Feeding The Rich And Starving “The Beast.”

The top 10 percent control 76 percent of the nation’s wealth. Yet a new study* found that the bottom 99.9 percent pay 175 times as much income tax as the top 0.1 percent! That’s because the wealthy use a variety of tax shelters, both offshore and in tax havens such as Delaware and South Dakota. In addition, our largest, multinational corporations dodge taxes by moving their headquarters offshore (at least on paper) and by parking large sums of cash in offshore tax shelters.

Obviously, tax reform is sorely needed, and it’s the next big item on the Trump agenda. But, with Trump and the GOP in charge, don’t expect it to benefit you. While true reform would be almost universally welcomed, the people shaping the process are all billionaires and multi-millionaires with ties to Wall Street.

What are the chances that they will introduce a bill to benefit ordinary working-class Americans?

The short answer is zero if you look at the framework being considered by the administration as reported by Politico. For example, the administration is planning to raid your 401k savings account by forcing you to pay taxes on the money up front. Other proposals include eliminating the mortgage interest deduction for homeowners, eliminating federal deductions for the money you pay for state and local taxes, and eliminating charitable deductions. All of these proposals will result in a substantial tax INCREASE for ordinary Americans. They will also punish the poor by eliminating incentives for taxpayers to donate to charities.

Even more worrying are the tax rates being proposed.

At the heart of the “reform” is a plan to reduce the number of tax brackets from 7 to 3. That, alone, will punish taxpayers at the bottom of each bracket.

Of course, there is plenty of good news in the plan for the wealthy. The new plan would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax – a boon to many well-off households. It would repeal the estate tax, a tax that currently applies only to 2 out of every 100 estates. (The tax is levied only on the portion of an estate’s value exceeding $5.49 million per person.) The plan would repeal the tax on investment income that helps pay for Obamacare. And it would cut the top marginal rate for the wealthiest Americans from 39.6 percent to 35 percent.

The Tax Policy Center estimates that the administration’s tax “reform” plan will cut taxes by $6 trillion over 10 years with almost half of the savings going to the top one percent.

And if you’re an executive for a large corporation, the news is just as good.

Though the current top marginal corporate rate of 39 percent is one of the highest in the world, very few US corporations actually pay that rate. Indeed, according to the 2015 ranking by World Bank, the total corporate tax burden for US corporations as a percentage of profits is tied with Tanzania for 64th in the world! And our corporate taxes as a percentage of GDP are lower than 22 of 32 of the world’s most advanced nations. Yet the Trump plan would cut the corporate tax rate to just 15 percent, making it one of the lowest tax rates in the world. The plan would also create a territorial tax system permitting multinational corporations to pay tax only on income earned in the US. Just what they need – yet another tax dodge! Additionally, Trump’s proposed tax plan would gift multinationals a one-time reduced tax on the trillions of dollars currently being held offshore.

The Center for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the cuts in corporate taxes alone will deprive the federal government of at least $2 trillion in the next 10 years! The administration’s belief is that the cuts in revenue will be offset by a yuuuge spurt of business growth. But that belief is wildly optimistic. Indeed, except in times of deep recession, there is no evidence that tax cuts grow the economy. And, following 8 years of private sector job growth, we are most certainly not in a recession.

If this plan – or anything approaching it – is approved, Grover Norquist will finally realize his dream. The federal government will be starved to the point where he can “drown it in a bathtub.”

* Study by John Hatdioannides of the Cass business school, Marika Karanassou of Queen May University and Hector Sala of the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and IZA in Bonn.

An Open Letter To Congress.

Dear Senators and Congressional Representatives:

We understand that it’s hard work to win an election. There’s the fundraising, the canvassing, the fundraising, the travel, the fundraising, the public appearances, the fundraising, the baby-kissing and the butt-kissing, the fundraising, the debates, the fundraising, the media interviews, and, of course, the fundraising.

We also believe that, by electing you, we afford you a great honor – the honor of representing us in our seat of government. Given that, we should expect you to appreciate that honor and to do what you can to live up to your campaign promises. We expect you to follow in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers – people like Franklin, Hamilton, Jay, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Washington – to do what’s best for us and our nation.

Unfortunately, that seems to be an increasingly quaint and naive notion as evidenced by an exhaustive study by Professor Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Professor Benjamin Page of Northwestern University.

Gilens and Page collected data on your policy decisions from 1981 to 2002. Their report, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” concluded that economic elites (the top 1%) and business groups (lobbyists) have substantial impact on your decisions while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little to no influence on your decisions.

In short, the professors found that our democratic republic has become an oligarchy, defined as a small group of people having control of a country or organization. But the Gilens-Page study only confirms what many of us already suspected.

For example, we have seen how members of Congress have prioritized the profits of defense contractors over the needs of our military and over reason itself. We’ve noticed how you repeatedly vote to increase weapons spending despite the fact that the Pentagon cannot account for its spending of more than $7.3 trillion, and despite the fact that our defense budget is greater than that of the next 7 countries combined (5 of which are close allies). And we suppressed our frustration as we watched you vote to require the US Army to purchase tanks and other weapons systems it no longer uses or needs.

We’re all too aware that you seem far more concerned with the profits of pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies than with the economic and physical health of your constituents. We aren’t blind to the fact that 40 of the lawmakers in your midst held $23 million in shares of health insurance companies as they voted to take health care coverage away from millions of Americans.

We’ve seen how you passed laws prioritizing the desires of Wall Street over the needs of Main Street. For example, in 1999, you voted to deregulate banks, clearing the way for them to gamble with our deposits and pension funds. That decision led to the financial crash and Great Recession of 2008. And yet your GOP members are intent on repealing the regulations enacted to prevent such an event from ever happening again.

We’ve also observed that the majority in Congress is working to eliminate regulations designed to keep our air, water and food clean in order to improve the bottom lines for their large corporate sponsors.

Of course, we have noted that such decisions also improve your campaigns’ bottom lines. Those large corporations reward you with large amounts of money for your re-election campaigns. They pay for junkets to exotic places. They give you tickets to concerts and other galas…the kinds of gifts few ordinary voters can afford.

And though you readily do the oligarchs’ bidding, you hide from your constituents. You avoid town halls. You send letters to constituents that are based on lies. And you have the unmitigated gall to ask your constituents for their money and their support!

Here’s an idea: Instead of beginning fundraising for your re-election campaign the minute you get into office, why not just do the right thing? Why not vote for policies that will help the vast majority of your constituents? Why not vote for better schools, better health care, better roads, safer bridges, better mass transportation and cleaner energy? Why not balance the budget by raising taxes on the fortunate few and cutting taxes for those who are struggling? Why not crack down on those who avoid paying their fair share through the use of offshore tax havens? Why not open your doors to all of your constituents? Not just those with the most money to offer.

Why don’t you treat the office as though you’re in it to serve? Why not prioritize country over party and people over money?

If you do that, believe us, we’ll notice. We’ll ignore your opponents’ attack ads. We’ll contribute to your campaigns. And we will almost certainly vote for you again. And, if you lose to someone better, you can leave office with your head held high knowing that you’ve done everything you can to represent us. You can take solace in the fact that our Founders never intended for public office to become a permanent position. (They sure as hell didn’t expect our nation to become an oligarchy in the mold of Putin’s Russia!)

As reported in John Avlon’s book, Washington’s Farewell, when the father of our nation, George Washington bade farewell to public service, he warned of three things: Hyper-partisanship, excessive debt and foreign wars.

Unfortunately, our nation is now burdened with all three. You may not be personally responsible for creating those burdens. But you can be responsible for ridding us of them…if you just do the right thing.

Montana’s Gianforte Will Fit Right In With The Washington GOP.

So what if he’s an out-of-control billionaire who assaulted a reporter for merely asking a question? What does it matter that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he has supported white supremacists and other hate groups? He is a member of a political party represented by those who have done much worse.

For example, the party leader is now a thrice-married president who has admitted to serial sexual assault; who has mob ties both in the US and Europe; who demeaned Gold Star parents; who praises murderous dictators while alienating our closest allies; and who is currently using the White House as an ATM to enrich himself and his family.

The Attorney General is, and long has been, an avowed rapist by both his words and his deeds. The head of the EPA has prioritized the fossil fuel and mining industries over clean air and water. The White House budget director has stated that he will measure the success of his budget by the number of people who are no longer able to obtain food stamps and other financial support.

The Republican caucus in Washington and statehouses across the country includes delegates who have committed sexual assault and incest. The religious “family values” candidates who have been caught in extramarital affairs are too numerous to count. Many of those who vehemently claim to be anti-gay have themselves engaged in homosexual acts – some with children.

Some of the Republican congressional leaders have accepted hundreds of thousands in campaign donations from foreigners. Some raked in huge profits from investments as a result of voting to take health care away from millions of Americans. Republicans have undermined the Constitution by passing strict voter ID laws denying hundreds of thousands of citizens their right to vote. They have gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts to perpetuate their re-election. And many have turned over their legislative responsibilities to lobbyists and corporations through groups such as ALEC and the NRA.

Republicans have repeatedly campaigned on platforms of fear – encouraging people to blame their problems on the media, immigrants, people of color and the LGBT community. By fear-mongering, they are also able to channel a large percentage of our GDP to defense contractors and an already bloated defense department – a department so lax with accounting, it’s unable to account for trillions in spending, including the billions of US cash it “lost” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are committed to a ideology of supply-side (aka trickle-down, Reaganomics, voodoo, and horse and sparrow) economics that has repeatedly failed. Indeed, it has been a disaster for our nation’s finances, resulting in massive deficits and a ballooning national debt. Its only proven success is its ability to redistribute money from ordinary people to the already very wealthy.

As part of their pandering to the rich, Republicans have fought to privatize education and prisons, even Social Security. If there’s a pool of taxpayer money, they are determined to allow corporate interests to sink their claws into it. They repeatedly privatize profits while socializing the costs to citizens and the environment.

So welcome to Washington, Congressman Gianforte. You’ll fit right in.

Republicans Aren’t Content With Changing Administrations. They Want To Change History.

For most of our nation’s 241-year history, we have seen a relatively seamless and peaceful transition from one administration and from one Congress to another. This time is different. The GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump administration seem intent on erasing the Obama administration and, for that matter, most other administrations from history.

Trump has already begun the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act by executive order. He issued an executive order erasing the rate decrease for mortgage insurance. He issued an executive order reinstating the gag order for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that provide abortions and family planning. He has issued executive orders to restart the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline, to withhold federal funds for cities that provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, to begin the process of walling off our nation’s borders, and to prevent the resettlement of immigrants from Muslim countries.

Even more telling are changes to the White House website. All references to climate change have been erased. So, too, has Spanish language content been erased (speak ‘merican, dammit).

Trump has also signed executive orders (Remember how much the GOP whined about Obama’s executive orders?) freezing all government hiring and gagging government employees – especially those in the EPA – from communicating with American citizens.

For its part, Congress passed a law making it possible to cut the annual salary of any government employee to $1.00 and freezing all new government regulations. I guess that Congress is operating under the assumption that criminals, con artists and corporations will not invent new ways to cheat the public.

All of this is destructive enough. But the GOP has indicated that it won’t stop there. Congress quietly ended investigations into the Flint water crisis. The administration and Congress are readying legislation that will privatize Medicare and Social Security; that will place limits on Medicaid through the use of block grants to states; that will extract taxpayer money from public schools and give it to private schools and charter schools without any of the bothersome transparency public schools are subject to; that will give away public lands; that will give extraction industries access to resources on public lands, including national parks; that will give oil and gas companies access to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to our coasts; that will limit or overturn the Endangered Species Act; that will make it more difficult for minorities and young people to vote; that will cut funding for NASA’s research on climate change.

At the same time, the GOP has turned its back on standard operating procedures. The very first thing the new Congress tried to do was to eliminate the independent office overseeing Congressional ethics. They have ignored calls for the president to turn over his tax returns despite a more than 40-history of doing so. They have ignored the obvious conflicts of interest inherent in Trump’s expansive businesses. Most have ignored calls for an independent investigation into intelligence reports that Russia interfered with our elections and aided Trump. And they have ignored concerns that Trump is already in violation of the emoluments clause in our Constitution.

All of these actions are not just intended to wipe out any memory of the Obama administration. They are intended to wipe out most of the progress made through all previous administrations. Social Security, for example, was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was instituted during the Truman administration. NASA was created during the Kennedy administration. The Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid are all legacies of Lyndon Johnson’s administration. The EPA and the Endangered Species Act were created under the Nixon Administration. Amnesty for illegal immigrants was granted by the Reagan administration. Legal immigration, including that of refugees, was expanded by the George H.W. Bush administration. NAFTA and CAFTA were created by the Bush and Clinton administration. And the Clear Skies Act was passed during the George W. Bush administration.

All of these things and more are in jeopardy now that the GOP has control of all the reins of government.

The Age Of Disruption.

It has become fashionable for entrepreneurs and businesses to seek disruption; to seek opportunities so significant they can disrupt and change entire sectors of the economy in the same way Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have disrupted the traditional media business; in the same way Uber and Lyft have disrupted traditional taxicab companies; in the same way AirBnB is disrupting the hotel business.

While these examples have been disruptive, for the most part they have created as many job opportunities as those they have displaced.

However, there are two impending disruptions that promise to be far more damaging: Climate change and Artificial Intelligence. Yet few are talking about them. Few have any idea of the large-scale impact of these issues. And our political leaders are either in denial or clueless.

Let’s begin with the effects of climate change. Scientists, NOAA, NASA, the EPA, the Department of Defense, POTUS, the UN, even world religious leaders have warned of the impending consequences of failing to deal with climate change. We know that the world’s coastlines and many of the world’s largest cities are threatened by global warming and rising sea levels. We know that climate change is increasing the number and violence of weather systems. And we know that thousands of the world’s species of plants and animals are threatened by changing temperatures. Yet politicians – specifically those in the Republican Party – continue to call climate change a hoax. And they have blocked every attempt to head off a crisis. But the rules of science are unbound by the beliefs of politicians.

Climate change is happening on a massive scale. And, unless we view it as a serious threat, as well as an economic opportunity for creating new industries to replace carbon fuels, climate change is likely to cause unprecedented migration and disruption. In the most extreme circumstances, perhaps it will render our planet uninhabitable for humans. Yet, in the first presidential debate, the subject of climate change was not seriously addressed by either candidate.

The other impending disruption is Artificial Intelligence (AI) – computers and robots that can learn by absorbing massive amounts of data and use logic to perform tasks that we take for granted as being exclusive to humans. We have already seen robots replace thousands of workers in manufacturing plants. In fact, more American manufacturing jobs have been lost to robots than have been shipped to China. Indeed, in recent years, many manufacturing plants have been moved back to the US, but much of their work is being done by robots.

Today’s automotive manufacturing plants employee far fewer people than ever before. The automotive frames and bodies are welded together by robots to precise tolerances that cannot be matched by humans. The engine blocks and other parts are cast, drilled and partially assembled by robots. So all of the tough talk about making US corporations bring back jobs through tariffs and other trade deals is just that…talk.

And manufacturing robots are just the beginning.

For example, within the next ten years, we will see the widespread use of self-driving cars and trucks. One of the positive consequences of such vehicles is that they will be able to reduce and virtually eliminate traffic accidents. On the other hand, they will eliminate the jobs of long haul truckers and taxicab drivers, even Lyft and Uber drivers. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million semi-truck drivers in the US alone.

What will these people do?

In the future, AI will permeate every aspect of our lives. AI computers will be able to access online legal libraries, make decisions and file legal documents on our behalf without need of a lawyer. They will be able to perform medical surgeries with more precision than the world’s best surgeons. They will replace military personnel. They will replace airline pilots and ship captains. They will act as highly-skilled and highly-trained servants to perform most of our daily tasks. They will search the Web for the best products at the best value and make recommendations to us. They will make purchases, make reservations and pay bills for us.

Such capabilities are not somewhere far off in the future. Computers are doing similar things now.

If the development of AI continues at the current pace (in all likelihood it will accelerate), more and more humans will be looking for and competing for jobs only humans can do. The disruption will be dramatic!

So while our politicians argue about national deficits and debt; while they dither over the reality of climate change; while they create fear over the influx of immigrants; while they divide us with ideologies; while they fiddle with the mundane, Rome and the rest of the world, including the US is only awaiting the match that will set fire to everything we know, even what we think we know.

Fascism, American Style.

Let me begin by stating that I recognize that fascism is a loaded and almost universally misunderstood term. Indeed, it’s one of the F words used to end conversations. But, in most cases, the fascist label is wrongly applied. For example, if you are intolerant of other races and ethnic groups, you may be a bigot. But you are not necessarily a fascist. Or, if, like President Obama, you are a democratically-elected official attempting to act on an agenda you were elected to enact, you are almost certainly not a fascist.

On the other hand, if you believe in extreme nationalism (that your country is always right, regardless of its actions) and that large corporations should necessarily enjoy a special status above that of individuals then you are almost certainly a fascist.

That’s not just my opinion.

It’s based on the words of the man who has been widely recognized as the founder of fascism, Benito Mussolini, who once said, “The definition of fascism is the marriage of corporation and state” and “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism.” Mussolini also believed in an extreme form of nationalism. As the Italian Prime Minister, he demanded complete authority, believing that he was the only person capable of solving his nation’s problems. Yet he decried state ownership of institutions, writing, “It leads only to absurd and monstrous conclusions; state ownership means state monopoly…”

If these beliefs and statements remind you of the GOP vision for America – unfettered free markets, privatization of all public institutions, a belief in “American Exceptionalism”, the co-opting of the American flag as a show of nationalism and party affiliation, a determination to enforce “family values” and a powerful leader who promises to run the nation as a business – they should. By Mussolini’s definition, such views are the very embodiment of fascism.

In fact, thanks to the Republican Party, the US now leans heavily toward fascism. After all, the vast majority of our media are controlled by a very few large corporations. We have begun to privatize our schools, our prisons, even our roads. Large corporations have been allowed to hide their profits offshore to avoid taxes. Defense suppliers have been given no-bid contracts and are allowed to pass billions of dollars in cost overruns along to taxpayers. Our government is not permitted to negotiate the prices of pharmaceuticals on behalf of our citizens. And Republicans have called for the privatization of Social Security and Medicare.

So how did we get here?

First, it should be noted that among certain circles – primarily those including powerful industrialists and financiers – fascism was popular in the US before WWII. But, though it was defeated, the concepts of fascism began to reappear in the US with corporate lobbying and what former President Eisenhower termed “the military-industrial complex.”

The ideology gained traction when Reagan vilified government and attacked labor unions. It was aided by the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which required media to act in the public interest. It was legalized when the conservative-dominated Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech, that corporations are people, and that limits on political donations are unconstitutional. And it was institutionalized through the creation of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) which brings large corporations and legislators together. As part of its charter, ALEC’s corporate lawyers write corporate-friendly bills dubbed “model legislation” then hand them to ALEC’s conservative legislative members who take them back to their respective states – often without reading them – and introduce the bills as if they are their own.

As a result of all this, large corporations and the very wealthy control most of Congress, many state legislatures and many other elected officials. And to ensure future control, the Koch brothers and their associates are using their wealth to meddle in many down-ballot races, including city councils, county boards of supervisors, even school boards.

All of this is bad enough. But what happens if we elect a nationalistic, authoritarian ideologue to the White House who believes government should be run like a business? I shudder to think of the possibility.

How The Party Of Lincoln Became The Party Of Trump.

When the Republican party replaced the Whigs with Abraham Lincoln at its helm, the party was determined to end slavery and hold the Union together through the strength of the federal government. Then, following the Civil War, the party committed itself to serving the interests of business. When workers began to fight for better pay and benefits, the party began to struggle. And when the stock market crashed leading to the Great Depression, Republican leadership was replaced by progressive Democrats who dictated policy for a generation through the New Deal and the Great Society.

When Democrats finally passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Republicans saw an opportunity. They reached out to the racist Dixiecrats of the South in hopes of turning them into Republicans. The strategy worked beyond their wildest dreams. By embracing the racists, the party turned the South a deep, deep red.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the issues of abortion and gay rights presented Republicans with another opportunity. They created the “Moral Majority” by reaching out to evangelicals. And, still harboring resentment from the Civil War, the southern coalition turned the federal government into the enemy claiming that the Constitution calls for limited government (it doesn’t). Ronald Reagan popularized the idea by stating, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

Finally, the party engineered the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, which held the electronic media accountable for serving the public interest. That turned talk radio and cable TV new into little more than propaganda spewing extremist conservative ideologies.

The result is new coalition of pro-business, anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-abortion, racists who approach politics with a righteous zeal – certain that God is on their side. This is a group that is not only immune to scientific evidence, it is fact-free; a group of voters that have convinced themselves that any news stories that fail to fit with their strongly held beliefs are lies created by the “lamestream media.”

Enter Donald J. Trump, an ideologue who is willing to foment fear and pander to the worst aspects of human nature in order to get his way; a man who was able to manipulate the media to fulfill his every wish; a man who would have you believe that only he can solve your problems, and you have the GOP of today. His fate in the general election, as in the primaries, lies with the media. They helped create this monster. And only they can destroy it.

If not, I fear there may be no turning back.

A Stark Contrast.

I truly appreciate the views of my conservative friends with regard to politics. After all, I was raised in a reliably Republican household. I believe in eliminating government waste. I believe that people should take responsibility for the own lives and their own actions. Even after the GOP was over-run with religious extremists, I shared many of the party’s beliefs. For most of my life, I was an independent voter.

The party lost me was when the Nixon-Agnew ticket used propaganda and lies to divide us; when Nixon intervened in the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam for political advantage; when the Nixon administration created the War on Drugs for the purpose of marginalizing and incarcerating minorities which were seen as political opponents; when Nixon tried to subvert our democracy by ordering the burglary of the DNC offices in the Watergate complex.

I was further alienated when Ronald Reagan reportedly sent envoys to meet with Iran’s Islamic leaders to delay the release of our embassy hostages until after his election; when the GOP tried to marginalize those who disagreed with its “Moral Majority” presuming that its opponents were immoral; when the Reagan administration eliminated the tax write-offs for interest on loans other than mortgages creating history’s largest tax increase on the middle class; when the Reagan administration trained Central American death squads and was caught selling weapons to Iran in order to meddle in Central American politics.

As someone with a journalism degree, I was horrified when President H.W. Bush engineered the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine – an action that turned our electronic news media into little more than megaphones for the propaganda spewed by Fox News Channel and the rantings of conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and the dozens of other hate-mongers who dominate more than 90 percent of talk radio.

As a former business owner, I was infuriated when my larger competitors received a myriad of GOP-initiated tax breaks and subsidies that were unavailable to my company.

I was shocked when then Florida governor Jeb Bush corrupted the Florida elections that his brother might be awarded the White House – a fact later proven by a consortium of independent media. I was infuriated when, after reading Richard (the Dick) Cheney’s Plan for a New American Century which included a call for the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration acted on the plan based on false and misleading information. I became disgusted when the GOP co-opted the US flag and patriotism by denigrating anyone who opposed its ill-conceived wars.

I could go on to include the vast increases in our national debt caused by Reagan and Bush tax cuts that largely benefited the very rich, the attack on labor unions, the undermining of defined benefit pension plans, the housing crash and subsequent financial collapse of 2008, the utter disregard for the poor and the hungry, the attempts to privatize our public lands – including numerous national treasures – for development, the dismissal of science to maintain the profits of fossil fuel companies at the cost of the health of our planet, and the unfounded and racist attacks on our first black president.

Through all of that, I could still empathize with my conservative relatives and friends and their strongly-held principles of personal responsibility and cutting government waste. But now…now…the party has taken a step way too far.

It has nominated Donald J. Trump for president!

This is a bombastic billionaire who has said and done hundreds of despicable things – any one of which would have disqualified other candidates from pursuing the office. By any traditional measure, he is unfit for the office of dog catcher, let alone the highest office in the land. Following is an abbreviated list:

Family values? Trump is thrice-married and twice-divorced. (Former Senator Gary Hart was famously disqualified for seeking the nomination for a single affair and President Clinton faced impeachment by Republicans over a sexual incident with a White House intern.) He has been accused of a violent rape by one of his ex-wives. He has been accused of sexually assaulting other women, including minors. He has even publicly displayed lechery toward his own daughter, saying if she wasn’t his daughter he’d like to have sex with her!

Demeanor? Trump thrives on name-calling. He encouraged his supporters to assault those who demonstrate against him. And he has talked about physically assaulting those who spoke out against him at the Democratic National Convention.

Patriotism? Trump successfully sought a draft deferment for bone spurs in his foot – an injury that did not prevent him from competing in college athletics. When asked, he said that he couldn’t even remember which foot was injured. He also lied about donating the proceeds of a rally to charity.

Business acumen? Trump inherited much of his wealth yet, even by his own estimation of his wealth, he has earned less than if he had simply invested his inheritance in a stock index fund. He is also one of a very few casino owners who has declared bankruptcy – something previously considered impossible. And he is hated by many in Scotland and Florida for his golf course developments.

Business ethics? He has been involved in thousands of lawsuits – many of them from contractors he refused to pay for their services. He is currently being sued by a girl scout troop that he refused to pay after they performed at a rally. His bankruptcies allowed him to walk away with millions while leaving his creditors – most of them small business owners – in the lurch. And he is currently being sued for fraud over his Trump “University.”

Charity? When it comes to donations to charities, Trump has long been known as a cheapskate and, according to The Washington Post, he has donated precious little to his own Trump Foundation.

Honesty? His acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention contained no fewer than 21 lies! And, according to fact-checking organizations such as Politifact.com, throughout the campaign, he has been the least honest of all of the major party candidates. And it’s not even close.

Empathy? Some have called him a “Blue Collar Billionaire.” Seriously? Is there really such a thing? Trump conducts many of his media interviews while sitting in a gold chair in a gold-decorated penthouse that has more in common with a dictator’s palace than a blue collar family’s home. In addition, he has made numerous racist statements. He is guilty of race-baiting at his rallies. And he famously demeaned a reporter for a physical disability.

Understanding of foreign policy? Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace recently stated that Trump has less knowledge of foreign policy than Sarah Palin! She went on to say that while Palin wanted to learn, but couldn’t, Trump is completely disinterested in the subject. Further, Trump said that the US should exit the WTO (World Trade Organization), a move that would be devastating to US businesses.

Preparedness to lead? Trump has never held office, except in his own corporation. He has no understanding of the workings of our government and no commitment to public service. One has to question if he has even read our Constitution. After all, many of his promises would be blatantly unconstitutional. Maybe that’s why 4 of the last 5 people to receive the GOP nomination for president refused to attend his coronation…er…nomination at the RNC convention. Maybe that’s why the Republican governor of the host state refused to attend. And maybe that’s why none of the living presidents has endorsed him.

Understanding of national security? Trump has stated that he wouldn’t necessarily support our NATO allies against an invasion (presumably by Russia). Worse, he called for Russia to hack the emails of a former cabinet secretary and political opponent! As a result, many in our intelligence community do not want to include him in the customary briefings on national security.

Okay, I know many of my conservative friends and relatives dislike and distrust Hillary. Yes, I know you’ve probably heard accusations that Hillary stole investors’ money in Whitewater; that she unconstitutionally fired those who worked in the White House Travel Office; that she ordered the murder of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster; that she put the US consulate in Benghazi at risk and ordered the military to stand down when it was attacked; that she “illegally” used a private email server for State Department business then, when caught, erased thousands of incriminating emails.

Certainly, Hillary has made mistakes, but they are mistakes made while serving others. Though she misread the commitment of moderate rebels in Libya and Syria, so did most of the world leaders. Though she was horrified at the attack on the consulate, there was no opportunity to save the ambassador and, contrary to right wing claims, she had no authority to tell the military to stand down. Though she admits to making a mistake by using a private email server like her Republican predecessor as Secretary of State, there was no apparent harm done, except to her reputation. And though she has made statements that were later proven false, she is a beacon of honesty compared to her opponent.

Those are not the excuses of an apologist. Those are facts.

Few talk about the many things she has done right during a lifetime of service. Moreover, few people on our planet have undergone such scrutiny as the Clintons. The investigations into the so-called “scandals” have cost roughly $100 million over a quarter century. They have garnered billions of dollars of media coverage in a constant drip, drip, drip that has been orchestrated by her political opponents. Yet, after all of the investigations led by Republicans and government agencies, little of substance has been found – certainly nothing that would disqualify her from seeking the presidency.

Her opponent, on the other hand, constantly demonstrates – with his mouth and his actions – that he is completely unfit for office.

What The GOP Wants.

It’s easy to dismiss the mudslinging and hateful rhetoric of the speakers featured at the Republican National Convention as mere partisanship; as the typical hyperbole of a contested election. But the GOP platform shows that the fear and hate so prevalent at the convention is representative of the party’s deep-rooted beliefs.

On its surface, the GOP platform seems filled with platitudes and grandiose statements that may seem positive or, at worst, relatively harmless. But, if you look deeper, a different – more frightening – picture emerges.

The platform begins with a preamble that reaffirms the party’s commitment to the concept of “American Exceptionalism”… the very idea that led to the genocide of Native Americans, the meddling in foreign affairs, and the creation of “banana republics” as well as other puppet states that would be subservient to the US. And it further represents backward thinking by confusing the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation. (Yes, it’s true that our Founding Fathers originally committed to a limited federal government. But that was as a result of the differing beliefs of the original colonies, not the least of which was the colonies’ differing views toward slavery. But after the Revolution, the Founders wrote and ratified the Constitution which gives great, sweeping powers to the federal government.)

The platform only goes further downhill from there.

Despite our robust recovery from the Great Recession, the platform seeks to reinstate the very policies that led to the recession. It blames Democrats for the national debt despite the fact that the vast majority of the debt is the result of decisions made by the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. Indeed, both the Clinton and Obama administrations have dramatically cut deficits created by Republicans.

The GOP platform calls for increased defense spending, claiming the Obama administration has shortchanged the defense budget for years despite the fact that the US currently spends more on the military than the next 9 nations combined – 7 of them strong US allies. And it contends that the Obama administration has refused to control our borders despite dramatic increases in border patrols and the apprehension and deportation of undocumented immigrants.

It claims that Democrats have attacked the production of energy and industry-related jobs while ignoring the reality that oil and gas production are at all-time highs, and that alternative energy production (wind and solar) has created millions of jobs. At the same time, the GOP denies the impact of technical innovation on the number of lost manufacturing jobs and its own role in providing tax incentives to multinational corporations that ship jobs overseas and hide profits offshore to avoid taxes.

The platform officially denies human-caused climate change while pandering to voters in coal country by proclaiming coal to be a “clean” energy source. It calls for a commitment to the already discredited “fair tax” that, if implemented, would not only give enormous tax breaks to the top 1 percent. It would add trillions to our national debt. And the platform perpetuates the myth that US corporations face the world’s highest tax obligations when, in reality, the US is tied with Tanzania for 64th in total tax obligations! Moreover, the US corporate tax obligation is lower than 22 of 32 OCED nations.

In addition to Trump’s notorious plan to build a wall along our Mexican border, the GOP would seek to build a virtual wall between us and our trading partners by trying to implement a series of harsh tariffs and other forms of bullying. The GOP would have you believe that Wall Street and corporations can regulate themselves free from any form of regulation. (We already know how disastrous that can be.) The platform pushes individual responsibility while excusing multinational corporations from their actions. At the same time, it seeks to diminish civil rights and equal opportunities for much of our population. It would also deny individuals many of the legal mechanisms needed to fight against injustice and predatory corporations.

The GOP platform calls for investment in our nation’s infrastructure while ignoring the fact that the only reason for our decaying infrastructure is the refusal of the party’s own members of Congress to vote for such initiatives. Moreover, Republicans didn’t just vote against those bills, they blocked many of them from ever coming to a vote. In addition, the platform continues the party’s long-standing attack on labor unions – the very institutions that helped build the middle class as the only way for workers to negotiate with management. (In case you haven’t noticed, as labor unions have been diminished, CEO and shareholder compensation have soared while the compensation of workers has stagnated. At the same time, the GOP has orchestrated the destruction of thousands of pension plans.)

Even more telling is the platform’s focus on exclusion – by unconstitutionally closing our borders to Muslims, by deporting millions of Latino immigrants, by denying civil rights to the LGBTQ community, by unconstitutionally establishing Christianity as the official religion of the US, and by diminishing the rights of women. In practice, GOP policies would diminish the rights of all those who look and think differently than white, male Republicans.

The party platform enshrines the GOP’s unwavering support of the 2nd Amendment. Yet, at the same time it embraces those who own the weapons of war, the GOP turns its back on those who are most vulnerable: Women who find themselves pregnant with a baby they cannot afford, women who wish to terminate a fetus that either endangers the mother’s life or is incapable of ever surviving on its own, the hopelessly impoverished who, without help, cannot reasonably expect to escape poverty; whose schools are underfunded; who live in areas without jobs and without access to public transportation.

The platform reaffirms the party’s intent to stack the judiciary from top to bottom with ideologues like the late Antonin Scalia. It would sell off public lands, including national parks. It would eliminate many regulatory agencies. It would privatize education and anything else that would allow corporations to profit. It would repeal Obamacare and return control of health care to insurance and pharmaceutical companies that would make health care unaffordable for tens of millions of Americans. It seeks to privatize Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. It would eliminate or diminish many of our other safety nets, including job training and food assistance.

The GOP platform indicates that the party will continue its assault on voting rights and its commitment to gerrymandering to ensure a GOP majority that does not reflect the composition of the voting public. It foments fear of others and distrust of government institutions. It doesn’t just seek to change government. It goes much further, seeking to impose a narrow set of “values” – to dictate morality and human behavior.

It is, perhaps, the most ideological document ever authored in the name of a political party. And, if implemented, it will negatively impact our nation for generations to come if, indeed, it doesn’t lead to its ultimate destruction. (If you think that’s mere hyperbole, consider the potential impact of the unabated burning of fossil fuels and environmental destruction that will make our planet uninhabitable.)

How Can We Ever Hope To Bring Americans Together?

Regardless of which candidate wins this year’s presidential election, it’s all but certain that Americans will be more divided than ever. We’re divided by far more than politics. We’re divided by ideology; by media choices; by attitudes toward guns and violence; by attitudes toward the environment; by a woman’s right to decide what is right for her own body; by energy policy; by foreign policy and military intervention; by acceptance and tolerance for those who are different than ourselves; by faith.

As the US, like many other nations, lurches farther to the right, it seems that we cannot agree on anything. One side accepts science while the other relies almost exclusively on faith. One side believes in evolution while the other side believes in creationism. One side works to abate climate change while the other side calls it a hoax. One side embraces other cultures and ethnic groups while the other side chooses to discriminate against them. One side accepts authority and bullying while the other fights against it. One side supports corporatism (aka fascism) while the other supports individuals. One side celebrates wealth and power while the other side celebrates the working class. One side worships individualism while the other side worships community and collectivism. One side demands status quo while the other side demands expanded civil rights.

No matter which candidate wins in November, roughly half of the population will vehemently oppose the winner’s policies.

It would seem that the only thing that can possibly pull our nation together is a disaster – a military or terrorist strike against our nation or a financial calamity on the order of the Great Depression. Ironically, the burst of the housing bubble and the ensuing Great Recession were not enough to create unanimity. Ignoring the facts, each side simply blamed the other for their hardships.

In order to seek more palatable solutions, we must first look at how we arrived at this point. It began with the Nixon-Agnew strategy of divide and conquer. It continued with the GOP’s embrace of southern bigots and evangelicals along with Paul Wyerich’s strategy of voter suppression. It accelerated with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which allowed electronic media to choose up sides and lie at will. And it was cemented by Newt Gingrich’s embrace of parliamentary-style politics which disdained any form of compromise.

So what can we do?

1. To begin, we should all demand more of our media by reinstating a Fairness Doctrine that would require all media, both electronic and print, to operate in the public interest. That means to tell the truth and hold politicians accountable.
2. We should overturn voter suppression laws and make voting easy, maybe even mandatory, for all American citizens.
3. We should bring transparency to campaign finance and overturn Citizens United.
4. We should, once again, make it illegal for corporations to contribute to political campaigns.
5. We should break the lobbyists’ hold on Congress by passing laws to end the revolving door from Congress to lobbying groups, and to limit lobbyist access to Congress.
6. We should end all forms of gerrymandering by passing laws to put control of congressional redistricting into the hands of independent commissions.
7. We should demand that the IRS reinstate restrictions that prevent non-profits from disguising their political focus, thus doing away with PACs and Super PACs.
8. We should institute term limits on all Senators and Congressional Representatives. If it makes sense to limit the president to two terms, it should make sense to do the same for Congress.
9. We should hold the individuals who manage political campaigns liable for lies and disinformation. That would prevent them from avoiding election fraud by simply dissolving the campaign entities following an election,
10. We should demand more of ourselves. We should each seek to inform ourselves about the candidates and the issues in order to meet the expectations of our Founding Fathers by becoming an enlightened and informed voting public.

Even if you don’t agree with these proposals, we must do something. And we must do it now. It may be our only hope for unifying our nation and moving it forward. Indeed, at the risk of being seen as hyperbolic, it may be the only way to avoid another Civil War.