Whatever it’s called, Monopoly, Oligopoly, Monopsony or Crony Capitalism….it’s still the upper levels of the corporate world enriching themselves at the expense of laborers.  More on unveiling what is a monopsony in the comments & articles below, but first here’s an overview….

As our capitalistic system has evolved, the corporate culture now places their entire priorities over what’s best for shareholders, not employees.  As I’ve often said, capital is king & labor gets shafted.  Corporations also seek to remain competitive by catering to the end consumer in offering products at low prices, which often means outsourcing the work to countries with much lower labor costs.  It puts America in a conundrum that despite wages paid being much higher than many other nations where millions of our factory jobs have shifted to, nonetheless the typical American worker hardly makes enough to pay the bills.  America creates enormous wealth, but the huge divides between the haves & the have nots have enabled a structure where the working stiffs are treated as lowly serfs, slaving in servitude to the upper crust.

In some of the coastal metropolitan areas where the economy is thriving, we have situations where a typical low-wage worker would need to work over 168 hours per week to afford a median-value house in those cities.  That’s rather difficult to do when there are only a total of 168 hours in the week.  The #1 domestic priority from our DC leadership should be establishing a world where the working class can earn a livable income, which would include fostering an environment that creates both higher-paying jobs & reduced costs of living.  A truly thriving economy would see prosperity which is shared throughout society, where hard work can be rewarded with compensation commensurate with the efforts, & in general we see that is assuredly not happening in modern-day America.  The equation has gone way out of balance & needs to be reset.

It’s All About Stagnant Wages

To sum up the overriding problem with our uneven economy, it’s clearly stated in in-the-us-the-rich-are-getting-richer-and-the-poor-are-getting-poorer-study-concludes, which we’ve posted below.  We must clarify into simple language the basic struggle which must be fixed.  With the system no longer set up for the average American to get ahead through hard work alone, the focus of our entire domestic economic agenda should be finding a remedy to foster shared economic growth.  It’s the one issue at the core of the American voter’s agitation, with the political leadership of both parties routinely being totally incompetent in addressing.  Trump spoke to these concerns which helped get him elected, but his policies are mostly not dealing with the issue in any tangible way, & in some ways are making the problems worse.  To see how the pendulum has swung wildly in one direction, here it is:

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, at least in the United States. The top 1 percent of families took home an average of 26.3 times as much income as the bottom 99 percent in 2015, according to a new paper released by the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit, nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. This has increased since 2013, showing that income inequality has risen in nearly every state. The paper looked at the income of families across the nation and assessed inequality at the state, metropolitan area and county level using data from the IRS. The incomes are averages of the IRS summaries of taxpayers in each income range.

To be in the top 1 percent of earners in the United States in 2015, a family would have to have brought in $421,926 in pre-tax dollars. What qualifies as the top 1 percent varies by each state, and the states with the highest thresholds are California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Nationwide, the average income of the bottom 99 percent is $50,107 per family. This also varies depending on geography.

By looking at income data on the state and county level, it’s possible to get a more local picture of the trend of inequality. When inequality came up, “often the conversation would turn to, well, that’s New York City, it’s not my state,” said Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center and co-author of the EPI paper. “Rising inequality affects virtually every part of the country, not just large urban areas or financial centers,” said Estelle Sommeiller, a socio-economist at the Institute for Research in Economics and Social Sciences in France and co-author of the paper. “It’s a persistent problem throughout the country — in big cities and small towns, in all 50 states.”

Between the years 2009 to 2015, the incomes of those in the top 1 percent grew faster than the incomes of the bottom 99 percent in 43 states and the District of Columbia. In nine states, the income growth of the top 1 percent was half or more of all income growth in that time period. This trend is a reversal of what happened in the United States in the years during and after the Great Depression. From 1928 until 1973, the share of income held by the top 1 percent declined in nearly every state.

The report from the EPI attributes that growth to a different atmosphere for workers, where the minimum wage generally was steadily rising and they were able to join unions and bargain for rights. Today, while unemployment remains low and the economy is doing exceptionally well, wage growth has remained stagnant. “When you look at economic expansions, it’s in that recovery that you see income growth – businesses recover, reorganize, workers find jobs,” Price said. In those expansions since 1973, there has been less income growth for the bottom 99 percent, said Price.

Meanwhile, CEO pay has increased from about 20 times the typical worker’s pay to 271 times greater, from 1965 to 2016, according to 2017 a study by the EPI. As the economic recovery continues, Price said that it is critically important to continue to look at growth and specifically how it is distributed. “For some reason, the economy just doesn’t have the generation of wage growth we’d like to see,” Price said. “We like to focus a light on the way that income is distributed to share that the people who make decisions are benefiting from the economy in a way we might not all be.”

Monopsony the New Reality

Another article highlighting the main concerns are in excerpts below from national-insecurity-the-wages-of-poverty-in-america.  The low wages & lack of benefits offered up with way too many occupations in such a wealthy economy, it is nothing short of unconscionable!  And even had wages rose in commensurate with the work, it would only give large corporations reasons to outsource more jobs.  So as much as we need better jobs & more opportunity that can pay a livable wage, there should also be a concerted effort to lower the cost of living, particularly on necessities.  In many industries that provide essential products/services needed to subsist, some of the major players have been able to establish oligopolistic & monopsony practices which help them rake in billions, where such large corporations who can dominate their respective industries have the leverage to keep labor costs low & consumer costs high.  We particularly see that in industries like energy, banking, insurance, health care, pharmaceuticals & internet-related companies, along with various other industries.  The old-fashioned mom-&-pop stores have gotten trampled.

I was going to define the word monopsony, a term I’ve seen out there more lately describing how many industries are essentially being controlled by the dominant companies.  This has especially cropped up in the past few decades with mega-mergers & acquisitions, along with DC leadership being hesitant to enforce antitrust laws.  A monopsony occurs when any corporation in a given industry grows to the point they manipulate all the relevant competitive factors in their favor.  They can call the shots on costs for various items sold to them from suppliers, hold wages (labor costs) down, & actually hold down the prices to consumers as a way to drive out smaller competition.  Once an entity becomes the only game in town, it’s easier to push their weight around.  Examples of a monopsony in the retail sphere was Walmart in the past few decades, & lately the newcomer is Amazon.  Companies like Google, Exxon, Goldman Sachs & McDonald’s also carry a lot of clout, plus they possess the advantage of brand-name recognition.  Once a company becomes the single dominant player in their industry (monopoly), or a small handful of major players control an industry (oligopoly), such companies have the influence to increase profitability by raising the end consumer prices.  And increasingly, large corporate interests have enormous clout over DC.

I know it would be extraordinarily difficult to fundamentally alter the out-of-kilter balance between large employers & employees.  And there’s no doubt many of us are uncomfortable with any type of government intervention into any markets/industries, but something’s got to give.  The status quo is unacceptable.  Somewhere in between the conservative reliance on free markets which keep making wage/wealth inequality worse, & the liberal big government approach making deficits worse, there must be found that happy medium providing innovative solutions which get at the core of our predicament.  A new model must be adapted to modern-day capitalism, before the frustration boils over into instead adopting a form of socialism.  The current lopsided circumstances demand appropriate fixes, so please review this post from the article:

The working poor cluster in certain occupations.  They are salespeople in retail stores, servers or preparers of fast food, custodial staff, hotel workers, and caregivers for children or the elderly.  Many make less than $10 an hour and lack any leverage, union or otherwise, to press for raises.  In fact, the percentage of unionized workers in such jobs remains in the single digits — and in retail and food preparation, it’s under 4.5%.  That’s hardly surprising, given that private sector union membership has fallen by 50% since 1983 to only 6.7% of the workforce.

Low-wage employers like it that way and — Walmart being the poster child for this — work diligently to make it ever harder for employees to join unions.  As a result, they rarely find themselves under any real pressure to increase wages, which, adjusted for inflation, have stood still or even decreased since the late 1970s. When employment is “at-will,” workers may be fired or the terms of their work amended on the whim of a company and without the slightest explanation. Walmart announced this year that it would hike its hourly wage to $11 and that’s welcome news.  But this had nothing to do with collective bargaining; it was a response to the drop in the unemployment rate, cash flows from the Trump tax cut for corporations (which saved Walmart as much as $2 billion), an increase in minimum wages in a number of states, and pay increases by an arch competitor, Target.  It was also accompanied by the shutdown of 63 of Walmart’s Sam’s Club stores, which meant layoffs for 10,000 workers.  In short, the balance of power almost always favors the employer, seldom the employee.

As a result, though the United States has a per-capita income of $59,500 and is among the wealthiest countries in the world, 12.7% of Americans (that’s 43.1 million people), officially are impoverished. And that’s generally considered a significant undercount.  The Census Bureau establishes the poverty rate by figuring out an annual no-frills family food budget, multiplying it by three, adjusting it for household size, and pegging it to the Consumer Price Index.  That, many economists believe, is a woefully inadequate way of estimating poverty.  Food prices haven’t risen dramatically over the past 20 years, but the cost of other necessities like medical care (especially if you lack insurance) and housing have: 10.5% and 11.8% respectively between 2013 and 2017compared to an only 5.5% increase for food. Include housing and medical expenses in the equation and you get the Supplementary Poverty Measure (SPM), published by the Census Bureau since 2011.  It reveals that a larger number of Americans are poor: 14% or 45 million in 2016.

For a fuller picture of American (in)security, however, it’s necessary to delve deeper into the relevant data, starting with hourly wages, which are the way more than 58% of adult workers are paid.  The good news: only 1.8 million, or 2.3% of them, subsist at or below minimum wage.  The not-so-good news: one-third of all workers earn less than $12 an hour and 42% earn less than $15.  That’s $24,960 and $31,200 a year. Imagine raising a family on such incomes, figuring in the cost of food, rent, childcare, car payments (since a car is often a necessity simply to get to a job in a country with inadequate public transportation), and medical costs. The problem facing the working poor isn’t just low wages, but the widening gap between wages and rising prices.  The government has increased the hourly federal minimum wage more than 20 times since it was set at 25 cents under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.  Between 2007 and 2009 it rose to $7.25, but over the past decade that sum lost nearly 10% of its purchasing power to inflation, which means that, in 2018, someone would have to work 41 additional days to make the equivalent of the 2009 minimum wage.

Workers in the lowest 20% have lost the most ground, their inflation-adjusted wages falling by nearly 1% between 1979 and 2016, compared to a 24.7% increase for the top 20%.  This can’t be explained by lackluster productivity since, between 1985 and 2015, it outstripped pay raises, often substantially, in every economic sector except mining. Yes, states can mandate higher minimum wages and 29 have, but 21 have not, leaving many low-wage workers struggling to cover the costs of two essentials in particular: health care and housing. Even when it comes to jobs that offer health insurance, employers have been shifting ever more of its cost onto their workers through higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, as well as by requiring them to cover more of the premiums.  The percentage of workers who paid at least 10% of their earnings to cover such costs — not counting premiums — doubled between 2003 and 2014.

The levels of poverty and economic inequality that prevail in America are not intrinsic to either capitalism or globalization. Most other wealthy market economies in the 36-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have done far better than the United States in reducing them without sacrificing innovation or creating government-run economies. Take the poverty gap, which the OECD defines as the difference between a country’s official poverty line and the average income of those who fall below it.  The United States has the second largest poverty gap among wealthy countries; only Italy does worse. Child poverty?  In the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 41 — from best to worst — the U.S. placed 35th.  Child poverty has declined in the United States since 2010, but a Columbia University report estimates that 19% of American kids (13.7 million) nevertheless lived in families with incomes below the official poverty line in 2016.  If you add in the number of kids in low-income households, that number increases to 41%. As for infant mortality, according to the government’s own Centers for Disease Control, the U.S., with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, has the absolute worst record among wealthy countries. (Finland and Japan do best with 2.3.)

And when it comes to the distribution of wealth, among the OECD countries only Turkey, Chile, and Mexico do worse than the U.S. For tens of millions of Americans, an ever-more entrenched system of inequality, still growing, that stacks the political deck against the least well-off Americans.  They lack the bucks to hire big-time lobbyists. They can’t write lavish checks to candidates running for public office or fund PACs.  They have no way of manipulating the myriad influence-generating networks that the elite uses to shape taxation and spending policies.  They are up against a system in which money truly does talk — and that’s the voice they don’t have.  Welcome to the United States of Inequality.

American Exceptionalism Largely Based On Obsolete Circumstances

The times, they are a changing….& often not for the better.  These excerpts from these-3-advantages-once-ensured-us-prosperity-theyre-not-coming-back show MAGA to be mostly wishful thinking based on Trump’s stale policies, since we can’t recreate circumstances that fueled economic growth post-WWII.  A viable model for the modern economy requires something drastically different while embracing modern technologies.  To see the 3 advantages America once enjoyed that have since dissipated, you would need to click on the link for that part of the article:

We Americans have long been obsessed with economic growth — “prosperity” in everyday lingo. The idea that we have some sort of special aptitude for invention, wealth creation and economic self-improvement is part of our imagined national character. It’s who we are. Not only that, but prosperity also plays a crucial political role. It enables us to raise living standards and construct a society with greater economic and social justice. We’re not just good at this; we’re better than everyone else. Or so we thought. President Trump’s popular appeal rests heavily on our loss of confidence in this vision. And it’s not only Trump. Though critics reject his remedies (high trade tariffs, huge budget deficits, tax cuts for the wealthy), they share his worry that America is apparently losing its economic vitality. The change is real. If you examine the basic indicator of the economy’s size — gross domestic product, or GDP — there clearly has been a break from the rapid growth of the early post-World War II decades. From 1950 to 1973, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 4 percent, reports the Congressional Budget Office. More recently, growth from 2008 to 2017 — the Great Recession and the recovery — averaged only 1.5 percent. When Trump pledges to “make America great again,” he is widely thought to be referring to the 1950s and 1960s. There is an understandable urge to retrieve these decades, but the prospect that this is a cure is a mirage. 

Quite probably, this is the way that many, possibly most, Americans think the economy still should run. But of course, it doesn’t. The Great Recession and 2008-2009 financial crisis remind us that the problem of the business cycle hasn’t been solved and may never be. The invincible U.S. corporations turn out to be vulnerable to upstart firms, here and abroad, and to new technologies. The constant specter of new competition casts an anxious pall over many workers. The skewing of income toward those at the top compounds the effect. The gap between how the economy actually works and how we’d like it to work is a breeding ground for discontent and desperate policy agendas. For our economic ills, Trump blames foreigners — immigrants and imports — along with the American officials who, over the years and according to Trump, engineered disastrous policies. This is mostly wrong, as perhaps Trump is learning. His various tariff proposals seem to be causing as much or more grief among the U.S. firms they’re supposed to help as among the foreign firms they’re supposed to hurt. But in fairness, many other policy agendas from the left and right aren’t much better. What we all should be learning is that there’s a big difference between economic nostalgia and economic policy.

Skyrocketing Deficits

So what have Trump policies brought us?  Adding insult to injury, Trump’s tax bill has curtailed revenues flowing into the Treasury & significantly raised our projected deficits, kicking the can down the road on our ever-increasing national debt: how-the-trump-tax-cut-is-helping-to-push-the-federal-deficit-to-dollar1-trillion.  Those tea-partiers that now comprise much of the Trump base, hadn’t one of their main gripes been always focused on those unsustainable debt levels?  And that misguided top-down tax cut which promised trickle-down & more prosperity for all, from the data seen in excerpts from tax-cuts-work-bloomberg-wages, this is what we got:

When Republicans delivered $1.5 trillion in tax cuts last December and slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, they said it would come with a big wage boost for American workers. Except it hasn’t. Over the weekend, this chart from Bloomberg showing private data from PayScale’s wage index swept across Twitter. It shows a drop in wages in the second quarter of the year. While wages have risen by 12.9 percent overall since 2006, wages adjusted for inflation (so-called “real wages”) have actually fallen by 9.3 percent. And between the first and second quarters of 2018 — after the tax cuts were enacted — real wages fell by 1.8 percent.

The Republican tax bill has been a major windfall for corporations and the wealthy. According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the top fifth of earners get 70 percent of the bill’s benefits, and the top 1 percent get 34 percent. The new tax treatment for “pass-through” entities — companies organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, or S corporations — will mean an estimated $17 billion in tax savings for millionaires in 2018. American corporations are showering their shareholders with stock buybacks, thanks in part to their tax savings, and have returned nearly $700 billion to investors this year.

When the tax bill was passed, a number of corporations announced bonuses and investments. Some of those were recycled news, and regardless, while a $1,000 one-time payout is a nice boost, it is not a sustained benefit to workers in the same way a wage increase is. Some Republicans have even admitted that the tax cuts aren’t the boost to workers they promised. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) this spring said there is “no evidence whatsoever that money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.” 

More on Trump’s domestic policies, he now owns the American carnage that represents those on the lower income rungs of the economic ladder.  To the workers who put their hopes in Trump since he vowed through MAGA to improve their lives, while his actions primarily served to make the rich richer, that bait-&-switch to the working class may ultimately be perceived as a betrayal even beyond selling out to Russia.  We’ve posted this article from krystal-clear-trump-owns-american-carnage:

American carnage. That’s how President Trump infamously described the vast tracts of America that have taken on the look and feel of a dystopian nightmare. With shuddered factories, boarded up main streets, and everyone who can heading for the exits. Many complained about such dark words and images being conjured in an inaugural speech, but for a lot of Americans, it rang true and that was part of the power of Trump in 2016. He called B.S. on the notion that the economy was back on track. Sure, unemployment was down and the stock market was up but most Americans still felt the pain of debt, low wages, and a new economy that left them constantly off balance. Don’t worry, he assured those Americans: I alone can fix it. Once in office, his answer to this carnage was a massive tax cut. Corporations and executives were delighted and a few handed out bonuses to workers. There was a sugar high of positive press. But now, the real results are in and this is what it looks like. American carnage. Those are real wages for workers taking a nose-dive while big business cracks open the champagne.

I do a lot of work in West Virginia. One morning, I was having breakfast at the Holiday Inn with my family and our waitress started telling us about her son, Theo. She had his name tattooed on her arm. Theo had just turned three and he really wanted a sandbox. But she couldn’t afford a sandbox, so she just bought some sand and dumped it in the yard behind the trailer. She showed us adorable pictures of Theo having the greatest time. But it really got me. Here’s a woman, in the richest country on earth, working full time, and she can’t afford a frickin’ sandbox for her kid’s birthday. Mr. president: Your tax cut hasn’t made a damn difference for the most important people in this nation. The workers whose hands prepare the meals, fix the roads, stock the shelves. You didn’t create this problem but you promised to fix it. Now the American carnage is unfolding on your watch. Do you actually care? Theo’s mama awaits your answer. 

The cost to the sugar-high of tax cuts producing a temporary spike to GDP, along with the short-term thinking inspired by Trump, will cause us to pay the piper in the long run.  See these excerpts from assessing-the-trump-economy, while we also need to recognize higher debt levels will ultimately restrict future economic growth: 

This should not be that shocking a finding. Trump’s major economic decisions in 2017 consisted of replacing Janet L. Yellen with Jerome H. Powell as Fed chair, a burst of deregulation and the tax cut. The last two should have accelerated growth a little but, but not that much. Trump’s policies are having more subtle effects on the U.S. economy, however, and these do not look so healthy. First, the most powerful effect of the tax cut is to blow a hole through U.S. public finances. Earlier this month, the Office of Management and Budget conceded that the Congressional Budget Office was right and that the federal budget deficit will soar past $1 trillion in 2019. Needless to say, in a booming economy, the budget deficit should not — repeat, not — be widening. Well, at least the sugar high is fun, right? Except that, again, a peek under the hood reveals some serious problems with the distribution of economic growth. Bloomberg News’s Noah Smith looked at its effect on real wages, and, well, hoo boy: The tax reform hasn’t yet resulted in appreciably higher wages for American workers. Real average hourly compensation actually fell in the first quarter after the tax reform was passed.

GDP a Mirage?

Yes, it was a positive number for today.  Despite Trump’s bluster over the stats just released showing 4.1% GDP growth for the second quarter, let’s offer some perspective to those figures.  Obama also had some quarters that exceeded 4% during his time (even once hitting 5%), but it wasn’t sustained.  All signs point toward this current 4% quarter won’t be sustained either: gdp-reality-donald-trump-economic-growth.  The Federal Reserve predicts GDP overall for 2018 will still come in at under 3% for the whole year, despite today’s Q2 numbers.  Ironically, many economists attribute some of the growth to the fear of the effects of tariffs, sparking a flurry of activity & stockpiling goods before the negatives hit.  Trump’s speech today on the economy was a trip through fantasyland, just like all his speeches.  Trump’s low approval ratings would really tank if this accelerated economic growth isn’t maintained.  If the Q3 figure comes in shrunken as many of us expect, the midterms could be greatly impacted.  And the bottom line is if economic growth is so strong, where’s the wage growth?

Rubin chimes in with these thoughts on the Trump economy, with her objective analysis not so optimistic, seen in excerpts from trumps-economic-luck-might-run-out:

Growth numbers might dive after this quarter. (“Morgan Stanley economists, for example, project 4.7 percent growth, but estimate companies stockpiling goods alone could account for 1.5 percent of that activity. In short, one bank strategist wrote in a note, ‘Enjoy the 2Q GDP number, which may be the last best’ report for ‘a while.’ “) And worst of all, wages have dived, not soared as Trump aides assured us would happen after the tax cuts passed. (“Most significantly for Trump and his party, the metric most important to the most voters — their own paychecks — isn’t offering the same good news. Worker pay actually fell by a nearly a full percentage point in the second quarter, according to the PayScale Index, which uses private data.”) Rather than boosting wages, employers have undertaken massive stock buybacks and gone on an acquisition and merger spree. 

Unfortunately, few Republican lawmakers and too few right-leaning pundits and think tanks have taken on Trump’s destructive policies. Perhaps pleasing rich donors who benefited greatly from the Trump top-heavy tax cuts has become the driving force behind what remains of Republican economic thinking. In short, Trump’s contributions to the economy amount to a looming trade war, a rocky stock market, misguided industrial policy and ballooning deficits — none of which are a formula for success. Couple that with real income loss for farmers whose export markets are vanishing and higher health-care costs (in part due to Trump’s sabotage of the Affordable Care Act), and you’ll see many Trump voters with less money in their pockets after 18 months of Trumponomics. The economy is not, most economists surmise, on the brink of recession. However, rather than strengthening the Obama economy — by forging new trade deals, passing actual tax reform (not massive cuts for the rich and corporations) and attending to the knotty problems that afflict mostly rural regions that have not benefited from globalization — Trump is booby-trapping the economy. If and when a recession hits, our gargantuan deficits, relatively low interest rates (still) and depleted federal revenue will leave us without many of the tools necessary to move out of the economic doldrums.

Misc

Trump has actually found various ways to favor mega-corporations over the people: watchdog-penalties-on-corporate-violators-drop-under-trump.  The time-honored expectation where subsequent generations were expected to do financially better than their parents, with millennials we’re seeing that trend being shattered: one-big-thing-being-30-then-and-now.  In addressing the skills gap, we need to pursue the advanced education/training required of our modern economy, which there are some good ideas out there: time-to-halt-the-growing-skills-gap-leaving-middle-class-jobs-unfilled & also low-wage-work-automation.  More indications of a disjointed economy for workers young & old are seen inside how-student-loans-are-making-some-people-abandon-their-dreams & also millions-educated-experienced-workers-have-been-tossed-aside-by-strong-economy.  Trump’s relentless mission to terrify families & kids continues, with the administration missing a court-ordered deadline for reunification, with approximately 700 children still in limbo.

Trade

Of all the #NeverTrump commentators who routinely bash the prez, there are a couple areas I’ve gone relatively easy on him compared to most Trump critics.  On the nuclear threats from North Korea & Iran, plus the tariffs which are forcing a renegotiation of trade deals, I’ve always expressed the hope Trump’s ballyhooed/renowned dealmaking prowess could be brought to bear on such serious challenges.  Note that I’ve said I was always hopeful, not optimistic.  I’ve also expressed concerns Trump’s lack of knowledge & truthfulness on these issues could backfire, causing international tensions that could evolve into WWIII, or escalating trade wars which could crash the American & worldwide economy.  But I’ve consistently urged something needs done about a nuclear North Korea & Iran, plus trade imbalances where we’re not operating on a level playing field, from which doing nothing & accepting the status quo is not a viable option.  So here’s hoping Trump’s antics can lead to positive outcomes.

On trade, the real problem is China far more than the EU, including the routine theft of our intellectual property & other provocative actions: chinese-unrestricted-warfare-targeting-american-economy.  Trump did strike an EU deal on trade, but it seems as vague as the Jong Un denuclearization deal signed in Singapore.  And we also see while Trump’s tariffs may be temporarily putting steelworkers back on the job, we’re losing far more jobs in industries such as automakers.  We should be stunned & alarmed at the way China is gaining a huge advantage on science/technology, as seen in excerpts from theworldpost/wp/2018/07/25/us-china-2:

China’s rapid technological advance has stunned U.S. policymakers, especially in the national security apparatus. The “Made in China 2025” program is a brash, confident and yet utterly realistic statement of China’s intention to develop the key technologies of the 21st century in advanced computation, robotics, renewable energy, precision medicine, agriculture and low-carbon transport. One of the most significant is China’s ambitious plan to pioneer a worldwide renewable electricity grid — the first of its kind and scale. Trump’s trade war aims to scuttle China’s impertinence. Yet Trump’s approach is profoundly misguided. There are three truths about China’s technological vision. First, China is filled with brilliant young people who are equipped with excellent universities, ample government funding and private-market outlets for their energies. China’s technological verve will not be stopped by Trump. Second, China’s advances will benefit, not harm, the world, including the United States, by bringing forward new and highly beneficial technologies like zero-carbon energy, smart vehicles and more powerful computers. Third, and most importantly, China’s inevitable advances will in no way prevent the United States from making similar progress, but only if Trump and the Republicans drop their anti-science stance, support the American system of government-business-academic innovation and direct efforts toward the true needs of the 21st century, notably zero-carbon energy and non-polluting industries. There is no future in trade wars, hot war or the polluting industries of the past.

Finally a Good Idea

Yes, I’d say this bipartisan initiative in Congress looks like an excellent idea.  Not only might it help get important legislation passed, it could also inspire lawmakers to get creative with new ideas, knowing there’s a process in place where worthy proposals could get sufficient consideration.  See problem-solvers-caucus-has-a-vision-a-bipartisan-house & also these excerpts taken from house-gridlock-rules-overhaul:

Trying to ease gridlock in Congress, a bipartisan group of frustrated House members is coming forward with a rules overhaul intended to give rank-and-file lawmakers more say. Instead, the so-called motion to vacate the chair would be replaced by a process in which one-third of the House would have to publicly sign a petition to force such a vote. The rules proposal was drafted over months of negotiation among the 48 members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is equally split between Republicans and Democrats. It would institute new standards for the automatic consideration of legislation with strong bipartisan support. The authors believe the plan, which has the backing of at least 75 percent of the group’s membership, would foster more bipartisanship and incite debate on major issues that are being sidelined by political considerations. “Due to the House floor being controlled by a select few, most members of Congress are not able to bring their ideas and proposals to the House floor for a fair vote that would allow us to begin solving some of the most contentious issues facing our country today,” said Representative Tom Reed, Republican of New York and a chairman of the group.

Given that expected divide, members of the Problem Solvers Caucus believe they can use their leverage to win adoption of some of the proposals in the rules package written for the next Congress. They say they intend to try to enlist lawmakers outside their group to support the plan and note that many members of both parties believe they are being shut out of House decision-making. Many of the proposals are aimed at ensuring that legislation with broad bipartisan backing gets an airing in committees and on the floor. Under the proposal, any bill that gains at least 290 co-sponsors or a majority of support from each party would have to receive committee review and be sent for floor consideration in 30 days. Members of both parties have complained that Republican leaders, fearing political fallout and attacks from the right, refused to take up legislation that would easily pass with the combined support of Republicans and Democrats. (Changes in immigration law are a notable example.) But House Republicans have, for the most part, operated under an informal standard that says that only bills that can attract a majority of Republican support should be considered, severely constraining the agenda.

“We’ve seen time and again how our common sense solutions get jammed up in a system built to empower the voices of a few extremists,” said Representative Josh Gottheimer, Democrat of New Jersey and a chairman of the group. The proposal is certain to meet resistance from leaders of both parties who do not want to see their power diluted. Considerable authority has been concentrated in the House leadership suites in recent decades, and senior lawmakers want to remain in control of both the floor and the committees. But members of the Problem Solvers Caucus say the low public standing of Congress is evidence that significant changes need to be made. They say the current moment is the time to push the proposal because it is uncertain which party will control the House next year.

Midterm Projections

Looking ahead to the midterms, we can send a strong message a corrupt party under the spell of the Trump cult cannot be tolerated!  Encouraging new polling are seen inside the links poll-dems-lead-gop-by-12-points-in-generic-house-ballot & also midterm-elections-polls-generic-ballot-democrats & also 2018-midterms-democrats-house-respresentatives-trump.  I also found interesting the polls I just saw where Trump’s approval ratings along with GOP congressional candidates are tanking in the Midwest battleground states of MI, WI & MN.  These excerpts from vote-democratic-party-midterm-elections-trump reveal how pivotal these coming midterms are:

There’s no hyperbole in the frequent assertion that it’s the most important midterm in a generation. And those of us rightly appalled by this president must devote as much energy to giving Democrats control of at least one chamber of Congress — and the ability to restrain him — as to finding fresh methods for mocking him. A blimp in a diaper is a hoot. A legislature with its foot on his throat is an insurance policy. We can’t lose sight of that, but in all our fury and feelings of helplessness, we sometimes do. Too many people spend too much of themselves on the shouting and save too little for the plotting, and Trump does his best to leave us morally wiped out. He’s a steamroller. But if we hang in there, we don’t have to be flattened. My plea isn’t a partisan one, nor am I romanticizing the Democratic Party, which has problems galore. I’m recognizing that when it comes to babysitting this president, the Republican Party is a lost cause. Sure, congressional Republicans discovered a few stray vertebrae of backbone over the past few days; there was some scowling from Mitch McConnell and faint mewling from Paul Ryan. But Trump could put a babushka on the Statue of Liberty and those two would find a way to look to the side, or they’d pronounce her prettier than ever.

That’s because they read polls, including an astonishing one that SurveyMonkey just did for Axios. It revealed that 79 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s sycophantic performance at the news conference with Vladimir Putin, while 85 percent deem the investigation of Russian intrusion into our elections a distraction. They bear less and less resemblance to the followers of a coherent ideology and more and more to the members of a cult. That word is gaining currency in our political discourse for excellent reason. Congressional Republicans have decided that to cross Trump is to commit suicide. They need to be convinced that not crossing him is as fatal a course. That’s what a big-enough blue wave would do, and that’s why once loyal Republicans who cannot abide him — the columnist George Will, for one prominent example — have gone from chastising the Republican Party to cheerleading for the Democratic Party and urging Americans to support it in November. It’s the last resort.

2020

Trump ran roughshod through his presidential campaign with not just a barrage of insults, but slogans & punchlines.  Never did the dialogue go much deeper than the shallow end of a kiddie pool.  As Rubin points out (& requests) in these excerpts from tell-us-more-sen-warren, it really shouldn’t be too much to ask of any serious presidential candidates for 2020 to provide some depth to their policy proposals, detailing what they’d like to do & how that could positively impact our country:

We’re pleased Warren says she doesn’t see the economic system that lifted billions around the world out of poverty to be intrinsically evil. That nevertheless leaves a lot of questions to be answered. We’d be interested to hear — more including:

*What constitutes “theft’ and “cheating”? Are we talking about insider trading or something more endemic to markets?

*If markets produce wealth, shouldn’t we be opening markets internationally, increasing free trade and creating new opportunities?

*What new market rules are needed? (She’s talked sensibly about excess concentration in certain markets but we’d be curious to hear what other systemic problems she sees.)

*At what point do new market rules undo the benefits of capitalism?

*What’s the right balance of taxes, expenditures and debt?

I’m not looking for detailed white papers, but I sure do want to know more about her economic philosophy. We have a GOP president who thinks trade protectionism, huge deficits, cronyism (i.e., picking winners and losers), subsidizing dying industries (e.g., coal) and corporate welfare (e.g., aid to farmers impacted by his tariffs) make for a successful economic scheme. We find that preposterous, but his total incoherence leaves an opening for Democrats and anti-Trump conservative challengers to engage in redefinition and creative thinking. For one thing, it is obvious neither party thinks “small government” is feasible. But what do we do with the government we have?

The big issues we confront include vast inequalities in wealth and productivity by region, wage stagnation, unsustainable debt, education and worker training appropriate to the current economy, repairing and improving the health insurance system (which has made more expensive and chaotic by GOP attempts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act), confronting future dislocation caused by technology (e.g., AI), and sustaining an international economic system that allows the U.S. and other capitalist democracies to thrive. These are big, important issues that are impossible to address when we are worrying if the president is a Russian asset or if his trade war will send us into an economic spiral. However, it is not too much to ask people running to replace him to think through some of these serious issues and give us at least a hint about where they’d like the country to go. Let’s hope the legions of Democrats, some independent candidates (we hope) and a few GOP challengers (we hope) eyeing a 2020 run agree.

GOP State Rep in Video

For conservatives out there reading this, here is how we must look at the current dire situation: conservative-despair-republicans-trump.  And does this accurately reflect today’s Republicans?….especially see the antics toward the end of the video: jason-spencer-who-is-america-controversy.   

Live to Tell

We, the American people, have been lied to repeatedly.  Whether it’s sex scandals, secret deals made or selling out our country, it’s been lie after lie after lie after lie.  The latest evidence, if confirmed, shows a prior intent to engage in a conspiracy with a foreign enemy to attack our democracy by tainting an election (really heavy stuff).  A haunting performance in this video, symbolic of the inner pain once a person must pay the consequences when all the lies finally come back to haunt him….

I have a tale to tell
Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well
I was not ready for the fall
Too blind to see the writing on the wall

A man can tell a thousand lies
I’ve learned my lesson well
Hope I live to tell
The secret I have learned, ’till then
It will burn inside of me

The truth is never far behind

You kept it hidden well

If I live to tell 

The secret I knew then

Will I ever have the chance again

We Need MASA!!!

The new cap as seen in We-Need-YOU-America-is-in-DANGER-Our-Victory-is-IMPERATIVE-Here-are-the-Tools-for-It