Archive for the ‘history’ Category

A Sobering Evaluation of America

August 17, 2020

From the impacts of COVID-19 to America as the “world’s police force”, from gun violence to the opioid crisis, from increasing racism and economic disparity to the breakdown of the family structure, this article paints a very bleak — but realistic — picture of what the U.S.A. has become, and why it is on the road to self-destruction.

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One excerpt: “COVID-19 didn’t lay America low; it simply revealed what had long been forsaken. As the crisis unfolded, with another American dying every minute of every day, a country that once turned out fighter planes by the hour could not manage to produce the paper masks or cotton swabs essential for tracking the disease. The nation that defeated smallpox and polio, and led the world for generations in medical innovation and discovery, was reduced to a laughing stock as a buffoon of a president advocated the use of household disinfectants as a treatment for a disease that intellectually he could not begin to understand.”

This article is long, but it really is worth considering the thoughts of anthropologist Wade Davis. The link is below.

The Unraveling of America  

Has Trump Saved the U.S. from Obama’s Economic Disaster?

July 27, 2020

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“Did you hear the latest con job? President Obama is now trying to take credit for the Economic Boom taking place under the Trump Administration. He had the WEAKEST recovery since the Great Depression, despite Zero Fed Rate & MASSIVE quantitative easing. NOW, best jobs numbers ever. Had to rebuild our military, which was totally depleted. Fed Rate UP, taxes and regulations WAY DOWN.”

@realDonaldTrump, Feb 17 2020

President Trump has bragged incessantly about how he saved the economy, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes of President Obama’s scorched earth. Well, never mind the military, whose budget has been slightly increased under Trump – which may not be such a good thing, after all. Let’s briefly look at those other four much more important aspects of the economy: stock market performance, GDP—including unemployment rates—and the national debt. Then we can come to a conclusion.

Stock Market Performance

Actually, let’s start with a little history. The GOP has for decades trumpeted their positive effect on the economy, especially as exemplified by the stock market. Has the market performed significantly better under Republicans? Let’s go back to 1929, the middle of the Great Depression, for some perspective.

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According to this chart, no, not at all. In fact, the market seems to have fared far better under Democratic presidents than under the regimes of Republicans. Therefore, yet another Republican myth bites the dust. Mind you, the caveat is still to come.

But, back to Trump’s boast, the stock market’s performance has been one key way in which he views his success as a President. After well over a hundred tweets on the topic, on February 19, 2020, he tweeted about the stock market hitting a record. This is one of the few times he has been correct. However, it has since that time radically tanked. As to the caveat, when the economy is undergoing tremendous disruption, such as during this pandemic (and also such as when Obama was trying to help the U.S. recover from the Great Recession of 2008), no president can keep the stock markets from declining on a short-term basis.

So how did Obama, and recently Trump, impact the market during their relative presidencies?

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As we can see, their growth rates on the overall market look pretty similar. However, if one looks at the trough that Obama started in compared with the robust economy Trump inherited from him, the health of the market looks much more impressive during the Democrat’s tenure. If we actually viewed a chart that shows where the market was when Obama left office and where it has gone since, the graph is actually pretty much a simple continuation of the previous trend.

But let’s look at even more important figures in relation to the overall economy, those that impact the average person far more than the stock market.

GDP and Overall Economic Growth

After it bottomed out early in 2009, growth was understandably lackluster, but it significantly picked up in 2014 and has continued growing for a decade. The GDP experienced 2.4% average growth rate during Obama’s last three years in office, while annualized growth averaged about 2% for his entire term. Trump promised he would return the country to the boom of 4% and more a year that we enjoyed many times since World War II. Under Trump, annualized growth has risen slightly to 2.5% during his first three years. That’s far below his promise, but his number is still a trifle better than the best years of Obama.

More to the point, Trump was handed a healthy economy that was growing, while Obama had to recover from a disaster under George W. Bush. From nearly 10% when he took office, Obama dropped the unemployment rate to just over 4% by the end of his term. As you can see from the chart, that number has continued to decline very slightly under Trump. Once again, however, it is on the same curve, not the dramatic drop instigated by Obama. Of course, there was no need for drama after Obama’s presidency; he had the economy well in hand.

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Again, Trump was correct in his tweet: The Federal Reserve kept the federal funds rate near zero during Obama’s two terms and purchased trillions of dollars in bonds in order to help boost the economy from 2009 through 2014. Then, in December of 2015 and again in December of 2016, they started to raise the interest rate. It also continued to raise the rate after Trump took office, increasing it until July of 2019. While his tax cut and deregulatory push boosted growth in 2018, Trump’s initiatives began to fade as business owners grow concerned about his escalating trade war. Since then, the Fed has cut the rate three separate times. Currently, it’s at about 1.55%. Therefore, Trump used the same tool to enhance his own flagging economic growth. What is his complaint in this regard?

National Debt

President Obama entered office in early 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession. The national deficit ballooned from $459 billion in calendar year 2008 to over $1.4 trillion in calendar year 2009. In total, President Obama added $4.3 trillion to the national debt from January of 2009 to November 1, 2011. However, as the economy recovered, the deficits shrank to a low of $442 billion in 2015, but then rose again to $585 billion his last year in office.

Despite his pledge to wipe out the deficit out in eight years and his claim to being “the king of debt”, from January 20, 2017, to November 1, 2019, Trump piled $3.1 trillion onto the debt. In his first year in office the deficit grew to $666 billion, was $984 billion in 2018, and was over $1.1 trillion in 2019. Even before the pandemic disaster, he was on course to set a 74% increase in just four years, a staggering accomplishment for anyone. However, by July of 2020, the national debt had actually increased by $5.2 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office predicted that the FY 2020 deficit will be $3.7 trillion, and that the FY 2021 deficit will ‘shrink’ to $2.1 trillion. Unfortunately, this figure will probably be higher once the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is fully realized.

This is the key distinction separating the circumstances behind Obama’s and Trump’s debt figures. Obama entered the White House as the nation was in the trough of a recession that sparked massive stimulus spending, including a bailout of the auto industry. Trump, on the other hand, inherited an economy undergoing its longest sustained expansion in history. One helped the nation recover from the depths of the second worst financial crisis in American history, while the other has added a massive amount of debt while the US economy was extremely strong. Although Obama inherited his terrible situation, at best it must be said that Trump has heavily contributed to his own disaster.

Should Trump’s current tax policies stay in place, minimizing the burden to corporations and the 2% of the most wealthy Americans, the debt burden will get even worse. The main culprit of public debt is budget deficits, which have surged under Trump even though the Trump administration, echoing the mantra of the Republican Party, has said economic growth will pay for the added debt and deficit burden. So far—as has been historically true— that hasn’t been the case despite the longest GDP gain in American history.

The Bottom Line

In the most realistic terms, the overall U.S. economy under both President Obama and President Trump has been remarkably similar. However, the circumstances are shockingly different.

President Obama promised to bring the U.S. out of its financial morass. He did exactly as he promised.

President Trump promised to eliminate the national debt and to enhance the financial situation of every American. While the ultra-wealthy have indeed benefitted tremendously from his policies, the national debt and the financial plight of the average American have both gone into the abyss.

Contrary to having ‘saved us’ from the Obama era, Trump has led us to the depths of a disaster that will last for generations. Once more, the promises and boasts of President Trump have proven to be that thing he claims to hate the most: A blatant hoax.

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckjones/2020/02/29/four-charts-comparing-trumps-vs-obamas-stock-market-returns/#6343eff73552

https://www.businessinsider.com/national-debt-deficit-trump-how-it-compares-obama-bush-clinton-2019-11

https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/18/politics/trump-v-obama-economy-fact-check/index.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-45827430

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/13/that-22-trillion-national-debt-number-is-huge-but-heres-what-it-really-means.html

Is There Systemic Police Bias Against Blacks in America?

June 7, 2020

Recently, acting secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said: “I do not think that we have a systemic racism problem with law enforcement officers across this country.” While he was actually claiming the old saw about a few ‘rotten apples’ giving the barrel a bad name, which flies in the face of most other police officers either excusing or ignoring the bad behavior, in a way I think he was right.

To say that there is systemic police brutality against African-American people is to ignore the fact that there is systemic police brutality against any group that threatens or does not kowtow to the white elite rulers of this country. First, the statement ignores other minorities such as Hispanics, Asians, and Middle Easterners. Second, it ignores other historic systemic examples, such as frequent excessive use of force perpetrated against non-violent drug users, homeless/vagrants (especially during the Great Depression), hippies and other anti-war protestors in the 60s, and various ethnic immigrant sub-cultures in New York, Chicago, and many other areas (as in prejudice against Italians, Catholics, Poles, et alia).

By far, however, it ignores the most egregious period of American history: The United States has had the bloodiest and most violent labor history of any industrial nation in the world. Police and National Guard troops were regularly called in to break strikes, disrupt peaceful unionized meetings, and otherwise punish labor leaders from trying to break the stranglehold of the rich corporate owners of the past, the “Robber Barons” who ran America openly, and even now exert the same power, albeit a little less blatantly.

Therefore, the police have always been used as a force to support the very wealthy and powerful, generally through the use of their politician puppets, against the people who actually pay their salaries through taxes, but have no direct voice in how those forces are utilized.

What Trump Worships . . .

June 2, 2020

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, suit and crowdBibles

At least Hitler had the grace to hold up a copy of his own book, Mein Kampf. He was not being a hypocrite.

Just before Trump walked across the street to get the photo op he wanted, he was saying that he would deploy federal troops to protect peaceful protesters after the riots following the murder of George Floyd by a white policeman. He then had the federal troops and police use tear-gas and rubber bullets on peaceful, non-violent protesters so he could have a clear path for this backdrop. St. John’s Church is across the street from the White House.

Note that the church had been closed, and no actual worshipping was going on.

The Right Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, had this to say about Agent Orange’s walk to John’s Episcopal Church, which sits across from the White House.

“I am outraged,” Budde said in a telephone interview a short time later, pausing between words to emphasize her anger as her voice slightly trembled.

“Let me be clear, the president just used a Bible, the most sacred text to the Judeo-Christian tradition and stood in front of a house of prayer as a backdrop for a message that is antithetical to the teaching of Jesus in full expectation that (it) would be a celebratory moment.

“Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence,” Budde of the president. “We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us.”

Trump Lets Loose His Brownshirts

April 22, 2020

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Just like Hitler’s fanatics, the white nationalist thugs are out in force (literally) sporting semi-automatic weapons and wearing MAGA gear. Members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, the neo-fascist street gang The Proud Boys, and white supremacist pseudo-militia groups such as Patriot Front, have been identified as organizers and leaders of the protests “against the Democrat-driven unconstitutional lockdown,” as they call it. Fueled by Agent Orange’s demands to “liberate” Democratic states enforcing ‘shelter in place’, these groups have not only been inciting general protests, but also accosting and vilifying medical workers who are trying to treat victims of COVID-19 infection, along with their other patients. This disgusting behavior is exactly what we have been expecting from this would-be dictator and his violent bully-boys.

https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/extremists-anti-shutdown-protests-161305527.html

The Sad Plight of American Politics Under Agent Orange–Especially as Demonstrated by COVID-19

March 28, 2020

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52012049

How to redeem a gifted Audible Book direct from the author

November 30, 2018

If you are interested in historical fiction about strong female leaders, try this!

via How to redeem a gifted Audible Book direct from the author

A Salute to C.S. Lewis

November 30, 2018

lewis via A Salute to C.S. Lewis

 

Obama’s 2011 Thanksgiving Address

November 22, 2018

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Why Donald Trump may Ultimately be Good for America

February 9, 2017

When a forest has been allowed to grow rampantly, many problems crop up. There’s a lot of dead wood, and other shrubbery becomes overgrown. Young trees have a hard time getting nutrition and sunlight in which to grow properly. Diseases spread amongst the mature trees. Vermin have an easier time hiding from predators, whose place in the ecology is to keep their numbers down. The list goes on.

fireNature has a way of taking care of this problem: forest fires. Huge conflagrations that burn everything to the ground, eliminating this chaotic decay of a once healthy environment.

Let’s face it: this once great country has indeed deteriorated. In that sense, it is very much like an overgrown forest.

Where once nearly everyone did something useful for society, there’s one hell of a lot of deadwood. But deadwood does not merely mean people on welfare who could easily perform constructive work, whether for a wage or as a volunteer.

It also includes bloated bureaucracies where the ‘workers’ push paper around from one desk to another to justify their incredible benefits packages, including retirement deals that are bankrupting city after city. Just look at Greece. It also includes ‘vermin’, such as those who exist in the dark spaces between the government and corporations, ‘lobbying’ with special payments and generous gifts for legislators to vote for the special interests of their clients. It also includes the people on Wall Street who live in mansions due to their ability to sell invisible paper, ‘leveraging’ real assets into castles made of cards.

Sadly, the actual environment is decaying. Our industrial model, dependent on rapid and unchecked growth, is destroying the world we live in. In the name of bloated profits, we are willing to cut down any forest or grassland that regenerates oxygen, pollute any waterway that sustains life on our planet, and contaminate the very air that we and those plants breathe. And when the vast majority of scientists as well as environmentalists protest our unconcern, they are shouted down by the capitalistic businesses and politicians who live off of those profits. They are dismissed as reactionaries. So now we have a climate change denier in charge of the EPA. That’s going to promote real progress.

Small businesses, which were once the backbone of the entrepreneurial spirit, are being stunted by the huge corporations granted monopolies by fat-cat bureaucrats. The concept of small, local banks who fed those budding businesses is being blotted out by huge international banks and the Fed, a private corporation controlled by a few uber-wealthy individuals who have a stronghold on the American economic structure. Monopolies are being encouraged by those politicians who are paid by them. And Trump has appointed another billionaire’s boys club member from the wonderful Goldman-Sachs disaster to advise him on finances. Didn’t they help create the 2008 recession?

Our attempt at a national health service, the ACA, is indeed a disaster. Never mind that the Republicans gutted the intended structure so badly that it barely limps along, with Mr. Trump ready to kick the crutches away. It was a first attempt to fix the towering healthcare costs generated by outrageous med school tuitions, greedy insurance companies, litigious attorneys, and, not least, the unmitigated avarice of Big Pharma. Now there will be a lot more Americans who will have reduced qualities of life or even die because they cannot afford decent treatment.

Our once proud public educational system, one of the finest is the world, is now nearly moribund. Most states have passed laws that send the property taxes to the state government instead of the local school district, meaning that all students suffer. While state legislators pass more and more demands on teachers, further crippling their ability to serve the students, federal legislators demand standardized tests that creates a “one size fits all” delivery and caters to the lowest common denominator, rather than encouraging our best and brightest to rise above mediocrity. And Trump wants to completely destroy the public system through his pay-back choice as Secretary of Education, who is all about privatized and charter schools, and has possibly never set foot in an actual classroom in her life.

If you want a healthy country, you need healthy people who are well educated. It is obvious that taking care of unhealthy people is tremendously more expensive than the reverse, so the cost benefits should be obvious to even the most obtuse capitalist. And the benefits of education to the economy (as shown by personal lifetime income) are touted by all educational systems, so why is that even a question? Ours is a system that requires educated, modernized employees, not mindless workers.

Perhaps the worst destruction has been to traditional American values, such as equality and justice. Once again, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Nancy Pelosi explained how we have entered the age of shareholder capitalism, which is why CEO pay continues to climb while the average worker sees little to no income growth. Our “melting pot” mentality has melted down, to the point where we discriminate against well-educated professionals wanting to gain citizenship while allowing manual laborers to pour across our borders because Americans have become lazy and entitled. In that sense, Trump’s policies may actually serve a purpose. However, he wants to enforce his policies with dictates that violate the laws of our land, both technically and in intent, that were incorporated into the Constitution and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

So, the Trump administration may ultimately prove to be beneficial to America. But it is not because our latest president is a careful gardener. It is because he is a forest fire, who will leave our earth scorched and barren, destroying everything we love about our world. We can only hope that, many years after the conflagration has passed away, the American people will once more look at what really made this country great. That we will—like a forest consumed by a terribly destructive fire—regenerate the fresh and positive growth that brings new life and hope.