Trump Touts Tax Cuts & Strong Economy, But All Is For Naught Till We Start To See Wage Growth….
We’re witnessing the Trumpian version of crony capitalism, as massive tax cuts largely for corporations & the wealthy are anticipated to magically trickle down to working folks.  If that continues not to work, & the available evidence we’ve seen so far shows that it’s not working, angry voters are likely to go in another direction.  Perhaps as early as 2020, we may see a Bernie-style progressive socialist get voted into the White House.  If we keep seeing the recent pattern, the impatient electorate will likely remain very bold, & conventional establishment types are likely to keep getting shunned.  So our policies might keep seesawing from one extreme to the other, which only creates uncertainty rather than solve problems.  And whether it’s more tax cuts or more public benefits programs, they are not the answer & badly miss the mark.  Tinkering around the edges will not significantly impact the plight of the working class.  So my concern is I don’t see either Trumponomics or Bernieonomics or most any other GOP/Dem proposals working very well for America, & probably will wind up doing more harm than good.  One approach enriches the wealthy & widens income inequality, while the other approach expands government & drives up spending (& debt) to unprecedented levels.  But none of these divergent plans target the core of our troubles, including lack of wage growth.  If roughly half the population struggles to make ends meet when the economy is purported to be good, what happens during a downturn?

When none of this works, wouldn’t you think we’d be open to something different?  Something totally apart from what either party is currently offering.  Something with plenty of thought behind it to develop smart ideas for directly addressing the chronic shortcomings of the labor market.  Unemployment is no longer the issue.  We must target underemployment, stagnant wages, low productivity, low participation rates & the skills mismatch.  We must literally invent new careers which are more productive & meet the unique challenges of the modern economy.  Out of necessity it must be bipartisan in nature & field input from experts in various fields, maximize human interactions with high-tech innovations, unleash employees’ sense of purpose & creativity with meaningful work vs. dead-end/cookie-cutter positions, have a global vision providing the free flow of commerce also benefiting other countries & workers worldwide, while backed by a public-private cooperative partnership with an emphasis on strengthening the working middle class, & a firm commitment towards advanced training programs providing workers the necessary skills for these new careers.  A tall order to be sure, but we need to decide if we’re willing to take the necessary difficult/complex steps to solve the real problems.  Our leaders aren’t thinking long term or big enough.  And the dearth of new ideas is matched only by their lack of commitment & determination, while their focus remains on defeating the other side through political optics instead of helping the people.

So let’s start coming up with & debating different ideas: a-capitalism-the-left-and-right-can-love.  From inside this link has-our-economy-fully-recovered-from-depths-of-great-recession, millions of working-class families have still not bounced back from the great recession starting a decade ago.  I’m not at all convinced patience should be the strategy here.  These stressed-out workers have waited long enough:

The U.S. labor market has slowly but steadily recovered since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. The unemployment rate dipped below 4 percent for the first time in nearly 17 years in April, and indicators of labor market slack, such as involuntary part-time work and the number of long-term unemployed, have declined as well. However, despite continued improvement in the labor market, wage growth has remained elusive. So what are we to make of an economy where more people are employed, and yet wages and take-home pay are failing to take off? On average, are workers better off, or is there a sense of frustration that earnings are stagnant? Should the Federal Reserve be cautious in moving forward with interest rate hikes given the uncertainty about how workers are faring? Why is the lack of wage growth a mystery? 

The unemployment rate has been steadily trending downward for years.  So there are no signs the Trump tax cuts have changed the trajectory in any way for unemployment rates, wage growth or participation rates.  The most obvious impact of the tax plan is in raising deficits & widening income inequality.  We have seen the stock market recovering lately from corporations using their revenue bonanza for stock buybacks, since that’s where the tax cuts are being spent rather than going to workers.  Based on all those stats, plus most Americans haven’t even noticed an increase in their net pay, there’s no good reason for the tax cuts to be popular, as seen in these excerpts from good-economic-vibes-fail-to-make-gop-tax-law-popular.  The basic problem was in not targeting the tax cuts to those needing it the most, while the benefits are mostly going to those already extremely well off.  Maybe the economy will someday see some delayed benefits lifting up workers & help them finally earn significant wage growth, but I’m inclined to believe these viewpoints:

Democrats argue that the polls don’t show strong support for the tax law because people view the benefits as mostly going to the wealthy, rather to themselves. Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, said that Republicans “oversold the tax plan,” since many people are getting a fairly small tax cut and most people haven’t gotten more money or benefits from their employers. Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he thinks the panel’s upcoming hearings are about messaging for Republicans, but that voters aren’t buying the GOP arguments. “They’re trying to convince people that the tax cut for wealthy people is an achievement, and I think that it’s not going anywhere at the moment,” he said. “People overwhelmingly see that it contributes to more concentrated wealth.”

The White House is obviously going to keep harping on the reportedly strong economy & very low unemployment rates.  But those are economic metrics which have trended positively for years & really disguise the underlying structural problems.  So from my perspective, Trump is basically giving himself credit for nothing.  On the same topic the tax cuts are having no effect on the workers who’ve seen their wages stuck in the mud for a long time, see these articles tax-cut-economic-boom-republicans & also Republicans-pretend-their-tax-cut-jumpstarted-already-booming-economy-but-voters-smell-a-rat, plus these excerpts come from most-dont-think-poor-families-have-benefited-at-all-from-president-trumps-policies:

President Trump ran on a promise to help families struggling economically land on better ground financially. New polling says most people do not think that is actually happening. The president regularly boasts about economic gains made under his watch. Most Americans — 53 percent — say low-income families have not benefited at all from Trump’s policies. The poll, conducted April 26 to April 30, questioned 803 adults in the United States. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Only 12 percent of those surveyed say poor families have benefited a lot, and about a quarter (28 percent) say they have benefited a little. This reality is quite different from what some people expected before Trump entered the White House.

 

Despite a relatively strong economy, about one in four (24 percent) people say they are struggling to remain where they are financially. “The outlook for Americans’ financial situation has not changed all that much since Trump took office. And because everything is driven by partisanship these days, Republicans have a rosier view of their own situation than Democrats, even though some objective measures suggest they may be in the same boat,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. In 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won the working-class vote, according to exit polls. A sizable percentage of Americans from low-income households supported Trump, in part looking for a cure for their economic anxiety.

 

A March CNBC’s All America Economic Survey found most respondents — 52 percent — have seen no change at all in their paychecks despite $1.5 trillion in GOP tax cuts. While Trump often touts the successes of the stock market under his administration, rarely does he acknowledge that the majority of Americans — especially those from low-income families — are not invested in the stock market. And while Trump often tweets about historic lows in the country’s unemployment rate and job openings hitting record highs, many low-income people are still struggling to land the types of jobs that have the ability to pull them out of poverty.

Yes, for the top half of the income scale, the economy is booming.  That’s where so much of the rosy economic statistics are coming from.  So the gap widens.  For way too many Americans not riding on top & haven’t enjoyed meaningful wage growth, they reason their best shot at the American Dream can only amount to winning the lottery.  That’s sad.  As the poor keep getting poorer & Trump’s capitalist billionaire buddies make a killing off his disjointed policies, we see this conclusion from the article poor-should-work-harder-billionaires-deserve-break-right-trump:

In reality, Trumponomics is a thin veneer of an excuse for giving America’s rich—already richer than ever—whatever they want, while sticking it to everyone else. We are rapidly becoming a nation of just two groups. The first are those without any voice, vulnerable to real financial hardship, who are losing whatever meager assistance they had. This includes many white working-class Trump supporters. The second are those like Carl Icahn—powerful enough to extract benefits from Trump and the GOP by claiming they need such incentives in order to invest. But their neediness is a hoax, and the only significant investments they’re making are pay-offs to politicians. Far more Americans belong to the first group than to the second. The question is when they will realize it, and vote accordingly.

I like how a congressional rep here in Ohio puts it from a WaPo article, which is a lot more realistic perspective than we get from many Dems: (Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who hails from Youngstown, has argued for a focus on the economic threat of China, while cautioning against new government programs that displace the private sector. “We can be hostile to monopolies, oligarchies and concentrations of wealth,” he said. “But we can’t be hostile to capitalism.”)  But until we find a way to fix modern-day capitalism so it can provide equal opportunity, upward mobility & shared benefits from economic growth, there’s really not much to disagree with in this excerpt from Divergent-economic-reading-a-growing-book-list-for-counter-narratives-in-an-extractive-economy:

After a few years of reading and paying attention, I am of the belief that capitalism, as an economic system, has 1) co-opted our political system, 2) is, by its internal design, extractive, non-generative, and exploitative, and 3) followed to its logical conclusion is not sustainable, because it must infinitely expand and we are on a finite planet. There are proponents of capitalism, many on Daily Kos, and many in the Democratic Party. I take no issue with this, as I know there are reasonable merits to capitalism. In fact, is this not why we live in a democracy so that we can hold differing opinions and beliefs and debate them civically? However, my life experiences and observations lead me to believe that most people are unable to answer the question, “when is enough, enough?” and by default corporations- composed of people- cut corners, expand, and become non-generative to communities, employees, and the planet in the quest for shareholder value and profit.  There is not a reasonableness to profit-taking, it is a mad race, or so this is the visible behavior of what I see playing out today before me. Capitalism paired with man’s greed and insatiable desires, has become a very toxic soup for our world.  Once this economic system captures the political system, as it has done in the USA and many parts of the world, we are bound to witness gross inequality and increasing poverty, as we are seeing.

 

There’s always been a belief China’s manipulation of factors giving them an unfair trade advantage was killing our manufacturing jobs.  Yet this strange report just hit the news: make-china-great-again-after-trumps-zte-tweets-trade-policy-looks-more-incoherent-than-ever.  This next article explains the disastrous effects of China stealing those factory jobs study-finds-china-to-blame-for-millions-of-lost-us-manufacturing-jobs & contains this graph:

In other articles, we find the tax cuts have also created havoc with state budgets: federal-tax-cuts-leave-states-in-a-bind.  Underfunded pension plans are also leaving government & small business budgets strapped: the-politics-of-pensions-in-america.  And our educational system had better get with the program to prepare students with the diverse skills needed for the modern world & new careers: our-innovation-economy-needs-creative-problem-solvers-not-students-who-test.  We’re also witnessing a heartless administration john-kelly-foster-care-cruelty-judith-shklar & a party very unpopular with the people gop-pollster-republican-brand-is-not-doing-well-right-now.  I posted this a week ago, but the video presentation is so informative, it’s worth watching again & sharing: The-Monopolization-of-America-Robert-Reich-presentation.
Prescription Drug Plan
We have several articles about Trump’s prescription drug plan which had vowed to find ways to reduce costs.  While there are some worthy elements in the proposal, it falls far short of his campaign promises, which more than anything we need the government negotiating on behalf of Medicare with the drug companies to lower costs.  So it appears the most overprescribed country in the history of the world will also continue to pay by far the highest rates.  All these articles are basically reporting on the same news, & every one of them reveals Trump’s plan is eminently disappointing.  See trump-drug-price-plan-comes-up-short & also trump-pharma-speech-stock & also trump-pharma-drug-prices_us & also health-stocks-rally-on-trumps-vague-plan-to-cut-drug-prices & also trump-drug-plan-shows-why-high-prices-persist & these excerpts from whats-good-for-pharma-isnt-good-for-america-wonkish:

So Donald Trump broke another promise: he did not, after all, empower Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. Instead he (and Michael Cohen, who definitely isn’t his bagman) took money from drug lobbyists, appointed them to key positions, and announced a plan that sent drug stocks soaring. I’m sure you’re shocked. But promise-breaking aside, would introducing a policy of bargaining drug prices down have been good for America? Actually, yes. Oddly, I never got around to doing my homework on the economics of drug-price bargaining – partly because I was realistic enough about the political economy to realize that it wasn’t going to happen in America any time soon. Still, the fact that Trump promised to do something makes it somewhat relevant, even if he did predictably break that promise. And it turns out that the economic case for doing what Trump just didn’t do, for putting caps on drug prices, is remarkably strong.

Then we see these reports from big-pharma-gets-a-big-win-from-trump:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, one candidate famously claimed that drug companies were “getting away with murder”—using armies of lobbyists to influence Congress and artificially inflating drug prices. But a lot can change in two years. That candidate was Donald Trump, who aggravated fellow Republicans on the trail with his forceful and blunt criticism of the pharmaceutical industry. Taking a page from the Democrats, he embraced a plan to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers, promising that such a scheme could save hundreds of millions of dollars and reduce drug prices. When he was asked why the plan, which has circulated around Capitol Hill for about 15 years, hadn’t yet passed Congress, Trump said without reservation that it was all drug companies’ fault. The industry is now having the last laugh. In a speech Friday on drug pricing, President Trump completed his 180-degree turn on Candidate Trump’s promises. The White House’s new plan, as outlined, does seek to address high prescription-drug costs. “We will not rest until this job of unfair pricing is a total victory,” Trump said. But it doesn’t directly challenge the pharmaceutical industry and the direct role it plays in setting prices. Indeed, the new policy largely meets the goals of big pharma, signaling an ever-tightening bond between Trump and drug manufacturers.

And more comments inside Few-teeth-in-Trump’s-prescription-to-reduce-drug-prices where we see how far the U.S. price structure is way out of whack.  No wonder Medicare is going to bankrupt America someday:

Public outrage over drug costs has been growing for years as Americans face pricing pressure from multiple sources: New medicines for life-threatening diseases often launch with prices exceeding $100,000 per year. And older drugs for common ailments like diabetes and asthma routinely see price hikes around 10 percent annually. Meanwhile Americans are paying more at the pharmacy counter due to health insurance plans that require them to shoulder more of their prescription costs. America has the highest drug prices in the world. The U.S. spent $1,162 per person on prescription drugs in 2015, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That’s more than twice the $497 per person spent in the United Kingdom, which has a nationalized health care system. Trump’s speech singled out foreign governments that “extort unreasonably low prices from U.S. drugmakers” using price controls and said U.S. trade representatives would prioritize the issue in trade deals. But experts are skeptical the U.S. can pressure foreign governments to pay more for drugs. “It’s hard to know why Germany or France or Australia would agree to something like that,” said Professor Jack Hoadley of Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. In the U.S., Medicare is the largest purchaser of prescription drugs, covering 60 million seniors and Americans with disabilities, but it is barred by law from directly negotiating lower prices with drugmakers. Allowing Medicare to negotiate prices is unacceptable to the powerful drug lobby, which has spent tens of millions of dollars since Trump’s inauguration to influence the Washington conversation around drug prices, including a high-profile TV advertising campaign portraying its scientists as medical trailblazers. The drug industry’s top lobbying arm, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, spent nearly $26 million to sway federal decision makers last year, according to records tallied by Center for Responsive Politics.

We wrap up these prescription drug articles with excerpts from this one trump-broken-every-populist-campaign-promise-prescription-drugs-infrastructure, which his base should realize so many of those campaign promises for domestic programs like drug prices, national deficits, infrastructure, fixing DACA & a whole host of other issues, they were hollow boasts to rally his base for getting elected.  So the lesson here under Trump, the swamp & deep state are as toxic as ever, crony capitalism is alive & well, with special interests & corporate lobbyists appearing to have this president in their back pockets:

One of Donald Trump’s most well-received and attention-grabbing campaign promises was that he would allow the federal government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs it covers through Medicare. “If we negotiated the price of drugs, Joe, we’d save $300 billion a year,” he rather optimistically asserted. The reason this money-saving method had not been used, he told audiences, was the influence of the industry. “We don’t do it. Why? Because of the drug companies.” Liberals actually support the idea, which would allow the government to use its bargaining power to hold down prices, and which fed into Trump’s image as a populist outsider breaking with party orthodoxy. Trump claimed that other candidates were too compromised by their donors, but he had the financial independence to do the right thing. “We’re going to negotiate like crazy,” he said. The “crazy” part of that promise has held up, but the “negotiate” part has not. Trump is announcing his Medicare prescription drug plan today, and Robert Pear reports it will not include the promised negotiations. “We are not calling for Medicare negotiation in the way that Democrats have called for,” an official says. Donald Trump ran for president as an economic populist. This fact has been largely forgotten, buried by the flurry of bizarre and outrageous actions, and activists on both sides have had little reason to bring it up. Conservatives have pushed the administration to forget its unorthodox gestures and follow Paul Ryan’s lead. Progressives have emphasized the racist and sexist nature of Trump’s appeal. But Trump’s ability to distance himself from his party’s economic brand formed a decisive element of his appeal. Voters actually saw Trump as more moderate than any Republican presidential candidate since 1972. And he has violated every one of his promises.

Our Embassy Moves To Jerusalem

We can’t help but notice the contrast between the celebratory mood going on at the dedication to the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, while a few miles away a bloody carnage was occurring at the border: jerusalem-embassy-gaza-protests.  See Rubin’s take in her opening here from a-new-u-s-embassy-in-jerusalem-but-the-same-old-story:

As one would expect, violent protests by Palestinians induced an Israeli response. The Post reports “Israeli soldiers on Monday killed 52 Palestinians demonstrating along the border fence,” citing Gaza’s health officials. The casualty count has not been confirmed by independent sources, but undoubtedly many Palestinian protesters were killed and others wounded. Israel’s critics should take note: The Palestinians’ beef is with the existence of any Jewish state, not with the 1967 lines (which were subsequently altered when Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt and evacuated the Gaza Strip, now effectively a Hamas camp). The other incident that marred the proceedings was entirely the fault of the administration, which continually allies itself with the most offensive and radical figures in any setting — and makes matters worse by failing to vet its cast of characters. The skunk at this garden party was hate-mongering pastor Robert Jeffress, invited to give an opening prayer.

Sometimes I wonder since there’s no hope of finding common ground between the Israelis & Palestinians, with their intense hatred for each other centuries in the making, plus the Palestine territories having failed economies are enabling an ongoing humanitarian crisis, so maybe it’s time to think outside the box with ideas totally different from the decades old approach of engaging in yet more failed peace talks.  I don’t know what’s viable & what’s not, but the world community has been faced with this powder keg for generations & nothing ever changes.  Couldn’t we try something like all nations agreeing to pitch in to develop new lands in some remote area of the Sinai, building homes & even a desalination plant.  Such an investment could be a small price to pay in the hopes it finally brings peace to a region otherwise devoid of hope.  Such a new home is not at all the land Palestinians believe they’re entitled to, but it’s a whole lot more promising than what they have now.  And with the generosity of the Egyptians, maybe we can carve out a territory Palestine can finally call home.  I’m just throwing it out there, since nothing else is working.  Has anyone else got a better idea that might work?: palestinians-israel-nakba-day-gazans & also see the-meaning-of-nakba-israel-palestine

John McCain

I have zero tolerance for the ugly, crude attitudes toward this American hero & formerly tortured American POW.  The moment from the early days of the latest presidential campaign when Trump inferred McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured & Trump likes people who weren’t captured, that was the exact moment I became a never-trumper.  And I emphasize the word “never.”  Since that day it has not gotten any better, with Trump’s despicable personal traits & divisive intentions proving far worse than even I could have ever imagined.  And likewise I have no tolerance for Trumpeters who’ve sided with Trump from the beginning over those demented “captured” comments, & to this day when many of those same Trump fans seem to be celebratory over McCain’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis, that kind of attitude may be not just hateful, but demonic.  So with some in that base, we may be dealing with an element far worse than normal political opposition, it may be a force of pure evil that has become so irrational we’re completely unable to reason with them, from which their deranged mindset & unwavering support of their American fuhrer have helped unleash the monster inside Trump.  Click on john-mccain-battle-worldview-donald-trump to read more about McCain, with these excerpts here coming from trump-mccain-2016-2018-right-wing:

It’s also not new. When Trump delivered the infamous line during the 2016 campaign, “I like people that weren’t captured” — a comment the mainstream press was sure would cross a line with his followers — they not only didn’t care but started a bizarre meme bashing McCain. The hate dates back to John McCain’s own run for the White House in 2007 and 2008, and even to his service during the Vietnam War, during which he was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years and tortured for information. And the vitriol has escalated so much in recent days, swerving into old conspiracy theories and jokes about torture, that Fox News banned a Trump supporter and longtime contributor from appearing on its networks again. When it’s too much for Fox, it’s really too much. Within the circle of Trump-supporting conservatives, McCain is a traitor, and his illness has been greeted with near glee. When McCain reportedly decided that he didn’t want President Trump to attend his funeral (but wished for former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush to give eulogies), former Trump campaign staffer Sam Nunberg tweeted a meme implying that Trump would “celebrate from home then.”

And here is the wrap-up from the article once-again-we-see-why-trump-and-trumpians-cant-bear-john-mccain:

This is also why people close to the White House cannot stop themselves from making vulgar comments or vile jokes about McCain: They know that McCain embodies not just a form of patriotism but a kind of courage and honor that Trump will simply never have. The “odious contrast” is particularly stark because, for the moment, Trump’s vision of America has won. The White House is dominated by a completely different worldview: mean-spirited and partisan, self-serving and corrupt, transactional rather than idealistic, more favorable to dictatorship than democracy. Cicero also lost. But his ideas continued to resonate long after his death, even inspiring America’s founding fathers. We have to hope that McCain’s vision of America and its place in the world will outlast him too – even if his ideals appear right now to be in rapid retreat.

Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For Trump….
 
Well I have, I have written that for him.  I’ve written about him often since I detest the man.  I can’t stand his chronic lying, megalomaniacal arrogance, overbearing self-centeredness, vindictive bullying & petty insults for those refusing to bow down to him, & his general absence of human values.  At the worst possible time, he’s a bitterly divisive figure in a very polarized America.  He has conspicuous character flaws I would be horrified if my own kids adopted.  I am apoplectic he or anyone like him could ever be elected President of these United States.  I could never like or respect him personally, but it is within the realm of possibility we might soon respect his accomplishments.  If he can navigate a path leading to a non-nuclear North Korea & Iran (still at best a long shot), all us never-trumpers can sing a song to him while they’re serving us our crow, as we could in unison tell the prez this is your song:
And the rain comes down
There’s no pain and there’s no doubt
It was easy to say
I believed in you everyday
If not for me
Then do it for the world 
A hauntingly beautiful song during a time this singer had a solo career apart from Fleetwood Mac….