What’s At Stake With Tax “Reform.”

For decades, taxation in the US has been based on a progressive tax structure, which means those who earn the most money pay the highest taxes. And those less fortunate pay the least. Similarly, corporations were taxed to help pay for the government-provided infrastructure they needed to operate. When the nation incurred substantial debt, the Congress raised taxes to reduce that debt. For example, following World War II, tax rates were raised to pay down the debt. Through the Eisenhower administration, the nation’s highest tax rate exceeded 90 percent. Yet, despite such high tax rates, the economy boomed.

Then, in the 1980’s everything changed. Based on a discredited economic theory known as trickle-down economics, Republicans began to cut taxes (and revenue) under the guise of “tax reform.” They cut the top income tax rate, as well as estate taxes and capital gain taxes – all for the benefit of the wealthy. At the same time, they repealed usury laws and eliminated the tax deductions for interest on all loans except home mortgages. All the while promising that the cuts would benefit middle Americans.

They didn’t.

Not only did they transfer much of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class. The national debt soared. As a result, even those who originated the idea of Reagan’s trickle-down economics were forced to admit that the plan failed.

Unfortunately, Republicans have never abandoned the theory. For years, they have continued to promote the trickle-down fairy tale. They not only signed Grover Norquist’s misguided “No New Taxes” pledge. They continue to promote tax cuts as the elixir for any economic ailment. Is the economy suffering? Tax cuts will help. Is unemployment too high? Tax cuts are the answer. Is the economy booming? Tax cuts will make it even better. As a result of all this tax cutting, our national debt has continued to climb – slowing only when Democrats are in power.

Fast-forward to today. Republicans are proposing yet another tax “reform.” And just like the “reforms” of the past, it looks a lot like another round of tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy. Indeed, if this tax plan passes and is signed into law, the deficits will, once again, soar. And the national debt will be increased by trillions. According to a report from the Urban Tax Policy Center, “Over the first 10 years, the individual income tax provisions — excluding those related to the taxation of corporations, pass-throughs, and estates — would raise $470 billion, the business provisions would reduce revenues by $2.6 trillion, and repealing the estate tax would cost another $240 billion.”

As far as I can tell, this is all part of the GOP long-range plan.

The Republicans seem concerned with deficits and debt only if they can be used as a hammer to bludgeon Democrats when they are in control. (Remember the outrage when President Obama used TARP funds to save the US auto industry? Though the impact of the bail-out on our national debt was negligible, Republicans howled that it would be a burden to future generations.) In reality, I believe the GOP plan is to push our nation more deeply into debt. Then, and only then, will they be able to reach their long-term goal of reducing the government to a size small enough that, in Grover Norquist’s words, “it can be drowned in a bathtub.” Only when the debt has reached an unsustainable level will the GOP have the ammunition needed to slash government programs regardless of their popularity or need. That is when they will be able to argue the necessity of ridding the nation of safety nets such as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and all the varieties of welfare.

If you doubt this is the Republican goal, consider the Ayn Rand-like philosophy of the billionaires who finance the Republican Party. As mentioned in a previous post, the Koch brothers believe that government is unnecessary for anything but national defense, law and order, and social stability. And, by some counts, there are 16 people in the White House with ties to the Koch brothers. In addition, there are many more in the Republican congressional delegation who are beholding to the brothers grim of oil refining.

You must also consider that Trump’s presidential campaign was heavily funded by Robert Mercer, a man who has stated that he wants to shrink the government to the “size of a pinhead.” Worse, he apparently thinks that human beings have no intrinsic value – believing that an individual’s value should be based solely on income. In other words, someone who earns $2 million per year is 20 times more valuable than someone earning $100,000 per year. And he believes that anyone on welfare is worth less than nothing.

Obviously, the Kochs and Mercers spent hundreds of millions to elect today’s Republicans with the expectation that the Republicans would do their bidding – that they would reshape government to fit their ideas and to lower their taxes. If you think that means the Republican tax proposal will benefit you, think again.

The Unholy Marriage Between Evangelicals, Billionaires And Trump.

There’s a long history between the GOP and evangelicals dating back to the late 1800’s. In the book The Family, you’ll read about wealthy industrialists and evangelicals joining forces to keep labor unions from gaining power. In the 1950’s, Eisenhower was put in office with the help of evangelicals. He rewarded them by agreeing to create the National Prayer Breakfast, by agreeing to the addition of “Under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance and by changing the national motto from “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one) to “In God We Trust.”

It was evangelicals who supported Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s abuses in the blacklisting of virtually anyone accused of socialist or communist leanings. It was evangelicals who became an integral part of the GOP’s Southern Strategy after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. And it was evangelicals and Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority” who used the anti-abortion movement to help Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush gain office.

All of that is reason enough to question the beliefs of most evangelicals. But, in 2016, these same evangelicals…the purported followers of Jesus…helped a greedy, narcissistic, unqualified billionaire who bragged about his sexual assaults to gain the White House. Why? They were willing to compromise every tenet of their supposed faith based on the promise that Trump would appoint federal judges and Supreme Court justices willing to overturn Roe v Wade to ban abortion.

And that’s only the beginning.

In a number of radio interviews, Jane Mayer has spoken about the wedding of evangelicals and anti-government libertarian billionaires with failed congressman, failed governor and current vice-president, Mike Pence, as the ring bearer.

The billionaires in question are the Koch brothers who have created a large network of dark money groups to fund candidates who support their anti-government philosophies, the Robert Mercer family who bankrolled Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News and the Trump campaign, and the combined families of Erik Prince and Betsy Devos who have used their combined fortunes to fund attempts to privatize our military and our education system.

As Jane Mayer points out, these billionaires essentially share the same belief – that the federal government should do only three things: Provide for the national defense, maintain stability, and provide for law and order. They view social issues, such as abortion and immigration, as mere tools that can be used to divide and influence voters to support their candidates. Focused on such issues, people vote for their candidates unaware of the billionaires’ plans to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and all other social safety nets.

Similarly, many voters are oblivious to billionaires’ plans to rewrite the US Constitution to incorporate their narrow-minded beliefs. Indeed, they are just a few states short of the required two-thirds needed to hold a Constitutional Convention.

Having been placed in office as a result of dark money donations from the billionaires, Trump and the GOP congressional leaders are well on their way to cutting taxes for corporations and billionaires. If they succeed, the government will run large deficits until the resulting debt will generate draconian cuts to the safety nets that the billionaires despise. And should Trump be removed from office leaving Pence to replace him, be afraid…very afraid. Though Trump is a willing participant in the billionaires’ plans, his oversized ego makes him highly unpredictable.

The evangelical Pence, on the other hand, is a willing puppet guided as much by his billionaire sponsers as he is by his narrow and hateful interpretation of the Bible.

Keeping Track Of The Trump/GOP Agenda.

Voters and the media are all too aware of The Donald’s Twitter rants and the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election. But while we’ve been distracted by the noise, here’s what Trump and the GOP have been doing in the shadows and away from the spotlight:

They passed and signed a bill overturning an Obama initiative to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns.

Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the Paris accords on climate change. We are now one of only 3 nations in the world – the others are Syria and Nicaragua – who are not part of the effort. And Nicaragua only refused to sign because they didn’t think the effort went far enough.

The administration has empowered ICE to arrest and deport thousands of undocumented workers, which has resulted in the separation of families and made it difficult for fruit and vegetable growers to find enough help for harvest.

Trump announced the end of DACA for the “Dreamers” who were brought to the US as children. Now the White House is making funding of a border wall a condition for signing a new bill that would allow Dreamers to stay in the US – the only country they know.

Trump pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio who was convicted for criminal contempt of court after refusing to stop racial profiling of Latinos. Arpaio also boasted of running a “concentration camp” for prisoners. Some even died while in custody.

Trump praised the actions of extreme dictators in Russia, Turkey and the Philippines.

Trump refused to denounce Nazis and white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville while, at the same time, giving them a voice in the administration.

The DOJ announced that it is ending a program to track domestic terrorists.

They dramatically increased defense spending despite audits that have shown extensive waste and a lack of DOD oversight.

They attempted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with parliamentary tricks and no debate – an action that would have drastically cut Medicaid, defunded Planned Parenthood, and denied health care access to tens of millions of Americans.

They cut payments to insurance companies that compensate them for losses created by the pent-up demand for health care of new ACA enrollees.

After Congress failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the administration defunded publicity campaigns for ACA enrollment and shortened the enrollment period in an attempt to reduce participation in the ACA marketplaces.

Trump signed an executive order to further undercut the ACA by allowing insurance companies to offer bare bones plans that will effectively encourage the youngest and healthiest people to leave the program and make it financially impossible for insurance companies to offer affordable coverage to those who most need it, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

Trump cut subsidies to help pay the cost of health insurance for low income Americans.

Trump is also considering incentives for employers to set aside money to help employees pay insurance premiums, a move designed to allow them to end traditional employee insurance benefits.

Congress has thus far failed to extend CHIP, which provides health care to millions of poor children who are not eligible for public assistance.

The House passed a bill which would cut $39 billion from SNAP, the food stamp program for the poor.

The House passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and making doctors vulnerable to prison.

They have packed the court system with young, extreme right-wing, anti-choice judges and justices.

Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by profiting from foreign guests staying in his Washington, DC hotel.

Trump signed an executive order which allows employers to deny contraceptive coverage to employees forcing tens of thousands of women to pay for contraceptives themselves.

The EPA announced it is ending the Obama era clean energy rules which is designed to replace dirty fuels that contribute to climate change.

The EPA and NASA removed all references to climate change from their websites.

The administration increased the number of mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands, which will allow uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed.

The administration has refused to protect Walruses under the Endangered Species Act. At the same time, the administration is considering delisting Gray Wolves, Grizzly Bears and other species.

Trump has waged a name-calling war against the leader of North Korea, putting us on the precipice of nuclear war. Even if only conventional weapons are involved, millions of people would die on the Korean peninsula.

Trump restored many of the Cold War era restrictions on Cuba.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to most government agencies, including Health & Human Services, the EPA, the State Department, the Agriculture Department, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Institutes of Health, the Commerce Department, the Education Department, HUD, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Interior and FEMA.

Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate numerous programs, including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants and programs that support coastal and marine management. It would cut funding for new transit programs, Amtrak, the UN’s Green Climate Fund, and the Clean Power Plan.

Trump’s proposed budget would make deep cuts to the popular Meals on Wheels program for shut-ins.

Trump has decided to “decertify” the treaty with Iran – an action that will almost certainly accelerate Iran’s nuclear program.

The Interior Department has proposed cutting the number and size of our national monuments.

The administration has proposed opening the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to oil drilling.

Congress and the administration have proposed a tax “reform” bill that will give massive cuts to multinational corporations and the wealthy, provide a tax “holiday” for corporations that have stashed billions offshore to evade taxes, and eliminate the Estate Tax which only affects the very wealthy.

If you don’t think all of that is bad enough, consider the fact that the Trump-led GOP also hopes to replace public education with for-profit private schools, to replace our efficient Medicare program with vouchers and to privatize Social Security, effectively ending safety nets for the elderly and the poor. Or consider the millions spent on Trump’s weekly golf outings at his own properties. Or the millions spent on personal trips in private jets by his cabinet members.

This administration and this Congress are quietly doing everything in their power to undermine the health of our nation, our planet and the well-being of its citizens, except the most wealthy and the most powerful. My advice to voters and the media alike: Stop being outraged by Trump’s Twitter rages and start paying attention to the actions that he and his government are taking behind the scenes.

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.