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Posts published in June 2019

American pride on refugee day?


World Refugee Day, June 20, is a time to consider the desperate plight of the more than 25 million people around the world who have fled their home countries because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted. America has always been regarded as a refuge for people fleeing despotic countries to escape religious and political persecution. In the past, we have taken seriously the admonition in Deuteronomy 10:19 to “love those who are foreigners.”

Until recently, America has played a leading role among nations in protecting refugees who often have suffered unspeakable atrocities in their home countries. The U.S. has provided comfort and shelter to over 3 million oppressed people from around the world since 1975. America welcomed 84,944 refugees in fiscal year 2016, but that dropped to 53,716 in FY 2017 and then to 22,491 in FY 2018.

Savage fighting in Syria has produced the largest outpouring of refugees in recent years--about 6.3 million. Of that number, 3.6 million are registered in Turkey, over 900,000 in Lebanon and about 665,000 in Jordan. The U.S. settled 12,587 Syrians in FY 2016, only 62 in FY 2018, and just 218 in the first half of FY 2019. We played a large part in creating the Middle East upheaval that caused the massive flow of refugees, but have essentially turned our back on them.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel saw the flood of refugees from Syria as a humanitarian crisis of the first order, but also as an opportunity to address a serious German social problem. Unemployment and the birth rate in her country are at near-record lows, as they also are in the U.S. The aging population of both countries poses great economic problems for the future. Merkel’s solution was to admit about 1.5 million refugees, who have injected new workers and more vitality into the German economy.

I’m not suggesting we bring a similar number into the U.S. but we should remember that immigrants have provided the backbone for America’s growth into an economic powerhouse. With our record low birth rate, how can we sustain our economy into the future and pay for Social Security, Medicare, national defense and everything else we hold dear? We need a new population source to keep our economy from faltering.

Along with the substantial decline of refugees being allowed into the U.S., the numbers coming to Idaho have plummeted—from 1,118 in FY 2016, to 629 in FY 2017, and then to 265 in the first 8 months of FY 2019. The drop has caused serious damage to the infrastructure of Idaho’s refugee resettlement agencies, which are among the best in the country.

Those agencies--the Idaho Office for Refugees, Agency for New Americans and International Rescue Committee—sponsored World Refugee Day Boise on June 15. There was a remarkable outpouring of appreciation for these people from distant parts of the world who have enriched the communities of Idaho.

Refugees from a variety of countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine and Myanmar, have settled in Boise, Twin Falls (thanks to the well-regarded refugee program of the College of Southern Idaho) and surrounding areas. They have shared their cultures and cuisines, started businesses at twice the rate of home-grown Americans and taken jobs that locals will not do. Many of their sons and daughters are becoming nurses, engineers, social workers and information technology experts.

Just like immigrant groups from years past, Idaho’s refugee community supports America and is doing its part to make the country even better. Soon we will stop referring to them as refugees and call them our fellow Americans. And, when America remembers its responsibility to extend love to those fleeing persecution, the country can once again hold its head up with pride on some future World Refugee Day.

Impossible tasks


I suppose the following words could be considered just a couple more rants about things political. There’s a lot of that in the air these days. But, I hope not.

Two current subjects have been eating at me for some time. Both amount to efforts by the media and nearly everyone else to fit yesterday’s words and actions into today’s accepted norms.

Stop it! It can’t be done!

A current striking example of that twisted thinking involves everybody’s favorite Democrat Joe Biden. Uncle Joe. A few days ago, he was talking about the necessity for people with opposing views and values working together to accomplish something important. At that moment, he was talking about efforts to pass the voting rights act in the ‘60's.

Biden was citing working with a couple of avowed racists in the Senate - James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia. Absolutely no question about their racist credentials. Biden talked of negotiating with them on various parts of the legislation to get their support when the vote was taken because it was gonna be close. And he got ‘em.

Yes, Virginia, there really was a time when politicians of one stripe actually had working relationships with those of a different stripe. It worked! An amazing time, that.

Sitting in the press gallery one day about 1970, I remember watching Barry Goldwater - an avowed Conservative - and Hubert Humphrey - an avowed liberal - going at each other in debate. Point-counterpoint. Back and forth. The real essence of politics at work. Ironically, something had to be amended in the bill and it was held for a day.

A few hours later, a fellow reporter found the “combatants” at the Congressional Club on the Hill behind the Capitol. Bourbon and branch water between them and chatting about an Arizona hunting trip Goldwater was putting together.

Think you could find that today in McConnell’s kangaroo Senate? Yeah, you bet. That’s what Biden was talking about. That’s how it worked. When it worked.

But, instantly, Booker, Warren, Harris ran to the media with their faux outrage about Biden’s “racist” comments. Pure B.S.. Booker, Warren and Harris have full time jobs in that same governing body and they know in their souls how it used to be. How it really worked. Or, maybe they conveniently “forgot” how things used to get done just to make a news cycle.

Biden said nothing wrong. But, the media scrum - none likely born at the time Biden was referring to - and Booker, Warren and Harris without Biden’s institutional experience - jumped all over him. Again, pure B.S..

Because of Bidens trying to use past examples of how this-and-that actually worked, his 40+ years of experience may be his Achilles’s heel. Though his kind of politics worked then, he may get hammered by opponents using today’s poisonous political climate to justify their attacks on the cooperation that used to be.

The other personal irritant is all this media hype of upcoming Democrat “debates.” You can’t get five pounds of lard into a one pound can. And you can’t “debate” when you have 10 candidates.

Let’s break it down. Suppose the allotted time is two hours. Less network lead-ins, exits, summations, etc.. That should total about 20 minutes. Now, with the remaining 100 minutes, divide that by 10 people. Spread over a two hour period, each gets a total of 10 minutes to speak, broken up by questions, audience reactions and other miscellaneous distractions.

There’s no debate. No back-and-forth. Just short “sound bites” so each can get in a favorite stump speech point. No challenge. No response. Nothing. Where the hell is the “debate?”

There is no debate and there will be no debate until, oh, about October, 2020. When each political party has just one candidate for President. When there are just two microphones and two voices. And that’s only if the “moderator” stays out of it and lets the combatants combat. Not likely.

Trump will be one voice. And he will be loud and raucous - foul and obscene. Based on past performance, he’ll interrupt, make noises, walk around while his opponent is talking and try anything to distract. And he’ll lie. Lie. Lie!

In fact, we may get through a whole political season without one real debate. Those last appearances may not amount to an actual debate after all. Just one serious voice trying to overcome the childish demeanor and harangues of our “president” who has already exhibited his “debate style.”

And that’s what’s been eating at me. But, that’s enough.

Proper role of government


The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot do as well for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities.
► Abraham Lincoln

... an attack phrase on centralized federal authority and massive taxation and expenditure.
► William Safire, Safire’s Political Dictionary

Safire’s assessment was largely right: a statement including the phrase “the proper role of government” is apt to be an attack on same, with the idea that whatever the main subject at hand is, is not within the “proper role of government.” (Ironically, the supporters of government activism tend not to talk much about the proper role of government as such.)

The attack tends to have three problems in association with each other.
First, all of government is smeared as needing limitation in a way no other aspect of society is; did all those governments officials, high and low, drink some special kool-aid?

Second, it forgets that government is interactive with the rest of us. (You don’t think businesses affect what governments do? Churches? Even, from time to time, individuals? Activist groups?)

Third, in connection with that, obsession on government’s proper “role” diverts attention from other sources of power in our society – which can gain more power in turn, as long as we’re warned not to look in their direction.

One of the foundations of “proper role” rhetoric in recent years is an article written by Ezra Taft Benson, a secretary of agriculture in the Eisenhower Administration, called “Proper Role of Government.” It cleanly isolated a central kernel of the limited-government argument:

“… the proper function of government is limited only to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act. By deriving its just powers from the governed, government becomes primarily a mechanism for defense against bodily harm, theft and involuntary servitude. It cannot claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will. Government is created by man. No man possesses such power to delegate. The creature cannot exceed the creator. In general terms, therefore, the proper role of government includes such defensive activities, as maintaining national military and local police forces for protection against loss of life, loss of property, and loss of liberty at the hands of either foreign despots or domestic criminals.”

It’s a thoughtful contention – if government is created out of the authority of the people, how can it do anything you or I individually cannot do? – but it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

You and I as individuals lack the authority to do even the basic things Benson argues governments must do, such as protect people from harm and provide for the common defense. Accomplishing those things means commanding people to do certain things; we as atomized individuals, have no such authority. Nor do we have authority to raise money – other than by begging for it, which as a practical matter wouldn’t work – to accomplish those things.

Authority to do anything that government does, including those things the staunchest libertarians would endorse, means governments have authority beyond that of individuals.

If we want to get into theorizing about how this might be justifiable, simple enough answers are available. These grow mostly out of the concept of the social contract: By living in and benefiting from our society, we give up some of our absolute liberty in the interest of gaining other compensating advantages. It’s transactional; a tradeoff. We can (and many of us do) disagree about the precise terms of that deal, but such a deal is what people who live in any society – whether one like the United States or one drastically different – officially or unofficially agree to. If you don’t, you leave, or you might be punished by the other people who stay.

And there are people who try to withdraw to some extent, sometimes in minor and subtle ways and sometimes in ways more obvious. But most of us take the tradeoff, knowingly or unknowingly, sometimes grumbling as we do. But nonetheless we do.

Benson said in his article that he draws much of his philosophical inspiration from the United States Constitution. But the Constitution itself disagrees with his reductionist view. Its first sentence says this: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

What it takes for government in America to accomplish these things has varied with time, often has been debated, and sometimes has moved into unpredictable areas.

Few members of the founding generation were as fierce in their calls for limited government as Thomas Jefferson; but in 1803 he doubled the size of the United States with a purchase of land from France, a purchase for which neither he nor Congress had any clear constitutional authority. (Analysits of that day rwisted themselves into pretzels in attempts to find it.) Jefferson did it because like many other people he had become convinced that it was in the interest of the larger aims of the United States. Despite its uncertain constitutionality, it hasn’t been significantly questioned since.

Taxes and tariffs


The two foundational pillars of Republican (read Trump) economic policy – tax cuts and tariffs – have settled in on the country like so much else has for the last two and a half years. They are the product of ignorance, misdirection, wishful thinking and lies.

First, let’s review the bidding on the 2017 Trump tax cut passed with only Republican votes in Congress.

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the tax writing Finance Committee said at the time, “The tax relief passed by Congress will reshape our tax policy to the benefit of Idaho’s taxpayers help make the United States more competitive.” Crapo was also sure that tax rates for all Americans would go down, jobs would spike, competitiveness would soar and “despite claims to the contrary, the reforms to our tax system will address our growing debt and deficits.”

In a joint statement with Crapo celebrating the passage of the tax cut, Senator Jim Risch was over the moon in touting the benefits. “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will produce growth not seen in generations, giving Americans access to higher wages, greater job opportunities and a more vibrant economy, all of which will result in greater dynamic revenue generation to reduce the deficit and improve our nation’s fiscal standing.”

But what has actually happened after the happy talk faded away? In as nutshell, and according to an in-depth analysis by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a branch of the Library of Congress, Crapo and Risch’s claims were wildly overstated, indeed were largely wrong.

Consider who benefited from the tax legislation. “From 2017 to 2018,” CRS says, “the estimated average corporate tax rate fell from 23.4% to 12.1% and individual income taxes as a percentage of personal income fell slightly from 9.6% to 9.2%.” That helps explain why you saw tiny, if any, reduction in your personal tax bill, while corporations had their tax bill nearly halved.

The CRS analysis documents that much of the corporate tax cut went not to investment in workers or plants, but for “a record-breaking amount of stock buybacks, with $1 trillion announced by the end of 2018.” In other words, investors, corporate CEO’s and the already well to do enjoyed the benefits.

And how about the notion that cutting government revenue would some how magically contribute to a reduction in government debt? Here’s how Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik describes what happened: “Overall revenue fell in 2018, largely because of a $40-billion decline in corporate tax revenue. Individuals, particularly working- and middle-class individuals haven’t been so fortunate. Although the legislation increased the standard deduction and child credit, whatever tax reductions those would produce for families were ‘largely offset’ by the elimination of personal exemptions, and limitations on itemized deductions such as those for state and local taxes.”

In point of fact the federal deficit – remember when Risch and Crapo used to talk about that all the time – has increased by 40% in the current fiscal year, at a time when the economy continues to grow. This is more than blue smoke and mirrors masquerading as economic policy. It’s really economic malpractice on a huge scale. Congressional Republicans sold you a bill of goods and most of them continue to mouth the platitudes about how good it is for you.

Let’s consider the other “T” in Trumpland economics: tariffs. Despite mounting evidence of the impact on Idaho of the administration’s tariff wars with China, India and a host of other countries, Risch and Crapo stand at attention and march over the economic cliff with the president. Trump, don’t forget, has taken his tariff actions in an unprecedented manner, invoking a provision meant to deal with matters of national security. The Constitution expressly reserves to the Congress the “Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises.” In other words, Congress has acquiesced to this presidential power grab.

Risch recently told a television interviewer that he’s “not a tariff guy,” chuckling that Republicans “are free traders.” Yet when given the chance to even mildly rebuff Trump – the Senate last year approved 88-11 a non-binding objection to a tariff war – Risch declined, as Crapo did, citing “onerous restrictions” on the president’s authority to implement tariffs for national security reasons.

Even if Trump manages to navigate a pathway out of his tariff cul-de-sac some time soon much damage has already been done. Supply chains have been disrupted, long-to-develop trading relationships shattered and uncertainty dominates.

“Our businesses have spent a lot of time and a lot of money building relationships in some of these markets,” the Idaho Department of Agriculture’s Laura Johnson told the Idaho Press recently, “and as customers go somewhere else, it’s really hard to get them back. We may have other opportunities elsewhere, but it’s costly.” Jay Theiler, the Executive Director of Marketing for Agri Beef, a significant Idaho exporter, says, “Right now, politics is in the way of the trade.”

There is ample evidence that the president of the United States doesn’t understand how tariffs – or tax policy for that matter – actually work, that American consumers and businesses pay the duties when imports become more expensive and cutting tax rates increases the deficit. But, ignorance in politics isn’t a new phenomenon. What is unusual is the willful disregard of facts on the part of Idaho’s senators, and others, who have stood idly by while this economic malpractice continues to unfold.

Tax cuts and tariffs have done almost nothing beneficial for most Americans. If fact, GOP economic policy is costing you money. You would be entitled to ask: whose looking out for your interest?

Ray Rigby


He came close to becoming governor of Idaho.

Ray Rigby was for a time a candidate for governor of Idaho, as a Democrat, in 1970. But only for a while; he didn’t file, and wasn’t on the ballot, and didn’t get very close to the office that year. But in the process he and the eventual nominee and governor, Cecil Andrus, became good friends, and four years later he was Andrus’ top choice for lieutenant governor.

In 1974 the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor had some value, both evident and as yet unseen. It was a good year for Idaho Democrats - one of the two best in the last half-century - and the nomination drew four serious candidates. Rigby had strong support but came in second, outdone by fellow state senator John Evans, who had pulled in most of the still-strong labor backing. But that four-way race was highly competitive.

And that was appropriate, because two years later Andrus was tapped for interior secretary, and Evans became governor. It could have been Rigby.

If there was some significance to that, Ray Rigby, who died last week at his lifetime home in Rexburg, never seemed to dwell on it. He had a busy life in his profession and his church as well as in politics. His political adventures back in the 60s and 70s, when he was one of the leading figures in the Idaho Legislature and a serious prospect for higher offices, hardly even figure now in many of the recollections of him.

The biographical article about Rigby in the Idaho Falls Post Register, for example, focused more on water.

And that’s not a mistake. Ray Rigby was a water lawyer and one of the leaders in shaping Idaho state water regulation - his son Jerry, has followed in those footsteps too - and he was one of the people who helped create Idaho’s water regime when it was in formative stages half a century ago, turning into something like what the state has now. Rigby was a practicing lawyer who represented clients, which included many of the larger water operations around eastern Idaho, and he had clear points of view about how things should be. But he was willing to compromise, willing to work with a wide range of people, and willing to experiment.

In the oral history book Through the Waters (disclosure: I published and helped edit it), which tracks the story and history of the Snake River Basin Adjudication, Rigby emerges as a major figure in setting up the state’s water structure after Swan Falls Dam court decision in 1982. (In comments after his death, two of the other major figures in that work, then-Attorney General Jim Jones and his resources division chief, Clive Strong, reaffirmed that.) He was the practical source of the idea of trust waters - a key concept in putting the Snake River water rights agreements in place - and also important because he was so widely trusted, across party lines and across a range of interest groups.

Idaho has one of the best water management systems in the country. The most important ingredient allowing that to happen has been trust, a willingness for people with varying interests to work in good faith with each other. Ray Rigby epitomized that, and he helped make that happen.

He could set a good example for policy makers and political people in Idaho today.

Equitable assessment


This week in Boise there will be an interim committee meeting on Monday. By the time you read this they will be back home, not done with their work, but maybe started. The title of the committee is the “Equitable Assessment of Costs Related to Medicaid Expansion”.

I applaud the legislature for looking carefully at costs incurred to the taxpayer for the laws they (or in this case, the voters through initiative) pass.

May I make some further suggestions?

How about the legislature study the costs of funding facilities for charter schools? The legislature passed a law in 2014 to send cash from income and sales tax revenue to charter schools for their facility costs. Public schools have to get a local bond passed to build a school; charter schools get an automatic cut from everybody’s sales taxes or income taxes. Sixty-six + percent must approve a local bond, then it comes off the property tax of local district residents. Charter schools just get a check out of the general fund. That charter school facility fund has come to $40M over the past seven years. And its dollars straight out of the budget for teachers and schools, which is what our property tax levies pay make up for, since the state can’t seem to find the money in the general fund. Seem equitable to you?

How about the legislature study the property tax exemptions county commissioners are handing out? How is that affecting home owners’ rates? Canyon County commissioners just handed out millions in exemptions to businesses who expanded or opened new facilities. A couple years back Nez Perce County commissioners did the same for Clearwater Paper. This was right before they laid off a few dozen workers in the Lewiston plant. Does it seem equitable that businesses don’t have to pay for the roads and services their trucks and employees use? Does it seem equitable that the local property owners foot that bill?

But I suspect the interim committee will focus their “equitable assessment” on the costs of Medicaid expansion, as the law they themselves passed has directed them to do. If you keep the window narrow there is no big picture to see. I expect my elected representatives to see the big picture.

The charter school facility funding inequity came about because the legislature was afraid to look at the big picture of all schools’ facility funding. This was even though there is an Idaho Supreme Court decision declaring our current system, before the charter school facility funding scheme, unconstitutional. This decision has never merited even one hearing from our busy legislators.

Keeping a narrow focus on the Medicaid costs might bring some comfort to the legislators who opposed Medicaid expansion. While they tally the costs, will they even try to balance the benefits? We all heard their bias before the election, before the citizens over-ruled their six years of inaction. Will they consider the costs of those six years of doing nothing when the Federal Government paid up to 100% of the costs? I doubt it.

There is no doubt the expansion of Medicaid will cost the Idaho taxpayer. And costs are the easiest things to count. But the benefits deserve some tallying too. What do you think one life saved is worth?

Can they tally savings to our prison costs when a felon doesn’t return to prison because they got their drug addiction treated? Can they consider the value to a small community whose critical access hospital climbs out of the red? Is there any way to count the shifted costs of the uninsured onto those paying premiums? Will the decline in county property tax funded indigent costs be part of their calculus?

I’m all for counting costs. But how we spend our money is an expression of our values. And values aren’t just about dollars and cents. Values should reflect the big picture.

On the Trump trade war …


Take this statement: “We are losing billions of dollars through on-going trade deficits and it has to stop.” Is this true or false? It is the mainstay of Trump’s attitude towards foreign trade. It does have a seductive ring to it, and a recent CBS poll says that six in ten of us favor Trump’s efforts. Some recent man-on-the-street interviews give the impression that many of us think showing a little muscle is a good thing. Trump says that trade wars are easy to win. A little short-term pain is all that is happening here and that all will be well soon. After all, isn’t this just part of Making America Great Again?

No, it is not! The facts are that Trump’s entire pitch on foreign trade is total malarkey. Every single word out of Trump’s mouth is wrong. Every word. What he has said demonstrates a stunning failure to grasp even the fundamentals of international trade. He clearly does not understand the consequences of a bilateral trade imbalance and he has not the faintest idea of how tariffs work.

First and most obvious, we are not losing any money as a nation in trade deficits. In a growing economy, an imbalance in trade is merely an indication that there are surplus dollars on one side available for discretionary spending. Since we are by far the largest economy in the world, it is expected that we will have the most in surplus dollars for discretionary spending. The U.S. has operated with a worldwide negative trade balance since 1975 and our economy has grown and continues to grow exponentially. In its simplest form, the outflow of excess U.S. dollars from one year’s imports provides funds to our trading partners for the next year’s increase in exports, and both economies prosper.

Unless political pressures get in the way, or truly illegal or unwarranted government intervention is involved, we do not need to worry about the other country. As long as our own economy is strong and growing, with modest inflation, manageable interest rates, and exchange rates close to par, the market forces alone will keep our interests in a workable position relative to our trading partners.

When one or more of these ratios get out of whack, such as where one side gets unfairly involved in specific markets by way of price fixing, subsidized dumping, or currency manipulation, for example, direct action may be warranted. Adjusting or withholding foreign aid, implementing domestic subsidies, imposing trade embargoes and the use of specific, targeted tariffs are common methods of correcting or countering specific ills in specific trading conditions often found in foreign markets. When needed, these measures are applied deftly, with tweezers and scalpel – not a mean ax or wrecking ball. The objective is to target the precise problem without tipping over the whole table.

One aspect that everyone agrees should not be considered is any notion that trade can be brought into balance by the imposition of general tariffs. One would think that the disastrous consequences of the last attempt to protect the U.S. economy with general tariffs – the Smoot Hawley tariffs of the 1930s – would prevent ever again any serious attempts at trying to force an adjustment to the balance of trade through general tariffs. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs were a disaster; they had no impact on general trade, triggered worldwide retaliation, and worked to worsen and prolong the great depression by years. It took the U.S. decades to rectify the damage done by these tariffs.

And yet, here comes Trump. Against all advice, Trump is using general tariffs to push us into a trade war with China, our second largest trading partner, without cause other than his subjective belief that trading with China is not “fair” and with no defined objective to end his war other than that trade with China has to become “more fair.”

General tariffs are an excise tax upon the U.S. consumer, no matter what Trump and his henchmen try to claim. The objective of a tariff is to artificially increase the price of the item in order to drive the volume of sales or imports down. If the price increases, demand goes down. This is basic economics. The direct impact is on the exporting country because their exports will go down and their revenues will suffer. But the indirect impact is on the consumers in the importing country because their costs are going to go up. Furthermore, general tariffs have the effect of a double whammy because they invariably foster retaliatory tariffs by the other country.

The point is that these tariffs are NOT just being paid by the Chinese exporting companies or the Chinese government. The effects of tariffs are felt by everybody in the market, both sides. After less than three quarters of a year of general tariffs, being since mid-summer 2018, the impact already felt by the U.S. consumer from higher costs and lost jobs is estimated at an average of over $860 per family. This figure will dramatically increase if Trump imposes the next round of tariffs on $300 billion in general trade from China, which he has threatened to do by the end of June.

The imposition of broad tariffs have not produced any results other than to depress markets and cost jobs in both countries and increase the cost of most products involved to consumers in both countries. By the end of May 2019 these tariffs are estimated to have reduced U.S. long-run GDP by 0.2%, reduced wages by 0.13%, and eliminated 156.000 full time equivalent jobs. If Trump imposes the next round of 25% general tariffs on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports, which he has threatened to do by the end of June, the hit on our GDP is expected to be at or around -0.45%. (The Tax Foundation, May 31, 2019) In the U.S., each tenth of percentile in reduction of GDP translates to $20 billion, or 79,000 full time equivalent jobs

Trump is ignoring the progress that has been made in trade with China and is making demands that China cannot and will not meet. China is not coming around, we are not well positioned, and no deal with China is imminent. Most experts agree that China is giving every sign of being ready to hunker down and weather out the storm for as long as Trump remains intransigent – or in office. His decision to double down and expands the tariffs broadly across the entire market is about to turn into a complete disaster.

To be sure, is China faring less well than us, with its long-term growth rate slipping from 9% to less than 6%. The turmoil in the market has caused problems with its monetary supply, strengthening the dollar against the yuan (which is going the wrong way if one wants to dampen the volume of imports from China), and wreaking general havoc in its financial markets. But China, culturally and politically, is better positioned to withstand the stress. The Chinese economy is regulated to a degree not possible in the U.S., with targets and objectives broken down into specific five-year strategies. The Chinese are always maneuvering with the long-term effect in mind and the Oriental patience is legendary.

On the other hand, Trump is steadfastly ignoring all the sound economic advice he is being given from all sides – including from well qualified Republicans. Even though the political pressures on Trump from the collapsing export markets and the massive increases in consumer prices throughout the U.S. economy are enormous, and even though China has not flinched or quivered even an eyebrow, Trumps inability to admit error and his penchant for doubling down in the face of impending disaster indicate no relief in sight. Trump seems determined to take the recovering and steadily growing economy he inherited from Barak Obama and, having jerked one of the foundational underpinnings out with an unsupportable trillion-dollar tax cut, he is now determined to wreck international trade. It will only take a few more moves to stall the economy out and turn it all into a nose-dive.

Hang on tight.

Magic wand solutions


Pointy-headed scientists make life in these United States way too complicated. They always want to study a problem to death and, once they have reached a consensus on how to fix it, they want to spend tons of money on a cure. We need to simplify the process with less scientific study and more gut-inspired action.

Take the issue of nuclear waste disposal. The U.S. has struggled for decades trying to clean up high-level radioactive waste. There has been a lot of heartburn about removing high-level waste from the Idaho National Laboratory, as well as from the Hanford Reservation in Washington and Savannah River in South Carolina. The cost of cleaning up the waste is astronomical and finding a place to dispose of it is perplexing.

The U.S. Department of Energy under the stewardship of former Texas Governor Rick Perry has cut through all of the red tape and figured out a simple solution--just change the classification of the waste from high-level to low-level. Why didn’t we think of that long ago? Those of you who poked fun at Perry for not being able to name the Energy Department as one of the three agencies he proposed to eliminate during the 2016 presidential primaries should be eating a little crow, thanks to this stroke of genius.

Lowering the classification of the waste will save $40 billion in cleanup costs and allow the reclassified waste to be disposed of in low-level facilities in Utah or Texas. Problem solved with the stroke of a pen!

And, how about reducing the number of deaths from the fine particulate pollution produced by burning fossil fuels? When the Environmental Protection Agency proposed to eliminate the strict air pollution rule in the Clean Power Plan, its scientific staff estimated the roll-back would result in an added 1,400 premature deaths in the U.S. each year.

Agency leadership has just announced a simple solution to the dilemma--simply change the methodology for calculating the number of deaths that will be caused by the rule change. Now we can have more air pollution and fewer deaths at the same time. Problem solved by a simple calculation change!

Climate scientists are continually warning of the existential danger facing the Earth from climate change. They point to the record-breaking weather disasters occurring around the globe and claim they will intensify if earthlings do not take drastic action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. They say the danger will increase dramatically in the second half of this century.

The administration has settled upon a simple fix to the problem. Rather than projecting the effects of climate change to the end of the century, as we currently do, just cut the projections off at the year 2040. That provides a less dire picture since the greatest effects of climate change will occur after that time. And it eliminates the need to take effective action now to save the planet from turning into an uninhabitable hothouse for our children and their offspring. Another problem solved by the mere stroke of a pen!

Why spend the time it takes to carefully study a complex problem and develop a scientific consensus as to how to solve it, when most problems can be easily resolved by a simple gut check and change of nomenclature? We don’t need to follow the urgent warnings of 97% of the climate experts about the growing danger of climate change when we can simply step outside on a cold day and announce “problem solved.”

Just weary


I’m feeling something I never thought I would. I’ve got actual symptom of “Trump burnout.”

I’m at the stage of turning off the TV whenever his face or voice are present. I avoid conversations if they turn to his latest lie or his most recent outrageous act. I listen only to satellite music in the car rather than the political stations of former days. I can’t stay in the doctor’s waiting room if his image is on the TV.

All these “symptoms” - all of ‘em - are not good. More than that, they’re dangerous to our health as a nation if we all become numb - as I nearly am - to his latest impeachable offense.

It’s quite possible the basis for wanting to shut his visage out is that he keeps breaking laws, committing illegal acts and it seems he’s getting away with it. All of it. There seems to be no holding him to account for his actions; no punishment. Just more hearings. More court delays. More - nothing.

Though I greatly respect her years of experience and her political acumen, Nancy Pelosi is wrong on the issue of impeachment. A month or two ago, she was probably right. But, not now. Conditions have changed. Greatly. Trump’s ignorance of - and contempt for - the rule of law have risen to new heights.

In fact, he seems to relish trashing legal niceties and law breaking. When told an aide repeatedly broke federal law and had to go, he ignored it. When faced with mostly forced departures of cabinet officials and other key miscreants, he appointed nearly a dozen on an “acting” basis to avoid the legally required confirmation by Congress. When the CIA, NSA and FBI gave him hard intelligence of international wrongdoing, he ignored it and sided with our enemies. When Congress issued a handful of lawful subpoenas for many of his staff and appointees to appear for questioning, he stonewalled. And he lied - lied - LIED about nearly everything.

And the result of much of this arrogance? Court challenges. Challenges that will likely take more time to settle than he has in his current presidential term. And interminable hearings.

In other words, nothing!

And that’s why Pelosi must change her mind and begin impeachment proceedings, regardless of whether the Senate will or won’t follow with the required trial.

Much of the American public looks at House Democrat inaction as weakness or fear of Trump. There’s even an open division in the caucus between those wanting to move forward and those who want to wait. More hearings. More testimony. More extended court cases.

Trump is trashing not only the institutions of our government but also doing extreme damage to our international obligations and relationships. The President of the United States of America is not even welcome in several countries. He’s abrogated treaties of trade and security. He’s forced previously friendly trading partners to look to Russia and China for their needs. He’s crippled whole sections of our economy with tariffs and has undercut much of our agricultural system. Now, he’s flirting with getting this nation into yet another Mideast war.

These - and many other - actions have literally gone unchallenged and unchecked. As a result, when coupled with congressional inaction to hold him accountable, many of us are wondering what it will take to get our elected representatives - one third of the foundation of our government - to say “ENOUGH!”

And that’s where my Trump weariness comes in.

Our Constitution is the bedrock for our system of checks and balances - executive, legislative and judicial. Each branch is literally required to keep tabs on the other two. When the system gets out-of-balance, either or both of the other entities have not only the right but an obligation to take action to restore that balance.

I completely understand the Speaker’s reluctance to begin proceedings and can appreciate her political instincts. But, if corrective action to restore constitutional balance doesn’t begin soon, this nation will suffer serious and long-lasting damage.

The worst thing - the most dangerous thing - we citizens can do, at the moment, is become numb to Trump - become tired of his dictatorial presidency - become unwilling to stay informed of what’s going on.

I fear, if Congress doesn’t begin proceedings now, and if we simply have more and more hearings while waiting for courts to take action, conditions in the White House will worsen. The Trump-sponsored damage will continue to mount.

So, excuse me. I’ve got to keep up.