It will take more than Trump tactics to save American jobs (but they could be at least a start)

February 25, 2017

It will take more than President Trump’s showcase gesture in bribing Carrier Corporation into keeping some jobs in the U.S. while it still moves many to Mexico, nevertheless, to bring about a new wave of American manufacturing and the saving jobs for Americans .

I don’t know how much of Trump’s effort was genuine or how much was hocus pocus or sleight of hand. But let’s just assume it was sincere, at least that is a start in the right direction. In the end it will take congress enact new legislation.

I’d like to see it this way: any United States-based firm that shifts its production outside of our borders would pay a hefty tax in order to bring its finished products back in. In fact it might have to pay a higher import duty than straight imports from other nations.

It rubs me the wrong way that companies can get the benefits of being based in the United States, including the protection of our courts, the world-wide security provided by our military, and of course immediate access to consumers in the world’s largest economy, while abandoning our own workforce. And adding insult to injury, many large corporations pay little to no U.S. taxes via convenient quirks in the tax laws. Congress needs to change that too.

I often think about this, but it was brought to back to the forefront of my mind a day before writing this when I was touring Mission Dolores in San Francisco, the oldest building in the city. Right across the street, my sister pointed out, is the original headquarters and factory for Levi Strauss, maker of that “all-American” product, blue jeans (and now other apparel) with that iconic label “Levis”. But for a long, long time now, Levis have been made in Mexico. None are made in the U.S.

While straight-out protectionism might not be a good idea (remember, history tells us that in part or in whole it led to the Great Depression of the 1930s because so many nations took that route that trade was killed), there is nothing wrong and everything right, I would think, about a nation’s government taking prudent steps to look out for its own manufacturing base and the livelihoods of its own citizens.

And really what sense does it make what with the workforce, the raw materials, and the infrastructure (albeit always in need of improvement or maintenance) we have in this country to ship production out of country?

While the truth is that technology, now advancing at warp speed, continues to mean fewer and fewer jobs in all type of endeavors, from factories to services, we still live in a world where people go somewhere to work in order to make a living. And as much as possible that work needs to stay right here in the United States.

A little pressure from the top, such as Trump has engaged in, can help, but it will take the work of congress and maybe consumer pressure on our own companies to complete the job.

p.s.

Do we have excessive regulations in this country that hinder domestic production? The answer to that may be subjective. It is nonsense to suggest that we should repeal regulations that protect health and safety and that seek to protect our environment. We don’t want a return to Triangle Shirtwaist factory-like fires (New York, 1911) or the kind of fires that rip through textile sweatshops in Bangladesh in these times, and we don’t want a return to LA smog or Peking-like smog. But it may be true that excessive bureaucratic red tape (always a problem) can be counter productive. But it is the red tape that needs to be reduced, not the protections provided by regulations.

 

 

 


Vote that big bad Obamacare out, oh, but now what?

February 24, 2017

I don’t know what to think about the raucous town hall meetings Republican congressmen and women are having back home where people are yelling at them to “do your job” and are objecting to them trashing Obamacare.

I mean Trump supporters would like to say that it is just a liberal activist dirty tricks thing where they are flooding the town halls with what they like to call “non-organic” protestors — in other words hired people, including outsiders.

I imagine that could be the case to some extent. I don’t know. But I also have to imagine the congressmen are facing real people who have come to the realization that the Republicans had no intention of providing anything that looked like universal health care. Health care is just a free market thing to them. You got the money, you buy the product. You don’t have the money, do without.

I don’t even know what “access to health care” means. That is what some Republicans say they want to guarantee. You can’t have access if you don’t have the money.

Personally, I am not dependent on Obamacare at this time but that does not mean I would be willing to leave others without health care. Even if we are as cold as ice (and I hope that I am not), it behooves all of us to have a healthy nation. We need some form of universal health care. But for some strange reason our elected representatives could never quite get it together until Barack Obama came along. Obamacare, admittedly, even by its sponsors, was not perfect. It was a compromise of sorts. But it was a good start and it can be improved.

(And maybe after a lot of heated campaign rhetoric, using Obamacare as a straw man of sorts, the Republican majority in congress will just patch up Obamacare.)

But the Republicans don’t want to give the Democrats any credit so they just have sought to scrap the whole thing, seizing on the fact that some people got a shock when their health insurance premiums jumped up. And they also seized on the fact the government was trying to force people to buy plans that were controlled by the government. And some people may have even voted for Donald Trump over the issue. And some of those people may have come to the realization — now what? You see, the Republicans never had a serious plan to replace Obamacare. If they did, they’d have passed it into law by now.

If it were up to me, and of course it is not, we would just have single-payer health insurance financed by the government, which is really us. And maybe people who wanted something a little better, a step up to keep themselves out of over-crowded clinics, could buy their own supplemental insurance.

I have written previously and still feel that a better solution for the United States would have been to expand Medicare to cover all people, regardless of age, who could not otherwise afford health care. Of course the rub is determining eligibility. And no doubt people would cheat in some way so they could get a free ride while others pay.

I think the problem is that no matter what, health care will always be expensive. There needs to be government oversight no matter what system we use. It seems that it is as hard to determine how health care providers, particularly hospitals, come up with their pricing as it was to figure out how the price for a gallon of gasoline is determined. The normal rules of supply and demand and the free market don’t always seem to apply.

Oh, but back to the Republicans: I thought that this was telling. In a CNN news clip of a town hall meeting by Republican Congressman Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a woman asked him that since he has promised to vote to repeal Obamacare would he commit to replacing it with something so people like her would not be left without coverage. His reply: “are there any more questions?” Kind of like: next question. The crowd roared at him, chanting “do your job”.

That does almost sound like he was set up. But he deserves it.

There is blame on both sides of the aisle for the health care debacle. On the one hand, the Republicans resisted health care reform because their tendencies are to represent those out for profit not necessarily the ordinary constituent. On the other hand, some on the other side of the aisle sneakily represented big health care industry forces (who dole out the money to politicians) and scuttled the idea of single-payer. One influential Democratic senator at least took millions of dollars from the health care lobby and had staffers with connections to the health care industry and was instrumental in scrapping single-payer and/or any public alternative and for inputting items favorable to the health care industry and big Pharma into the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is known. One of his staffers, it was reported, basically was the architect of the law and then went back to the health care industry as a lobbyist.

Pretty sweet for some private health insurance providers and drug companies — the government seeks to force you to do business with them and does not use its power to negotiate a better price for drugs.

And that often is how laws are made in this country — the special interests write them.

We might be better served if our congressmen and senators were simply citizens doing public service for a nominal salary — they would be people who had other jobs or who were retired — and who did not make a career out of writing laws. There would of course need to be rules blocking the big money influence of lobbyists.

 

 

 


Just how does Trump have power when we know that the emperor has no clothes?

February 21, 2017

I guess in President Donald Trump’s world negotiations, business, and now political, are a lot like poker, where the bluff is often the key.

But how often can a bluff work? Let’s see if I can best George W. Bush and get this one right — fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

We know that Trump tells bold face lies, even with the truth staring him and his audiences in the face. We know he plays the game of intimidation but is ready to turn course at any moment.

We know that he just says things to stir people up and create misdirection.

We also know that he is fairly ignorant of the greater world beyond his real estate kingdom and his little bubble of a universe where daddy started him off with a million dollars.

Despite his denials and his claim that his administration is working like a well-oiled machine, it appears the truth is that things are in disarray. Running the world’s superpower is not like running your own real estate investment firm or reality TV show.

Why do we (and I don’t mean me or you specifically but the world in general) put up with him? We know he is a phony. We know he is like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz or the emperor who wore no clothes but thought he was finely dressed but no one dared tell him — he was the emperor.

And why has much of the main-stream Republican establishment abandoned any principles and sense of decorum and even many of their own political positions and succumbed to Trump? Well for one thing, he won the presidency and they at least hope they can gain much from that, such as lowering taxes on the upper classes, gutting social programs, including health care, and rescinding all those pesky environmental regulations which they conveniently claim are based on what they call the climate change hoax.

I think on that last, all intelligent people, even Republicans, know something dangerous is going on with our climate and a substantial part of it has to do with carbon emissions and other human endeavors. And almost no one would seriously suggest that we have to go back to the stone age and abandon all of our modern technologies — we just need to take prudent steps to save our planet and the human race. I’ll put my trust in science any day over right-wing politicians and those whose quest for quick profit blinds them to impending environmental catastrophe. And from what I have read, no the jury is not still out on climate change. We know there are serious problems. We do not know the full extent or necessarily what is the best course of action going forward, except that we know we must curtail some of the damage we have been doing to our own nest. And yes, it is possible that in some cases opportunists on the left have used climate change to move their agenda, as reactionaries on the right use racism and über nationalism to move their agenda (whatever it is).

Yeah, in that last sentence I stuck in a German word, über, as in Deutschland über alles (Germany over all). Isn’t it ironic that now we have our own Hitler at the helm, who fans the flames of racism and bigotry, attacks the free press and anyone else who dares question him, that Germany is led by a more democratic form of leadership, even if it does have its far-right problems still. And add to that, Great Britain, the nation we broke away from to gain liberty, seems to have a leader and legislators more devoted to civility and freedom than we now have. Go figure.

Now there is an ongoing debate in Britain whether Trump ought to be dis-invited for a state visit. One conservative member of parliament said that Trump is being condemned for being the first politician to “keep his promises”. I’m not sure to which promises the right honorable gentleman was referring, except maybe to be racist, bigoted, and uncivilized, and to keep America ignorant.

For purposes of accuracy and fairness, it may not be correct to say that Trump is a Hitler clone but his tactics and actions dangerously resemble those of the infamous dictator. Sen. John McCain has pointed out that dictators always go after the free press. And I think those otherwise seemingly intelligent people who support Trump while acknowledging that they are at times uncomfortable with his behavior think that Trump can be used to move their agenda and that he can be otherwise controlled. That’s a dangerous assumption. The man is already out of control.

Read a little bit of history folks. The German establishment made the same mistake with Hitler.

p.s.

And so, what can be done? Mainly don’t give up on your principles and don’t waste your time arguing with dunderheads or narrow-minded people. Keep informed by checking a variety of souces. And in the end vote.

 

 


Maybe Republicans will rebel against Trump…

February 19, 2017

It appears now that Sen. John McCain has retained his office he has come out against President Donald Trump and his policies.

This is interesting. It may take the Republicans themselves to remove the would-be dictator.

Maybe one day McCain will lead a delegation to the White House or Mar-a-Lago  and suggest Trump resign or be impeached.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party just thrashes around.

I sometimes think the Democratic Party turned its back on working people and is now paying the price. But in some cases it may be the working people turned their backs on the Democratic Party.

You see the party has always been a coalition of disparate groups, one of which was working people, often represented by trade unions. But as the unions made their members more prosperous many of their members turned their backs on the Democratic Party and went Republican and in many cases left the unions too (once they got what they wanted, why pay the dues?). And maybe nowadays a lot of people consider themselves independent.

Also, when it comes to Washington politics and I suppose even state politics, office holders are stuck in a cycle of raising money for campaigns to hold onto their jobs. And special interest groups are there with the cash — ordinary people often not as much.

I suppose Barack Obama raised a lot of small donations, as well as Bernie Sanders. But by and large, the way the game is played is big money throws its weight around in politics.

Admittedly this post is just off the top of my head. It’s the middle of the night and I could not sleep. Been working a lot and am somewhat behind on the news.

I did hear the Trump press conference the other day. Through sometimes sloppy reporting and pack journalism (everyone wants to be on the same page) it may be the mainstream press or media has made itself vulnerable to criticism. But a free press is not the enemy. Ignorance and lies are the enemy.

I do wish journalism (it was once called that instead of what I think has become a pejorative term “media”) would return to the principle I was taught so many years ago that news should be reported straight and opinion should be in clearly-marked opinion pieces, and even those opinion pieces ought to be based on facts. I know, whose facts?

It is hard to determine whether Trump is just ignorant sometimes or whether he actually just sets out to tell a big whopper. I mean when he claimed to have a record vote and then was caught immediately on the inaccuracy by a reporter, he just said, well, that was what he was told. So like he is too addled to even look it up on Wikipedia? And then he, I must say, somewhat got himself off the hook by asking the reporter if he really did have a big victory nonetheless. The reporter answered: “you are the president”.

(I think that reporter got caught in the trap of inadvertently saving Trump because he wanted to do his job and be agressive and speak truth to power and all but not be simply dismissed by the big man, lest he never get a chance to ask a question again.)

Personally I think Trump either needs to be impeached or otherwise forced from office or at the least needs to be kept in check.

And it may well be that the Republican Party will be our saviors, but maybe the Democratic Party will find new life in the process.

How about a Republican Party that was generally conservative (as opposed to reactionary) and represented Main Street over Wall Street and free enterprise in general and a Democratic Party that returned to the people?

And how about a mainstream press that was aggressive both in pointing out the faults or dangers posed by our public figures but were also aggressive on their own fact checking and who could write or tell a story without it being nothing but a sermon or subjective piece short on evidence?

p.s.

The “media” (I have to use the term) does supply fact-check articles (although one sometimes wonders who checks the checkers) to its credit. But one fasle or sloppily-reported story can do a lot of damage to credibility — and that is what coniving politicians and others with ill will count on.

 

 

 


North Korea missile launch toward Japan and Trump instability poses threat…

February 12, 2017

It’s amazing what can happen when you are out of touch with the news over the course of a working day. I’m a truck driver and my AM/FM radio reception is lousy — oh the religious stations come in powerfully all the time (God has power!) and on the weekend I am forever hearing those infomercials (advertising propaganda masquerading as objective information) about vitamins and real estate.

But it was not until late last night that I got on my tablet before hitting the sack that I saw that North Korea had lobbed a missile toward Japan — falling short/ just practice I guess.

CNN was playing it up, the New York Times, not so much. But it did seem to me to be the first real test for President Trump international incident wise.

North Korea has a nuclear program and keeps perfecting its missiles, even though we are told they cannot yet reach our soil at this time.

This missile test came as Trump was meeting with the prime minister of Japan who is visiting the U.S.

So far, as of this writing, no direct response from the president except that he promised the U.S. would back Japan.

Seems serious to me. And it points up how precarious things are. If things should escalate we have to be aware that while that leader in North Korea is bananas, our own leader’s mental state is in question, as his erratic and irrational behavior and his living in a different reality, truth-wise, points out.

We are in the most dangerous times since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the Cold War era, no doubt.

p.s.

Some say that if Trump is crazy, he is crazy like a fox, in other words there is a method to his madness. He did get elected president despite what seemed overwhelming odds against it. But we know that he does not mind telling outright lies, or making statements that have no factual basis (more so than the average politician) which does not make him crazy, but it does make him dangerous. And we know that his behavior when compared to acceptable norms is to say the least erratic. Can we afford to have him with his finger on the nuclear button? The big-time bookmakers are giving good odds that he will be impeached or resign or otherwise be removed from office. I think that would be a good thing and the sooner the better.

 


Farmers: did you not believe Trump? (fears of labor shortages with no supply of illegals)…

February 11, 2017

I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry or be understanding or outraged when I read that farmers in California and elsewhere I guess, especially in the west, supported Donald Trump in big numbers but now they are chagrined to find out that he really meant what he said about clamping down on immigration.

You see, the story I read said they depend upon something like 70 to 80 percent of their field help who are illegals, or undocumented workers, most of these from Mexico.

This has been an open secret for ever since I can remember. Well actually when I was younger there was the Bracero program, originally began I think in WWII when there was a shortage of help due to so many men being in the military. Men came up from Mexico without their families. And the program continued on through the 1960s but at some point was discontinued. And I’ve recited this tale before but I recall picking prunes with my mom — and we did it not because we depended upon it but for extra money — and seeing poor white people working, who did depend upon it. But I think the white people participation petered out in the late 60s with the enactment of various social programs pushed through by President Lyndon Johnson in what he called his Great Society Program.

But farm workers were still needed, and to fill that demand people came up from Mexico, some had green cards that permitted them to work and some not. I do not know the process of obtaining a green card.

So if you are ever around the big farming operations in the west you will see that a majority of the help is Hispanic. Men and women do all kinds of work, everything from crawling through fields of strawberries to driving tractors with computerized controls, to working in the processing plants to loading trucks to working at the computers where it all is coordinated.

I haul produce for a living and have noticed that many produce outfits are run by Hispanic people. Many have had great success.

These are hardworking and often quite skilled people — really all the work requires skill and stamina.

But let’s get to the fact so many are here illegally. Why is this? If we know we need the labor why do we play this game?

Some would answer cynically that it allows big agriculture an upper hand in controlling labor. When you’re illegal you are not as likely to complain.

I don’t know what people think. I can only guess or surmise. But I think if nothing else it has just become an accepted pattern.

I don’t want to speak for farm workers because I don’t have to live their lives. But as a kid I saw some of the wretched conditions in the old farm labor camps — the ones I saw were for unaccompanied men, but they were crude and they were a shame.

I think big agriculture should take the responsibility and push for legalization of imported help. And if it does not, it deserves what it will get.

Yes, we the consumers are told we’ll pay via higher prices at the grocery store and maybe even by not seeing all the products we once saw.

So be it. We expect good pay and we expect tolerable living conditions for ourselves. We should expect no less for those who toil in the fields.

I have also written before that in some cases where labor shortages are acute, more mechanization will be added. Some things resist mechanization — but as we all see, in the end nothing does these days.

p.s.

LBJ’s Great Society was pushed through after documentaries showing the poverty among white people in Appalachia. But that was back in the 1960s. Poverty persists. Ironically, it is reported that many of these people voted for the billionaire Trump. I don’t know, you can only do so much through government action, whether it is social programs or incentives for business. Some problems have more to do with culture. In the end it seems to be up to the individual. But yes, if good employment can be returned, that would seem a positive — and I don’t think everyone can be or needs to be a computer programmer or wind farm designer. Hillary Clinton made a misstep when she promised to put coal miners out of business. Her words may have been taken out of context, but to make that mistake in coal country shows a lack of judgment. And I hate to pile it on her — sorry.

 

 

 

 


On the court decision: someone has to stand up to Trump (and courts are at least a little political)

February 10, 2017

While I still have not read word-for-word the actual appellate court decision that upholds the stay on President Trump’s travel ban (that is barring it from being kept in force for the time being while litigated), I have now read a summary of the high points of the ruling. My conclusion is that rightly or wrongly all the administration needs to do is tighten things up. It did a poor job of implementing the order in barring entry to people from certain designated nations and the court claims failed to justify in writing its actions. Just claiming it was done to protect American citizens is a little too general.  I mean you could apply that to most anything.

I am a little concerned about the court’s contention that the two states that sued, Washington and Minnesota, have standing because it affected their universities or businesses or citizens. I mean that might be so, but I don’t think their inconvenience would negate the need to take protective actions for the whole nation.

And I think most people, even those who despise Trump (count me in), still want the person who is president to have wide latitude in doing what is necessary to protect the nation and they want the chief executive to be able to act swiftly when need  be. I mean that is the reason we have a president. The legislative branch is slow and deliberative (that’s its role), and the judiciary’s role is supposed to be to make sure all is done by the constitution and laws of the land and that the law is applied in equitable fashion to all citizens.

But this case is not over. The administration might re-craft its travel ban in such a way it is more acceptable and/or the case might go to the Supreme Court (or back to the lower court? Not sure) and could still be decided in the administration’s favor. My understanding is that if the case goes to the Supreme Court and the high court is still one member short, the matter could well end up in a tie with any lower court ruling left standing. If the case reaches the court after a new member is added, theoretically administration could then have an ace up its sleeve.

Who says the courts are not political? Not I.

My original post today:

 

Working at my real job today so have neither had time to absorb the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling against the Trump administration in its travel ban decision  nor write intelligently about it. But it does seem that on this one The Donald may have found that he cannot just sic his civil case attorneys on it and overpower people or businesses who cannot afford the legal costs.

And yet he still could prevail in the Supreme Court I realize.

I have scanned — just once — the immediate reports of the decision and don’t even know if I agree with it according to the court’s ruling, even though I am glad to see Trump get a comeuppance. Someone has to stand up to him.

Trump complains that the courts are playing politics. Well he might be right to an extent, that is to say I don’t think you can completely separate politics from constitutional decisions because various justices read the constitution in different ways from each other based on their judicial philosophy and judicial philosophy to me is akin to politics and leanings toward the right or left of the political spectrum. And the Ninth Circuit is called “liberal” by all.

But later today or within the next few days I am sure I’ll have more to opine on this one.

Whatever, it is nice to see one of the three branches of government functioning. Go get ’em judiciary!