Most of us realize that President Trump can at times be rude and crude and inarticulate. He is frequently not careful with his words. He can be a braggart. He insists that allegories like “the wall” are totally literal. He has been called a lot of nasty names even though in his personal and private dealings he has been a friend and mentor to many of both sexes and all races. Given all this, it is completely fair in our free society that many say, “I do not like this man!”
As Paul Harvey so famously said, “Now lets hear the rest of the story.”
The Middle East
The Middle East has been in crisis since the 1940s. The United States did not create this problem, but neither have we solved it. Our appetite for oil has created huge bank accounts for tyrants who do not share our values for freedom and dignity of all citizens. We have funded both sides of the Arab-Israeli crisis and exaggerated it by thinking we could broker or dictate a solution. Billions we gave to Iran have funded terrorists in the Middle East and across the globe. We created a power vacuum in Iraq that ISIS filled. We promised “red lines” in Syria and declared ourselves impotent when they were crossed. We have weakened ourselves by putting too much of our debt in the hands of those who might use that leverage against us. This is history. It is not news.
The real news is that in the last eighteen months The United States has accelerated energy production and exports, fulfilling promises of energy independence by every president from Eisenhower through George W. Bush. We have fulfilled the empty promise of several presidents to recognize the fact that Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. ISIS has been deprived of their territory and any basis for a caliphate. We have ended the empty mythology that the Iran agreement did more than pause their nuclear ambitions and renewed sanctions on Iran for their terrorist mischief. We have fostered communications between Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt and Jordan that are strengthening to the benefit of all in that alliance and weakening to Palestinian and Iranian terrorist regimes. We have shown Syria and Russia and whoever else is watching that crossing a red line has serious consequences. All this has been accomplished with less American military engagement or casualties than any previous eighteen-month period in this century. Perhaps the importance of all this news is under reported because it does not fit the narrative that our President is a warmonger and an inept diplomat.
For more than a generation we have complained about the need for tax reform. Corporate taxes were too high. We were making ourselves un-competitive, driving American corporations into inverse overseas acquisitions and incenting them to amass and invest cash overseas. Personal taxes were too complicated and many deductions served the prosperous too well, offsetting the graduated rates and often making the structure regressive. Remember Warren Buffet’s secretary paying a higher rate than he? Remember Obama’s Simpson Bowles Commission recommendations in 2010, promptly ignored by the President and Congress. Our obsolete and convoluted tax structure is old news.
The real news is tax reform that keeps American Corporations in America and incents them to bring their capital back home to invest. The entire tax structure has been streamlined and big tax subsidies for big consumers have been reduced. The huge news is that this imperfect new law did not receive the vote of a single democrat in Congress. Yet, along with removal of strangling regulation, tax reform has unleashed the economy. Just two years ago all the economists and pundits were telling us to get used to the “new normal” of two percent annual growth. Candidate Trump’s promise of three percent growth, derided then as a foolish lie, will be exceeded this year and dwarfed in 2019.
Since President Reagan opted for amnesty, he and every subsequent president has complained that we did not finish fixing immigration. Uncontrolled borders and other points of entry do not permit us to welcome those who should be welcomed or withhold entry from those who would harm or have harmed us. They encourage an underclass of immigrants regardless of their individual merit. They invite tragedies of mass in migration of people who cannot or will not contribute and who frequently are not able to care for themselves. When large numbers of people are displaced anywhere in the world, many often travel to our borders seeking their freedom or our rescue or our destruction. President Clinton had such a crisis and pleaded in vain for legislation. Neither President Bush did anything. President Obama promised and did not deliver immigration reform. He could not solve his crisis within existing law, so he ignored both the crisis and the law. The problem is not news.
The real news is that we are now enforcing existing laws. Doing so helps to stem the tide and makes it more obvious that change in the law is needed. Candidate Trump was derided for saying “Even Sweden has a serious immigration problem.” Now it seems that not just Sweden, but all of Europe is seeking a wall of protection against the tsunami of refugees. Meanwhile, a lunatic fringe in America gets press time for their claim that our Immigrant and Customs Enforcement is terrorism and illegal immigrants are their victims. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing; it protects nonsense as well as wisdom!
President Clinton bragged about solving the problem of nuclear weapons in North Korea, and paid dearly for hollow promises. President Obama bragged about his fabulous Iran deal, but he made no effort to sell it on its merits to Congress or to the American people. The truth is that neither deal had even the appearance of permanence nor did either contain a workable regimen for enforcement. Many of the resources for nuclear proliferation came from Pakistan where the nuclear genie came out of the bottle in 2005 when we sanctioned nuclear power in India, or perhaps even before that. Yet we have done nothing to stem this source. Nuclear proliferation has been a known and growing threat to our civilization under the watch of at least the last four presidents. There is nothing new here.
The real news is we now realize nuclear proliferation cannot be stopped by enriching its perpetrators. Instead of bribery and polite conversation we offer Little Rocket Man a choice of economic participation with his neighbors in a de-nuclearized Korea, or defeat and embarrassment or worse. Through the miracle of sanctions and invisible diplomacy, China and South Korea punctuate the message. This process is just beginning and the outcome still to be determined, but the overt threats and the missiles flying over Japan have gone quiet. The state controlled press in North Korea is speaking of economic prosperity tied to a de-nuclearized Korea. New conversations are continuing between North and South Korea. Sanctions will be relaxed only to the extent real progress is verified. There is no conversation about big checks or planeloads of cash from Uncle Sam.
In Iran the Obama largesse has ended. New sanctions have the goal of impoverishing the mullahs’ programs for nuclear and conventional terrorism. This comes at a cost to American and European oil companies. American Corporations seem to understand that the risk of inaction is unacceptable. European governments do not seem willing to pay the price, just as they have not paid their share of NATO defense bills for generations. Perhaps the most important real news is that holding our friends accountable to their responsibilities is not unfriendly. If Europeans are really our allies, they fully understand this.
Prior to 1977 America had no trade deficits. During the last eight years alone we accumulated trade deficits in excess of four trillion dollars. Some who claim to be economists tell us this does not matter because merchandise and services deficits have been offset by financial flows back in our direction. Yet this four trillion dollars came back only to buy our assets. It bought American real estate and American corporations. It bought factories in America and American Treasury Bonds. This is no different than the household that spends more for goods and services than they earn, and makes it up by mortgaging the house and selling the family jewels. It is not sustainable. It is not news that it will end badly.
The World Bank calculates a purchasing power conversion factor (PPP) for every country. If official exchange rates represented the real value of currencies, this index would always be 1.0. China’s PPP is 1.791, meaning that if you convert your dollar to yuan, you can purchase 55 cents worth of stuff in China. Coming from China, if you convert .55 yuan to dollars, you can purchase one yuan worth of stuff in America. For pointing out this obvious indication of currency manipulation, and the pervasive theft of intellectual property by the Chinese, candidate Donald Trump was derided and declared nasty, tactless and un-diplomatic.
The real news is that this regimen for impoverishing America is now being addressed. Today we have the most overvalued currency of our trading partners, partly because we have the lowest tariffs. We have come to this point by irresponsible neglect of our vital interests and sloppy negotiations with international organizations and trading partners.
The most distressing news is how few people understand that disrupting this regimen will necessarily cause pain today, but ignoring it will cause far more pain to many more people tomorrow. It is an equal wonder that when over 50% of the worlds steel supply comes from China, much steel from many countries almost surely comes first from China. It is truly a shame that many who know better still claim that a flat world cannot be slanted or crooked.
In many theaters including those described above: The Middle East, Tax Reform, Immigration, Nuclear Proliferation and Trade our government has huge challenges. In each of these and others prior administrations have ignored risks, frequently blundered and consistently deceived the electorate. Recently, there is irrefutable progress on each front, against formidable and inexplicable opposition. Yet little credit is given in the media. Each story about action or solutions seems to be punctuated with commentary about the ineptness or hatefulness or disorganization or opacity of Donald Trump. This triumphant partisanship is not unique in American History, but it is worth exploring its relationship to the much-maligned general rise of incivility.
Contempt for the electorate is not at all the same as contempt for individuals in the opposition. It is very different. What does it say when a leader in a free society expresses contempt for the electorate, or thinks and speaks of large blocks of the electorate as separate and unequal? Does that thought process not contradict the first principal that we are all created equal? Does it not invite incivility and excuse violence both from those deemed inferior and those deemed superior? Does it not invite a weakening of all institutions founded on the premise that we are all equal? Does it not weaken the bonds of our democratic tradition and strengthen notions of discord, tribalism and racism? Are too many of our citizens heeding messages of discord that come in the form of condemnations of the electorate fundamentally different from and unacceptable within historic civil, or even partisan political dialogue. Two dramatic examples are often quoted.
In 2008, candidate Barack Obama said, ”And, it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion and antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment to explain their frustrations.” This was not a policy argument or a criticism of his opponent. It was a contemptuous declaration against the electorate he was proposing to serve. It was a granting of permission, a forthright demand for incivility and contempt by his supporters against “inferiors” among them.
In 2016, candidate Hillary Clinton declared that half of Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables.” She labeled the deplorables “irredeemable”, describing them as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic-you name it.” This too was not a policy argument or a criticism of her opponent. It was a contemptuous declaration against the electorate she was proposing to serve. It was a granting of permission, a forthright demand for incivility and contempt by her supporters against “inferiors” among them.
Perhaps denouncing these destructive calls to action and celebrating positive changes resulting from disruption of the status quo would better serve us all.
July 8, 2018
Granddad’s Dictionary: Reflections on Life in America
by Michael Moffitt
ISBN: 978-1-4908-2916-6 (sc)
Published April 7, 2014
Michael Moffitt is the author of Granddad’s Dictionary: Reflections on Life in America. In addition he has been an inventor, entrepreneur and community leader. He received a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.
Rather than accepting partisan stances, Moffitt encourages Americans to reflect on how they can come together as “We the People” to make real change happen. He believes that by coming together and looking to history and the values of our Founding Fathers, we can revitalize our nation.
I want to make a real difference in the way people think about the relationship between morality and politics and the need to focus on “We the People” versus the government and what it needs to do for me. “Granddad’s” reflections is meant to inspire younger generations of Americans to think independently and rationally about events and trends in their country. I encourage readers to investigate current events and policies and come to their own conclusions through rational discussion and independent thinking, rather than letting others think for them.
Articles at Magic City Morning Star