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

Getty Images

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?

Photo by Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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

Saul Leob/Agence France Presse – Getty Images

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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Will Trump’s Coup Attempt End Next Week?

Are you curious about the count of electoral votes to be conducted during a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, January 6 that will finalize the results of the presidential election? Well, you’re not alone.  For the past two weeks, half the nation has been focused on that day, particularly Trump supporters.  There has been very little written, however, about Sunday, January 3 when the new Congress convenes and the rules for that momentous count will be established. 

The Senate rules committee – currently chaired by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo) – typically issues the first draft of these rules in what is called a concurrent resolution.  I’ve read that in the past they have been adopted unanimously by both chambers without debate and have not been altered for decades.  Basically, these rules state that Congress shall abide by the Constitution, specifically the 12th Amendment, and the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which I’ve summarized briefly as follows:

President of the Senate shall be the presiding officer (Vice President Mike Pence or the Senate President Pro Tempore), who shall, in alphabetical order starting at 1 PM, open all certificates purporting to be the electoral votes of the States and announce the results.  Any objection thereto must state clearly and concisely the grounds for the objection in writing and be signed by one Senator and one member of the House.  The two chambers shall then meet separately for two hours to consider the objection(s) and take a vote.  Objections will fail if a simple majority in either the Senate or the House reject them.

The Electoral Count Act is not only vague and confusing, it is an English professor’s nightmare.  The 12th Amendment, which sets forth the duties of the President of the Senate (probably Pence), is not much more lucid.  Legal scholars believe that this lack of clarity and specificity could provide an opportunity for Senate and House leadership to craft the aforementioned rules more precisely in order to guide the electoral vote counting process and thereby avoid lengthy challenges and a donnybrook by supporters of President Trump.

Far-right Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) has clearly stated that he intends to object to various states’ votes because of what he alleges is their flawed election systems.  He will likely be joined by dozens and perhaps a hundred or more House Republicans.  Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has said he will object to votes submitted by Pennsylvania and 11 other Republican Senators say they will also object to the election results until there is a 10-day audit. 

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) seems to be the major voice of reason in the GOP.  In a long Facebook post he detailed why there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election.  He also criticized the “giant gulf” between what Trump and his allies are saying in public and what they are alleging in court.  Sasse’s bottom line is that Trump doesn’t have the evidence to back up his fraud claims and neither do the “institutional arsonists members of Congress who will object to the Electoral College vote.”

When asked if any of his colleagues disagreed with him about his position Sasse said, “When we talk in private, I haven’t heard a single Congressional Republican allege that the election results were fraudulent – not one. Instead, I hear them talk about their worries about how they will ‘look’ to President Trump’s most ardent supporters.”  As I have written in several blogs over the past two years, Republican politicians fear the wrath of Trump voters if they fail to support the president. 

Mike Pence has his own political future to consider.  No doubt, he will be a presidential candidate in 2024 if Trump doesn’t run.  So, for the past four and a half years he has been sickeningly obsequious to Trump and mindful of the president’s millions of supporters.  He knows that on Wednesday afternoon, all of their eyes and hopes will be on him.  Pence has a no-win dilemma.  Does he go rogue and attempt to aid Trump and his congressional allies in what would be a coup attempt?  Or will he play by the rules and infuriate Trump’s base? 

Pence had planned to fly off to Bahrain, Israel and Poland after the January 6 session but that trip was unexpectedly cancelled recently.  Consequently, speculation on what Pence intends to do as he presides over the electoral vote count will be wagging everyone’s tongue in the nation’s capital early next week. 

My focus, however, will be on the rules established tomorrow – yes, Sunday – and how restrictive they will be.  Will they prevent Pence from presenting slates of Trump electors?  Will they set forth more stringent procedures for making objections to Biden’s electors?   Hopefully, we will know the answers to these questions before Wednesday.

But here’s the thing.  Regardless of what Pence does, if one House member and at least one Senator object to the electoral votes from all five states where Trump is contesting the elections, that would require well over 10 hours of deliberations and related procedures. 

So, will Congress end Trump’s coup attempt by finally declaring President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the winners on January 6?  Perhaps not – but I’m confident they will do that by early on January 7.

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Republicans Attempted a Coup; It Won’t Be Their Last

President Donald Trump has attempted a coup-d’état and the vast majority of congressional Republicans are either actively supporting him or watching silently from the sidelines.  Many may fear a nasty tweet from the president, however, I believe that a significant number of them would have cheered if he had succeeded in a post-election power grab.  That is profoundly sad.

How in the world did the longest lasting and most powerful democracy in the world get to this miserable state?  Well, I think it started with Trump using lies and deception to cultivate a huge, loyal cadre of supporters from an already radicalized Republican Party.

In a February 2018 blog, I wrote that Trump’s objective in keeping his hardcore base fired up was to make sure that congressional Republicans wouldn’t dare cross him.  Clearly, any GOP politician who might go against the president would risk being defeated by a Trump-backed primary candidate.  I also thought that Trump’s base was his insurance policy if he were impeached or if he decided to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller to kill the Russia investigation.  

Later that year Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a persistent Trump critic, was one of the first victims of the president’s strategy.  Flake criticized Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and challenged the president early in 2017, so Trump turned against him.  Knowing that a well-financed candidate would oppose him in the primaries and seeing his low polling numbers, Flake dropped his reelection bid.   This lesson was not lost on other Republican politicians.  They began to cower in fear of a critical Trump tweet and the wrath of his base. 

This intimidation has continued over the past four years as the president took complete control of the GOP and his followers became bolder and more aggressive.  Is it any wonder that his base immediately went on the attack after Trump was soundly defeated in November?

Yet, out of over 50 legal challenges to the election results filed by Trump’s campaign and his supporters, only one achieved a minor win.  Both Democratic and Republican appointed judges ruled against these suits, including some appointed by Trump.  Why?  They weren’t supported by credible evidence of voter fraud or significant election irregularities. 

One federal court suit sought to invalidate former VP Joe Biden’s Pennsylvania’s votes.  U.S. Circuit Court Judge Stephanos Bibas, a 2017 Trump appointee, rejected this attempt stating, “Voters, not lawyers, choose the President.”  Regardless, around 70% of Republicans believe the Democrats somehow stole the election from their president.  Apparently, they don’t care what the courts decide.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed “the big one” – according to Trump – a suit asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the votes in four other states.  Most legal scholars believed it was totally frivolous and antithetical to the GOP’s adherence to Federalism and states’ rights.  Still, 18 Republican state attorneys general quickly joined in the litigation.  Incredibly, so did over 120 Republican members of the U.S. House, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).  They obviously don’t care about their party’s principles.  No matter, the Court wisely refused to hear their case. 

Other attempts to keep Trump in office were more radical.  During a Newsmax Media interview, Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, suggested that Trump could use the military to conduct election reruns in the swing states that Biden won.  Reportedly, he also made that suggestion to the president in the Oval Office.  That’s outrageous.

Chairman of the critically important Senate committee on Homeland Security, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), has been wasting precious committee time holding ridiculous hearings for months.  He used his powerful position in an attempt to smear Biden and his son Hunter and cast doubt on the integrity of the 2020 election.  Yet, while he was playing politics and ignoring the cybersecurity of the federal government, Russian hackers were roaming around at will in the computer systems of numerous federal agencies, threatening our national security.   

As what should be the final political ploy, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) intends to challenge the count of electors when a joint session of Congress meets next January 6 to officially declare Joe Biden the president-elect.  Several GOP senators may join him, including Sen. Johnson, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).  This tactic will likely fail.

So, with all their undemocratic efforts since November 3, Republicans won’t succeed in keeping Trump in the White House and preventing Joe Biden from taking the oath of office on January 20. 

What they’ve spawned, however, is ominous: 

Members of Trump’s base are becoming more violent, threatening to harm numerous public officials – Democratic and Republican alike – for simply doing their job to conduct a free and fair election.  Trump and his administration have been obstructing Biden’s transition team, attempting to hamstring the new president going forward.  And a majority of Republican-controlled states, along 60% of Republicans in the U.S. House, have made it clear that they don’t care what the voters want or what the courts have decided.  

After the 2020 election, the Republican National Committee and most congressional Republicans turned their backs on the rule of law and the Constitution and aggressively tried to subvert our democracy in order to keep an incompetent autocrat in power.

Make no mistake, failure this year won’t deter them – and next time they just might prevail.  

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Election Revealed the GOP Base and What’s Ahead

The 490 counties that President-elect Joe Biden won account for 70% of the U.S. economy, according to the Brookings Institute.  This year, the 100 counties with the largest economic output – which overwhelmingly vote Democratic – together comprise over half the total U.S. economy, according to Commerce Department data and various research organizations, including Brookings.  The 2,535 counties that almost reelected President Trump in November account for a little less than 30% of the U.S. economy. 

The economies in Trump voting areas have eroded since 2016, however, when the 2,584 counties he won produced 36% of the nation’s economic output.  The loss of economic power in Republican voting counties has been even more dramatic since the 2000 election when George W. Bush won 2,417 counties that produced 45% of the U.S. economy.

Ironically, Republicans promote the type of policies – like tax cuts for the rich and fewer regulations on corporations – that benefit the wealthier, higher educated urbanites who vote for Democrats.  These are the people who own stocks and who have gotten richer while the GOP base has gotten poorer.  In fact, when ranked by wealth, the top 10% of the richest Americans owned 87% of all stock outstanding in the first quarter of this year, according to Federal Reserve data.

For the past several decades, the GOP has moved further to the right, always promoting Federalism, which dictates that more federal programs should be taken over by the states.  Here is the problem with that – as some of the above statistics indicate:  Not all states are equal.  Just compare Mississippi’s economy to California’s. 

I have frequently written about the 10 states that are most dependent on federal government money.  These are states that receive more federal dollars than their citizens and companies pay in federal taxes.  Typically, nine of these states are controlled by Republicans.  The federal government actually uses excess blue state taxes to provide benefits to red states, mainly for health care and education.  Many red states simply don’t have the economic (tax) base that would allow them to fund the programs the GOP would delegate to them and that’s even more apparent in this year of the pandemic. 

Now the 2020 election is almost behind us, although a Biden win won’t be official until state electors meet to cast their votes on December 14 and a joint session of Congress finalizes that result on January 6.  In the meantime, the president-elect is selecting individuals for key positions in his administration.

The challenges facing the new president, however, are enormous.  The coronavirus pandemic is raging out of control and hospitals are almost full, particularly in red states that were mostly spared during the first wave in the spring.  More states, including red ones, are imposing or reimposing restrictions that will almost certainly impair the already feeble economic recovery.  Millions of Americans will soon lose the economic benefits and protections from evictions they received under the pandemic relief Cares Act that was signed into law in March.

Federal Reserve Chairman Powell has urged Congress to pass another significant fiscal rescue package in order to avoid continuing business failures, job losses, bankruptcies and long-term damage to the economy.  Most economists agree.

It’s possible that some agreement on this legislation could be reached before year end.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is now involved in the negotiations, is stuck on a limited $500 billion package, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has already passed a comprehensive $2+ trillion bill in the House.  It appears, however, that Senate Republicans have suddenly become deficit hawks again.  Trump doesn’t appear to care what is passed; he’s too busy attempting an unprecedented election reversal that would keep him in power.

Unless the two Democrats win the runoff elections in Georgia on January 5, 2021, which I believe is unlikely, McConnell will still control the Senate, at least during the first two years of Biden’s presidency.  He knows the leverage is on his side in current virus relief negotiations and he is in no hurry to help Biden shore up the economy going into 2021.

So, in the face of horrific problems this nation is facing both domestically and internationally I believe Republicans will be playing politics instead legislating for the benefit of their constituents and the health, welfare and security of this nation.  Democrats are even fearing that McConnell will block Biden’s appointments to the federal judiciary if he retains the Senate leadership and I don’t believe their anxiety is unfounded.

Senate Republicans are already expressing opposition to some of Biden’s selections for positions in his administration.  Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is eying another run for the presidency in 2024, has spent the past four years in silence or excusing Trump as he took a wrecking ball to America’s world leadership role and questioned election integrity here at home.  He tweeted, “Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline.”

Well, because of Trump’s inept response to the coronavirus pandemic, his distain for allies like France and Germany, his politicizing of America’s democratic institutions like the Justice Department and his preference for autocracies like those in Russia and Turkey, it’s clear this nation is already in decline.  

Sadly, Republicans are signaling they want to keep it that way until the next presidential election.

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A Critical Battle Has Been Won – But Not The War

Halleluiah!!  We can keep our democratic republic, at least for the next four years.  I won’t relax, however, until President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office on January 20 next year and President Trump and his family are out of the White House.  Still, based on his record of gross incompetence, Trump should have been dramatically ejected from the presidency by a Biden landslide.  The fact that he wasn’t is troubling. 

Truth is, over 72 million Americans voted their approval of Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his attacks on our democratic institutions.  They evidently don’t care that Attorney General Bill Barr’s Justice Department became a de facto part of Trump’s political organization and that the president put loyal lackies in charge of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Defense. 

And I’m concerned that down ballot voting seemed to confirm that Republican obstruction, hypocrisy, lies, bigotry and voter suppression didn’t cost them much beyond the presidency.  They even gained seats in the U.S. House.  For me, that is the most disturbing result of this election.  When politicians – in this case Republicans – don’t pay a price for their malfeasance, they have no reason to change and I don’t believe they will.  

So, here we are again, another Republican president has left his Democratic successor with a full plate of monumental crises.  President Biden will be heir to a raging pandemic, massive federal deficits, high unemployment, a weak economy, a foreign policy in shambles and a world that mostly views the United States as a pitiful nation in decline.  Does anyone believe Republicans will help Biden solve these problems?  I don’t.

In fact, I am confident that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) is already thinking ahead to 2024.  If Republicans still control the Senate, which is likely, McConnell can prevent Biden from enacting any progressive legislation, block or impede his judicial appointments and generally obstruct his administration just like he did with President Obama.  The Senate leader will hope that the American public will blame Biden for failing to achieve important objectives and vote more Republicans into Congress in 2022, perhaps even retaking the House and adding additional Senators to the Republican caucus.  That would put the GOP in an excellent position to elect their presidential candidate in four years and have full control of the government again in 2025, just like they did in 2017.

Even while falsely claiming that he won this year, Trump is already talking about being a candidate again in 2024.  Congressional Republicans are both supporting his efforts to contest this election and indicating he should run in four years.  The foregoing tells me that the GOP leadership believes an autocracy will help them retain power better than a democracy and there’s some data to support this proposition.

The Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden maintains data on political parties around the world.  One graph produced by this organization shows how the Republican Party’s commitment to democracy has steadily eroded since the late 1990s and fell off a cliff after Donald Trump was elected in 2016.  Another shows how Republican Party leaders went from demonizing Democrats “half the time” around 2009 to “usually” demonizing them around 2016.  V-Dem also graphed how Republican Party leaders increased explicitly encouraging violence against political opponents around 2012 and how it continued from there through Trump’s leadership.  Conversely, the Democratic Party received a high, steady rating for its commitment to democracy, with low incidences of opponent demonization and calls for violence against adversaries.

What’s the good news?  I believe private citizen Donald Trump will be facing a substantial possibility of being indicted for numerous crimes when he leaves office in 2021, including massive money laundering, bank fraud and insurance fraud.  That’s probably why he is fighting so hard to retain the presidency.  Fearing prosecution by a Biden appointed U.S. attorney general and a U.S. attorney in the hard driving Southern District of New York, I believe Trump will attempt to pardon himself and his family before he leaves office.

The problem for The Donald – a federal pardon won’t prevent Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance from getting his financial records and that could lead to indictments by a New York grand jury.  Trump loyalists may want their hero to run again in 2024 but I think he has a better chance of going to jail than he does of serving a second term as president. 

No matter, there are numerous far-right Republicans who are courting Trump’s base and advocating Trumpian policies.  No doubt, a dozen or more of them will throw their hat in the 2024 ring.  The one I fear the most though is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is highly intelligent, ruthless and unethical.  He has the skills to use the anti-democracy precedents set by Trump to control the federal government and again put the fate of our democratic republic at risk.

For now, however, we can revel in the fact that Trump will not have four more years to subvert the Constitution and further destroy the image of the United States abroad.  And we can be confident that competent, ethical Biden-appointed officials will follow the rule of law as they control key government agencies that protect us from threats, both foreign and domestic.

Oh yes.  Halleluiah!

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