My Eeyore Moment

This just in:  Yesterday, the GDP was reported at 4% which is a very high number.  It reflects how strong our economy was last quarter.  I think it’s fine to celebrate, however, I’m thinking this is going to be short-lived.

Here is why…

First: Growth depends on productivity.  A major part of productivity is labor.  The United States is out of labor.  Once we dropped below 5% unemployment, everyone that wants a job has a job.  I work with companies that are outgrowing their current capacities.  For the last couple of years, the one thing that is holding them back is the lack of available labor.  This is a very real thing.

We have some solutions to this.  We can stop deporting so much labor.  We can allow more labor to immigrate.  We can invest in automation.  We are doing the exact opposite of the first two and the third one is a long term fix in that it won’t help us out in the near term.

Second:  Our deficit is out of control.  Yes, if we grow at 5% we may be able to slow this somewhat, however, this is extremely unlikely.  We are paying more and more interest as we borrow more and more money.  Why are we borrowing so much?  Did we increase spending?  No, we decreased income by cutting taxes.  We can feel like we have more money when we cut taxes but what we are really doing is borrowing more money so we feel richer.

Third: Inflation is starting to go up.  Interest rates are also going up as the FED tries to put a lid on inflation.  Inflation makes our dollars less valuable and higher interest makes products (like housing) more expensive.  In short,  we are becoming poorer without changing the amount of money we are holding.

Fourth:  Tariffs are creating a global trade war.  All you need to know about tariffs is that they raise the prices of things you buy.  If you want a Toyota and we put a 25% tariff on Toyotas, then that car will cost you 25% more.

Fifth:  Housing is unaffordable.  When this happens, no one is buying a house.  Hosing construction contributes to the GDP.  When people have a house, they buy big ticket items like sofas and ovens.  When they don’t buy houses, they don’t buy these other things as well.

Sixth:  Wages are oddly stagnant.  Typically, coming out of a recession, wages lag by a few months.  This means once the economy gets going again, wages eventually go up.  We came out of a recession 9 years ago and yet, wages are still stagnant.  Keep in mind, the middle class makes up 2/3 of our economy.  When they have less buying power, the economy slows down.

So there you have it.  I really, really hope that I’m wrong.  I want a chicken in every pot.

But I’m not.

Those that disagree with me simply because we just had a 4% GDP growth rate are the same people that look out the window and say, “There is no Global Warming because it’s cloudy outside right now.”

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

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I wish I was wrong more often

This just in:  I see no reason to expect that I am either right or wrong more often than the average person.  However, there are times that I wish I was wrong more often than I am; especially when it comes to this blog.

Being wrong is not really a bad thing.  To discover that I’m wrong is the same as learning something new.  I like to think I can change my mind and accept a perspective that I had not previously held.

Take climate change for example.  I believe in it.  I didn’t do any math but other have and the experts emerged from their “room of math and climate analysis” and declared, “It’s happening and we did it!”

Suppose this same group met again and reviewed their math and then emerged and said, “We forgot to carry the 3!  There is no climate change!”

This would make me change my mind.

Like climate change, I depend on experts to help me to take a side on an issue.  Take Pi, for example.  It’s an irrational number in that it’s digits go on forever without repeating.  I believe this because someone smarter than me did the math.

I said Trump’s tax breaks for the rich would not stimulate the economy.  I wanted to be wrong.  I want 5% growth rate and lots of well paying jobs.  History, however, teaches a different lesson about tax cuts.  History says there will be a brief spurt and then…nothing.  That is what we are seeing now.

I want Trickle-Down-Economics to work.  If the rich have more money, I want them to create high paying jobs.  Alas…this is a failure as well.  This Trump policy is the most disproven economic theory I know of and it is playing out just like the economic experts said it would.  A flop.

I wish it was a fact that separating immigrant parents from their kids is a morally just solution.  Alas…it’s not and I’m once again correct that we should be condemning it.

I wish I was wrong when I said Trump’s tariffs would start a trade war and result in a loss of jobs and higher prices here at home.  Once again…I was, unfortunately correct.

I wish I was wrong when I say that racists and evangelicals are basically the same thing.  But, I’m not.  What’s the difference between hating Muslims and hating non-whites?

I wish Trump was super clever and was actually toying with Putin in Helsinki.  I wish he truly was the “toughest ever” on Russia.  However, I’m not wrong.  Trump is not a smart man.  He is a Putin puppet.

I wish Trump had solved the North Korea threat.  But instead…he just got taken for a ride by Kim-Jong-Waterbrain.

I wish we didn’t need NATO because Trump is certainly trying to end it.  But we do.

Now….what about my assertion that Trump is a money launderer?  Well…I think we’ll see about that pretty soon.

Yes, over the years, I have made mistakes on my blog.  The title “View From The Cheap Seats” is meant to indicate that I’m not always posting an academic White Paper but rather … I’m just telling you what I believe.

Most of my posts over the last year have been trashing Trump and the Republican Party.  I don’t do this because they are on the “other team”.  I do it because they are wrong; at least in my mind.

My mind…feel free to change it.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

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My Recipe for Fascist Pie

This just inFascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of radical authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and control of industry and commerce, which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.

That sounds way more familiar than it should.  The question of the day is “How did we get here?”

The following is my own recipe for Fascist Pie

Ingredients…

  • 1 Cup of sifted, unlimited, anonymous, campaign contributions
  • 2 Handfuls of a gullible population
  • 1 tablespoon of greed
  • 1/2 Pound of propaganda machine
  • A dash of racism
  • 1 stick of Russia funded NRA
  • 3 chopped Evangelicals
  • A dash of anti-fact
  • 1 Orange (comb-over is optional)

Mix all of these together and them plop them into an oven set on “FEAR”.  Cook for one decade.

In short…you can’t make a pie with just an orange.  There are a lot of reasons we are becoming a Fascist nation and only one of them is named Trump.

Unlimited campaign contributions are probably the main ingredients here.  However, all this money would have no impact if we didn’t have a political party that willingly takes the bribes and then does the bidding of those that paid them, instead of those that voted for them.  This is a symbiotic relationship.  Citizens United would not exist without the Republican Party and they would not exist without unlimited finances from special interests.

Greed tells the Koch brothers that they need more money.  Greed of Republicans make them willing to take Koch money to pass a tax law that harms our economy. Greed makes Republicans take Russian money, via the NRA, and then not address gun control

Racism, along with Evangelicals are the special spices of this mix.  Both want America to return to some imagined White, Christian nation.  They don’t know it but they are acting as if a White, Christian, Fascist nation is what they prefer.

To keep the population at bay, they must be fed a steady diet of “don’t look behind that curtain in the corner.”  Fox News and the NRA provide this mis-direction.  For example:  If there is a mass shooting by a white guy…”send thoughts and prayers”.  If there is a mass shooting by a non-white then “Terrorism strikes the homeland.”  This sustains the racist and evangelical votes.  Trump tariffs are starting to hurt the economy so, let’s do a show about an ugly dog contest at a county fair.

Gullibility is hard to under-estimate.  Here are 2 examples.  (1)George Bush is president and the gas prices are high.  Fox News reports that the president has no control over gas prices.  Then, Obama is president and gas prices are high.  Now Fox News reports that these high prices are the president’s fault. (2) Obama, the candidate, said he would meet with North Korea without preconditions.  Fox News blasted relentlessly for this.  Trump then says the same thing and Fox News praises him as a man of action.  In both of these instances, the gullible watched Fox News and nodded in agreement.

Note:  If you have not read 1984 in the last 10 years, I recommend you have another go at it.

The orange, Trump, is the cherry on top of the pie.  That pie would exist without him but it would not be nearly as perfect.  Trump is without shame.  He has a complete disregard for any facts that don’t suit him.  For example, right now, his new plan is to act as if Russia did interfere but what they really want is for Democrats to win.  Now, in front of the world, Putin said in Helsinki that he wanted Trump to win.  Today, the White House transcripts and video of Putin saying that have be wiped clean of Putin’s statement.  We all saw it but Trump is acting like it never happened.  Fox News will back him up on this and the gullible will nod in agreement.

The result is a big fat heaping of Fascism Pie.  If you don’t like it and would prefer something else…then change the ingredients.  Vote in November.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

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The Interview

This just in:  I was walking down the street today when I came across a man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.  I stopped him and asked if I could interview him.  Here is the “hypothetical” interview.

Me:  What did you think when you saw Trump on stage with Putin?  He said our intelligence was wrong.  He blamed Russian interference on the United States and said that he didn’t believe Russia interfered with our elections because Putin “strongly” denied it.

MAGA: Trump is a genius.  He is playing Putin.  Right now, Putin is fooled into believing that Trump is his friend.  Trump will use this to his advantage later.  He pretended to agree with Putin but really he doesn’t.

Me:  Speaking of “later”, what did you think when Trump later said he believed our own intelligence agencies and blamed Russia for interfering in our elections?

MAGA: Trump speaks his mind.  When he makes a mistake, he’s a man about it.  The only reason we are even talking about this is because the fake news is trying to bring him down.

Me: Last night, Trump reversed himself yet again and said the Russian interference thing was all a hoax.  How do you explain that?

MAGA: The press has always been against Trump.  This is fake news.  If this was such a big deal, why didn’t they throw Hillary in jail over her emails or Benghazi?

Me: Tell me what you know about Hillary’s emails or Benghazi.

MAGA: ….

Me: Okay…new subject.  What do you think about Trump’s immigration policies?

MAGA (evangelical version):  Everyone knows that Muslims are infiltrating our country.  They are terrorists and they are trying to bring Sharia law into our country.  God has sent Trump to us in order to preserve our Christian heritage just like our founding fathers wanted.

MAGA (white supremist version): Everyone knows that Mexican gangs are flooding across our borders.  What we should be talking about is the fact that Democrats want Mexican gang members here so that our daughters will be raped.  Trump is just trying to preserve our white culture, just like the founding fathers wanted.

I started to ask about Trump’s economic policies, his foreign policies, his attacks against NATO and his propensity to lie…about everything…but I could tell the interview was over as MAGA’s eyes began to glass over.  It looked like he’d run out of data and would not be able to talk again until a fix of FOX NEWS tells him what to believe.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

 

 

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Is Shipping Really Free?

This just in:  I’m a huge Amazon fan.  I buy all kinds of stuff online and love the fact that I can get everything delivered to my doorstep in 2 days.  Shipping is always free…or is it?

The other day, my wife asked me to buy a certain type of mouthwash.  It was seawater or something like that.  I found it on Amazon and bought it in about 3 microseconds.  Two days later, it shows up and I give the package to my wife.  She opens the package and says, “Did you know you just paid $23.63 for something I can buy anywhere for about $6?”  Stunned, I did a little research online and she was right.  It actually cost me $10 to send it back but in the end, that $10 plus $6 for the product still saved me a lot of money.

Since then I have been paying attention.  The other day, I was at a sporting goods store for camping gear.  I saw a pop-up trash can for $10.  I had no idea if this was a good idea so I checked Amazon where the exact same thing was on sale for $15 and claimed to be marked down from $20.  A few days later, during Amazon’s “Prime  Day” sale, the same product had been marked “down/up” to $23 because…you know…there was a sale.

Next, I was driving around somewhere and it occurred to me that if I invented a hand-held carpet shampoo device, I would be rich.  First…check the internet to see if this has already been done.  Turns out it has.  There are two versions that seem to be popular.  One is $70 from the manufacturer and is also $70 on Amazon.  The other is $80 from the manufacturer and $100 on Amazon.

Now, to be clear.   I love Amazon.  I love the convenience.  I love the idea of being able to find something that I would otherwise have no idea where to buy it.  I once needed a 9-inch bolt with two 45 degree bends in it to mount an air filter in my 31 year old Jeep.  Amazon had it.

But…

I have only just started comparison shopping and thus far…Amazon is either equal in price or more expensive than the competition.

So, buyer beware..

Having said all of that, I remain a Jeff Bezos fan if for no other reason than he is saving the series The Expanse.  Plus…his Washington Post is a voice of reason in a world where “reason” is losing its luster.

Time to save the world.

Up, up and away…

Jim

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And the simplest answer is…

This just in:  “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

Yes, there are two sides to every story and every coin.  Yes, we have differing opinions and you are certainly welcome to yours.  Yes, they all do it.

However, don’t be fooled into a false equivalency.  Both sides of an issue are not necessarily equal in merit.

For example, if I point at a rock and say, “That is a rock” and you point at the same rock and say, “That is the Eiffel Tower,” one of us is wrong.  Just because we are equal in number and welcome to our own perspectives, we are not necessarily equal in the truth of what we say.

This, and the opening quote, are all intended to set up the following statement…

Congress and the president are offering convoluted explanations to justify their actions; explanations that fall far short of the lowest believability threshold.

My belief is not that they are stupid.  My belief is that they pretend to believe certain things because their “salaries depend on it.”

Let’s take climate change.  The scientific community is in one voice about this.  It is real.  However, Republicans and the President, who are largely funded by the fossil fuel industry, find it hard to believe in it.  Big oil pays then to not believe in it.

How about “trickle down economics” which is the widely disproven idea that if you give tax breaks to the rich, they will create more jobs.  The Republican Party is a huge fan of unlimited campaign contributions from the very rich.  These “very rich” pay the Republicans to believe that tax cuts for the rich actually work.

The Russian funded NRA pays Republicans to believe that gun proliferation has nothing to do with the 35,000 annual gun deaths in the United States.  Republicans believe this because they are paid to believe it.

Now we get to Donald Trump.

Why does Trump have a hard time saying, “I believe Russia is continuing to hack our elections.”?  He has perfect information available to him.  He must have an absolute certainty that this is the case; and yet, he denies it.

Why?

Trump’s job depends on his not believing that Russia is interfering in our elections.

His job depends on it because Putin told him so.  Which, in turn, says that Putin has the ability to end Trump’s presidency.

I absolutely believe this.  However, if you pay me enough money, I might be convinced to believe otherwise. A lot of money…

Up, up and away…

Jim

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The Trump “Walkback”

This just in:  Following Global outrage at Trump’s performance with Putin on Monday, the president decided to rewrite history, putting himself in a better light.

Let’s recap.

I will be paraphrasing here…

The Before Picture

Trump:  I think our intelligence is wrong because Putin very strongly told me so.  I also think that Putin has a great idea.

Putin:  America will give us their intelligence, so we can tell how they wrongly reached the conclusion that we interfered in U.S. Elections.

Democrats:  This is treason

The World: This is treason

The Republicans:  NATO is good, M’kay.

The After Picture

Trump:  I think that I misspoke the other day.  I meant to say that “peach is the best of all cobblers, although, there may be other cobblers as well.  There is just no way to tell for certain.”

Democrats:  Who would believe this bullshit.

The World:  Who would believe this bullshit.

The Republicans:  Whew.  We’re glad he cleared that up so let’s get back to doing something else.

Trump followers: We too love peach cobbler.  Trump is the best.

So there you have it.

Up, up and away…

Jim

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Putting the pieces together…

This just in:  Our Constitution’s system of “checks and balances” is not working.  The three branches of government are not keeping each other in check.  Now I think I know why.

I think we all know by now that Trump works for Russia.  I can go through the list but it comes down to two facts: (1) Trump is actively working to break apart NATO and (2) Trump sided with Putin over America on global television.

So this issue is settled.

Now, this would normally be dealt with by Congress.  They would say, “Hey!  Trump is a traitor.  Let’s get rid of him right away.”

But that’s not going to happen.  It won’t happen because the Republicans that control Congress are also working for Russia.

Here is why I say that…

First of all, they behave as if Trump favoring Russia is no big deal.

Secondly, they are actively trying to stop an investigation into Russian interference in our elections.  All I can say about that is that if this investigation is a Witch Hunt, they sure are finding a lot of witches.

Thirdly, and this is complicated, it has been shown that Russia funnelled money to the NRA.  It has also been shown that the NRA used that money to pay off Trump and a variety of Republicans.  The NRA is currently under investigation over this issue.  A couple of days ago, a female Russian operative was arrested for working with the NRA and trying to use that organization to influence Republicans in ways favorable to Russia.

In short, Russia owns the president and has significant power over the Republican Party.

In my view, the NRA is also the perfect place to find gullible Americans.  Who else would believe gun violence is not related to guns or that gun control only means bad guys have guns.  These people are soft, willing minds, that gobble up Russian created memes about Hillary running a pedophile ring out of a pizza shop. These people love hating NFL players for being unpatriotic…because a Russian meme told them to.

These same people will watch Trump sellout America and find a way to make that right in their minds.

Trump’s Putin Summit was both a disaster and a blessing.

It was a disaster because it showed that he works for Putin.  It was a blessing for the same reason.

There should be not more talk of “witch hunts” and “no collusion”.  If someone stands by Trump now, they might as well wear a sign saying, “I too have sold out the United States of America.”

Up, up and away…

Jim

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Trump – Putin Puppet Abroad

This just in:  As Trump continues his “wrecking ball” tour of Europe, I thought I would point out a few, very telling issues.

Point #1:  Trump has gone out of his way to disparage two people.  Angela Merkel and Theresa May, are the leaders of Germany and U.K. respectively.  Both of these countries are/were staunch allies of the United States and…both are women.  So, in trashing these women, he showed more of his misogynistic behavior while driving a deadly wedge into the heart of our NATO allies.  For no apparent reason.

Point #2: Trump called immigration in the E.U. “a very negative thing.”  There are a few issues with this.  First of all, Trump has no idea what he is talking about.  He can’t name 5 member of either the E.U. or NATO.  Secondly, this is a patently racist comment.  He didn’t say, “illegal immigration.”  He referred to immigration in general.  He says it is hurting European culture.  I think he is really projecting his beliefs about immigration in the United States onto Europe.  He thinks the immigration of Non-Whites, and Non-Christians, are hurting our culture here at home. If you agree with him on this, then you are a racist as well.

Point #3: While Trump never hesitates to disparage anyone, anywhere, he has singled out Putin as being exempt from all of that.  This begs the question, “Why?”   Combine this with the following: (1) Russia banks lent Trump billions when no bank in the United States would touch him, (2) Trump has a history of selling properties to Russians and hugely inflated profits; a red flag for anyone investigating money laundering and (3) Nearly everyone in Trump’s campaign was on Russia’s Christmas card mailing list.

Point #4:  When the Mueller investigation indicated several Russians last week, Trump blamed Obama rather than Putin.  To me, this is fantastically telling.  Just his morning, Trump said Russia didn’t interfere in our elections because Putin told him they didn’t.  You might recall that Trump thinks everyone that says anything he does not like is a liar.  The press is a liar.  All the women accusers are liars.  This list goes on and on.  But Putin…that is a guy Trump trusts.

Point #5:  During an interview, held two days before his meeting with Putin, Trump was asked, “Who are America’s Foes?”  His response:  “The E.U.”  Not Putin, not China, not North Korea but….The European Union.

There are several other things but none of them are new.  Things like lying and bullying and doing everything he can to alienate our allies.  Strange how this is now so common that it’s no longer front page material.

Time to save the world.

Up, up  and away…

Jim

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Trump – An American Bully Abroad

This just in:  The “Trump Goes to Europe” movie is going as predicted.

Let’s start with two well established facts: (1) Trump lies about everything and (2) Trump is a bully.

Trump’s first stop in Europe was to meet with NATO.  These are our allies.   We trade together.  We fight together.  We protect each other.  This was the strongest, most effective contributor to world peace….in the history of the world.

Trump spent two days trashing it.  He publicly chastised world leaders using made up statistics.  He went after Germany’s Merkel.  My guess is he did this for two reasons.  First of all, she is a woman in a position of power.  Secondly, she is vastly more intelligent than Trump and he sees this as a threat.

Trump came out of NATO basically saying “I set them straight and they will now pay more money into NATO.”  France’s Macron came out of the same meeting and said, “We didn’t agree to do any of those things Trump said.”

Now, who do you think is being honest?  Remember, Trump came out of his meeting with Kim-Jong-Flattop and declared the nuclear threat was over.  He then claimed that American remains from the Korean war had been sent from North Korea.  He also declared that as a show of good will, the United States would stop having military exercises with South Korea.  Of these 3 things, only one was true.  We did stop the exercises which means we gave that away and got nothing in return.

Next, Trump moves on to the UK.  He immediately went on a radio show and declared May, the British PM, was a disaster.  He also praised her opponent.  Later, when confronted with this, he denied it.  He denied it in the face of direct evidence that he was lying.

So, thus far, Trump has trashed NATO, trashed the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and trashed British PM, May.  Sprinkled in all of this has been numerous praises of Putin.

Next, he plays golf and then visits Putin to get further orders.

Never forget, as America’s standing in the world declines, the Republican Party has stood by and allowed this to happen.

Vote in November.

Up, up and away…

Jim

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