This Week’s Part 3 Delves into Financial Insecurity & International Flare-Ups…Before getting into our commentaries & articles on the sad reality of American financial insecurity for far too many, there are 3 areas with this presidency I was hoping Trump’s dealmaking prowess would actually do some good, having to do with North Korea, Iran & China.  If Trump could somehow find a way to stop the North Korean & Iranian nuclear weapons programs, &/or strike a trade deal with China leveling the playing field & preventing the theft of intellectual property, he’d have a chance to leave a legacy which actually features some immensely positive impacts. 
 
So let’s do a progress report on how all that is coming along.  The articles from the newsfeeds below indicate Trump is struggling to make deals on any of these fronts, while lacking a sense of urgency to where he may be willing to play out the string without any resolutions until his term is up.  No wonder the Art of the Deal ghost author has recently declared that book attributed to Trump should be reclassified as fiction.  Any of these link titles below can be found on the search engines, since we’re saving our allotment of outbound links for the enlightening economic articles about financial insecurity further below.
 
 
North Korea
 
Trump had previously said after their summit last year North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat plus him & Jong Un had fallen in love.  Well, it looks like their love affair has hit a rocky patch.  They’re shooting off test missiles again while we confiscated one of their cargo ships, as tensions have gotten higher than ever:
 
vox/north-korea-missile-test-trump
 
independent/north-korea-south-missiles-short-range-tests-disarmament-talks-trump-latest
 
businessinsider/ap-explains-whats-behind-rare-us-seizure-of-n-korea-ship
 
theatlantic/trump-and-kim-might-not-save-us-north-korea-diplomacy
 
theweek/diplomacy-boring-trump-white-house
 
thedailybeast/north-korea-holds-gi-corpses-hostage-tests-missiles-keeps-nukes-the-trump-kim-romance-is-so-so-over
 
yahoo/north-korea-fired-unidentified-projectile-souths-military-us-announces-ship-seizure-as-tensions-mount
 
 
Iran
 
I was never a big fan of the Iran deal orchestrated by the Obama-Kerry team, but pulling out of that deal without a suitable substitute only serves to green-light Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  They are proceeding ahead with enriching uranium as the drumbeats of war are starting to build, which we’ve sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf in trying to counter Iranian threats.  Trump is the chaos president, but chaos can turn catastrophic when it comes to peace & war:
 
apnews/50fee765f1a543ee88d9b9969ace0c44/iran-threatens-more-uranium-enrichment
 
theguardian/trump-iran-nuclear-deal-us-withdrawal
 
theguardian/donald-trump-iran-nuclear-deal-blame
 
businessinsider/us-show-of-force-to-iran-even-more-weapons
 
motherjones/trump-is-getting-dangerously-close-to-war-with-iran
 
vanityfair/trump-foreign-policy-is-having-a-very-bad-week-venezuela-north-korea-iran-bolton
 
theatlantic/trump-uses-maximum-pressure-north-korea-and-iran
 
usatoday/trump-foreign-policy-foiled-amid-new-crises-iran-north-korea-venezuela
 
 
China
 
I’ve always given Trump a pass on the China trade wars, since their underhanded manipulations have been picking our pockets & stealing our manufacturing jobs for decades.  So Trump is the first president to stand up to China, something that should have been done a long time ago.  The question is whether the strong posturing will result in an equitable trade deal, or only end up sabotaging the entire world economy.  A deal remains elusive as the trade war escalates, with many innocent victims feeling the pain like family farms.  The prez has jacked up tariffs on many Chinese imports from 10 to 25%, which the added costs are not so much paid by China as U.S. consumers:
 
businessinsider/china-deleted-chunks-of-trade-deal-it-didnt-like-angered-us-report
 
theguardian/us-china-trade-deal-tariffs-markets-talks
 
newsmax/gundlach-china-tariffs-bear
 
thebulwark/trump-drops-the-fig-leaf-on-trade
 
yahoo/trump-apos-china-tariff-threat-could-be-his-riskiest-trade-move-yet
 
yahoo/us-china-break-off-latest-trade-talks-without-a-deal
 
yahoo/trump-declares-himself-favorite-of-all-time-as-new-round-of-china-tariffs-take-hold
 
yahoo/trade-war-china-could-hit-you-higher-prices-lost-jobs-falling-stocks

 

msn/trump-says-in-no-rush-for-china-trade-deal-defends-tariffs

 

thehill/five-things-to-know-about-trumps-trade-war-with-china
 
vanityfair/trump-china-tariffs-trade-war
 
slate/trumps-trade-war-with-china-has-been-a-complete-failure
 
huffpost/donald-trump-foreign-policy-challenges-mounting
 
bloomberg/trump-may-see-no-rush-on-china-trade-talks-but-ceos-do
 
nytimes/opinion/trump-tax-china-tariff
 
nytimes/opinion/killing-the-pax-americana

 

washingtonpost/trumps-explanation-trade-fight-with-china-is-wrong-remarkable-number-ways
 
washingtonpost/the-danger-of-dabbling-in-protectionism

 

washingtonpost/trumps-tariffs-once-described-as-negotiating-tools-may-be-here-to-stay
 
rawstory/trump-buried-in-scorn-for-simple-advice-to-manufacturers-to-make-their-products-in-the-us-tell-that-to-your-daughter-idiot
 
rawstory/foxs-shep-smith-drops-a-truth-bomb-on-trump-for-claiming-china-is-the-one-being-hurt-by-his-trade-wars
 
dailykos/Trump-escalates-global-trade-war-with-China-as-American-taxpayers-and-farmers-foot-the-bill
 
 
Trump gets Unwarranted Credit for the Economy
 
On the domestic front, Trump is basically not doing anything.  Not on health care, not on infrastructure, not on education or worker training, not on immigration, not on gun safety, & not on clean energy.  The deregulations have likely helped the economy, but that’s a double-edged sword when done so haphazardly, creating unknown hazards to product safety, worker safety & the environment.  Sure, the tax cuts have temporarily juiced the economy through deficit spending, but that’s a bad trade-off in the long run.  This ridiculous myth Trump helped create a booming economy needs to be put to bed: alternet.org/2019/05/the-economic-myth-that-has-to-die-if-democrats-hope-to-win-back-the-white-house
 
As seen inside yahoo.com/finance/news/charlie-munger-trump, the underlying strength in the economy didn’t come so much from Trump policies, but from the trajectory of many years of job growth & trending lower unemployment rates which finally got us to a place approximating full employment: washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/05/07/how-trump-tries-obscure-strong-economy-he-inherited.  We have recently seen strong wage growth at the very top (which is always the case) & at the very bottom (which is new), but the middle class remains largely stuck with wage stagnation: axios.com/mystery-sluggish-wages
 
 
Financial Insecurity & Uncertainty are All Too Real
 
I’ll be the first to confess we need the wealthy to have the resources to invest back into the economy to keep things humming, but the pendulum has swung way too far in the direction against workers.  More than ever capital has become king & labor is exploited.  The chronic structural problems of incomes & participation rates being stuck in the mud aren’t going away without smart intervention, while roughly half the working population continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck & don’t have a few hundred extra dollars available for an emergency: rawstory.com/2019/05/heres-the-real-reason-american-workers-have-it-so-hard
 
It’s pathetic the prevailing narrative continues to report this as a booming economy based on a narrow set of criteria, since we’re still not making a dent in the most pressing areas, while political leadership sit on their hands not wanting to make waves.  So strong data on GDP, job growth & low unemployment only tells part of the story: dailykos.com/stories/About-the-recent-unemployment-rate-headlines.  The bigger story has been decades of stagnant wages in conjunction with higher living expenses in many sectors, putting the squeeze on working middle class families mired in the stress of financial insecurity.  Politicians should get the message it’s time to get to work, since at least half the population still aren’t benefiting from this current economy. 
 
So seeking real solutions for these ongoing structural problems are where we should call out our political leadership & hold them accountable.  They should be pushing for good ideas such as seen in newsmax.com/finance/streettalk/buffett-earned-income-credit.  I’ll stress again, financial insecurity simply stems from a long-term trend of basic living expenses generally rising faster than incomes.  This grim reality should not be happening in a mega-wealthy country like America.  The dilemma of decades of sluggish incomes is articulated very well in this first part of the article taken from washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/05/08/recent-wage-trends-are-impressive-their-levels-not-so-much:
 
 

In a job market like ours, with low union coverage and weak worker bargaining power, it takes persistently low unemployment to drive up the income of low- and moderate-wage workers. The chart distills the problem well by comparing the growth of different types of earners. The most striking finding, obviously, is the rise in wage inequality: Regardless of labor market conditions, the top just keeps pulling ahead. But the other lines tell an important story, too. Since the early 1980s, there have been just two periods of real growth for these low and middle-wage workers: the high-pressure labor markets of the latter 1990s, and now. But you can’t really tell how low-income, working families are doing by looking at trends in figures like this one. You can tell that their real pay is going up, which for less-advantaged workers is a big deal. For too long, wage growth has been a spectator sport for these folks. But you can’t tell if they’re making enough for them and their families to get by, much less prosper. For that, you must look at not just wage trends, by wage levels: the dollar values underlying the lines in the figure. Then you must compare that wage to the cost of maintaining a living standard that most of us would consider reasonable.

 

Consider, for example, the level of the 20th percentile wage, a good proxy for the earnings of low-wage workers. In 2018, it was about $12. For someone working full-time, full-year that comes to around $24,000. Now, that’s above the poverty line for, say, a single parent with two kids (about $20,000), but the poverty line is completely outdated and unrepresentative of what’s needed to make ends meet, especially in metro areas. Based on that recognition, analysts have created family budgets: geographically specific measures of what families of different types would need to not just get by, but to afford decent housing, quality child care, non-skimpy health care, food and so on. For Ohio, the MIT budget calculator for a parent and two kids comes to about $56,000 before taxes, about the state’s median income. For Washington, D.C., that family would need about $70,000. Based on 2018 wage levels, even the median wage, which yields a full-time, full-year pretax income of about $38,000, falls way short. Why do the budgets come in so much higher than the poverty line? Because the poverty line is based on the price of food in the 1950s, whereas the family budgets price out the full, contemporary market basket faced by working families with kids. The fact that the Ohio budget is about the same as the state’s median income doesn’t mean that half of Ohioan families are poor. Rather, it suggests that based on their earnings and on reasonable estimates of the costs of meeting their families’ basic needs, many come up short when trying to meet those basic needs.

 
 
Short Bits
 
Even billionaires when they’re being honest with themselves know full well the system is rigged in their favor:
Some good ideas are contained within this link on how we can fundamentally change our system:
 
Fed Chair knows Income Growth & Upward Mobility must improve:
 
Much like the federal government, consumers are now relying more on escalating debt:
 
There is no Morning in America with Trump:
 
Blowing up another balloon-bubble to pop someday?:

 

 There’s plenty of evidence Trump policies are hindering rather than helping the economy as revealed in these articles:

 
 
Put Ideas on the Table
 

Make no mistake, what most Dems are proposing is not socialism: washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-democratic-socialist-agenda-is-appealing-no-wonder-trump-attacks-it.  If you will call it progressive capitalism instead, which not all their ideas are sound, but we should at least have a honest discussion about them.  It sure would beat the GOP’s hands-off approach of basically doing nothing & ignoring the problems: thinkprogress.org/gop-senate-majority-isnt-even-pretending-to-legislate.

 
 
Rigged System Works Against Many Different Groups of Americans
 
There are so many demographic sectors of the economy where Americans are being ignored or taken advantage of, robbing them of real opportunity & the chance of achieving the American Dream (hear the Shattered Dreams song at the bottom).  Here are some examples describing their financial insecurity…
 
Contract Workers:
 
The Underemployed:
 
Rural Residents:
 
 
 
Students piling up College Debt:
 
Moms (Happy Mother’s Day):

usatoday.com/in-depth/news/nation/2019/05/09/working-moms-motherhood-stress-parenting-good-mom-childcare-daycare-costs-maternity-leave-gender-gap

 
 
Fix Gerrymandering
 
Here in Ohio, we’re hoping to establish a sensible model for drawing up congressional districts in a bipartisan or nonpartisan way, putting an end to the scourge of gerrymandering.  News from these articles on an important court ruling offers a hopeful first step, which may wind up being decided by the Supreme Court:
 
 
 
 
Phony Puerto Rico Numbers
 
 
Trump’s claim of $91 billion going to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief is a total lie.  The actual number is closer to $11 billion, which is less than 10% of what the Gulf Coast got in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  I still question whether Trump realizes those island residents are indeed Americans: apnews.com/587202f6106f48579a4f5406b841da26/trump-brings-puerto-rico-fiction-to-florida
 
 
Energizing Dem Voters
 
The #1 single-biggest motivator for the Dem base isn’t so much a major issue like health care or climate change, but topping the list above all else is defeating Trump.  That may be at the core of why Biden has such a high poll standing (although it’s still very early), since for now he’s seen as a safe choice to beat Trump.  Here are some good signs as we head towards 2020:
 
 
 
In a report that tracks such voter trends, it’s encouraging to note the Dems (given a quality nominee) are in the driver’s seat for 2020 to defeat Trump, assuming the Trump presidency even lasts that long.  See this conclusion posted from nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/05/obama-trump-voters-are-turning-on-president-study-2020-poll explaining why many of the Obama-to-Trump voters are likely to swing back to Dems out of disgust:
 

In its latest report, the VSG illuminates one critical shift hiding beneath Trump’s sturdy support: He has lost significant ground with Obama-to-Trump voters. In the project’s 2016 survey, 85 percent of such voters held a “favorable view of the president.” In its latest one, that figure fell to 66 percent. That may not sound like a lot, but, as we’ve observed, it won’t necessarily take a lot to change the course of history. “Even small movement among these voters — who represented 9 percent of voters in 2016 — may prove significant heading into the 2020 presidential election,” the VSG’s research director Robert Griffin writes in the report. “Obama-Trump voters are also disproportionately white, non-college educated and, as a result, are likely to be well distributed geographically for the purpose of electoral impact.” Meanwhile, Trump’s standing seems to have improved among NeverTrump Republicans — defined as Romney voters who went third party in 2016 — although this fraction of the electorate is so small that its modestly shifting views do not cross the threshold of statistical significance.

 

The report also appears to confirm that there is a hard ceiling on Trump’s support. Only 49 percent of voters have ever approved of Trump’s performance at any time since he took office. Which means that even if “Trump was able to regain a favorable rating from every American who had previously offered a positive opinion of him in the last two years, this would still only represent about half of Americans.” Finally, the report provides a (highly limited) form of evidence that the electorate’s most ambivalent voters could opt for change in 2020: The vast majority of Americans — including most independents and Republicans — “are more likely to report negative emotions when they think about politics” now than they were before Trump’s election. Roughly three-quarters of the public say that they “feel disgusted” when they think about their nation’s politics. All else being equal, that seems like an undesirable state of affairs for the incumbent.

 

Shattered Dreams
 
Drowning in financial insecurity, this is what millions of American families are dealing with every day of their lives.  It’s led to an untold number of broken households, broken relationships, broken promises & broken hopes.  They’ve come to know a life of stress & uncertainty, having to come to grips with & thinking so much for the empty promises, they died the day they let me go, caught up in a web of lies, but it was just too late to know.  As a nation, America must aspire to do better than this for their citizens.  Another verse from the song says:
 

Woke up to reality
And found the future not so bright
I dreamt the impossible
That maybe things could work out right