mueller investigation were a ploy to get Trump out of office.”

Jordan:  “How did you know there was no evidence if you wanted to stop the investigation before it was completed?”

Walt:  “Because Mueller never disclosed publicly any evidence…until issuing that phony report.”

Jordan:  “Even though releasing some of the evidence might have compromised the investigation and might have violated some national security laws, you thought it should be released anyway.  And because Mueller didn’t release the evidence, you think it was likely fake.”

dude-with-questionWalt:  “Not likely fake, it was fake.  At least now you’re starting to understand.”

Jordan:  “Walt, have you ever studied how people think after they’ve been brainwashed?”

#302 Trump Supporters Really Brainwashed? (Part 1)

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.

Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a “sense check.”  Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective.  Entries #300 and #301 are the most recent “sense checks.”  Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments, please.

Scene: Jordan’s office, Washington, DC.

Jordan:  “Gelly, nice to have you back from vacation.”

092615_2031_Characters7.gifGelly:  “Nice to be back.  Had lots of fun but sorta, kinda missed the office.”

Jordan:  “Glad to hear that.  See you got new reading glasses while you were gone.  Look very nice.”

Gelly:  “Thanks.”

Jordan:  “Anything special on the calendar today?”

Gelly:  “Nothing special except your visitor.”

TurtleneckJordan:  “Right.  Walt’s coming over sometime late morning.”

Gelly:  “How’d he get the name Walt?  That’s not his real name is it?”

Jordan:  “No.  The guys in the fraternity nicknamed him Walt.  And I might have been the culprit.  He was always dreaming about some big project…like Walt Disney.”

Gelly:  “Hope you two have a good visit.  Let me know if you need anything special.  We can order in lunch if you want.”

——– Walt arrives ———-

Walt:  “Jordan, great to see you.  Been a while.”

Jordan:  “Nice to see you, Walt.  Last time was a couple of years ago when you guys came to Charlotte for the 4th of July.”

Baldheaded ManWalt:  “We had a great time and the fireworks at the club were sensational.”

Jordan:  “What brings you to town, anyway?”

Walt:  “Trying to help salvage the right-wing of the Republican Party.  Since the Revenge Revolution, the right-wing has been in shambles.”

Jordan:  “You’ve got a tough job ahead of you.  With that in mind, I have what may be a sensitive question.”

Walt:  “You, concerned about being sensitive?  Since when?  Go ahead.  We’ve been friends for too long to worry about sensitive questions.  Besides, if I don’t like the question, I’ll just go run and hide.”

Jordan:  “Think back to the 2016 presidential campaign.  Did you originally support Trump?”

trump-scowlWalt:  “I thought Trump was a blowhard.  More of a flake real-estate salesman than a conservative Republican.”

Jordan:  “But as the other candidates dropped out and the field narrowed…”

Walt:  “…as the field narrowed, his appeal increased.  Truth be known, I would have voted for a yellow dog rather than Hillary.  I just didn’t like her.”

Jordan:  “OK, so you committed to a Republican candidate no matter what.  That candidate turns out to be Trump, who you thought was a flaky real-estate salesman.”

Walt:  “Guess so.”

Jordan:  “Then Trump gets elected.  Were you pleased with the results?”

Walt:  “I was pleased he was trying to make changes.  You know, make the Federal government more efficient.  And I liked the idea of draining the swamp.”

Jordan:  “Were you pleased with his choices for cabinet secretaries?  Think about Flynn, Price and Pruitt, for example.  And what about bringing in the Trump family as close advisors?  Were you satisfied with everyone’s experience in running large, government-like organizations?”

Ends Justify MeansWalt:  “Guess I never really considered the experience.  Was more intrigued with the idea of change than the quality of the people involved or what they had to do to implement change.  Sort of the ends justifying the means.”

Jordan:  “What about Trump’s attacks on the media, the FBI, the CIA…the entire intelligence community?”

Walt:  “As time went on Trump’s claims about fake news and liberal bias in the media seemed to be proved right.  The more I studied, the more I thought the FBI was really after him.”

Jordan:  “As part of your ‘studying’, did you ever step back and ask yourself, ‘Gee, what Trump is claiming to be true is contrary to just about everything I’ve learned over the years.  Wonder why I am changing my views?’”

Walt:  “Didn’t ask any question exactly like that.”

Jordan:  “Aside from Trump and his tweets, where’d you get your news?”

Walt:  “Why do you care?  Why the interrogation?”

Jordan:  “No interrogation.  What I’m trying to understand is why…and how…Trump gained such rabid support among hard-right Republicans when many on the right originally considered him a Democrat.  I find the shift in attitude fascinating…and troubling.”

fox-news-logo bWalt:  “We’ll talk about troubling later.   As I said, I did my own studying trying to understand if Trump was real or not.  I spent lots of time watching Fox – mostly Hannity and O’Reilly before he got unfairly railroaded out – and I’d catch Limbaugh on the radio a couple of times a week.  The more I listened to these guys the more convinced I was Trump was on the right track.”

NYT LogoJordan:  “Did your studying include reading newspapers – let’s say the Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post, Washington Post, NY Times?”

Walt:  “On rare occasion the Wall Street Journal.  The Times?  Never.  Run by a bunch of liberal NY Jews.  Oops, sorry.  But you know what I meant.”

Jordan:  “Actually, I don’t know what you meant.  Give me an example or two.”

Walt:  “Take Paul Krugman in the Times.  He’s way too liberal and always trashed Trump.”

Jordan:  “Krugman is an op-ed columnist for the NY Times, not a reporter. The editorial and news gathering sections of the Times are completely separate.”

Walt:  “I have no proof and therefore, to me, there’s no separation.  If what he writes is in the NY Times, it means the NY Times supports it.”

Jordan (shaking his head):  “Any other sources of info?”

Walt:  “A few conservative websites that have their act together.”

Sarah Huckabee CartoonJordan:  “If I understand correctly, your primary sources of info were Trump, Trump’s tweets, probably the White House press secretary – Sarah Huckabee – and a couple of commentators on Fox.  No print media other than an occasional read of the Journal.  And no other networks such as PBS, CBS, and say MSNBC.”

Walt:  “You got it right.  All those non-Fox sources are too liberal…and fake.”

Jordan:  “OK.  Why don’t we take a break, get some coffee and, then, if ok with you, discuss the evolution of your views about the Mueller investigation.”

Bagel BillWalt:  “OK, but you have to buy coffee…and I want a bagel, too.”

Jordan:  “You do know those liberal NY Jews are the source of those bagels, right?”

(Continued)

 

#301 Republicans: Ask Yourself These Questions about Why You Continue to Support Trump

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.

Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a “sense check.”  Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective.  Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments, please.

During the Independence Day weekend, I tried to assess in Entry #300 whether a 5th US revolution was likely sometime in the next few years.  While one should always be careful about claiming objective analysis of one’s own writing, I concluded “Yes, a revolution is likely.”

Well, this past two weeks seemed to add an exclamation point or two to that conclusion.  Over the years in this blog I’ve tried to avoid commenting on daily or weekly events.  Many such events are merely “noise” over the long-term…and there are many talking heads in the various media offering their analysis.

Jaw Drop

However, Trump’s behavior recently has been jaw-droppingly bizarre, even by Trump standards.  Consider his behavior at the NATO meeting when he trashed the US’ most loyal allies.  The apparent effort to dismantle NATO was a pure gift to Putin.  The NATO alliance was established by the US post WWII as a counter to the Soviet Union’s efforts to invade other European countries.  The history of and reason for NATO seem to be unknown to Trump.

One can argue what percent of GDP NATO countries should spend on defense.  The target for countries is 2.0% of GDP and participating countries have been moving toward the 2.0% target.  Rather than complimenting these efforts and then taking credit for their increased spending, Trump berated them by offhandedly claiming the countries should increase spending to be more in line with the US, or 4.0% of GDP.

swastika

Legitimate arguments have two sides.  The other side of demanding more spending on defense is the reminder than the US and western European allies fought a very heavily armed Germany in WWI and WWII.  Be careful about encouraging countries to build a very strong defense system when one or more could become your adversary.  Remember, it’s better to have a potential adversary inside the tent pissing out than outside ppissing in.

Following the NATO meeting Trump visited England and managed to humiliate publicly Prime Minister May.  And for what gain?  The US has no skin in the Brexit game.  Regardless of the deal Britain negotiates with the European Union, the US can continue to trade with both.  So why trash the Prime Minister?   Why be rude to THE most reliable European ally?  What was there to gain?

Puppet

The only rationale seems to be Trump wanted to gain approval from Putin.  But why court Putin?  Putin doesn’t play golf, at least as far as we know.   Putin doesn’t appear to be a particularly affable guy.  I mean would you really want to sit down and have a beer and cigar with the guy?  So why try to gain his approval?  Why would you want to be Putin’s puppet?

Let’s start by following the money.  Based on what I know about his finances, Trump seems to be in considerable debt to Putin’s cronies (and maybe Putin) — probably hundreds of millions of dollars.  With all that debt Trump seems more worried about protecting his own skin that protecting the welfare of the United States.  Think about taking a loan from the Russians as taking a loan from the gangster-cartoon-clip-art-540pxmafia.  The Russians, like the mafia, play serious hardball when it comes to collecting debts.  Trump and Manafort seem to be aware of the dirt bath they might get if they don’t cooperate with the Russians.

If it’s not the money, then Trump must be so mentally unhinged that he belongs on the funny farm.  Likely the cause is both the money and unstable mentally but let’s stick with the money.

Which brings the discussion back to a like 5th US revolution – the Revenge Revolution.  While as of this writing Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans remains remarkably high, the very high ratings might be best viewed like a bubble in the stock market or housing market.  The bubbles seem to last well beyond what is logical, then suddenly burst and all the air gets sucked out.

Bubble Bursting

What might precipitate the Trump support-bubble bursting?  When the scope of the corruption begins to touch those closest to Trump – immediate family.  What happens to support when Robert Muller goes before the grand jury and gets indictments for Junior, Ivanka and Jared Kushner?  Will Republicans begin to wake up to the extent of the corruption?

What about the public testimony from the US translator during discussions with Putin in Helsinki.  What about the transcript the Russians release of the meeting?  Republicans, surely you’re not so naïve to believe the Russians didn’t record the meeting.

Will Republicans begin to realize Trump’s relationship with Putin could qualify as treason?  Yes, despite the White House flip-flops and wildly funny explanations, the Russians are continuing to try influencing elections in the US.  Such efforts could rightfully be considered an attack on the US and therefore any effort to aid and abet the enemy (Russia) would be considered treasonous.

mirror-clipart_jpg

Republicans go look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Why would I support a president whose behavior is not in the best interests of the United States?”  “Why would I support a president who shows more support for Russia than our closest allies?”

OK, so you don’t like the French…or even the Germans.  And yes, English food is a bit bland.  But why should…and no it wasn’t shouldn’t…you support a president who states publicly his distrust for the US intelligence agencies?

Why support a president who refused to allow anyone to sit in on the meeting with Putin in Helsinki?  Why support a president who refuses to have someone transcribe dialogue at the meeting?   Who refuses (as of this date) to share any information from the meeting with the head of the intelligence agencies or the military?  Republicans – doesn’t this behavior give you reason to pause and ask “What is going on here?”

Putin

Why would a president want to keep secret dialogue with an arch enemy?  Would you still be as supportive if such behavior had been exhibited by president Obama or if Hillary Clinton were president?  I’ll just bet you might not be as silent and sanguine.

If you’re a Republican, how can you justify and support Trump’s behavior as president?  Your rationale is not only flimsy, but filled with holes.  Have you no shame?

drone-manWhile you might ignore all the shenanigans and secrecy with the Russians, claiming the “Trump haters” just don’t understand and are overreacting as usual, I’ll bet you begin to pause when Trump’s so-called “economic policies” hit your pocketbook hard.  Without getting into a wonkish discussion about economics, several of Trump’s so-called economic policies – tariffs, even on countries even where we have a trade surplus, massive tax cuts for business and the wealthy, promoting a weak dollar, promoting low interest rates and a couple of others – are at cross purposes.  First and maybe most important is the tariffs will raise prices and reduce employment – and your pocketbook will be affected.

If Trump wants to make the US more competitive in specific industries, which everyone supports, then two critical items are necessary – increased investment in those industries and a better education for more people.  Trump’s economic polices do neither.

Woman ScornedThere’s more to discuss but enough for now.  The final thought of this “sense check” entry.  When all the lower-income Trump supporters finally realize they’ve been had, we will see the tipping point for the revolution. Remember, hell hath no fury like a (former Trump supporter) scorned.  So Republicans, be prepared and make sure to enjoy the ride to the Revenge Revolution.

#300 Sense Check: Is a 5th US Revolution Likely? (Yes)

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1.  Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.

Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a sense check.  Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective.  Your thoughts are welcomed and appreciated,  Thanks for your time and interest…and comments, please.

Is a 5th revolution in the US likely after the year 2020?  The short answer is “yes.”

WhySince today is part of a long weekend celebrating July 4 and the nation’s declaration of independence, what better time to step back and assess the premise of this blog.  I’ve been writing the blog for about five (5) years with a few months between starting writing and publishing the initial entry.  What has surprised me the most the past five years is not that a revolution seems likely…but the path to the 5th revolution.

Obama PicFive years ago (2013), Barack Obama was in the second term of this presidency. Some key points of that time: (i) the economy was slowly but steadily recovering from the Great Recession of 2008; (ii) even with the economic recovery median household income was flat (not unexpected given the depth of the recession); (iii) the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was just beginning to be fully implemented; (iv) Republicans were making every effort to thwart legislation of nearly any action proposed by president Obama.  Recall Mitch McConnell declared about two years into Obama’s term that his job and the job of Republicans in Congress McConnellwas to make Obama a one-term president.  In addition to attempting to thwart any legislative action, Republicans were holding what became endless hearings on Benghazi.  The pattern of these type hearings continued throughout Obama’s presidency.  None of the hearings produced any substantive evidence of intentional wrongdoing.

In the media, cable was overtaking the networks as a primary source of news.  Cable outlets are not subject to the same FCC restrictions as over-the-air networks.  As a result, news on some cable channels became more of an ongoing editorial with less objective reporting of events.  Fox News, although claiming to be fair and balanced, was the most extreme among the cable news outlets about editorializing events.  At the time Fox had the most overall viewers among cable news channels.  Since 2013 the right-leaning Fox has shifted farther right with even more frequent wildly exaggerated, unsubstantiated claims couched as news.  Over the same period, CNN has moved more left.  While I’m certain Fox News watchers would disagree, MSNBC seems to have carved out a middle, if somewhat left-leaning, position, with more objective reporting.

(As a sidebar, I find intriguing the education level of “top-of-the-heap” talking heads of the various media outlets.  The kings of the hard right, Hannady and Limbaugh, do not have college degrees.  Limbaugh attended college for one year; Hannady attended three colleges over three years.  Rachael Maddow, MSNBC, has an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and doctorate from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.  Chris Hayes, MSNBC, has an undergraduate degree from Brown University and had three (3) fellowships, including one at Harvard.  Exactly what this means, I don’t know but seems worth exploring more.)           

Math ClassAs noted in Entry #1 of this blog, the idea of a 5th revolution in the US was based on math.  Looking back at US history, there seemed to be a revolution about every 50 years.  #1 was the “American Revolution.”  While the American Revolution started in 1776, the revolution did not end until the War of 1812.  #2 revolution was the Civil War, which began in 1861.  #3 revolution was about 1910-1915 with a major societal upheaval associated with rapid industrialization and mass migration – both domestic migration north to factories and the influx of immigrants. #4 revolution was the cultural revolution of the late 1960’s, early 1970’s.  So, given this pattern, I added 50 years to 1970 and, voila, time for another revolution around 2020.

What was not apparent to me five years ago was the catalyst for the revolution.  When Obama was president, many whites were frustrated and angry.  However, the president himself was calm…so calm at times he was called “No drama Obama.”

trump-scowlThe unexpected catalyst for the 5th revolution, at least what seems to be so far, was the unexpected and unlikely 2016 Republican presidential nominee – Donald Trump.  Trump ran a very unconventional campaign, capitalizing on what seems to be his major strength – being a highly effective bully.  But a bully not in the tradition of the presidency, which is often referred to as having a “bully pulpit,” but a bully that one might have experienced in say grammar school or middle school.

ScreamDuring the campaign for the Republican nomination Trump was relentless in taunting fellow Republican candidates.  After earning the nomination, he was relentless in taunting the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.  While in “normal times” one would expect such school-yard tactics to result in a resounding defeat,” Trump won the Electoral College vote even though losing the popular vote by more than three (3) million votes.

As president, Trump has continued to taunt, whether members of his cabinet, members of Congress (including Republicans) and even such allies as Canada, England, Germany and Japan.   The taunting, combined with his apparent disdain for any type of preparedness for any meeting or issue, seems to have great appeal to a hard-core base of white, less educated, lower-income voters.  Trump supporters also include a group of middle-income, mostly white voters, especially Christian conservatives.  While Trump maintains a very high approval rating among Republicans, my belief is the hard-core base is the most likely to start the 5th revolution, the Revenge Revolution.

RevoltWhy expect the hard-core right to revolt?  Aren’t they Trump’s biggest supporters?  Yes, but the hard right will be the most negatively affected by Trump’s policies.  Believe what you will but the coal industry is never coming back.  Use of other fossil fuels is going to drop sharply.  Two of Trump’s favorite industries – steel and aluminum – are highly automated and don’t need many more workers to increase output.

An example of the effect of automation is an industry I know well, the automotive industry.  Compared to when I joined General Motors many years ago, labor content per car/truck has dropped like a rock.  If you want to see the effect of automation, look beyond final assembly, which admittedly has far fewer workers.  Look at labor content in the areas of machining, welding and painting.  All high-paid skilled workers replaced by machines.  The machines don’t take breaks, don’t go on vacation and don’t require health benefits.  Plus the quality using these machines is better.

TractorThe other group likely to revolt is farmers, who also were big Trump supporters.  Exports have become a huge money-maker for family and corporate farms.  Retaliatory tariffs on farm products by China and other nations will decrease demand for soybeans, corn and wheat.  The US produces far more foodstuff than it can possibly consume.  A decrease in farm production translates into a decrease in farm income.

Yes, the hard-core right will be the hardest hit.  But they’re so loyal to Trump…they’re almost fanatical in their support.  Surely they won’t abandon him…will they?  There’s an old saying that might seem sexist but really applies to both genders, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

SurpriseOne day in the next five years or so, the hard-core Trumpsters will wake up and realize not only are the promised jobs not coming back but Trump and Congressional Republicans are on a determined path to cut Social Security and Medicare.  Why?  Because the Federal deficit is too high.  Why is the deficit too high?  Because the Trump tax cuts benefitted the rich and the promised “trickle-down” effect never occurred.  Raising taxes on the rich is out of the question, of course, so these “entitlement” programs must be cut.

The idea that tax cuts for the rich somehow stimulate demand the benefits trickle down to the poor has never been demonstrated.  There is no credible empirical evidence supporting the contention.  George H.W. Bush was correct in calling the trickle-down voodoo-2015958theory “voodoo economics.”  Trump’s tax cuts were pure voodoo economics.

So when the hard-core Trumpsters finally awaken and realize they’ve been had by Trump and elected Republicans, what do they do?  They revolt.  How do they revolt?

Exaggerating the truth has a way of coming back to haunt you.  For the last 3-4 decades, Republicans and the NRA have been touting a clearly distorted interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, especially the right to own an assault rifle or high-caliber weapon used only in the military.  In addition, the hyperbole about a “deep state” has encouraged many on the hard-core right to buy additional firearms and stock additional ammunition.  And what’s the consequence?

SoldierAs noted in the early entries to this blog, the scorned (hard right Trumpsters) begin to exact revenge on the more affluent.  How widespread is such an armed revolt?  Hard to predict.  But what I do know is there are not enough police and not enough military personnel to stop geographically dispersed guerilla raids on single homes and/or neighborhoods, especially if invaders are armed with AR15’s and the like.

Well, now you have the update about the premise of the blog — is a 5th revolution in the US likely?  Not a pretty picture but, unfortunately, a 5th US revolution seems more likely every day that Trump is in office.  Further, the disruption caused by Trump will take years to repair.  Even if Trump were removed from office tomorrow, the country might not avoid the revolution.  And, oh by the way Mrs. Lincoln, make sure to enjoy the play.

#299 Making America Great Again #9: Enforce Fair-Play Rules

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1. List and general description of entries to date.

Note: most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations. Profile of characters (see link at top of page). You’ll catch on quickly. Thanks for your time and interest…and comments.

Scene: Jordan’s office, Washington, DC. Conversation began Entry #289.

Jordan:  “OK, break’s over.  Any more thoughts on having Leviticus as the standard for behavior inside the Beltway?”

092615_2031_Characters1.jpgJC:  “Look, I like the idea of ‘treat thy neighbor as thyself’ as the standard for behavior.  But let’s not be naïve.  What do we do about those people who don’t follow the rules?”

Greenie:  “You mean like Trump and his gang?”

JC:  “Exactly.  Trump’s behavior pointed a flaw in the Constitution – the assumption that members of the Legislative and Executive branches would behave reasonably civilly.   And, with a few exceptions, that assumption proved correct for 200+ years.”

092615_2031_Characters12.gifGreenie:  “Until Trump.  Then he and his gang basically gave the finger to everyone.  He even trashed people in his cabinet who supported him from the get go.  Some display of appreciation and loyalty, huh?”

Jordan:  “So what can be done to stop Trump-like behavior in the future?  What do we recommend to the post-Revenge-Revolution Congress…assuming some of them are willing to listen.”

JC:  “Listen or not, we’ve still got to try.  Greenie, any ideas on how to enforce more civilized behavior?”

010414_1635_16TeachingS2.jpgGreenie:  “A start would be to reinstate the 60-vote rule in the Senate for approving appointments, whether for the agencies or the courts.  A 60-vote rule would force the White House to offer nominees toward the middle politically…not the extremes.”

JC:  “Good start.  We’d eliminate some bomb throwers from the courts and the agencies – like Trump’s Pruitt at EPA and Mulvaney as Budget Director and head of Consumer Protection.  Behavior of both was way out of line.  I mean, Pruitt and his quest for a used mattress from a Trump hotel.  That sounds almost kinky.”

JudgeJordan:  “On the Judicial side, even with the 60-vote rule, what about limiting tenure of Senate-approved judges?  Right now these judges have lifetime appointments.”

Greenie:  “Maybe there could be an appointment period – say 20 years – and then some way to renew the appointment.”

JC:  “I don’t have any idea what the average tenure of a Federal judge is but being on the bench without a review for 20 years seems more than fair.”

Greenie:  “Maybe add a clause about a renewal option.   Whadda say in the military when you agree to extend your time?”

TurtleneckJordan:  “Re-upping.”

Greenie:  “That’s it, re-upping.  Maybe the default is the judges re-up automatically unless reviewed and denied by the Senate.  But make the re-up period for 10 years, not 20 years.  Think about it – 30 years on the bench is a long time.”

JC:  “Would you apply the 30-year limit to all time spent on the Federal bench or a specific court?”

Jordan:  “The only judges that I think are approved by the Senate are for the Appellate, Circuit and Supreme Courts.”

supreme_court_buildingGreenie:  “I don’t know if the limit should be at the court level or in total.  For now, let’s assume the limit applies to a specific level.  Otherwise someone might get to SCOTUS with only 6-7 years left out of the 30-year limit.  That doesn’t seem fair.”

Jordan:  “What about rules for enforcing behavior in the agencies and in Congress, especially the Congressional committees.”

JC:  “Such as the Judicial Oversight Committee in the House?  During the Trump Administration, good ol’ boy Chairman Nunes took classified information from the Mueller investigation to the White House?  Some oversight, huh?  Tried to give the keys to the henhouse to the fox.”

PoliceGreenie:  “OK, Jordan, any ideas how to stop such behavior?  And what about all the obvious ethics violations by Trump, the Trump family and some cabinet officials?  How do we stop that going forward?”

Jordan:  “We need to be realistic.  Whatever the rule, someone is going to try and get around it.”

JC:  “You going to answer Greenie’s question or mumble like some politician?”

Jordan:  “I’m trying to buy time while I think of a good response.”

Greenie:  “What about this idea as a start?  The office of Ethics…or whatever it’s officially called…used to have some power and was respected by the Executive and Legislative branches…at least until Trump.  Why not give the office more teeth?”

Sharks TeethJC:  “More teeth and more transparency.  I realize there’s some information cannot be disclosed.  But, and this should be a big but…no comments, please about personal appearance…the baseline should be to make the public as aware as possible of the shenanigans and unethical behavior by people inside the government, especially members of Congress and high-ranking agency personnel.  The disclosures might force some people to stop.”

Greenie:  “For those who don’t stop, then give the Ethics Office the right to take them to court for a public trial.  No plea bargaining, no consent decree, no sealed documents or other copout.  Make the record public.”

Jordan:  “Court instead of impeachment?”

Judge with GavelGreenie:  “Make it in addition to impeachment.  Some of the behavior will be illegal.  Why shouldn’t that behavior get punished like the rest of us are subject to?”

Jordan:  “Theoretically the behavior is subject to punishment.”

Greenie:  “Two words you just stated are the problem – ‘theoretically’ and ‘subject.’  Too often the SOB’s in Congress or the Executive Branch who blatantly screw the public are given a slap on the wrist at worst, then sent home with most of their pilfered goodies.”

JC:  “You’re getting tough, Greenie.”

Greenie:  “We need to get tough on these bums.  Otherwise the Revenge Revolution will have been for naught…and I don’t like naught.”

JC:  “Agreed.  Now, ought naught we should take a break?”