Republicans Have a Plan for Never Losing

Dirty tricks and undemocratic tactics have been a part of politics in the United States since the Constitution was ratified.  Some have even been humorous. 

During the 1950 Florida Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, Rep. George Smathers was speaking to a group of rural – perhaps, not too sophisticated – voters.  He scandalously accused his opponent Rep. Claude Pepper of “matriculating” with young women in college, of being a “shameless extrovert” who has engaged in “nepotism with his sister-in-law,” and a man who habitually practiced “celibacy” before marriage.   Smathers continued by outing Pepper’s brother as a “practicing homo sapien,” and his sister as a “thespian in wicked New York.”  Smathers won handily, although he denied ever making these statements.

One of the most famous and disturbing attempts to sway an election, of course, was when President Nixon’s campaign operatives bungled the June 1972 break-in of the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C.  Nixon went on to overwhelmingly win the election but the Watergate coverup and scandal forced him to resign.  At least once, political misdeeds were punished.

More recently, in 2018, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., a small time Republican operative in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, was caught harvesting mail in ballots and manipulating them in various ways to benefit the campaign of Republican Rep. Mark Harris who narrowly defeated Democrat Dan McCready.  A new election was ordered and Dowless was indicted for obstruction of justice and illegal possession of an absentee ballot, among other charges.

There was an election in Texas, however, that I believe predicts what could occur if the voting laws being enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures remain effective for the 2022 and 2024 elections.  And it’s all about manipulating election results after the polls close. 

Texans alleged for decades that significant fraud enabled Lydon B. Johnson to win the 1948 Texas Democratic primary runoff election for U.S. Senate by 87 votes. They became suspicious when Johnson overcame a huge deficit to snatch victory from defeat. Robert A. Caro’s 1990 book, “Means of Ascent,” however, details what actually occurred during the vote counting after that election.

On a Saturday primary election night, Johnson trailed former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson by 20,000 votes, according to Mr. Caro, with a few areas yet to report.  When San Antonio tallies were included, Johnson had miraculously picked up 10,000 more votes than Stevenson, who had beaten Johnson in these precincts by 2 to 1 in the first primary. Johnson’s deficit to Stevenson narrowed more later that evening due to returns from rural Rio Grande Valley counties.  Next day a newly discovered, uncounted precinct went heavily for Johnson.

Then, on Friday, the Rio Grande Valley precincts made corrections to their returns that narrowed Stevenson’s advantage to 157 votes.  Later that day, Jim Wells County telephoned in its amended vote totals that put Johnson on top.  County officials had cast the votes of deceased and absent voters and had given Johnson an extra 200 votes by simply changing the 7 in a “765” tally to a 9.  Johnson had won because a South Texas political boss manufactured thousands of votes for him, according to Mr. Caro.

Caro concluded that although ballot fraud was common in the late 1940s in some parts of Texas, Johnson’s 1948 campaign raised it to a new level.  

Actually, a very similar situation could occur in several states like Georgia if the 2024 Democratic presidential candidate holds a slim lead on election night. 

Georgia’s current voting laws give Republican legislators control of the State Election Board, which has responsibility for election oversight and the power to replace local election officials.  This Board could easily use mere allegations of fraud or election irregularities to replace officials in Fulton County, which includes heavily minority precincts in Atlanta.   Politically motivated operatives could then find more votes for the Republican candidate and/or invalidate votes for the Democrat. 

President Biden won Georgia by a little less than 13,000 votes, despite winning the popular vote by 7,000,000.  He won in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin by a combined total of just under 44,000 votes, which narrowly avoided a tie with then-President Trump in the Electoral College.  A tie would have thrown the election into the U.S. House where Trump would have won because Republican-controlled states are in the majority and each state gets one vote. That’s right; just 44,000 votes saved us from another four years of Trump.

Like Georgia, many of the voting laws recently enacted by Republican-controlled states have some mechanism for more easily challenging the final vote counts, giving the legislature an opportunity to flip close elections to the GOP candidates.

Republican state voting laws will surely be challenged in court, of course, but it is clear that federal laws governing the conduct of elections are critically needed.  Unfortunately, any legislation that would negate suppressive state election laws and prevent them from being enacted in the future – like the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act – has zero chance of overcoming a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

This arcane Senate rule was once used by segregationists to obstruct civil rights legislation.  Now, it will allow Republicans to block any legislation that would standardize fairness in state election processes or otherwise disrupt GOP plans to win by voter suppression and other election skullduggery. 

They’re trying to rig the system so Democrats never win.

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Of Cowardice and Courage

If you’re like me, it’s totally depressing to read the current political news.  Virtually the entire Republican Party is either afraid of former President Donald Trump or they are actively attempting to subvert the election process on his behalf.  Republican-controlled state legislatures all over the country are attempting to enact voting laws that they hope will suppress Democratic voters – mainly minorities and young people.  They’re also minimizing the authority of elected secretaries of state and empowering themselves to politically control election outcomes.  It’s simply appalling.

After Democrats acceded to most of the GOP demands to create a commission to investigate the vicious attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, only 35 House Republicans voted for the resolution and Senate Republicans have filibustered and defeated it.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), along with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), fear such an inquiry would anger Trump’s base and hurt their chances to retake control of the House and Senate in 2022.  They apparently aren’t concerned about protecting our sacred buildings, our institutions and members of Congress.     

The people elect representatives to be leaders and to faithfully carry out their duties in accordance with the Constitution.  Most expect that these representatives will identify threats to our democratic processes – like Trump and his supporters – and enact measures to thwart their efforts.  Instead of calling out these insurrectionists, however, most congressional Republicans are too cowardly to fight them, so they stand by in fear or join them in weakening our democracy.  These pitiful politicians are so politically oriented that nothing else matters, not democracy, the Constitution, the nation nor the welfare of its citizens.  All they care about is regaining control of Congress.

Yet, what do they plan to do when they have the power to draft and pass the laws?  Will they diligently sponsor legislation – like President Biden and the Democrats – to shore up the election system, repair and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, narrow the huge and widening inequality gap between the ultra-rich and lower income workers and provide more and better health care of all Americans?  Hell no!  McConnell was crystal clear about Republican objectives recently when he stated emphatically that he’s “100%” focused on “stopping” the Biden administration. 

I have been trying to take my mind off the blatant cowardice that is being displayed by Republican politicians by remembering some heroes who have shown real courage, even one who once stood among them, the late former Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).  He endured over 5 years of captivity and brutal torture in a foul, North Vietnamese prison.  As the son of a U.S. Admiral, he could have been released but he refused to go without his fellow prisoners. 

What caused me to admire John’s courage as a politician, however, was a brief exchange he had with a supporter at a townhall meeting during his 2008 campaign against Barak Obama for the presidency. 

A woman who had the microphone approached McCain on the stage and said, “I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him, and ….. he’s an Arab.”  McCain immediately started shaking his head and took the microphone from her.  “No ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues …..”

I have watched the video of this exchange numerous times and wished that we had even a few Republicans like him in the Senate today.  We can only hope that John McCain was not the last of the courageous politicians with an (R) after their name.

Another man with great courage was Leonard Rivkin, a lawyer I worked with in the 1980s, who I was proud to called a friend. He wasn’t a big man physically but he had great legal skills and a larger-than-life personality. 

There was a small, framed document on a side wall in Len’s office that explained how he earned a Silver Star medal – the third highest military service award – for action against the enemy during World War II.

Army Pfc. Rivkin was with a column of 40 vehicles that was advancing down a road in Germany on April 14, 1945, when the road came under fire from two German 88 mm artillery pieces situated on the crest of a hill.  Other troops scattered for cover in nearby fields but Rivkin, “disregarding the fact that the enemy positions were protected by machine gun fire… dashed forward 400 yards across an open field and, without regard for his personal safety, single handedly set up his light machine gun and prepared to rake the enemy strongpoint.  Pfc. Rivkin, along with two officers, then boldly advanced across the field toward the enemy guns and captured 80 prisoners of war.  The valor and magnificent courage displayed by Pfc. Rivkin were a distinct inspiration to his comrades and reflect high credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.”

Len risked his life to save his unit from an attack by German artillery.  Senate Republicans won’t even risk their political careers to save our democracy from an attack by Trump and his radical supporters – and all Americans should be appalled.

Postscript: Like so many other heroes of World War II, Len Rivkin is no longer with us.  He passed away peacefully in his sleep last year at age 95, after a long, remarkable and productive life.

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Are Republicans Becoming a Circular Firing Squad?

Photo by Matt McClain/Washington Post

House Republicans will likely vote on Wednesday to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (Wy.) as their Conference chairwoman, the third most powerful GOP position in that chamber.  Why?  Well, she dared to challenge former President Donald Trump’s leadership of the Republican Party, stating that his lies about the 2020 election were responsible for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. 

For those who aren’t familiar with this lady, she’s the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and the sole representative from the state of Wyoming.  She’s a fiscally and socially conservative lawyer whose focus has been on national security issues, a strong military and pro-business policies.  Ms. Cheney held positions in President George W. Bush’s State Department and was a Fox News contributor during parts of President Obama’s administration, even subbing for Sean Hannity on occasion.  She has also been quite controversial over the years.

On Larry King’s talk show in 2009 she gave credibility to the “birthers” – those who don’t believe Obama was born in the United States.  Instead of condemning them, she alleged that people had reason to question Obama’s national loyalty.  Further, she claimed that Democrats have more “crazies” among them than Republicans.  The birther-in-chief, of course, was Donald Trump.

Cheney was elected to the House in 2016 and promoted to conference chairwoman in November 2018.  Her rapid rise to leadership is probably because she has been described in various conservative publications as “Republican royalty,” and the “heiress to a neoconservative throne.” After taking her seat in the House, she became a Trump loyalist, supporting his positions 92.9% of the time with her votes.  She has also been one of the toughest talking Republicans in Congress, accusing the Democratic Party of promoting anti-Semitism, infanticide and socialism after the Democrats regained control of the House in 2019. 

There is no chance I would ever vote for Cheney if she were running in my district; I could never support her conservative positions and her disingenuous, nasty comments.  Yet, among the 260+ Republican members of Congress, she stands out as one of the very few who is willing to aggressively take on Trump.  She states clearly – and often – that he lied about the 2020 election result and is responsible for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  Cheney advocates banishing Trump from the GOP, even at the risk of seriously damaging her political career.  For that, I have to admire her courage and her recent bold comments.

“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” Cheney wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed, while touting the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power.  Well, Wyoming Republicans have decided; they censured Cheney for voting to impeach Trump.

During a recent GOP retreat in Orlando, Florida, Cheney told reporters that anyone challenging the 2020 election results should be disqualified from a presidential campaign in 2024, and that she herself would not rule out a run.  This fired a shot across the bow of election deniers, like Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who will apparently seek the GOP nomination.

Cheney called on the GOP to “make clear we aren’t the party of white supremacy.”  “You certainly saw anti-Semitism. You saw the symbols of Holocaust denial… you saw a Confederate flag being carried through the rotunda,” she said, referring to January 6 attack on the Capitol. 

She favors a 9/11-typed commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection that is narrowly focused – directly challenging House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who has proposed a wide-ranging probe into Black Lives Matter protests and antifa.  For speaking truth to power, she will apparently lose her position in the GOP House leadership and may be ousted from her seat in Congress.  What does that say about the Republican Party?

CNN quoted Cheney as telling Republican donors at an American Enterprise Institute retreat in Sea Island, Ga. last Monday, “We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy. … We can’t whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump’s big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.”  By making these comments, Cheney has ripped the stiches off the wound Trump has inflected on the GOP.

On Sunday, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) – chairman of the ultra-conservative, 154-member Republican Study Committee – told Fox News’ Chris Wallace, “Republicans are almost completely unified … to oppose the radical Biden agenda.”  Referring to Cheney he said, “[S]he’s lost focus on the singular mission we have.”  Wait!  Did he just admit that the GOP is opposed to everything Democrats do, whether it is good for the nation and its people or not? 

On another Sunday show, Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan accused the GOP of becoming a “circular firing squad” for its criticism of members like Cheney who must “swear fealty to the dear leader or get kicked out of the party.”  “I think they’re concerned about retaliation [from Trump]”, Hogan added.

Well, this fight isn’t over and Ms. Cheney seems eager to confront her executioners.  So, I’m wondering, does she have some devastating ammunition to defend herself?  And will she use it?  We shall soon see.

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Now Is Not the Time to Relax and Tune Out

Numerous articles are being written about the better mood in the nation’s capital now that President Joe Biden is in the White House and Democrats control Congress, albeit narrowly.  Competent handling of the coronavirus pandemic with millions of vaccinations in arms per day and a huge $1.9 trillion relief package signed into law have spirits on the rise across the country, as they should be.  A lot has been accomplished and the president’s first 100 days aren’t quite fulfilled.

Still, I am reminded of the many times I have walked by the National Archives Building in Washington, DC and experienced patriotic feelings as I read the words carved in stone at its entrance, particularly one sentence: “Eternal Vigilance Is The Price Of Liberty.”  I believe this admonition has never been more relevant than it is today and it should speak to those who might become less politically vigilant now that former president Trump has lost power.

Those so inclined, however, must keep in mind what happened on January 6.  First, a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory.  Then, after they were repulsed, 147 Republican members of Congress – which included 60% of Republicans in the U.S. House – attempted to accomplish the same result by voting against certifying Biden’s election victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania.  Among them are Republicans who – like the insurrectionists – are openly racist and/or radical conspiracy theorists.  January 6 was not only shocking; I believe it was a dress rehearsal for the future.    

The Capitol attack and congressional Republican votes against election certification were based on Trump’s “Big Lie” about election fraud, which has no supporting evidence and has been thoroughly debunked.  Sadly though, six out of 10 Republican voters believe that the presidential election was stolen from Trump due to fraud, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. 

Republican state legislators in 43 states are using Trump’s false voter fraud claims as justification for drafting over 250 bills that would limit mail-in voting, early in-person voting, hours for voting and absentee voting.  Clearly, their target is Black and brown Democratic voters but this legislation also shows that Republicans fear competing in free and fair elections. 

Why?  Well, in my opinion, the GOP is no longer the party of ideas and sound policies; it’s the party of obstruction, fear mongering and fringe groups.  Today’s Republicans cater to voters who oppose abortion, gun control, LGBTQ rights, government overreach, immigration and similar right-wing social or cultural issues.  And although they don’t promote it overtly, they are obviously the party of whiteness.

My research indicates that bipartisanship became verboten in the GOP subsequent to President Bill Clinton’s two terms.  Sen. Mitch McConnell concluded that working with a Democratic president wasn’t advantageous for congressional Republicans.  Subsequently, he did everything he could to obstruct President Obama’s agenda and even proclaimed in 2010 that his number one objective was to make Obama a one term president. 

Well, guess what?  Republicans want to make Biden a one term president too.  One of their current lines of attack focuses on the president’s mental acuity.  They want voters to believe that he’s “not all there” and that he’s being “handled” by left-wing socialists.  And they will tell any lies they think will be effective, spread any disinformation they can dream up and do anything they can to win back control of the House and/or Senate in 2022 and the White House in 2024.

Backing them will be tens of millions of Republican voters who believe that loyalty to Trump is loyalty to the United States.  Remember, his supporters who stormed the Capitol called themselves “patriots.”  Although nothing could be further from the truth, the fact that this many Americans support Trump and/or Trumpism is cause for alarm. 

We must not forget that but for a few ethical Republicans, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, among others, Trump had a good chance to nullify the results of the presidential election and take control of the government in 2020.  He clearly had the intent, but he bungled the coup attempt.  Trump apparently lacks the killer instinct that most autocrats possess.  If former secretary of State Mike Pompeo or Sens. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley or Rick Scott become president, however, they might succeed where Trump failed.

I believe that if voters put Republicans back in control of either chamber in 2022, it will be a repeat of the gridlock during Obama’s second term, or worse.  And if they put the GOP back in charge of the entire government in 2024, our democratic republic will again be in serious jeopardy.  Don’t get me wrong; I believe this nation must have a viable two-party system to preserve democracy, preferably with establishment Republicans back in control of their party.  It is clear to me, however, that the current Trumpian Republican Party doesn’t see the two-party system that way at all; they prefer to have only one party – theirs.

My October 30, 2019 blog about the GOP’s struggle to survive concluded, “[T]he GOP is fighting for its life, willing to do just about anything to survive.  And in the process, they pose a real and present danger to our democratic republic.”

Make no mistake, that warning is even more cogent today.

Note:  I have been publishing a blog about every two weeks.  Some that have a picture heading, or for some other reason, may end up in your spam or junk mail.  Just wanted to make you aware of this.  Again, I really appreciate it when followers reference my blog on their Facebook page or send a copy of a blog to like-minded friends.

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Time Again for Some Issues Potpourri

America is strongest when there is an effective a partnership involving state and local governments, academia, private industry and the federal government.  World War II – probably this nation’s finest collaborative effort – proved this.  States and cities are always on the front lines dealing with human problems but they typically lack the cash to initiate large, effective programs; academia and private industry have the expertise and facilities to help but must be empowered and financially backed to act.  The federal government’s role is to supply the leadership and funding necessary to kick-start this powerful engine. 

Former President Trump’s administration marshaled private drug makers in a massive effort to produce coronavirus vaccines, which was quite laudable.  Trump failed to fully partner with the states, however, and politicized other aspects of the growing catastrophe.  As a result, procurement of personal protective equipment was a disaster, millions of his supporters refused to wear masks and social distance and the U.S. government appeared to be inept.  President Biden’s administration reestablished federal/state partnerships and is having growing success in getting shots in arms.  Hopefully, some faith in Uncle Sam will be restored in the process.

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Advisors to President Ronald Reagan probably invented Reaganomics – a.k.a. supply-side economics – as an excuse for cutting taxes on corporations and their wealthy supporters.  How else could they justify a policy that statistics show rarely benefits the middle class and lower income citizens?  Supply-siders argue that tax relief at the top will trickle down and benefit workers.  But it simply doesn’t work that way.  Companies hire employees and manufacturers build plants and buy equipment when there is a demand for their products or services, not because they get a huge tax break.

So, what occurred in 2018 after the December 2017 Republican tax cut reduced the corporate rate from 35% to 21%?  Well, around $1 trillion in corporate stock buy backs, that’s what.  This increased stock prices and mainly benefited the wealthy who own 90% of the shares.  Oh, and while U.S. budget deficits ballooned to pay for it, this giveaway also lined the pockets of foreign investors who, according to the Tax Policy Center, own 40% of the stocks on U.S. markets.

Now, as President Biden is proposing to increase the corporate rate to 28% in order to pay for much needed infrastructure improvements, Republicans, of course, are baulking.  Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who represents West Virginia, one of poorest states in the nation, is also erecting barriers to the president’s program.  He’s claiming that more bipartisanship is needed and that this increase in corporate rates is excessive.  Hmm!  Is Manchin speaking for his unemployed constituents that need the good jobs that infrastructure projects generate or the special interests that fund his campaigns?

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U.S. companies will be the losers if the United States falls behind China militarily, economically or technologically.  While corporations love the GOP’s tax cuts and anti-regulation bias, I believe some are beginning to realize that Republican austerity and anti-government ideology will not produce a stronger America in the long run.  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ recent comments are a surprising example.  He recognizes that revitalizing U.S. infrastructure is critically important and agrees that a corporate tax increase is needed to pay for it.

J. P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon seems to be coming around too.  Section VI of his recently published yearly newsletter to stockholders includes a message that I find particularly cogent: Dimon laments that China’s leaders believe America is a nation in decline: “The Chinese see an America that is losing ground in technology, infrastructure and education – a nation torn and crippled by politics, as well as racial and income inequality – and a country unable to coordinate government policies (fiscal, monetary, industrial, regulatory) in any coherent way to accomplish national goals.”  Dimon concluded: “Unfortunately, recently, there is a lot of truth to this.”

What’s causing a lot of America’s problems?  Well, there’s no doubt in my mind – it’s the reactionary Republican Party, cutting taxes for the wealthy, gridlocking Congress and crippling the federal government.

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Lastly, I believe the world will experience much greater peace and stability as the vast majority of women approach equal status with men in the work place, in government, in religion and in the home.  While men may be physically stronger, in my opinion, the ladies are equal, or have an edge, in numerous skills and intelligence.  Generally, women are less motivated by huge egos and macho-like attitudes and are much more oriented toward family and the stability of society – nurturing instead of dominating.  Throughout human history though, men have used a myriad of methods to keep women in the background, in part, I suppose, because they fear being dominated by the so-called weaker sex.

Unfortunately – other than in the Americas and Western Europe – the prospects of female parity being realized during the life of our 11-year-old granddaughter do not look good.  Even within her grandchildren’s life times women may not achieve this status in other parts of the world.  For example, at current rates of progress, women in South Asia will not enjoy equality with men for over 195 years, according to the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report. 

Still, I believe it’s imperative that the U.S. government formulate effective policies to promote and protect women’s rights both at home and abroad.  The world will be a better place to live as a result.

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Everyone Does Better – When We All Do Better

My older brother came through Washington, D.C. where I was working in 1963 and spent a few days at my apartment in a Maryland suburb.  He was moving furniture as a summer job while attending grad school and I took a few days off work to help him; one delivery was near Annapolis, Maryland. 

We were having lunch at a small diner; you know, the kind with stools at the counter.  A Black workman came in dressed like many of the other blue-collar patrons.  Shortly after he took a seat a few stools down from us, a white waitress approached him, “What the hell do you want, spear chucker?”  I couldn’t believe what I had heard; it was shocking to me, even back then.  Yet, the man didn’t react or leave; he calmly placed an order.

Why relate this ancient event?  Well, last fall, I started a blog about the economic effects of racial prejudice.  It included some of my own experiences, like graduating from a segregated high school in Florida and working at the FBI where the only Black employee that I knew of was J. Edgar Hoover’s chauffeur.  The objective of this blog was to show how racism in America has not only been horrific for those subjected to its evils, it has actually dragged down the economy. 

This theory was confirmed when I found a September 2020 report by Citi GPS that detailed the economic cost of Black inequality.  It estimated that $16 trillion – yes, trillion – would have been added to the U.S. economy if the gaps in wages, education, housing and credit access due to race had been closed 20 years ago.  This report also projected that $5 trillion would be added to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) over the upcoming five years if those gaps were closed immediately and that the U.S. economy would gain 0.4 percentage points each year.

The aftermath of last November’s election caused me to focus on other issues.  But my blog on racial prejudice and the economy came back to mind during the recent controversy over including a minimum wage hike in the coronavirus relief legislation.  Aren’t some of the same economic shackles that impede Black Americans holding back millions of other middleclass and lower income citizens?  And how many more trillions could they have added to the economy?   

Sadly though, lots of evidence indicates that the American Dream – that hard work will bring economic and social advancement regardless of a person’s status at birth – is no longer realistic.  A 2020 report by the nonpartisan Peterson Institute for International Economics concludes that the United States has the most unequal high-income economy in the world and that the number of Americans in the middleclass has dropped from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019.  While some have moved up, many more have fallen out of this iconic American category.

One graph presented by PIIE shows that the average pretax income of the lower 50% of workers in 38 European countries has grown by 37% since 1980, while the same tier of Americans saw their pretax income increase by a mere 3%. 

Other research indicates that only the very wealthy in the U.S. are doing well.  For example, the top 10% of Americans on the wealth scale owned 87% of all stock outstanding in the first quarter of 2020, according to data from the Federal Reserve, while the percentage held by the lower 80% was in single digits.

Inequality has numerous causes, of course. Certainly, the pitifully low federal minimum wage of $7.25 has depressed workers’ wages across the nation’s economy and so has the decrease in union membership, which fell from around one-third of the work force in the 1950s to about one-tenth today.  Consequently, fewer American families have been able to buy a home or invest in stocks, two assets which have basically defined wealth over the past several decades.

The $1.9 trillion Republican tax cut of 2017 also exacerbated inequality by favoring higher income taxpayers. Yet, it barely budged the needle on the economy meter after only a slight bump to 3% growth in 2018.  President Biden’s Covid-19 legislation cost about the same, but it will benefit millions of struggling families.  This relief will help boost the economy by up to 8% in 2021 and reduce the unemployment rate to less than 5% by the end of this year, according to Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions.   

What does this tell us?  Well, since consumer spending is roughly 70% of the U.S. economy, putting money in the pockets of average Americans will produce more economic growth than enhancing the coffers of the wealthy. 

Yes, but if the poorer folks in the lower 80% gain a much greater share of the economic pie, will the wealth of the upper 20% suffer? 

Consider this.  A family of four with yearly household income at the 2021 poverty level of $26,200 qualifies for Medicaid, food stamps and other federal safety net benefits.  If most poverty level Americans earned enough to escape dependence on government programs, not only might their added spending boost the economy, but more tax dollars could be invested in infrastructure instead of welfare payments.  I believe the resulting economic growth would actually benefit the rich, along with everyone else. 

It just makes sense.  Each of us will do better, if we can all do better.

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While China Surges – Republicans Obstruct

Entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.

“We will bury you” was an ominous warning attributed to Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War in 1956.  Some translators claim his Russian words actually meant, “We will outlast you.”   Either way, I don’t believe the old Soviet Union ever had the economic capacity to overtake the United States or dominate on the world stage; it was mainly a potent military threat.  The same is true of the current Russian Federation and its de facto dictator, President Vladimir Putin.

China, on the other hand, is an entirely different challenger.  Anyone who has spent time interacting with Asians, particularly Chinese, quickly discovers that they are highly intelligent, hardworking people who set goals and pursue them relentlessly.  Those who belittled the Japanese in the years following World War II came to rue the day they dismissed the economic potential that nation possessed.  Now it’s China that looms in the rear-view mirror and it’s moving up fast.

A December report by the UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) states that China’s more effective handling of the coronavirus pandemic – fewer than 100,000 cases and less than 5,000 deaths – avoided an economic recession in 2020 and that its economy was on track for over 2% growth.  Economists have known for some time that China’s gross domestic product (GDP), the world’s second largest, would eventually surpass the U.S. output.  The CEBR is now predicting that will occur in 2028, years earlier than previously estimated.

Although international investment was significantly curtailed by the pandemic, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development reported in January that for the first time in 2020, China attracted more foreign direct investment ($163 billion) than the U.S. ($134 billion).  These investments in manufacturing plants and offices by foreigners in 2019 were $251 billion in the U.S. compared to $140 billion in China. 

A February article in Politico details how European Union trade with China grew during 2020 and decreased with America.  As a result, China replaced the U.S. as Europe’s largest trading partner, according to data by the EU’s statistics office Eurostat.  Trump’s tariffs were not mentioned in this report but I have to wonder what affect they had on what was previously a much closer relationship with our allies across the Atlantic. 

Trump received some bipartisan support for his effort to reform the U.S./China trade relationship and reduce America’s trade deficit with its largest supplier of imports.  In July 2018, however, he launched a trade war with China and over the following 12 months, imposed tariffs on $550 billion of Chinese products.  China, of course, retaliated with tariffs on $185 billion of U.S goods. 

Eventually, a phase one deal was inked.  But according to a Brookings Institution article by two Asia scholars, Ryan Hass and Abraham Denmark, “The ultimate results of the phase one trade deal between China and the United States — and the trade war that preceded it — have significantly hurt the American economy without solving the underlying economic concerns that the trade war was meant to resolve.”

Trump is no longer involved in setting trade policy with China and that nation is moving beyond the pandemic.  A March 3 article by Bloomberg News entitled What to Watch as China Rolls Out an Economic Plan to Overtake the U.S. was referring to China’s most important political meeting of the year, which was to begin the following day. 

In a speech, Premier Li Keqiang said China would target 6% GDP growth in 2021 and pledged to increase military spending to bolster the country’s defense compared to 2020.  Later Chinese officials provided details on the nation’s five-year economic plan through 2025.  It laid out new initiatives to expand research and development spending on cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and semiconductors.  Included were plans to provide 5G networks to 56% of the country and produce jet airplane engines.  China intends to reduce its dependence on the U.S. for critical technologies and become an independent technological superpower.

A January 2020 Brookings Institution article by Duke University professor Indermit Gill predicted, “Whoever leads in artificial intelligence in 2030 will rule the world until 2100.”  Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt might agree.  A 750-page report published last Monday by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence that he has chaired for two years concluded that China will dominate AI unless the U.S. Government invests more to continue its lead in that technology.

Last week, however, Republicans were vigorously trying to scuddle President Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan to help get control of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and combat its crippling economic effects.  Not one of them voted for this bill in either chamber, in spite of its broad support among the voters.

Why?  Well, the GOP evidently believes that obstruction will help the party regain control of Congress in 2022.  Even if they fail in that effort, however, Republicans will use the filibuster in an attempt to prevent Biden from making the infrastructure investments this nation desperately needs.  And they will likely oppose federal spending on the research required to keep America the technological leader of the world.

I don’t believe this nation has faced a foreign threat like communist China since the early 19th Century.  Republican politicians, like would-be presidential candidate Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.), claim they want to get tougher on this Asian tiger.  Well, they can start by supporting our president instead of obstructing him.

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Democracy Is Dying on the Right

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There’s a lot to unpack from the events of the past several weeks.  First, it appears that the Republican Party has crossed the Rubicon to join former President Donald Trump and his band of radicals – a collection of anti-government, anti-abortion, anti-gun control and anti-immigration bigots who are driven by lies and wild QAnon conspiracy theories.  It’s likely that the moderate and Constitution-supporting Republicans in the party will be subsumed by this mob or driven out by it.

The 10 U.S. House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January are being censured or rebuked by their local GOP organizations and Trumpian primary candidates are lining up to challenge them in 2022.  One of them, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, is the very conservative number three ranked Republican in the House who had to survive a vote to oust her from that leadership position.  She will definitely face one or more primary opponents next year and being “primaried” is what Republicans in red districts typically fear the most.  State senator Anthony Bouchard has already announced his campaign against Cheney saying, “Wyoming taxpayers need a voice in Congress who will stand up to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, and not give them cover.”

All but two of the seven Republican Senators who voted to convict Trump last Saturday have been censured by local or state GOP organizations.  The effort to chastise Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, who is a very conservative legislator, tells us a lot about where the party is these days.  Although, he is retiring at the end his term in 2023, he has been censured by numerous GOP county committees and may suffer a putdown by the state organization for voting his conscience as well.  Toomey responded, “I did what I thought was right.”

But here’s the thing; that’s not what many of his constituents had in mind.  “We did not send him there to vote his conscience,” said Dave Ball, chairman of the Washington County, Pennsylvania GOP, one of the organizations that had censured Toomey.  “We did not send him there to do ‘the right thing’ or whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us.”

Comments by these Republican officials make it clear that they believe the election was stolen from Trump and that he was definitely not at fault for the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.  Recent polling confirms that Trump and the Republican Party are of upmost importance to them.  In fact, a Quinnipiac University poll indicates that three out of four Republicans want Trump to play a big role in the GOP.

The January 2021 American Perspectives Survey – a project of the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute – found the following regarding Republicans:

  • Seventy-nine percent have a favorable opinion of Trump.
  • Sixty-six percent believe that President Biden was not legitimately elected, with 75% of those without college degrees holding that belief.
  • Seventy-four percent say Trump did not incite the attack on the Capitol.
  • Sixty-five percent believe the 2020 election involved widespread voter fraud.
  • Twenty-nine percent say the QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump was fighting a global child sex trafficking ring run by elite Democrats is mostly or completely true and – get this – 43% aren’t sure.
  • Forty-one percent feel frightened about the outcome of the 2020 election.

I believe that Trump’s constant lies and conspiracy theories – which were supported by Fox News and other right-wing media – have literally poisoned the minds of millions of otherwise reasonable people.  The fact that 29% of Republicans are QAnon believers and that 41% of them are “frightened” by the election results adds credibility this conclusion.  What’s actually to fear from Democrats, Medicare for All or the Green New Deal?  Isn’t it the GOP that’s supported by the radical Proud Boys, tens of thousands of well-armed militia people, white supremacists and neo-Nazis?  Give me a break! 

Isn’t it also true that Republicans in state legislatures are attempting to win elections by radical gerrymandering, suppressing minority and college student voters and otherwise changing the rules to favor their candidates?  In fact, since November 3, lawmakers in states with Republican majorities are using Trump’s lies about voter fraud to enact over 100 restrictions that would limit mail-in ballots, impose new voter ID requirements and slash voter registration options.  Arizona tops the list with 19 anti-democratic proposals, followed by Pennsylvania with 14 and Georgia with 11.  The impetus for this, of course, is the 2020 election that saw record numbers of minority voters who flipped several red states to blue. 

The Democracy Index, which is prepared every year by The Economist Intelligence Unit, rates 167 countries on a scale that ranges from “full democracy” to “authoritarian regime.”  The U.S. was rated a full democracy in 2006 – 17th on the list.  After being rated a “flawed democracy in 2016 and dropping to 25th on the list, it has remained there through 2019.  A decline in public trust in U.S. institutions was the reason given for the downgrade in 2016, which may have helped Donald Trump win the presidency.

Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, the January 6 attack on the Capitol by his supporters and Republican efforts to further suppress minority voters, however, will no doubt cause America’s democracy rating to sink significantly lower for 2020 and 2021.  And I believe the blame for this falls squarely on the Republican Party.

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Will Republican Lies Make America Ungovernable?

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The insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 was incited by the many unfounded election fraud lies spread by former President Trump, his supporters and right-wing media.  The eight senators and 139 House Republicans who, shortly thereafter, objected to President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania were apparently motivated by the same false narritive.  Incredibly, this meant that two-thirds of GOP House members believed that keeping Trump in office was more important than upholding our democracy. 

After the Democratic-controlled House voted to impeach Trump for inciting the attack on the Capitol and delivered the articles to the Senate, 45 of 50 GOP Senators voted to challenge the constitutionality of impeaching a former president.  In doing so, they signaled that they will likely vote to acquit Trump of these charges, no matter how much damning evidence of his guilt is presented during the upcoming Senate trial. 

Numerous congressional Republicans are claiming that an impeachment trial will further divide the nation and that Congress should just, “move on” and forget about the five people who died during the insurrection and the desecration of our most sacred government building.   What flaming hypocrites!  They didn’t move on from the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, did they?  Oh no, House Republicans and Fox News anchors spent the next four years trying to put the blame for that tragedy on former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.

Problems with the Republican Party, however, go much deeper than hypocrisy in Washington.  It’s mind boggling what’s happening in states where Trump loyalists are in control of the GOP organization. 

Party officials in Arizona actually adopted a resolution censuring their very conservative Republican Governor Doug Ducey, former Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Arizona hero and former Senator, John McCain.  McCain and Flake sinned by endorsing Biden.  Ducey was rebuked because his coronavirus restrictions allegedly limited personal liberties.  This stunning move was the work of radical state party chairwoman Kelli Ward, who Trump recently endorsed for reelection. 

The Republican Party of Texas issued a statement thanking Trump for “putting America first,” and falsely stated that his defeat was due to massive fraud.  Comments from local GOP officials in Oklahoma, Nevada, Virginia and Washington state, among others, published more lies in strongly supporting the former president and totally opposing Republican politicians who challenge him. 

The Oregon GOP approved a resolution that went even further into an absurd, alternative reality.  It accused the ten Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump of “conspiring to surrender our nation to Leftist forces seeking to establish a dictatorship void of all cherished freedoms and liberties.”  It also falsely claimed there was growing evidence that the attack on the Capitol was a “false flag” operation – i.e., one perpetrated by the left to blame the right – “designed to discredit President Trump, his supporters, and all conservative Republicans.”  These Oregon party officials compared the Capitol insurrection to the February 1933 burning of the German Reichstag, which led to a Nazi dictatorship. 

Back in Washington, a staffer working for a Trump-supporting GOP congressman told a Politico reporter that “their office has received multiple calls from constituents who say the rioters didn’t inflict enough damage and that there should’ve been more people storming the Capitol.”

The big news in D.C. for Republicans, however, is newly-elected Rep. Margorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who Trump called a rising star in the party.  She’s a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory that Democratic leaders are part of a global pedophile ring that engages in unspeakable acts against children.  One of the totally sick conspiracy theories that Greene has promoted claims that Hillary Clinton has mutilated and murdered children.  It is simply too gruesome to describe. 

In 2018 and 2019 Greene supported Facebook comments that advocated putting a bullet in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s head and executing FBI agents who were accused of being part of the nonexistent, Trump-hating “deep state.”  And she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and the murder of teenagers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

No problem, says House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.  He gave Greene a seat on the House Education Committee and most House Republicans have been silent about her ultra-radical behavior.  

On the other hand, conservative Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), the third most powerful Republican in the House, is being pilloried by many of her colleagues because she voted to impeach Trump. 

Recent polls indicate that 70% of Republicans believe that Biden “was not legitimately elected,” that 80% supported Trump as he left office and that 60% believe the GOP should follow Trump’s leadership going forward.  Democrats, of course, have a totally opposite opinion.

A January New York Times Article by Thomas B. Edsall entitled, Is America Ungovernable Now? presented opinions on this subject by several noted educators, including Julie Wronski, a political scientist at the University of Mississippi.  She contended that “when Americans are divided on simple facts, and live in two different realities, we are not a governable people.”

Well, I believe Wronski precisely described where Americans are today, thanks to GOP and right-wing media lies.  Still, I’m not ready to accept that America is ungovernable.  The problems President Biden inherited from Trump’s incompetent administration require bold government solutions and I’m reasonably confident that “we the people” will demand that they be legislated.

Note: Thanks to the follower(s) who posted my January 14 blog on Facebook.  It resulted in significant activity on my fromthecenter.net blog site.  I greatly appreciate followers who post my blog on Facebook or send links or copies to their email list.

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The Republican Party Is Not Fit to Govern

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If ever there was a day that defined the reckless incompetence of President Donald Trump and the anti-democratic tendencies of the Republican Party, it was January 6.  The word “unprecedented” has been used so often with regard to this president’s abuses of power that it’s too weak and pale in this context.  The fact is, Trump and his congressional supporters have been involved in a continuous attack on our democracy for the past four years, which culminated in an insurrection at the Capitol complex last week.

There is something profoundly sad and deeply disturbing when we see Americans storming the Capitol and rampaging through the halls of Congress, the people’s house, with some actually defecating on the floors.  Many were simply vicious thugs, beating, and in one case murdering, a Capitol policeman.  This happens in a third world country, not the United States. 

As soon as the building was secured, eight GOP senators and 139 Republican House members attempted to keep Trump in office by objecting to Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s certified electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden.  Among those were Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his second in command Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the Republican leaders in the House.  

Evidently, they weren’t fazed by being put in fear for their lives by Trump supporters or that the president called these murderous criminals “very special” and said he “loved” them.  Neither, I suppose, were they concerned that the mob threatened to lynch their colleague, Vice President Pence.  These Republican legislators persisted in attempting to subvert the presidential election, choosing to undermine the people’s vote – the most sacred right our Constitution provides – rather than suffer the wrath of Trump’s base.  This should not be surprising, however, it totally fits the cowardly pattern of the GOP over the past four years or more. 

Still, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP leadership, had stood firm against Trump’s abuses of power in the beginning of his term, they might have contained him.  The longer they let him smash norm after norm and snub the separation of powers, however, the bolder and more authoritarian the president became.  Republican coddling of Trump was always just a selfish political calculation though and when everything becomes political, even human life and the Constitution are no longer sacred.

But that’s in the past and Trump made history yesterday by being the only president that has been impeached twice.  He is being charged with inciting an insurrection, about the most serious crime a president could commit short of treason.  Still, 197 House Republicans voted against holding the president accountable and turned their backs on democracy.  The 10 who voted with the Democrats will no doubt receive death threats from Trump supporters and could be punished by their party. 

There’s no question, the GOP is deeply divided and in trouble.  On one side corporations that donate to Republicans are closing their wallets because the president attempted to undermine the 2020 election and his supporters mounted an attack on the Capitol.  On the other side is Trump’s Frankenstein monster of a base, which will try to destroy any Republican politician who opposes their president.

The 9/11-styled commission that will be established to thoroughly investigate how the attack on the Capitol happened – who caused it, why law enforcement wasn’t prepared to repel it and why the government response to it was totally inadequate – won’t help the GOP either.  Trump must be held accountable, as do the insurrectionists, but some Republican representatives may have been involved.  

Yesterday we learned that members of Congress, including Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), led tours of the would-be rioters through the halls of Congress on January 5, in what appears to have been reconnaissance missions in preparation for the attack on the following day and there’s a picture to prove it.  Boebert has been asked to resign because she tweeted information about Speaker Nancy Pelosi – a target of the attackers – as the insurrection unfolded. 

Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala), Andy Biggs (R-Az.) and Paul Gosar (R-Az.) have also been implicated in a plot to help the rioters.  If true, these representatives and any others who aided and abetted the insurrectionists must be expelled from Congress and indicted for any crimes they committed.

Longer term, however, here’s what I believe voters should never forget.  Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate failed miserably to protect this nation from the deadly coronavirus that will likely kill over 400,000 Americans, even politicizing the wearing of protective masks.  They baulked at legislation that might have helped federal agencies repel a massive Russian cyberattack that went undiscovered for months.  And a Republican-controlled federal government mostly stood by as the most sacred building in the nation’s capital was ravaged by an angry right-wing mob.  In time, many Republicans will attempt to blame Trump for these catastrophes but his willing accomplice was the Republican Party that rolled over like an obedient dog at his command.

We elect a president and members of Congress to be leaders, to set examples, to shield the people they serve from harm and to always protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  No doubt, this nation needs a viable GOP for our two-party system.  But I believe the current edition of the Republican Party has failed in every duty they were elected to fulfill and are therefore unfit to govern.

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