Decolonizing the United States Virgin Islands

It is time for the Trump administration to follow the lead of the British and cut a couple colonies loose. The one colony I would like the Administration to let go its own way is the United States Virgin Islands. One quick note, especially to Virgin Islanders who find it hard to believe that the United States looks at the USVI as anything more than a colony: your vehicle license plates. The inscription, “America’s Caribbean” is code for America’s colonial attitude toward the Virgin Islands.

Another piece of evidence is the refusal to allow American citizens living in the USVI to vote in presidential elections. USVI citizens go through the farce of sending delegates to a party convention but every four years in November they are not allowed to cast a vote in the general elections. Nor does the USVI have voting representation in the U.S. congress. Its one delegate, Stacey Plaskett, can be a member of a congressional committee, make speeches on the House floor even. But vote? No.

In addition, the USVI has no say over its external affairs. Although not a part of the U.S. customs territory, the USVI cannot enter into trade deals without the permission of the United States. The governing document for the Virgin Islands, the Organic Act of the Virgin Islands of the United States, 1954, is more of an instrument for the public administration of internal affairs under the auspices of the American congress and executive branch. With the exception of a brief discussion on the importation of infected livestock from the U.S. mainland and the placement of duties on articles imported into the Virgin Islands, the Organic Act does not empower the Virgin Islands in matters of foreign trade. Public administration of the Virgin Islands is as colonial as it gets.

But what are the benefits to the United States from colonizing the USVI? In August 1916, the United States entered into an agreement with Denmark to purchase the Danish West Indies as part of the American strategy to protect the western hemisphere from European invasion during World War II. This strategy continued into the years of the second world war. For example, the Cyril E. King International Airport on St. Thomas was the site of an old army airfield that was later named after U.S. president Harry S Truman. As a child growing up in St. Thomas in the 1960s and 1970s it was never surprising to see an attack submarine surface in the harbor at Long Bay or at the old submarine base a couple miles to the east of the harbor. As a teen-aged member of the Civil Air Patrol, I led a search and rescue exercise around Magens Bay, taking my team into an area that housed a satellite communications facility. I don’t remember if it was military, but we were spotted by a white woman in a VW Beetle who threatened to rat us out given our failure to give her an explanation as to why we were there. Needless to say, we hauled ass after completing our mission.

But today, in the 21st century, where the United States deploys nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines, satellite communications, and long-range jets, does the U.S. really need to use the Virgin Islands as a land-based aircraft carrier in the Caribbean Sea?

And given that the Virgin Islands keeps the federal income taxes it collects from its residents while enjoying limited social welfare benefits, the United States is probably losing a few billion dollars in tax and other revenues.

Politically, where is the benefit to either Democrats or Republicans in the United States from America’s Caribbean? Again, the delegate from the Virgin Islands is a non-voting member of the U.S. House. The thirty or so thousand eligible voters, while allowed to cast, in my opinion, a symbolic vote in the primaries and send delegates to the parties’ conventions, are not allowed to vote for president.

Culturally, the Virgin Islands do not add to America’s social fabric. While a significant portion of the population enjoy the trimmings of Americanism, from shopping to cable television to American sports, we are still, whether we are aware of it or not, still Caribbean. We live in two worlds with a significant “down island” portion of the population helping to keep our feet in the goings on of the Lesser Antilles. The Democrats would not want Virgin Islanders playing a significant role in their party politics. West Indians are more conservative than your run-of-the-mill American, and while most won’t admit it, do not share as close an affinity to black Americans as most would think, skin color notwithstanding.

Other than the prestige of saying that, like other European powers, they are in possession of overseas territories, I see no benefit to the United States in playing the empire game in the Caribbean. The United States should truly consider some decolonizing especially if it nudges my people to more self-determination.

White people need to stop beating up on themselves

America is a European nation. Its foundation is based on a “winner take all” philosophy, a philosophy honed during Europe’s “Dark Ages”; a philosophy that black Americans cannot come to terms with. Failure to come to terms with the legal, economic, and political paradigms that underlie the European outlook on the world has hampered the ability of black Americans to properly navigate the American political economy. In lieu of the conqueror philosophy exhibited by Europeans over the past 500 years, black Americans have chosen the path of assimilation and appeasement, deciding to make and rely on moral arguments in exchange for an easement granting access to limited civil rights and discounted economic opportunities. The result is a second-tier status of citizenship where black Americans are in constant reactive mode every time their limited civil rights and economic opportunities are threatened.

The perception that the current administration of President Donald J. Trump is working to destroy civil rights gains and set American society back 60 years has spawned black American reactive tactics over the past 18 months. Ironically, most black American responses to Mr. Trump have been done in conjunction with other groups that do not have black American interests as their priority.
One example is the alignment of Black Americans with the latest in white feminist initiatives, the “Me Too” movement, where a number of women have brought sexual harassment and assault claims against a number of prominent men in the entertainment, media, and business sectors. Not only is the vast majority of these women made up of whites, but these white women are nowhere to be found during black protests of police shootings, predatory mortgage financing, or closures of factories that employ a significant number of blacks.

The same can be said of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Queer Transgender community, a group that sees an outpouring of support by blacks especially on social media, but like their white female counterparts, are quick to find the closet when the issue is the economic and political attack on black existence in America.

Blacks, who have a ridiculous penchant for aligning with any group that has a touch of brown in their skin have found themselves on the immigration bandwagon, heading to the streets and the southern border to protest the latest “catch and release” policy of the Trump administration, specifically taking issue with Mr. Trump’s policy of separating young children from parents when they arrive at the Mexico-United States border. Black American political and civic leaders are good at pulling heart strings, a skill honed during the civil rights era and one that white liberals and progressives in the Democratic Party are happy to enlist and leverage. But again, where are their Central American “brothers and sisters” when blacks have their civil rights violated? I have yet to see or hear any heads of state from Central America go the floor of the United Nations and chastise the American government for their wrongs.

But while liberal white America may be happy to have black America chant the “kumbaya” when it benefits them, the rest of America may be weary of hearing moral, heart-tugging arguments. Many Americans can trace their family’s time in North America to the 17th and are not naïve as to why their ancestors came here and the worldview they applied in conquering America. In their eyes their ancestors did nothing wrong and may be tired of being forced to offer some apology for their ancestors’ behavior.

And I agree with them….

A people’s weakness is measured in part by their inability to chart and create their own expectations and not rely on another group’s willingness to exude goodwill. This is a flaw in black American philosophy, a flaw that blacks will have to address on their own without the help of white America. The early Europeans that traded for or in some instances kidnapped Africans as slaves were following their own worldview. Morality was not an issue for them, at least as it pertained to the treatment of Africans. Blacks are too busy asking the descendants of colonizing whites to deviate from a business model that has worked for them for the last 500 years. That is not happening. While I would never congratulate whites for their brutality towards non-Europeans, I would never hold them to my standards of morality or view of reality. I can merely acknowledge that they accomplished their mission.

Rather than seeking to keep white Americans on the perpetual guilt treadmill, black America should spend time rebooting their mission and white America can contribute to the black reboot by getting off of the guilt wagon. It does no one any good.

Of Trade Wars and Hot Mess

As I listen to U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, discuss with Bloomberg Television U.S. trade action against Canada and Mexico as inappropriate because of their statuses as allies to the United States, I have to ask myself, if they are allies and given the increase in costs consumers face because of tariffs, why not remove tariffs from all items imported?

The reality is that trade is war, no matter a country’s cultural or political affinity with its neighbor. Tariffs are barriers to markets. Canada and Mexico, just like China, are telling the U.S. to stay out of their markets unless invited to deliver a particular set of services or products. There are no allies in trade.

So why is the term “ally” used during these discussions? Ally is a term used to keep the “pawns” i.e. the electorate on board with destructive policies; to make voters feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves; that they are somehow a part of the decision making process.

In reality, the only “skin in the game” the electorate has is the skin, limbs, and lives they lose when a trade war becomes a live fire war

Liberty doesn’t need a strict constitutionalist. Liberty requires the Constitution be busted up

The rancor toward President Trump for his choice of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the next member of the United States Supreme Court is no surprise. Democratic members of the U.S. Senate, the body responsible under the United States Constitution for confirming Mr. Kavanaugh, probably had their Twitter statements pre-written and ready to be unleashed onto cyberspace.

On the other side, Republican senators and voters were already praising Judge Kavanaugh as a strict constructionist, an individual who stays within the four corners of the Constitution when seeking a rationale for deciding whether an act by a party to the controversy before the court violated the Constitution. This type of conservative treatment scares liberals who apparently prefer treat the Constitution as a living document that can be stretched and molded to conform with the social norms and mores of the time.

Progressives have long championed using the Constitution as a tool for creating rights and classes out of thin air much like the Federal Reserve prints cash out of the ether. The past 65 years have seen society segmented by race, sex, sexual preference, religious preference, and commercial classes and the federal courts have been used as the meat cleaver for slicing and dicing American society into not so equal classes, at times not delivering the justice members of these classes seek. In the case of the Supreme Court, its decisions are binding on the entire country, and therein lies the problem. By issuing opinions on areas outside its jurisdiction, the Supreme Court and all its inferior courts have contributed to the creation of a society connected by top down values and laws and an allegiance to a single, inorganic fealty. The Supreme Court and all its inferior courts are contributing to the demise of liberty.

Regarding the federal courts’ jurisdiction, from Article III, Section 2:

“The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; — to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; — to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; — to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; — to controversies between two or more States; — between a State and citizens of another State; — between citizens of different States, — between citizens of the same State claiming land under grants of different States, and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens or subjects.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, or other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a State shall be party, the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury, and such trial shall be held in the State where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.”

The first line of Article III, Section 2, gives an opening to parties that may want to take a local grievance, say between a cake baker and a gay couple in a town in Colorado, and use the federal courts to create a law that becomes applicable to citizens living thousands of miles away from the incident. The rest of the article severely limits the federal judiciary’s involvement in private lives.
I don’t think the limits go far enough.

Ideally, I want to see individuals take back their sovereignty by settling as many disputes as possible privately, outside the State mechanism of a court. If a federal court is going to be involved in solving disputes i.e. those involving diversity of residence, it should, as it does now, apply State law to the controversy. Otherwise, the final appellate body in any intrastate dispute, criminal or civil, should be a State’s highest court. A dispute in Maryland shouldn’t be resolved by a federal court opinion that holds that the opinion is applicable in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, or West Virginia. Federal courts should focus on controversies between the Executive and the Congress; between a State and the federal government; and between the States.

Kavanaugh’s views on abortion would be irrelevant of we knew that the federal court could not create national law out of local controversy.

Competition was never about protecting consumers.

I became suspect of the “competition protects consumer” narrative way back in 1987. In the spring of that year I started work part-time at a gas station. On the first day my manager explained to me how the gas station determined its gas prices. I told him I was under the impression that the station used some type of mathematical pricing formula ala what I learned in college as an economics major. “Bless” his heart. I can still see the look on his face when I laid that “what I learned in the classroom” nonsense on him. “No”, he said. “That’s not how you do it. What you do is each morning look across the street and see what the other station is charging and then change our prices to reflect theirs.”

It was a rude awakening for a 23-year old: that the theoretical stuff you learned as an undergrad was so much nonsense. That consumers of gas station fuel were being taken on a roller coaster ride of gas pricing based on what the gas station across the street was charging.

Of course, there are other factors that contribute to the changes in gasoline prices at the pump; the supply of oil, the price of a barrel of oil, decisions by oil supplying cartels, i.e. OPEC, the barriers to entering the local retail gas market, and regulations against price gouging. If local regulations allowed more retail gas operations to enter the market, in theory prices should fall. And if antitrust rules are enforced, retailers would be prohibited from acting in concert to raise prices. For the past 130 years this alleged consumer centric view of competition has dominated economic and legal thinking. As Americans left the farm and moved to the city, their self-reliance values were replaced by consumerist values. Americans became targets for a progressive philosophy that replaced self-reliance with the narrative of government protection. Trusts, large monopoly firms, had to be broken up to ensure that the emerging consumer class was not taken advantage of via high prices or low quality of services. “Competition” was to be the rallying cry.

But is competition as we know it today realistic or just a coopting of a term for political gain? What are firms really competing for and who does the promotion of competition actually benefit? In a corporate-capitalist system, analysis of any economic issue should begin with a question concerning the preferences of those holding capital. The entrepreneur and investor choose an activity that may result in increasing the amount of capital they hold at the end of the day. For the investor in particular she is concerned not primarily with consumer choice but with the ability of her capital to be placed and optimized in as many markets via as many opportunities as possible.

For the holder of capital, real competition is synonymous to the wealthy person in the Book of Matthew who gave his serfs a certain amount of talents and required that each one of them maximize returns on those talents. He wanted them to compete with each other like an episode from “The Highlander” with the victor receiving a portion of the returns in exchange for the labor they expended in generating those returns.

And the consumer’s role in this vendor competition? Simply, the consumer’s role is to be “coined.” Once the consumer gave up their willingness to be self-reliant, he put himself at the mercy of the entrepreneur and the investor. The consumer protection narrative is designed to ensure his comfort with exchanging personal and economic liberty with the convenience of having his needs provided by the capitalist. The illusion of choice makes him available for exploitation in the vendor competition scenario. The greater the number of consumers available for exploitation, the greater the opportunity for the entrepreneur to demonstrate to capital that it has the ability to maximize returns on and to capital. For the investor, this means that the larger the number of consumers, the more the market can be segmented and greater segmentation creates greater opportunities for creating monopolies within sub-markets. A monopoly structure leads, per microeconomic theory, to opportunities to increase prices. Contrary to the progressive narrative that a competitive market structure is the most desirable, a monopoly market structure is the ideal for entrepreneur and investor.

Consumer protection is valid only to the extent that it makes a buyer available for entrepreneur and investor exploitation. To limit the level of exploitation, the consumer should pursue self-reliance in as many areas of economic life as possible. It will require embracing more inconvenience in return for more peace and liberty.

Can Blacks use the law of discovery to carve out new territory and capital?

One of the failures of black leadership is its unwillingness to pursue a truly self-interested agenda for the people they allegedly represent. The current narrative of assimilation does not work. It puts blacks in an unequal and weak position compared to whites and other non-white populations who have pursued a capital acquisition policy first versus a political empowerment/assimilation approach still preferred by most blacks. It never discusses in any significant way the acquisition of productive capital around which communities can be built. Rather, the assimilationist argument centers on fluffy subjects such as social justice, membership of degreed blacks on the boards of white-owned corporations, and affirmative action in the workplace and in colleges and universities.

To be fair, a number of grass roots advocates do bring up the topic of access to capital by black-owned firms, but the problem is that business capital, whether in the form of loanable funds or equity investment is small compared to the number of black businesses in need of funding. Also, there is the risk that terms and conditions underlying the funding of black enterprise firms may not representative of the black population primarily because the boards that direct these underwriters are probably not members of the community in the first place. Just take a look at the names and faces of the members of the typical executive committee or board of directors and you see my point.

Blacks, as a people, simply are not calling their own shots. If you listen to the rhetoric of current black political leaders, liberty and freedom as it pertains to capital, are not a part of the lexicon. Black political leadership is more concerned with keeping blacks available to vote for white Democratic Party candidates as opposed to self-reliance. Probably in the minds of black political leadership, self-reliance would be akin to self-determination or nationalism and these leaders are afraid that such an approach would sever their attachment to America. But the attachment to America is false one, as I have argued before, because blacks did not come here voluntarily and apply the law of discovery.

To summarize Chief Justice John Marshall, the European came to North America but while acknowledging its Native American occupants, the law of discovery, of showing up first, gave title to the country making the discovery. That Native Americans were there first was irrelevant. Once, say England, made its discovery of what would later become the United States, it created a title that excluded claims by any other European power. Establishing this “title” over the land meant of course establishing control over its natural resources; land, air, water, minerals, the stuff that supports production, transportation, communications, energy generation and distribution.

To the activities that land, water, air, minerals, paid, indentured, and enslaved labor supported, the European was able to attach “coin”; to monetize. He would later create a centralized banking system to underwrite his government’s issue of debt as well as serve as the lender of last resort to commercial banks. The European’s financial system would, in conjunction with public sector investment, underwrite technological innovations that would further spur the design and production of consumer goods and services.

Blacks have been left largely out of the ownership of productive capital in the American political economy and as I have discussed in previous posts, it is too late and probably impractical to attempt any action under the laws of discovery for the purpose of acquiring the natural resources that underpin an economy that would support 43 million people on a self-sustainable, self-reliant way. But I do not think this is impossible.

Cyberspace provides “territory” that blacks can conquer and extract capital from. From the time I immigrated to the mainland I have always believed that blacks had the intellectual resources to construct their own vibrant economy. It boils down to a willingness of the black population to use broadband technology to connect to and import resources from outside of the United States and mixing those resources with the access to land, air, minerals, and water that blacks have here in the United States. It means the black population using its engineering skills to build a renewable energy infrastructure that provides electricity to its population. It means building communications networks using unlicensed to spectrum to tie black households to basic services. It means using the black population’s legal talent to advocate for laws that protect the importation of items into the United States that can be processed by plants designed and built in the U.S. by black engineers. It means using financial talent to reinvest these proceeds back into the black population and further growing its resources and income.

The great thing about applying the “law of discovery” to cyberspace is that no one has to be kicked out or enslaved. There is still plenty of territory to carve up; to reverse colonize but this time with equitable results.

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.

Is America a socialist country? And if it is, so what?

Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s The Last Word appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal this morning. One of the callers chastised him and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for supporting socialism. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez last week defeated Representative Joseph Crowley in the primaries for the 14th district. The 14th district is heavily Democratic, having favored Democratic presidential candidates all the way back to William J. Clinton. Sixty-one percent of the 14th district’s voter population is black or Latino. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is favored to win and Establishment Democrats are not too excited about a Bernie Sanders supporter (Ms. Ocasio-Cortez worked on Senator Sanders’ campaign) infiltrating the halls of Congress.

Republicans may see this single win as a virus that is about to spread through the Democratic Party and may position themselves as the cure. While Nancy Pelosi may express outwardly a lack of concern about a democratic socialist win in a single district, democratic socialism has attracted more attention since the November 2016 election as an alternative to a Democratic Party that has been enjoying a quarter of a century of corporatization.

No doubt Establishment Republicans are enjoying the schism being caused by a socialist insurgency, but I sense run-of-the mill conservatives within and outside the Republican Party like the C-SPAN caller are concerned that a seemingly increasing number of young people are moving toward socialist philosophy. Mr. O’Donnell adroitly addressed the caller’s vitriol arguing that the United States has a political economy that mixes certain aspects of market and centrally planned economies. Conservatives tend to focus on the anti-freedom approaches of socialism such as limited speech, and a lack of universal suffrage at the voting booth. They focus on the brutality of a socialist State toward dissidents, currency manipulation, and closed access to economic markets. They assume that socialism is the only top-down, lock down system on the planet.

They are wrong.

Just one look at America’s monetary system alone should tell a critical thinker that the economy of the United States is top-down and centrally planned. Most people do not issue their own currency. That job is for America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve. See mortgage rates going up and you can reasonably tie some action by the Fed to your pain. And while Republican members of Congress scream about free markets and alleviating the tax burdens of entrepreneurs, they add to the entrepreneur’s burdens by increasing budget deficits creating spending gaps that have to be filled by more borrowing which increases demand for loanable funds which leads to higher interest rates which leads to businesses facing increased barriers to entry into the credit markets. This is top down, centrally planned, oppressive economics in American form.

And let’s not forget our tax system. Talk about centrally planned. Have you ever been asked to give direct insight and opinion on whether your marginal tax rate or effective tax rate should be increased? Of course not. America’s version of the National People’s Congress does that, with the only difference between China’s legislative body and America’s is the frequency of meetings and the amount of checks they place on their executive.

Conservatives would argue that the American electoral system is indicative of an open democracy. That fallacy has been exposed twice in the past eighteen years where the “people’s choice” lost because a small body of unknown electors decided five weeks after a presidential election who the winner was and had that decision certified three weeks later by members of Congress. Top-down. Centrally planned.

Lastly, if Obamacare didn’t convince you that your healthcare finance system is centrally planned, then the history of Medicare should inform you as to the impact and influence the federal government has on the insurance industry. Medicare opened up two markets for the private insurance industry: the administrative services market, where private insurers invested in and provided the administrative infrastructure for serving an influx of newer patients, and underserved market of people over the age of 65 and medical insurance supplemental market, where insurance services gaps in Medicare are filled by private insurers. It is hard for conservatives to argue that the free market met these needs when on the contrary government action created the markets and the opportunity for private insurers to increase revenues.

You can probably find more examples, but the point here is that too many Americans express their lack of economic literacy when wailing about the ills of central planning. While I don’t want to give liberals credit for much, they do make a point when clarifying that the United States’ economy is a mixed one and expose the irony that many critics are likely enjoying some of these socialist programs themselves.

When asked to choose an “ism”, my response is either one, whether socialism or capitalism, represents top down suppression of individual choice because government exercises an inordinate amount of influence under either paradigm. The individual has no say in the crafting of policy in either framework. It is a take it or leave it scenario either way. The questions conservatives should be asking themselves is, can I create a better benefit for myself on my own terms?

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.

What Woodrow Wilson left out of the definition of public administration: capital

Back in 1887, Woodrow Wilson wrote an essay on the importance of the study of administration of government. Mr. Wilson, who would go on to become president of the United States, is usually referred to as the father of public administration. By his definition:

“Administration is the most obvious part of government; it is government in action; it is he executive, the operative, the most visible side of government, and is of course as old as government itself. It is the object of administrative study to discover, first, what government can properly and successfully do, and secondly, how it can do these things with the utmost efficiency and the least possible cost either of money or of energy.”
Other scholars have offered their tweaks on the definition. Charles H. Levine, B. Guy Peters, and Frank J. Thompson define public administration as:

“[T]he implementation of government policy and an academic discipline that studies this implementation and that prepares civil servants for this work.” It is “centrally concerned with the organization of government policies and programs as well as the behavior of officials (usually non-elected) formally responsible for their conduct.”

George J. Gordon and Michael E. Milakovich define public administration as:

“… all processes, organizations, and individuals (the latter acting in official positions and roles) associated with carrying out laws and other rules adopted or issued by legislatures, executives, and courts.”

And Melvin J. Dubnick and Barbara S. Romzek provide the following take on this branch of political science:

“The practice of public administration involves the dynamic reconciliation of various forces in government’s efforts to manage public policies and programs.”

Looking back on my public administration studies and my time as a practitioner, I can say that the above definitions capture the various facets of the discipline; that academics and practitioners do not vary much from these definitions when either studying the administration of public policy or carrying out public policy and managing institutional systems. The problem, however, with the study and practice of public administration in a market-oriented political economy is that the study of public administration rarely if ever addresses public administration’s impact on private capital, specifically, how management of public capital positively impacts returns to private capital.

In getting to his description of public versus private capital, Thomas Piketty first describes national capital “as the total market value of everything owned by the residents and government of a given country at a given point in time, provided it can be traded on some market.” National wealth includes land, dwellings, commercial inventory, other buildings, machinery, infrastructure, patents, bank accounts, mutual funds, stocks, bonds. Mr Piketty found that public capital or public wealth are assets and liabilities held by government and other social entities including towns and other social insurance agencies while private capital or wealth is made up of assets and liabilities held by individuals.

One question that public administration does not address is how best to deploy public capital to boost returns to private capital. While there is literature discussing how public sector spending can boost gross domestic product or even productivity, the study of public administration silos itself by discussing fiscal policy, infrastructure, and public goods, and leaving the discussion of private capital to the markets.

Why is this discussion necessary? Public sector spending needs discipline. How many of us have asked the federal government to provide a cost analysis of each tax dollar we spend and then provide some data on returns on that tax dollar? I wager none. But if public spending on the public goods that act as inputs for private sector production was done at low cost to the tax payer while providing a low cost input for the private sector, could public administration play a more meaningful role in the production of returns on private capital?

It is a question worth pursuing.