Thursday, August 11, 2016

Who's in Wall Street's pockets—and does it really matter?

There is a lot of debate going on as to which political party will do more for Wall Street and big business. Trump says Hillary is in bed with the big Wall Street firms. On the other hand, whenever Trump goes to bed, it’s always big money turning off the lights.

I think it is fair to say that both parties do Wall Street’s bidding. They always have and they always will. Politicians bow to the will of Wall Street and big business for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks—because that is where the money is.

And it isn’t just campaign financing—although that is always appreciated. I think it simply comes down to the rich—wealth-with-power-thrown-in and powerful—political-power-with-wealth-thrown-in, taking care of the rich and powerful.

Both parties should stop running away from the obvious. The truth is, while not in every way but certainly in many ways, America is great not solely because of democracy and not solely because of capitalism but rather because in America, democracy and capitalism have become uneasy bedfellows.

Our government has consistently, and unabashedly, allowed itself to be corrupted by money while our economic system has unenthusiastically allowed itself to be governed by regulations—with a clear understanding that they don’t go too far.

So do elections not make a difference? Is neither party different from the other?

Of course, elections make a difference. And yes, the parties are different. Just not to the rich.

Look at elections the way you would look at a boxing match or a concert. You’ve got the main event and the undercard.

Both parties take care of the headliner—the rich, but it’s the undercard where the most interesting fights occur—and Democrats tend to favor the undercards.

Republican trickle-down theory, at its best, was a policy of taking care of the wealthy, first and foremost, on the outside chance that with so much money floating around, some of it was bound to wind up in the pockets of the middle class—if they lived long enough and the poorer class—when hell froze over.

At its worse, it was a cruel joke.

Republicans believe in their souls that taking care of the wealthy is the only way to take care of the masses. Make a man rich, they believe, and he will take care of the rest. That’s what the wealthy do—except that history tells us they don’t. Never have and never will.

But Democrats have and will continue to.

Their history of protecting workers and defending unions, have resulted in shorter work weeks, higher hourly wages, pensions, healthcare, and safer working conditions. They have defended minorities—racial, religious, and otherwise—the majority of whom have always resided on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

On the other hand, Republicans gave us the Gilded Age plagued by the recessions of 1873, 1893, 1907; the roaring twenties followed by the Great Depression; and the Bush tax cuts and deregulations that led to the Great Recession of 2008.

Workers will receive minor tax cuts from Republicans but the nation will go broke from the massive tax cuts given billionaires and millionaires.

Republicans are convinced that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs by destroying companies. They believe allowing CEOs to become billionaires is the way to grow companies. The problem is that even companies that do badly have well-paid CEOs and even companies that do great have low paid workers. Why don’t Republicans and CEOs just admit that they don’t really care for workers and would be happier employing robots? Sure, they would have maintenance expenses but gone would be health insurance, pensions, and break rooms.

Health insurance won’t expand under Republicans who’ve taken 60 votes to kill Obamacare and not released one plan to replace it. It’s not because they’ve been busy doing other things.

Republicans at the state level have shown us what they think of voting rights.

All those Republican recessions and depressions mentioned earlier cost millions of jobs—over 15-million in the Great Depression and another nine million in the 2008 recession. Democrats receive no credit for recouping those jobs. Halting the skid and turning the corner should count for something.

People might not like hearing these facts but people have to get over liking only what they want to hear.

The rich will always win. There is virtually no way for them to lose. It reminds me of an old joke, so old it was politically correct to tell it back then.

Put a fat lady, a bulldog, and a can of dog food in one room.  In another room, put a fat lady and a bulldog.  In the room with the fat lady, bulldog, and dog food, the lady ate the dog food.  In the room with just the fat lady and the bulldog, the fat lady ate the bulldog.

CONCLUSION: Fat ladies will always make the best of a situation. 

Rich people are the fat lady.

Today’s poor and middle class don’t have the luxury of winning no matter who is in office. They have to look for small wins anywhere they can find them. They can’t be sucked into thinking things are going to be great. They should be happy with things being good because when you already live in the greatest nation, good ain’t that bad.








Monday, August 8, 2016

Sizing up the Trump kids as they size up their dad

The Trump kids, bless their hearts, have been thrust into a horribly awkward position. The success of the GOP in this year’s presidential election is resting clearly on their shoulders. They have the unenviable task of making their dad look less scary.

They must portray Hillary as a murdering thug deserving to be locked up, but must do so with smiles on their faces instead of eyeballs bursting and veins popping.

They must articulate a clear, concise message in a comforting tone to offset the rants and rages of their dad who usually appears to be “wound tighter than a bigot at a Black Lives Matter barbecue.” The must look poised as an antidote to their dad’s poison.

Most people seem to agree that the kids are pulling it off. They are polite, well-dressed and have excellent posture. They smile. They are not panting or foaming at the mouth. They don’t appear to be sucking up any more air than anyone else in the room and their arms aren’t flailing away at imaginary demons.

They don’t punctuate each statement, no matter how far-fetched, with a “believe me,” which does start to sound a little disingenuous after a while—if not a little far-fetched. In short, they are believable without having to beg for it. They don’t make that little teensy tiny A-ok sign that dad does when he wants to appear very exacting and in-the-know—unusual for someone who is anything but on the mark and almost never in the know.

But something—and I’m speaking for myself now and only because Cruz authorized me to—something just doesn’t seem right. Questions are surfacing in my head, which not only Fox News but also the right-wing liberal press have failed to ask.

Are they as good as they appear to be? Let’s face it. Trump does have some of the best marketing people billions can buy.

Even if they are as good as they seem, and it does seem like a big if, what does it have to do with his qualifications to be president and how much of it is really his doing?

After all, he has properties around the world and his own jet to get his there. I’m guessing he was away from home a lot during his kid’s formative years. And when I say a lot, I mean a whole lot not a little a lot (picture a teeny tiny A-ok sign here). Even when he was at home, which home was it?

Ivanka told us that there is no one who loves his family more, but two messy, very public divorces conducted in large part on the pages of New York City tabloids call for either a new definition of love or a more inclusive definition of family.

I’ve played golf and know that it can take a good chunk out of a Sunday morning. But if you own courses around the world and play with kings and presidents and movie stars and business leaders, and politicians, you probably aren’t finishing the round with a burger and a beer in a place called the “The 19th Hole” and returning home for a sit-down dinner.

The kids all hold positions of authority within their father’s company. They tell us nothing was handed to them on a silver platter. No news there. Trump doesn’t do silver. Still, they all insist they worked hard for what they got.

Again, they could be right. Or, they could be delusional. I had a supervisor when I worked for the Post Office whose father was the Postmaster. He swore he neither asked for nor got any favors. What he did get when his father retired, was a demotion back to the carrier ranks. I think that says more about the perks of working for your father than the tale the kids are telling.

It’s been said that Barron Trump—and isn’t that a positively splendid name for a billionaire’s son—has his own floor in Trump Tower. He is too young to have addressed the convention but I can only imagine the kind words he would have had for the dad that’s given him more real estate than most New Yorker’s will ever have.

I mean them no disrespect. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to take away from them standing up and telling the nation how great their dad is. They seem well-adjusted but appearances aren’t everything, which is something I’m sure their father never told them. 

What I do know, and you can take this to the bank, is that if he were my dad, even a flawed dad, I would sure as hell know the value of faking it, if I knew what was good for me—and I think all the Trump kids know what is good for them.



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Meet-ups: You never know who you're gonna meet

I had gotten an article published in the “Sunday Forum” of the Virginian-Pilot and was busy online, defending my position to critics—some whose names were familiar to me while others were new additions to my growing list of Internet infantrymen fighting the battle of words gone wild in the virtual world of anything goes.

This ritual was interrupted by a phone call from a man named Frank who had gone to the trouble of looking my name up in the phone book. I don’t know why anyone even bothers to do this because no one has a listed phone number anymore. I still do, and maybe Frank does.

He liked the piece and in the course of a short conversation, we discovered numerous things we had in common and decided to meet at a Panera’s for coffee later in the week.

There we spent several hours discussing politics and government—we were both Democrats; immigration—we were both third generation Italians from New York; and the world in general—we were both college educated, had had successful careers, were now retired and both liked to write.

After finally exhausting every topic, we said our good-byes but not before agreeing to a second “meet-up” down the road.

This was last November. The holidays came and went. He and his wife went on a cruise. My wife and I continued our frequent visits to Richmond to see the kids and grandkids. Many months went by until one day in early spring, I received an e-mail asking if I wanted to get together again.

I did and we agreed to meet again.

When I arrived, he was already seated at the same table reading the newspaper’s editorial page, just as he’d been doing the first time we met.

I came up behind him and as I was taking my seat, I offered up my standard greeting.

“How’s it going?”

He put his paper down and looked up. “It looks like Clinton is going to win.”

“Yeah, I think so. If she gets by Bernie, I don’t think she’ll have any trouble with Trump.”

For the next ten minutes, we discussed every facet of the on-going primaries and the issues at stake. As you might expect, neither of us had changed our positions on immigration, taxes and money in politics.

He reiterated his family’s experience settling in New York City. I talked again about my family’s arrival in Rochester, by way of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

At this point, he folded his paper, rose from his seat, told me he enjoyed talking to me, but that he had to be moving along.

“Yeah, nice talking to you,” I said as he walked away.

I watched him light up a cigarette as he stepped outside the door.

My only thought was, that was mighty short. We hadn’t seen each other in five months, I had driven about 20 minutes to get here, and we’d only talked for about ten minutes. Hell, my coffee was still too hot to pick up.

I was still working on it when a man approached my table—a man who looked even more like the man I had talked to five months earlier than the man I had just spent 10 minutes talking to.

“How’s it going?” He asked as he sat down in his chair. “I see you have your coffee already.”

“Yes I do. Just waiting for it to cool. How have you been?”

I looked out the window. The man I was just talking to who I thought was the man that I was now talking to was still on the sidewalk, smoking his cigarette.

Had Frank been waiting for this man to leave? Did he not want to interrupt us? Was he waiting in the wings all that time wondering who my new friend was? Was I going crazy?

If he had seen us, he didn’t mention it. It never came up. For all I knew—and I really didn’t know what I knew—he had only now just walked in when he sat down. Whether it was true or not, I didn’t know—and I certainly wasn’t going to ask.  

We talked for a couple of hours about all of the same stuff we talked about the first time we met, which happened to be the same stuff I had just finished talking about with the stranger. When we said good-bye, we agreed to meet again.

“Maybe we could start a discussion group,” he said.

He didn’t know I was already working on it.

When I arrived home, I walked in the door. My wife greeted me.

“How’d it go?”

“Well, it was a little strange.”

“How so?”

“Maybe you should sit down.”