What’s Great About America

Yesterday I presented a laundry list of important problems facing America. It was a dark and depressing assessment of our country and its leadership.

My feelings about the US and the prospects for it are much more optimistic than what you might think. In an effort to be balanced, I offer the following list of encouraging accomplishments that should give us all hope for the future.

  • The US was devastated on 9/11/01 when terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden hijacked four planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. For weeks all Americans, and particularly New Yorkers, grieved the loss of thousands of innocent friends and relatives. Our nation responded by attacking the terrorists where they resided. Navy Seals eventually killed bin Laden in Pakistan. The US has tirelessly attempted to root out and eliminate Al Qaeda and then ISIS, a more violent version of the former group. Our leaders and military have made great progress in this effort even though terrorists throughout the world are plaguing peaceful nations every day.
  • Our financial markets have rallied during recent years on the heels of the Great Recession. The individuals that warded off the recession did a masterful job and it has paid dividends, literally, to this day. Interest rates are low enabling many Americans to afford housing and for corporation to grow and prosper. Job creation has ultimately driven down our unemployment rate to more reasonable levels, although earnings have lagged somewhat reflecting fragility of the situation. All this has increased stock prices, which is a boon to shareholders from all socioeconomic groups.
  • The US is leading the technology explosion. The greatest companies in this broad industry category are domiciled in the US. They include the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google and many more companies that will continue to change and improve our lives.
  • LGBTQ groups have made great advances. Our country has worked hard to protect this group from discrimination and to ensure equal opportunity. The ability of gays and lesbians to marry enables all Americans to enjoy the personal and financial benefits of family life.
  • Although the war never subsides completely, our nation has totally fought off incursions against the right of women to choose. There have been many challenges, and women still are masters of their bodies. Hopefully this issue will fade away completely as public opinion along with our court systems solidifies this basic right.
  • Incredibly the US elected an African American to be president two times. Setting aside his performance, which is still being debated, these events have opened the door for Americans of all colors to become leaders in government and industry. The achievements of the first woman nominated to be president was similarly a monumental moment for our country.
  • Women are making great strides to assume greater roles in our country. Every year the pendulum swings further in the direction of more diversity in every aspect of our lives. Young women are making difficult choices in their lives mentored by older women who have already achieved great success while building strong families. Noteworthy is the progress of women on campuses around the country. Higher education is no longer an impediment for women to find great jobs and positions of leadership.
  • Longevity in our country is a mixed blessing. It’s wonderful to know that living until you are 80 and beyond is commonplace today because of great medical advances. Yet these people need to be cared for by their families and by the country. Extended lives means more expense.
  • We are free. Other than very reasonable laws that make our lives safer, Americans are able to do what ever they want, say what ever they want, travel to any place in the US with no restrictions and live anywhere they choose. America is so free that most people throughout the world would like to immigrate to our country.
  • Despite the unreasonable perspectives of some Americans, social equality is a reality in America. No law-abiding religion or cultural groups are restricted in any way. We recognize that some groups still feel denigrated in certain situations. We try to rectify these situations over time by instituting new laws that protect everyone.
  • A long time ago our forefathers, who were religious people, decided that the republic would operate more efficiently if there were a separation of church and state. This philosophy has served us well. State and God should not compete for the souls of Americans. There is a time and place for both. The result has been the greatest country in the world.

 

The problems facing the country have never been greater except during times of world wars. Americans have always had disagreements, which they have worked out over time. The horrible divide that exists in this country will eventually fade away in history. In the meantime Americans should be supportive of our government and work to change leadership at the ballot box if they are unhappy.

 

 

What America Needs To Do Now

As an addendum to my blog about the last four presidents, I offer this list of issues that have not been adequately addressed during the past 25 years and need immediate attention. Past presidents have kicked many problems down the road.

They have accumulated and made America vulnerable. Given President Trump’s relationship with lawmakers it is unlikely that he will make a significant impact on these items.

  • The US infrastructure must be revamped. Our roadways, bridges and tunnels are falling apart. This monstrous project will be extraordinarily expensive, but it must be done. On the positive side appropriations by Congress to do this work will dramatically increase the number of high paying jobs across the country.
  • Our national debt and the budget are not being managed properly. At some point a president and his Congress must exhibit the courage to address “sacred cow” entitlement such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that are dragging our nation towards bankruptcy.
  • Immigration policies have created havoc throughout the country. America can no longer afford to have an “open door” policy. Up to 20 million people from the south have entered the country illegally. They have drained the country of tremendous resources. (Note: The writer is not suggesting that illegal aliens be expelled from the country. Rather he wants to stop any increase in the number.) Further, immigration from other countries with no records of their citizens should cease. If we cannot vet applicants, we should not allow them into the country. The passage of time alone is not a good vetting standard.
  • The welfare class in America is growing because our government is not doing anything to encourage less fortunate people to support themselves and their families. Welfare has enabled millions of Americans to become totally dependent on others. Issuing checks without any conditions is bad public policy. The solution is simple: every able-body person in the country must work to receive assistance. Our government has to guarantee employment for everyone and demand they participate. The infirmed and children should be excluded from this new system.
  • Social media fanaticism is has become a serious issue. People waste hours each day, at work and during leisure time, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and numerous other sites reading nonsense published by their friends and total strangers. Further, people walk around the streets of the city like zombies bumping into others and into intersections while reading some incredibly important texts from friends. The two most asinine transgressions are texting while driving, which is supposed to be illegal, and being on a phone while caring for a child. I am not proposing to stop the high tech tsunami, but it needs government regulation.
  • Income inequality continues to grow in America. The financial condition of many Americans is stagnating or worsening while the wealth of the affluent increases. Liberals have adopted a “Robin Hood” perspective relating to this social phenomenon. Over-taxation of the rich and giving to the poor is bad public policy. It discriminates against one class of people and is unfair. A better strategy is one where all classes of people rise together. This can only happen during positive economic conditions. When America is blessed with good times, lower socioeconomic workers should benefit along with stockholders. Corporations, large and small, should adopt this approach voluntarily and share the wealth.
  • Isolation of our country is a dangerous policy. We must continue to accept the fact that our leadership throughout the world is based on our ability to trade with everyone and to protect allies with our military strength. Trump’s backlash to previous arrangements, where the US was subjected to unfair commercial arrangements and one-sided military deployments, will serve us well. Other developed nations must contribute to the well being of the less fortunate along with the US.
  • Domestic crime and domestic terrorism are just as important as international terrorism. The risk of domestic violence is far greater than crime by international interlopers. The stand off between gun advocates and those that want more gun control should not prevent the country from trying to end the senseless killing of Americans. Common sense restrictions, not anything that limits the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns, should be undertaken immediately. The threat of one more death of a friend or neighbor should drive us to make changes that decrease the odds of violence.
  • Fringe groups are popping up across the country. Most are violent and bigoted. Dissatisfaction with our government, poverty and a proliferation of weapons is exacerbating this problem. On the one hand we need to be sensitive to the problems of these citizens. On the other hand we need to crush any groups that are not obeying our laws.
  • The US must facilitate peace in the Middle East. The issues that continue to rake on the people of this region are primarily religious. The thousand-year standoff between Sunnis and Shiite is not dissipating. It is getting worse and more violent, and now the development of nuclear weapons by some nations is making matters even more disconcerting. Ever since World War II US presidents have failed repeatedly to make the warring factions come to terms. The establishment of the State of Israel only made problems that much more contentious. US diplomats must work even more diligently to stop the violence because it has and will continue to spread to other places, like the US, if it is not addressed.
  • Congress needs a complete makeover. The old guard in our legislative branch needs to retire and make way for new Republicans and Democrats that are willing to work with each other. A two-party political system is best for our country, but we may gravitate towards the domination of one party if things do not change soon. Average citizens should be able to have conversations with each other that do not end in screaming matches, or worse, violence. Free speech should be encouraged so everyone is heard without the threat of condemnation or physical harm.
  • Populism and nationalism taken to an extreme can destroy us. Our leaders must be sensitive to the fact that democracy is not the best form of government for some other countries for a plethora of reasons. The time that populist and nationalistic feelings are most on display is during elections. American voters should reject candidates who espouse or suggest violence. They should also reject politicians who encourage a schism between the various parts of our society.
  • Everyone should vote.

 

The aforementioned will be a daunting challenge for our leaders and lawmakers. Americans should demand more from those we elect, and we should insist that they execute in a congenial manner.

 

 

25 Years Of Incompetent Presidential Leadership

The toxic environment in Washington has permeated the entire country. A plethora of reasons are responsible for the declining overall sentiment in America. Our problems have been exacerbated by many factors that are rooted in politics, culture and finance. But the primary cause of our current dilemma is ineffective leadership during the last quarter century.

The previous four presidents have been woefully unsuccessful in many ways. Bill Clinton had the advantage of serving during a time of economic prosperity. His advocates often attribute these good times to Clinton’s leadership skills. This is a fallacy. The nation was on a recovery trajectory that had nothing to do with Clinton’s agenda. Clinton is certainly a charismatic individual with great political skills, but he rode a wave of economic success that was a product of his predecessors and good fortune.

What is more apropos to this conversation is the political turmoil that Clinton and his wife created during his time in office. The integrity of his presidency was questioned because of Clintons’ dubious character that ultimately resulted in his impeachment. This episode was the beginning of an era of personal attacks between hacks in both parties that continues to this day.

George W. Bush had to deal with the 9/11 attacks, which he did very well according to most accounts. The most significant threat to our homeland ever brought the nation together. Fighting terrorism that emanated from the Middle East was the most important issue of the time.

All this led to controversial wars with Iraq and Afghanistan that are still dogging us to this day. Critics say the Iraq conflict was not righteous and based upon questionable intelligence. The gains that Bush enjoyed initially in his presidency were offset by extended and mismanaged efforts to rebuild what the American military destroyed. Too many lives were lost in the process.

America then opted for Barack Obama. Of note is the inexperience of the new president. Frankly he was totally unqualified to rise to the most powerful position in the world. Right out of the box he put tremendous political and financial pressure on the country by ramrodding Obamacare through Congress with not one vote from the opposition.

This expensive and bold initiative was a noble attempt to give every American affordable health care and to reduce health care costs across the nation. The execution of the entitlement was an unmitigated disaster and the objectives of the plan never panned out. The $2 trillion plus price tag on Obamacare together with the costs affiliated with two wars in the Middle East severely impacted our country’s financial security. A great recession ensued.

Obama employed liberal populist dogma to solidify his base. The result was a great divide between the classes. He derided American exceptionalism and denigrated the most successful among us. This group, he said, does not pay its “fair share” and is stealing money from the lower and middle classes.

Internationally America lost all credibility under the inept leadership of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Her claim to fame was an enormous accumulation of miles travelled.

Obama ruled with mandates because his lack of political skills and desire to destroy his opponents made it impossible to enact any meaningful legislation. So bad were his political instincts that he lost both houses shortly after being elected in 2008. The bad feelings he inspired across the aisle made it impossible to have a successful tenure and set the stage for Hillary Clinton’s crushing defeat in 2016.

A lot of people are very supportive of Donald Trump’s agenda. Unfortunately his personality has made it impossible for him to achieve any meaningful success after one year in office. He outfoxed Hillary and the Democrats, and the latter two felt cheated in the election. It was a dirty campaign that Trump won because Clinton made bonehead decisions at every turn.

Trump is impossible to like. Yet his firebrand right wing populism carried the day. But how was he to predict that traitors in his party would sabotage his efforts to keep his campaign promises? He knew Democrats would fight with him tooth and nail.

The current state of play revolves around tax reform, Trump’s last chance for redemption. To be successful he needs to navigate through growing anti-Trump sentiment in Congress and a liberal media that has legitimized the concept of “fake news.”

The nagging insistence that Trump colluded with Russia in the elections just won’t end in spite of no tangible evidence it actually took place. In fact the Clinton campaign seems to have been more involved with Russians than Trump minions.

The extent of bad feelings in Washington was best exhibited by questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by Democrats yesterday. They demanded that Sessions admit he committed perjury, which he denied numerous times during the hearing. Democrat lawmakers were embarrassingly nasty and unprofessional. Even a former congressperson is not immune to the disgraceful and insulting way that people are questioned in these hearings. Frankly most of the questions were repeated over and over again as if asking them ten times would result in a different answer. I hope the constituents of these interrogators were watching yesterday. They were given many reasons not to vote for these incompetent buffoons.

The bottom line is that Trump will have to fight for every victory. The venom and lack of comity is sinful and will make Washington totally ineffective for the foreseeable future. Personal attacks are now more important than governance. The swamp has never been more dangerous and unproductive.

 

The Sexual Abuse Revolution

The sexual harassment revolution is picking up more steam every day. Women are coming out of the woodwork accusing men of abuses from decades past. Up to now most of the accusations have been directed at famous men in entertainment, politics, journalism and business. One wonders whether lesser known men will soon be exposed for major and minor acts that occurred many years ago.

Several things are striking about revelations during the past few months. One has to do with the limits imposed by the statute of limitations. Limits for sexual assault differ between states and certain kinds of acts. Twenty-seven states have some form of DNA exemption that extends the time for prosecuting an offense indefinitely. For instance New York has no limit for rape, criminal sexual acts, aggravated sexual abuse and sexual conduct against a child. Other offenses have a limit of 5 years.

Hardcore abusers should have no time limitations. But what about less serious acts, such as the use of foul language and verbal harassment? These types of offenses have limits in some states. But today, with the advent of social media, abusers could be accused of minor offenses even though they cannot be prosecuted. Public opinion could severely impact minor abusers and result in devastating effects on their lives and livelihood. To be clear this would include actions such as a misstep at an office party that happened many years earlier.

[Writer’s Note: the types of abuse we read about in the press are beyond the pale and deserve serious repercussions that include loss of freedom and fortune.]

A second observation is that a number of men have lost their livelihoods, financial supporters, movie deals and such without due process. It should be noted that some of the accused have fessed up and admitted wrongdoing. Political correctness demands that “accused” abusers no longer be affiliated with corporate sponsors who have been quick to react even in situations where the accused have pleaded innocent.

And then there is “he said, she said.” Today, if a woman says a man did something improper while they were alone, the man’s denial means next to nothing. It is an alleged crime between two people who were alone, and one of them is guilty until proven innocent. Even if the evidence ultimately proves the man did nothing wrong, the stigma of the accusation could have a devastating impact on his life.

Frankly no one is losing sleep over the treatment of the sleaze balls we read about in the tabloids. They deserve to be emasculated professionally and financially. The problem is that the tables have been turned relating to sexual abuse. The women who say they were abused have all the power of society, if not the law, to destroy the accused. Once accused, a man’s life is changed forever, especially if the story appears in the press or on the Internet.

Another issue is that abuse has not been graded by our legal system. When a murder is committed it could be manslaughter, second degree or first degree. These crimes all have different punishments. Sexual abuse missteps need further delineation identifying serious and less serious crimes.

How will all these accusations change the way that men and women meet and fall in love? Seems to me that initial contact and the first intimate experience are high-risk moments for the man. Do we need legal documents before a couple goes out on a date and before they are intimate?

Whatever transpires in the future regarding this topic, I, for one, am supportive of new laws that protect women.

Frightening Gun Statistics

Gun control is one of the most contentious issues in the US. The ownership of weapons for hunting and personal protection is clearly endorsed by the Constitution. Therefore the possibility that gun ownership will be outlawed in the future is nil.

Yet the prevalence of guns in America is quite remarkable. The New York Times published a piece that is very anti-gun. Nevertheless some of the statistics in the story could lead one to believe that the sheer number of guns in the country accounts for higher rates of death.

[Note: This piece is not meant to be an anti-gun statement. Rather it is presented to others for discussion purposes. One important assumption made by the writer is that the statistics presented by the Times are accurate and not intentionally tilted.]

Consider the following comments made in the aforementioned piece:

  • The US has 270 million guns and had 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012.
  • No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters during the same period.
  • Americans make up about 4.4% of the world’s population, but own 42% of the guns in the world.
  • From 1966-2002, 31% of gunmen in mass shootings were Americans.
  • Only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people.
  • America’s gun homicide rate was 33 per million in 2009, far exceeding the average among developed countries.
  • In Canada and Britain, the gun homicide rates were 5 per million and 0.7 per million, respectively.
  • A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.
  • In 2013, American gun-related deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides and 505 by accidental discharge
  • An American is about 300 times more likely to die by gun homicide than a Japanese person.

All these factoids are not a reason to radically change gun control laws. Rather they should impel Americans to reconsider common sensible changes to laws that just might decrease the number of deaths in America caused by guns.

The first issue that comes to mind is the shear number of weapons in this country. Less availability of guns could decrease the number of deaths. The odds favor this outcome.

A strict and highly enforced law against gun ownership by mentally ill people makes sense. In Texas a breakdown of the current system of notifications enabled a crazed person to buy weapons and kill innocent people.

The availability of semi-automatic and automatic weapons definitely makes it easier for a killer to murder others. They should be banned.

Magazines that hold large numbers of bullets should also be banned. Once again they only result in more deaths.

I am for gun ownership. The Constitution indicates that I have a right to own a weapon. But common sense should guide us in this important debate.

The Pols Who Are Making Our Government Ineffective

Who are the most partisan and disruptive people in Washington? The list is a long one.

Most Americans are disgusted with the partisan shroud over our government. The situation has gotten so bad that just about everyone is sickened by our un-presidential president, and our lawmakers who are unable to legislate.

Donald Trump deserves a great deal of responsibility for the environment in our nation’s capital. He’s an angry man who believes Washington is a swamp populated by corrupt and contemptible people.

Hillary Clinton (a.k.a. Crooked Hillary) has been his favorite target before and after the election. He infuriates his enemies by conferring on them denigrating nicknames alluding to their ethics, physical stature or inability to perform their jobs. This playground commentary directed at our country’s leaders and lawmakers has poisoned the well.

When Trump outs a poor performer or any person who opposes him, he does it with venom. He truly hates others who are unwilling to bow to his wishes. If America was a totalitarian state and Trump was the governing despot, he would have purged scores of people to solidify his rule. But we are a democracy, and the president must work with Congress and represent every American.

It may seem trite, but when the electorate spurns politician, they really should retire and allow the winners to do their jobs. Hillary Clinton continues to disrupt the country without any standing.

She resents the fact that Barack Obama and Donald Trump stole the presidency from her. Why did this happen? For one thing Hillary is not Bill. The latter was a masterful politician. He was able to stay in power and retain his presidency after being humiliated and impeached as a liar.

Hillary made many errors during her campaign and refused to fess up to any of them. She continues to be dogged by accusations of scandals every day. And Hillary attributes her pathetic political performance to incompetent people who worked for her and the far right.

Frankly it’s time for Hilary to go away and can her sanctimonious whining about achieving her destiny. In 2008 the voters wanted a fresh face, so Obama won. In 2016 the country wanted change, so Trump won.

The GOP caucus in Congress deserves special mention for its disloyalty and naivety about the operation of American government. Led by upstarts who believe they can effect change in Washington on their own, certain lawmakers defy their party. For some reason they do not appreciate that power in America lies with the majority. If you have more votes in Congress, you drive the agenda and you enact the laws.

These rebels, in effect, seceded from the Republican Party and make it impossible for it to impose traditional ideology. The majority has essentially been lost. Savvy lawmakers would have accepted compromise with fellow Republicans, kept their powder dry for another day and solidified their party’s power base. But these outliers have made the Trump agenda unattainable.

The Democratic Party deserves special mention for doing their part in making our government impotent. The opposition needs to protect the country from tyranny by the party in power. This is an important and noble role. However being completely uncooperative regarding legislation of any kind just to embarrass the president is downright un-American.

Instead of obstructing all legislation, Democrats would have been better served by cooperating on bills that are important to the country. Democrats built their case against Republicans. If you hate Trump, we are your party.

Almost never do Democrats offer alternative legislation that has any chance of stimulating bipartisanship. They are a party with no ideas, no exciting leaders and no chance of making progress while Republicans are shackled by the craziness of the Trump administration. 2018 and 2020 should be moments when Democrats make gains. It’s not gong to happen.

And finally there are the lobbyists. Many ex-politicians populate this group. They have become too disruptive. They corrupt our leaders and lawmakers. The president and Congress should be working towards decreasing the influence of lobbyists so that our country can move forward without undue interference. This group and all their special interests make wide-ranging legislation impossible.

The impediments to great government in Washington are overwhelming. Ego and power have superseded patriotism. Remember term limits? We should have them and turn over Congress periodically.

Can The US Avoid War In Korea?

President Trump has embarked on the most important foreign relations trip of his tenure. Of note are his visits to South Korea, Japan and China. The principle issues that will be addressed are the continuing belligerence of North Korea and threats by Trump directed towards the country.

The perspectives of the countries mentioned above and the US are all important in the search for peace in this part of the world.

Let’s begin with South Korea. It is surrounded by China and North Korea. In response to this, the country has relied upon its relationship with the US for protection. Nevertheless South Korea is a major trading partner of China. In recent days it has conducted negotiations with China in an effort to gain its support and assurances regarding North Korea. The relationship with China has always been strained by the military partnership South Korea has with the US.

The most important issue for South Korea is to avoid war. Even though the country is vastly superior to its evil twin to the north, South Korean leaders understand that a war will devastate their country. Seoul, its capital, is just a few miles from the border with North Korea and threatened by heavy artillery and many soldiers. South Korea will be a big loser in a US/North Korean conflict, so it must do everything possible to prevent it.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un wants global recognition. The only way to achieve this goal, in Kim’s mind, is to develop a nuclear capability. Without it North Korea has no status and very few allies. Its military strength could give it a seat at any negotiating table.

You might be asking yourself how we have reached this critical moment. Years of appeasement by China and the US have paved the way for Kim and his predecessors to build a formidable military presence that includes nuclear weapons. Not only is North Korea on the verge of developing such a weapon with an ability to strike targets hundreds and even thousands of miles away, it also amassed a huge army, and stationed powerful conventional weapons on its border with South Korea.

Why did China enable North Korea all these years? The existence of two Koreas has afforded China a sense of security, a buffer between it and the democratic world. Chinese leaders have studied the unification of Germany and concluded that a similar fate for Korea would favor a new democratic state with a strong US military presence on its southeastern border. The US already has thousands of troops and armaments in South Korea along with a considerable naval presence in Asia. China wants to preserve this buffer at all costs and discourage immigration from North Korea into China.

Why didn’t previous administrations effectively deal with the growing nuclear threat from North Korea? Frankly they kicked the can down the road never thinking that Kim would ever have the ability to launch a missile thousands of miles and threaten the US homeland.

It is questionable why China considers the US a greater existential threat than Kim. Xi of China seemingly has a relaxed attitude about the presence of a madman at his front door, as opposed to a unified, peaceful and free nation. Chinese leadership thinks that war with the US is a greater possibility than problems caused by Kim threatening South Korea, Japan and the US with nukes.

What is the Chinese endgame? Unification of Korea led from the south is a non-starter because of the strong military alliance between South Korea and the US, although this has been strained in recent months. China similarly does not want further increases in missile defense systems throughout South Korea.

The actions of China may become more confrontational with the US, or more receptive to a lasting deal that leads to the denuclearization of North Korea. Xi has been elevated to a status equal to Mao during the recent party meetings in his country. His power is unlimited and uncontested after he purged all potential challengers. He is in a position to make bold moves at this time.

One last issue that is worrisome to China is the migration of North Koreans into China for any reason. For sure this would accelerate if violence were to occur. China is a closed society and does not want more mouths to feed.

The US has one primary objective. It is to protect our homeland and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from a nuclear attack by North Korea. The only sure fire way to accomplish this is denuclearization. This possibility is remote unless China demands it or the US attacks North Korea and China stands by and allows it happen.

Trump and the US are in a very tenuous position. Are threats empty like those for 70 years? Or will the president increase tensions? This game of chicken could become deadly in the months to come.

As discussed several times on this site, it is unknown how close Kim is to having a nuclear weapon that can reach US territory accurately. Once he has this capability war could become inevitable.

On the other hand China maybe in a position to intercede. It will not turn away and allow the US to obliterate North Korea unless the latter initiates a conflict. Xi’s relaxed perspective could change dramatically based upon the conversations he will have with Trump in the next few days.

 

House Tax Proposals Are A Great Start

It’s very early in the game, but a few comments about the tax proposals by the House are in order. The opposition to reform is twisted and unproductive as usual. And the selfish perspectives of lobbyists for their constituencies is disappointing. My overall observation is that there is something for every American in this controversial bill. We all need to be patient and see how negotiations proceed in Washington .

It comes as no surprise that some lobbies are bitching about an unfair distribution of benefits. They always act this way and care little about the overall good of the country. As everyone expected, Democrats started bad-mouthing the bill even before they saw the actual proposal. They would do anything to stop the bill for political reasons regardless of its benefit to the country .

To be clear tax benefits are capped at $1.5 trillion to avoid a filibuster by Democrats. House Republicans did a masterful job navigating through all of the opposing voices. In fact just about every interested party is being required to give a little.

The tax benefits are divided 2/3 for businesses and 1/3 for middle class taxpayers, or $1 trillion and $500 billion respectively. The business tax cut will make the US more competitive globally and will help stem the tide of corporate relocations overseas. This will have a far reaching impact on all Americans that is difficult to quantify. Suffice it to say, US businesses will be more profitable, as their tax rate shrinks from 35% to 20%.

With higher profits at home, fewer companies will transfer manufacturing to cheaper places abroad, so job opportunities will increase at home. Corporations will be under pressure to share higher profits with employees if the tax plan is effective, so workers should see their paychecks increase over time.

Stockholders in major companies will see higher prices for their holdings. This will benefit wealthy investors, and small investors through their 401Ks and pension plans.

Several trillion dollars that is invested overseas will return to the US as the repatriation rate is reduced. This flow of cash will be invested in American enterprises and/or distributed to shareholders (see previous paragraph).

No longer will corporations be able to transfer earnings to their overseas subsidiaries to avoid taxes. The new law will impose a global tax on corporations so that their profits worldwide are subject to taxation in the US.

There is an array of tax benefits to the middle class including lower tax brackets and assorted tax credits. The simplification of the tax return will please taxpayers and have a supplemental benefit that few have discussed to this point. It will dramatically decrease the ability of taxpayers to cheat. It is estimated that the US lost $305 billion of revenue in 2010 from tax evaders.

As far as the affluent are concerned, there will be no reduction their tax rate. Yet the bill provides other benefits to them. One is something mentioned earlier, stocks will rise as corporations earn more because they pay less taxes. But also, a multi-year decrease in the estate tax will reduce and eliminate the unfair double tax jeopardy than Americans face when they die. These alone will more than compensate the affluent for other increases in their tax liabilities.

Lobbyists for continued deduction of state an local taxes and mortgage expenses are screaming bloody murder. They say housing prices are going to come crashing down. If the country’s fortunes increase as expected the loss of these benefits will be offset by lower personal taxes and improvements mentioned earlier.

There is a lot to like in the new bill, and it will change for the better over the next few weeks. Our country needs this reform and all American in one way or another will benefit. We should not allow greedy lobbyists political ideology to distort the impact of any specific proposal. The tax bill needs to be considered as one gigantic package.

 

Another Terrorist Attack- Our Immigration Laws Are Weak

New York City experienced another terrorist attack this past Tuesday on the walking/biking path along the West Side Highway.

A small rental truck driven by a man from Uzbekistan, who came to the US in 2010 with a green card, killed eight people and injured 11 others and screamed “Allahu akbar (Arabic for “God is great). The precise location of this terrorist attack is near the Stuyvesant High School. Fortunately none of the students were injured.

The nation will go into mourning for those killed and injured. We will empathize with the families affected by this horrible act of terror. And there will be a demand for action just like there were after all the other attacks in recent years. None of them resulted in any substantive changes other than proposals made by Donald Trump. In this case there were no deaths or injuries from guns so we will be spared another debate that goes nowhere.

Liberals are anathema to new laws that would make it more difficult for certain groups prone to violence to come to America. Ironically no one really doubts that foreign inspired terrorism directed at us usually originates with these groups.

Americans should be frustrated and angry that there has been so little progress in stopping these troublemakers from coming to America. We should be sick of the same trite speeches about the benefits of a melting pot society and demand more preventative action. Our immigration policies have resulted in something like 15 million illegal aliens in our country and an unknown number of immigrants and visitors from places that are notorious for planning attacks on our homeland.

In the early 20th Century immigrants from around the world flocked to America. They wanted to live the American dream. They were anxious to find work to support their families and put down roots in our country. They wanted to learn our language,  assimilate into our society and become productive members our our community.

How does that compare to the people who have come to America in recent years? They do not assimilate, they resist learning our language, they live separately and they demand more services than they provide to America.

I believe there is great value in a melting pot society. But I demand that our borders be managed more diligently. America is not required by law to take in a minimum number of aliens each year. We should only do so if we are sure that they will obey our laws, pay taxes, use our language and learn to care for themselves without governmental assistance.

If all this means that certain groups  are denied entry, so be it. If this dilemma results because an immigrant cannot be vetted properly to determine his or her character for lack of information from their home country, they should be denied admission.

My perspective may seem cruel to some, but so is the carnage, death, unhappiness and disruption that is caused by events like the one on Tuesday. We should not become inured to the deaths of “a couple of Americans.” We should be outraged and demand a better system. Most importantly we should not continue to prepare for another disaster and forget to try to stop this violence before it occurs and at its origin. We do not want to become like Israel and assume that deaths and injury by terrorists are a way of life.

There are options to fight terrorism that we are not employing. It all starts at the borders. Our government must be proactive and find troublemakers before they gain entry into the US. If these people are mostly from a certain part of the world it makes no difference. We should do this in honor of all those who have been murdered by terrorists and all the brave soldiers and first responders that are trying to make us safe.

Trump’s Behavior Is Destroying His Presidency

The performance of Donald Trump during the next few months will be critical to the survival of his presidency. The most important elements of performance will be the successful enactment of tax reform and the president’s overall behavior.

The Trump administration has several things to crow about including confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, relaxed regulations, a surging stock market, improved economic conditions, low unemployment and no significant foreign terrorist activity. Yet the president suffers mightily with Congress and is not endearing himself to Americans.

Congressional tribulations have been exacerbated by an inability to keep the Republican caucus intact. The current power of the GOP (its majority) has been emasculated by disloyalty and ideological differences within the party.

The situation has worsened as Trump retaliates on a daily basis against Republicans and anyone else that disagrees with him using schoolyard banter on social media. Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake were victims of this brand of hardball politics. Creating more agitation is the threat of Steve Bannon who has promised to attack Republicans disloyal to Trump.

Tax reform could be the last chance for Trump to prove that he can be an effective leader of his party. The legislation is complex and involves many different issues that are being bird-dogged by any number of powerful lobbyists.

The art of this deal will be whether large tax cuts for the middle class and businesses can be enacted without significantly increasing taxes (on the affluent) or eliminating cherished tax benefits for others. The latter includes the deductibility of state and local taxes, deductibility of interest expense, a reduction in allowable 401k deductions and so on.

At this time the psychological impact of a Republican legislative victory cannot be overstated. And so Trump’s enemies are working overtime to muddy the water and attack the president. The absurd and never ending Trump/Russian collusion accusations continue to rankle the president causing him to respond in a very unattractive and un-presidential manner.

It is this behavior that could bring down the Trump presidency regardless of legislative victories, an improved economy and foreign policy gains.

It is dubious whether Donald Trump can turn his presidency around, in part because of his demeanor and child-like responses to every attack. He is incapable of letting nickel and dime criticism roll off his back. Every president has been challenged daily. It is impossible to respond to each of the darts thrown at the president by the opposition. A great president picks opportune moments to strike back.

Trump actually believes that his tweets and seemingly irrational behavior are legitimate presidential prerogatives. They are not accepted or appreciated by the vast majority of Americans or our allies. Making matters worse is the president’s unsavory way he injects himself in situations while his opponents are self-destructing on their own.

The Clinton dossier and uranium scandals have traction and Trump should stand aside and allow Hillary to seal her own fate.

Frankly it is a frustrating experience trying to support this president’s agenda while he continues to act the way he does.