Saturday, November 12, 2016

President Trump

So far, one can't get a very warm feeling about what a Trump presidency will be like.  It is looking like Trump may have no actual interest in governing, and that he is going to turn that over to the loony part of the Republican party.  That may, in essence, mean that as far as day-to-day activity goes, Mike Pence will be President.  God help us.  Pence is not a smart man.  As far as the law-and-order side of things go, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie keep popping up.  Geez.  Then you've got Ben Carson and Sarah Palin. And the guy in charge of them all, Donald Trump.  Holy shit.

My main intention with this blog has been to point out that Republican attacks on government are tremendously counter-productive.  While government often is wasteful and poorly-run, it is also necessary for a functioning society.  Republicans, instead of working to make government better, have been working to destroy it.  That is the worst possible thing that could happen, if your goal is a civil society.  The forces unleashed by the Presidential campaign are going to be very hard to bottle up.  The mood of white folks in the middle of the country is very ugly.  The shock and anger in the big cities is building.  My fear is that instead of fizzling out, the protests against Trump will keep slowly building, and eventually breaking out into civil unrest.  Then you'll have a government run by Trump and his rather incompetent minions cracking down on big city protestors, while rural folks cheer them on.  The rural/urban divide could potentially become the front for a low-level civil war.

However, if that terrible outcome doesn't actually occur, you still have a likely best case scenario of an incompetent administration screwing up an already damaged economy.  As I've said previously, folks in the middle of the country have suffered as factories have closed and jobs have disappeared.  No matter what Trump said he'd do on the campaign trail, fixing that is a damn near impossible task.  If we are supposed to take comfort in Trump's business record, I think we are in serious trouble.  His whole career has been made up of a bunch of grandiose plans and over-the-top bluster followed by miserable failure.  Finally, he gave up on actually selling products and real estate, and sold his image as a loud-mouthed blowhard.  Somehow, he was able to sell himself to nearly half the population to be President of the United States.  By fueling racial resentment and making ridiculous claims about bringing the post-war industrial economy back to the Rust Belt, Trump has again massively over-promised, and will almost certainly fail. His scapegoating of minorities for America's problems reinforces the mindset already flourishing in rural areas. I can't see anything good coming of his Presidency.  For four years, the government will become weaker and more incompetent, while anger and internal resentment will build.  What happens when somebody strikes a match to the massive pile of dry tinder? 

Hopefully, I am completely wrong about all of these possibilities.  Hopefully, the Trump presidency will be a model of government efficiency and civility, and the economy will flourish.  Hopefully, all the people I thought were racist will actually be correct, and that the whole cause of increased racial tension in the country welled up from President Obama personally, and when he retires from public life racial harmony will ensue.  But I don't believe any of that will happen, and I fear that the late 20th century and early part of the 21st century will be seen as a turning point in American history.  The Trump presidency could make the Bush and Obama administrations look good in comparison. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Election

The election of Donald Trump has been a long time in the making.  Since the oil embargo in 1973, there have been tremendous stresses placed on the U.S. economy.  First, it was dependence on domestically produced petroleum to fuel our economy.  This quickly morphed into an inflationary spiral.  The inflation pressure destroyed or greatly pared down mature manufacturing industries such as steel and the domestic auto industry.  While this was occurring, Ronald Reagan brought anti-union politics to the forefront in the Republican Party.  Throughout the 80s and early 90s, the U.S. economy was guided away from manufacturing and toward finance.  Bill Clinton came in and leveraged what remained of union political strength, along with changing demographics to get elected.  When he finished the push to enact NAFTA, he made it a bipartisan coalition to undermine the manufacturing economy.  Meanwhile, the U.S. economy was supported by massive borrowing in all sectors, corporate, personal and government.  This debt-fueled economy, which continued to shed manufacturing jobs and was governed by a bipartisan coalition that promoted income inequality, hurt manufacturing employment and cut taxes on the wealthy, came crashing down at the end of the Bush presidency.  Obama decided to try to address this with a Republican-based health insurance subsidy plan, new regulations on finance, mild tax increases on the wealthy, and otherwise trying to hew to the bipartisan consensus that had held since the time of Reagan.

Republicans have cynically played on the decline of the white middle class by claiming that environmental regulations and taxes have wrecked the economy while poor people, mainly minorities, have supposedly benefited.  They have conveniently overlooked 100 years of Republican support for free trade and opposition to organized labor.  Meanwhile, Democrats have joined with Republicans to overhaul the tax code to the benefit of the wealthy and abandoned the working class while claiming that only the Republicans favor the rich.  Donald Trump sensed an opportunity to roll up deep ambivalence toward minorities and outright racism amongst white Americans while positioning himself as anti-free trade and pro-manufacturing.  It is an interesting, if massively cynical, position to take.  It has played on a rural-urban divide that has grown under the bipartisan coalition that saw manufacturing decline while national demographics have shifted.  The challenge for Trump is that he will be working with a legislature that is solidly aligned with the Republican party's free trade, anti-labor, anti-tax dogma.  Trump appears to be trying to play to racial animosity while also playing to struggling blue-collar workers and anti-government sentiment, while also repealing the modest reforms to a failing health insurance system which Obama undertook.

Trump's play has highlighted a number of contradictions in our existing political coalitions.  Democrats have increasingly grabbed support from the professional classes in U.S. cities by supporting diversity and secularism, pushing for a strong central government and mouthing support for the working class and unions while doing nothing for them.  Republicans have built a coalition based on white racial resentment, wrapping themselves in religion, championing free trade and tax cuts , attacking government and regulations and destroying unions.  Trump has tried to combine the anti-government policies of the Republican party with the anti-business positions mouthed by Democrats but completely abandoned by the bipartisan coalition, but tied them together with a more vocal racial resentment.

Looking back at the 2016 campaign from the beginning, it appears that the most logical political movement for the times, in a perfect world, would have been Bernie Sanders' campaign.  Sanders combined all of the the economic ideas antithetical to the bipartisan coalition that has reigned for 40 years and led to the hollowing out of the middle class and also fought against the racial resentment of whites toward an increasing diverse population.  Trump, on the other hand grabbed at anti-trade policies while also clinging to the failed tax cut and anti-regulatory and anti-climate change policies of the Republican party, while turning up the racial resentment to 11.  Clinton and the power brokers in the GOP tried to cling to the bipartisan consensus.

Trump is the result of the elites in both parties dividing the lower 80% of the population and giving the gains to the top 20%.  The urban portion of the 20% overwhelmingly supports the Democrats, while the rural portion supports Republicans.  Meanwhile, the urban and rural portions of the 80% are also split between the parties.  I don't see how this division will allow our economic problems to be effectively addressed.  It appears more likely that racial and rural/urban divisions will be made worse, and the illogical combination of policies Trump has supported will lead to further income inequality and unrest.  I'll expand on these ideas more going forward.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Morning in America

This morning, Americans in cities will wake up to a country they can't understand and don't recognize.  They will see that a reality TV star was elected President of the United States.  A man who made outlandish promises he will never be able to keep, and maybe never will try to keep.  They will struggle to understand how this happened, and the answer they will come up with is that rural Americans overwhelmingly elected this loudmouthed, blowhard overgrown child.  Will he bring steel mill jobs back to Youngstown and Pittsburgh?  No.  Will he overturn the economics of shale gas and bring coal jobs back?  No.  Will he dismantle Obamacare and make a dysfunctional health care system even more dysfunctional? Yes.  Will he allow Republicans in Washington to run wild with tax cuts and social spending cuts? Yes.  Will he continue to be a complete buffoon? Certainly.

If Republicans do push forward their tax and spending plans, rural Americans will suffer.  Even worse, whenever the inevitable backlash against Trump and Republicans come, there will be no interest in helping out rural areas which need help but obviously don't want it.  Do not expect the heroin epidemic to let up.  Do not expect the rural economy to improve. As the farm economy tanks, do not expect help to come from Washington.  People in cities just aren't going to care.  They see hateful assholes who gave them the finger and celebrated doing it.  Rural Americans did a stellar job choosing the worst possible candidate, and the worst possible legislature, and all Americans will suffer because of it.  Don't expect the Democrats in the House to bail out the Republican leadership when the do-nothing idiot Freedom Caucus holds out against the budget.  The Republican Party owns everything that happens from here on out, and it won't be glorious.  Sure, the statistics showed that the Bush administration was horrific, but you couldn't tell a Trump voter that.  Going forward, they have no one else to blame.  Patent medicine salesmen loved to move from town to town and rip off the rubes.  Trump continued that long tradition.  It's morning in America.  We'll move on.  We won't improve, at least for the time being.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Live Blog

I just cracked a beer and I'll be here all night.  So check in regularly.

5:59  The Farmer News Network has breaking news: We are projecting that Indiana, the Alabama of the Midwest, will award its electoral votes to Donald Trump.

6:35  Just finished some leftover wings, and now ready to get to work.  First off, I'll make a prediction for the results for my home county.  I think it will be 65% Trump, 31% Clinton, 4% other.  Check back about 9:30 for the actual totals.

6:41  I would expect that the Indiana Senate race won't be declared for a while, but the first results I saw had Todd Young's current lead being smaller than Trump's.  That can't be a good sign for him.

6:49  Honestly, I think several election cycles from now, whatever takes the place of the Republican Party will look back at 2016 and curse the fact that the GOP base selected the candidate who doubled down on favoring the dying demographics while attacking growing populations in the country.  Much of the age group that will most strongly support the GOP will be dead in 2028.

6:54  I'm not sure how farm state Congressmen will be able to go to their colleagues in the next 2 years leading up to the renewal of the Farm Bill, and make the case that despite the fact that farmers don't think anybody else deserves welfare, farmers deserve welfare. And, most likely, it will be at a time when farmers really need welfare.  We'll see what happens there, but I think farmers will be depending on the kindness of liberals.

6:56  Frank Luntz, father of labeling the estate tax the death tax, is calling the election for Hillary.

7:00 CNN joins the FNN in calling Indiana for Trump

7:02 Trump jumps out to an early 19-3 lead according to CNN.  Of course, the Browns often jump out to an early lead, too.

7:04 Bad news out of LA:

7:06 Hopefully this isn't a domestic terrorist attacking our election process.

7:08  I haven't seen anything about this shooting on CNN or Fox News, nor heard it on NPR.

7:26  Lots of interesting ballot issues voted on today.  I'm watching the death penalty referendum brought by Governor Pete Ricketts to overrule the legislature's ban on the death penalty.  The Ricketts family is a major reason I was rooting for the Cubs to lose the World Series.

7:29  If Clinton wins Florida, this race is over.

7:31  The FNN calls the congressional races for Jim Jordan and Warren Davidson in Western Ohio.  The do-nothing caucus secures 2 wins.

7:37  Trump needs Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa and someplace else.  He's probably going to do pretty good with the first four.  Apparently, though, Frank Luntz must have different information.

7:42  It's kind of hard to gauge anything about the races soon after the polls close.  The crazy conservative rural areas tend to turn in their results quicker, since it doesn't take long to count a dozen votes, skewing the early projections.

8:03  A growing rural-urban divide, combined with greater representation by do-nothing jackasses like Jim Jordan bodes very poorly for rural areas.  We are kind of baking in further decline and greater dysfunction like the current heroin epidemic.

8:06 It will depressing if Florida goes for Clinton but Ohio goes with the Donald.  Ohio, don't make Buckeyes look like jackasses.

8:10  Honestly, this election make Obama look so much better than a decent election would.

8:17  Thank God

8:22 Florida is ridiculously close. Trump has to win this to have any chance. Clinton is leading Ohio. Western Ohio results must not have been tallied yet.

8:27  We could use a marijuana referendum result to lighten things up a little.

8:33  Looks like Evan Bayh may blow the Indiana Senate race.  Governor may still be interesting.  It would have been more interesting if Pence was still in it to reap the whirlwind from "defending religious freedom" to hate gays.

8:39  Virginia is really showing the exploding rural-urban divide.  Not good for rural areas long-term.

8:48  Being out-of-touch with the rest of the country is not a good thing

8:51 Third time's the charm.

8:52 Fox News is cheerleading right now, really building up the rural landslide for Trump. I think the population centers will win out, but Fox will keep the rubes locked in.

9:04  Early on, Pete Ricketts is winning his campaign to bring back the death penalty, according to the Omaha World-Herald.  I sure hope that asshole loses.

9:12  My county went 68% Trump, 27% Clinton, 5% other.

9:18  If Trump holds leads from rural votes in Virginia and Ohio, but urban votes come in to top him, the Fox News viewership is going to lose its shit about voter fraud.

9:21  It may come down to Nevada.

9:23 If Trump wins, expect the market to to take a shit tomorrow.  And for weeks afterwards.

9:27  Virginia is the biggest surprise so far.

9:29  If you are actually reading this and want to add something, please comment.

9:36  Now Michigan and Wisconsin become interesting.  There may be a lot of people with hangovers tomorrow.

9:39  There is panic in the liberal Twitterati.  Bad news for Clinton, but maybe just a major scare for them.  Pretty early yet.

9:45  Oops, more votes still coming in in my county.  More going for Trump.

9:47  If Trump wins Virginia, this may be over.  Revenge of the rural voters.  W may be off the hook as the worst president of the century.

9:49  I'm into the can beer.  May as well start saving money.   My stock portfolio is going to get pretty ugly.  I doubt that this will inspire corporate America, either.f

9:54  Checking Fox News to see how giddy they are.

9:58 Wow, Fox just called Virginia for Clinton

10:03  Wow, Trump is winning 80% of the vote in Mercer County, OH, 79% in Auglaize and 78% in Shelby.  That is crazy, even for extremely racist areas.  This is heavy government farm payment country.

10:14  Trump vote totals in West Central Ohio are insane.

10:17  Brexit 2.0?  The whole lesson of 2016 may be that rural areas can fuck entire nations at will.

10:19  In other words, showing up matters, even if you are crazy.

10:23  Ohio is probably gone.  Clinton is done without Michigan and Wisconsin.  If she wins those, everything comes down to Nevada.

10:33  NPR is reporting that evangelicals are going 80% for Trump.  WTF?  Christianity is dead.

10:37  If you thought W was bad, you haven't seen nothing yet.  If you thought W was good, you were wrong, and now you are even more wrong.


10:52 Holy shit. Ron Johnson won easily. The man is a bump on a log in the Senate and never should have gotten elected in the first place. I honestly think Clinton is done now. It looks like the Midwest is going to carry Trump to the Presidency. We are going to get punished for this stupidity.

10:59  It is over.  Trump wins.

11:02  Wow.

11:04  This is Brexit 2.0, and it will be a disaster.

11:10  Fox is talking about the ins versus the outs, and how people are voting for Trump because they don't like the establishment.  This is true.  The thing is, the outs are pissed off because the ins weren't sharing productivity gains.  And yet, Trump's tax plan is to reward the ins for stealing the productivity gains.  The outs are going to continue to be pissed off, and even worse, the Trump crew will slash the social programs that keep the real poor from getting completely pissed off about how badly they get fucked.  This is the worst possible outcome.

11:18  My prediction at this point is that Trump will win Wisconsin, Michigan and the presidency.  The stock market is going to crash tomorrow.

11:24  My point isn't that a Hillary Clinton victory would save America from disaster.  My point is that the economic and tax policies Hillary Clinton would support would be more likely to counter-balance the inequalities that are causing working-class people to be pissed off.  Cutting taxes and regulations will not improve the standing of the working-class.  These policies will only make their standing worse.  I wish that wasn't the case, but it is.


11:48  The problem throughout the economic struggles, especially those felt in the manufacturing field, over the past 40 years has been that the U.S. had to deflate an economy that saw 5% of the population consuming 15 to 20% of the world's resources.  What we needed was a fairly equal sacrifice amongst the wealthy and the working class.  We didn't get anything like that.  Hell, we haven't even quit consuming that 15 to 20% of the world's resources.  We just quit sharing the gains from that economy.  This election will make that tension worse, even if the working class feels like it won.  That is what scares me.  Well, that and Donald Trump as President.

11:56  God, this just makes things worse for rural areas

12:18 Trump will win Pennsylvania and Michigan.

12:25 How in the fuck is this possible?

12:37 Fuck you, CA Technologies

12:49 This is going to be a mess.

12:52 It looks like sane people were incorrect. Donald Trump could just win with white marks, er, voters.

1:02 Fuck you, Pete Ricketts. You make the world a worse place.

1:14  Well, the sun will come up again in a few hours. I and financial markets will just have a hell of a hangover when it does.  Have a good day tomorrow.  Things are going to get interesting.

1:30  Fasten your seat belts.  Come January 20, the Republicans will control the House, the Senate and the White House.  And soon enough, the Supreme Court.  This will not work out well for average people.

A Very Bitter Vote

In a little while, I'll be heading to the polls to cast my vote to help bring this horrific toxic sludge dumpster fire of an election to an end.  Even though I can't stand her or her equally dishonest and corrupt husband, I'll be casting my vote for "Crooked Hillary," because, just as I anticipated ten years ago when I foolishly entered the political sphere as a candidate to try to head it off, the Republican party has become an insane, hate-filled death cult determined to undermine civil society and punish "those people."  Unfortunately, many of my friends and neighbors, whom I love and respect, will be supporting her opponent; the greatest buffoon, liar, con man, jackass, idiot and douche bag to ever win a major party nomination.  And considering the 17 candidates the Republicans had to choose from for the primary season, the GOP ably managed to select the very worst from an utterly disgusting field.

I will go to the polls, say hi to the poll worker I know from church, then show him my ID, because Ohio is one of the many states to pass a voter ID bill to try to suppress the vote of poor people and minorities.  Our ignoble politicians know these people usually vote in person, and they want to make it as difficult as possible for them to cast their votes.  If I would've voted absentee, I never would have had to show an ID and never would have to have been seen in order to cast my vote.  Those lying "public servants" will claim that is to prevent voter fraud, even though many more charges of voter fraud arise from absentee voting as opposed to in-person voting.  The difference is that more elderly Republicans vote absentee.  Keep that in mind when Republicans discuss voter fraud today.  After I get signed in, I'll cast my vote and head to work. After work, I'm going to feed the cows, pick up some food and a lot of beer, and settle in and watch the results and post my thoughts here and on Twitter.  I doubt that it will be pretty. Hopefully, the voting will be completed without any violence or massive errors.  But, come Wednesday, it will be morning in America again, and we'll somehow have gotten through this self-inflicted horror show and moved on.  Thank God!