The Protestations of a Man Who Seems to be Concerned His Lawyer Will Turn on Him

Mr. Twitterfingers is busy this morning.

The thing about our president is that you can always tell what he’s thinking. And today’s he’s laying the groundwork to contend Mr. Cohen is lying if and when Cohen ever implicates Mr. Trump in wrongdoing.

I have no idea if Mr. Trump committed any crimes. That said, I’ve never seen anyone make himself look so guilty.

I sure hope your generation has more sense than mine, Vera. And is never tempted to elect a man such as this to the highest office in the land.

(P.S. Here’s the NYT’s story that seems to have set the pres off this morning.)

What Would a Great Country Look Like?

Part of my problem (and I have come to the conclusion, belatedly, that it is a problem) is that I think about how things could be, whether the “things” are a firm, company, city, or country. I’m not a particularly imaginative person, but when it comes to organizations and social structures, my mind is imaginative (beyond what’s good for me). And my level of contentment with the status quo is low.

It’s a problem, I’ve come to believe, because it leads nowhere except to frustration and disappointment. On a national scale, the country I envision cannot possibly come about given humans’ desires and traits. This focus on the could leads to disappointment on a micro scale, too — that is, with respect to individual firms, companies, and other organizations (such as colleges) — because of the ironclad grip of inertia and status quo. The could simply cannot garner critical support. In other words, I’m out of step and always will be. I get it. Finally.

That said, Vera, I thought I might share with you a glimpse of what a great country looks like in my mind. It’s an appropriate time, I suppose, because we have a president who says he’s making America “great again.” Yet it’s clear to me that his concept of greatness is vastly different from mine. But my intent is not to debate who’s right or wrong. Each person can decide for him or herself.

In any case, here’s what our country would look like if we decided to make it great as guided by my imagination — my hopes and dreams and the public policies I would like to see implemented: Continue reading

When the Goal Is to Win, We All Lose

Congressman Trey Gowdy has conducted himself in a highly partisan manner (although I assume some rabid Republicans might have approved of his unnecessarily divisive and highly offensive conduct). Indeed, based on the standards of conduct any parent would try to instill in their children, it’s fair to say Mr. Gowdy’s conduct has been cringeworthy. Shameful. Despicable.

But no matter what you might think of him and the damage he’s done to America, it’s worth your time watching this interview of Congressman Gowdy. It’s a reminder of what our political parties are all about and the kind of government the good people of the Unites States are willing to accept.

In Gowdy’s own words, “the goal is to win.” The best interests of the country be damned.

This is where we are today. It does not bode well for the future of our country.

Why Does Bombing and Killing Make Us Feel So Good?

Once again, our president bombed another country. And once again, so many of my fellow citizens take delight in such actions. I’ll never understand.

Here’s what our president tweeted this morning:

So just what has America accomplished in Syria?

Well, we (or our surrogates) killed a lot of people. And destroyed a lot of homes and property.

We’ve caused untold suffering. And helped create millions of refugees.

In short, we’ve been an agent of death and destruction.

Mission accomplished, America. To some we “could not have had a better result.”

To others, we lack the good sense to feel shame.

The Shifting Landscape of America

Power will be shifting, if the Xers and millennials aren’t timid about elbowing the boomers out of the way. But don’t expect the boomers to relinquish it willingly.

My biggest concern about the passing of the baton from the so-called silent and boomer generations is the loss of memory. A recent survey revealed that two-thirds of millennials can’t say what Auschwitz was, and 52 percent of Americans wrongly believe Hitler came to power through force.

Democracy is a fragile institution, and the threat from autocrats is more potent than many people believe. I’m hoping the millennials acquire a deeper understanding of the way power works and of the importance of maintaining institutions critical to our independence. If not, the baton may be dropped — with dire consequences.

Former F.B.I. Director Comey Reminds America of Its Recklessness

From the former director of the F.B.I.:

I had never seen anything like it in the Oval Office. As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the Mob.

The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview.

The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and the truth.

Describing a different meeting with Trump in January 2017, where he was asked for his personal loyalty:

To my mind, the demand was like Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony – with Trump in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man’.

Here’s how he described a meeting about Russian election interference:

Holy crap, they are trying to make each of us an ‘amica nostra’ – a friend of ours. To draw us in.

As crazy as it sounds, I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye, the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family.

The election of Donald J. Trump was the most reckless act I’ve witnessed in national politics in my lifetime. Mr. Comey is making sure we don’t forget.

Ready or Not, China Is Becoming the Big Boy on the Block

My fav British economist-journalist Martin Wolf sums it up well in his most recent Financial Times op-ed titled “US-China rivalry will shape the 21st century.” I recommend you take the time to read it, especially if you want to understand the Trump-China tussle better.

I wish Wolf wasn’t right about this but fear he is. He opines:

The threat is the decadence of the west, very much including the US — the prevalence of rent extraction as a way of economic life, the indifference to the fate of much of its citizenry, the corrupting role of money in politics, the indifference to the truth, and the sacrifice of long-term investment to private and public consumption.

History tells us that the odds are high that the U.S. and China will find themselves in armed conflict before this power shift is complete. It’s not inevitable though.

My hope is that America’s attention will be focused on many of the problems alluded to by Mr. Wolf: the out-of-control rent extraction economy, the indifference to quality of life issues, the corruption (particularly in our deeply flawed system for financing political campaigns), the lack of honesty and virtue, our short-term mindset, our excessive leverage, etc.

China is on the rise. By quite a few measures, America is on the wane. But China’s rise does not require America’s decline. Both can rise together, albeit at different rates (since China has far to go to catch up). But that’s not necessarily what will happen. The choice is ours. And, right now, there’s not a whole lot of reason for optimism.

How’s It Feel To Be Leaving a Fiscal Mess for Your Children and Grandchildren?

Earlier today the Congressional Budget Office released its long awaited report on the economic outlook for the country, including the impact of the recent tax cuts. If you want to see where your country is headed from a fiscal standpoint, follow this link to the CBO’s report: The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2018 to 2028. Read it and weep.

Two factors are driving the fiscal cliff we’ve decided to live on:

  1. unfunded wars; and
  2. tax cuts.

As a result, America is mortgaging its future. Big time. Growth will be lower than it need be. And our children and grandchildren will be left to clean up the mess.

The mess could be bad. Really bad. The potential for a fiscal crisis increases as the nation increases its leverage. And the next crisis could be worse than the last one, which was bad enough.

Rational people wouldn’t take these risks. Or leave a mountain of debt for their kids. Selfish, short-sighted people would.

Oh, well, it is what it is. Plan accordingly.

A War That No One Will Win

The war is on. History tells us no one wins such wars. But the U.S. is throwing caution to the wind and proceeding nonetheless. Its president says he’ll win this war. But he’s a fool. No one of any substance believes him.

The war is picking up steam quickly. It started about a month ago with the U.S.’s announcement of new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. China shot back with a list of 128 U.S.-produced products that would be subject to new tariffs.

The next battle in this war started last night, when the White House unveiled new tariffs on 1,300 additional Chinese products. It’s a long list. I found myself in bed scouring the list to see if a products that compete with any of my clients were included.

The Chinese struck back quickly. It took them only a matter of hours (by the time I got up this morning) to impose new tariffs on 106 categories of goods presently imported into China from the U.S.

The war is now on. In full force.

If you want to see a list of potential losers in this war, all you have to do is scan through the list of products that will be subject to these new stiff taxes and then start working your way backwards to determine who their producers and their suppliers are. Or wait for the inevitable news reports of layoffs and other financial hits that will be taken by affected industries and producers as well as their employees.

Prices may be affected, too. In certain cases, prices could rise due to lessened competition; in other cases, prices could fall, at least in the short term, due to oversupply. It’s too complicated to model in one’s head. We’ll have to await the economists’ modeling or be patient enough to observe price changes for ourself.

There may be other winners, including some domestic producers and other importers who now will have less competition from China. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

Some people who have assessed the list of new tariffs imposed by the Chinese say it appears the Chinese have intentionally targeted states that supported Mr. Trump in the election. I hope so. It would only be fair to the states that didn’t support him. Targeted fallout is always preferable to generalized impact which, by its nature, ends up with innocents taking collateral damage. It’s only fair that those who voted for Mr. Trump bear the brunt of his reckless actions.

Based on everything the president and his minions have said to date, it appears unlikely this is the final battle in this new trade war. It’s likely our neighbors in North America will get pulled into this war as well as our Allies in Europe, especially Germany for whom the president seems to harbor ill-will.

Stay tuned. And hope you don’t get caught in any cross-fire.