Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Three – Immigration)

Of the thousands of falsehoods and misleading statements Trump has made since declaring his candidacy, some of the most notorious concern immigration. For example:

The Wall: When he announced his candidacy for president, Trump promised to build “a great wall on our southern border and have Mexico pay for it.” Instead, US taxpayers are paying $11 billion for the wall at the cost of $20 million per mile. The wall will dissect wildlife refuges, the National Butterfly Center, Native American lands, farms, and golf courses. And, if completed, it will block US residents from accessing much of the Rio Grande. The final cost of the wall could reach an estimated $21 billion.

Illegal Immigration: Trump promised to end all illegal immigration. (In reality, illegal immigration had steadily declined since 2000.) But there was actually an uptick in 2018 despite Trump’s “Zero Tolerance Policy.” Under that policy, Trump ordered a ban on virtually all Muslim immigration. His administration ripped children, including infants and toddlers, away from their parents. It placed immigrants, even toddlers, in cages without enough room to sleep and without access to water and the basic needs for hygiene. In addition, Trump purposely slowed the process of reviewing the refugee status of immigrants forcing most to stay in dangerous camps along the border.

At the same time, Trump labeled African nations and other predominantly black and brown nations “shithole” countries and wondered aloud why we couldn’t have more immigrants from countries like Norway. (In other words, he expressed his preference for immigrants that are white and Christian.)

Foreign Workers: Trump promised that Americans would stop losing jobs to foreign workers. Yet, until the media reported on his own hiring practices, his own resorts continued to rely on undocumented workers. And, even after dismissing many long-time workers, he continues to rely on foreigners. Mar-a-Lago is a case in point: Despite receiving hundreds of applications from US citizens, Trump instead hired foreign workers to help maintain the property and to serve his guests.

DACA: Despite promising to immediately terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Trump said that “we’re going to show great heart” toward DACA recipients. Again, after taking office, Trump stated that “they shouldn’t be worried. I do have a big heart.” Nevertheless, shortly after making that statement, he announced that he would terminate the program. To date, most of the more than 700,000 DACA recipients remain in limbo not knowing what to expect. And some DACA recipients, including US military veterans have been deported to the countries they left as children and scarcely remember.

Removing Undocumented Immigrants: Trump promised to remove all of the more than 11 million undocumented workers from the US. Unfortunately, this is one of the promises he has tried to keep. But, if he actually succeeds, the impact on the US economy will be devastating. In addition to the cost of removing them, which is estimated at $103.9 billion, the loss to our GDP will be roughly $1.6 trillion per year as estimated by the Harvard Kennedy School – money that is distributed throughout our economy. In addition, in 2014 it was estimated that undocumented workers contributed $38 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

Moreover, if he chooses to remove all immigrants who have illegally worked in the US, he will have to deport his third and current wife, Melania, who worked as a model before obtaining a green card.

Chain Migration: Trump promised to end so-called chain migration – the practice of legal immigrants bringing their families to the US. He hasn’t. And, if he had, his wife’s parents would not have been permitted to immigrate to the US.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Two – Health Care)

Of the thousands of falsehoods and misleading statements Trump has made since declaring his candidacy, many concern health insurance and health care. Following are but a few of his broken promises:

Insurance Premiums: Trump promised to allow individuals to deduct health insurance premiums from taxes. He hasn’t.

Affordable Care Act: Trump promised he’d repeal and replace the ACA with something “beautiful” that would provide “insurance for everybody.” But he has offered no replacement. Further, his administration has chosen to not defend the ACA in court against claims by several rightwing state Attorneys General that the ACA is unconstitutional. If the courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs, up to 20 million Americans will lose access to affordable health care.

Pre-Existing Conditions: Trump promised to protect all Americans who suffer from pre-existing medical conditions. But, if the ACA is ruled unconstitutional as Trump hopes, private insurers will, once again, be able to deny coverage to tens of millions of Americans for pre-existing conditions.

Medicare and Medicaid: Trump promised that he wouldn’t “cut Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid as other Republicans want.” But his 2020 budget cuts $1.5 trillion from Medicaid over the next 10 years, $845 billion from Medicare over 10 years, and $25 billion from Social Security over 10 years. Moreover, he recently said that he will take a look at more cuts to Medicare and Social Security at the end of this year, presumably after the election.

Social Security Disability Insurance: Despite Trump’s promises, his budget cut retroactive pay for disabled under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) by 50 percent over a 10-year period which began in 2019. Retroactive pay covers the time between when people are unable to work and when they apply for benefits. These cuts, along with cuts to SNAP (food stamps), will impose great financial harm to the disabled.

Drug Prices: Trump promised he’d cut drug prices by negotiating “like crazy” with drug companies. He hasn’t. Instead, drug prices have gone up and the catastrophic Medicare Part D threshold (the so-called donut hole) has risen by $1,250 in 2020.

Given his many lies and broken promises, why would anyone trust anything Trump says? As Senator Romeny once said, “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.”

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part One – The Economy)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” Certainly Trump has kept a few of his campaign promises. But let’s look at Trump’s promises about the economy. You’ll see that the promises broken far outnumber those kept. Here are just a few:

Deficit and Debt: Trump promised to eliminate the federal deficit and reduce the debt. He hasn’t. The deficit is expected to reach $1 trillion for 2020 and the debt has soared to more than $23 trillion. And, recently, he was recorded saying that the debt doesn’t matter because “I won’t be here when it blows up.”

GDP Growth: Trump promised he would grow the GDP by 4 percent per year and maybe more. The reality is that the GDP has grown at a rate of approximately 2 percent per year – a growth rate lower than all but the first years of the Obama administration.

Trade Deals: Trump promised he would negotiate better deals with China, Canada and Mexico. Instead, he started a trade war with China passing the cost of tariffs onto US consumers. His trade war also forced many US farmers into bankruptcy despite $16 billion in subsidies that have mostly benefited the richest farmers.

Taxes: Trump promised he’d cut taxes giving the average US family a $4,000 annual pay raise. Instead, he cut taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. 53 percent of all Americans will see their taxes rise.

Tax Loopholes: Trump promised to close tax loopholes such as the “carried interest” loophole for private-equity managers, hedge fund managers, and real estate partners. He hasn’t. Indeed, his tax bill provides additional loopholes for…wait for it…real estate developers.

Infrastructure: Trump promised to invest $1 trillion in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. But, after his tax cut and increase in military spending, there’s no money left for infrastructure.

Outsourcing Jobs: Trump promised he would stop companies from shipping jobs overseas. Instead, Trump is subsidizing companies that export jobs. As a result, the off-shoring of jobs for some major US manufacturers has reached record numbers.

Coal Jobs: Trump promised to bring back jobs in the coal industry. He hasn’t. Even after he relaxed pollution restrictions on coal mining and coal power plants, the number of coal-related jobs has remained steady.

Steel Jobs: Trump promised to protect American steel jobs so he imposed tariffs on foreign-made aluminum and steel. The tariffs protected some jobs. But our industries must now pay more for the materials, which has threatened jobs in other industries, such as auto manufacturing and construction. And the additional cost is passed on to consumers and taxpayers. It has been estimated that 400,000 jobs may be lost as a result of the tariffs.

Winning: Trump promised that we would all get tired of so much winning under his leadership. And, though the economy has grown under Trump, it has grown at a slower rate than under his predecessor. Likewise, fewer jobs have been created under Trump and the important employment-to population-ratio has slowed since Trump took office. At the same time, income and wealth inequality have accelerated as a result of the Trump tax cuts. Indeed, those of us who are not among the top 1 percent have not experienced a lot winning.

Given that the Washington Post fact-checkers have determined that Trump has made 16,241 false or misleading claims since taking office, it should come as no surprise that he has broken many of his campaign promises.

Journalistic Malpractice.

As a graduate of journalism school, an advertising copywriter, a teacher, an author, a journalist, a political commentator and a long-time critic of media, I am horrified with the current status of journalism.

Certainly, there are brilliant and dedicated investigative reporters who work long hours, often at the risk of their own safety, to bring us the information we need to be informed citizens and voters. Many have lost their lives by reporting the uncomfortable truth about powerful and dangerous people. Just in 2019, 49 journalists were murdered around the globe (a death toll that was actually the lowest in 16 years). But while the number of journalists killed dropped in 2019, the number jailed in 2019 climbed to 289 (an increase of 16 percent from the previous year). Most were jailed in China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia for daring to publish stories that were unflattering to the government and the autocrats in power.

Even in the US, Trump and his supporters continue to call journalists the “enemy of the people.”

While it is true that there are media organizations doing great harm to our nation, they are not the ones Trump’s supporters imagine. Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, Breitbart, rightwing radio, Facebook, various hate groups, and some churches are the true purveyors of fake news.

By unquestioningly repeating Trump’s statements, these media outlets regularly tell us that up is down, black is white, and false is true. Indeed, Trump and these media have led to the creation of a new industry of fact-checking that has been overwhelmed by Trump’s more than 15,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. Worse, the vicious lies about political opponents, people of color, women, gays, the poor, immigrants and foreign rivals too often lead to violence.

Even the media that have sterling reputations for accuracy have lowered their standards in their quest for speed and ratings or readership. Determined to be first to report a story, they sometimes rely on information from questionable sources. In an attempt to seem unbiased, they host guests from both major parties and permit them to engage in shouting matches filled with opinions and false information. They hire columnists who offer more opinion than fact. They seek the most sensational aspect of a story allowing sensation to overwhelm information. And, when unable to find controversy, they attempt to generate it.

The latest example is the exaggerated spat between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Apparently finding it too difficult to contrast the candidates’ ideas and policies, the media seized upon the superficial and sensational. It’s not that they truly believe that such personal conflicts matter. It’s merely because they believe sensational controversies create profits by attracting audiences. Since virtually every media platform is driven by profits, their success is measured less by accuracy and reliability than by ratings and readership. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the potential audience for television and print news continues to dwindle as more and more people “cut the cord” of cable TV and tune their smart TVs to entertainment provided by Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc. So the competition for attention is greater than ever.

It is this thirst for controversy and sensationalism that paved the way for Donald J. Trump. In 2015 and 2016, the media was filled with everything Trump. Not because the media liked him or believed his outrageous statements. But because they felt that he would be good for ratings. At the same time, the only media attention given to his opponent, Hillary Clinton, centered around the sensational accusations her enemies promoted – accusations for which she has since been fully exonerated.

Not surprisingly, there are also legitimate reasons for media failures. Most traditional media outlets have been purchased by large conglomerates. Like all corporations, they focus on increasing profits by increasing productivity. As a result, the budgets for news-gathering operations have been slashed. Reporters are expected to do more work with less time and money. They’re forced to take shortcuts. In addition, some newsrooms have hired young editors because they’re willing to work for less. These people, though they may be talented and energetic, lack experience, perspective and the context of history.

In addition, having torn down the firewalls between the newsrooms and business operations, these conglomerates sometimes dictate news coverage that is favorable to their greed and ambition.

Despite all of this, I believe there is a growing thirst among Americans for real information. Indeed, I think the growing superficiality of television and radio newscasts has led Americans to turn to the Web and social media for information. Online, they can search the websites of traditional news operations. They can find more in-depth news from around the globe. They can find legitimate websites that compile the top stories for them.

Unfortunately, they are also exposed to an overwhelming amount of false information and fake news stories – stories generated by hate groups and foreign rivals hoping to divide us.

The Web is filled with information created by ideologues, renegades, haters, and fakers. Yet, to date, our government and the social media platforms have, for the most part, refused to police it. Under Trump, the government has even stopped tracking the lies and hate-filled diatribes posted by white supremacists and other domestic terrorist groups.

It’s long past time for Americans to demand real and accurate journalism; to expose the liars and the phonies; to hold propagandists disguised as news sources accountable (I’m referring to you, Fox News Channel); to ask the government to reinstitute a form of the Fairness Doctrine that required media to operate in the public interest or lose their license to operate.

It’s time to demand the truth.

Two Different Sponsors Of Terror. Two Very Different US Responses.

The US annual terrorism report of 2017 named Iran as “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.” But is it really? Even Trump, before the 2016 election, gave that title to Saudi Arabia, apparently basing his opinion on a leaked secret memo from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that stated Saudi donors “constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

Indeed, there was good reason for Clinton and, by extension, Trump to feel that way. After all, Saudis comprised the majority of terrorists involved in 9/11 and they were funded by a Saudi citizen – Osama bin Laden. The Saudis also created the Taliban by teaching their extreme Wahabbist form of Islam to young Afghan refugee students during the Soviet-Afghan War. (Talib means student.) The Saudis continue to finance the Taliban. And, as if all that were not bad enough, the Saudi’s Wahabbism inspired ISIL or, as it is more commonly known as ISIS.

In addition, the Saudi royal family has long used its power and extreme religious beliefs to terrorize the citizens of Saudi Arabia. It tortures and incarcerates anyone who dares to defy its religious beliefs or openly criticizes the family. And it often publicly beheads the most outspoken dissidents, even crucifying their bodies following executions to threaten anyone else considering defiance. Commit a more serious crime and the Saudis will bury you up to your neck and stone you to death.

Yet the family’s brutality and excesses are largely ignored in the West because the Saudis have lots of money and oil. Of course, that fact did not go unnoticed by the Trumps and the Kushners who have relied on Saudi money to finance their developments. Indeed, one of Trump’s first official acts as president was to travel to Riyadh where he bowed to the royal family, placed his hand on a crystal globe and gushed about the Saudi’s purchase of weapons from the US. (It should be noted that Saudi Arabia has used those weapons to carry out a brutal war in Yemen, continuing to bomb and kill thousands of civilians as part of the near 1,400-year conflict between the Sunni and Shiite factions of Islam.)

Since Trump’s meeting in Riyadh, Trump’s ties with the Saudis have become as unshakeable as his ties with Putin. Even when the Saudi leader ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident and Washington Post contributor, Trump refused to hold him accountable or to even acknowledge his involvement. Not even the mass shooting of US military personnel by a Saudi at the Pensacola Air Station drew a rebuke from Trump.

As I’ve previously written, Iran, on the other hand, was a US ally until the Islamic Revolution in 1979 when it deposed the brutal monarchy of the Shah who had gained power after the 1953 coup of Iran’s democratically-elected Iranian prime minister orchestrated by the UK and US. The prime minister’s crime? He threatened to nationalize Iran’s oil reserves.

Our relationship with Iran has been exceedingly complicated ever since.

Following our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which border Iran, Iran’s goal has been to force the US to remove our military from the region. With that goal in mind, it has supported terrorist groups as proxies against both the US and Israel. In retaliation, the US imposed economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. Yet we have occasionally worked together for common goals. Iranian militias helped the US and its allies end the violence in Iraq. They also helped fight against ISIS.

But it’s Iran’s support of Hezbollah, Hamas and Iraqi militias that has led to its reputation as a sponsor of terrorism. Hezbollah is described by the US as the primary terrorist partner of Iran. Yet that claim is open for debate. To many, especially Palestinians and Lebanese, Hezbollah is a political party and a liberation movement that uses force to resist Israeli occupation.

Iran also supports Hamas, a group that has been labeled a terrorist organization since 1997. But some argue that Hamas is a resistance movement. Not a terrorist group. In addition, some claim Iran has links to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS. But those claims are murky at best. Indeed, Iran did as much to defeat ISIS as anyone, including the Kurds.

It must be emphasized that, unlike the Saudis, no Iranian has ever attacked Americans on American soil.

So which country is the greater sponsor of terror? Which nation commits the greater number of human rights violations against its own citizens? By those measures, it would be difficult to draw a clear line between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The obvious difference seems to be in how we treat them.

Trump’s Act Of War.

There is an old saying that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Never has that been more true than in describing Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani. Though Soleimani was reviled by Israel and the US for orchestrating terrorist attacks, he was celebrated in Iran for protecting his nation.

Indeed, Soleimani had a complex history. He first came to prominence during Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of Iran – a war that resulted in the deaths of a million Iranians – a war supported by the US under the theory that the enemy of our enemy is our friend. Soleimani is credited with creating and implementing the IED roadside bombs used against US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also credited with creating and supporting regional militias feared by Israel and others. Yet Soleimani led his militias to help bring an end to the War in Iraq. In addition, he fought against Iran’s and America’s common enemy: ISIS.

So, though Soleimani’s actions wounded and killed many US troops, one could reasonably argue that he also saved many. Moreover, he was a hero to many in Iran and arguably the second-ranking leader of the nation.

Was his assassination justified? Maybe. But it was most certainly foolhardy.

To put this into perspective, it should be noted that, not long ago, the US had begun the long process of normalizing relations with Iran. We had returned Iranian assets that were frozen in 1979 in exchange for an agreement that Iran would limit its nuclear program to peaceful uses. And, by all accounts, Iran was upholding its part of the bargain. That was hugely significant given the ugly history between our two nations.

In case you’re unaware, the ugliness began when, in 1953, the US helped Great Britain orchestrate a coup of the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran for daring to nationalize his nation’s oil industry. His overthrow led to a brutal dictatorship under the Shah who was considered a US ally. When the Shah escaped the Iranian Revolution in 1979 and was given safe haven by the US for medical treatment, the new Islamic Iranian government retaliated by invading our embassy and holding Americans captive.

Despite our history with Iran, there was an opportunity to negotiate a lasting peace. The government of Iran had moderated. Many of the people of Iran had demonstrated for more freedom. Many Iranians even looked to the US as friends.

Then Trump was installed as US president. Wanting to destroy his predecessor’s legacy, he quickly removed the US from the nuclear agreement. He increased economic sanctions on Iran. And though he relied on Iran and Soleimani to help defeat ISIS, when Soleimani no longer served a purpose to the US, and Trump was facing an impeachment trial in the Senate, Trump ordered Soleimani’s assassination.

The consequences may well be devastating. Soleimani was not a rogue actor like bin Laden or al-Baghdadi. Rather, he was a sovereign nation’s highest-ranking general and second in command. Killing him by drone was nothing less than an act of war.

Further, Trump has shown that he cannot be trusted. Soleimani’s assassination comes on the heels of Trump throwing our Kurdish allies to the curb to be killed or displaced by the Turks. By not consulting our allies and others in the region before the assassination, Trump has shown a lack of respect because they, too, may be targeted by an angry Iran. And we have started a conflict that is almost certain to last generations.

Moreover, instead of weakening Iran, Trump’s rash action has strengthened it. If the US accedes to Iraq’s demand that the US remove our troops from Iraq, we will have less influence in the region. We will be leaving a weak Iraqi government and army to fend off what is certain to be renewed efforts by ISIS. That may well lead the Shiite majority Iraq to request the help of the Shiite majority Iran. If successful, the two nations will comprise part of a Shiite crescent surrounding Sunni nations – many of them our Middle Eastern allies. A strengthened Iran may well pose a greater threat to Israel.

And though, unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran has never struck the US on US soil, it may well be motivated to do so. It knows it can’t win a war of confrontation with the US. So Iran’s only recourse is to fight an asymmetrical war through acts of terrorism and cyber attacks.

Worst of all, it appears that the Trump administration has no plan to deal with the consequences other than to threaten, bully and bluster, which is likely to escalate matters. So buckle up America. We’re in for a long, unnecessary fight.

What Didn’t Happen In 2019 – The Year In Review.

Despite the release of the Mueller Report, the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, and numerous disasters and milestones, I believe 2019 should be remembered more for what did NOT happen. Following are but a few examples:

• The GOP-controlled Senate refused to vote on more than 400 House-passed bills – half of which were bipartisan.

• Congress failed to pass a bill to rebuild our aging infrastructure – our bridges, our rail system, our electric grid and more.

• The Trump administration continued to ignore the greatest threats of our time, including the climate crisis, the mass extinction of the planet’s species, the coming job losses from automation. In fact, the administration’s actions – pulling out of Paris agreement, expanding oil drilling, relaxing fuel standards for vehicles and reducing incentives for sustainable energy, the trade war with China – actually made things worse.

• The Trump administration continued to hold the $18 billion in reconstruction funds approved by Congress that were intended to rebuild Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

• The federal government collected no income taxes from 91 corporations listed among the Fortune 500.

• There was no real effort by the Trump administration or Congress to reduce federal deficits and the ballooning national debt.

• There was no significant change in workers’ wages, despite large run-ups in the stock markets.

• There was no change in income inequality, wealth inequality or opportunity inequality. In fact, the gap between the wealthy and ordinary Americans continued to widen.

• There was no Senate or administration action to secure our elections. Indeed, the GOP rejected election security bills 3 times in 2019. And the GOP continued its efforts to suppress votes.

• There was no nuclear peace deal with North Korea. Instead, Trump removed the US from the ABM treaty with Russia to limit short and intermediate range nuclear weapons.

• There was no peace agreement with the Taliban and no end in sight for America’s longest-lasting war – the war in Afghanistan.

• There was no real effort to reach a peace agreement in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. In fact, the actions taken by the Trump administration exacerbated the problems.

• There was no trade deal with China that would provide relief to American farmers or end tariffs on imports paid by US consumers.

• There was no federal action on gun safety measures such as universal background checks, bans on bump stocks, high capacity magazines and military-style weapons.

• There was no federal action to prevent mass shootings.

• There was no action taken to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post contributor, or for yet another terrorist attack on US soil by a Saudi citizen.

• There was no effort to end the war in Yemen.

• There was no federal effort to combat white supremacist terrorism, the greatest terrorist threat to US citizens.

• There was no Brexit.

• And, once again, there was no effort by the Trump administration to represent or even reach out to all Americans. Instead, he continued to represent only his white nationalist base.

The Coming Crises.

As we understandably worry about the constitutional crisis posed by Donald Trump and the threat he poses to our democracy, there are several other crises that should be getting our full attention. Indeed, each of them poses a tremendous threat to the future of the United States and our planet.

National Debt – As of today, our national debt stands at $23.16 trillion. Worse, we will add at least $1.1 trillion to it in FY 2020. Supposedly, the economy fueled tax cuts were intended to offset the growth in spending. Instead, the cuts merely reduced revenue. And the trade wars caused by Trump’s ill-conceived tariffs have only added to the problem by increasing the cost of goods for consumers and many manufacturers. That has resulted in less real income for workers and layoffs by manufacturers. If the trend continues, how will we pay to repair our aging infrastructure? How will we be able to continue to afford our bloated defense budget? How will we be able to afford reasonable safety nets? How will the US maintain its world leadership?

Automation – Technology experts say we are now in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution. We are losing jobs to automation at an alarming rate. And the revolution has only just begun. Recent studies predict that the US will lose 30 to 50 percent of existing jobs within the next few decades. For example, in the next few years, 2 to 3 million truck drivers are expected to lose their jobs to self-driving vehicles. In addition, that will lead to a loss of jobs related to truckers – at truck stops, motels, cafes, etc. – mostly in small towns and rural areas. And that’s only the start. In addition to truck drivers, there are another 7-8 million professional drivers for taxi companies, Uber, Lyft, UPS, FedEx, etc. who will lose their jobs.

Others who work in labor intensive and repetitive jobs will be replaced by automation. Even the so-called white collar workers will lose their jobs to automation. Paralegals, lawyers, medical technologists, even lawyers and film editors could soon be replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The question is: What will the displaced workers do for income? Still think presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s proposed guaranteed annual income is a radical idea?

Overpopulation – Current world population is 7.7 billion and we added 81 million in 2019. The population is growing at more than 1 percent per year. At this rate, the population is expected to reach 11.2 billion by the end of the century. Given the onset of automation, how will they sustain themselves? How will we feed them?

Environment – For decades, corporations have used our streams and oceans as landfills. They have spilled millions of barrels of oil into the seas. They have used factory fishing trawlers to deplete our oceans of fish. They have used our forests and our lands as a sort of supermarket of resources. They have poured toxic chemicals onto our farmlands – their runoff creating dead zones in our oceans. They have filled our atmosphere with carbon from the burning of fossil fuels and with methane from our insatiable appetite for beef. They have created inhumane factory farms that drown our lands in excrement. And they have polluted aquifers through fracking and mining.

Despite all of this, the Trump administration has relaxed most of our environmental regulations and encouraged even more of this destructive behavior from corporations. At the same time, the administration has cut their taxes – revenue that could be used to help clean up their messes.

Species Extinction – Over human history, the normal extinction rate for other species has averaged 1 to 5 species per year. However, scientists say that the current extinction rate is 1,000 times normal. We are now losing dozens of species per day! At this rate, we will lose 30 to 50 percent of all species by mid-century. In other words, we are now in the midst of the 6th mass extinction mostly as a result of human encroachment on wildlife habitat and human-caused pollution.

Climate Crisis – Last, but certainly not least, is the climate crisis caused almost entirely by the burning of fossil fuels. As I write this, virtually the entire continent of Australia is on fire resulting in the loss of millions of animals and thousands of homes. California, too, has faced disastrous wildfires, albeit on a smaller scale. Each year, we see more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, cyclones and tornados. The damage from these climate-related disasters for 2019 was estimated at more than $140 billion BEFORE the wildfires in Australia. And scientists tell us that the crisis is only going to get worse.

Each year, the reports of melting glaciers and ice caps exceed previous predictions. Though the situation is dire, most Americans have yet to recognize the effects of climate change. But they have been affected nonetheless. Taxes that could be used to rebuild our infrastructure or to reduce the cost of health care are used to fight wildfires or to repair the damage following hurricanes. Moreover, many of the refugees at our southern border are fleeing violence and starvation, much of it caused by drought.

And, in the future, it’s predicted that we will see much more climate-caused migration from droughts and rising sea levels.

Of course, none of this is good news. Contrary to the tradition of looking forward to the new year, if we don’t address these crises soon, we may well greet each new year with fear and trepidation of the events to come. Nevertheless, I wish you all a very happy New Year celebration! Enjoy it while you can.

Russia 2.0?

A lot has been written about Trump’s many links to Russia, his subservience to Putin and his admiration for some of the world’s most despicable strongmen. Those things should make every American wary of the intentions of our Dear Leader. But are they merely innocent, well-intentioned attempts to reach out to our adversaries in the interest of peace? Or is there something more disturbing, more threatening at play?

For that answer, it’s useful to compare Trump’s actions with those that undermined the Russian Federation’s once promising democracy and gave Putin complete control of the government and his nation’s resources.

1 – Putin labeled the government weak and ineffective promising to return the nation to its former power and glory. (Trump’s slogans of Make America Great Again and America First are right out of the dictators’ playbook.)

2 – Putin attacked the news media for reporting anything negative about him. (Trump labeled the news media and reporters as “enemies of the people.”)

3 – Putin used compliant media outlets to spread lies and propaganda. (Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, online sites such as Breitbart News, and radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh willingly and gleefully perpetuate Trump’s stream of lies.)

4 – Putin subverted the electoral process and suppressed votes for opposing candidates. (The GOP’s voter suppression efforts actually precede Trump by several decades. But these efforts have become more widespread in the age of Trump.)

5 – Putin embraced organized crime and other thuggish leaders such as Syria’s Assad to increase his power. (Trump has lifelong ties to organized crime through his family attorney Roy Cohn. He has helped Russian mobsters and oligarchs launder money. And his admiration for dictators like Putin, Erdogan and Mohammed bin Salman is obvious.)

6 – Once in power, Putin used the Russian government and economy as his personal piggy bank. And he has used offshore tax havens to shelter his ill-gotten gains. (In violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, Trump has funneled millions of government funds into his properties. And, for many years, he has used offshore accounts to avoid taxes. His name appears in the Panama Papers – a list of those who invest in offshore tax shelters – an astounding 3,540 times. Further, a similar list known as the Paradise Papers exposed links between Trump, Putin and Russia.)

7 – Putin used the intelligence apparatus and law enforcement to investigate his political enemies. (Attorney General Barr has authorized an investigation into those he and Trump claim “spied” on the Trump campaign. And Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is busy using government resources to gather dirt on Trump’s political rivals.)

8 – He took control of the courts so the laws could not be used to undermine his authority. (With the help of a compliant majority in the Senate, the Trump administration has packed the courts with a record number of young, ideological judges – many for lifetime appointments. Trump nominees now comprise a quarter of the seats on all federal appellate courts.)

9 – Putin gave control of natural resources to his closest friends and most ardent supporters making them, and himself, obscenely wealthy. (The Trump administration has auctioned off mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands to his supporters at wholesale prices. His administration has also pushed for logging in national wildernesses. At the same time, Trump has rolled back environmental regulations to make the extraction of resources more profitable.)

10 – Putin gave favors to the wealthy and corporate leaders, including helping them avoid taxes in order to further build their wealth. (One of Trump’s first acts was to cut income taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. One of the little-known effects of the bill was to allow corporations to “repatriate” billions of dollars, most of which were used for stock buybacks for the benefit of corporate executives.)

11 – Putin and his friends took control of the legislative bodies by using the power of their wealth. (The US has been an oligarchy for decades. But the money needed to run for office has skyrocketed in recent years. This, of course, benefits Trump’s wealthy supporters. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by industries and corporations to shape or block legislation.)

12 – Putin gave favors to the leaders of the nation’s majority religion and encouraged the persecution of those who practiced other faiths, as well as gays and lesbians. (Trump has embraced evangelical Christian leaders who consider homosexuality and abortion abominations under God. In return, they have claimed he was chosen by God to lead us. Trump also placed a near-complete ban on Muslims entering the US. He has empowered his followers to commit vandalism and acts of violence against followers of other religions and people of color.)

When you compare the actions of our wannabe dictator to those of Putin and other tyrants such as Erdogan, the similarities are frightening. Given the depths to which he has taken our nation in his first term, we should all fear what a second term might bring.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Fourteen – GOP)

This is the last of my 14-part series. But last certainly does not mean least. Without the treachery and complicity of the Republican Party, most of the other factors that are destroying our nation either would not be possible. Or they would be far less damaging.

The damage done to our government by the GOP began in earnest prior to the Nixon administration and has accelerated ever since. In 1968, Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to benefit his election prospects. Similarly, he ordered the Watergate break-in to sabotage Democratic candidates during the 1972 election. Following Nixon’s lead, Reagan undermined the Carter administration’s efforts to release hostages from the US embassy in Iran in order to damage Carter’s re-election chances. Reagan attacked labor unions and, based on the discredited “trickle down” theory of economics, he cut taxes for the rich. George H.W. Bush led us in to war in the Middle East over oil. And two of his sons conspired to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Then George W. Bush led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses.

But the GOP’s impact on our democracy has never been more damaging than it has over the past 11 years. During the Obama administration, it tried to undermine attempts to pull our economy out of a worldwide recession created by GOP policies. It blocked dozens of judicial appointments in the Senate culminating with its successful effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. And, having captured a number of state houses, it began instituting a wide variety of voter suppression laws in a blatant effort to prevent minorities and other Democrats from voting.

Since 2016, having colluded with a foreign rival to steal yet another election, it has allowed its Con-Man-in-Chief to sidle up to dictators, to bully allies, to promote white nationalism, to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy, to take affordable health care from millions, to undermine public education, to roll back environmental protections, to block any attempts to address the climate crisis, to rip immigrant children away from their parents, and to pack our courts by giving lifetime appointments to young, and often unqualified, ideologues. The party has not only excused blatant abuses of power by Trump. It has openly participated in them as did William Barr in his handling of the Mueller report. Further, Republicans in Congress have tried to block any attempts of congressional oversight by the Democrat-controlled House. (Witness the behavior of House Republicans during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempted shakedown of Ukraine.)

The GOP has run up trillion-dollar deficits in order to justify defunding all social safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. At the same time, it has handed out subsidies to some of the world’s greediest corporations. Worst of all, the party has participated in the wholesale betrayal of our Constitution by accepting campaign money and other support from Russian oligarchs and excusing Russia’s interference in our elections.

It may have once been labeled the Grand Old Party as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold our nation together. But the only thing grand about it today is its level of hypocrisy and criminal behavior.