Donald Trump fires another salvo from the bully pulpit

If you want to know why stump speeches are referred to as coming from the bully pulpit, Donald Trump’s speech tonight at a rally in Montana provided an excellent example. Mr. Trump was in Montana to help rally support for Matt Rosendale’s bid for the United States Senate. I didn’t know who Mr. Rosendale was before the speech and I will only give him a moment’s thought in the future because of Mr. Trump’s fiery performance on his behalf. It was the ballsiest if not one of the ballsiest speeches I have heard him deliver.

While Democrats and liberals will no doubt spend the next 72 hours criticizing the speech, what you won’t hear them admit that from a political strategic view, Mr. Trump sent a message that he was confident, emboldened by his perceived successes, and that he has no problem being bombastic. In his mind, he was keeping it real, and that may be the type of ammunition that Democrats and liberals will have a hard time countering.

About the only place Mr. Trump has left for Democrats and liberals to go to are the same old increasingly tired arguments about his lack of couth, his alleged dealing with the Russians, his boarish behavior, and failure to follow precedent set by past presidents when engaging in foreign relations. While not stylish, Mr. Trump’s strategy not only provides his base with the personality and rhetoric they have grown to expect, but the approach also tells voters who oppose him and voters sitting on the fence that this is the man you saw on the campaign trail and nothing has to change from 2016 because anything less just wouldn’t be me. Mr. Trump’s attitude was captured during the speech when he acknowledged indirectly that he may not win in 2020 or might not even run; therefore, what does he have to lose from sounding like the other well-known resident from Queens, ‘Archie Bunker.’

Mr. Trump stood full frontal, stuck his chest out, and unlike past presidents, did not hesitate to call out Democrats by name, notably Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, and Maxine Waters. He gave Mrs. Warren a little extra attention, challenging her to a DNA test to prove her Native American heritage; daring her to fire an arrow in rebuttal. He reminded Democrats that their new leader was Maxine Waters and he even took the liberty of renaming the “Democratic Party” to “Democrat Party.” And while taunting the Democrats to fire back, he touted what he believes are his achievements: tax reform, the whittling away at Obamacare, beginning disarmament talks with North Korea, his upcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin, an economy that he expects to grow at four percent or more, and great unemployment numbers for Hispanics and blacks. He has decided to gamble that not only would any reaction from Progressives not score points, but that it would show that the only place their responses will come from is a weak, emotional place.

Mr. Trump had no problem sounding like a bully today. With an economy behind him that, for the moment, is producing jobs, he did not look afraid to swing the club.

Democrats want to take over government but can’t make up their minds about governance

The Democrats are a flighty bunch. Since January 2017 they have been all over the place looking for a narrative that can gain traction with voters. So far, they have come up with the following:

1. Trump the Pussy Grabber is Not Fit for President
2. Trump the Russian Sympathizer is not Fit for President
3. Trump the Disloyal Friend to Canada is not Fit for President
4. Trump the Banger of Porn Stars is not Fit for President
5. Trump the Disruptor of Immigrant Latino Families is not Fit for President

So far, five major ones but the President’s first term is still young.
Do any of these issues have anything to do with how Mr. Trump is running the political economy? How does admitting on a video tape made in 2005 on the set of a soap opera that he approaches women like a boar translate in to his implementation of commerce policy?

Is Russia really an enemy of the United States? Granted Russia probably still is a little pissed 100 years after American troops known as the Polar Bear Expedition invaded northern Russia back in 1918 and the United States may be tired of Russia referring to Soviet Union soldiers passing themselves off as just technical “experts” in the Vietnam War, but forty-plus years since the Vietnam War was declared over, and no official hostilities recorded on either side, Democrats simply can’t convert the “Russia ain’t our friend and Trump talked to them” into any substantive narrative for the better informed.

While women on the Left may find Canada’s Boy Toy prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to be a hottie, does Mr. Trump’s trade disagreement with Mr. Trudeau over steel and timber imports amount to the president being a poor manager of foreign policy or economic affairs? Not at all. For example, under the North American Free Trade Agreement and section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, the President has wide power to address unfair or discriminatory practices of a foreign country. Ally or not, if the President determines via an International Trade Commission or United States Trade Representative investigation of Canada, why should America’s friends in the Great White North get cut any slack versus its friends south of the border?

The Trump/Stormy Daniels narrative tells me that Mr. Trump is no saint. Did Mr. Trump, during the run up to the November 2016 elections, pay off Stormy Daniels to avoid the embarrassment of knocking boots with a porn star while married in 2006? I don’t know nor care. That’s a private marital problem and Democrats who are gung-ho for an impeachment should at least provide evidence where Mr. Trump denied otherwise unimportant, non-government related incidences to federal officials ala Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Lastly, there is Donald Trump the Disruptor of Latino Families. Mr. Trump implemented a policy, in development since December 2017, to separate children from parents who cross the United States-Mexico border without documentation. The Democrats argue that such acts are cruel and that such cruelty is not what America is about and is further evidence of Mr. Trump’s despicable character. But while Mr. Trump may be auditioning for Machiavellian of the Month, the Democrats never argue that his policy is illegal. By the Administration’s admission, the separation policy is designed to scare parents, to make them think twice about making the trek through central America and Mexico. For the majority of Trump supporters, Mr. Trump’s prosecutorial discretion and scare tactic in this case is on point.

So, what is really going on with the Democrats? Their scatter-brained approach to keeping the President in check is so unfocused and non-sticky that by the end of December they will need a fresh batch of heart-tugging, nonpolicy-based narratives to toss at the American electorate. I suspect the Democrats will spend 2019 ensuring that 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls tie and spin these events.

It won’t work, because a more important event will take place during 2019: the slow down of the economy. Americans will spend more time worrying about how to feed their own children.

Blacks live in a population, not a community

Black Americans have built their collective around a history of pain and suffering, a misery that a significant portion of the black population have never directly experienced. A part of the reason for the collective mentality stems from being a libations people. Some blacks in America have continued some semblance of the practice of commemorating the ancestors. All groups have some degree of reverence for the elders but I find that blacks in particular take the reverence to another level. Take for example John Lewis, the representative to Congress from Georgia’s 5th district. Mr Lewis, who has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1987, rarely fails to remind us of his experiences marching with Dr Martin Luther King. For black Americans to turn Mr Lewis out of office would be sacrilege even though his effective over the years is highly questionable. As a messenger who reminds black Americans of pain and suffering, Mr Lewis is one of many architects of the narrative of a black community.

I have argued before that blacks do not have a community. At the risk of sounding like a fan of “trap music”, the poor and middle-income strata of blacks live in a mental, spiritual, political and economic ghetto where payday lenders, pawn shops, and tax preparers offering advances on internal revenue refunds make up the population’s financial district. Ride on MARTA in Atlanta and you observe that mobile broadband is the low cost digital source of entertainment for blacks in this income bracket. Over-indexed on both mobile broadband and social media, Facebook and Twitter are the databases and noise exchange platforms for the population.

Philosophically, Black Americans view the real world as a hostile place driven by ever present racism and a slave history that white Americans have not yet reconciled with their current privilege. Since this attack is directed at people with dark skin who can trace their lineage to Africa, most reactions from the black population comes from a collectivist albeit not entirely monolithic place.  Blacks feel trapped; they feel under siege.

Notice that I have been using “population” more than the typical word, “community.” Blacks do not have a community. Many view community as a social term. The social taint of the word is secondary. Community is an economic term with the accompanying social ordering of its members based on their contribution to the extraction, organization, and distribution of resources. At the base of a mining community is a mine and surrounding that mine is an ordering of human resources organized in such a way where you recognize leaders and followers; where you can identify where political and economic power is deployed and which classes are exercising what levels and amounts of that power.

It is the social orderings stemming from political and economic power that serve as platforms for a group’s culture, for the groups values as transmitted by the group’s leaders. I don’t see that in the black population.

Didn’t see it in Canarsie or Crown Heights. I haven’t seen it in West End Atlanta. I haven’t seen it in Baltimore. I haven’t seen it in Charlotte Amalie.  I saw populations of black people employed by non-blacks who actually owned the “vibranium.” I don’t see a community.

This lack of community along with the lack of values spawned from political and economic decision- making means, in my opinion, less of a barrier to pursuing individual self-interests.  Claims of community are empty for the black population where so-called community leaders and leading politicians have not been able to make heads or tails out of the centuries old relegation of blacks to the bottom of the political and economic totem pole. This major flaw in the community narrative is the cue for more blacks to “go their own way”, getting away from the false premise that skin color and pain throughout history should be enough to sustain monolithic thinking and poor political and economic gains.

Toward a New Political Market: Rewiring Democracy to Make Entry More Expensive

Democracy has created a political market where prospective providers of political packages challenge each other for the vote and indirect control of society. The perception that democracy is about equal expression of multiple voices within society creates an opportunity for prospective providers of political packages to delineate the market by creating different packages for a variance of voter: marital rights for the LBGTQ community; increased funding for and an increased number of social welfare programs; or progressive changes in affirmative action programs where greater access is created for middle to upper income white women. The reality of democracy, where democracy is an institution that allows more factions to vie for control of society in a bloodless transfer of power, would still result in factions delineating political markets and offering more packages only because the pot has to be sweetened to garner voters into a faction’s camp.

Is this expansion of the supply-side and demand-side of the political markets a bad thing? I believe the answer is yes for the following reasons.

First, the suppliers of political packages and the voters that demand them are creating an ever increasingly expanding State.  As an instrument of the State, government has expanded way beyond what the framers of the Constitution intended.  Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution provided limited duties for the government; limited duties that included providing post offices, a national defense, the regulation of domestic and foreign commerce, the coining of money and protection against counterfeiting, the regulation of bankruptcies, the promotion of science and useful arts, and establishing courts. Any other police powers would be left to the individual states.

Today, the federal government is involved in many parts of the individual American’s personal life. The federal government has weighed in on abortion; the regulation of marriage; on the use of contraceptives; the amount of privacy for sexual acts between consenting adults; the use of radio frequencies by individuals; who a proprietor may serve or not serve in her store; whether an individual must enter the markets to buy health insurance; the amount of information businesses must share with consumers; the amount of information companies must share with investors; and the manner in which a private corporation must manage its communications networks.

For the individual who is best able to determine and promote her personal and economic self-interests, this expansion comes with administrative rules and procedures. It comes with limits on individual experience, growth, and decision-making. It comes with limits on freedom.

The mention of freedom provides a segue to the second reason: taxation. Among Congress’ powers is the power to lay taxes. Even with the limited powers of the Congress, I would expect the amount of taxes levied and collected from Americans to grow along with the population of the United States and the infrastructure and other needs the government would be expected to provide. But along with extra-Constitutional supply of political packages comes the additional costs of supplying those packages and a heftier tax bill to go along with it.

The limited enumerated powers afforded to the U.S. government per the Constitution do not support social welfare programs such as social security, Medicare, or Medicaid, yet programs like these account for a significant and growing portion of federal government expenditures.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in fiscal year 2016, the federal government spent $3.9 trillion.  Social security spending accounted for 24% of federal budget spending. Together, Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and other medical aid subsidies accounted for 26% of federal budget spending. Safety net programs such as refundable portions of the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, supplemental security income, food stamps, school meals, and low-income housing assistance contributed nine percent of federal government spending.

For those believing that defense expenditures and aid to foreign governments take a larger share, think again. Military spending accounts for 16% of the budget. In addition, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, interest on money borrowed by the federal government amounts to six percent of the federal budget.

Approximately 84% of the fiscal year 2016 budget was financed by government revenues including taxes. Whether debt financing increases or not, Americans will still be on the hook for paying federal outlays or paying the debt as increased burdens due to increased programs and policies are crafted.

And the burdens will increase. Analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that the federal debt load as a percentage of gross domestic product will increase from 77% today to 96% by 2029.  Spending is expected to increase over the next ten years, from 20.8% of GDP in 2017 to 28.6% of GDP in 2027.

We have a political market place that is delivering tyranny. By creating more market participants, more issues are being spawned that lead to more expensive solutions chasing in some cases problems that do not exist. For the problems that do exist, the solutions that political packages promise are not blossoming. Democracy is failing. It is creating a society built on burden creation. A growing number of individuals no longer wish to carry the financial burdens the current representative democracy creates, especially when they are seeing no returns from their expenditures.

I propose one solution here for now: reduce the number of voters which will lead to a new voter base that providers of political packages will have to adjust to. The United States should require states to impose voter registration requirements every two years, with the registration closing one year before the midterm and general elections. Just like new immigrants are required to take a civics test in order to become naturalized citizens, Americans should be required to take a rigorous civics test in order to vote. Such a test will meet three goals.

First, a civics test will move the U.S. closer to ensuring a better-informed voter is entering the voting booth. In theory, a voter becomes a more effective citizen when they stay abreast of current political events and can apply critical thinking skills to assess those events. Today, this is just not happening.

Second, the required time to prepare and take the exam along with paying a nominal fee for taking the exam will leave the door open to only the most serious and informed voters. If democracy is to have any validity, shouldn’t participants demonstrate the concept’s importance by investing the time into taking the exam? Is this not the type of voter you want making decisions on leadership and issues placed in a referendum?

Last, a civics test challenges the very notion of democracy itself. I take to heart the following quote from Winston Churchill:

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

In today’s social media world, that argument extends into perpetuity given the overwhelming level of misinformation regurgitated by users of Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. I at times wonder why these individuals are allowed into a voting booth and indirectly cause the creation of policies that for the most part work against my freedoms and liberties.

Democracy needs a reboot. It might just need to be tossed, at least on the national level. ….

 

It’s not about suppressing black votes, Mr Booker. It’s about cutting off the Democratic Party’s meal ticket

Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, today raised an issue concerning Steve Bannon’s attempts to target black voters during the November 2016 elections. In testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Cambridge Analytica’s former director of research testified that Steve Bannon, former assistant to President Donald J Trump, sought to use data harvested by Cambridge Analytica as part of a campaign to discourage blacks from voting. Mr Booker wants us to ignore the possibility that more blacks are turning away from his party.

The reason for the butthurt over Mr Bannon’s alleged targeting of blacks has nothing to do with black voter suffrage per se. Mr Booker’s issue is that if Mr Bannon or others like him are successful in steering blacks either away from the polls or worse yet to other candidates, then the Democratic Party would be in serious trouble.

According to data compiled by BlackDemographics.com, a significant portion of the black population is affiliated with the Democratic Party. In 2012, 76% of the black population were affiliated with the Democratic Party, either calling themselves Democrats or aligning with Democratic principles or values. You would have to go back to 1968 to see the affiliation percentage exceed 90% (93%).

As for the percentage of blacks who vote for the Democratic candidate, between 1936 and 2012 that percentage was equal to or greater than 90% on four occasions; in the years 1964, 2000, 2008, and 2012. There are a couple data points that may be concerning Mr Booker and his colleagues. While a couple data points do not make a trend, they should be something to keep one’s eye on.

Back in 2000, seven percent of the black population affiliated themselves with the Republican Party. By 2004, that percentage more than doubled to 15%. A priori, that jump may have had to do with the U.S. involvement in a two-front war in the Middle East and George W. Bush’s ability to sell the U.S. on his ability to prosecute the war. Also, Mr Bush attempted to stimulate the economy during the 2001 to 2003 period via tax cuts and the one-time issue of checks to households.

By 2008, however, the portion of the black populace affiliated with the Republican Party fell to four percent, but the portion of blacks affiliated with “independent” climbed to 20%. Apparently, more blacks wanted to hedge against the probability of being on the losing side of history. Vote for the first black president without moving into the Democratic playpen. By 2012, black Republicans went back home with 16% of the black population affiliating with the Republicans.

What may be underlying these numbers is a change of heart and direction on the part of younger blacks when it comes to the Democratic Party. According to NPR, black voter turnout fell from 66.6% of blacks in 2012 to 59.6% of blacks in 2016. Over four million black voters stayed home and according to the NPR report part of the reason is that a growing number of blacks no longer believe they have a home in the Democratic Party. Blacks may no longer see voting as the best way to change their economic or social plight as the population still sees unemployment rates higher than whites and neighborhoods that are run down and facing abandonment.

No, Mr Booker. It appears that something more substantive is going on to turn away blacks from the poll other than a sponsored ad running on the right-hand side of a person’s Facebook page.

Politicians need to familiarize themselves with the new face of labor new technology has created

Too many politicians have been emphasizing employment in the area of technology and not paying enough attention to how technology has changed society and, in some ways, contributes to further divides in society. Nor are politicians demonstrating an understanding of the basic technological platform that underlies the economy and how this platform is evolving in order to produce at increasing efficiencies and higher returns on capital.

The Third Industrial Revolution described by thought drivers such as Jeremy Rifkin encompasses an integration of communications, energy, and transportation networks running on top of the internet of things. The internet of things is a digital world where it is projected in 12 years that 100 billion devices will be connected not just to the internet but to each other.  But this revolution is more than connectivity; it is about productivity and explaining the impact of greater productivity to the voter will be the tricky part for incumbent politicians and new entrants alike.

For example, the Trump Effect post the 2016 general election where markets responded positively to Mr Trump’s election was based on expected deployment of new transportation, energy, and communications infrastructure along with increased gross domestic output and incomes. The technology sector has been an overall darling of the market and politicians have been quick to tout the low hanging fruit of innovative new technology as a potential driver of economic growth.  And the numbers seem to support technology’s prominence.

American Entrepreneurship reported last March that since 2010, employment in the technology sector has expanded by 200,000 jobs annually. Approximately 11.5 million workers are employed by the tech sector, contributing $1.6 trillion to United States gross domestic product. Demand for tech workers is outstripping supply.

But even as demand for technology workers remains strong, the manufacturing sector, the one Mr Trump touts a lot on the continuous campaign stump, is seeing less hiring and ironically increased productivity. Pew Research reports that real employment in manufacturing fell from approximately 17.5 million in 1987 to 12.4 million in 2017, a decrease of 29%. During the same period, the real productivity index for manufacturing increased 81%.

Should politicians spend time providing workers a more balanced picture of the economy by educating workers on the need to pursue skillsets necessary for higher paying tech jobs? Yes, especially if they want to distinguish themselves as more trustworthy and knowledgeable about the economy than their opponent.

Properly educating the American worker (and hopefully garnering more votes as a consequence) will require politicians to explain the “productivity paradox.” In an article posted on Vox.com, Timothy B. Lee explains why the increase in innovation is apparently accompanied by a decrease in productivity. As technology innovates rapidly, progress is made in producing cheaper versions of items that have existed for decades. These items become more abundant with the savings eventually spent on more personal services items, items that are produced in slower growth industries.  Ironically, wages in these personal services areas, such as health care, child care, education, consulting, etc., trend upwards. A smaller number of producers will provide the nation’s material goods while slow growth industries take up a larger share of the national economy.

So, although productivity in manufacturing is increasing, the former factory worker will have to start looking for jobs in the slower growth areas of health, education, child care, and other personal services.  Had Republicans been frank during the 2016 campaign about the changes new technology is creating in the labor market, they would have been able to better neutralize criticisms from the left that current policies from the Trump administration are hurting the very people who voted for him. It is probably too late to make corrections to the lack of messaging on technology to avoid losses in the upcoming midterms but adjusting the narrative right after the midterm elections would be wise.

The Russian attack on democracy was ineffective because they don’t understand democracy.

American democracy is about the creation of a political marketplace where the taxpayer receives certain protective services in exchange for her vote. These services include police services, fire services, transportation services, commercial trade platforms, cultural services, legal and regulatory frameworks, and education services, to name a few. They are delivered by local, state, and federal governments and their costs are recovered by government in the form of property, sales, and income taxes and other fees.

Politicians squabble before, during, and after the election season on how best these services should be delivered, how much the government should pay to deliver them, and how much of the bill the taxpayer should foot for the government’s efforts. Classical liberal, progressive, and conservative philosophies collide during these debates and the clash of perspective is most apparent during election season when more people are paying attention. To secure the majority of voter approval for position and philosophy, politicians engage in the blood sport of electioneering, a blood sport that includes embellishments, character assassinations, and a lot of misinformation.

Reports abound of how a Russian firm, the Internet Research Agency, entered the political fray between 2014 and 2016 and used social media posts, tweets, and blogs to upset the elections. Their activity during an election year would have been business as usual were it not for their status as foreign agents conducting these activities. Whether or not they upset the political markets with their activity will be hard to determine.

For example, will investigators be able to say that the cost of the exchange of the vote for services increased due to Russian interference? I see no data that describes politicians seeking higher taxes for government spending as a result of any information provided by Russian trolls.

Did any information introduced into the political markets by the Internet Research Agency cause voters to leave the market? I have heard one argument that black voter participation fell because of Russian disinformation about Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton has drawn the ire of some blacks as a result of her description of black teenagers as “predators” and her Clinton Foundation taking financial advantage of earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. It is questionable whether any additional misinformation by the Russians could have created any further negative view of Mrs Clinton by blacks. She may have done enough on her own.

American democracy bases societal cohesion on the vote, the ability of the masses to elect its leaders. Leaders promise, as I laid out before, protective services. But what would happen to the democratically-based cohesion if the dependence of Americans on protective services were drastically reduced or eliminated? What if more Americans had 3-D printers and could manufacture their own tools or furniture? What if more Americans grew their own vegetables in their own apartments? What if more Americans were able to take advantage of devices that use unlicensed spectrum in order to form their own local communications networks and reduce their communications expenses? What if more Americans used solar or wind to energize their homes? What if engineers could design apartment buildings such that each unit could take advantage of solar energy?

A true attack on American democracy would be a demonstration of how to live independent of the political elites that thrive on the electorate’s unwillingness to be or ignorance of independence. Whether a democracy or an authoritarian regime, nation-states are about centralizing power. When they attack each other, destroying the core is all that is needed for the knockout punch. Given the Russian Federation’s history of allowing true freedom, an attack on democracy based on independent sovereignty would be thinking way outside the box.

No, American democracy was never really attacked by the Russians. It simply got poked by a player who didn’t have the legal credentials to enter the ring.