Where Has All The Money Gone?

In 2015, Michigan State economics professor, Mark Skidmore became curious when he heard former assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Catherine Austin Fitts mention that the Pentagon couldn’t account for $6.5 trillion in spending. So he asked Fitts and a team of his graduate students to help him confirm that number. After poring over public documents, the team discovered that the original number was inaccurate.

Instead of $6.5 trillion in unsupported spending, the team found that the actual number is $21 trillion – a sum equivalent to our entire national debt!

Even if that number is flawed (and there’s no reason to believe that it is), there is plenty of evidence to show that the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned about has severely damaged our nation’s economic health. For example, it is estimated that our misadventures in the Vietnam civil war cost us $1.3 trillion in 2017 dollars. The cost of care for Vietnam vets has cost us at least $1 trillion to date. And neither of those figures include the billions of dollars wasted on supplies fraudulently sold through the black market in Vietnam.

It is estimated that the Reagan-era tax cuts and military build-up contributed $3 trillion to our national debt. The Bush tax cuts contributed an additional $10 trillion to the debt. The cost of our war in Afghanistan – now our longest-running war – is $2.4 trillion and counting. The cost of care for Afghan war vets is $1 trillion. Our invasion of Iraq cost yet another $2.6 trillion. And the cost of care for Iraq war vets is estimated at $1.3 trillion.

In addition, the US has spent more than $61 billion in the reconstruction of Iraq. Another $8 billion of US funds is missing in Iraq. $45 billion is missing in Afghanistan. And, claiming that the cost of transportation is too great to bring military equipment home, the Pentagon ordered it buried in the sands of Kuwait.

The Pentagon’s F-35 joint strike fighter program has already cost more than $450 billion and is expected to top out at more than $1.5 trillion. Yet it has failed almost every test. In the words of two military analysts, “It can’t turn, can’t climb and can’t run.” And in another blatant display of waste, Congress authorized spending hundreds of millions of dollars for Abrams tanks that the Army doesn’t even want.

How has the Trump administration and Congress responded to all of this spending? They increased the Pentagon budget by another $700 billion! Then they passed a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that is expected to add yet another $1-2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade!

Of course, the GOP has a plan to pay for all this spending. As articulated by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, they plan to cut spending through “entitlement reform.” In other words, the GOP plans to cut funding for Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP and Social Security.

Maybe – just maybe – there’s another way. Imagine if, instead of spending our money on unnecessary wars and tax cuts for the rich, we spent that money for good. Imagine if we spent it on health care for our citizens; on education; on rebuilding our infrastructure; on scientific achievements; on lifting people out of poverty; on eradicating disease. We could do all of that and more with just the money the Pentagon wastes.

Author William Blum put our current military budget in context when he said, “Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.”

And that doesn’t even include the trillions of dollars in Pentagon spending that are missing or unaccounted for.

RIP, USA.

It’s not entirely hyperbolic to say that the latest GOP tax scam could be the final nail in the coffin of the American dream. If the bill is signed into law, it will show that the oligarchs and the con artists are in full control. And our democratic republic may never recover.

Remember when Republicans were outraged when President Obama signed a stimulus bill to dig us out of the Great Recession created by free market GOP policies? Remember the wave of Tea Party candidates in 2010 who were elected based on promises to cut the burgeoning national debt?

Well, when the GOP took control of the Senate, the House and White House at the beginning of this year, they had an opportunity to cut the debt – now $20 trillion and climbing. After all, the economy is now at what most economists consider full-employment. The increased tax revenue from all of those employed individuals, combined with careful budget cuts, could have been used to reduce deficits.

But, now that the GOP is in control, deficits and debt no longer seem to matter.

Almost immediately after assuming control, Republicans actually increased spending by adding $700 billion to the Pentagon budget despite the fact that an audit by the Department of Defense Inspector General could not account for $6.5 trillion in military spending!

Then, after the House passed a so-called tax “reform” bill, the GOP-controlled Senate used a parliamentary trick to pass a gigantic tax cut for corporations and billionaires – a move that will add at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. More precisely, the GOP plans to take $1.5 trillion from ordinary working families and give it to billionaires and large corporations!

So, despite the fact that the nation is still buckling under the deficits and debt created by the last GOP-fueled recession, the GOP plans to push through a highly unpopular tax bill (a recent poll shows that 59 percent of Americans oppose the bill) based on the widely debunked theory of trickle-down economics. It’s a bill that will affect virtually all of us – most of us negatively. And it’s likely to lead to an economic meltdown even worse than the Great Recession.

Of course, the bill’s very wealthy benefactors have little reason to worry. After all, if the tax scam does lead to an economic crash, they are unlikely to be affected. They seldom ever are. For billionaires, most economic downturns represent years-long Black Fridays in which everything is on sale – yet another opportunity to buy low and eventually sell high. And, by the time the national debt becomes a real problem, they can simply relocate and steal from the citizens of another country.

On the other end of the economic spectrum, ordinary working Americans have been promised a much smaller tax cut. Even that will disappear after a few years. But the cuts for billionaires and large corporations will be permanent.

It’s fitting that the Senate bill was passed at 2 a.m. Like thieves in the night, the GOP raided the homes of working people taking portions of their incomes, their access to affordable health care, even their access to public lands.

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.

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.

Let’s Not Over-Analyze Trump’s Victory.

Despite the blame being heaped onto the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, I believe it was never a fair contest. Hillary was outgunned by a biased media; by a partisan FBI director; and by Russian interference. But even without those things, Hillary may have fallen victim, as did Trump’s primary opponents, to the cultural changes that have taken place over the past five decades.

Those who voted for Trump simply wanted to throw a live grenade into Washington without regard for the aftermath. They have been enticed by a right-wing ideology that has destroyed respect for America’s greatest institutions – the federal government, the court system, traditional news media, science, and public education.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump voters were not merely blue collar workers who are struggling as the result of globalization. In fact, many of Trump’s supporters are comfortably retired, or are quite wealthy. These people were driven to vote for Trump out of the fear that they will lose their power and wealth to immigrants and people of color. Indeed, for many, President Obama was the embodiment of that fear.

Certainly, there is also the rural-urban divide that has been much discussed. But that is based on economic conditions that no president or administration can easily solve. It has followed the demise of the family farmer. Since the 1960’s, the size of farms has grown by ten-fold. As a consequence, there are far fewer people to shop in small towns.

In addition, franchise organizations and large box stores like Walmart, which are subsidized by governments, have used predatory pricing to hollow out the retail centers of small and medium-sized towns. That means there are far fewer independent retailers, and far fewer small-town jobs that pay a living wage.

At the same time, robots have replaced human workers in auto plants and other manufacturing plants.

Those who once worked in rural communities and mid-size cities have been left with a choice: Either continue to struggle, or give up the only lifestyle they have known and move to the large urban centers. These people are angry…at their former employers, at their government, and at what they see as the urban “elites” who seem to be do doing much better than they are.

Obviously, their anger is misplaced. But they have fallen victim to the new GOP’s message of fear – fear of those they don’t know and don’t understand. And their fear is driven by Republican propaganda on Fox News; on right-wing radio; on Breitbart News; on social media. During this past election, they were also deluded by a plethora of fake news sites – many of them financed by Putin’s Russia.

Addressing their anger and their plight will not be easy. Jobs lost to corporate farms, big box stores and robots will not be coming back. And adding tariffs to goods from our international trading partners, as Trump suggests, will only make matters worse by increasing the cost of the goods they need.

No president can wave a wand and bring back family farms and restore small towns to their former glory. That would take an act of Congress to end subsidies for corporate farms; to make multinational corporations pay their fair share of taxes; to make the wealthy pay their share of income taxes. But those things are anathema to those who now control Congress and the White House. Instead, they are committed to trickle-down economics on steroids – an economic theory that has never worked.

Given that reality, it seems likely that the new government will have to distract their angry rural supporters by creating a diversion. It’s likely they will try to re-focus the anger toward immigrants; toward Muslims; toward Planned Parenthood.

Oh wait! They’ve already done that. That’s how they got elected to begin with!

The Real Threats We Face.

Our planet is facing a growing number of crises – any one of which could lead to a calamity that could end life as we know it.

Let’s begin with the threat of climate change. We’ve known about the impact of burning fossil fuels for many years. But our Republican politicians continue to allow the coal and oil industries to obstruct most attempts to switch to sustainable forms of energy. As a consequence, greenhouse gases continue to pollute our atmosphere and the planet continues to warm resulting in more severe storms and large scale droughts that are turning tillable land into desert. Already, this has caused the displacement of millions of economic refugees who are finding themselves increasingly unwelcome in other countries. Yet president-elect Trump has dismissed climate change as a Chinese-created hoax.

To make matters worse, climate change has led to the unprecedented melting of glaciers and sea ice. In fact, Arctic sea ice is now declining at the rate 13.3 percent per decade. The Antarctic ice sheet is melting at an alarming rate. And the melting of the Greenland ice sheet doubled between 1996 and 2005, receding more than 12 miles in just the past decade. That may not seem particularly catastrophic until you consider that just one of Greenland’s glaciers contains enough water to raise global sea levels by 18 inches. And, if the entire Greenland ice sheet, which covers more than 656,000 square miles, melts, it could raise sea levels by as much as 20 feet!

If our governments don’t act quickly and aggressively to slow and reverse the melt, many of the world’s largest cities will be under water within a few decades, displacing hundreds of millions more people.

In addition, our oceans are warming. This not only changes ocean currents, it’s placing stress on the coral reefs, which are home to the fish that sustain hundreds of millions of people. Already, 80 percent of the Caribbean’s coral reefs are dead. Large portions of the Great Barrier Reef are dying. And the reefs in the so-called Coral Triangle, which feed more than 380 million people, are stressed and over-fished. What are these people to do when the reefs are dead and the fish are gone?

As if that’s not bad enough, factory ships are cruising the oceans netting anything that swims. The oceans are also being inundated with oil, agricultural runoff and other toxins creating dead zones. What’s more, humans are using the oceans as trash dumps creating floating “islands” of plastics and other trash.

In the Amazon, the rain forest is being clear-cut to create grazing lands for cattle to meet the world’s rising demand for beef. And, in the South Pacific, rain forests are being cleared to grow palm oil to be used as an ingredient in a growing number of processed packaged foods. Not surprisingly, the loss of these rain forests leads to diminished rainfall and changing climate patterns. Moreover, the cattle release methane which further contributes to greenhouse gases and rising temperatures.

In Africa, the rain forests are also being destroyed and, on the savanna, the almost unabated poaching of large mammals, such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes, lions, leopards and tigers may lead to their extinction in our lifetimes. In particular, the loss of the apex predators will create a cascading effect by allowing the overpopulation of other species placing further stress on the environment.

Religious strife has led to wars and terrorism which have also displaced millions and further damaged the environment. Worse, they have distracted our governments from focusing attention on even more dire problems.

Finally, the growth of computerization, robotics and artificial intelligence threaten to eliminate roughly half of the nation’s jobs within the next 10-20 years. Yet, like most of the other crises, this has not even created a conversation by our politicians and news media.

As catastrophic as all of these things could be, they also represent opportunities. For example, addressing climate change by restructuring our economies around renewable energies could create millions of new jobs that could offset those lost to computerization. Rebuilding and modernizing infrastructure could also create jobs.

Limiting our consumption of beef, in addition to other meats, and changing our diets to include more grains and vegetables from sustainable agriculture could not only save our rain forests, it could improve our health and reduce the chemicals in our foods. It could also reduce the stress on our oceans. And reversing the recent trend of nationalism and learning to respect the beliefs of those with other religions and cultures could also help by reducing wars and terrorism.

Ultimately, saving our planet and humanity depends on educating ourselves about these complex issues and electing government officials who truly understand the daunting issues we face and who are willing to address them.

Based on the results of the past election, we failed miserably.

Dear Trump Supporters, I Know Who You Really Are.

I’ve known you all my life. Contrary to being the country bumpkins as you’re portrayed in the media, many of you make a good living – a really good living. By the luck of nature, you were born into a world of white privilege that gave you numerous advantages over those with darker skin. You’re the people who race to climb up the economic ladder while refusing to reach out a helping hand to those behind you. You’re the farmer who complains about taxes and big government while accepting subsidies. You’re the people who screw over your neighbors during the week then go to church on Sunday and act pious. You’re the people who demand that your kids get in the best schools then vote against school bonds to help educate others.

You’re my sister’s former boss who tried to convince my parents that I was mentally ill simply because I opposed the Vietnam War and refused to kill men, women and children who had not threatened me or my country. Though you’re not overtly racist (except at Trump rallies), you tell racist jokes at family gatherings and at neighborhood parties. And, whenever you hear the word “welfare”, you wrongly picture a black or brown person instead of the white single mothers who receive the majority of welfare funds.

You are the people who readily send other Americans’ kids off to fight in ill-conceived wars while you fret over your investments in the stock markets. And by cheating on your taxes, you expect others to pay the bill.

You constantly talk about freedom, but you are all too willing to tell others how to live their lives. You want to deny civil rights to gays and lesbians; to transgender people; to Muslims; and to anyone else who looks, worships and thinks differently than you.

You want to meddle in women’s lives by denying them affordable contraception then requiring them to deliver unwanted babies – babies you refuse to help when they’re hungry or need medical care. At the most difficult time in a woman’s life, when she’s faced with the prospect of aborting an unviable fetus or die, you want to give her medical advice.

You’re the people who supported unregulated free market principles, but, when the economy crashed in 2008, you blamed the Great Recession on “free-spending” Democrats and homeowners who were merely trying to get their share of the American Dream. You’re the people who hopelessly over-simplify issues because you don’t want to clutter your minds with contradictory information. And, if you can’t understand the complexity of a problem like climate change, you just pretend it doesn’t exist.

You are the people who pass along vile, inaccurate and destructive chain emails without bothering to take the 30 seconds required to fact check them. In fact, you think fact-checkers are liberal eggheads who are hopelessly biased. You have the same attitude toward economists, scientists and other experts. Indeed, you think the only real experts appear on Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and Brietbart News.

You are among the worst offenders when it comes to wasting the world’s limited resources for your own gain or pleasure without consideration for other nations or generations. You’re too busy to concern yourself with the consequences for the future. You think the world should be exactly as it was in 1959.

You’re bullies, the world’s largest group of gun owners, and you threaten to use them if you don’t get your way. You engage in the politics of destruction and howl when the tables are turned. Rather than discuss the merits of public policies and try to convince others to vote for them, you resort to a variety of tricks to suppress your opponents’ votes. When your people are in charge, you claim to have a mandate. But when Democrats are in charge, having been elected by larger margins, you will do anything to “stop their agenda”.

You have long claimed to be “values voters” but, by voting for Trump, you have proven that you have no values. You chose a psychopathic, philandering, pussy-grabbing, tax cheating, lying bully over a smart, capable, caring woman who has devoted her life to helping others. You claimed you voted for him because her emails proved she is untrustworthy – emails that proved no such thing. You even chose him knowing that he was being aided in his campaign by Vladimir Putin.

Now you expect Democrats to do what Republicans refused to do in 2009 – you expect them to work with that tangerine-colored buffoon. F*ck you. F*ck you all to hell.

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.

Ending Racism: A Proposal.

America has a problem with racism that we have not yet adequately addressed. Sure, we passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but those actions didn’t actually solve racism. Far from it. They merely altered it by making it somewhat less obvious and making it uncomfortable for racist white people to express their inner feelings.

Then along came Donald Trump and his attacks on political correctness, which freed racists to make public their long-held beliefs. In a way, such displays of overt racial hatred along with Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem can be seen as a good thing by bringing the issue back to the forefront. And I would suggest that it’s long overdue.

The problem stems from the fact that the US stands virtually alone in refusing to acknowledge its ugly past. For example, after Germany was defeated in World War II, it was forced to deal with the reality that it had committed genocide. As a result, it created memorials to those who were killed in Nazi death camps. It created textbooks for children detailing the horrors and explaining Hitler’s rise to power. And it banned any positive references to Nazism. It even banned the sale of copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Only recently has Germany again permitted the sale of the book, and only then if it includes notations regarding Nazi crimes.

Other nations have faced their ugly pasts is a similar manner. But the US refuses to do so. Our textbooks have been scrubbed of most references to the genocide of Native Americans. Likewise, they address slavery in a superficial, sanitized manner. And, instead of creating memorials to the victims of our genocide and to the victims of slavery, we have memorials to those who committed these vile acts. The former Confederate States of America have largely refused to acknowledge that their secession was motivated by their desire to continue the enslavement of blacks. Indeed, these states still celebrate the Confederacy, its leaders and, until recently, they still flew the Confederate battle flag.

There has been no restitution to the former slaves and their families. Indeed, the idea that they were given 40 acres and a mule is largely a myth. Lacking resources and possessions – and, in many cases, even a sense of family – following their emancipation many former slaves were employed by their former masters and corporations through a more acceptable form of economic slavery. As a result, today, more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War, we are still plagued by racism. Our schools are even more segregated now than during the late 1960s. And it has been estimated that it will take 228 years for the average black family to accumulate the wealth of the average white family!

Obviously, we have a problem.

So how can we fix it? How can we level the playing field for the descendants of African slaves and the Native Americans who had their land, their way of life and their identities stolen by our ancestors? How can we restore the well-being of cultures that were so thoroughly defeated and depressed? The answers are far more complicated than most white Americans are likely willing to accept. But I’ll make the attempt.

The solution to racism must begin with our nation, like Germany, finally acknowledging our past transgressions. As any therapist can tell you, there can be no healing as long as there is denial. And since the lingering effects of those impacted by our past actions are largely economic, we must work to provide blacks and Native Americans with opportunities. We must improve their education systems, making certain that they have the same resources and school budgets as our most affluent white suburbs. For those working in low-paying jobs, we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage. We must finally commit to universal healthcare so that all families have equal access to prenatal and childhood healthcare. We must commit to universal pre-school which has been proven to level the playing field and create lasting change. We must make certain that all families have food stability and access to healthy foods, which have been shown to improve performance in schools. We must commit to rebuilding our infrastructure, offering high-paying jobs to those without college degrees.

We must require national standards and training for those in law enforcement to eliminate racism within police departments and to ensure that all citizens are treated equal. We must end predatory city and community laws that treat citizens as a source of income for minor violations. We must pass universal background checks for gun purchases and pass other safety measures to get guns out of the hands of criminals and off of our streets. We should decriminalize and regulate drugs in order to rid the streets of predatory drug dealers. We should treat addictions with treatment instead of prison time. For the 1 in 9 black men who have already been sentenced to prison – often for petty, non-violent crimes – we should commit to rehabilitation programs to help them integrate back into society when they are eventually released.

And, most important of all, we should commit to thoroughly investigating every single claim of racist behavior – especially racism committed by those in power.

All of that may seem expensive and daunting, but it is all necessary. There can be no shortcuts – no half measures. After all, our nation benefited greatly from the labor of slaves and the resources stolen from natives. The problem of racism in this country has existed for centuries. It cannot be fixed easily or quickly.

And, if you’re wondering how our nation can pay for all of these things, just look to the cost overruns on the Pentagon’s weapons systems, such as the F-35 joint strike fighter – a fighter that has exceeded its budget by tens of billions of dollars. Also, you should consider the cost to society of not addressing racism – the cost of incarceration, lost tax revenue and the lost contributions from those who have neither the education nor the opportunity to shine.

What Trump And A Live Grenade Have In Common.

There’s a growing movement in the US of voters disenchanted with the system and fueled by rightwing news outlets (I’m thinking of you, Fox News Channel and all of you hate radio clowns) that have decided to destroy our government rather than try to fix it. Nothing else could explain how the Great Pumpkin won the GOP nomination for president.

They see in The Donald a strong man – a father figure – who will go to Washington to clean house. They believe, somehow, that Daddy will make everything all right. They don’t seem to care about the damage that could be done; the destruction of decades-long relationships with our allies; the wars we could be drug into as a result of the Orange Ape’s short temper; the jobs lost by ill-conceived plans. For example, Moody’s Analytics examined both Trump’s and Clinton’s economic plans and found that Trump’s could cost 3.6 million jobs over 4 years, while Clinton’s would create 10 million jobs over the same time period. Other economists have noted that Trump’s tax plan would add trillions to the national debt.

Trump voters are willing to overlook his bombastic attacks and lack of presidential demeanor because they want to see a true outsider in the White House. They actually admire his insulting tirades against those who disagree with him. They excuse his racist statements because they claim to be tired of political correctness. They ignore his ill-conceived plans that are almost entirely without substance or detail. They forgive his anger; his obvious narcissism; his lack of character; his apparent lack of a moral compass. In fact, they have lowered the bar for Trump by almost every measure. But like a 1950s limbo dancer, he still seems to crawl under it. Indeed, after his vicious attacks on a Gold Star family mourning the loss of their son who was valiantly killed in Iraq, they continue to make excuses for their leader. And now they are trying to vilify the family.

Why?

Some are simply so partisan that they can’t accept the idea of a member of the competing party becoming president. They have been so brainwashed by rightwing media; so convinced that mainstream media are lying; that they are willing to vote against their own self-interests – to vote for someone who will cut taxes for the wealthy and powerful while shoving more of the burden onto those who can least afford it. These people have been around since the 1970s. But, today, there is a new kind of voter.

These are people who don’t care if a presidential candidate will work on their behalf to make our nation stronger and better. They don’t care if the candidate will work across the aisle to get things done. They don’t care if the candidate will try to improve government. They’d rather tear it down. Indeed, they are little more than terrorists who want to throw a grenade into the room – our government – to see how people react. They want to watch the chaos; to watch everyone run for cover. They care little about what will happen when that grenade inevitably goes off. They know there will be a mess. But they don’t really care.

However bad things get, they will have sent their message.