Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...

The Weiner Component, Volume 2 – Economics in the 21st Century: #1: Change & the 21st Century: Part I Introduction

 

Prenote: I find myself getting bored with Donald J. Trump and his machinations.  He, as President-Elect is setting up a government which seems that it will wipe out any progress made in the 20th Century on.  Will it?  We’ll have to wait and see. 

Meanwhile the stock market is rising to new heights.  Is that because of President-Elect Donald J. Trump or in spite of him?  Again we’ll have to wait and see.  Basically the issue with Trump is that we, the public, will have to wait and see what he does after January 20, 2017, when he becomes President of the United States.

Meanwhile I will begin a new version of my book, “Economics in the 21st Century.

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Volume 2 #1 – The Purpose of Government in the 21st Century:                                                            Introduction: Part 1

 

The past is always safe, particularly if it is mostly imagined.  It is a known when balanced against the future which is always unknown and therefore unsafe.  In the presidential election of 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected by a minority of voters who were fearful of the changes that were occurring in society.  Trump promised to bring back the past.  He would bring back the values and conditions that supposedly were while Clinton would continue forward to a changing society.

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 With the election of Donald J. Trump, as President of the United States by a majority of people from the smaller states the country choose the candidate that got the minority of popular votes but the majority of electoral votes.  Hillary Clinton actually won the election with nearly three million more votes than Trump received.  The voters who choose Trump actually choose to stay with what they believed would be a return of the past, to the supposed happy days when there were jobs for all the low skilled workers.  Trump would, he said, “stay the course” and continue the process of lowering taxes.  He would continue the war effort in the Middle East and the War against Terror.  He would bring back all the jobs that had moved overseas and take the country back to its happy days, whenever they were.  He would reform our society, making it as it had been in the past.

 

Of course “reform” historically was a euphuism for change or raising taxes among the ordinary citizens of the country.  Trump has promised to lower taxes for the wealthy.  Ordinary people would object to a tax raise but how can they be unhappy about reform, semantical games.  The problem is that the government is spending billions of dollars daily above what it collects in taxes pushing the National Debt (which President Clinton had begun to reduce) to new astronomical levels.  Trump will lower taxes for the wealthy and the corporations.  He will have to make up the difference somehow.

 

There is currently one vacancy on the Supreme Court and one Justice in her eighties.  From what I understand Trump should be able during his tenure as President to probably make two appointments to the Court.  This should make the Court 6 to 3 in favor of the conservatives.  The significance of a solid conservative balance on the Supreme Court is that it might, among other things like individual rights, finish striking down Roe vs. Wade; and thus take away the right of choice from slightly over fifty percent of the population.  The majority of women, according to the surveys taken, are overwhelmingly in favor of choice.  It would be a decision imposed by a minority upon the majority.

 

 This seems to be Trump’s version of the “good old days.”

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But despite what is currently happening with Donald J. Trump as the new President-Elect no one really knows what he will do as President.  Still the Twenty-first Century holds the promise of all sorts of social and economic changes for the people of the United States, the other Industrial Nations, and even for the emerging non-industrial countries of this world.  The question, of course, is whether these changes will be positive or will they be otherwise.  Our traditional economic model will no longer function (if it ever did properly beyond the theoretical stage).  Technological change, particularly that of the Computer Revolution is moving forward at a rapid pace.  The changes are speeding up. 

 

     With these changes the concept of employment (What is work?) is/will also undergo evolution.  Low skilled jobs are and have been disappearing in the United States; some highly technological occupations are and have been coming into being.  A large number of factory and many white collar jobs are moving overseas where they can be performed at a much lower cost.  The economy today is a world-wide one with the individual nations still being essentially nationalistic.

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     For the last three to four thousand years the concept of work has been fairly constant.  It has essentially been effort related to survival: production of food, shelter, clothing, and gradually entities needed for recreation.  Up until the Industrial Revolution it took ten or more people working full time (sunrise to sunset) to provide the fundamentals needed for one individual to have the leisure time to be a priest, government official, artist, or someone not having to work for survival.  With the change over from a hand-craft society to a machine- operated one the ratio has changed and continues to decrease.  From ten to one we gradually went to one person supplying everything for one hundred people.  With the coming and continuance of the Computer Revolution the ratio has gone from one supplying everything for one hundred people to one supplying what’s needed for a thousand individuals, with the possibilities of eventually going well beyond that number.

 

     What then happens to both the concept of work and the need to work when all the rudiments can easily and almost effortlessly be supplied?  Traditionally man (and woman) have earned their bread like Adam (after being expelled from the Garden of Eden) by the sweat of his (her) brow.  Now, ironically, we have returned to garden conditions.  Can we handle them?

 

     Today, at the Second decade of the Twenty-first Century, we seem to be well into the Computer Revolution; but, I suspect, we are only seeing its initial stage. 

 

The government constantly monitors and publishes the unemployment percentage of the working population.  They are thrilled when it decreases by one or several tenths of a percent.  Politicians like Donald Trump, are constantly promising to decrease unemployment.  The President will proudly proclaim and take credit for any tenth of a percent decrease.  The goal, as far as the government and public are concerned, seems to be a healthy economy with full employment in an era when computers are rapidly increasing the rates of productivity and many corporations are downsizing while increasing their output.  We seem to be squarely and hopefully looking historically backward.

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Many thousands of years ago a man-like creature first picked up a rock or piece of wood and used it as a tool or weapon for the first time.  From that time on the concept was passed to others and they did the same, eventually discovering that they could chip the rock into a specific shape and sharpness and sharpen the wood, fire-hardening a point.  Over the multitude of years types of tools were developed.  Mankind developed more and better means of increasing his productivity, of making life easier for himself.  In fact his conscious or unconscious goal during all the years of his existence has been to produce more with less effort.

 

During the 19th Century the emerging handicraft society began to change in England and then Europe and the United States with the gradual development of machines; this became known as the Industrial Revolution, when manufacturing changed from hand-production to machine production.

 

The early machines were mostly made of wood and were operated by water-power, and shortly thereafter by steam power.  With the invention of the electric motor and development in metallurgy the machines became metal and also more highly efficient, multitudinously increasing their productive capacities.  Where in the Eighteenth Century it took ten people to produce enough to free one from labor, now gradually one person could produce enough to supply ten individuals with all their basic needs.  Life and the concept of work changed.  A percentage of the handicraft people were displaced becoming superfluous; these were the luggites.  Machines did their work a hundred times faster than they could by hand.  The level of productivity brought about by the Industrial Society achieved by the middle of the Twentieth Century a level of supply of goods and services in the Industrial Nations that had been inconceivable earlier.  It also brought about the Business Cycle — prosperity, recession, depression, and recovery — in a never ending pattern erratically coming about in shorter or longer periods of time.

 

Recession and depression, presumably caused by overproduction, brought about a situation in which there was fair to large scale unemployment, reduced consumption of goods and services in an economy where the overall workforce strongly desired to work and consume but could not.  The economy had broken down, ceased to smoothly function.  The willingness to work was there but the economy could not utilize it.  For one reason or another the basic rudiments that caused the economy to smoothly flow no longer worked. 

 

The question here is why?  There is a ready and willing workforce anxious to labor and consume the goods and services produced but there is no work for them and very little for them and their families to consume.  WHY?

 

The grease that allows the economy to function is money.  The distribution of that entity throughout an economy, the amounts that each family unit earns or has determines who will get how much of the goods and services produced.

 

How then is money distributed within a society?  The different occupations receive different levels of remuneration.  Unskilled labor, which is mostly grunt type work requiring generally brute strength only would be the lowest paid earnings.  In many cases, not enough is earned to provide for the basic needs of an individual or family.  Skilled labor, on the other hand, can go from a fair standard of living to a level where the amount of money earned cannot possibly be spent because of its vastness in the millions.

 

Money can also be stored, not used for consumption, but put into banks or other financial institutions where it earns interest.  In addition it can be used as a commodity where it can earn profit.  Used this way it tends to increase the productive capacity of a nation; but this has nothing to do with the distribution of goods and services.

 

Money, in the form of profit (Adam Smith’s “invisible hand”) becomes the motivating force behind production of both goods and services.  Profit, from the sale of goods or the charge for services and the accumulation of money is the motivation for production.  This accumulation allows a small percentage of the population to amass large amounts but again, has nothing to do with a reasonable distribution of the specie.

 

It can be argued that Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” works on every level of the economy.  Given a choice the laborer, white collar worker, executive, entrepreneur will take that position which pays the greatest amount or has the best advantages.  Therefore each entity within the society is functioning where he/she can in their own interest; doing the best for themselves and their family unit.  But, again, what has this to do with a fair distribution of the National Income?

 

Several interesting questions arise here: Is money really related to the production of goods and services?  And if it is not then in what way would distribution be accomplished?  Since volume of production is tied directly to volume of consumption how, if we are to avoid upturns and downturns (constant recovery and recession), can we maintain a steady course of production and distribution of goods and services? 

 

The economic model (capitalism) was stated in 1776 by Adam Smith in his book “An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations,” which was published that year.  Smith designed his model for a pre-industrial nation, for a time when production could not meet the overall needs of everybody in the society.  We are now almost into a postindustrial society moving rapidly through and into the computer Revolution.  We are still prone to the vicissitudes of the Business Cycle.  Can we afford this kind of continual economic up and down turn?

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The Twenty-first Century promises to be a time of intense change.  If we continue to adhere to what we have now then the economic upheavals can be catastrophic.  The Great Depression of 1929 could be mild compared to what we may face. In 2008 we faced such a situation.  It was avoided by massive spending by Presidents Bush and Obama.  

 

Donald Trump seems to be pointing toward the pre-2008 period.  He could, during his four year presidency, bring us back to an economic situation as bad as or far worse than the potential 2008 Depression. 

 

To avoid the possibility of negative economic change within our economy the country needs a new economic model or it has to make massive changes within our present system.

 

 

The Weiner Component #109 – Benghazi: The Question of Questioning

English: Photograph shows head-and-shoulders p...

English: Photograph shows head-and-shoulders portrait of Goldwater. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Late in November of 2014 the Seventh or Eighth GOP led House Intelligence Committee issued its report on the 2012 attack upon the Benghazi embassy. All these Republican investigating inquiries attempted to place blame upon the Democratic President and his then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The impression that these committees initially gave was that the Benghazi attack occurred because the Administration and State Department were careless or irresponsible. The fact that the GOP led House of Representatives had earlier voted to decrease protective funding at U.S. embassies was never mentioned.  Also, in the House of Representative finance bill passed two days before the end of its final session embassy protection costs were further reduced.

From what I understand the attack upon Benghazi and a number of other places was generated by an anti-Islamic video made in the United States by a pastor of a fundamentalist church. It blatantly insulted the prophet and the Islamic religion. I wonder how this churchman would react to an Islamic video insulting Christ and the Christian religion.

Apparently the video was released on the internet and generated violent protests throughout the Islamic world, all aimed at the U.S. In Benghazi, Libya this protest was taken over by a terrorist group. They killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the embassy.

The Republicans in Congress, particularly those in the House of Representatives, which has a Republican majority, have been having a high time attempting to blame the Democratic Administration for the attack.

The question that emerges from all these investigations has been, what exactly were all these committees investigating over the two year period? The prospective on this issue kept changing. Basically the Republicans have looked at the issue from every possible direction in attempting to place the blame upon the President and his Administration.

According to the final committee report the Obama Administration was absolved from any responsibility in mishandling or covering up any aspect of the deadly 2012 attack upon the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

The report was released by the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and had the support of all Republicans and Democrats on the committee.

The senior GOP senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, who was not on the Intelligence Committee, a few days after it was issued, called the report “garbage.” He said the House Intelligence Committee is doing a lousy job policing their own. Apparently Graham holds the House investigating committee responsible for not finding anything wrong with the actions of the Obama Administration. He seems to know innately that the Obama Administration misacted and that the Republicans didn’t probe enough to find the evidence.

Graham’s reaction reminded me of the time Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. The slogan for Goldwater was “In your heart you know he’s right.” It seemed at that time that the Republican hope was that people would ignore logic and sensibility and just go by their feelings which would cause them to vote for the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater. Somehow it didn’t work in 1964, Goldwater lost.

The issue that emerges is why have all these investigations over a two year period? They took a lot of time that could have been used for better purposes.

What are they, the Republicans, really investigating? The answer, of course, is obvious. They are investigating the Obama Administration, trying to find something wrong with it, something possibly illegal, trying to blame Obama for Benghazi. And while all this is going on they are ignoring the basic needs of this country, particularly the need for legislative relief. Among other things they have even been too busy to declare war on ISIS. Although in their last minute bill to finance the government the Republicans included a section which funded the air raids upon ISIS troops.

By his statement on CNN’s “State of the Nation” on Sunday November 13, 2014 Lindsey Graham seems to feel, in his heart, that there is a need for another Benghazi investigation and if that one fails then still another and another and so on until the evidence of wrong doing emerges. They are to continue until what he knows to be the truth comes out, that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are guilty for the attack in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.

It must be wonderful to absolutely know the truth about something that happened thousands of miles away from you. He must be precognitive, able to automatically know about everything or anything. And that is amazing because he was presumably trained as an attorney, not as a seer.

The majority of the Republicans, both on and off the House Intelligence Committee apparently feel it’s time to move on and leave the Benghazi debate behind. The report, as we’ve seen, was released by the Republican chairman of the committee and had the support of all its members, both Republican and Democratic. It was designed to be the definitive word on who was responsible for Benghazi. Everyone in the government was cleared of any blame or responsibility.

Actually it’s a good time for this final testament. A new Congress, with a Republican majority in both Houses, will be meeting after January of 2015. They will be facing all sorts of executive actions and vetoes by President Obama. In the 2014 Midterm Election campaign the Republicans have promised to block President Obama and also, at the same time, to ease Washington legislative gridlock. Probably one of their first actions will be to pass in both Houses, if they can avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, the Keystone XL Pipeline Bill which President Obama will veto. The Tea Party segment of the Republican Party wants to do completely away with Obamacare but has no alternative plan. Any bill that weakens the EPA or increases pollution will be certainly vetoed. The country still needs a declaration of war to legally continue its fight against ISIS.

Somehow the impression is that the 2015 Congress will be even more gridlocked than that of 2013-2014. That Congress holds the record for the least legislation passed in the entire history of the United States. Also, keep in mind that the current Congress between vacation days meets twelve months of the year. In the 19th Century or eighteen hundreds Congress only met for three or four months during the year. It was a part time job and they passed far more legislation than the 2013-2014 Congressional body.

Presumably Benghazi is behind us unless there is another investigation by the new House of Representatives but new screaming and frustration sessions will soon come into being. The House may even shut down the government again by refusing to pass an appropriation bill when it comes up in September unless the Administration does what they want. It should be an interesting and depressing two years!

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #104 – Obama & the New Republican Congress

English: U.S. President Barack Obama meets wit...

The day after the 2014 Midterm Elections President Obama and the two Republican leaders of Congress were sitting down together, smiling at each other, and discussing how they could get along and get necessary legislation passed. This era of good feeling lasted for one day.

On the subject of climate change both the United States and China are the two greatest polluters in the world today. It is estimated that these two nations produce the bulk of the carbon emissions of all the countries that pollute the atmosphere. During a recent visit to China both President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping agreed to lower CO2 emissions by 2025 for the first time and also to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Will the respective countries succeed in doing that? Obviously we’ll have to wait and see. But this brings pressure on other industrial nations like India to act in a similar way.

Almost immediately after the announcement was made both Republican members of the current two Houses of the U.S. Congress and those who will become members in January came out with irate announcements denouncing Obama for daring to use what they consider the false promise of Climate Change to justify limiting business growth in the United States. Some apparently threatened to shut down the government rather than let this happen. It should be interesting to see what happens. Fox news in its non-intellectual fashion suggested possible impeachment. I hadn’t realized that this act by President Obama constituted “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

On the subject of immigration, President Obama is at the point has issued executive orders attempting, as much as he can, without the aid of Congress, to reform the system.

He returned Sunday, November 16, from his eight day trip to China, Myanmar, and Australia. His declaration with China’s president has upset the Republicans. President Obama has promised to take action on immigration before the end of 2014. This he has now done.  Just prior to the trip his senior aides gave him a list of all the potential actions he could order in regards to immigration without congressional approval. He will receive their final recommendation on Tuesday, November 18 and will unveil his executive order any time after that.

One probable reform would be to allow the parents of children born in the United States who are citizens to have some sort of legal status rather than being subject to deportation while their children stay in the U.S. This, I understand, will affect about three and a half million people of the estimated ten million illegal aliens in the country. There are numerous other possibilities of what the President might do.

It should be interesting because the House Speaker has stated that “We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern.” Other Republicans have come out with more vicious messages about what they will do. Senator Jeff Sessions (Republican, Alabama) has threatened to defund any executive action of immigration. Sessions will be the new head of the Senate Budget Committee in January of 2015.

President Obama’s comment to the Republicans in Congress is that if they don’t like his actions then they should pass an immigration bill to supersede them. Approximately a year and a half ago the Senate passed an immigration bill. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has refused to bring this bill up for debate and to be voted on. It is believed that both Democrats and enough Republicans would vote for this bill and pass it. The Far Right or extremist Republicans are against this bill and apparently they have been able to force Boehner to not act on it. The immigration crisis exists because of the will of a minority within the Republican controlled House.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014 the House of Representatives by largely a strict party vote again passed the Keystone XL Pipeline bill allowing Canadian Oil Companies to ship oil slag from Canada south through the central United States to the Gulf of Mexico where it will be sent overseas to be processed. The bill came up the following week in the Senate where the Democrats currently have the majority until the end of December. It did not pass.  What will happen there in January is unknown. However the Republicans will be able to pass it in both Houses of Congress next year, when they have a majority there but the President will probably veto it.

The pipeline opens up all sorts of possibilities that can contaminate the water table in the areas under it. President Obama has stated that the United States will not benefit from the pipeline because the oil-muck will be processed overseas where the gasoline will be used. What happens should be interesting. Particularly the President probably will veto the bill causing inordinate levels of rage among the Tea Party Republicans as well as those who have already installed parts of the pipeline.

As I understand it the major problem with the Keystone Pipeline is leaks. Even in Canada where there are short stretches of pipeline there have been innumerable leaks and the oil containing muck that flows through these pipes is highly toxic, virtually contaminating the land upon which it leaks, poisoning the water table if it gets into it. The pipeline through the U.S. has been built by assorted entrepreneurs who see a quick profit if it is used and a loss if it is not used. It has been built as cheaply as possible with few, if any shut off valves in case of leaks. These people have contributed to the Republican Party campaigns and expect a return for the investments.

There is also the question of responsibility if or when a leak occurs. Is it the company in Canada that is shipping this toxic muck with the consistency of toothpaste or is it the owner of that particular section of pipeline that is responsible for the damage caused by the leak? I have the feeling that everyone will be blaming everyone else and that the local or federal government will end up being responsible for whatever possible repairs that can be applied. It could take years for the courts to determine responsibility and by then the person or group will apply for bankruptcy. Certainly no one who is adamantly arguing for the pipeline will take responsibility for their decision. It could take years for the courts to determine responsibility and by then the person or group will have disappeared. Certainly no one who is adamantly arguing for the pipeline will take any responsibility for their decision. Or to put it more simply it is the taxpayer who will in the last analysis foot the bill for whatever can be done to bring conditions back to where they were before the leaks.

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What I visualize from all this is a basic feeling of spite that a goodly section of the Republican Party has for Barak Obama. It and the rage that accompanies it is a bit psychotic. They blindly hate the President and strongly feel that anything he does or wants is wrong for no other reason than he desires it. Their opposition is based upon hate. How dare a black man oppose them since they now control the Congress! It will be fascinating watching the next two years unfold. Unfortunately a goodly percentage of the population will suffer needlessly.

There will be other issues over the next two years. The Republicans mostly will meet them with fury and frustration. In fact if they get incensed enough they may again shut the government down by refusing to fund it or they may actively try to impeach the President.

By November of 2016 I’m sure the general public will have had a stomach full of Republican gridlock. The 2010 Congress passed the least legislation in the entire history of the existence of the United States Congress. Even far less than when the Congress used to meet in the 19th Century for three or four months a year. The 2012 Congress, not only shut down the government costing the Federal Government several billion dollars but they also passed a fraction of the legislation that the 2010 Congress passed. How much legislation will the new Congress pass. From some of the statements made by Republican congressmen the implication is that the Congress will spend the next two years investigating actions by the Democrats to ascertain if they have broken the law. We would seem to be in for two years of investigating committees all chaired by Republicans.

There is also the issue of the Internet: President Obama backs rules that would force broadband providers to treat all Internet Data the same, regardless of who produces it. The Republicans favor the opposite position. The President also in terms of immigration has agreed with the Chinese president to extend the length of current visas for businessmen, students, and tourists currently in the U.S.

Obama returned to the United States on Monday, November 17. To quote former President Harry S. Truman, “The manure will hit the fan” at that time and continue for the next two years. It should be interesting or horrible to watch.