#344 Lee Iacocca: a Personal Perspective (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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.]  

As noted in last week’s entry, I thought it might be interesting to present information about Lee Iacocca that has been overlooked or generally not discussed in the media. None of the stories will be too personal, embarrassing or disclose confidential information. However, these stories are what I remember most about Lee Iacocca. I hope you find them interesting. [If you missed entry #343, which includes how I met Lee and our working relationship, you might want to read before proceeding.]

One characteristic rarely mentioned was Lee’s voice. You know how some people have voices that are just naturally loud? He fell into that category, big time.

Following are a few examples that come to mind. #1 — Was that an ass chewing?  The office location for EV Global Motors (electric bike company post Chrysler), as you might expect, was in a fairly high-end building in Los Angeles — corner of Wilshire and Westwood. A few of the individual offices had tall, heavy, solid wood doors.

When Lee and I had conversations about personnel, legal or financial matters, the door would be closed. I always thought the wood doors were pretty soundproof. That idea was shattered after one meeting when the staff asked me, “Did you just get your ass chewed?” My befuddled response was “No, why do you ask?” Staff responded, “Because his voice was so loud we heard it out here.”

As a sidebar, the only time I saw him really get mad was discussing legal bills. I remember one invoice in particular that was on the high side. He was furious at the amount and my assignment, which he described in very explicit terms, was to renegotiate the amount with the lawyer.

The subject set of legal bills was associated with what I would characterize as a frivolous lawsuit. An executive of the company had been offered what most would consider a very generous buyout. After presenting the offer, I suggested he review with counsel. Rather than taking the offer, which included a guaranteed payment even if he had another job in hand, which he had, the executive hired a well-known litigator in LA who took the case on contingency — I think only because of Lee’s association with company.

The case ultimately was dismissed and the employee and the hired gun got zero. However, the company spent a considerable amount of time and money on the case before it was dismissed.

Conversations with Lee about the case were unpleasant and because of his frustration, often loud. The conversations with counsel trying to renegotiate the invoice were equally unpleasant and often loud. On a positive note, I maintained a close friendship with counsel until his death a few years ago.

Voice Incident #2 was actually funny, even at the time. Lee and I were to visit a company near Palm Springs that made upscale golf carts. The purpose of the visit was to determine if the company was qualified to make neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV) for EV Global Motors. NEV’s were part of the long-term strategy to expand the product line beyond electric bicycles.

I was to meet Lee at his house in Palm Springs. Murphy’s Law took over that day and I was late. As I stopped at the guard house at the entrance to the development, I heard a voice that sounded as if the person were standing next to me shouting in my ear. But instead of next to me, there was Lee, probably 50-75′ away leaning out of the driver’s side of a minivan yelling, “Dabels, where have you been? Follow me!”

Voice Incident #3 I still find humorous as well. It occurred during one of our regular Sunday evening calls to discuss pending business issues. Over the previous few weeks, the company had experienced a problem with a key component of the electric bicycle. The president of the firm suppling the part was also to call me Sunday night and provide an update on fixing the problem.

Although Taiwanese-based, the supplier had an office in LA and with the same area code as Lee’s home. When the phone rang, I saw the area code 203. Before I could say “hello” there was a “hello” on the other end, to which I responded “Percy?” (name of supplier contact). My question led to a response in a rather loud voice, “Do I sound like Percy? Dabels, (expletive) do I sound like Percy?”

After a quick apology from me, the conversation turned to business at hand. However, whenever I hear the name Percy, my mind flips back to the phone call and the question, “Do I sound like Percy?”

#4, The Buzzer. Iacocca’s office in LA included the desk and the phone from his office at Chrysler. The phone was typical style for that era — touch dial pad and buttons at the bottom for incoming phone lines. On the far right at the bottom was a buzzer, which when pressed while Lee was at Chrysler, would alert the administrative assistant in the outer office.

One day over coffee, he asked me, “See that buzzer? After I nodded, he continued, “When I was a Chrysler, I could press that buzzer and in 15 minutes someone would be in here telling me about the economy in Kazakhstan or some other country. “You know what happens now when I press that buzzer?” I shook my head. “I’ll tell you what happens. Absolutely nothing.”

#5, The Tone of Voice. The final voice observation in this entry is how the tone of his voice changed when talking about family, especially the topic of growing up as maybe the only Italian in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Although he never said it directly, at least to me anyway, the tone of voice conveyed a certain loneliness about not being accepted. Like most of us, our childhood experiences have a profound impact on our behavior as adults.

For Lee, the childhood experiences were a great motivator to become successful, which he clearly accomplished. But even with all that success and glory, what never left him, as probably never leave any of us, were the childhood experiences and that little voice that kept asking to be accepted.

All for now. More next week.

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#343 Lee Iacocca: a Personal Perspective (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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.]  

Thought I would take a break for the second week in a row and write about something not linked to the Revenge Revolution. The topic for this entry, and likely a couple more, was prompted by the death of Lee Iacocca on July 2nd.

Without question, Iacocca was one of the greatest business people of the 20th century. When people talk about Iacocca’s accomplishments, two are usually mentioned: (i) being the father of the Mustang; (ii) leading the turnaround of Chrysler Corporation in the 1980’s. While each is a great accomplishment, there’s more to the story.

From my perspective, two often overlooked major accomplishments are: (i) leading the funding campaign for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Restoring the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island was of great personal interest to him. Iacocca’s parents passed through Ellis Island as immigrants from Italy; (ii) accelerating the implementation of airbags in cars/vans. Most comments about Iacocca and airbags center on his initial efforts to thwart the use of airbags. But he later switched and promoted the use of airbags.

Before going too far with the Iacocca story, I need to explain my relationship with him. We met in his post Chrysler days. He had moved from Michigan to Los Angeles and purchased the rights to an electric bicycle company. Longer term he wanted to expand the bicycle product line to include smallish electric neighborhood vehicles.

The electric bicycle needed a new brand name. He wanted to use “ebike.” The “ebike” name, however, was owned by a company that made electric motorcycles. I happened to be on the board of that company and an investor.

The president of the company, Scott Cronk, and I met to negotiate the rights. After the negotiations, Lee asked if I had a resume. Surprisingly I did, having just left the company that resulted in the move to Charlotte. When reviewing the resume, he ignored my career at GM, or at least never probed about it. What he did comment on was: (i) graduating from MIT, noting that “At least I know you can think,” and (ii) having been an adjunct professor at University of Michigan with the comment, “I like people who teach.”

Then he asked if I would spend two weeks at the company (EV Global Motors), analyze operations and give him an assessment. I thought it might be a fun gig, and if nothing else, great cocktail conversation.

Two weeks later we met in his office. My assessment started with a series of questions, “Why does the company do this? Why does a company own that?” At the end of the third or fourth question, I don’t remember which…and none of which he answered…he asked, “Want to be my CFO?” I said “Yes” and thus started my relationship with a truly interesting man.

There’s no question that Lee’s reputation in the business world for being hard-charging, demanding and disciplined is well-known and well-deserved. But underneath all that bluster and boisterousness — and yes the voice was very loud at times, even in casual conversation — there was the son of immigrant parents who had a rough childhood. Think about growing up as son of Italian immigrant parents in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Just to be clear, let’s not go overboard and start thinking his personal life was like Mother Teresa’s. But we are talking about is an American hero, who like the rest of us, had a real desire for friends and loving relationships.

Fortunately for me, I was working with Lee at an early-stage company. EV Global Motors was not Ford and not Chrysler with large support staffs. As a result, I spent many hours in his office discussing and trying to solve a range of problems. Some of those discussions continued at the house over dinner, wine and, of course, a cigar.

If you want to get an idea what those conversations were like, pick up one of his books. Lee dictated most of the material for the books, which was then edited. My compliments to the editors, who did an excellent job of capturing the tone and rhythm of his comments, although a few likely expletives never made it to print.

At some point in our relationship, I asked Lee why did he think he was so successful. He became head of Ford Division at about age 35, which is a remarkable achievement in the auto industry. His answer was simple, “I made a plan for the week, the month and the calendar quarter. And then I stuck to the plan. Most guys didn’t have a plan and those who did have a plan didn’t necessarily stick with it.”

We used that approach for operating the company. Every Sunday evening we’d chat for maybe 15 minutes and outline issues for the coming week. On Mondays, after I formalized the “assignments” list, we’d have coffee and go over the plan in detail. We also had a rule. If the plan included an assignment that I or someone on the staff was supposed to complete the prior week but hadn’t, then Lee could question me. If he had an assignment that was not completed, then I could question him.

The discussions always included why the assignment hadn’t been completed and what was required to complete it successfully. A task on the list for 3 weeks with no meaningful progress toward completion was likely to be considered irrelevant and scrubbed. This method was simple but highly effective in keeping both of us and the staff on task.

A more interesting story is why Iacocca switched from engineering to the sales department. In the auto industry, that type transfer was unusual at the time, and probably still is. I also made an unusual transfer, moving from corporate finance staff in New York to marketing director at Buick HQ, Flint, MI.

The seminal “career moment” for Iacocca apparently occurred at a drafting table, probably at the River Rouge plant but I’m not certain. Imagine a very large area with a sea of drafting tables. At the very back of this sea of tables is a young Lee Iacocca. Behind his table is a walkway. If you’ve ever been in a Kahn-designed auto plant — vast open areas with large concrete support pillars — you’ll get the picture.

In the walkway behind Lee two men approached and then stopped at his table. One was Henry Ford I and the other was Harvey Firestone. Yes that Ford and that Firestone. After they left, apparently Lee looked at the number of draftsmen ahead of him and who he would have to pass to get promoted. That sea of people convinced him there was a better way to the top of Ford Motor Company. And that better way was joining the field sales staff.

So the Lehigh/Princeton-trained engineer heads off to the sales department and, voila, turns into one of the best automotive sales and marketing guys ever…and head of Ford Division at about age 35. In the next entry or two, I’ll write more about some untold or under-publicized stories. For example, stories about: (i) how Chrysler obtained the base design for the minivan; (ii) how Chrysler had so many unsold K-Cars for so long that in one major storage lot weeds had grown taller than the bumpers; (iii) the red phone on his desk; and the voice. And, oh, that voice. Could it ever carry.

#342 Big Bang Theory but Not the TV Show

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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  

This entry has absolutely nothing to do with the potential for a Revenge Revolution in the US sometime after the year 2020. I thought a diversion would be welcome after Trump’s 4th of July “me, me, me” celebration and his claim the Continental Army guarded the airports. Is anyone really that stupid?

The thoughts in this entry started kicking around in my head many moons ago. Actually, it started the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college.

My job during summers in undergrad was working at a Pepsi bottling plant. The job combined moderate manual labor, some fun — especially when I was “promoted” to lift truck operator — and a chance to work with and learn from a crew of people with whom I had very little in common.

During one evening work session — a bottling plant works lots of overtime in the summer — I was assigned to make sure the bottles coming out of the washer — yes, soda was in glass bottles in those days — were the correct size and had the correct label for what was being bottled — Pepsi, Orange Crush, root beer, etc.

Watching bottles is not the most exciting job in the world so the mind has a tendency to wander. Sometime during the overtime shift, and who knows why, I started to think about events supporting the Big Bang and creation of the universe. Obviously, I’m not the first person to have thought about the Big Bang and I’m certainly no astrophysicist…but it is an interesting topic.

I could buy into the idea of a Big Bang and all the material then shooting off in various directions. All the stuff in the solar system had to get there somehow, right? But as I continued to try and reconstruct what happened, two parts stumped me that night watching bottles come out of the washer — and continue to stump me all these years later.

  1. Where did the material for the Big Bang come from? Religious beliefs aside, how did the ball of stuff that went boom get put together, let alone then go bang?
  2. How do we earthlings know the universe is not part of another object — like a chair? Or maybe part of an experiment?

Granted the universe is so large as to be unfathomable. But size is all relative. To humans, a molecule or atom is microscopic. Yet, in the human body there are millions, if not billions of molecules and atoms and other little creatures running around. Size and space are relative so for atoms, molecules and other creatures, our body might look like the universe does to us.

What about time? Let’s pretend we are a gnat. A gnat lives an average of 6-7 days. A human living until age 90, has a lifespan more than 5,000 times longer than a gnat. From a gnat’s perspective, if 6-7 days were the equivalent of 90 years, then a lifespan for humans would be nearly 5,000,000 years. Still very short by the age of the universe but an example of how time is relative.

Could life on Earth be part of an experiment? Could the Big Bang have been part of a science project in some college class with really large people? Could part of the experiment be to determine which objects after the Big Bang grow things, and what conditions are required for things to grow? Before you discount completely the idea of the universe being part of some gigantic petri dish, think again about how many cells are in your body, millions and millions if not billions.

Even though I’ve thought about these ideas over the years, I’ve still not come up with any logical conclusion. Further, I have yet to hear any reasonable non-religious explanation for where the matter for the Big Bang came from or how it went boom.

And even if one buys into a religious explanation, where did G_d get the stuff to start with? If he or she created it, how many more universes are there?

With each Hubbell-like telescope, we learn more about the universe and its components. During early 2019, we saw “pictures” of a black hole. According to a description in MIT Tech Review, the black hole is located…”inside Messier 87 (M87), a galaxy located more than 53 million light-years from Earth. It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the sun.” Comprehend the relative size and distance of the black hole? You know, think about time in relation to a very long, multi-generation flight between JFK and LAX and size as a big beach ball compared to a grain of sand.

What does all this mean and where do we go from here? I have no idea. As far as progress in trying to understand the Big Bang and the universe, I might as well be back at the Pepsi bottling plant watching bottles come out of the washer. In fact, I might have regressed in some understanding since the more we learn about the universe, the more incomprehensible it becomes – at least to me.

What I do know for certain, there were no airports during the Revolutionary War and the words to the Star Spangled Banner were not written until the War of 1812. Seem to recall learning that in grammar school. Did Fred Trump buy Donald’s way out of grammar school, too? And it’s that kind of stupidity, demonstrated by the president and his hard-core supporters that will lead the US to a Revenge Revolution.

If you have any serious thoughts about the Big Bang, please forward. Thanks for your time.

#341 SCOTUS Puts another Arrow in Revenge Revolution’s Quiver

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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  

The original entry for this week was a diversion from politics, culture and the potential for a Revenge Revolution sometime after 2020. The topic was ideas about the Big Bang Theory and the formation of the universe. (I’ll publish the Big Bang entry sometime in the next few weeks.)

Maybe discussing the idea of the Big Bang was fortuitous. A big bang seemed to be the thinking of the Supreme Court this past week. The decision regarding legality of extremely partisan gerrymandering — Rucho vs. Common Cause — may go down as one of the most illogical SCOTUS decisions of the last 100-150 years. Use Plessy vs Ferguson as a reference point for being illogical.

The majority opinion, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, claimed SCOTUS was not entitled to second-guess state legislatures’ decisions re gerrymandering, even if the result was extreme disproportionate representation. Really? The majority of SCOTUS’ justices claimed the Constitution did not provide authority for the Supreme Court to address such state issues as gerrymandering, and besides, the framers envisioned that politics would influence the drawing of legislative districts.

Duh, Roberts, put aside the legal mumbo-jumbo and try to figure out what’s right and wrong for the country. The case, which involved extreme gerrymandering in North Carolina, demonstrated clearly that Republican legislators intended to discriminate against certain voters, i.e., Democrats, the Party which happens to include most black and Hispanic voters.

The consultant, hired by the Republican-controlled NC legislature, publicly stated disappointment that he could ensure Republicans only 10, not 11, of 13 the seats in the US Hose of Representative despite the percentage of voters in North Carolina being split about evenly between Democrats and Republicans, and slightly favoring Democrats.

Gee, Roberts, using your logic, it’s OK if Democratic votes in North Carolina count less than 1/2 of what Republicans votes count. (Of the 13 districts, based on the number of Republicans and Democrats, at least six (6) should be represented by Democrats. With the gerrymandered districts, Democrats hold only three (3), or less than 50%.) If the SCOTUS justices keep referencing the Constitution as the basis for the gerrymandering decision, at least have Democratic votes count 3/5 of a Republican vote, which is what the Constitution noted that slaves counted.

When citing laws and legal precedent, ever think about considering the 14th Amendment? What about considering the Voting Rights Act? What about Brown vs. Board of Education? Okay, I understand your logic. None of these decisions had been made when the Constitution was written and, therefore, should not be considered.

But wait. What about the Citizen’s United case?  In Citizens United the majority, of which you were a member, claimed that when it came to campaign financing a corporation was really a person and should be treated as such. I’ve looked at my copy of the Constitution and I can’t find where corporations are mentioned, let alone being considered “people.” Your logic must be to reference the Constitution when convenient but to disregard the Constitution when you want a different outcome.

A second Supreme Court ruling this past week was well-publicized, but frankly a bunch of meaningless noise. The second decision prohibited the Bureau of Census from including a question about citizenship during the 2020 census. Roberts, in an apparent Fox-News attempt to be “fair and balanced,” sided with the Democrats on prohibiting the citizenship question.

But Roberts’s position is a ruse. The SCOTUS decision does not prevent future census from including a citizenship question. Moreover, with all the publicity around the case, Roberts and Republicans already have convinced many immigrants, even legals, not to respond to the census. And who can blame them? As long as Trump is in office, immigrants will be targets for deportation, regardless of status, and the Trump administration has demonstrated repeatedly a willingness to ignore restrictions on misusing and/or sharing confidential information.

How should the Supreme Court decisions be interpreted? In the months and years ahead, the US will experience more partisanship, and as hard as it might be to believe, even more extreme positions by politicians. With the gerrymandering decision in place, politicians must now consider all members of the other party as the enemy if a politician is to survive in the primaries in the gerrymandered districts. Compromise and civility will be surefire paths to losing a primary, which has become the defacto general election.

The gerrymandering decision piled on top of the Citizens United case, should be viewed as the Supreme Court putting another arrow in the Revenge Revolution’s quiver. Given the stupid-is-as-stupid does approach of the Supreme Court combined with the abdication by the McConnell-led Senate Republicans to thwart any illicit and illegal actions by Trump, the only solution to steer this country back to the middle where a government can work for all people seems to be a revolution.

Comments, welcome, as always.  Any, yes, have a happy 4th of July.  Wasn’t there a revolution sometime around then?

#340 Abbott Awards Costello the Presidential Medal of Freedom

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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  

Begin Entry #340.  Somewhat buried in this past week’s news was that Bud Abbott awarded Lou Costello the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Well, okay, it wasn’t really Abbott and Costello, but it might as well have been.

The actual players were Donald Trump and Arthur Laffer. If you don’t follow the players in the field of economics, you might not recognize the name Laffer. In the mid-1970s, Arthur Laffer, then working in the Nixon/Ford Administration, but previously a member of the faculty at University of Chicago, outlined for Messrs. Rumsfeld and Cheney (the same two as in the Bush 43 administration) a curve to illustrate the theory that government revenues could be maximized at certain marginal tax rates.

According to Laffer, too high a marginal income tax rate would be a disincentive for people to work and/or invest and tax revenues would fall. If the margin tax rate were too high, then lowering the tax rate would result in the economy expanding with overall tax revenues increasing despite the lower maximum rate.

The Laffer Theory, commonly referenced as the Laffer Curve, was cited as justification for large cuts in tax rates under Presidents Reagan, Bush 43, and Trump. In fairness to Laffer, his theory, which had been discussed earlier by other economists, could be true where a country had exceptionally high tax rates – although too high a tax rate has never been defined – and there was no compelling societal need justifying the higher rates.

Laffer’s Theory should also be considered the foundation for what is known as “trickle-down economics.” However logical Laffer’s theory and “trickle-down economics” might seem, to my knowledge there is no empirical evidence demonstrating the theory is correct.

In the 1950s, for example, maximum marginal income tax rates in the US were 70%. Yet during the 1950’s the labor-force participation rate was very high and the economy was strong. One might argue – and I think fairly – that the very high marginal tax rates were justified by a societal need. The US needed to pay down some of the enormous debt the US incurred during WWII.

More recent tests of Laffer’s theory include the Reagan, Bush 43 and Trump Administrations. What happened to government revenues when the Laffer Curve was used to justify lowering income tax rates in each of those administrations? The economy grew some but income taxes remitted to the Federal government never increased enough to offset the rate cuts. The result was a sharp increase in the Federal debt, both nominally and as a percent of GDP.

The Laffer Theory has been tried in other venues. In 2012 the Republican governor of the State of Kansas, to whom Laffer was an advisor, convinced the legislators to reduce maximum marginal tax rates. The project result, according to Governor Brownback, would be a rapidly growing economy and enough additional revenue to the state to offset the reduced tax rates.

What happened was just the opposite. Like the experience of the Federal government, tax revenues in Kansas plunged. The difference between the State of Kansas and the Federal government is a critical one. Unlike Washington, the State of Kansas is constitutionally required to balance its budget and does not have a Treasury Department that can print money. The only alternative for Kansas was to raise taxes and substantially cut expenditures in such critical areas as education and infrastructure.

Bush 41 called “trickle-down economics” that emanated from the Laffer Curve, “voodoo economics.” The voodoo economics label seems to be widely shared among most well-respected economists, with more than 95% of professional economists rejecting the Laffer Theory.

So why did Laffer receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom? The president has wide discretion in awarding the medal. A recent recipient, for example, was the golfer Tiger Woods.

What struck me as comical was the Administration’s justification for selecting Laffer. The White House press release indicated Arthur Laffer was “…one of the most influential economists in American history.” (Maybe true but “influential” does not equate necessarily to being correct.) Adding to the comedy of the press release were remarks by Trump, who claimed to have studied Arthur Laffer’s theory for many years.

Seriously? Studied for many years? Trump is anything but a student. He’s repeatedly demonstrated an appalling lack of understanding of basics taught in economics 101. While the examples are numerous, a couple of recent economic headscratchers include his claim that tariffs are paid by the country of origin – i.e., tariffs on goods shipped from China are paid by the Chinese. No, Donald, the tariffs are paid by the residents of the receiving country. The receiving country is called the United States and the tariffs are effectively a tax on consumers.

Another head-scratching idea is that world trade must be a zero-sum game; therefore, the US should work toward having a trade surplus with most all, if not all, countries. If that were true, then nearly every country worldwide would make and consume its own products. If I’m not mistaken, Trump’s theory went out millennia ago.   Maybe Trump should study more about such people as say, Marco Polo. Somehow I think Marco Polo was in the international trading business.

What about Trump’s approach to increase US GDP over the long term? Roughly 2/3 of US GDP is driven by consumer consumption. If you don’t increase the number of consumers and/or increase consumption per capita, then GDP is not going to grow and it will gradually decline. As the population ages, consumption per capita decreases and the economy can stall or start to slide — just look at what happened to the Japanese economy beginning in the 1990’s. In the US, the declining birthrate among native-born citizens will result in lower potential GDP growth unless some fundamental changes are made.

One change to help ensure sustained economic growth could be to increase the pool of younger consumers. How does the US expand the pool? The government can’t force families to have more babies. So what about more Immigrants? Wouldn’t more immigrants help offset the declining birth rate?

According to the Trump Administration, the US should not allow more immigrants, especially those entering without visas. Moreover, according to Trump, even the number of legal immigrants should be reduced sharply.

Mmm, this economics game is not so simple. Maybe Trump should have attended economics class more often. Economics seems something like a teeter-totter. Somehow the two sides need to be balanced for the system to work.

What’s the takeaway from this blog entry? Most everyone, well most everyone except Trump’s hardcore supporters, acknowledges Trump is uneducated about many subjects and his decisions are often arbitrary and conflicting.

Maybe the purpose of this entry is allowing me – and I hope some of you – to vent frustration and anger at Trump with his gang of incompetents and enablers. For many years, I’ve studied economics and had jobs where applying economic theory was a key part of a critical decision. In many of those decisions, the financial well-being of numerous families was affected. In my view, and one seemingly shared by many others, Trump’s decisions about lowering income tax rates mostly for the wealthy, efforts to influence the Federal Reserve, restructuring immigration policy could harm significantly the potential for sustained economic growth in the US.

Now, I hope I’ve made the case for why I cringed when Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to someone like Arthur Laffer. I cringed not because of Laffer. He had no hand in this decision. I cringed at the thought of what’s going to be the next incredibly stupid decision made by Trump that will have lasting negative consequences for US citizens.

We should all be concerned, regardless of political party. As for Abbott and Costello, my apologies to them for being drawn into the discussion. Unlike the Trump Administration, even Abbott and Costello figured out who was on first.

Post Entry Update: In the week following publishing Entry #340, Eli Broad (rhymes with road), a multi-billionaire, published an Op-Ed piece in the NYT outlining why taxes on the very wealthy should be raised.  Unlike Trump, Broad views a higher-tax rate for the wealthy as necessary to help begin eliminating the growing economic inequities in the US.  Link to comments, 19 06 26 NYT Eli Broad OpEd re Asking to Raise His Taxes.

Comments welcome, as always. Thanks for your time.

 

 

 

#339 Still Supporting Trump? Quit Claiming to be a Republican.

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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  

Current entry — the reason I skipped the blog entry last week was to take time and try to make some kind of sense of actions by Trump and actions, or lack thereof, by Republicans in Congress and elsewhere. By any measure, Trump’s behavior is illogical, inconsistent and illegal.

In fairness to Trump, he’s exhibited this same behavior for many years. While being president has inflated his ego and allowed him to exhibit behavior dangerous to the country, his approach to decision-making and working with others – now as head of government rather than just head of a real estate company – has remained the same as it was in New York. Noting that Trump has not changed his behavior as president does not condone his behavior. Trump continues as he has been for decades – a scumbag crook.

What has changed is the behavior of all but a few Republicans. Proposals and/or actions undertaken during the Obama and Clinton Administrations that Republicans labeled as illegal or even treasonous, are now considered by Republicans as perfectly acceptable under the Trump Administration.

Recall when Trump wanted to lock up Hillary Clinton for a having a personal email server, even though no evidence was found that classified information was compromised? Now the same Republicans who chanted “Lock her up!” think it’s okay when Trump indicates publicly he’d take information on a candidate provided by a foreign entity, even if an enemy of the US. If offered such information, he would not call the FBI. Just in case you’re wondering such behavior is illegal and possibly treasonous. And no, his insincere recant of his statement doesn’t count.

While the list of egregious behavior by Trump, his family and/or members of the Trump Administration is almost endless, what has me the most confused – baffled might be a better term – is why so-called Republicans have been so quick to join Trump and discard long-held positions on free trade, fiscal responsibility, and individual rights. What happened to the Republicans who supported those long-held beliefs?

As noted periodically in this blog, I think many so-called Republicans have been brainwashed by watching too much Fox News and/or listening frequently to Rush Limbaugh. However, if 75% of the former Republicans have been brainwashed, that still leaves 25% who should be able to think. So where is this 25% group that’s not been brainwashed? Who knows because other than a handful, no high-profile Republican seems to be speaking out against Trump.

The malleability of Republicans is dangerous. Putting Trump aside, the US needs two viable political parties to function correctly. Right now we have one party that’s functioning as a party – the Democrats. Then we have a bunch of people supporting a wannabe autocrat, but not functioning as a political party – so-called Republicans.

Let’s consider this comparison. You say, “Look at all of what Trump has done. It’s been great. So don’t get so hung up on his behavior.” If that’s your logic, then ask yourself, “If I were in Germany in the 1930s, would I support Hitler? After all, Hitler helped improve the economy. Forget that he got rid of a few million of those pesky ‘undesirables.’ Overall, things were better for Germany and we should support Hitler.” The question might be a bit of a stretch but many Republicans appear to be as malleable and spineless as many Germans in the 1930s.

Here’s a more straightforward question for people who support Trump and claim to be Republican. Are you a person who believes in long-term Republican values — free trade, fiscal responsibility, individual rights, etc.? Are you willing to discard those core values and support someone who has no ethics, shows no loyalty to others and even shows no loyalty to the United States? If you decide to continue to support Trump, obviously it’s your choice. But if you continue, please stop claiming to be a Republican.

One more item to consider. Please take time to read and think about the meaning of the oath taken by the president of the United States. “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Now, go look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Has Trump made every effort to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?”

 

#338 The Human Toll of the Coming Technology Tsunami – Example, Lordstown, OH Plant

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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  With all that’s happened lately in Washington, I wrote a special sense check, Entry #332.  

One of the contributing factors to the Revenge Revolution will be a technology tsunami, which I believe is rapidly headed toward US shores.  Fifteen recent entries addressed various aspects how the tech tsunami might: (i) affect the US economy and family incomes; (ii) be mitigated by taking certain actions.  The series of entries is available as an eBook. This entry is an supplement to the booklet and now included with the booklet.  (Download: 19 06 01 Tech Tsunami Booklet with Supplement)

The impact of the technology tsunami can easily be viewed as an abstract concept, especially if one is not affected directly. For example, you read an article about technology replacing someone’s job. Then the person replaced finds another job, which is fairly easy in today’s labor market. Reader thinks, “What’s the net effect on the person whose original job was replaced by technology? Zero. What’s the net effect on the unemployment rate? Zero. Time to move on to the next article.”

But, hold on, there’s more to this story. What prompted this blog entry was an article in the New York Times about a family whose members had worked at the GM Lordstown, OH plant almost from the opening day of the facility.

The Lordstown plant was built in the mid-1960s, but over the years GM continued to invest and upgrade the facility. What resulted from investments in Lordstown and other plants throughout North America was increased potential capacity with lower labor content per car/truck produced. Thus, more output with fewer employees. (As I wrote in late 2018, although I had no first-hand information, based on my experience inside GM, closing Lordstown, and other plants in North America, seemed justified.)

What happens to workers when a GM plant closes? Depending upon an individual’s seniority and the number of jobs available at other facilities, some laid-off employees might be eligible to transfer to another GM plant. Some laid-off workers at Lordstown met the criteria and have transferred.

What about workers who aren’t eligible to transfer or who don’t want to transfer, which often involves relocation? Some training is available for other types of jobs, which are usually non-automotive and often at lower pay. In addition, some laid-off workers, again depending upon seniority, receive from GM supplemental unemployment benefits for a limited period.

Back to the family featured in the NYT article. If you haven’t read the article, it’s worth a read. (19 05 28 NYT Lordstown Shutdown Employee Impact Examples ) The short version is the father gets out of the military, goes to work at the Lordstown plant soon after it opens. Over time the father becomes a representative of the union. The son, born after the father starts at Lordstown, doesn’t study much in school but is confident he will get a job at the plant, primarily because of his father‘s position with the union.

After completing high school, the son is hired and one of his jobs is prepping cars before final painting. Painting is an areas where the auto industry has installed as much technology as possible over the years to improve the quality and consistency of the finish. The implementation of technology in the paint shop has dramatically reduced employment. At Lordstown plant the number of employees declined from 38 to 4, a decrease of almost 90%. While the decrease in employment in the paint shop is at the high-end, substantial declines in employment from technology have affected body welding, engine machining and other high-precision areas with high labor content.

At the time of closing, the son had worked at Lordstown for 25 years. While no specific age was cited in the article, the son is probably in his mid to late 40s. With his years of service, he’ll be eligible for a modest pension from GM. However, he has at least 20-25 years left before being eligible for Social Security and Medicare.

Where does the son find another middle-class paying job given his limited education and skill level? Another job in the auto industry unless he relocates to another GM plant. Even if he finds an auto job, he runs a high risk of losing it given the continuous implementation of labor-saving technology by the auto companies and suppliers.

The extent of how many jobs in the auto industries (and other industries) are being eliminated by technology goes far beyond the assembly plant, which most people think of. In an earlier blog entry I mentioned an auto supplier in Fort Wayne, IN that bends tubing to make exhaust systems for cars and trucks for many auto OEM’s. If you don’t think there are lots of twists and turns in your vehicle’s exhaust system, next time you see a car or truck up on a service rack, go take a look underneath.

The process of bending tubing might seem straightforward (no pun intended) until one thinks about what happens when a tube is bent. The metal on the “outside” of the bend becomes thinner and the metal on the “inside” of the bend wants to “crinkle.” Bending tubing can be much more complicated than it first appears.

The company that bends the tubes is a perfect example of the impact on employment of the coming technology tsunami. The company incorporates an extraordinary amount of high technology, with a plethora of very sophisticated machines…and very few people staffing those machines. The parking lot of the company is the tell-tale sign of the technology tsunami. The company operates 24×7 with significant daily output, yet has a small parking lot that even during the day when office staff is working, has plenty of empty parking spaces for visitors.

Is this just a story about how one family was affected by a GM plant closing or are there broader implications? If the attitude of the now unemployed son is at all representative, then US society has a growing problem. While the son apparently has not yet come to grips with the long-term implications of the layoff, he is searching for answers to “Why is this happening to me?” “Why, after 25 years of working at this facility, am I getting screwed?”

He’s very frustrated and believes that people in Washington “just don’t get it.” The frustration includes Trump, whom he voted for in 2016, and members of both parties. He’s also frustrated with large corporations, which he thinks suffer no penalty for shuttering plants and relocating operations to say Mexico.

The frustration and anger of the son is understandable. While from a business perspective I think GM is more than justified in closing the Lordstown plant, especially given some of labor problems over the years, the business justification does not eliminate the economic and social issues facing the laid-off workers.

We, as I keep suggesting is the proverbial societal we, need to help this family transition from pissed-off members of society to being productive workers in an ever-increasing technology-laden workplace. As it stands now, even with a small pension and some additional benefits, the son is the kind of guy who is ripe to be part of a Revenge Revolution. For those not familiar with northern Ohio, almost guaranteed he’s got a deer rifle or two and a bunch of ammo. Now, he’s out of a job, has shrinking income, thinks politicians don’t understand the problem, and thinks large corporations are exploiting people and communities. Not a good combination.  (The son is much like the character “Sandy” who appears periodically in the blog entries.)

Without some serious societal effort, the ranks of this group are going to grow. Making America great again does not involve trying to reintroduce high-labor content products or industries from decades past. The implementation of technology to replace humans is going to continue. All types of jobs and skill levels will be affected, from manufacturing to legal to medical. Without a national plan to begin lifetime education for people of all ages, from 6 to 66 (and older), the US is going to face a growing segment of the population which is extremely angry and poses a growing threat to a stable democracy.

Reminder: For more about how the technology tsunami might affect the US economy and culture, and ideas to help mitigate the effects, there’s a free ebook waiting for your download. The book is a compilation of this entry and 15 earlier blog entries about the technology tsunami. Comments welcome. (Download, 19 06 01 Tech Tsunami Booklet with Supplement)

#337 Compartmentalizing Irrational Behavior. Fiction Trumps Truth.

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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  With all that’s happened lately in Washington, I wrote a special sense check, Entry #332.  

One of the contributing factors to the Revenge Revolution will be a technology tsunami, which I believe is rapidly headed toward US shores.  Fifteen recent entries addressed various aspects how the tech tsunami might: (i) affect the US economy and family incomes; (ii) be mitigated by taking certain actions.  The series of entries is available as an eBook.  (19 05 19 Tech Tsunami Booklet)

The first draft of this blog entry was an attempt to convince Trumpsters to ask themselves why they continued to support behavior that if exhibited by a Democrat would have caused them to be apoplectic. With each passing month I have become more perplexed why and how Republican thinking switched 180 degrees from categorizing certain behavior as unacceptable in pre-Trump to categorizing the same behavior as acceptable under Trump. What caused the definition of “acceptable behavior” to change? Formerly unacceptable behavior has become the norm with only a whimper of protest from a few Republicans. Why?

The blog entry got delayed because of activities surrounding Memorial Day weekend…fortunately. Why fortunately? There was a fascinating opinion piece in the “Review” section of the 05/26/2019 NY Times, titled, “Why Fiction Trumps Truth” that seemed to explain how some people willingly allow clearly untrue assertions to affect some of their behavior, yet act rationally much of the other time. The article noted that people who compartmentalize seem to accept more readily claims that are truly bizarre and outlandish.

Whether the author’s analysis is completely accurate, I don’t know. I am not a trained psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst. Some people think I’m just psycho. However, the writer’s premise and support seems plausible and helps me understand what can best be described only as irrational behavior. In previous blog entries, I’ve suggested the cause of such “compartmentalized” behavior by Trump supporters was some form of brainwashing.

Part of the brainwashing could be attributed to such talking heads as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh who fill their airtime not with questions and analysis but with declarative statements and claims unsupported by facts. An even more influential source for the brainwashing is Trump, who if nothing else, is a master of making and repeating false statements, offering no context or support for his claims. After a while, people here the lie often enough, they get brainwashed and believe the lie.

While Republicans under Trump seem to have taken the compartmentalizing phenomenon to the extreme, the phenomenon is not unique to Trump supporters or the Republican Party. We are all probably guilty of some degree of “compartmentalizing” irrational behavior, even if such behavior applies only to a favorite sports team.

Please read the opinion piece using the link above. Given the degree of compartmentalization, the question now seems to be, “How does US society get out of this mess?” Other than a catastrophic event, such as a revolution, is there any to convince “compartmentalized” voters, left and right, to come out of the closet, err compartment?

While both parties have voters in such compartments, the degree to which Republicans have begun accepting as normal, behavior that for decades had been considered “highly unacceptable,” is startling and hard to explain. Why do Republicans without any protest whatsoever allow Trump to enable the Attorney General, if he so chooses, to disclose publicly any and all sources of intelligence information, domestic and foreign?

Whether the Attorney General ever discloses the sources doesn’t matter. The damage is already done. The fear by the source of being “outed” will cause most every source to no longer provide information. In many countries, any type of disclosure for a source has a severe negative consequence – imprisonment, torture and possibly death. Trump’s action, which was done purely for political reasons, is a direct threat to national security. And where were protests from Republicans, who claim to be the party of national security? No response!!!!!

Where are all the Republicans who clamored for putting Hillary Clinton in jail for using a non-government server? Where’s the protest Representative Jim Jordan Ohio? Guess you’re not such a tough guy wrestler after all. Trump seems to have you in a choke hold. Where are protests from Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader? Cat got your tongue? Where are Republican supporters of the military when Trump tweets that Russia and North Korea are not really threats?

I’ll tell you where Republicans are. Clamoring for an investigation of the people in the FBI and CIA who found out people in the Trump Campaign were dealing with the Russians before the election. And, no, Trump supporters, there was no attempted coup. First, Trump and supporters should thank James Comey for handing Trump the election with the press conference chastising Hillary Clinton.

But, no, in Trump world everything is backwards. Good is bad and bad is good. Next, go read the Muller Report, not Trump’s or Barr’s misinterpretation. If you still need convincing that Trump just might be acting in violation of US law, look at all the financial information from Trump’s tax returns, phony foundation, money laundering through Deutsche Bank and elsewhere.

Despite overwhelming evidence, Republicans in a classic flip flop compared to demands for say Clinton, insist any financial information not be disclosed. Why? The information would be used for political purposes. Republicans would never do such a thing but Democrats always do. Well then, let’s use this argument. The law requires the IRS to turn over tax returns to specified members of Congress. Using a standard Republican argument about complying with the law, if Trump’s done nothing wrong and has nothing to hide, why not let people view the information who are charged in the Constitution with oversight of the Executive Branch? If you have questions about the House’s authority, please read Article I of the Constitution.

OK, I’ve ranted enough and probably not changed a single Republican’s mind. I do hope, however, that everyone reading the blog (Republicans and Democrats) will at least read the opinion piece in the NYT and step back and ask, “What irrational behavior (fiction) am I ‘compartmentalizing’ and allowing to influence my behavior that I would otherwise consider unacceptable?” Also ask, “How can each of us change behavior to avoid what seems to be the inevitable road to the Revenge Revolution?”

Comments and suggestions welcome. Thanks for your time.

 

#336 Policies to Address Tech Tsunami. Socialism? No. National Security.

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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  With all that’s happened lately in Washington, I wrote a special sense check, Entry #332.

This entry is a “wrap” to the technology tsunami series, at least for a while.  The format for this entry is conversational.  The character, Sandy (comments in quotes) is an ardent Trump and NRA supporter who has appeared in previous entries.  Like virtually all the characters that appear in this blog, Sandy is patterned after someone I know with very similar characteristics. The entire technology tsunami series, including this entry is available as a eBook. (19 05 19 Tech Tsunami Booklet)

Sandy: “I don’t buy all this BS that some so-called technology tsunami could wreck the US economy. Stuff like that only happens in socialist countries. Look at what happened in Venezuela.”

True that Venezuela was the richest country in South America and then tanked economically. The reason they went into free fall was not becasue of socialism but because of bad economic policies.

“Hold on Bubba.  I’m telling you those kind of economic problems are what happens to all socialist countries. If you don’t believe me look at what happened to the economies of Cuba and to Russia. You know I’m right. Admit it.”

You are right that Cuba and Russia have suffered economically. But in the most diplomatic terms, you’re wrong about why. Let’s not confuse communism, which is more political, with socialism, which is more related to economic policy.

“Communism, socialism. They’re the same thing to me.  I know one thing for sure.  You can’t have all those socialist policies and still have a democracy.”

Like I said, let’s not confuse socialism and communism. There are many countries you might label as being socialist that are democracies. All the Nordic countries, for example, have many government-controlled social programs. Other countries in Europe, including Germany, have some degree of what you’re labeling as socialism. Even Canada. Yet, all those countries are democracies.

“Well, what about Greece? They had all those government programs and they went under. Italy almost went under. Call them what you want.  I’m telling you government programs are what causes these countries to go under.”

OK, then let’s add one more country to the list of countries that almost went under.  In fact, this country has come close to going under twice in the last hundred years. Want to guess which country?

“Probably a trick question. Who?”

The United States. We came within a hair’s breadth of the economy going into free fall in 1932 and 2008.

“I’ll tell you why. Because of the Democrats. They’re the problem. Democrats FDR and Obama were coming into office when the economy tanked. Democrats are always the problem.”

Could you please put away the Sean Hannity/Rush Limbaugh drivel and look at this issue objectively. Bad government policies under the Hoover and Bush 43 administrations created most of the problems. Notice that I said most of the problems, not all. If you want to later, we can discuss which economic policies were the primary causes. But for now, my point is without sound government policies to counteract the coming technology tsunami, the country is likely to be faced with another economic crisis.

“When you say crisis, are you suggesting unemployment could shoot up to 20 to 25% and real wages fall, just like during the Great Depression?”

Yes. If you don’t think technology can have a devastating impact, look at what’s happened to companies and employment in industries where disruptive technology was introduced.

“You mean like the coal industry? I hate to laugh but I understand even the Coal Mining Museum gets some electricity from solar panels on its roof. Anyway, technology and economics have killed the industry. Unemployment in the coal industry is what, maybe only 40-50% of what it was just 25-30 years ago?”

Now you understand why strategic planning and good government policy are so important?  I hope you also have somne appreciation of the risk associated with bad  government policy. Bad policy presents a real risk to the US economy and the country’s future as a democracy.

“Gee, I never looked at government policy quite that way. The real impact of government is not whether Democrats or Republicans are in power. The real impact is whether government makes policies that can sustain the well-being of the country.  And, you know what?  Overturning Roe v. Wade seems far less important than these other issues.”

Sandy, I’m proud of you.  If more people had your attitude, the country could start to make real progress in implementing policies to counteract the coming technology tsunami.

“I think I get it.  What you’re suggesting is not just more government intervention, but government intervention to avoid a economic catastrophe. Really, the need to address the coming tech tsunami is more a national security issue.”

Now, if only the Trump Administration and some key people in Congress would “get it” like Sandy.

#335 Curiouser and Curiouser

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, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1. 

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  With all that’s happened lately in Washington, I wrote a special sense check, Entry #332.

Have we, societal we, fallen down the rabbit hole? Have we lost our sense of direction? Have we lost our moral compass?

Over the last couple of months, most entries in this blog have focused on what I’ve characterized (as have others) as the coming technology tsunami. The entries describe the possible significant negative effect on the US economy of the tech tsunami and proposed solutions, the centerpiece of those solutions being more education. Education, however, not just for those currently in school but education for all age groups, even those in their 60’s. Education efforts would also include those who are, or have been unable to learn when taught using more traditional methods.

Many ideas suggested in the blog entries are not new. What’s changed is the urgency created by the oncoming technology tsunami. Like climate change, waiting until the impact is obvious to most everyone is too late. At that point the game for the US economy will be over. The fat lady will have sung…and done an encore. For the doubters, the tech tsunami is not some abstract idea or a tsunami that’s far-off shore. The water at the shoreline has started to recede and the need to take action is now.

Others share this view. Others also share the view that different approaches to education need to be tried. I was heartened by an article in the 05/12/19 New York Times  (19 05 12 NYT Teaching Math Like Football) suggesting math teachers should approach the classroom more like a football coach in the locker room. Hear, hear! Great idea. In grammar school and high-school, I was lucky enough to have a couple of “football-coach” math teachers. They challenged each student and tried to make learning math fun. The football-coach approach could be helpful to many students who do not “get math” taught using traditional approaches.

OK, what about a topic for this entry? When thinking about what to write, what kept running through my head was a simple question, “Why do educated people keep supporting a president whose actions, by US law, are clearly criminal (obstruction of justice and tax evasion are just two) and possibly treasonous?” “How can rational people overlook, let alone support such behavior?” (He even cheats at golf!)

And, the behavior is not sporadic. It’s a continuous stream. What is the latest from the Trumpland? Asking Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to go to the Ukraine and ask the Ukrainian president to try to dig up dirt on a family member of a candidate for Democratic nominee for president. Duh, Republican folks, that’s Trump asking yet another foreign country to meddle in a US election. When are Republicans going to wake up and realize where Trump’s allegiance lies? If you don’t know where to start looking, try his bank account.

Trump does not care about any Republicans, let alone members of the hardcore base. Let me repeat Trump does not care about any Republicans, let alone members of the hardcore base.

If you don’t believe me, then what about those tariffs on Chinese exports? Do you believe Trump’s tweets that the Chinese will pay the tab? Even Trump’s economic advisor won’t buy that outrageous claim. No, the tariffs per se might go to the Treasury but the prices of Chinese goods sold in the US will increase by the amount of the tariffs…and possibly more. And, yes, you get to pay for the tariff. Yet another economics class Trump skipped while in college.

“Hold on,” you say, “Chinese jobs making all those goods will come back to America. Trump is actually creating jobs. Trump is saving America! Wake up liberals.”

Okay, a few jobs might come back, but only a few. But how many more other jobs will be lost with China’s retaliatory tariffs on American exports (imports to the Chinese).

But then you say, “Didn’t Trump save thousands of jobs when he negotiated to have GM sell the Lordstown, OH plant to that other company? You know that Workhorse company?” Sorry to inform you, the answer again is “no.” Workhorse buying the Lordstown assembly plant (not a done deal as of this entry’s publication) created no net new jobs. Workhorse was merely looking for a facility to assemble a proposed electric-powered truck.

And the list of misconceptions, misunderstanding, sheer blindness by Republicans continues on and on and on. Even the Energizer Bunny is starting to get tired. The lack of a modicum of thinking by Republicans makes their behavior curiouser and curiouser. What’s the value to Republicans of supporting Trump? Trump’s in the White House for cash. What do Republicans get out of the deal?

When I hear a Republican gloat about supporting Trump, I ask a very simple question. ”Assume all the same policies, economic conditions, cabinet appointments, relationships with foreign countries, tweets, known lies, etc. Now assume Trump is not a Republican but a Democrat. Would you still be supporting Trump and/or be opposed to the investigation by the various committees in the House?” Count how many current Trump supporters say “Yes they would continue to support Trump if he were a Democrat.” If you can count more than a handful, let me know.

To be fair, you should ask some Democrats the same question. “Assume all the same policies, economic conditions, etc., would you still be so anti-Trump?” My guess is a much greater percentage of Democrats would continue to be anti-Trump and especially support the investigations in the House of Representatives.

So why do Republicans support Trump when so many of his policies are reversals of long-held Republican positions? Why have Republicans let Trump hijack their brain? As noted in several earlier blog entries, it seems that many Republicans have been brainwashed.

How can such a large group be brainwashed? If there’s one thing Trump is very good at doing, its manipulating people. Especially vulnerable are those with limited inner strength. Helping Trump with the brainwashing are the Republican talking heads – Limbaugh and Hannity in particular – who fill their air time not with questions and a discussion of possible solutions, but fill their air time with declarative statements of suggested attitudes and behavior. Kim Jung-un probably listens to “Fox News” for ideas how to brainwash North Korean citizens more effectively.

Other recent truly bizarre actions by Trump include declaring that executive privilege can apply retroactively to virtually any discussion of any action taken by anyone in the Trump Administration. Huh? Trump has also told Administration officials to ignore the law. And where are the voices of the righteous Constitutionalists Republican Senators? Save one or two, Republican Senators have contracted laryngitis while also sucking up to Trump.

The willingness to support a rogue and lawless president rather than the Constitution leaves me with only one conclusion. There needs to be a Revenge Revolution in the US in order to rid the country of the Trump cancer and bring the Republicans back to their senses. Let’s hope the 2020 election can accomplish the same thing but I’m not as hopeful.

One might not like the actions or style of certain Democratic leader, or proposed policies of certain Democrat candidates for president. Those disagreements are understandable and part of a democracy. What is not understandable is why Republicans are blaming Democrats for trying to uphold their obligations under the Constitution by investigating criminal behavior and possibly treason of the president, members of the president’s family, members/former cabinet members and people associated with the 2016 campaign.

Just in case you, and maybe Republicans in the Senate, need a reminder of the words contained in the oath for members of the House and Senate, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.” (I can’t find where the oath mandates allegiance to the president, can you?)