The Coming Great(er) Depression.

In the US, we are quickly approaching 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 combined with 36 percent unemployment. The losses have been staggering – akin to combining the pandemic of 1918 with the Great Depression of the 1930s. Even “reopening” the economy is unlikely to change our future other than accelerating the death rate.

At this point, we have no reliable treatment for COVID-19. No vaccine. No equitable answer for unemployment. And inadequate safety nets.

But, by far, our greatest deficiency is leadership at the national level. So far, our “Dear Leader” and wannabe dictator has only led us to the abyss. Instead of preparing for a pandemic, he ignored the playbook given him by his successor and dismantled our response team. Instead of reacting to the onset of the pandemic in China, he dismissed it as the Wuhan flu. When the first cases appeared on our shores, he dismissed it as a partisan hoax. As the pandemic spread, he abdicated his responsibility and placed it in the laps of state governments. And he continues to claim that “no one could have handled it better.”

Really? Let’s look at his administration’s response.

He and his incompetent underlings stated that the national stockpile of medical supplies was the federal government’s – that states would have to find their own sources of ventilators and personal protection equipment (PPE). They even ignored a US manufacturer who had the manufacturing capability to make millions of N95 masks before the pandemic spread. All the manufacturer needed were government assurances and federal funds to restart his production lines that had been forced to close by lower cost foreign competition.

As a result, states were forced to engage in bidding wars for equipment – much of it substandard – often against the federal government. At the same time, large federal supplies of masks held by TSA went unused. In the meantime, healthcare providers were left to treat COVID-19 patients without proper protection, resulting in unneeded stress and, in some case, unnecessary deaths. And their reward from Dandy Donnie? He accused them of hoarding or wasting masks, shields, and gowns.

He continued to treat the pandemic as a partisan issue, using it to further divide our nation. He called for the economy to reopen while deaths soared. He took the advice of his propagandists on Fox News against his own medical advisors to promote unproven drugs as a “cure” for COVID-19. He also suggested that COVID might be treated by injecting or ingesting disinfectants or somehow getting ultraviolet light inside patients!

Only when the polls showed him trailing his political rival did he begin to take the pandemic seriously.

Nevertheless, he continues to push for Americans to go back to work despite the danger. He ordered meat-processing plants to stay open as more and more of their employees tested positive for the virus. His administration failed to provide guidance for safety measures leaving employees exposed. Yet, he quickly enacted safety measures for his own place of employment when one of his staff tested positive for the coronavirus. It seems he expects other Americans to risk their lives to restore the economy to improve his re-election prospects.

But the economy isn’t coming back soon.

It’s painfully obvious that Donald J. Trump is completely unsuited for dealing with a crisis, especially one that demands reason and science. He can’t bully a virus. He can’t sue it or con it. It won’t succumb to his vulgar threats. Sure, he can rile up his base into a frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy. He can expect Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh and his other propagandists to create distractions and more conspiracy theories. He can continue to try to place the blame on others. And he can expect Vladimir Putin to meddle in our elections. But creating more anger, more hatred, more division, more racism will not end the pandemic and bring back our economy.

The only thing that can save us now is real leadership. Something that is sorely lacking in the White House and in the GOP.

How Ronald Reagan Destroyed America.

For many Americans, Ronald Reagan was a great president who reawakened and re-energized the nation as exemplified by the “Morning in America” commercials created by some of my friends. They even credit him for ending the Cold War. But the credit more accurately belongs to Gorbachev.

To me, Reagan will always be the person who used a hostage crisis to win election and who turned Americans against their own government by portraying it as the enemy. And that’s only the beginning of his negative impact on the US.

He famously ran up deficits and tripled the national debt. He flipped the economy upside-down with his Trickle Down theory of economics leading to extreme inequality in income, wealth and opportunity. Under Reagan, we saw the end of national usury laws making it possible for national banks to evade interest rate caps leading to interest rates of 18%, 30%, 40% and more. At the same time, Reagan took away the tax deductions for interest paid by middle class and poor Americans on auto loans, credit cards and other personal loans. One result, as evidenced by a new Institute for Policy Studies Inequality briefing paper by Bob Lord, is that the taxes paid by America’s billionaires have decreased 79 percent since 1980!

Known by some as the “Father of Globalization”, Reagan’s economic and trade decisions led to the offshoring of high-paying American jobs. As he embraced multinational corporations, he attacked the labor unions – the very organizations that created our middle class by fighting for living wages, healthcare benefits and safe working environments.

The Reagan administration supercharged the era of corporate consolidations and legalized stock buybacks for corporate executives. Those decisions led to multi-million-dollar annual compensation for corporate executives, inflated stock prices, and mass layoffs of workers.

And though Reagan criticized Carter for the capture of US embassy workers in Tehran, he was responsible for the deaths of 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers who were killed on his watch after he sent them to Beirut with no plan of engagement. He waged war on the island nation of Grenada – yes, Grenada – for aligning with Cuba. He also circumvented congressional oversight by creating a shadow government that illegally sold weapons to Iran in order to finance death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

And maybe Reagan’s worst decision of all was to call for the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine that led to the likes of Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and a host of others who have used hate, sensationalism and an avalanche of lies to divide us. I believe you can draw a direct line from that decision to Donald J. Trump and the most corrupt, conniving, inept and hateful administration in US history.

George Washington Warned Us This Might Happen.

Having watched the History Channel docuseries on George Washington and having completed further research, I could not avoid the conclusion that the “Father of our Country” had foreseen the dangers we now face. After leading the nation to liberty and setting the standard for future presidents, he offered some advice to all Americans in a prescient farewell letter. Though I’m certainly not the first to look at his letter in context with the current state of our union, the obvious warnings bear repeating.

In particular, Washington stressed that Americans must remain united in order to maintain our liberty. At the same time, he warned of the three greatest threats to our unity: Regionalism, Partisanship and Foreign Interference.

It now seems clear that, despite his warnings, we have fallen victim to all three.

Regarding regionalism, Washington feared that loyalty to states and geographic regions would lead to factionalism – that people would vote for their self-interests rather than for the good of the union. Of course, we now see evidence of factionalism in references to the “coastal elites” and to “flyover country.” Such attitudes are at the heart of the so-called grievance politics that resulted in the election of Donald J. Trump. We also see factionalism reflected in congressional decisions, such as former Speaker John Boehner’s demand that the Pentagon build unneeded Abrams tanks in his state of Ohio. And in Arizona’s battle to maintain airbases for the outdated A-10 Warthog against recommendations from the Pentagon.

As for the dangers of partisanship, Republicans have led us down that rabbit hole for the past five decades. It’s not that Democrats are entirely blameless. But Republicans have taken every opportunity to suppress votes and disenfranchise voters as evidenced in the recent Wisconsin primary. Not only did they endanger lives by insisting that the election take place in the midst of pandemic. It sets up the likelihood that many of those who stayed home or who were unable to wait in long lines will have their names purged from voting lists for this fall’s election. Republicans have used their control of state houses to gerrymander districts to ensure their re-election. They have also used the filibuster, parliamentary tricks and dirty money to stuff the courts with ideological judges, and to block the initiatives of their Democratic rivals. But none of that compares to the hyper partisanship that Trump has displayed by calling the COVID-19 crisis a “Democratic hoax” and by favoring Republican-controlled states with medical supplies during the pandemic!

Even worse, mountvernon.org explains that Washington feared partisanship would “open the door to foreign influence and corruption” resulting in decisions on “ill-founded jealousies and false alarms.” He feared that it might lead to the election of “those in league with foreign conspirators.” Of course, that’s exactly what happened in 2017 when Trump was allowed to take office after soliciting and receiving help from Russia during the campaign. If you read the Mueller report, that fact is undeniable. The collusion with a foreign government was breathtaking in both its scope and breadth. But Trump didn’t stop there. Almost immediately after winning the public relations battle over the Mueller investigation, he again sought help from a foreign government to undermine a political rival. An action that led him to be only the third president in US history to be impeached.

Finally, Washington warned us to guard against would-be despots who would use parties as “potent engines…to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.” Of course, we’ve already seen that in the Trump administration. Trump has almost entirely and repeatedly ignored the interests of the majority of Americans who voted against him. He has used the national treasure as his personal bank account. And he has removed anyone who has failed to show their undying loyalty. Loyalty to him. Not the nation. It’s frightening to think of what he might do if he manages to retain office.

Given how Washington’s warnings have gone largely unheeded, I was astonished to learn that Washington’s farewell letter is recited annually in the United States Senate, a tradition dating back to the Civil War. Maybe some year, Republicans will actually listen to the reading. That’s assuming their actions don’t destroy the nation first.

Trump’s Fatal FEMA Fiasco.

George W. Bush was rightly ridiculed for his “doin’ a heckuva job, Brownie” comment following FEMA’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina. So what should be the consequences for Trump’s “…thank you for the amazing job you’re doing…We’ve set every record you can set” statements about delivering medical equipment to New York? Or his “The federal government has done something that nobody has done anything like this other than perhaps wartime” comment. Or his, “My administration has done a job on really working across government and with the private sector, and it’s been incredible” claim?

One might rightfully give the administration praise if any of it were true.

But, instead of delivering the personal protection equipment that medical personnel need for dealing with COVID-19 patients, the administration has left them in danger. Some nurses have likened their efforts to help patients as “a suicide mission.”

So, what has gone wrong with the administration’s response to the pandemic? The short answer is almost everything.

First, over many years, much of the manufacturing of N-95 masks, shields and gowns has been shipped overseas, primarily to China. So, when the outbreak began in Hubei province, China understandably used most of its production. In fact, the Trump administration sent 18 tons of masks and other equipment to China from our nation’s emergency stockpile. This further reduced the emergency medical stockpile that was already diminished following the Swine Flu epidemic. Though the Obama administration had requested funds to rebuild the stockpile, the Tea Party dominated Congress withheld funding as a way of limiting the debt ceiling.

To make matters even worse, from the time he took office, Trump and his administration had recommended large cuts to the National Institutes of Health and to the Centers for Disease Control. And, when John Bolton became the White House Chief of Staff, he recommended that the National Security Council’s pandemic response team be cut and folded into another agency. That left the team leaderless and gutted.

As the outbreak continued in China, Trump denied that the virus posed a threat by publicly calling it a Democratic hoax.

By the time the first case showed up in Washington state, the US was facing a perfect storm. Trump continued to call it a Democratic hoax and refused requests for help by Washington Governor Inslee, calling him “very unpleasant” and “a snake.” For six critical weeks, Trump continued to dismiss the threat, saying “it’s all under control.” He even claimed that it would disappear as the weather warmed.

As a result of the administration’s delay in recognizing a national emergency, the virus had spread and we were woefully short of supplies. Worse yet, the administration claimed, and continues to claim, that the task of dealing with the crisis is up to the individual states. In fact, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor claims that the national emergency stockpile is “ours.” Ours? Who is he referring to? Does he believe that it is the sole property of the Trump administration and its supporters?

The administration’s recent actions and statements indicate that might be exactly the thinking.

To explain, consider the administration’s process for distributing masks and other personal protection equipment: FEMA purchases masks from manufacturers in China and elsewhere. Those masks are sent to private distributors. The distributors then offer them for sale on the open market to the highest bidder. That bidder may be one of the 50 states, a foreign nation or a private entity. In some cases, the bidder is FEMA, itself. That’s right, FEMA sometimes repurchases the masks at a higher cost than what they originally paid the manufacturers! Why? So Trump can reward loyal red state governors, some of whom have made no attempt to mitigate the pandemic, by giving them priority over blue states.

You read that right. Trump is facing re-election soon, so he is politicizing life and death!

I’m not exaggerating.

What The US Could Be.

Our nation has reached a crossroads. Will we continue to slide further down the path to autocracy and cruelty where the nation’s leader is unaccountable, where the rule of law only pertains to those the leader says it should, where the leader puts his thumb on the scales of justice, where elected officials cater to corporations and the wealthy, where discrimination is accepted, where millions continue to live in poverty with fewer and fewer safety nets, and where those seeking asylum are locked in cages?

Or will we choose to vote for those determined to reclaim our government and reshape it to live up to its promise?

Consider what a Uniter-in-Chief, instead of a Divider-in-Chief, could do. Consider what a Congress focused on solving problems and representing the people – all of the people – could accomplish.

Unity: Instead of being divided by political and racial tribalism, we could be united in solving the greatest issues of our time. By rejecting GOP candidates determined to divide us for political gains over social issues such as abortion, religion, discrimination and wealth.

Right now, there are nearly 400 House-passed bills that have been denied a hearing in the Senate. Many, if not most, of these bills address bipartisan issues such as protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, lowering pharmaceutical prices, improving gun safety through universal background checks. Reshaping the Senate by rejecting those who would rather play politics than address the nation’s needs would end gridlock and allow us to address the issues that affect all of us.

Equality: We could treat each other as true equals. Over the past few decades, the GOP has resorted to voter suppression tactics in order to choose their voters rather than allow voters to choose their candidates. They have relied on extreme Gerrymandering, restrictive voter IDs, purging of voter rolls, intimidation, reducing voting hours and closing polling places in poor and black areas, and taking voting rights away from those who have served prison time.

It’s time to end these repressive and undemocratic practices; to end discrimination of all kinds. We must reshape all of our governments – including city, county, state and federal – and commit to restoring democracy and civil rights for all.

Equal Representation: We could dismantle the archaic Electoral College that prioritizes geography over people – a system that gives a voter living in Wyoming nearly 4 times the representation of a voter living in California.

Climate Crisis: We could save our planet from the most severe impacts of climate change.

Though scientists have known about the dangers of our reliance on fossil fuels since the mid-1960s, the issue was mostly ignored until former Vice-President Gore released the documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. By the 2008 presidential election, it had finally become a political issue with both candidates promoting a policy of cap and trade to reduce carbon emissions. Since then, only one party has shown any interest in addressing climate change. The other, supported by the fossil fuel industry, refers to it as a hoax.

Let’s suppose for a moment that the GOP is correct and climate change is a hoax (it isn’t), what would be the consequences of addressing the issue and embracing clean, renewable energy? The consequences would be many high-paying jobs, cleaner air, cleaner water and an end to wars over reserves of oil. Oh, and Big Oil would no longer exert such control over our government.

Ecosystem: We could save the diversity and the beauty of the many species that share our planet.

Many parts of our ecosystem are collapsing. Bees, which pollinate our fruits, vegetables and grains, are dying as a result of the use of pesticides. There is a dead zone in the Gulf caused by the runoff of fertilizers from our farms. Glysophate, a known carcinogen used to control weeds permeates our drinking water and our foods. Fracking fluids have leaked into the aquifers many rely on for drinking water. Many of our coral reefs, home to most of our oceans’ fish, are bleaching and collapsing due to climate change. Our oceans are also showing the ill effects of decades of use as garbage dumps. Deforestation and trophy hunting has forced thousands of species to the brink of extinction. I could go on. Yet the GOP seems uniquely unmoved by the devastation.

Replacing GOP politicians with those who believe in science, who will fight for ecological understanding and justice, may be the only way to save thousands of species from extinction…including our own.

Military: We could use much of our gigantic $718 billion military budget to improve conditions for the citizens of our nation and elsewhere. And we could, for one of the very few times in our nation’s history, wage peace.

For those who think that reducing the military budget would leave us vulnerable, consider that our budget is equal to that of the next 8 countries’ combined. And 6 of those are allies. Moreover, we benefit from the more than $305 billion in military spending of the other 28 members of the NATO mutual defense organization. Finally, our military budget doesn’t include the more than $50 billion budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the nearly $220 billion for Veterans Affairs.

That means we’re currently spending nearly $1 trillion annually on defense and military-related issues. And we benefit from $305 billion more.

Healthcare: We could provide universal health care for all of our citizens and save thousands of lives.

Pharmaceuticals: By allowing the government, as the provider of universal health care, to negotiate with manufacturers and distributors, we could make necessary and life-saving pharmaceuticals affordable for all those who need them.

Religion: We could provide true religious freedom, including freedom from religion for non-believers. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God.”

Immigration: We could, once and for all, solve the issue of immigration by providing a path to citizenship for those who were brought here as children and have spent most of their lives in the US. We could create a system of work permits for those who are needed to raise and harvest our crops and to fill the jobs most US citizens don’t want. We could improve our system for those seeking asylum from violence and starvation in their home countries.

Economy: We could transform our economy from a plutocracy to a democracy that will work for all Americans. Not just the powerful and the wealthy. By eliminating the need for corporations to pay for their employees’ healthcare, we could demand that their savings be used to pay all employees a living wage. And, by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, we could invest in many other things that could benefit our nation, such as low-cost college education while, at the same time, decreasing deficits.

Infrastructure: We could create high-paying jobs that cannot be off-shored by committing to rebuild our aging and decrepit infrastructure: Streets, roads, bridges, railroads, seaports, airports and the electric grid.

Violence: We could address gun violence by ending the sale of the weapons of war. We could implement universal background checks, waiting periods and red flag laws. And we could address the issues that lead to violence, such as poverty, discrimination, lack of opportunity and easy access to guns.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Nine – Draining The Swamp)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” But, on many issues, he has either done nothing or made matters worse.

Swamp Creatures: Trump said he’s drain the swamp. But his administration includes more corrupt billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history. These new swamp monsters have gutted regulations and signed orders that will enrich their own businesses and those of the president. At the same time, Trump has filled departments and agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who are crafting new policies for the same industries in which they recently worked.

Lobbyists: Trump promised to re-institute a five-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for five years after they leave government. He did. But the ban he signed applies only to lobbying one’s former agency. Not the government as a whole. Moreover, he has churned through advisors and assistants like no other. So the revolving door between government and lobbying firms has actually accelerated.

Only The Best People: Trump promised he’d use his business experience to fill the White House with “great people, the very best people.” But many of the people he hired are unqualified ideologues, political hacks and white nationalists. These people have dismissed science, defied the rule of law and ignored common sense. As a result, he has created the most dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history. Those who do not prostrate at his feet and show complete loyalty are summarily fired by tweet. By far, the worst of his loyalists is Attorney General William Barr who has politicized the Department of Justice as never before in order to please his master.

Foreign Interference: Trump promised he’d “stop foreign lobbyists from raising money for American elections.” But foreign lobbyists are still raising money for his re-election and those of his spineless congressmen. And, of course, he was impeached for trying to extort a foreign leader into finding dirt on a political opponent just months after the Mueller investigation enumerated the many ways he had solicited and used election help from Russia then tried to cover it up.

We recently learned that Russia is again trying to intervene in the 2020 election. But Trump refuses to condemn Putin and Moscow Mitch refuses to allow a vote on House-passed bills that would secure our elections. And Trump is still soliciting foreign support. As I write this, he’s holding what amounts to a political rally in India.

This Isn’t A Political Campaign. It’s A Street Fight.

It seems that many of the Democratic candidates for president are approaching the electoral campaign as if 2016 never happened. They are focused on policy and change. What they fail to understand is that 2016 changed everything. The Democratic nominee won’t be running against a mere candidate. They will be running against an unprincipled crime boss with the most powerful position in the world. A man who is willing to lie, cheat, bully, threaten, steal, and do whatever it takes to win.

We saw, in 2016, that Trump was willing to solicit and use help from Russia. We saw him file campaign papers for his re-election just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2017. He has used virtually every presidential appearance as a campaign event. He has launched the largest disinformation campaign in history on social media. And he was impeached for trying to use congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine to extort its leaders into announcing an investigation into phantom “wrongdoing” by Joe Biden.

Since his impeachment, in an act of retribution, he has fired two of those who testified under subpoena and fired another for the crime of being a twin brother of one of the witnesses. He has used the pretense of national security to block the book of his former National Security Advisor. He has threatened a Senator in his own party for voting for his removal. He has sent his capos – Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani – on a mission to find dirt on his Democratic opponents. And he has undermined the Department of Justice by calling for Barr to intervene in court cases against his criminal friends.

In addition, Trump’s GOP supporters have vigorously set about trying to find new ways to rig the upcoming election. They have widely spread disinformation about Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party. In GOP-controlled states, they have Gerrymandered districts and passed laws to suppress the votes of blacks, students, and the poor – those who traditionally vote Democratic. They have even refused to change voting machines and procedures to secure the election results.

Given all this, it should be obvious that Trump is no ordinary candidate. And this will be no ordinary election. The Democratic nominee might as well be running against an angry and emboldened Don Corleone on steroids. But, unlike the Godfather, this crime boss has all of the mechanisms of the government, including the “justice” system at his disposal.

Far from being embarrassed by Trump’s lack of moral and ethical character, his supporters are energized by it, seeming to care only about sticking it to the libs, blacks, gays and “illegals.”

And, thus far, the only Democratic candidate who seems to fully recognize the kind of fight the party is facing is Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has used his billions to troll Trump with ads designed to expose him for what he really is: A fraud and a crook. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg is another New Yorker. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg’s wealth has made him unafraid to take on Trump. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg, as New York’s former mayor, has experience putting mobsters in their place.

Don’t get me wrong. I like ALL of the Democratic candidates. I want someone who will be transformative – to undo all of the harm done by the mobster-in-chief; to take power away from the plutocrats and give it back to the people; to re-establish our democracy. But I will vote for whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination. (In fact, I’d vote for anyone with half a pulse over Trump.) But I believe, in order to win, the nominee will have to be prepared to roll in the muck and shield themselves from the feces that The Don and his Trumpanzees are certain to fling their way.

So far, only Michael Bloomberg seems to understand that.

The March Toward Autocracy.

Ever watch a kindergarten class out for a walk in the city? They are all hooked to a rope connected to two teachers so that no child can step out of line. Such is the case with our Republican Congress. Led by DonTheCon, they follow along through oncoming traffic toward the edge of a cliff where they’re expected to take a giant leap of faith. If they do step out of line, there’s Moscow Mitch to herd them back into place.

I believe there’s no better description of today’s GOP under Donald J. Trump.

Trump clearly conspired with a foreign rival to attain office. Once in power, he has set about destroying the United States of America as we know it. He has intentionally divided the nation as we have not seen since the Civil War. He has undermined our institutions – the press, the judicial system, the national security apparatus, the military. He has used the machinery of government and the power of his office to attack and investigate political opponents. He has obstructed justice and any form of congressional oversight.

He has changed our tax codes to further benefit the rich and the powerful. He has demeaned and estranged our closest allies. Though having broken nearly all of the Ten Commandments, he has pandered to evangelical “Christians” while banning the followers of Islam from entering our country. He has turned aside refugees – the victims of violence and economic collapse – and re-victimized them by locking them in cages to endure horrific conditions. He has pandered to white nationalists and embraced the world’s worst dictators as though they are members of the same club.

Indeed they are.

He has carved up our national monuments and auctioned off the mineral rights to the highest bidder. He has eliminated environmental regulations allowing oligarchs to despoil our air and water. He has cheated on his taxes, refusing to reveal the depths of his cheating by hiding them from the public. He has used the national treasure as his piggy bank to enrich himself and his family while ordering the Treasury Secretary to shield the numbers from accountability.

As he neared re-election, he chose to enlist the help of a foreign government yet again, using taxpayer funds to extort its help in damaging a political opponent. And, when he was caught, he gathered those Republican congressmen and senators – those obedient toddlers – around him for protection.

Though impeached, his followers refuse to remove him from office…even refusing to examine the evidence. So now it’s up to the voters to do what the Senate should have done.

That will be difficult. Though Trump’s support represents a minority of the electorate – mostly an angry mob of white supremacists, religious zealots, the uninformed, the misinformed and aggrieved losers – his party has spent years preparing for this moment. The GOP has aggressively Gerrymandered congressional districts. It has set about removing the names of millions of voters from the rolls, forcing them to re-register to vote – that’s assuming they’re even aware that their names have been excluded. The GOP has reduced the number of polling places and voting hours in Democratic-leaning districts. It has blocked voting rights for felons who have served their sentences. It has intimidated opposition voters. And, in many states, it has forced voters to leave work and drive many miles in order to purchase a voter ID, often making them choose between obtaining the ID or earning enough to feed their children.

Even without all of their voter suppression tactics, the GOP has a distinct advantage. It controls a large majority of the nation’s geography, if not its voters. Half of the nation’s population resides in 9 largely blue states. But the remaining 41 mostly red states hold a majority of the electoral votes. So it’s possible that Trump – the president with the lowest approval ratings in modern times – will, once again, lose the popular vote this November by overwhelming numbers and still win a majority of electoral votes.

The only sure way to stop him is for decent, caring Americans to turn out to vote as never before.

And, if Trump is defeated, the winning candidate should quickly set about nullifying the Trump presidency. Every presidential order should be immediately overturned. Every appointment, every administration decision should be scrutinized and rectified, as quickly as possible. And, if Democrats are fortunate enough to gain majorities in both houses of Congress, they should pass legislation designed to protect our elections, to restore voting rights, to eliminate the Electoral College and to protect our environment.

As important, Trump should be prosecuted for his many crimes – for his tax evasion, for violating the emoluments clause, for conspiring with enemies of state, for abuse of power, for obstruction. He and his family should be forced to repay the millions they have stolen from taxpayers. And Trump should be locked up as a warning to any like-minded individuals who would consider undermining our democracy ever again.

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.

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.