Limited Government – A Terrible Idea

limited government Medium

Limited Government: The “nanny state” and Political Correctness

Republicans love to talk about limited government. It is always at the top of their wish list. But limited government is code for many different things. To some who feel that the government has become too invasive in our private lives, the old “nanny state” meme blames bleeding heart liberals for trying to wrap people in a protective bunting of rules and regulation. Perhaps it began with seat belts or car seats or work safety oversight (OSHA) but, according to some, it turned into one of those rubber band balls that stay small for a while and then grow more rapidly in size and complexity. Doesn’t really matter how it began, there were Americans who felt that these rules made them feel like they were living in a “petty” dictatorship, Authoritarianism Lite. This all seems a bit hyperbolic now given the real authoritarianism which is a constant risk in the administration of 45.

Lumped in with these safety laws were the increasing admonitions to use language that is “politically correct” or inoffensive to all of the diverse groups that make up America. Independent-minded Americans have lost it. They do not want to “knuckle under” to the free speech police. They don’t care if it serves the interests of civility and kindness and the humane treatment of others. They already agreed to call Indians “Native Americans”, but now they were supposed to say “indigenous people”. It was a bridge too far for some. These linguistic battles have not served to unite us, that’s for certain.

Now we are in a battle, fomented by GOP propaganda, of “real Americans” versus other ethnic groups, which could easily end with various “tribes” retreating to separate corners, leaving Americans with a prolonged culture war. Our electoral college gave us a President who flaunts his right to be politically incorrect, but it is taking the word civil out of civilization.

Federalism, Constitutional Purity and States Rights

However these things are not what other, often more powerful, Republicans are saying when they talk about limited government. And there are two sides to how limited government would look if Republicans actually got their wish. Idealistically Republicans say that this is about restoring Constitutional “purity”. They believe we have wandered too far from the intentions of our forefathers. The Constitution gives the federal government the right to write laws, pass laws, and pass judgment on the constitutionality of those laws. But purists (fundamentalists) say that the Constitution gives the federal government the right to rule the nation only in a few areas, mainly military concerns and foreign relations, and that all rights not designated to the federal government belong to the states.

They know the Federalists (state’s rights) faction lost their original argument to make America a loose affiliation of strong states under a weak national government back in the 18th century. Although our forefathers did decide to go with a stronger federal government today’s Republicans are reviving the old Federalist arguments, and they would like to ditch the conclusion our forefathers reached and become strict Federalists. Of course this means throwing out about two centuries of law and tradition and basically starting from scratch. It also means that states would begin to look more like independent nations. You might need a visa one day to travel to another state. It seems like a pretty extreme way to avoid public health care (and a few other things Republicans don’t like).

The first order of business of modern Federalists was to get Republicans in control of the United States government so they could dismantle it. They were aided in this by having some very rich industrialists on their side who stood to benefit from all the deregulation which would accompany this reorganization. These industrialists either formed a web of think tanks and Conservative groups or found ways to connect groups that already existed and were like-minded. Right wing groups met at yearly gatherings and eventually formulated an ideology and a plan of action to implement that ideology. Their machinations have been amazingly successful. The Republicans now own all three branches of our government.

Trump has been surprisingly helpful in this endeavor to tame the sprawl of the federal government. He has done this inadvertently because he wants to save America all by himself. He needs to be a hero. Even if he is perceived by many as incompetent or as a villain, if he just concentrates on his own followers he is the hero he aspires to be. He must have to delegate tasks within his businesses, but he does not want to delegate tasks in government. He doesn’t trust civil servants. Out of tradition and law they pursue objectives set by previous presidents. He likes to lead through placing his henchmen, who have pledged their loyalty to him and him alone, in offices that have the names of real American agencies but which no longer function as the original entities did. These agencies and offices are now are part of the Trump spiderweb and do Trump’s business. As a result he does not need to fill positions in these agencies or offices. Staff numbers are going down. It is becoming impossible to rely on civil servants completing routine tasks to keep government as we have known it functioning. Fewer government employees equals limited government. Et voila. Winning.

More About State’s Rights

State’s Rights was a battle cry of Democrats when the Democrats consisted of the people who are now Republicans, and is still the oft-repeated refrain of the Republicans since the Civil War and Reconstruction. Americans who cry the loudest about restoring the rights of states seem concentrated in the Southern and the Western states. People claim to love the rights of the poor usurped states whenever they want something that is opposed to what the majority of the nation wants.

Southerners were beaten in the Civil War but, in a sense they felt a terrible anger about it and their spirits refused to accept it. They loved their general, General Lee, they loved their Southern plantation culture; they loved their wealth and their lifestyle. They knew that the end of slavery would be the end of the plantation system. There were plenty of examples in the nearby islands in the Caribbean. That pride was so strong that it has been kept alive to this day and even romanticized by many Americans.

Justice was done but it has always been an uneasy and contentious justice and we have still made no real peace with it for many, many reasons most of which fall under the heading of racism. But when Southerners lost the Civil War and lost “their property” they went crazy and lost all humanity in a lust for vengeance and punishment. Whenever freed slaves tried to use the freedoms they had recently won, especially to vote or hold public office or own land, they were terrorized, viciously attacked and often slaughtered. Freedom has been won piece by tiny piece with spilled blood and dashed hopes.

Posse Comitatus

The Southerners balked under Federal attempts to control Reconstruction in the South. They argued that state and local government should have control over what was happening in the South. The federal government, experiencing some scandal and turmoil of its own, capitulated and gave local sheriffs power to rule their own domains. The rest of the nation then turned their backs on the mayhem that ensued.

Once that battle for power was won it has used precedent to justify some fairly rebellious behaviors. Most recently it reared its ugly head in the Cliven Bundy matter. Westerners resent that so much land has been designated as federal land, although there has not been any big rush to develop most of the land the government protects, or hoards (depending on your point of view). When the government decided to clamp down on Mr. Bundy, a rancher who grazed his cattle for free on government land that others paid a fee to graze their cattle on, Mr. Bundy refused to accept the power of the federal government and appealed to the superior power of the local sheriff that hails back to those very post-Reconstruction days that we have been talking about.

During Cliven Bundy’s confounding stand Rachel Maddow went over the historical basis for this claim written in the Posse Comitatus Law. The militia movement, which has similar roots, and which has been growing in America along with the stubborn power of the NRA, revealed itself when people showed up with long guns, lying prone on US highways pointing those rifles through concrete road barriers at federal officers. It was a shocking stand-off and the federal government backed down to avoid escalating the matter with killings. That’s some of the ideological background on limited government. Behind the bizarre ideological rationale is an ersatz economic argument for limited government

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The Ayn Rand Justification/Rationalization for Limited Government

With the advent of the Tea Party we began to hear new arguments for limited government. These arguments were based in money, economics, finance. America was changing. The factories which gave people good salaries without a college education had flown the coop, gone on a World Tour. People were not feeling quite so flush. Then they lost their houses in what was a scandal of bad risks by banks and the stock market, a bid for short-term profit over long-term fiscal health. The victims got spanked but the big dogs, for the most part, got off with a hand slap. They are already at their scams again.

People decided that they were unhappy with the way their taxes were being used. They had a little help from Republicans who supposedly backed the Tea Party folks, Republicans like Paul Ryan who read a seminal book by Ayn Rand in college or high school and decided that spreading Rand’s gospel suited the dilemma of those in the Tea Party and, incidentally, the goals of the Republican Party re limited government. A marriage made in one man’s mind.

I don’t like or respect Paul Ryan but even I must admit that his message caught on like a wildfire and is, even now, changing America beyond recognition. What he said that appealed to so many, was this – social government programs do not help people who are down and out, they actually hurt them. These programs keep people down and turn them into permanent dependents. We need to stop funding social programs (which would, in theory, cut taxes) – no welfare, no food stamps, no Medicaid, no Medicare, no Social Security, no federal control over or funding of education.


I always say that you can’t have socialism in a democracy because we the people pay our taxes and we say how the money will be used and that makes social programs democratic, not socialist. But the new truth is that we the people don’t contribute enough taxes to pay for the enormous military that “patriots” clamor for and for the social programs that serve as safety nets for we the people in times of trouble or need.

Without the 1% Americans are basically poor. If these miserly folks no longer want to pay taxes that will be used for people who don’t work (or can’t work) then we the people are screwed. Why we have given all these wealthy people all our money is now a moot point. The deed is done and they will use any reasoning necessary to claim that they are entitled to it. They do not mind turning America into a third world country because they plan to live above it all. All of America has now become colonized by these rich few. The right has managed to push the left to the far left and when they express fears of socialism now it is because socialism may be our only way out of  all this planned inequality.


We are clearly on a path to limited government in all its manifestations. I am guessing that we will not like it one little bit if it comes to pass. That dangerous mob, the vociferous left, created as backlash to an extreme right wing, may someday save us from the chaos of running each state as an independent entity and each local government as a fiefdom. Pick the Dems (the Dims) to save us from having to take a sad detour into “limited government”.  (I’m confused, how can you be dim and a dangerous mob at one and the same time.) “Limited government” is an outdated concept and it belongs in the oubliette of history.

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – Medium,

Fear by Bob Woodward – Book

Fear Washington Times

Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame) recently published his exposé of the chaos in the early days of the Trump White House called simply, Fear: Trump in the White House.If you have been paying attention to the news (not Fox) then what you are reading in this book is hardly surprising. You see Steve Bannon come and go. The James Comey drama is in there. You see the contributions of people who played a role in those early days but are now gone, like Hope Hicks and Rob Porter. Tillerson and Trump disagree about foreign policy and Tillerson is replaced by Pompeo. Some of Trump’s fears about the Mueller investigation are covered.

There was a recent article in the NYT’s written by an anonymous source who told us that Trump’s West Wing staff are so worried about Trump’s orders telling them to design documents that will solidify bad policies, orders to place those documents on his desk to be signed, that they delay producing the papers and even remove the documents if they appear on Trump’s desk. They know that Trump’s mind jumps around from one idea to the next and that if the policy document is not placed in front of him he will forget about it (for a while). This is all covered in Woodward’s book. Woodward was there so it helps us feel like we are actually in the Oval Office, flies on the wall, experiencing staff fears in real time.

One of the greatest of all the fears is the one that shows us that someone who formed his policy ideas in some earlier decade, someone as inflexible as Trump, someone unwilling to learn about in-depth intelligence and to apply it to his fondly-held theories, someone unwilling to evolve, to revise old dogma, to encompass new data controls the nuclear codes. People in former administrations did not lightly make nuclear threats in hopes that going nuclear will turn enemies into friends. We don’t usually brag that our nuclear capabilities are greater than those of our enemies although we believe that it is basically understood. Nuclear boasting might backfire and the consequences could be devastating. Sometimes threatening documents, once produced, were removed from presidential proximity before he could sign them, but the fear that surrounds any casual treatment of nuclear weapons is always there.

Bob Woodward is not just making us aware that Trump’s staff lives in fear of Trump inadequacies and belligerent nature; he is telling us that we need to be fearful of a man who is filling a position he does not understand. We need to know that he is running America on ego, calcified opinions, and praise elicited by implied threats (fear). We need to follow Bob Woodward into those rooms in our nation’s White House and watch the slapdash way that business is now conducted daily in America. His account is very readable and the actual meat of the book ends well before the pages do. What follows is a section of photos, some pretty useful end notes, and a detailed index. If you have been paying attention to an in-depth news station like MSNBC it will all be very familiar. What will be different is that this time you are “in the room where it happens”.

The children in this Rainbow Room video offer revealing and very brief reviews of Bob Woodward’s book, reviews that sum things up very well.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Washington Times

Trump’s Adolescent Behavior

adolescent trump -vox

Why does our President act like an adolescent? Why do Trump’s middle school nicknames work? Today he is assigning demeaning nicknames to the Democrats. He chuckles as he calls us the Dims (instead of the Dems). It is absolutely the move of a bully, who never enters the fray, except with this childish name-calling. He is only brave enough to poke people in their egos at a distance. Why does it work when he calls Kim Jong un “little Rocket Man”, except that here we have a case of one bully calling out another bully, so I sort of get why that works. Trump’s people love this stuff, this Roman-coliseum, lions-vs-Christians stuff. Perhaps the entire thing is like a sports game to these folks, lovers of tailgating (nothing wrong with tailgating).

Why does making fun of honest people work for this man, this crooked man, this cheater with no empathy or morals. Why was it OK with his peeps for him to make fun of a media guy with a disability? Why was it great fun to suggest that Dr. Blasey Ford did not remember enough about her own near rape. She may have been fifteen, but I bet she knows who was in that room, even if she doesn’t know where it was. Maybe she had a little crush on one of those two boys and that is why she went to a house party that she would usually have avoided. I bet that crush ended real fast. Is something wrong with me that I find this name-calling disgusting? There seem to be other people who feel the same way.

My brother was a teenager who tortured his own younger sisters. He had a group of friends. We all grew up with those boys. But then they started drinking and showing off for each other. My brother became an entertainer. He made up long nicknames which cannot and will not be repeated and reeled them off when the girls got home from school. My mother seemed helpless to stop it. These three sisters had to walk the gauntlet through those boys every day for a while. They were either reduced to tears or learned to pretend to ignore them. I believe it did psychic damage, but of course they grew up and had careers and husbands and children. Even my brother became a loving husband and father. There are scars though, on boys and girls alike.

This is bullying. It is not entertaining. It may bring laughter but at someone else’s expense. Trump is trying every trick in the book to belittle the Democrats. He must be really worried now about the 2018 midterm elections. Otherwise why would he bother to think up more nicknames. (Do our “leaders” sit around the oval office offering suggestions or expressing their approval.) But if he runs out of nastiness and rancor and fear of losing he can always resort to that chant “lock her up” because only men are innocent until proven guilty, not women.

mean trump medium

How did we get a President who is stuck in his adolescence? We deserve better. How does he get away with it all – the sexual abuse, the lies, the criminal financial behavior, the in-you-face desecration of the Constitution? I am still in shock that we have no way to ditch a bad President. If we don’t vote for the “Dims” at midterms then we are the crazy ones. All three branches of Congress should not belong to the same party. Vote to make sure that situation ends.

If we don’t win in November this all gets worse and we have to look at Mitch McConnell’s happy face some more, which is something I would dearly like to avoid.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Vox, Medium

Have Your Say in the Mainstream Media


Recently I have been motivated to comment on articles appearing in the opinion section of the New York Times. I hope some of you will get in the habit of using this unique opportunity to have your say in a paper that has such a wide circulation. Usually my offerings are approved, although they have never been a Times pick or a reader’s pick yet. I think it takes time to build up an audience that likes (or hates) your voice. There are, I have noticed, a few things that will get your response rejected. Being too radical, or saying things that could be construed as trolling are unacceptable, as is resorting to any of the words on George Carlin’s list of words you can’t use on TV (or in the media). (Look it up; it must be on You Tube.) Here’s an example of a response I wrote last week, hopped up on the Kavanaugh hearings that was not accepted by the NYT.

“Everyone talks about tribalism as if it explains away all our political differences, but it does not. Why are the policies on the right so different from those on the left. As a lefty I cannot agree to stay silent while Republicans consent to an immigration policy that looks like a Nazi pogrom. I cannot agree to policies of limited government which are really just designed to take we the people out of American democracy and turn the United States of America into a collection of loosely affiliated states. I cannot forget that the Republicans refused to even give a hearing to Merrick Garland.

I am listening to Charles Grassley stand before the Senate and accuse Democrats of conspiracy, an opinion that relies only on GOP paranoia. They always believe the other side is doing what they would do. I thought the Democrats were fine. They were brave to support their constituents when they knew they were more likely to earn insults from their peers than accolades. Kavanaugh was, I believe coached and coached badly at the White House. I don’t think he has the maturity to serve on the highest court in the land.”

I wrote this as a response to a David Brooks article about the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing where he characterizes the way Americans responded as “tribalism”, a characterization which makes everyone’s motives look inauthentic, which they are not, at least for many of us. I guess I could have said that instead of what I actually said. Anyway this opinion was ruled unacceptable.

Today I responded to a Charles Blow article which I very much agreed with and my comments were judged acceptable. Mr. Blow argues that we are actually in a war, a war of parties, a war of ideologies, a war for the kind of future we will live in.

My comment on Charles Blow’s article in the NYT.

“I would say that the words Republicans like to use as a rallying cry are “limited government”. In a nation of 350+ million limited government as they define it is a ludicrous notion. It argues for defuse governance. It is somewhat equivalent to the fight after the Civil War about who governed local law enforcement. Getting the Federal government to back off gave angry Southerners who lost the war absolute power to terrorize those who they, even after the war, considered their property. Republicans want limited government so that the individual states can do as they please, sometimes about trivial stuff like teaching creationism in schools (or leaving Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller out of textbooks), sometimes about more important issues such as who controls women’s bodies or deregulation and more.

I wrote a book warning that we were already in this war before the 2016 election (way before). The US Republican Constitution: A Nonfiction Constitutional Thriller by N. L. Brisson. It speaks more to strategies than to motives. But it does make it clear that the goal of the GOP was to control all three branches of government”

So have at it and subscribe to a newspaper so you can effectively express your views and get a bigger readership for your passionately-held opinions.

You can also send articles to the editors of most newspapers but look up their editorial guidelines first. All media sources that I have consulted say they will only accept articles that have not been published elsewhere so you can’t recycle. You must write something new.

A Plea to Support Major Media Sources

The New York Times has changed since ownership changed, even though it stayed in the family. The NYT used to be solidly liberal. Now it is trying to be a bit of everything. In fact I see more right-leaning writers on the opinion page than ever since the paper decided to present all points of view. I am sorry for this change. I know that Republicans complain that too much of the media leans left, but they are so extreme that moderate Republicans appear to them to be leaning left. I see this editorial change on the opinion page as, in part, an attempt to escape the most scathing effects of Trump’s diatribes against mainstream media. Also some Republican writers have joined the opposition (sort of). But I’m thinking the real basis for this change is money. Papers, even digital papers, are finding it hard to support themselves, pay reporters and writers and keep going. Appealing to a wider readership brings in more income and helps a paper or online journal survive. You can’t contribute your thoughts unless you subscribe.

Whenever you can afford to, go behind that pay wall and subscribe to your favorite media sources. Democracy cannot survive unless our media survives. At the very least try to subscribe to the New York Times, and, if you can, add on the Washington Post and your local paper (unless like mine it has taken a turn to the right). I also like to read The Daily Beast, Salon, The Hill and need to add The Atlantic. I have managed to pay three subscription fees so far this year, but I may not always be able to do that. If I had to pick one source it would have been the New York Times, but since the editorial changes I am not so sure about that. However, the Times still has enough to keep me somewhat happy for now.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Tennesee Press Assoc.


That Was Humiliating – Kavanaugh Hearings

brett-kavanaugh New York Post

Well that was humiliating – that whole process of confirming Brett Kavanaugh was emblematic of what happens when political parties have to go to war. Democrats are not only a minority party in the Legislative branch, they are demeaned and used as bait by a President who has no ideology but winning (for him and his team, which represents him). Democrats did what their constituents expected them to do. Since Brett Kavanaugh was actually a nomination by the very right wing Federalist Society, he is clearly on that list because he shares the right wing ideology of the President and the Republicans and will vote predictably on their behalf. Democrats do not share Republican ideology, not any of it. They have no recourse but to fight his confirmation.

During confirmation hearings the members of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate as a whole (Republicans and Democrats) typically try to get glimpses of how someone will vote if they are passed through to the courts, in this case the Supreme Court. Recent tradition, which says that nominees cannot give hypothetical verdicts or comment on current cases makes it quite difficult to learn about candidates in any great depth. Usually there is a paper trail of documents and decisions that can be researched to provide possible answers from past rulings and statements to tell us how a nominee will rule in the future. In this case all of the papers from when Kavanaugh worked in the Bush administration were withheld. Some things were known from when Kavanaugh served in the Ken Starr investigation into Bill Clinton’s consensual philandering in the oval office.

Democrats were able to score a few points against Brett Kavanaugh but he basically came off as a saintly husband and father and a well-respected judge on the federal court bench who just happened to have the same beliefs about the human condition and governance as those on the far right of American politics. The Democrats were not able to be very effective. Their points were more like little bee stings to this smiling, confident, relatively young man (who could be on the Supreme Court for 40 years or more). Even the demonstrators, who were very brave to be so assertive in front of such an intimidating group, were dealt with so swiftly that we barely knew their cause.

The Republicans are vindictive in their power. They lord it over the minority. They disparage them. They make it seem like it is pitiful for them to even try to compete with this arrogant bunch of old white men. They dump 42,000 documents on the Dems (which the Republican members have already seen) the night before the hearings. They want to humiliate the Democrats, to bring them to their knees, to make them meekly cave to the might of our nation’s last holdouts from an old, old order. Usually the rules of the game say that you treat the minority party with civility because they might be in the majority again one day. Chuck Grassley’s pretense of civility was somewhat grotesque and more than a little inauthentic. I would guess that Republicans do not think that the Democrats will ever be in power again.

Chuck Grassley, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy

Diane Feinstein, of course, had a letter from Professor Christine Blasey Ford which the Republicans and, apparently her own party members on the Judiciary knew nothing about. Perhaps she knew that the events described in that letter were like a mine buried in a very big old mine field and that there was no map of that mine field. Perhaps she did not want to ask Dr. Ford to reveal herself unless there was no other option left to the Democrats. Perhaps she withheld it, as Republicans contend, until it could serve as another way to delay the proceedings and cast more shade on Kavanaugh. We may never know.

I believed that Diane Feinstein was sincerely interested in protecting Dr. Ford, if she could, from the Republicans who would be livid in the face of her allegations, who were mostly old men with odd beliefs about men and women and even about rape. But I am a liberal so no one, except possibly other liberals, will agree with me on that. But I am sad for the way Dr. Ford’s efforts turned out. It makes her look like she either tried to help the Democrats with a really great job of acting, or that she really was just a mixed-up broad who was attacked and who just decided that it was Brett Kavanaugh because, we don’t know why.

What began as a polite pause by men who never placed any credence in Blasey-Ford’s memories, but who, because of the #metoo movement felt they had to hold their horses, however impatiently, to let her have a moment, ended up giving these men exactly the moment of derision they hoped to get, even if they did have to suppress evidence to get that tainted victory. If was clear after she gave her testimony that there were problems. So many specifics were missing and she had received no collaboration from her old friend Leland who was supposedly also present at this impromptu party. But that yearbook with all its odd entries that seemed sexual, but which we were told were about drinking, seemed to offer some backup to Ford’s portrayal of Kavanaugh’s character.

So now all we are left with is one university professor and the as-yet-unknown affects her testimony will have on her life, one humiliated elder stateswoman who tried to be kind, a bunch of nasty old men who will get their way once again and be able to subject us all to their reactionary agenda long after they are gone, and a man who will no longer have to pretend to be anything but what he is once he is confirmed to the Supreme Court. I would not want to be on this version of the Supremes. Will Kavanaugh be able to put the mean boy away or will his rulings be his vengeance?

To find out the true nature of a man who was intended to be the easiest confirmation ever to the highest court in the land, who it was felt had bona fides that made him a shoe-in, the perfect proof that the elite men of the 50’s were still being produced on an assembly line near you, but not too near you – after all you never went to Yale, or a private prep school for that matter, that was the task in front of the Democrats, and it was a Herculean task. There will, however, be no heroic outcome, no villain exposed, no pretender vanquished. Instead there may be a backlash against a minority party that just did its job. To put a topper on the whole valiant attempt we have to watch a man who should be a gracious winner, (Mitch McConnell) draw loudly in front of all of America his paranoid conclusions, besmirch the losers with unprovable judgments, and gloat. To put yet another topper on it all, we are told that it made Republicans, who smell blood, more excited to vote in the midterms. Ouch.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – New York Post, The Mercury News

Economic Globalism: The United States of China

global economics

I find it sort of ironic that, while Republicans make the kinds of globalism advocated on the left suspect and even part of a grand conspiracy, economic globalism has been trending for years. Trade has been a global concern in America since the triangle that involved sugar, rum, and slaves.


Sugar (often in its liquid form, molasses) from the Caribbean was traded to Europe or New England, where it was distilled into rum. The profits from the sale of sugar were used to purchase manufactured goods, which were then shipped to West Africa, where they were bartered for slaves.

Imports and exports have played a role in the economies of just about every nation. However globalism went viral in the 1980’s and beyond when factories started to leave America (and other industrial nations) to tap into an unused work force that was plentiful and which did not require high wages or benefits. The temptation to keep overhead costs and employee costs low while creating new buyers and opening new markets was apparently just too tempting.

There were other perks of relocating factories such as being able to keep profits away from America where taxes were high and place them in tax-sheltered situations. Although Trump wants American manufacturers to come home to the continental United States and bring their money with them, although he wants these wealthy Americans to practice a new-old policy of “America First”, economic globalism is highly unlikely to become isolationist any time soon. I have heard of no big rush to repatriate profits sitting abroad. Neither have I heard any patriotic fervor for bringing factories back home. While a few businesses may come home, a few more businesses are always leaving. Unless we invent a fuel to use in space and a ship designed to burn it and become a center of space exploration and colonization, unless an amazing new science of cheap, safe, and efficient space technology is found, I don’t know how we become a hub of industry again as we were in the past. That’s why we need all the talented physicists and engineers we can train and attract. Getting to space is once again a race.

It is tempting to look at the way we kept our economy booming in the past and then to simply try to replicate it. If the whole culture decays and times become more primitive a new industrial age might replicate the 1890’s – 1950’s but having to take so many steps backwards just to hope that we can recreate past innovations would mean that something catastrophic had occurred. In that case we are just as likely to languish in a primitive state as we are to reinvent the combustion engine, and the assembly line.

Annoying our trading partners, blowing up established trade relationships, does not seem like the most productive way to keep the world economy (and therefore the American economy) ticking along. If we are angry at China or Mexico or any other trading partner there must be ways to negotiate trade agreements that are not harmful to our own economy. China may be experiencing temporary challenges with its debt and its currency, but the Chinese economy looks like it still has much more room for growth than ours does. Just look up the population demographics.

I am no economist but a couple of very respected economists wrote articles this week about the complex considerations we need to keep in mind when speaking of economies and trade and globalism versus nationalism.

Sam Natapoff writing in Salon begins his recent article like this:

“The U.S.-China trade war is heating up in a battle that may last for years to come. Last week President Trump imposed new tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports to the United States. The Chinese government responded with tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods. The economic effects of this trade war between the world’s two largest economies (the U.S. at $19 trillion and China at $12 trillion) are slowly emerging. While many around the world are ignoring this, the recent damage is only the beginning.

This U.S.-China trade war was primarily caused by confusion. The Chinese government does not understand Donald Trump’s trade goals, because they are not primarily trade goals. Donald Trump has the bit between his teeth. He wants both a victory and public adulation, to feed his ego and to keep a promise to his 2016 voters that he would renegotiate unfair U.S. trade deals. He also fantasizes that he is teaching China who is boss. What’s really going on is that China has been gaining ground on the U.S. in key strategic areas, such as military power, economic influence, and scientific accomplishment, and the U.S. is now turning to aggressively confront a new rival.

At heart, everyone should be worried. The U.S., China, and all trading nations will feel real economic pain as a result of this trade war. …

This clash of economic titans threatens all multilateral trade norms and would replace them with rising tariff and non-tariff barriers around the world, placing pressure on multiple economies and eliminating any winners from this process. More concerning, this trade volatility is triggering a run by global investors into dollar assets, increasing pressures on countries with unstable currencies that were already worried about inflation and depreciation.

Even though the U.S. is being harmed, there is no chance Trump will back down. He feels that he alone can change the global trade order, make the U.S.-China trade relationship fair, and, most importantly, he wants a personal win. This position is reinforced by several of Trump’s officials and even some outside forces, for very different reasons.”

There was also an interesting article in the NYT about an invisible recession and its implications for the future.

Neil Irwin writes:

In 2015 and 2016, [in the United States]…

“There was a sharp slowdown in business investment, caused by an interrelated weakening in emerging markets, a drop in the price of oil and other commodities, and a run-up in the value of the dollar.

The pain was confined mostly to the energy and agricultural sectors and to the portions of the manufacturing economy that supply them with equipment. Overall economic growth slowed but remained in positive territory. The national unemployment rate kept falling. Anyone who didn’t work in energy, agriculture or manufacturing could be forgiven for not noticing it at all.

Most important, the mini-recession of 2015-16 offers a cautionary tale for any policymaker who might want to think of the United States as an economic island.

The episode is stark evidence of the risk the Trump administration faces in threatening economic damage to negotiate leverage with other nations on trade and security. What happens overseas can return to American shores faster and more powerfully than once seemed possible.”

The last article I will talk about said things that some might find controversial but that I thought were illuminating. The topic here is five myths about corporations. Its written by Steven Pearlstein who writes about economics at the Washington Post.

“Thirty years ago, in the face of a serious economic challenge from Japan and Europe, the UnitedStates embraced a form of free-market capitalism that was less regulated, less equal, more prone to booms and busts. Driving that shift was a set of useful myths about motivation, fairness and economic growth that helped restore American competitiveness. Over time, however, the most radical versions of these ideas have polarized our politics, threatened our prosperity and undermined the moral legitimacy of our system. (A recent survey found that only 42 percent of millennials support capitalism.)

Here are five of the most persistent myths about corporations.

[Remember these are myths so the author sets out to prove these statements are not true. Follow the link to see the author’s reasoning about why these statements, although widely believed are not necessarily accurate.]

  1. Greed, a natural human instinct makes markets work.
  2. Corporations must be run to maximize value for shareholders.
  3. Workers’ pay is an objective measure of economic contributions.
  4. Equality of opportunity is all people need to climb the economic ladder.
  5. Making the economy fairer will make it smaller and less prosperous.

Bank of England Vault

What I am trying to say is that Conservatives seem to like globalism for economics, but not when it might cost them in some way. They are inclined to use fossil fuels for as long as they are available and have lived in an oil, gas, and coal based economy for so long that they cannot conceive of an economic scenario that offers similar profits without these fuels. So when scientists and citizens talk about environmentalism, and climate change and global warming, and CO2levels all they picture is their dollars flying out the windows. It is more profitable to imagine this as a liberal plot to “redistribute wealth” than it is to take a long view and figure out what will happen when the ice caps melt and flood coastlines forever, not just during storms.

Having invested millions of dollars in building business all around the globe it seems that Conservatives are pulling back from this kind of investing in areas that are still underdeveloped, have climates that make running a business expensive, do not have enough workers or enough consumers. Once again when liberals speak of lifting up nations that are still too poor, the wealthy among us hear more dollars flying out the windows. While the world might be more stable with stronger economies in many Arab nations, African nations, and South American nations, rich folks seem to want to hang on to their own wealth rather than spread it around right now. But China is not so worried about losing individual wealth and they are filling the development gap in these nations.

Great wealth has turned our corporate heads and wealthy business people into global citizens already. They live in America only part time. They keep their money anywhere but in America. They wish to pay as few taxes as possible to help a nation of people that they have made poor by hoarding profits. No amount of excess wealth is enough. Stockpiling money for a rainy day is the prime goal. It’s mine, it’s all mine is the message. No one who did not use the public schools to get a decent education is touching a cent of my profits. No one who won’t or can’t work gets a dollar from me. If you reward them for not working they will go on not working. No one who needs to work three jobs to support dependents they had out of wedlock will engage my sympathies. They declare themselves the greatest patriots as they take their factories off to another nation where paychecks are so low as to be almost criminal. Trump thinks he can buy these people back, but they are already citizens of nowhere in particular and claiming to be an American citizen does not carry the same cachet it once did.

I cannot imagine an America isolated from everyone, turned in upon itself, not gregariously, confidently, annoyingly, and heartily interacting with nations around the globe. If we withdraw and pout about how unfairly other nations have treated us I don’t think anyone will come to comfort poor old America and try to offer expensive gifts to lure us out of our funk. The world will just go along without us and we will not only have a small government; we will have a small America. And rather than be a global force competing and scrapping with our allies and enemies we may eventually be adopted by an all-powerful Chinese Empire and become part of the United States of China. Just for a minute, imagine what we might be able to accomplish if nations worked cooperatively. I guess that can never happen unless we have reasons to toss out some excesses of national identity and national pride.

Photo Credits: From Google Images Searches:  Google sites,

This is a view from the cheap seats.




A Republican Folly

Lindsey Graham

When Dr. Ford’s identity was finally known, Senator Feinstein, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, was free to put a name to the letter she had received from Dr. Blasey Ford. She had held on to the letter to protect the privacy of Dr. Ford. She handed the letter off to the FBI late in the confirmation process. The anger of the Republicans was colossal. The Republicans ranted and raved. They had their guy on track to be confirmed before midterms as Trump wanted, believing it would help Republicans get elected in those elections. Given that Trump has a Legislative branch with a Republican majority, they know he will not understand why they can’t get this done and get this done in a New York minute. Now here was this woman, and not only was she destroying the Republican time line, but she was impugning the character of their Supreme Court nominee.

Republicans immediately assumed that the Democrats had saved the letter as part of a plan to keep Kavanaugh from getting confirmed at any cost. Obviously the Democrats did try to slow down the confirmation hearings and there were demonstrators at the hearings. The Democrats answer to their constituents and they are aware that Democratic voters do not want more right wing Justices on the Court. Republicans and Democrats know that Democrats have no real power and so they have to use a small handful of techniques available to a minority party. But did they hold Christine Blasey Ford’s letter until the hearing was almost over and then use it because it looked like Kavanaugh would be confirmed? This may be the one thing that Dems did not actually do on purpose.

Diane Feinstein remained calm and level-headed never raising her voice or expressing angry words. She was focused on two tasks, getting an FBI investigation into the situation Blasey Ford had described, or at the very least getting a fair hearing in front of the Senate. She showed great restraint and earned respect for her behavior.

Republicans did not care what Dr. Ford had to say because it was vague enough to be deniable as long as no corroborating testimony came forward. Republicans made sure that no witnesses would be heard and no FBI investigation would be done. They had this jet serviced and ready and sitting on the runway and Kavanaugh will be confirmed now that this “hiccup” has been dealt with.

I think it was great theater to see 11 Republican men, mostly in their dotage, in high dudgeon because Democrats may have used a few pages from the Republican’s favorite bodice ripper. It is not actually a matter of life and death to get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. But, although I was glad to meet Dr. Blasey Ford, although I found her believable and likeable, she should never have bothered to testify in this kangaroo court where Republicans had suppressed evidence and intended only to humor her, “yes dear”, “so sorry dear”, “not our guy, dear”, “bye dear”. People believe that Dr. Ford was sexually abused, but not by Brett Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh really mean Washington Examiner

Kavanaugh angry

But Brett Kavanaugh certainly showed us his mean side. He lectured the Democrats. He obviously felt (or was convinced to feel) that the Democrats were trying to block him only out of animus to his ideology, which he says will not affect his decisions on the Supreme Court. From all of the evidence we have, the ideologies of Supreme Court justices definitely affect the ways they reason and the decisions they make. To hear a court nominee sound so partisan in a confirmation hearing that he accuses the Democrats on the Judiciary committee of using Dr. Ford to stonewall his confirmation because of his role in the Clinton impeachment or their anger about the outcome of the 2016 election was something new to me. He tipped his hand. He was no longer the affable choir boy. I think the Republicans did him a great disservice to call forth this particular incarnation of Brett Kavanaugh.

Yesterday’s supposedly respectful hearing about a sexual abuse accusation from a distraught victim became, instead, a hearing to indict Democrats. The proceedings seemed hardly to resemble a hearing to honestly explore the charges of Dr. Blasey Ford and the fitness of Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. It is very probable that we just wasted a day of our lives listening to a coverup and a venting session, with arrows that could not be launched at one woman because of “optics” being used to puncture another in the name of politics. And after all that, I still bet that Kavanaugh will be confirmed post haste to the Supreme Court of the United States of America for life. Will he play nice with the other justices or will that mean boy appear all too often?

Photo Credit: From Google Image Searches –, Washington Examiner,