Friday, August 12, 2016

Should Presidential candidates be psychologically tested?

Donald Trump mocking handicapped
Maybe it goes without saying that Americans would prefer their President to be psychologically healthy.  But how do we know if our nominees are sane for sure?

One could postulate that anyone running for President is by definition psychologically healthy.  After all, being in front of the public exposes all of your abilities and frailties. It should be easy to spot someone who lives in a fantasy world or by their actions has other psychological problems deserving of a trip to the insane asylum.  How could a psychologically unfit candidate ever get by that scrutiny?

Perhaps there is a type of person who can pass that scrutiny even though they are not truly psychologically healthy.  If there is one such type of person in this election year, my guess is that is Donald Trump.  Now, I am not a psychologist or mental health worker, so my observations are based on my own bias on what I think normal is.

But it is also based on the findings of a group of seventy Republicans who have petitioned the RNC to discontinue funding for their Presidential nominee.  The members of this group have worked with Republicans throughout previous administrations and they enumerate a number of observations they have made about the statements of the candidate that seem to give credence to the questionable state of his psychological health.

Their letter includes the observations below:

  • Attacking Gold Star families of soldiers who died serving their country. 
  • Urging a hostile country to intervene in a U.S. election.
  • Suggesting that gun owners take action against his opponent if she is elected.
  • Repudiating our NATO treaty obligations to protect our allies.
  • Reportedly expressing interest in the preemptive use of nuclear weapons.
  • Exposing his total ignorance of basic foreign policy matters.
  • Stating his admiration for violent foreign autocrats.
  • Refusing to release any of his past income taxes including those not under audit.
  • Deliberately and repeatedly lying about scores of issues, large and small
  • His campaign is built on anger and exclusion where he has mocked and offended millions of voters including the disabled, women, Muslims, immigrants and minorities.
  • He has shown dangerous authoritative tendencies including threats to ban an entire religion from the country, ordering the military to break the law by torturing prisoners, killing families of suspected terrorists, tracking law abiding Muslim citizens in a database, and using executive orders to commit other illegal and unconstitutional acts.
  • Waging battle with other Republicans with his own super PAC and openly refusing to support Republican candidates.
It is also based on the opinion of 50 former Republican administration security experts that say Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the safety and security of Americans.

If you believe that Donald Trump would be a good President, ask yourself why you are supporting him.  Could it be that he appeals to the skeletons in your own closet?  Perhaps he appeals to your secretly hidden worst nature.  Many of his supporters say he is just like one of them.  Does this mean that you are OK with the above list?  If not, then perhaps you are supporting the wrong candidate.

But I digress.  Perhaps it is time for Congress to enact legislation that requires all Presidential candidates to pass a psychological test before we allow them to run for office.  It appears that in this election, if we leave it up to the people to decide, it is quite possible that a person who should be in a mental hospital could wind up being President.

Then again, maybe we should just not vote for Republicans for any office.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Living in the past, Trump reincarnates Reagan trickle down plan as most forward looking policy for America

Trump speaking in Detroit
Today, Donald Trump gave some specifics about his Tax plan, among other subjects, if he were elected President.  I review here what the major features of his plan includes.

Trump believes that taxes are the biggest differentiation between him and Hillary.  He repeated his campaign's rhetoric and false claim that Hillary says she will increase taxes on the middle class.

Overall, his approach to taxes is to reduce them for most people, but especially for the wealthy and Corporate America.  Although he stated that he is the future thinking of American taxes, his tax plan is to reactivate the 1980's Reagan trickle down economic policy, which many argue does not increase the number of jobs, or give wage increases to workers.  What it does do is pad the bank accounts of the extremely rich.  He spoke nothing about minimum wage increases.

The "trickle down" policy is cited as one of the major reasons for the redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the rich which caused today's income inequality.  Most of his recommendations would reduce revenue to run the Federal government and likely increase the deficit unless severe cuts are made to the social safety net or other programs thought unworthy by a Republican Congress.

For example,  Donald Trump admits that the tax code is extremely complicated but does not mention how the tax code would change, other than by reducing the number of tax brackets from seven down to three.  The three brackets would be 12%, 25% and 33%.

Donald believes that taxes and regulation on Corporate America have had the most adverse impact on reducing the GDP.  Further, he believes that reducing the already highest business tax rate of all western countries from 35% to 15% will improve the economy and spur on business investments and job growth.  The problem with that statement is that 2/3 of all businesses pay no taxes and those that do, have their taxes reduced through exemptions, deductions and off-shore tax havens to about 12.6%.  If reduction in Corporate taxes had any long term impact on increasing jobs or increasing wages, we should have already seen it.  We have not.

Not stopping there to improve the lives of the wealthy, Mr. Trump also advocates elimination of estate taxes.  This was received by a large round of applause from the audience, who apparently either are very rich themselves or do not understand that estate taxes are not paid by any family having less than a $10.8 million estate.

Mr. Trump indicates that the rich will pay their fair share of taxes, but this is very subjective.  Mr. Trump did not get into details on what constitutes a fair share.  For example, if a Corporate CEO who enjoys a $15 million annual income shelters $14 million of it in offshore tax shelters, does he pay tax on the $15 million or $1 million?  Even if he finds legal ways to protect most of that income, what constitutes a fair share?

One tax advantage offered that could favor working women is elimination of all child care expenses from taxes.  Again no specifics but on the surface, it appears that provided you have a job and a child in day care, your child care costs might be deductible from your gross income and not be subject to a tax.  The average cost of child care for working women is about $200 per week, so this has the potential to save over $10,000 from being taxed.  We'll have to see how a Republican Congress would find this proposal, but if history is any indicator, Republicans are not very generous appropriating money for such social reasons.

For example, on the subject of equal pay, if Republicans in Congress passed equal pay legislation, women's wages would be increased by about 30%, potentially increasing the take home pay by much more than $10,000.  That has been rejected by Republicans more than once.  My guess is that Trump's child care deduction will be solidly rejected if Republicans stay in control of Congress.

Donald indicates that more about his tax policies can be found on his website.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

The economy is why don't I feel it?

Led by Donald Trump, a familiar claim of the Republican party is that Obama has made the economy far worse than ever. However, the economy has actually improved, especially after the Bush financial crisis was resolved by the Obama administration. But this fact does not ring true with many workers in the middle class.  

And therein lies the strength of the Republican strategy to convince people of their false statements about the economy.  As a whole, the middle class has truly not participated in the economic improvements and large cash in-flows enjoyed by the financially top 1% of society.

The reason for this is simple to explain and has nothing to do with the Obama Administration or the new Democratic platform.

If you are a middle class worker, you have a job.  The salary you got when you took that job was between you and your boss.  The government currently has no control over the wages that you are paid by your employer, except if you are a minimum wage worker.  State legislatures set the minimum wage that your employer cannot legally go below.  But there is no governmental requirement for an employer to increase your pay at any time.  Whether you get a pay increase at all, depends on the policies of the executives running your employer's company.  In the distant past, employers used to treat employees to annual raises, the amount of which depended on how well you met your job objectives.  Today however, regardless of how well you do your job, your employer may still not increase your pay.

Prior to the Reagan administration, some middle class workers enjoyed protections on living wages by their union membership.  Labor unions were started under a Democratic administration at a time when business executives put profits before people in the worst way.  

Before labor unions, many company executives treated workers with contempt and disrespect.  Hours were long.  Safe working conditions were not a consideration.  Weekend work was expected. If you got a vacation it was not paid.  Children were put to work in factories as executives of manufacturing companies took advantage of families that could not afford to eat during the depression unless their children worked. Some workers were killed during strikes against unfair labor practices.

As soon as they gained back the Presidency, the Republicans worked hard to reverse workers gains received from labor unions.  This effort continues even today and has resulted in the demise of union membership.  Today, less than 25% of workers belong to unions and the Republicans are still trying to get rid of unions altogether.  Their "Right to Work" legislation is being promoted as a positive measure to help workers, but in reality it is just another Republican lie to reduce current Union membership and reduce workers rights and wages.   Republican legislators have argued that the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that is the only help workers have with grievances against their boss, be dissolved from the federal government.  Republican legislators have refused to increase the federally mandated minimum wage.  They have legislated for increased work visas for lower paid foreigners to take American jobs.  Working for their true constituents, the Republican party has assisted the wealthy by devaluing workers and ensuring that workers wages do not impact the corporate bottom line.

Labor to an executive is an expense.  It costs the company money and reduces the profits.  The profits are for the executives and the owners and not something shared with workers in most companies.  A large part of business management's responsibility is to reduce costs so there is always downward pressure on wages. In a society that found slavery as a viable alternative to more expensive labor, it is fairly apparent that in a capitalistic society the powerful value profits over people.

Your employer has enjoyed the benefits of the economic progress made by the Obama administration, but has not shared the profits with you.  Your wages could be increased since there is plenty of cash in the coffers of Corporate America, but your employers have decided against it.  That is why you have not been feeling the benefits of economic gains being realized by the rich.  

For the last thirty years, the share of the economic gains received by the top 1% of society have exceeded those that most workers have received by nearly 300 times.  If you have been employed for more than 20 years, you may remember a time when annual raises were a thing.  Today, most corporations have eliminated annual raises and increased the competition between fellow workers in order to keep their workers more productive and content with having a job with no increase in wages.  With foreign workers visas being increased yearly, American workers today are always fearful that their company may have another lay-off, in which they might lose their job to lesser paid foreigners unless they out-work their fellow employees and don't complain about their wages.

Ultimately, you are not feeling the improvement in the economy because of the greed of your bosses.  They have received the benefits, which one could say are the result of your labor, since no company is made profitable by its non-human elements.   

Nearly 75% of the economy is from consumer purchases.  The other 25% is from government spending. The Republicans want to keep your wages low and reduce the federal government.  Both tactics will reduce the economy for all socio-economic classes.  The Republicans are married to the "trickle-down" theory where you give the economic benefits to the rich and they will create more jobs.  This is a total farce that has hurt the middle class for over the last 35 years.  The only thing their economic theory has caused is a redistribution of wealth to the top 1%.  Jobs don't get created if demand does not warrant it and simply giving tax breaks and exemptions to the rich does not increase demand.

The Democrats want to improve the economy from the middle class out, which will improve the economy from the consumer side.  This will ultimately benefit the rich as well since consumers with more money can buy more things.

When you vote this November, remember that Donald Trump is not an island to himself, but rather the culmination of historic Republican obstruction and erroneous economic policies that contributes to your inability to make gains from the improvement in the economy.  If you are middle class, you should not want Republicans in state or federal office.

Vote for Democrats for all political offices to eliminate the obstruction in Washington and give America back to the middle class.  Only then will workers make progress against the powers that otherwise would hold them down.