Destruction Of The US. (Part Six – Deficits & Debt)

When President Obama took office, the economy was in flames. Unemployment was soaring and entire industries were in jeopardy. Indeed, the entire world economy was on the verge of collapse. In order to help stem the bleeding, the Obama administration, the Democratic-led Congress and the Federal Reserve implemented a series of stimulus actions, including tax cuts. Those actions temporarily added to the deficit. But they were necessary. Nevertheless, Republicans howled about the “wasteful spending.”

By contrast, Trump inherited a healthy economy and declining deficits. Instead of allowing interest rates to gradually rise, raising taxes to increase revenue and doing what most economists recommended, he orchestrated a massive tax cut for corporations and the very wealthy. Contrary to his grandiose promises and projections, the economy did not noticeably change. Rather, it continued on the same path begun under Obama. What did change was federal revenue, which dramatically dropped. At the same time, deficits soared. The deficit for 2020 is $1.10 trillion and the national debt has now surpassed $22.5 trillion!

And what do you hear from those Republican deficit hawks now? Crickets.

What we are beginning to hear from Republicans is that we must reign in “entitlements” – those safety net programs for the elderly and the poor. They say they want to make serious cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They want to cut food stamp benefits for 3.1 million Americans. They want to cut lunch programs for school children. And they want to end the Affordable Care Act, which made health care affordable for millions of Americans.

In other words, they now seem intent on punishing the poor while continuing to give away hundreds of billions to the Pentagon, an organization that cannot account for trillions in past spending. They want to continue giveaways for corporations. And many Republicans have even stated that they plan to further cut taxes for the very wealthy.

If they are successful, it will mean that the federal deficits and the debt will continue to soar while more ordinary Americans will suffer. Seniors will struggle to pay bills, even to eat. Poor men, women and children will struggle more. The number of homeless will continue to grow. And middle class Americans will not only be asked to make up for the lost revenue with higher taxes. The number of people in the middle class will dramatically decline.

But you can be certain that the incomes of Trump, his family and his wealthy friends will continue to grow.

The Death Of Christianity.

For decades, many Christians have declared the US a Christian nation. That is provably untrue. Not only does the Constitution state “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Most of those calling for recognition no longer practice a religion that, in any way, resembles Christianity. Unless, of course, your idea of Christianity is represented by visions of the Spanish Inquisition or the pastors and priests who have used their positions to abuse children or to scam millions from their followers in order to live a life of luxury in mansions.

According to exit polls, 80 percent of those who call themselves evangelical Christians voted for Donald J Trump. So did 52 percent of white Catholics, along with 57 percent of whites who are mainline protestants. And they did so despite knowledge of his three marriages and extramarital affairs, his troubling statements about grabbing women by their pussies, credible accusations of rape and assault, his racist attacks on Mexicans who are predominately Catholic, and knowledge of his many scams, including his use of a charity to funnel money into his own pockets. Moreover, there was no evidence that he regularly attended church or had any real knowledge of Christianity.

All these voters knew was that he was suddenly “pro-life” (though he had long supported pro-choice Democrats) and that he was endorsed by some of the most disingenuous evangelical con men…er…pastors on the planet.

Now let’s examine the “Christian” actions of this man who some have labeled an instrument of God sent to prepare Earth for the second coming of the Messiah. Indeed, some even seem to think Trump is the Messiah.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 states, “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Yet Trump ordered the separation of children, including toddlers, from their immigrant parents and placed them in cages. He placed adults who had the nerve to ask for refugee status in cages, eventually blocking all refugees at our southern border and forcing them into makeshift camps in Mexico. His so-called “pro-life” regime even ordered those here on medical visas for lifesaving treatments not available elsewhere to leave within 30 days, in effect, sentencing them to death. Most recently, he refused entry to refugees from the Bahamas who are fleeing the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

According to Luke 14:12-14, Jesus said to his host, “…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” Yet the Trump regime has moved to end food stamp benefits for 3.1 million poor Americans. Ostensibly the excuse for such action is our enormous federal deficit. Never mind that the primary reason for the growing deficit is the tax cuts given to corporations and the very wealthy at the start of the Trump regime. Perhaps Trump and his “Christian” supporters should pay heed to Matthew 19:24 which quotes Jesus, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

These are but a few examples of the dozens of cruel and hateful actions by Trump and his administration. Yet his base – his Bible-thumping, cross-wearing, prosperity gospel-spouting base still support him in numbers close to those of 2016. I have a name for them: (actually, I have many – most of which are unprintable) Hallelujah Hypocrites.

The truth is, according to a recent study, atheists and agnostics are more driven by compassion to help others than are highly religious people.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Five – Immigration)

From the very beginning of colonial times, the US has been a nation of immigrants. Indeed, the only people who are native to the US descended from those who survived the Indian Wars and genocide.

The horrors we inflicted upon the original residents aside, immigration has always been our nation’s great strength. The US is a culmination of the talents, efforts and cultures of the original inhabitants and those who immigrated to our shores legally, illegally and, in the case of enslaved Africans, involuntarily. We have benefited from the influx of immigrants from Europe, Mexico, Scandinavia, Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand and more. It was enslaved Africans who built much of our Capitol and whose labor was responsible for our economic growth. And it was Chinese workers who built many of our railroads.

Many, if not most, of our innovations have come from immigrants. That’s why our ancestors proudly proclaimed America as the great melting pot. But, in a generation – indeed in a single four-year term of this president – that could change.

Trump ran on a platform of racism and hate against Mexicans claiming he would end illegal immigration across our southern border. Instead of welcoming and helping those seeking asylum from horrific political and economic conditions, he has ordered their entry blocked and placed many in detention in conditions that, in a declared war, would constitute war crimes. He has ordered children to be ripped from their parents’ arms placing them in cages and, in many cases, placing them in the foster system for adoption without their parents’ knowledge. When a few immigrant detainees from India went on hunger strikes to protest their incarceration and conditions, his appointees ordered them to be force-fed. (The only other recent example of that occurred at Gitmo when some of those being held as al-Qaeda terrorists went on a hunger strike.)

He unconstitutionally ordered travel bans from all Muslim countries. When that order was overturned by the courts, he ordered a work-around that essentially accomplished the same thing. He announced that he was ending DACA, the program that gave legal status to those undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children by their parents – people who have grown up in the US and have little, if any, knowledge of their country of origin. And Trump made it clear that he only wanted immigrants from predominantly white nations like Norway, and not from any “shithole” countries of black and brown people.

The Trump administration has deported veterans of our armed forces who were promised a path to citizenship if they served. It has refused entry to translators who risked their lives to help US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration even refused entry to a US Marine from Belize who was returning to the US for a scheduled citizenship test.

Trump has ordered ICE to round up undocumented workers regardless of how long they have lived and worked in the US, despite the fact that his own company has long hired undocumented workers, and despite the fact that his third wife worked in the US without proper documents. His administration gave notice to patients in the US legally for life-saving medical treatment and to their parents that they would have to get out within 30 days! That includes a 24-year-old with a rare condition who was recruited as a child to participate in a medical trial. If carried out, her deportation will be a death sentence.

And, if all of that isn’t bad enough, Trump says that he intends to end birthright citizenship in obvious contradiction of the 14th amendment. And the administration has taken the position that those born outside the US to American citizens, including military personnel, should not be considered US citizens.

In other words, if we continue to allow Trump to have his way, America will no longer be America.

Mass Murder And Mental Illness.

Despite the fact the US has already experienced 293 mass shootings this year as recorded by gunviolencearchive.org, the president and the GOP do not want to talk about the single biggest issue that contributes to gun violence: Easy access to guns. I’m not referring to shotguns, hunting rifles and six-shooters. I’m referring to weapons of war – AK-47s, AR-15s and 50-caliber sniper rifles – weapons that have no place in the hands of civilians.

Even after the most recent mass murders in El Paso, Dayton and Odessa-Midland, the president and the GOP seem unable to summon the courage to go against the NRA to pass legislation for universal background checks or to pass legislation that would, once again, ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Instead, they seem ready to pass legislation focused on mental health.

It’s a ruse…another con from the conman-in-chief.

Certainly, there is a need for more mental health facilities, more in-patient treatment centers, and more counselors. Far too many of the mentally ill are now housed in prisons with no access to treatment. And when their behavior becomes extreme, they are moved to solitary confinement for the rest of their lives where most Americans can forget they ever exist.

But the truth is, focusing on mental illness will do little, if anything, to stem gun violence. That’s because the vast majority of those with mental illness are far more of a threat to themselves than to others.

The most likely to commit mass murders with guns are white nationalists and neo-Nazis – extremists, many of them Bible-thumping racists who want to turn back the clock on America to make it white again. People who can’t stand the inevitability of the US becoming majority non-white in the next few decades. People like those in Charlottesville who marched with torches shouting, “You will not replace us.” People who were resentful of the election of President Barack Obama and who have been inspired by Trump, the racist in the White House who, after seeing video of Charlottesville claimed “there were good people on both sides.”

The only thing that will curb gun violence in the US is to keep the most lethal weapons out of the hands of extremists by passing universal background checks, passing red flag laws, and passing laws banning the sale of weapons of war, including high-capacity magazines. But I would urge Congress to also pass funding to treat those who are mentally ill. Especially, the one who most obviously is suffering from mental illness and who controls the most lethal weapons of all: President Trump.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Four – Environment)

Not only has the Trump administration refused to acknowledge the looming threat of the climate crisis. (Trump and his minions have fired or silenced government scientists from even mentioning climate change. And they have removed any reference to climate change from government websites.) The administration has attacked the nation’s environment resulting in destruction we haven’t seen since the early 1970s.

Trump’s first Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, began his dirty work by paring down some of our national parks leaving Native American heritage sites and archeological treasures vulnerable to vandalism. He then opened federal lands for mining and fracking. Zinke was stopped only by his excesses. When the department’s Inspector General opened an investigation into his excessive use of flights and ethical lapses, he announced his resignation.

The second Trump appointee to fill the office is David Bernhardt, a former oil and agribusiness lobbyist who is already under investigation by the Inspector General for…wait for it…conflicts of interest. Like Zinke, he also believes that all of the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management should be sold so that corporations and private interests can exploit their resources, ignoring the fact that the only reason they are public lands is that they are ecologically sensitive. Indeed, Bernhardt and the administration are in a rush to circumvent Congress and public opinion to auction off leases for oil exploration on public lands before the 2020 election

Under Bernhardt, the department is currently considering permits for fracking in northern Arizona which will pollute millions of gallons of water – a commodity that is already scarce in the region. The department has made it clear that it is also open to permitting foreign-owned companies to, once again, mine for uranium in the Grand Canyon even though previous such mining attempts left much of the region’s water radioactive and unusable. And since the previous mines have not been sealed, they are still leaking radioactive waste.

Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, had previously represented oil and gas companies in numerous suits against the agency. He almost immediately removed restrictions on the coal industry. And he removed regulations designed to protect streams from the coal mining practice of mountain-top removal. Indeed, he operated as if his role was to protect corporations rather than the environment. Only when he became the subject of more than a dozen ethics investigations did he resign.

The new EPA administrator has picked up where Pruitt left off. A former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler has dismissed the conclusions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Astonishingly, he also dismisses the impact of air pollution on public health.

Under Wheeler, the EPA has permitted the use of a pesticide known to cause brain damage in children. It has also allowed the use bee-killing pesticides to resume. He removed regulations that were part of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He proposed repealing an Obama-era rule restricting the emissions of mercury and other heavy metals. And he refused to adopt recommendations for contaminants in drinking water.

This anti-environment mentality spans the entire Trump administration. For example, the Department of Energy has repealed Obama-era efficiency standards for lightbulbs aimed at phasing out energy-wasting incandescent bulbs. And, despite the massive fires in other rainforests around the globe, the Department of Agriculture has proposed opening the 16.7 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to logging and other exploitation by corporations.

And it’s not just clean air, land and water that are under attack.

Species around the world are threatened by human activities as never before. Yet the administration has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act to reduce wildlife habitat and remove protections for vulnerable species. It has proposed drilling in the sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last remaining preserves for arctic wildlife. It has proposed water policies for California farmers that will push California salmon to extinction and starve the Steelhead Trout and Killer Whales that feed on them. It has relaxed rules on the hunting of threatened species. It issued a kill order for endangered Mexican wolves along the southwestern border, ostensibly to protect cattle. It is in the process of building a wall through the National Butterfly Center, through the Tohono O’odham reservation, and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge deemed critical to the migration of numerous species. And the Trump administration is set to roll back regulations on the release of methane – the most damaging of all carbon gases – by oil and gas operations.

Scientists understand the threat to the ecosystem. Maintaining a healthy planet should not be partisan or even a national issue. Yet Trump and his followers seem to have the attitude that the worst will only happen after they are dead and buried. In the meantime, they plan to make as much money as possible at the expense of the future.

How Washington Became Gridlocked.

Many Americans decry our failed Congress, angry that the institution seems incapable of addressing their needs. Yet they have continued to vote for the same representatives election after election. It seems they believe other representatives are to blame. Not their own. And they hold both parties equally responsible.

But, as it turns out, Americans should rightfully blame only one party for the inaction of Congress – the GOP.

An episode of MSNBC’s American Swamp explained the problem in great detail. It seems the gridlock began in the early nineties when the newly-elected Rep. Newt Gingrich discovered that CSPAN would telecast speeches from the House floor regardless of the circumstances. Realizing that the network focused solely on the lectern and never showed the empty desks, he took the floor in late evenings to rail against Democrats; to challenge them to respond to his demands and to act. But, unbeknownst to the viewers, the Democrats couldn’t, because they were not there. For months, Newt continued his one-man show, calling Democrats a variety of names and asking his followers to hold them accountable for their inaction and lack of response. He published a list of one-word insults which he handed out to the GOP caucus, so they could all speak like Newt.

Not surprisingly, the farce worked. The audiences began calling their congressmen. They began harassing Democrats. And rightwing media took up the attacks. It only stopped when then-Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill asked CSPAN to have their cameras pan the chamber to expose the empty desks. But, by then, the damage had been done.

When the GOP won the House and Gingrich became Speaker, he took matters a step farther. An admirer and teacher of parliamentary-style politics in which party members vote as a unified block (something very contrary to the US system), Newt brought that mentality to the GOP. Under threat of being “primaried” with their opponents receiving millions in “dark” money, the members of the GOP caucus fell in line to vote as the Speaker wished, regardless of their own individual feelings or judgment.

Political tribalism was born. And succeeding GOP actions made it worse.

To ostensibly save money, the GOP majority in Congress cut the staffs of representatives. Without sufficient staff to research the effects of bills, congressional members were forced to rely on lobbyists, think tanks and Political Action Groups for information. And, if they failed to vote as these interest groups wished, the groups would spend millions to defeat them in the next election. As a result, the representatives learned that, if they valued their jobs, it was better to do nothing than to take a stand.

And, since the conservative-led Supreme Court ruled that money equals free speech and corporations have the rights of individuals, congressional representatives have been forced to spend as much as 40 percent of their time dialing for dollars in order to raise enough money to fend off competitors in their next election campaign.

In addition, former GOP Speaker John Boehner banned earmarks – the tradition of adding provisions to a discretionary spending bill without floor debate. Though sometimes abused, earmarks were a form of congressional horse-trading to provide funding for projects in an individual representative’s home district. In most cases, it was how new bridges were funded; how new roads and road expansionss were funded; how a city got funding for programs and grants. But since the end of earmarks, the process has become more politicized than ever with the decisions on spending often being directed by the executive branch to reward supporters.

Any bills that do make it out of the House must go to the Senate for votes and be signed by the president before they can become law. The current House has sent more than 100 bills to the Senate. But even the most popular bills supported by a vast majority of citizens have been blocked by the self-proclaimed “grim reaper” of legislation – Moscow Mitch. He refuses to bring them to a vote unless they meet his very narrow agenda.

It’s all a recipe for gridlock.

To make matters worse, over many decades, Congress has yielded much of its constitutional authority to the executive branch rendering itself somewhat powerless. So much so, that congressional delegations have been turned away from immigration detention centers despite their role of oversight. Executive branch agencies have refused to turn over documents or respond to subpoenas issued by congressional judicial and oversight committees. And Trump has redirected money from agencies to build his wall despite congressional authority over the budget.

Despite Trump’s very public calls to drain the swamp, he ignores the fact that it was largely created by the GOP. Indeed, he has only made it worse by ignoring the emoluments clause; by using his office to promote his properties and to make money each time he visits one; by placing industry lobbyists in charge of the agencies responsible for regulating the industries they represent.

The interests of the American people be damned.