Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Trump Phenomenon and the GOP

A year ago when I was contemplating this year's election and the race for the GOP nomination, we were considering a host of candidates: governors, senators, and the like. The GOP field looked wide and deep. Everyone was confident that the GOP would nominate one of those traditional politicians and have a very strong chance to win the presidency.

What a difference a year makes. In June, billionaire Donald Trump burst on the scene, surprising everyone.

Within weeks, Trump had sucked the air out of many of the traditional politicians' campaign. His media savvy and celebrity left little room for other candidates who were less well funded. Soon, one by one, they began to drop out.

Few really took Mr. Trump seriously in those days. It was just an instant  sort of thing and he would fade when faced with actual campaigning. Nobody really wanted to take him on. Those that did almost immediately regretted it.

Then he started winning. Not only was he winning, but he got a pretty good lead. Suddenly, the depleted band of politicians in the race took notice. So did the Republican establishment after most of their favorites bit the dust.

For the last two months there has been a concerted effort by the establishment and their PACs, the remaining candidates and their PACs, and the media to stop Trump, whatever it may take. No holds barred.

This barrage has seeming slowed the Trump bandwagon, and certainly has a chance to derail him. It will be close.

So what has caused this phenomenon? It is really easy to tell. He burst on the scene with issues that a lot of voters are very concerned about, but which got short shrift from the establishment Republicans.

Illegal immigration and the need to secure our borders.

The harm that unfettered free trade has done to our manufacturing base and its now unemployed workers.

The weakened military and as an adjunct, the total failure to provide good care for our veterans.

These issues and others resounded with a lot of voters across the political spectrum. They turned out for Trump at rallies and at the polls. The befuddled GOP just could not see what anyone could see in a brash, egotistic, non politically correct rich guy like Trump.

I think that what they saw was someone, anyone, who would stand up for the issues they were interested in and thought were vital. That is pretty simple.

Too simple for politicians who have spent their careers coddling the people who provided them money, and therefore power. Too simple for politicians who are more interested in their own welfare and that of their donors instead of the welfare and interests of the voters who elected them.

Trump is very clearly not a politician, and is woefully unprepared to make a traditional political campaign. It is almost as if he did it on a lark, and then was surprised by the outpouring of support from the grassroots voters. He has had no plan, no "ground game." The fact that he continues to do well in many jurisdictions is amazing to me.

The entire array of political forces are against him, yet he continues to win. Perhaps it is time for those forces to ask themselves why that is happening.

The Republican Party has utterly failed to deliver on promises made. The people have elected them to make changes in Washington, yet the leadership continues down the same old path of taking care of the money people and letting the rest of their voters go.

So we get Trump. It is amazing to me to see the forces arrayed against Trump, and wonder whether those same forces arrayed against Obama and the Democrats with the same aggression might have made a Trump unlikely.





Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Restarting


After a year and a half absence, I had the idea I should put my thoughts on things down, so I hunted up my old blog, and here I am.

The grand project that I was writing just kind of petered out. It occurred to me that every decade was much the same, except it kept getting worse.. So I lost my momentum.....and my interest in the subject. My apologies.

What is now occurring in our body politic is rather extraordinary, and I hope to put down some ideas about it over the next while.

I will refer back to my blog on June 15, 2014. In that post I mentioned the problem with money in politics, and pointed out that nobody seemed to care as long as they got their "stuff."

Obviously, this year people have started to care about the two parties and their directions. A lot of Democrats want a lot more stuff, so we have Bernie Sanders doing well. On the other hand, voter on the Republican side are tired of sending people to Congress to change things and having them stymied by the old order, or co-opted by it. So we have Donald Trump.

This will provide plenty to muse about the rest of the year.

But enough for today. It's nap time.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Great Changes, Delayed

I started a series called Great Changes in Progress a while back intending to bring the discussion decade by decade to the present. Unfortunately, that has been delayed a bit. My sweet bride has been having a bout with breast cancer.  Mammograms, biopsies, two surgeries, and she will start radiation treatments next week.

The cancer was ductile in situ, meaning we caught it early before it was able to spread, and the second surgery assured us as much as possible that all of the tumor has been removed. So we are very thankful to say the least. The radiation should take care that it does not recur.

As a result, the continuation of the series will have to await the time when I can get my mind back on it.

I do intend to finish it. For what it will be worth.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Great Changes in Progress; Part I

Introduction

After I posted Part I it occurred to me that this needed some kind of introduction so any reader might understand where I am going. I think great changes are coming to our country, some of which are already underway. What follows is my thoughts about these changes, starting with some history. This history is not intended to be all inclusive. It is all from my memories of the times unless I have provided a link. I am starting with the 1960s because this is the time I entered adulthood. Some of the trends had been in progress for many years before, but 1960 seems as good a point to start as any.

I do not know whether anyone is interested in my thoughts. I am doing this as an exercise for myself. But readers and comments are welcome. If you think I have made a factual error, please let me know and I will correct it if I agree.

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When I sat down to write the reflections after my 75th birthday, I first read those comments posted after my 74th, and determined that in that year, not much had changed.

Upon further reflection, I realize that that is not true. We are undergoing great changes in our country, culturally and politically. As an old timer, that is a bit unsettling.

I suppose every generation as it reaches elderhood thinks the younger generations have lost their minds, or is getting off the track, or are failing somehow. Mine is probably no different.

My thought today is that we have failed the younger generations.....our children and grandchildren. We have failed them both in our actions and our inactions.

My cohort (which is pre-baby boomer) had a great childhood. America was ascendant, everyone that wanted to work had jobs, and although the Cold War was in progress, and we had the "police action" in Korea, we had relative peace at home.

That world ended on November 23, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. From that date, it seemed that the world we had known simply fell apart.

We had already gotten committed in Viet Nam, and that commitment soon escalated, even though there was no broad public support for the war. This of course led to the anti-war protests, which gradually escalated throughout the decade and beyond until the end of the war.

This was paralleled by the great civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. Although peaceful, this movement too frequently incited violence from die-hard segregationists.

Through the 1960s and well into the 1970s, these two movements led to a great deal of civil unrest throughout the country.

At the same time, our culture rapidly changed. The old social mores were thrown out, and license took their place. A revolution took place in our music, language and in sexual relationships. The Baby Boomers really fundamentally altered our society as they came of age.

With these revolutions came the beginnings of some really harmful trends. Divorce rate soared, as did the number of out of wedlock births. The concept of family began to fall apart, abetted by the welfare requirement that made a household ineligible if there was a man in the house. This latter requirement virtually destroyed the African American family and did significant harm to other groups as well.

All of the social and cultural trends remain in place today.

The economy has also seen great changes which stem from events and policies that began in the 1960s.

When Lyndon Johnson escalated the war in Viet Nam, he also began the War on Poverty. Nobody likes poverty, but LBJ determined that he was going to wage both of those very expensive wars without raising the necessary revenue to even start to pay for them. He would borrow the money.

This, of course, was very inflationary. Theretofore, the Bretton Woods Agreement had made the US dollar the world's reserve currency, used in all international trade. Other governments could freely convert the dollars they held into gold from the US Treasury.

The "guns and butter" approach by LBJ left the US with huge deficits, both fiscal and in trade, and other nations, particularly Switzerland and France, began to convert their dollars to gold. This forced Nixon, in 1971, to close the gold window, essentially ending to Bretton Woods Agreement, and detaching the dollar from gold. This made the dollar a purely fiat currency. It has also led to very large changes in the nation's economy which have been very costly.

More in Part II.

Great Changes in Progress, Part II

We left Part I with the end of the gold standard. This was the pivotal point in this history as will be shown.

1972 brought the election, and Watergate. The Viet Nam War was still in progress, with the attendant demonstrations and domestic violence from the anti-war crowd. With Nixon's re-election, he was able, at least some what, to pacify Viet Nam, and our troops were pretty rapidly with drawn, leaving a viable, but needy South Vietnamese government in charge, dependent upon American aid to be viable.

At the same time, shocks in the economy were constant, a result of the abandonment of the gold standard and a de facto devaluation of the dollar. OPEC caused oil prices to skyrocket, and the result was inflation throughout the economy.

The entire remainder of the decade saw inflation and a stagnant economy. This was commonly called "stagflation."

The 1970s was not a good decade for the United States. Stagnation, inflation, scandal dominated the scene. Viet Nam was ultimately lost when Congress pulled the aid from the South Vietnamese government, which promptly fell to the North, rendering the 52,000 American live lost purposeless.

We continued to have high inflation and energy woes through the end of the decade.

One may now ask why the gold standard was so important. What that did was require the US Government to exercise some fiscal restraint or face losing our gold. Without the convertibility, the government and the Federal Reserve had the ability to spend and print money as they wished, without an immediate apparent penalty, even though there would be an invisible penalty. Politicians love that kind of money availability, for they can then spend their way to re-election after re-election. And they did.

One thing that occurred in the overall economy was the beginning of the financialization of it. Manufacturing jobs began their decline, and Wall Street began to grow in power and influence. Money was "free" more or less.

And the invisible penalty began to be paid. Inflation adjusted earnings for men age 25 and up peaked in 1972, just as the gold standard was axed and the dollar devalued. They have never recovered to that point. Only the top quintile has done better, and particularly the top 5%. And these latter groups do better only when you count the households, not individuals.

We heard a lot about the "misery index" back in those days. Voters tended to hold the politicans responsible for that, and they were certainly partly to blame, but the Federal Reserve had the power to rein in the excesses, but failed to do so.

The president being forced to appoint a tough Chairman of the Federal Reserve marked the end of the decade. Paul Volcker would, in 1980, bring inflation to it knees. And that is where we will start Part III.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

More Reflections, After My 75th Birthday

Three quarters of a century have come and gone, and there is much to reflect upon.

There are new scandals in our government since the last birthday, and some that we knew about then appear much worse than we thought back then.

Our politics are proving even more corrupt than I feared, and it is not confined to one political party. The dominant wing of the minority party is also corrupt.

What I refer to is the dominance of money in our politics, and the fact that politicians of both parties take money, in the form of political contributions, and pass out special legislative and regulatory favors to those who contribute.

A lot of those same politicians amazingly acquire fortunes while on the government payroll.

What the politicians do is give those individuals and corporations advantages economically that are not available to everyone else.

Special tax breaks, subsidies and regulations are all enacted to give those "friends" of politicians a leg up.

One example might be the Keystone Pipeline, which lacks only Obama's approval to be constructed. This would result in a cheap, and environmentally friendlier way of delivering the Canadian oil to our Gulf Coast. But Obama will not approve the pipeline, so it is now being delivered, at a cost of $30 per barrel, by rail. This is a lot more environmentally dangerous, of course. Why the hold up? Guess who owns the railroad? None other than Berkshire-Hathaway, Warren Buffet's company. Obama's big friend.

Everyone has seen how the megabanks have cheated and defrauded their way to great riches, got themselves bailed out at taxpayers' expense in 2008, then continued down the same path to this day. Not a single major individual at any of the big banks has been prosecuted. They are too big to fail and too big to jail. Why? Check out their huge campaign contributions to Obama and major members of his party. Also check out the contributions to politicians belonging to the members of the dominant wing of the other party.

This list could go on ad infinitum.

In our politics now, money is the only name of the game for most.

And too few people even seem to care.....as long as they get their stuff.

There is no rule of law in this country now that is applicable evenly to all.

Sad.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

About Modern liberals

Andrew Klavan of PJ Media had an interesting post today entitled "A Pause for Life" in which he states something very close to my view of liberals, or Democrats, or Progressives, which are really all pretty much the same. I don't capitalize the term "liberal" because to do so might confuse things because a Liberal (classical) is something entirely different.

I don't really like the terms we all seem to use in a shorthand way to classify folks with different political philosophies. Terms like liberal, conservative and progressive are very difficult to use to describe the complexity of political thought. The meaning of the terms seem to be adjusted with some frequency.

I have always considered myself a classical Liberal.....Jeffersonian, with a touch of Jacksonian populism. That is a far cry from modern liberalism (or progressivism), but is also not really adequately described by the terms "conservative" or "libertarian".

I have dear friends who are liberals as well as many who describe themselves as conservatives. I often disagree with the former on policy, and occasionally with the latter.

However I might disagree however, the following quote really describes how I feel about the disagreement:

In moments when I do pause, it comes back to me that, while people like Barack Obama or Harry Reid may be small, dishonest and corrupt individuals whose actions and philosophies are antithetical to the greatest ideals of the American state, many of the people who voted for them are far better than the men they voted for. They are people of good will who make their political decisions in keeping with their reason and traditions and in accord with what they think they know. So many of their hopes for the country are the same as mine. Often it’s only the methods we disagree on.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

LEAVING HOME

On my twelfth birthday, my family and I moved into our new home on the west side of Lubbock. We came from Austin, where I was born and completed elementary school.

The move, of course, meant that I was leaving behind all of the friends of my lifetime to that point, and coming to a town where I knew not a soul.

That was rather traumatic for a twelve year old. And so, on our second day, we had a very serious dust storm....called haboobs nowadays. Talk about trauma.

We settled in that summer and I started school at J. T. Hutchinson Junior High that fall. And started making friends, and continued to do so. Many of those original friends are life-long friends. No need for names....they know who they are, and I am afraid if I tried to start naming them I would leave one out.

Except for a brief sojourn away at college and a brief stop in Midland for a year and a half, Lubbock was my home for 62 years. I love Lubbock and the people there. I married my wife there and we had our daughter there, and raised her  until she left for college. Lubbock is/was home.

Times change, however. Our daughter went away for college, and except for a brief boomerang, has returned only for very brief visits.

She now lives in the area just south of Ft. Worth, has a small farm, and a full time job. Because she had so little time to come to Lubbock and visit, and because we wanted to be able to have her in our life much more than had been possible, my wife and I decided to move closer to her, and bought a home near Granbury, Texas.

More trauma! Murphy's Law is alive and well, as we have discovered. The remodeler screwed up, and from then on it seems like everything that could break down, did. Moving to a new place to live is not for sissies, I can tell you.

Of course, we miss all of our dear friends, and that is the sad part. On the other hand, we see our daughter with great frequency, and are able to participate in her life much more than we could before. That makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Otherwise, I would feel like I did when I was twelve coming into a new town.

But enough of that. I hope to blog more....it has been almost a year since the last one. I don't know if anyone is really interested in that, but it gives an elderly guy something to do.