Digging, Deeper and Deeper

In case you missed the news earlier today, the federal government’s deficit jumped to $779 billion in the fiscal year just ended. That’s a 17 percent increase over the previous fiscal period.

An escalating deficit late in an expansionary economic cycle is unprecedented. But under the self-proclaimed King of Debt, it’s hardly surprising. All he needed was a Republican-controlled Congress that doesn’t give a damn about deficits. And that’s exactly what he got.

The obvious question is, how will the federal government be able to respond to the next recession? No one knows. We’re in unchartered waters. Close to shore. Where rocks can bash your ship into smithereens if you’re not careful. And extremely lucky.

In the meantime, keep an eye on that Medicare and Social Security. They’ll be coming for that next.

Still Have a Hard Time Believing How Susceptible People Are to This Con Artist

In 2016, Donald Trump said the bull market (i.e., stock market) was a bubble manipulated by low interest rates. Yesterday, he said the bull market is legitimate and the Federal Reserve is crazy.

By now it should be obvious to even the out-to-lunch crowd that this guy will say anything that he thinks serves HIS purpose at the moment (since, as is abundantly clear, the ONLY thing the man cares about is himself). There are no underlying principles or integrity. He is a con artist to the core.

And yet people fall for it. I get it — somewhat. Con artists have the uncanny ability to get people to fall for the absurd.

That said, it’s still hard to accept the reality of human nature. It’s hard to accept how easily manipulated we are.

Which brings me to skepticism, Vera. It’s a trait worth nurturing. The world is full of people who are just waiting to take advantage of you. Some are politicians. Many are not. Some are business people, lawyers, accountants and doctors. Some are people who run so-called nonprofits. Hell, some are even your neighbors, acquaintances and fellow churchgoers.

Be on guard. Lest you start believing that opinions and lies are facts and truth.

Luck, Extra Days and Unnecessary Roadblocks

I haven’t been feeling too altruistic lately. Which isn’t a good thing. There is no substitute for giving. I suspect you know what I mean.

We can give in different ways. Our money. Time. Effort. Lives. The list is endless. I’ve previously discussed my problem with the money route. Simply put, most charities and other nonprofits are poor stewards of their money and other resources. I’m tired of the waste and, in many cases, the subterfuge. At this point in my life, I’m more interested in effective altruism than simply throwing more money at nonprofits.

So, lately, I’ve been thinking about what I can do besides writing a check. I tried volunteering at a local hospital but found myself doing things that really didn’t need to be done. Or that could (and should) be done by employees. I don’t want to be taking a paying job from anyone. Or doing makeshift work.

One good thing that came out of my hospital volunteer work, however, was an awareness of a particular dire need. I came into contact with families of patients who were receiving organ transplants. Sometimes from deceased donors. Sometimes from living donors. (A kidney from a living donor is far better. It’s more likely to work and last a lot longer.) Continue reading

The Show Goes On

President Trump is the consummate con man. Show man. No one can dominate the public attention and discourse like he can. He’s superb at what he does.

Meanwhile, of course, the daily barrage of distractions — the show he orchestrates — provides cover for the real Republican agenda: cutting taxes for the rich and their corporations, privatizing governmental functions such as education and the military (i.e., converting them into profit-making enterprises, further enriching those with capital), eliminating constraints on businesses so nothing gets in their way of turning a profit, undermining and weakening the forces of liberal democracy in whatever way he can, and pruning and, where possible, eliminating the social safety net (i.e., overturning Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and its progeny). In short, Mr. Trump has been very good for the elite of this country, his populist persona notwithstanding.

Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear, will arrive at my doorstep today, thanks to Amazon Prime. Continue reading

Never Blindly Accept the Dominant Narrative

By now you should have gotten the message, Vera: Don’t believe half of what you hear. You just can’t. Not if you want to remain grounded in reality.

But, of course, so much of life has no connection to reality. Rather, it’s a narrative. One that’s often contrived. To serve a particular purpose. Or promote a particular person, party or cause.

Another example of the gap between reality and narrative is staring us in the face today — that is, if we care to look. Continue reading

It’s Official

This afternoon the president’s personal lawyer admitted in open court that he was in a criminal conspiracy with his client. Specifically, the president (then a candidate) directed his lawyer to commit a federal crime.

Of course, no one could have been surprised by this. But now it’s official.

Today, in another courtroom, a jury found the president’s former campaign chairman guilty of eight federal crimes.

The president’s former national security adviser previously pleaded guilty to felonies.

We’ll do our best to clean up this cesspool before you come of age, Vera. Suffice it to say there’s more work to be done.

P.S.  Another tidbit: The first two members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump – New York’s Chris Collins and California’s Duncan Hunter – are both under indictment.