Sunday, July 2, 2017

Polarizing Ourselves/Alienating the World

There is a fundamental issue in a democratic land with purported open free speech, particularly in an increasingly complex set of global issues that even specialized academics struggle to understand: the electorate is asked to elect leaders to navigate that complexity, with few understanding either the issues or the ability of their leaders to deliver what they promise. When such voters are provided with “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and simplistic (but unworkable) solutions to complicated questions based on catchy slogans, too many simply succumb to the temptation to elect the campaigning officials with “all the answers.”
Add to this mess a growing and deep distrust of government and government bureaucracies plus an increasing disdain of “educated elites,” the people with the actual expertise needed to solve problems. We are experiencing that same rejection of logic and scientific fact – then a revulsion to the atrocities committed during the 1789 French Revolution – that ended the Age of Reason in the early 19thcentury and moved Western civilization to faith-based policies instead.
Contemporary reality has eroded the buying power for 70% of Americans, every year, for two and half decades. Job security and upward mobility have vaporized, just as income equality has pushed the United States toward “banana republic” status. For the underlying facts, see my Stealth Wealth Redistribution June 25th blog.
That consistent downward spiral for “traditional” Americans, and the fears that have gone with it, have motivated a massive shift for many from “science and statistical facts” to “God will protect us” solutions. It is genuinely difficult for well-educated professionals and researchers to understand that their “facts” are simply dismissed, out-of-hand, as “liberal propaganda.” When the tools of their trade are deemed irrelevant, by masses of voters and by the elected administration in power, America’s experienced and well-trained specialists are rendered both powerless and, more importantly, politically irrelevant.
Notwithstanding Trump administration policies to the contrary, man-induced global warming is real and deeply impactful on all of us. Every healthcare proposal from the Trump administration and the GOP Congress is vastly worse for those now covered under the act they are purporting to repeal and replace. Mining coal will continue to decline no matter how many environmental regulations are removed, but the consequences for those who will now be exposed to the resulting environmental pollution are dire (see below).
Alienating Muslims by denigrating their faith and limiting their entrance to the United States will not make us safer; rather it will disincentivize moderate Muslims (almost all of them) to cooperate in containing and defeating terrorists, will provide new recruitment material for radicals and will cause many Muslims to believe that they must now resist the United States simply to defend their faith. Defeating ISIS will produce that consistent whack-a-mole “we’re over here now” response from jihadists hell-bent on crushing the West and Western values.
Globalization will not be purged from the American work scene any more than automation and artificial intelligence will fade. Without corrective legislation, the money that used to be earned by workers displaced by automation will instead accrue to the wealthiest Americans who own those machines. Income inequality will accelerate, particularly if social services to most of us are replaced by lower taxes for the richest Americans. Old world blue collar jobs, requiring a high school education, will continue to disappear. Without undocumented workers, food and construction costs will rise rapidly until automation rises to replace them. American workers do not want the jobs held by that undocumented demographic.

Even our drinking water and breathing air are under high threat. You can see the impact of bad water in Flint, Michigan – serious medical issues plagued that community – and the impact of lax air pollution under the downsized Environmental Protection Agency that is equally disturbing: “At a time when the Trump administration is moving to delay and dismantle air quality regulations, a new study suggests that air pollution continues to cut Americans’ lives short, even at levels well below the legal limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The nationwide study of more than 60 million senior citizens linked long-term exposure to two main smog pollutants — ozone and fine particulate matter — to an increased risk of premature death… The analysis found no sign of a ‘safe’ level of pollution, below which the risk of dying early tapered off.
“Harvard University scientists who conducted the study calculated that reducing fine particle pollution by 1 microgram per cubic meter nationwide would save about 12,000 lives each year. An additional 1,900 lives would be saved annually by lowering ozone pollution by 1 part per billion, they found… The study appears in Thursday’s edition [6/29] of the New England Journal of Medicine.” Los Angeles Times, June 30th.
Though they are seriously embarrassed by a President who cannot contain his personal tweet-attacks and the obvious chaos within the White House staff, the GOP Congress is trying hard to use Trump’s populist appeal to advance the agenda embraced by those financial interests; their campaigns are supported by contributions from this wealthy sector. With a seemingly hopelessly-divided Democratic Party, they seem to be able to accomplish much of that agenda – surrendering a few “social issues” as token payments to Trump’s base – without too much in the way of opposition. Facts lose and get to be “repositioned” to support “fake policies.”
The nation continues to be pried apart – social conservatives (faith-based) and wealthy interests on one side with diversity-driven, fact-accepting Americans on the other. And even with the most embarrassing president this nation has ever seen, that polarization is getting worse, each side digging in and blaming the other.
But most of the rest of the world is not divided on how they feel about this “America First” vector and the rantings of a populist president who rattle sabers but self-admittedly acknowledges that he doesn’t like to read and gets most of his information from right wing media. Donald Trump ranks slightly above Kim Jong-un and Bashir al-Assad and below Vladimir Putin on the stage of favorable world opinion.
Donald Trump’s primary job is to protect Americans and American interests. The world did not elect him or accept his philosophies. He needs to work with global leaders to accomplish his core mission. The threats we face are global; we need global cooperation to defeat terrorism. Our economy is not and never will be a stand-alone market. We do not have the power to force other countries to adopt our “America First” policies. We are watching as world leaders, from China’s Xi Jinping and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, are skipping past Washington to deal directly with state governors and big city mayors, elected politicians seeking to foster trade and to reinforce their local commitments to the Paris climate change accord.
Resistance to our “American agenda” among former allies is rising very fast. With the upcoming (July 7/8) G-20 economic summit in Hamburg, Germany, to be attended by Donald Trump, you can see how battle lines are already being drawn against Trump and his isolationist, anti-globalism agenda. Europe is pushing back… hard.
Take for example the new leader of the free world (sorry Donald), German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Merkel told the [German] parliament that she expected the talks in Hamburg to be ‘difficult.’… ‘Anyone who thinks the world’s problems can be solved with isolationism and protectionism is simply delusional,’ Merkel said. ‘The only way we’re going to succeed in finding the right answers to the central questions of our age is by working together… The world has become troubled and divided,’ she said. ‘The differences are obvious and it would be dishonest to try to cover that up — I won’t be doing that.’…
“‘Ever since the decision by the United States to leave the Paris climate agreement, we’ve become more determined than ever to make it a success,’ Merkel said. ‘We’ve got to tackle this existential threat and we can’t and won’t simply wait around until everyone on the planet has been convinced that there is enough scientific proof that it is happening. The Paris agreement is irreversible and non-negotiable.’
“Merkel never spoke Trump’s name. [But her Trump allusions were crystal clear.] She had tried to find ways to work with Trump but has since taken a more defiant stance against him… A leader of Social Democratic Party, which is part of Merkel’s coalition, was less diplomatic… ‘Donald Trump is dividing the Western world,’ Thomas Oppermann told parliament after the chancellor finished. ‘On the climate issue, it’s Trump against the rest of the world. There’s got to be a 19 against 1 alliance against him in Hamburg.’” La Times. Trump is also expected to have a sidebar with Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the summit.
Remember when Europe was our ally and the Russians were the bad guys? And so much of what is happening now may well be irreversible. Exactly how many world leaders will rely on pledges and treaty commitments from one U.S. administration when they know that the next administration can tear most of them apart in just the first 150 days of coming into power?
I’m Peter Dekom, and I am deeply saddened that the United States seem irreversibly committed to yield both its political and economic power to just about anyone else willing to step in and take it… mostly, it seems, China and Russia.

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