Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Living in a Parallel Universe

Imagine living in a world where Vladimir Putin is our close ally, climate change is nothing we need to worry about, unskilled and semi-skilled blue collar workers can make solid middle-class livings, people have free choice to use their tax dollars for any primary or secondary school they want, robots and automation are not even a remote threat to manufacturing jobs, radical militants will no longer threaten Americans, economic polarization vaporizes as the hard-dollar benefits a booming economy is shared by everyone, a fully-functioning infrastructure, no one enters or remains in or leaves the United States without strict controls, medical care is cheap and accessible to all, women no longer want or need abortions, domestic fossil fuel abundance generates falling energy prices, federal taxes plunge as our deficit fades away, our trade imbalance ends as imports continue to be cheap, and even as the United States reduces its financial commitments to global institutions the United States regains global respect, trading superiority, cheaper consumer prices and sustainable growth. That is a partial summary of Trump’s promise to America. And virtually none of this is true or economically possible. It is the parallel universe, a dream that cannot become a reality, that Trump followers believe with more passion than an evangelical’s belief in Jesus Christ. But that parallel universe does not and never will exist.
There’s a damned good reason why most of Europe is terrified of Russian aggression. Three years ago, the Russians absolutely annexed Crimea in complete abrogation of a treaty they signed pledging never to do that. They absolutely have mounted an aggressive attack against Ukraine, providing soldiers and weapons to foment a civil war that never needed to happen. They have been shown to hack into sensitive election sites across the United States and Western Europe, spreading disinformation, a fact sustained by every relevant U.S. federal investigatory agency. There may be more, a lot more, from more direct interference to unholy economic activities in and around powerful elected politicians. Russia is not trustworthy, definitely not our friend, a reality accepted by a great many Congress-people on both sides of the aisle. Just not our president.
That global climate change is wreaking havoc – floods, rising seas, storm surges, violent weather patterns, drastic and continuing temperature change, droughts, fires, insect/disease migration – is almost universally accepted as fact by the scientific community, even fossil fuel conglomerates and virtually every other country on earth… except the United States. Aside from the fact that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, denies that carbon dioxide causes global warming, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has pretty mandated that no one at his agency utter or write any words suggesting the existence of global climate change. Ugh! Enough said on this for now. Read my blog for the rest.
We are playing “whack-a-mole” with Islamists – violent terrorists who act under their misguided interpretation of the Qur’an – such that as ISIS is defeated (as it will be), it (or its radical kin) will pop up somewhere else… even as our polices seem to beg that the United States should be a much more direct target of terrorism. There is only so much swatting as a wasp’s nest before the wasps decide to make a point. We seem to have strongly declared that America is the enemy of Islam, even to the extent of banning travelers from Islamic nations from which not a single perpetrator of US terrorism has even come from. But we are very carefully painting a bullseye over our entire country… to what end? We certainly aren’t going to find Muslims willing to cooperate with us to help identify those religiously-inspired terrorists. We need that intelligence to prevent real threats. Smart us.
As coal miners expect to go back to high-paying mining jobs, many at now-bankrupt mining companies, restrictions on “King coal” are lifted. And why would American companies embrace coal and the new pollution standards that go with it when global demand for coal is vaporizing and international air quality standards simply will not allow new coal-burning to generate electricity anymore. And as we bring back manufacturing jobs to the U.S., who is stupid enough to think that the work will go to highly-paid workers and not to the rich folks who own the automation where the processes are really going? The benefits go to those who own the equipment, not the workers who are not getting those old jobs back.
“Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says automation isn’t something he loses sleep over: ‘It’s not even on our radar screen . . . [it’s] 50 to 100 more years’ away, as he said at an event organized by Axios. ‘I’m not worried at all,’ he added. ‘In fact I’m optimistic.’
“Mnuchin’s statements contrast with warnings issued by the last administration, which produced reports looking at the economic impact of automation. It said, for instance, that 1.3 million to 1.7 million truck drivers could lose their jobs as a result of self-driving technology. ‘We are going to have to have a societal conversation about how we manage [robots and automation],’ Obama told Wired.
“New research shows Obama perhaps had a better sense of reality than Mnuchin does. Looking at the effect of industrial robots across the U.S., it shows how automation is already leading to job losses and wage decreases at a significant scale and that new jobs are not being created at a fast enough rate to take their place. ” FastCompany.com, March 31st. Maybe Steve has not been to any U.S. automobile manufacturing facility with the last decade. Next.
The failure of the Donald Trump-advocated American Health Care Act, which had a meagre 17% public approval level, couldn’t even get through a GOP-controlled Congress. The Congressional Budget Office made it clear that millions of Americans with current healthcare insurance would lose that coverage if that law passed. It didn’t. Even Trump-followers were too scared to support that legislation. Limiting health care to comport with a minority religious group’s view of the world will make our medical care better? Huh?
Every version of tax reform that has been presented, hinted at or espoused by Donald Trump or any of his senior advisors, tells us that we will have vastly lower taxes only for one group: the highest earners in the land. The rest of us… not so much. Even if Donald Trump were able to pass his bare-bones budget, which he clearly cannot, the most credible experts project that the loss of tax revenues would generate trillions of dollars of additional deficits. Cutting taxes and simultaneously reducing deficits is a bigger fiction than LaLa Land.
Trump $1 trillion infrastructure program – light when the American Society of Civil Engineers tell it’s more like a 10-year program with four and a half times as much – is heavily predicated on handing the upgrades, in significant part, to the private sector. This allows mega-rich investors to fund infrastructure in exchange for usage tolls that many folks just cannot afford. It looks more like a wealth transfer tax, and a lot of lower earners will find those meagre monies just won’t stretch so far.
The thought we can impose trade restrictions unilaterally, without risk of retaliation, is beyond na├»ve. And if there are trade wars, if the lack of lower cost undocumented labor continues to accelerate, the one sure thing is that consumer prices will skyrocket. But wait, there’s more.
Our allies don’t trust us anymore. Trump can vacillate, tweet a mix of confusing policies, propose budgets that decimate foreign aid, UN and NATO support, and it all plays to his base. But it means the rest of the world, those who depended on us, are now planning work-arounds to live without depending on anything American. Think that makes us stronger and our economy better?
Our schools are bad and getting worse. Trump response: school vouchers. These vouchers have historically been used (where state sanctioned) primarily for religious schools where moral versus empirical education is the priority. Think that will make us more competitive, stronger, and create higher-paying jobs? Really? What did our new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos for whom there is no evidence that she ever visited a public school before her appointment, learn at that bastion of higher-learning, Christian Reform Church-sponsored Calvin College, she attended?
In the end, it is those lower socioeconomic Trump voters are going to be betrayed the most, but we will all suffer what may well be irreversible damage to our political system, global credibility and influence and our economy. Some of these policies could even retrigger another global recession.
I’m Peter Dekom, and if Ted Cruz was “Lyin’,” Hillary Clinton was “Crooked,” and Marco Rubio was “Little,” exactly what is Donald Trump?

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