Universal Health Care Is Not Feasible

Democratic socialism is all the rage across the country. Liberal presidential candidates are stirring up the electorate by proposing entitlements that are not financially feasible. Unfortunately the associated costs of these types of giveaways are never revealed. This essay will address the costs of the largest proposed entitlement- single payer health care.

How much will universal health care cost? Gerald Friedman, an economist at the University of Massachusetts estimates the program will cost $1.38 trillion in the first year. On the high side is Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University who believes the figure will be more like $2.4 trillion. For this exercise I will use the midpoint of these high and low estimates, or $1.9 trillion.

Proponents of universal health care say that it is prudent to assume savings from lower prices the federal government will negotiate with doctors, hospitals and pharma companies.

I would challenge this assumption only by saying that the federal government is not and has never been capable of effectively controlling costs. Certainly it is not more efficient than private industry. Consider the abuses in defense spending and cost overruns for all types of federal projects.

The program being proposed will provide health care coverage to every American, and so, current plans paid for and/or subsidized by companies will end. This will create any number of serious consequences. Some include an inability to choose doctors, waiting for services, poor quality of service and huge start up costs. Additionally thousands of people currently working at insurance companies that are providing health care coverage will lose their jobs.

Assuming efficiencies in a federal government operated system is folly. The program will be bureaucratic and many Americans will be impacted. Moreover increases in the aforementioned costs are indeterminable. Certainly they will increase, so saying that the cost of the program over ten years will be $19 trillion ($1.9 trillion times 10) is a low-ball number.

The Congressional Budget Office and Department of Veterans Affairs indicated the federal budget includes about $1 trillion for Medicare and Medicaid. This cost would be eliminated so that the net impact in the first year on the budget would be $900 billion, excluding startup costs, which would easily top $100 to $200 billion. If the cost of the program increases by 5% annually, the total incremental increase in health care costs would be $12 trillion.

Liberals, too often, suggest major structural changes that include unidentified increases in costs. Why wouldn’t the average American want free health care, or a free house? Naturally when politicians promise more giveaways the electorate is stoked.

But this is only one side of the analysis. One must consider the current level of budget deficits and the total debt of the country. A new entitlement that increases the need to borrow more money is a ridiculous proposal for our country. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren understand this, yet they continue to push their crazy ideas.

Michael Bloomberg and Howard Schultz have said the universal health care proposal is not feasible. The electorate should listen to these knowledgeable men.

 

Will French Unrest Spread?

The riots in France are directed at the administration of President Emmanuel Macron. They are emanating from the political left, right and middle class.

The French people have lost confidence in Macron. Two thirds of them believe the government will not be able to unite France.

To date there have been four deaths and 4,000 arrests among the “yellow vest” demonstrators. The original riots were inspired by an increase in fuel taxes, which significantly impacted the middle class and poor of the country. Macron rescinded the tax hike after violence and protest broke out throughout the country.

The beleaguered president also agreed to cut taxes on pensions and promised to “increase wages” for struggling middle class and poor workers in an effort to end civil protest.

The actions of the government have not make a dent in the negative polling of Macron. Fifty seven percent of the people are “not wooed by the young leader.” Sixty percent said the president is not listening to the people. Seventy three percent back the yellow vest movement. Fifty four percent want protests to continue.

The French unrest is reminiscent of the Occupy Wall Street disorder a few years ago. The movement is leaderless and disorganized. It is destructive to property and commerce in the big cities, which is impacting many of the people that, ironically, are supporting the demonstrations.

The poor, the right and the middle class all have gripes with Macron, which account for his horrible polling numbers.

The poor reacted violently to the gas tax hike and have not backed off in spite of the Macron’s actions to rescind the tax and call for higher wages.

The right wing demonstrators are angry about Macron’s progressive perspective towards illegal aliens. This group is encouraging a more nationalistic approach by the government to protect jobs that are being taken by interlopers.

The middle class is in an uproar that the demonstrations have not been controlled. This is resulting in huge losses for merchants and the destruction of stores and vehicles during the holiday sales period.

How does all this violence impact other neighboring countries? In Europe dissatisfaction is growing every day. The poor are protesting difficult economic conditions, while right wing groups are resenting illegals more each day.

Nationalistic fervor will continue to spread to other places. Already we have seen the announced resignation of Angela Merkel in Germany, chaos in the Italian and Spanish governments and an unsuccessful but significant no-confidence vote in Britain. The later situation has all the same issues as France but is exacerbated by problems relating to Brexit.

Is Trump culpable for the growing unrest in countries around the world? The left in the US would say yes. I would disagree and suggest that what is happening was inevitable.

Trump’s nationalistic sentiments are far different than in other places. For one thing the American people are not losing jobs to illegals. Illegals are straining the resources of federal and local governments, but that is of little consequence to lower and middle class Americans.

The US economy is cruising along seemingly immune to the issues in other parts of the world. Unemployment is low, inflation is virtually nonexistent and wages are increasing. Even fuel costs are temperate aided by a seemingly orderly oil market.

Americans have little to complain about. Yet many continue to be focused on income, gender and racial inequality.

The morale of this story is that the US is in relatively good shape, notwithstanding the absurd actions and commentary of our president. Average citizens and politicians disagree about immigration security, disparities among different groups and continued gains made by the affluent.

The US should continue to prosper in 2019, although political strife will not subside. But most importantly we probably won’t experience the kind of nationwide discontent that is overwhelming many other countries.

Can The World End Air Pollution?

The NY Times reported that a Trump plan to open nine million acres to drilling and mining threatened the sage grouse. Apparently the birds are nesting on “some of the richest deposits [of resources] in the American West.” Wikipedia says: the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is the largest grouse (a bird species) in North America. Its range is sagebrush country in the western United States and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. Its population is declining and in danger of extinction.

The world is at a crossroads. Are we going to wean ourselves away from fossil fuel, which is polluting our planet, or not? Using the sage grouse to combat environmental abuse is absurd.

If America needs more access to oil deposits to remain oil independent, a few rare birds should not deter it. If America is determined to contribute to the efforts to decrease the effects of fossil fuel, it must be brave and take unprecedented action.

The fact is that too many other developed(ing) nations are not able or willing to stay the course and decrease fossil fuel usage. Most are signatories to the Paris Climate Change Accords. The hypocrisy of these countries is staggering. They sign agreements, which call for prescribed reductions in pollution, and don’t enforce them.

President Trump rightly walked away from the sham Accords. He never said he would relax important and necessary standards. Rather he wanted to point out that few countries are doing their part in the process to clean the air.

China and India are experiencing their own industrial revolutions. Manufacturing facilities are popping up throughout these countries. Currently the most efficient fuel to operate these facilities is coal. The future impact will be significant. Will either of these countries forego economic progress for less pollution? It’s unlikely.

In some cases the issues are more systemic. In China millions of people use coal to heat their homes. Without it many would freeze in winter. This application of coal is highly toxic. There are no alternative sources of energy for a great number of people.

The real answer is technology. Unfortunately too many companies have too much invested in current energy sources that are responsible for pollution.

For years domestic car companies delayed the development of electric engines. Retooling to produce clean air electric vehicles and eschewing high profit, gas-guzzling autos would have depressed the earnings of these companies. Recently there has been some movement towards electric motors, but it has not been fast enough.

New and clean technologies have all sorts of issues. Nuclear is clean, but facilities are expensive, take a long time to erect and operating problems can be catastrophic, especially when citizens are threatened by radioactive leaks.

Solar and wind power have been fraught with many types of delays and mismanagement. They are, unfortunately, not large enough to make a dent in fossil fuel usage.

The real target should be the automobile. More gas users are overrunning the globe. In New York City and most other large cities, thousands of Uber, Lyft and Juno call cars have over populated our streets. How many of them run on electric energy? Local governments with foresight would have required these call car companies use electric cars.

The stakes are high. If the world is going to move at a snail’s pace regarding fossil fuel, then new sources of it will be needed to keep transportation moving. We should not allow the sage grouse to stymie efforts to find new energy sources in any case. Living without these birds will be easier than living with a shortage of fuel to operate our cars, like in the 1970s.

 

 

Must A President Be Likeable To Be Successful?

It was inevitable that the death of George H.W. Bush would lead to endearing comments by politicians and world leaders about his wonderful personality and statesmanlike demeanor. As expected, Bush’s passing has fueled comparisons of him to our current president.

The two men could not be any different. George Bush was the 41st president of the United States, Vice President to Ronald Reagan, Director of the CIA, Special Envoy to China, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, US Ambassador to the United Nations and a Member of the House of Representatives. He was also a decorated Navy pilot in World War II. No man or woman has ever been more prepared to assume the role of Commander-In-Chief than George Bush.

Trump told voters that his detachment from Washington and lack of government experience were his greatest assets (really?). He has been a real estate maven for decades and purportedly earned billions of dollars in the process. His corporate experiences did not prepare him for what happened after his election, as we all know. The administration frequently has trouble coordinating efforts, and Trump’s advisors cannot control his emotional responses to everyday life in the White House.

From a personal perspective Bush was known as a kind man who bonded with all those around him, allies and opponents alike. He’s always been known as a good friend to many of the most respected people in Washington regardless of their political affiliations. Trump is a loner whose relationships with others are based upon whether they can be helpful to him.

George Bush was a winner and a loser politically, as he was denied a second term by Bill Clinton. After being defeated he left a note in White House to his adversary (that has gone viral) wishing him great success as the new president. Trump would never be so magnanimous.

The question Americans must ask themselves is whether a president’s likeability really matters. Can we ever be happy with a self-aggrandizing, narcissistic introvert as president if he or she can get the job done?

In spite of the bad feelings regarding Trump that cover a wide spectrum including misogyny, racism, xenophobia, elitism, ethnocentrism, nationalism and much more, he has been doing a good job in many regards. Making friends is not one of his strong points. He does not think it’s critical.

Despite all of his shortcomings the president is determined to keep the promises he made two years ago as a candidate. He is ruthless with anyone who makes attaining his goals difficult. And, arguably, Trump is the most transparent president in history. He has benefited by having Twitter at his disposal to express his opinions at any time of the day in the solace of the White House. Trump is a master of making the news cycle work for him regardless of what other issues are affecting the country and the world.

The president never gives up on any mission. He continues to press forward in the wake of vicious personal and disrespectable attacks by liberals and the press. The man’s determination is second to none. It will be interesting to see how history treats Trump especially if he continues to move America forward.

What does Trump really want to accomplish? For one thing he wants America to be the strongest and most formidable force in the world. How can anyone argue with this objective in the light of what’s happening in so many places? Hasn’t America learned that might makes right? Do dangerous regimes, dictators, terrorists and criminals respond to anything other than brutal force? All Americans understand this, so why aren’t Trump’s efforts to make us stronger every day and to build a fearsome military applauded.

Domestically you cannot find a greater cheerleader than Donald Trump. He calls out American companies who are sending jobs overseas. He pleads with corporate executives to spend and hire more workers. He made it more profitable for American businesses by lowering tax rates. He encouraged Americans to buy by lowering taxes on the middle class. And he aggressively attacks trade agreements that benefit other countries at the expense of America.

For years our leaders have ignored unfair trade arrangements. Why would our leaders agree to tariffs that are less than those imposed by America? It makes no sense. Why would our leaders allow technology to be stolen by Chinese manufacturers? How can there be free trade in the world when other countries protect their domestic companies while US allows subsidized products from abroad to enter the country with no tariffs? Trump has exposed the problems and is working to make US goods more competitive.

Trump is the greatest advocate of a strong border. Our country will not be secure without proper vetting of applications for visas and citizenship. This doesn’t mean America will no longer be a melting pot of diverse nationalities. What other country has been more generous to immigrants than the US?

The problem is that for several decades our leaders have turned a blind eye to immigrants illegally crossing our border. They have ignored the incredible burden that 20 million people have put on state and local governments as they take jobs and in effect overwhelm our troubled medical and educational systems. Notwithstanding all of this, most people, even conservatives, have agreed to allow those illegals already in the country to stay with just a few conditions.

One is that they must be law abiding and pay taxes. Another is that everyone should agree that not one more illegal alien can come into the country. If this means a wall, let’s get it done. All the talk about disbanding the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency needs to end immediately. And the sanctuary city and state efforts should be abandoned. They are insulting to all Americans.

Trump has forcefully dealt with aggressive leaders of other countries while trying to maintain good relationships, a monumental task. At times this strategy seems choppy, lauding a leader while imposing sanctions on his country. But it’s a complicated world.

Trump can be that president who forsakes comity and good relations for results, if Americans give him a chance. Yet it’s doubtful that history will ever reward this unique leadership style.

 

 

Should Charitable Contributions Be Tax Deductible?

The New York Times published an op-ed piece titled “When Rich Give, We Pay.” It’s a pathetic and ill-conceived attempt to make a case against the deductibility of charitable donations.

In 2017 Americans gave $410.02 billion to schools and colleges, hospitals, cultural organizations and museums, medical research and many other institutions that greatly improve the quality of our lives. The benefit of this charity is incalculable. Many students receive scholarships, health care is improved, art is preserved and curated and diseases are diagnosed and cured thanks to donations by generous Americans.

The kindness of so many is a treasure not duplicated anywhere else in the world. And, in many cases, the money donated decreases stress on our society and government, which are intent on supporting education, medicine, science and the arts.

I was taken aback by the strange proposal by the authors of the aforementioned article that affluent donors should lose the deductibility of their gifts that help so many. Then again progressives never give up in their quest to extract more money from the most successful in our country even it the proposals are inherently unproductive.

And, it’s stunning that the amount of money donated last year, a new record, is not even recognized for what it is, subsidization of the federal government. If these gifts were not made, Americans would look to the government to fund the numerous eleemosynary activities alluded to earlier.

When an American donates money to a qualified donee and itemizes deductions, he or she receives a tax benefit equal to the amount granted times the donor’s tax rate. [Note: For expediency I will only speak to the impact of giving on federal income taxes.] So if a person donates $1 million to a hospital or a college or to medial science, he or she receives a tax benefit of $300 thousand, assuming the individual has an effective tax rate of 30%. The highest individual tax rates can be up to 37%.

This means that the qualified donee gets $1 million, with no tax liability and the donor effectively pays $700 thousand out of pocket, including the tax benefit. It is true that the federal government will lose $300 thousand, but the resultant benefits to the donee’s beneficiaries could be far more important than this.

If the money is used to finance medical research, lives will be saved. If the money is used for scholarships, more students will become productive, independent members of our society.

Robin Hood, a charitable organization, raises millions annually from its very enthusiastic supporters. The mission of Robin Hood is to aid the needy in the New York metropolitan area. Is the good that this organization does in feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating the downtrodden worth more than the loss of tax revenues from deductible gifts? I think so. Does anyone really believe that million dollar donations are a merely a ploy to reduce taxes?

I’m puzzled why the Times would publish such a misguided piece. The naivety of the authors is best represented by their call on donors to voluntarily give up tax deductions arising from their gifts. The authors then compounded their misunderstanding by suggesting that donors are less qualified than the government to apply their donations. Why would donors give up the right to use their donations in a way that meets their specific focus? And to the federal government, no less? How well is our government doing managing its finances? Consider the out of control deficit.

It would be folly to take a chance that the generosity of so many would not be affected by the elimination of charitable deductions. Over $400 billion are at stake.

Why Is Socialism Bad For America?

The results of the midterm elections should create a great deal of consternation for Americans. The proliferation of socialistic politicians and their ideology is a threat to our way of life.

Socialism means more government intrusion into our lives. It’s the only way to inhibit the creative and productive spirit of the people. The rules of a socialistic culture prevent the cream from rising to the top.

In a socialistic state, it’s not appropriate for any individuals to have more than others. It’s a society where everyone works the same number of hours, lives in cookie-cutter housing projects and takes public transportation to work. There are no heroes or role models.

It doesn’t matter how hard you work. You will receive the same compensation as others. Only a special few, who are close to leadership, receive special treatment.

Socialistic states have proven time and again that they do not work for extended periods of time. It may be an appropriate starting point for a new country, but the human spirit eventually overwhelms autocrats that manage socialistic states.

An examination of countries around the world should convince Americans that seguing from capitalism to socialism is a bad idea for our vibrant society.

China is the best example of a socialistic state in flux. Under Mao Tse Tung in the middle of the middle of the 20th Century, everyone shared equally. Today, just 50 years later, the Chinese people clamor for both capitalistic benefits and democracy.

Xi Jinping’s regime will not persevere if he can’t deliver more economic opportunity to his people. Xi is demanding more productivity and creativity from everyone. The best of the society now live more comfortably than the lower classes.

In China, students are ranked by potential. The best ones go to the most prestigious schools and ultimately fill the most important positions in the country. This is the essence of capitalism in which upper middle class lives are more rewarding than commoners.

Why would America choose to move in the opposite direction as China? Why would we abandon exceptionalism for a predetermined lifestyle?

You may ask what are the signs of increasing socialism in our country? Here are two.

A single source health care system is a prime example of socialism at its worst. For one thing, it’s axiomatic that universal care will never be a reality in the US unless all Americans are subjected to extreme taxation to pay for the extraordinary costs affiliated with it.

Supporters of this strategy ask why should some people have better health services than others? The reason is simple- they are prepared to pay more for it. Wealthy people overpay and this subsidizes the costs of other Americans.

Having well run hospitals manned by highly trained doctors is essentially funded by the affluent in this country. Without this subsidization, medical facilities and the personnel that operate them would deteriorate over time. Socialized medicine paid by the state results in inferior quality of service in too many cases. In the meantime, all citizens are subjected to very high tax rates.

Education is another area where the affluent subsidize so many others. For instance, wealthy alumni fund top colleges. College tuitions are not enough to pay for annual operating costs together with scholarships for high performing needy students. Most colleges have blind admissions, relating to financial need. If you score good grades, you can go to a top tier school at little or no cost.

The socialist would have us dumb down (a terrible, but descriptive term) the student bodies so that less qualified students can survive intellectually. Why would America agree to decrease educational standards for political correctness? Why would we hamper the brightest among us to be good socialists?

The remote ideal of income equality continues to depress our society. The so-called have-nots are troubled that others have bigger homes, fancier cars and take glamorous vacations. Not everyone can become a business tycoon, a professional athlete or an entertainer. But dedication and ambition will pay huge dividends over time.

The most important fact is that education can raise the lives of all Americans. The vast majority of baby boomers who are affluent made their fortunes by attending college and working hard. Their parents didn’t give them trust funds. They pushed them as children to get good grades and go to great schools.

Ultimately, a higher standard of living is something that is available to anyone in America who works diligently, has ambition and is trained. Socialism depresses people with a false sense of entitlement that will decrease their ability to live satisfying lives.

 

“Tina”: The New Musical Is Sensational

Last week, I continued my walk down memory lane at a theater in London where I saw the new hit musical, “Tina.” You may remember, I recently wrote a piece about the new movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a story about the great rock group, Queen.

A 30-year old phenom, Adrienne Warren, played the Tina Turner role and brought the house down. The once nominated actress has a respectable list of credits to her name. I’m confident she will be critically acclaimed for this performance.

Ms. Warren is gorgeous and can sing and dance like nobody. She was perfectly casted to play Tina. Ms. Warren was beaming throughout the entire show and really connected with the audience.

Everything about the performance was entertaining. Ms. Warren must have spent long hours trying to emulate Tina’s dance moves. The costumes and staging were captivating. The show ended with a mini concert during which Ms. Warren had every person in the theater dancing and singing along with her. All of Tina’s most famous songs were performed during the evening including “Proud Mary,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and “Private Dancer.”

But the show was about the life and times of Tina Turner, one of the most charismatic performers of the late 20th Century. Her life was affected by every challenge one would expect for a poor black entertainer in her day.

She was brought up in abject poverty in Nutbush, Tennessee. Both of her parents abandoned her when she was a young girl, and her grandmother raised her. She found meteoric success along with every kind of abuse.

A lot of time was dedicated to Tina’s relationship with Ike Turner, a despicable two-bit hustler, who took advantage of a naïve and helpless young girl. She was Ike’s prisoner for years. He beat her and stole her money. Along the way, they had two boys. Kobna Holdbrook- Smith played the role of Ike. His performance was so authentic that I fully expected the audience to boo him at the conclusion of the show. Thankfully they did not.

As I look back on Tina’s life, I can’t help think about all the black women with extraordinary talent that experienced the same issues as Tina. In many situations, they were sentenced to lives as back-up singers for little money, supporting big musical acts. So often their booming voices were pigeonholed and masked so as not to upstage featured singers. Darlene Love was one such singer. In the movie “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” she tells her story. It’s worth seeing.

Tina was yet another casualty of misogyny, bigotry and sexual abuse. She had all the talent in the world and incredible stage presence, but Ike needed to manipulate her. At long last Tina broke free of Ike Turner, and she went back on stage as a solo act.

The show was inspirational, yet I suspect more so for women than men in the current environment. But you can bet Adrienne Warren is going to be a super star.

I hope the show comes to Broadway in the near future and Tina Turner receives the accolades she deserves for being a great entertainer for so many years.

 

Avenging House Democrats Will Attempt To Take Down Trump

Liberals achieved much of what they hoped for in the 2018 midterm elections. Typically, these elections are unkind to sitting presidents, and so, on cue, Republicans lost the House of Representatives.

Republicans still retain the presidency, and with it the power to veto progressive legislation conjured up by the House. Even if Democrats can find a ray of partisan support from the opposition, the president can make it virtually impossible to enact new legislation.

The president has the power to “legislate” to a degree using presidential mandates and new regulation just the way Obama did when he lost power. But most believe this is an unhealthy way to govern our nation, and could be deemed unconstitutional.

Trump will be able to follow his instincts in foreign policy. However, if he needs a treaty to confirm deals he makes with foreign leaders, he will have a tough row to hoe. Treaties must be approved by 2/3 of the Senate, an insurmountable hurdle in the current environment. Pending are: a new Iran nuclear arrangement, a North Korean treaty and numerous trade deals around the world.

Of note, the president, with his majority in the Senate, can appoint many more conservative judges to lower courts and to the Supreme Court. Of note, Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg is becoming frailer every day and could step down during the next two years. Confirmation of judges by the Senate was recently changed to a simple majority. These appointments could have a huge effect on our society prospectively.

Democrats have much greater influence with their new majority in the House. It’s worth considering how the acknowledged group of Trump haters will behave as we approach the presidential elections in 2020.

As a general rule, liberal House Democrats will obstruct all legislative initiatives by the Trump administration, even if they would be good for our nation. Of note is a proposed new tax cut for middle class Americans, immigration reform including the construction of a wall on our boarder with Mexico and the retooling of our military.

The budgetary process is going to come to a screeching halt as the political parties fight for their constituents. Obamacare will limp along unresolved, which could materially increase health care costs prospectively. All new legislative initiatives will have a zero chance of becoming law.

The change in control is reminiscent of the situation Democrats found themselves in when Obama lost his filibuster-proof majority, after enactment of Obamacare and the death of Teddy Kennedy (he was replaced by Republican Scott Brown). At the time, Democrats continued to control the presidency and both houses of Congress. But the Senate filibuster proved to be a potent weapon of obstruction for Republicans. During the next six years, Obama was unable to pass any substantive legislation. The president tried to govern with mandates. Many of these efforts turned out to be short term, as Trump abrogated most of Obama’s orders.

Equally important is how Democrats will be busy for the next two years. It’s obvious that their most important objective is to bring down the Trump administration with impeachment (unlikely because Republicans control the Senate), obstruction and tedious investigation of scandal or missteps by Trump. This will encompass his family, his businesses and his confidantes. All will be investigated while the wheels of government simultaneously come to halt.

Current efforts to affiliate Trump with Russia’s attempt to influence our elections will be rehashed. The House will demand to see Trump’s tax returns, even though he is not required to comply. House committees will become more intrusive and demand information about every meeting with foreign leaders. In effect, Democrats will confirm that they don’t trust Trump to conduct affairs of state.

Democrats are going to criticize and intimidate the Executive Branch in hearings and with jawboning in an effort to discredit Trump. They say they want the truth. Don’t believe it for one second. Liberals and the media hate the president and will join hands to destroy his administration, even if it damages America.

The liberal crusaders for justice, truth and democracy may create yet another national crisis. The ability to compromise is an all-time low (excluding the years surrounding the Civil War). Finding compromise is virtually impossible. The suggestion that infrastructure reform could be something both parties could work on together is a joke. The two sides will find reasons to disagree on this desperately needed legislation.

In the future, comity and cooperation that enabled previous governments to do business will be gone for the foreseeable future. Each successive new administration will spend an inordinate amount of time fighting off the opposition, rather than enacting new and needed legislation to improve conditions in America.

At some point, enacting laws will need to change. Already, the power of the filibuster has been diluted, at least for the appointment of judges. It’s likely that filibusters will no longer be a tool of the minority in future deliberations, which will greatly increase the power of the majority. It’s folly to think that a super majority can be mustered at this time on any issue. Congress cannot even enact laws with a simple majority.

The Democrats are in a position to put a dagger into America’s governmental bureaucracy. It’s stunning that the legislative branch of government will be busy trying to take down the executive branch of government.

The only thing that is clear for the next two years is that nothing will be done in Congress. Hopefully, this will not be a permanent condition.

 

 

 

Is Trump Too Nationalistic?

Have the U.S. and Donald Trump become too nationalistic? Before answering this question, it would be worthwhile to consider the definition of nationalism and how it influences decisions by our government and its leaders.

Nationalism is a patriotic feeling . . . [It could be] an extreme form of [patriotism] marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.” And, “[It can be] advocacy of political independence for a particular country.”

The real issue is whether nationalism always, sometimes or never compliments democracy. Can a nation be extremely protective of its homeland and culture and still be a model democracy?

History reveals a number of examples of nationalism gone wild. The Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler is the best example of nationalism at its worst. In the aforementioned definitions, “a feeling of superiority over other countries” stands out as an example of problematic nationalism. Hitler attempted to build an empire based upon a false assumption that some races are superior to others.

The murder of six million Jews to gain political and cultural advantage is extreme, to say the least. Unfortunately, some are using this disastrous period of time as a reference point to describe the political environment created by current U.S. leadership.

Trump, as president, is, and should be, deeply concerned with the security and welfare of Americans over all else. He needs to be nationalistic and make America his first priority. He must insure that the actions of our enemies, and any other types of danger, are kept in check regardless of the feelings of other nations and their people.

Cooperation with other states is ideal, but not always feasible. Trump has effectively pointed out several instances where our national interests are not aligned with other nations. And, after concluding this, he has walked away from existing arrangements and/or severely criticized others.

Is this practice a form of nationalism? Yes, of course. Should Trump be looking for situations in which the U.S. is disadvantaged, and insist on changes? Absolutely. Will other nations feel insulted? Probably, but that isn’t a reason to not move forward.

The most obvious examples of agreements made by former administrations that don’t consider America’s needs first, include the following: the Iran nuclear deal, trade agreements with certain countries and defense arrangements around the world.

Iran negotiated a very advantageous deal with the Obama administration that has the potential to be an existential threat to the U.S., Israel and other parties in the Middle East. It is the cornerstone of Obama’s foreign policy legacy, which may account for the agreement’s undesirable and irresponsible terms.

U.S. policy towards Iran has always been that the rogue nation should never possess a deliverable nuclear capability. On this principle alone, the deal fails miserably, as Iran will surely be a nuclear threat in about a decade.

Further, why would Obama and Kerry make a deal with a country that cannot be trusted and is arguably our most despised enemy? Why would we bargain with a country that publicly supports the demise of the State of Israel? Why would we ever be comfortable giving billions of dollars to a regime that incites so much discord and terrorism in the region?

Frankly, the only reason this deal was ever consummated was to bolster Obama’s pathetic legacy. The abrogation of the arrangement by Trump was the right thing to do, as was the adoption of aggressive sanctions against Iran.

The country’s economy is faltering every day and, in spite of complaints from our European allies, the sanctions are gaining traction and could result in regime change in the near future.

It’s been revealed that in almost every trade deal around the globe, the U.S. is at a significant disadvantage. The tariffs applied by our trade partners are always greater than those imposed by the U.S. Is this observation radical nationalism? No, the deals are inane. Why would former American presidents and Congresses agree to give an economic advantage to our trading partners?

Trump said he would address these inequities and was labeled a nationalist. He has already negotiated concessions with various countries around the world. They have no choice but to accede to U.S. demands because of our economic strength. Will they be unhappy? Who cares?

At the same time, Trump has complained about the role of the U.S. as the policeman for the world. Actually, playing the part is something the U.S. should embrace with certain limitations.

For one thing, the U.S. should not bear the cost of protecting other developed nations. Why should we station troops in Germany along with billions of dollars of equipment without an equitable monetary commitment from our hosts? Problems have surfaced over many years in NATO, where only a small number of members have met their spending responsibilities for defense. In the meantime, the U.S. provides the lion’s share of financial support to the alliance.

As he has gone around the world, Trump has exposed many unfair arrangements and built up a considerable amount of bad will. Deals must be equitable. If it’s nationalistic to put America first in trade and defense, so be it. Too many countries have taken advantage of America’s generosity, and Trump has been the only president with the courage to address it.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody Is A Fitting Tribute To Queen And Freddie Mercury

While the country was voting, I took an exhilarating journey down memory lane. I went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the new movie about Queen, the British rock super group, and Freddie Mercury, its flamboyant and controversial lead singer.

The film had a number of interesting storylines. The most important was the tribulations of Mercury’s lifestyle. This included the problems he had gaining acceptance from his father, sexual confusion throughout his life and his musical genius that led to significant issues with his band mates.

The movie began in 1970 when Freddie joined the group. During a 15-year period, Queen developed into a rock and roll force by experimenting with different concepts, and challenging its movie company supporters with innovative strategies that involved both music and the relationship with audiences. [As an aside “Bohemian Rhapsody” was six minutes long, and was shunned by many in the music business before becoming a gigantic hit.]

The saga ends just after Freddie is diagnosed with AIDs, which was a death sentence in the mid 1980s. The denouement was the band’s extraordinary performance in 1985 at Wembely Stadium in London as part Live Aid.

Rami Malek, acclaimed for his role in “Mr. Robot,” looks remarkably like Freddie and was expert in portraying the outrageous attitude and overt sexuality of the man. Malek’s Freddie was totally believable as he transitioned from heterosexuality to homosexuality. It was a painful journey, which resulted in great heartache and frustration for Mercury who continued to love his girlfriend, Lucy Boynton, even during his dangerous sexual exploits that ultimately led to his demise.

The real treat was the music that overwhelmed all other aspects of the film. Most of Queen’s famous songs were performed over the course of the show. They were totally awesome. Even if you are not old enough to fully appreciate Queen’s impact on rock and roll, you will walk away acknowledging that the band greatly influenced the music business.

It was an act that superseded four men singing songs. Freddie acted out each and every lyric while onstage. I couldn’t help feeling cheated by the short tenure of the band, 15 years, versus 50+ for the Stones, The Who, The Beetles and Bob Dylan.

The finale was the band’s performance at Live Aid. Bob Geldof, the organizer of the concert, allotted each performing group 20 minutes. During that short time, Queen solidified its place in rock and roll history. 100,000 adoring fans sang with Freddie. It was interactive rock and roll on the grandest scale.

Mercury was a swashbuckling, sexually charged performer. He experimented and played upon the sensitivities of those who adored him. But, he was never shy or embarrassed by his proclivities. His unbridled dalliances in real life ultimately were the cause of his death.

I doubt the film will win any Academy Awards, but I really enjoyed the show. It was highly entertaining and heart breaking. Go see the flick.

Most people are overwhelmed with the presence of Freddie. The fact is that his band mates were equally talented musicians. They include Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Beacon. The group sans Freddie played at Mercury’s memorial concert, which was another incredible event. The part of Freddie was performed by a number of different rock and roll legends.