Today, Donald Trump was in Brussels representing the U.S. at a NATO summit.

His documented behavior was at best, rude. Some have called his actions to be “obnoxious and uncivilized.” Others have said, “…consistently appalling and despicable behavior.”

Trump continues to test the lower boundaries of bad behavior, creating an internationally negative aura against the people of the United States.

How to explain this immature and puerile public conduct by a man who is currently serving as the President of the U.S.?

Here is one clue: In his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, Trump states, “Even in elementary school, I was a very assertive, aggressive kid. In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye. I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled. I’m not proud of that, but it’s clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a forceful way.”

The Donald attended an exclusive private elementary school (Kew-Forest) from 1950 to 1959.

Ann Trees, one of Trump’s elementary school teachers (now retired), was quoted in a 2016 Washington Post article as saying, “Who could forget him? He was headstrong and determined. He would sit with his arms folded with this look on his face — I use the word surly — almost daring you to say one thing or another that wouldn’t settle with him.”

Sound familiar?

An unsubstantiated story from Trump’s youth adds some additional credence to the potentially negative effects of a weak upbringing. The story dates to the early 1950’s (likely 1954) when The Donald would have been in 3rd grade.

Donald’s father, Fred, entered young Donny into a contest, ‘King of the Playground Bullies’. Despite being one of the youngest contestants, The Donald took second prize.

Donald’s father was quite disappointed, and from that point forward, Donald himself vowed to become the best and meanest bully the world would ever know.

———————————————————————-

Fast forward 65 years, and The Donald proved his mettle today on the world stage in Brussels.  Let’s hope his father Fred is proud of his progeny.

Advertisements

The headline comes directly from Steven Mnuchin, our U.S. Treasury Secretary, who recently penned an op-ed piece which appeared in print in the Tampa Bay Times (July 3, 2018).  https://www.whitehouse.gov/articles/trump-tax-cuts-strengthened-u-s-economy/

Mnuchin’s opinion piece seems to consist primarily of fluffed-up puffery related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017.

Mr. Mnuchin omitted several critical issues which most economists agree must be included in any analysis of the U.S. economy.

First is the ‘business (economic) cycle’.  The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has been tracking the U.S. economy for 160+ years.  NBER defines one business cycle as: A period of economic expansion; followed by a contraction (recession); ending at the next point of recovery.

NBER’s 160+ years of records reflect that (over that time) the U.S. economy experienced 66 business cycles. Since 1945, we have experienced 11 business cycles with an average length of expansions of 5 years, followed by an average length of recessions of 1 year.

We can’t forget that the U.S. economy almost collapsed in early 2008 following a period of ebullience and expansion apparently accompanied by loose regulatory oversight of the financial sector.

Quick intervention in 2008 by our federal government saved the U.S. economy from the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression.  NBER data reflects the point of recovery (beginning of expansion) of the U.S. economy occurred in June 2009, and has now entered its 10th year (109th month) of growth.

Our current economic expansion is now the second-longest expansion on record, exceeded only by the expansion from March 1991 to March 2001, which lasted a full 10 years.

History tells us we are very close to the point of contraction (recession) of the U.S. economy.

Second is the ‘Skills Gap’.  When Mr. Mnuchin tells us that “…there are enough job openings in America for every unemployed person in the country” he fails to explain that the majority of open jobs require skills which the majority of unemployed people lack. In other cases, the unfilled jobs are located hundreds – maybe thousands – of miles away from the location of potential job seekers.

One solution to filling the open jobs is to encourage migration – or immigration — of skilled workers.

Another solution is to recruit, educate and train currently underemployed or unemployed U.S. residents who live in near proximity to the open jobs.

Third involves a dangerous combination of tax cuts and deficit spending to finance those tax cuts.

Mr. Mnuchin touts benefits to U.S. workers as a result of repatriation of hundreds of billions of dollars from off-shore corporate subsidiaries to the U.S.  In fact, companies thus far have paid out dividends and other withdrawals of $305.6 billion from foreign receipts which far outstripped the amount of this cash which was reinvested domestically.  By some estimates, corporations have spent 72 times as much on share buybacks as they have spent on one-time worker bonuses and raises.

The U.S. ‘current account deficit’, which measures the flow of goods, services and investments into and out of the country, widened by $8.0 billion to $124.1 billion, or 2.5 percent of national economic output in the first 3 months of 2018, virtually all of which seems to be attributable to the repatriation tax holiday.

To make up for the loss of tax revenue, the Trump administration is relying on a combination of debt financing and mystical economic growth which they expect to occur at the end of an extended business cycle.

Mnuchin tells us that U.S. economic growth is on steroids.

Some observers have noted that the appearance of economic growth is highly influenced by the infusion of repatriated cash – somewhat similar to feeding 2nd graders sugar before sending them out onto the playground.

The energy is intense, but it won’t last very long, and it is just not sustainable.

A recent report (6/21/2108) from the U.S. Office of Government Accountability (GAO) warns that responsible action is needed on the nation’s growing federal deficit, which grew to $666 Billion in FY 2017 (10/01/16 to 9/30/17) and is projected to surpass $1 Trillion by 2020.

According to the GAO’s 2017 financial report, the federal deficit in FY 2017 increased by 13.5% from $587 Billion in FY 2016 and $439 Billion in FY 2015. Federal receipts in FY 2017 increased by $48 billion, but that was outweighed by a $127 billion increase in spending.  (Note that Deficit is an annual measure; National Debt is aggregate, an accumulation of annual shortfalls.)

The aggregate (gross) amount that the U.S. Treasury can borrow is limited by the U.S. debt ceiling. As of April 30, 2018, our National Debt was $21 Trillion, about 78% of GDP.

Since its passage in December 2017, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has warned that TCJA will add $1.84 Trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, which they estimate will push the National Debt to an unprecedented 152 percent of GDP by 2028, significantly increasing the odds of a new financial crisis.

Interest rates are rising, and National Debt is increasing, thus interest on National Debt will consume an ever-increasing amount of future federal budgets.

And, of great concern is the flattening of the ‘yield curve’.  Traditionally, interest rates on short-term debt are lower than rates paid on long-term obligations.

The spread between the yields of the 2-year Treasury note (2.55 percent) and 10-year Treasury note (2.89 percent) was 34 basis points on June 23. That’s less than half of what it was in early February and the narrowest it’s been since August 2007.

An inversion of the yield curve — when long-term rates fall below short-term rates — traditionally predicts a looming recession.

—————————————————————————-

It’s not clear why Mr. Mnuchin – a seasoned financial services sector professional with a clear expertise in fixed income securities – would omit such important information in his assessment of the U.S. economy.

I am drawn to conclude Mr. Mnuchin is using his position as a high-ranking federal official to ‘butter his own toast’, likely through complex – and undisclosed — derivative positions.

We’ll have to see if the Walrus is correct…..

This event — June 20, 2018 — represents a fabulous ‘photo op’ for Trump, and it results in a Pyrrhic victory for oppressed and victimized mothers and their minor children who are fleeing horrific conditions in their homelands of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala -the so-called Northern Triangle.

Read between the lines of Trump’s Executive Order and you will find little change in the draconian American policy of abusing and torturing women and children.

Trump and his administration have embraced a tactical wholesale approach to focus, apprehend and detain the most vulnerable – and least dangerous – people who seek asylum in the U.S.

Trump has – and continues to – proclaim that “..most immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together or removed together – only released.  These are crippling loopholes that cause family separation which we don’t want.”

Probably not true, and even if true, completely irrelevant.

Statistics tell us that:  (1) Immigrants who come to United States seeking asylum from horrible conditions in their countries of origin are generally women with minor children who pose little to no criminal or other risk to the U.S.;  (2) Immigrants who come to the U.S. seeking work to support families left behind in their country of origin are predominantly men who strive to make enough money to send for the rest of their family to bring them into a positive environment.

Yes, each of these scenarios illustrates a likely violation of current U.S. immigration laws.

However, let’s not lose sight that the foundation of immigration laws of the U.S. is the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, sometimes known as the McCarran–Walter Act.  Yes, 1952.

Parts of that Act remain in place today.  It has been amended several times and was modified substantially by the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965.  Yes, 1965.

No doubt, there exist a small percentage of people who illegally enter the U.S. with nefarious intent. It seems that most of these ‘bad actors’ do not travel with children; are not female; and do not enter over the southern border.

If Trump — and his band of complicit Republican cronies – really desire to improve our national security through better immigration strategy and policy, they need to focus on fact-based, root cause analysis, and to invest in solutions which utilize “evidence-based targeting,” an approach which uses objective data to focus limited resources toward those individuals who pose the highest risk of danger to the U.S.

Evidence-Based Targeting is a strategic approach which requires planning; careful research; and a blind approach to race, religion, gender, national origin or other irrelevant factors.

Yes, Mr. Trump, we are in lock-step with you on secure borders.  We – even those of us who are not registered Republicans – demand secure borders and we want to have modern policies and procedures in place which keep bad actors out of the U.S.

That said, we need to ask you to stop acting as a bully, stop picking on defenseless women and children, and start focusing on Evidence-Based Targeting to help protect our domestic security.

And, concurrently, it would be really great if you could work with Congress to modernize that 1952 McCarran–Walter Act which probably made sense back then, but seems to need some tweaks to address the huge demographic changes which have occurred since then.

Please, Mr. Trump:  Stop the puerile ‘Beavis & Butt-Head’ rhetoric and start acting like a leader.

It seems wherever we look, Donald Trump’s appalling behavior sets a new and very low standard upon which to measure the 21st Century version of The Ugly American.

His most recent tweets about Canadian PM Trudeau which followed Trump’s rude early departure from the G-7 meeting are deplorable.

Then, he sent his thugs Kudlow and Navarro off to reinforce the message in harsh, scorched-earth fashion.

Said Navarro on Sunday, June 10, 2018: “All Justin Trudeau had to do was take the win. President Trump did the courtesy to Justin Trudeau to travel up to Quebec for that summit. He had other things, bigger things on his plate in Singapore.  And what did Trudeau do? As soon as the plane took off from Canadian airspace, Trudeau stuck our president in the back. That will not stand.”

Trump did a courtesy? Hello? Red meat to the Trump base; An insult to everyone else who lives on Planet Earth.

Donald Trump said what Canada has “done to our dairy farm workers is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace. And our farmers in Wisconsin and New York State are being put out of business, our dairy farmers.”

Trump has gone on to tell us that “Canada charges the U.S. a 270% tariff on Dairy Products! They didn’t tell you that, did they? Not fair to our farmers!”

No, they didn’t because it’s just not true.  There is one specific dairy product which has ignited this Tempest in a Teapot, a product which exists in surplus due to overcapacity in the U.S. dairy industry.

The product at the center of the dispute is ultra-filtered milk, which is used to make cheese and yogurt.

It is not governed by any tariffs under NAFTA, because it essentially did not exist when NAFTA was originally negotiated. The U.S. dairy industry has been selling surplus ultra-filtered milk — duty-free — to Canadian processors. And that is part of the root problem for Canadian dairy farmers.

Never heard of ultra-filtered milk?  Neither had I.

Ultra-filtered milk (sometimes called diafiltered milk) is generally a byproduct of butter production after the milk fat has been removed to provide the basic ingredient for butter.

It is a sub-classification of milk protein concentrate which is created by passing the remaining low- or no-fat milk under pressure through a thin, porous membrane to separate the components of milk according to their size. Ultra-filtration allows the smaller lactose, water, mineral, and vitamin molecules to pass through the membrane, while the larger protein molecules are retained and concentrated. The removal of water and lactose reduces the volume of milk, significantly lowering storage and transportation costs.

In 2016, the U.S. dairy industry sold about $133 Million of ultra-filtered milk to dairy product producers in Canada, a rounding error on the total trade transactions between the U.S. and Canada.

The federal U.S. Trade Representative reported a U.S. $12.5 Billion trade surplus for goods and services with Canada in 2016, exporting $320.1 Billion and importing $307.6 Billion. (The reported U.S. surplus was $8.4 Billion in 2017).

Meanwhile, the man who affirmed that he would faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and would — to the best of his ability — preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States has given us clear and irrefutable evidence that his abilities are deficient, inadequate, unacceptable, inferior and dreadful.  Or, perhaps he is an untruthful traitor.

Either way, he has put our entire world in danger of a real world war.

Martha Stewart served prison time for a conviction on insider trading.

There is a cadre of Trump Insiders who are privy to Mr. Trump’s rants which roil the financial markets, some of whom are getting rich off of their advance information of what he will say or do.

Donald Trump’s frequently irrational, generally unpredictable — and often arbitrary and capricious — tweets, pronouncements and actions have proven to significantly move financial markets, often creating a whipsaw effect.

Today – May 31, 2018 – Mr. Trump allowed tariffs to be enacted on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the E.U. on the grounds that such materials are being imported into the United States “in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States.”

There is no credible evidence that steel and/or aluminum imported into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and/or the E.U. pose any threat to the national security of the U.S.  In fact, there is no credible evidence that such imports pose any threat to the U.S. domestic economy.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s action today to impose tariffs on imports from our closest allies was apparently not expected in the financial markets, leading to a 1% drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

We now have several data points relating to financial market response to irrational actions by President Trump which clearly represent huge arbitrage opportunities for Trump insiders.

The ‘out-of-right-field’ announcement in early March 2018 by Mr. Trump that the U.S. would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports precipitated an almost immediate 500 point drop in the DJI.

 

It’s bad enough that Trump’s actions pose a tremendous risk to the entire U.S. society and our economy.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) needs to reign in this illegal behavior by Mr. Trump, and to charge those insiders who are illegally profiting in the financial markets from advance knowledge of what sort of disruptive, arbitrary and capricious pronouncements President Trump will make in the near term.

Hillary Clinton has consistently refused to use alternative facts to describe her own actions and behavior.  She pays her bills.  She has never gone bankrupt.  She stayed with Bill despite some bumps in the road.  She is the mother of an extraordinary emerging world leader.

Above all, Hillary does not dwell on the past.  She learns from the past, and she offers productive solutions for the future.

And, she is a very smart, highly-educated, incredibly experienced and assertive female who represents the very essence of the threat described in Spencer Johnson’s book, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

Donald Trump built his reputation – and his empire — on his larger-than-life persona as the ‘Great White Leader’.  He wants the world to see him as ‘a man’s man’ who will lead the loyal believers back to 1957 when America reached its apogee.

Donald wants the world to believe he is both clairvoyant and razor-focused on his vision of restoring the world to his vision of how it ought to be.

Yet, Trump’s sense of self-worth is continually at risk. When Trump feels imbalanced, he reacts impulsively and defensively, constructing a self-justifying story that doesn’t depend on facts and always directs the blame to others.

A consensus of psychiatrists and psychologists have determined that Trump’s mental instability and pattern of violence –bullying words, aggressive actions and denials of truth — are dangerous and have already caused unprecedented anxiety and stress across the nation.

Meanwhile, although Hillary is her own worst enemy, Trump is the greatest threat to the viable and productive future of the U.S. – and the entire world – that we have seen since the 1940’s.

The current U.S. Senate atrocity involves a letter released on Monday, March 9, 2015 from Senate Republicans to Iran’s government (the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran”), saying that any agreement made by President Obama amounts to a “mere executive agreement” goes well beyond the arena of conduct which disregards the laws of our nation.

I believe a significant number of mostly Republican elected officials in Congress are guilty of depriving the people of the United States the intangible right of their honest services, for at least the past 5 consecutive years.

That is a domestic issue, and it is described in Federal Law as ‘Honest Services Fraud’ (see 18 U.S.C. § 1346).

It seems pretty clear that some of these boys elected to the U.S. Senate just can’t resist acting like 3rd graders let loose on the playground with no supervision.

These boys have now pushed into a new and dangerous place. Whether they are guilty of Treason, as some have suggested, is really not the point.

At minimum, they are guilty of acting like narcissistic brats, and their behavior casts a dark shadow over an institution with a proud 250 year history.

This act of cowardice and ignorance engaged in by 47 elected officials in the U.S. Senate ought to be a wake-up call to all Americans that we have a major problem in Washington, D.C. and that our problem is not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This letter was signed by 47 of 54 Senate Republicans, and was authored by Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave it his approval and signed the letter. Among the Senators who also signed the letter are Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) all of whom are considering running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

In their letter, they wrote, “It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution – the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices – which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress…. Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.”

They also reminded Iran that “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

The letter – and the 47 Republican Senators – faced an immediate negative reaction from the White House; President Obama; Vice President Joe Biden; Senate Democratic leadership; Congressional and Senate Democrats; and potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; as well as many more.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the letter finding it either (a) undermining the president’s authority; or (b) counterproductive.

Among other things, Zarif said, “This kind of letter is unprecedented and undiplomatic. In truth, it told us that we cannot trust the United States.”

Alabama freshmen Senator Tom Cotton has become a center of attention, facing both criticism and accolades, and he has been the key defender of the letter’s message. Many media sources have fixated on Cotton and the other Senators who signed the letter, led by the New York Daily News headline on March 10, “TRAITORS”.

Even Fox News (Megyn Kelly) was critical of this apparent publicity stunt: “What’s the point in writing to the Iranian mullahs? What are you going to do? They dismissed it already like ‘pfff, whatever’. And you’ve offended the Obama administration. And you may have offended some of the Democrats who would have come over with the Republicans, if depending on what happens with this deal, to have a stronger say in the Senate.”

Not to dismiss some incremental support from the Right: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry have expressed their support for the letter.

Among the seven Republican senators who did not sign the letter, several have commented that, ‘they did not find it appropriate, helpful or productive.’

While it seems likely that 46 of the 47 Republican elected officials are now questioning their decision to sign the letter, Tom Cotton himself is probably saying, “That worked out great!”

Overnight, Tom Cotton has risen from an unknown and obscure Alabama Senator to a household name!

Tom Cotton has demonstrated that a U.S. Senator who’s been in office just a few months can accomplish a great deal, with a little initiative and creativity.

Much like the boy who shouted “FIRE” in the crowded movie theater, Cotton may have caused a major panic. In this case, the resulting impact includes: irreparable damage to the reputation of the U.S. Senate; to the Republican Party; and to the security of the United States.

But, to the Tea Party base from which Cotton draws his support, he is now a hero. The more criticism he gets, the more convinced they become of his heroism.

The Koch Brothers must be mighty proud!

Walrus Feeling Guilty

October 4, 2013

With all of the attention on the shenanigans in Washington and the in-depth moment by moment reporting, I thought the Walrus might sit this one out, but various forces have caused guilt.

Congress certainly has the authority to challenge the Affordable Care Act. Why don’t they just challenge the ACA in Court? Why are they messing with the greatest economy in the World?

Oh, wait. They did challenge it in court. In the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land. On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion upholding the constitutionality of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” finding that the federal government can require people to purchase affordable health care insurance coverage or face an income tax penalty.

So, we have a law which was approved by the House of Representatives, approved by the U.S. Senate, approved by the President of the U.S. and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

But, wait! We also have a splinter group of dubiously elected officials (i.e. the Ayatollah John Boehner, Cruz Control, Private Ryan, Eric “T.P.” Cantor – and others who shall remain anonymous for now).

These creatures have determined (in September 2013) that the only appropriate way for the Congress to arrive at a Continuing Budget Resolution which would keep our federal government running is to open a debate on a law which was enacted in 2010?

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are many times I wish that I could just put all of the clocks and calendars around the world on pause. Just give me a few days to catch up on all of the loose ends, and then I would restart the clocks and calendars as though those few days I had to myself were invisible and inconsequential. Sort of like a short “working vacation” in the Twilight Zone.

Boehner and his Band of Merry Men apparently have gone beyond the Twilight Zone and have jumped all the way down the rabbit hole, desperately trying to drag the rest of the country with them.

I have to wonder – how does the Supreme Court feel about this behavior?

Headline: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Vice President Dick Cheney call Benghazi a cover-up

If you’re going to put people at risk, you have to try to protect them,’ says Rumsfeld.

They lied,’ says Cheney.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/donald-rumsfeld-dick-cheney-call-benghazi-cover-up-article-1.1343594

This is solid stuff.

Cheney and Rumsfeld are world-class experts in lies, cover-ups and deception, so they must not be trifled with.

Although the investigations into the false claims around WMD (which led to to the war in Iraq and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, and have cost some $3.7 Trillion and well in excess of 200,000 lives) have not yet started, it certainly makes sense to paralyze the U.S. government with multiple, continued and fruitless Benghazi investigations.

Thanks, Dick, for being you!

Some of us who survived the Vietnam tragedy (either by serving and returning or by another means) viewed U.S. involvement in the various Middle East wars as tragedy of epic proportions.

During the most recent Reign of Terror (Bush-Cheney) — just 9 months into his Presidency, Bushy – using the slogan “War on Terror” — got us into a religious war in the Middle East through a combination of lies, subterfuge and self-dealing financial benefit contracts.

About 6,700 Americans have died in those two wars, as have about 1,400 allied personnel, Canadians prominent among them.

That is a dreadfully huge number. The roster of the slain would have stretched even longer, but for the amazing advances in military armor and military medicine over the past generation.

More than 50,000 Americans have been wounded in battle since 9/11 — 16,000 of them so seriously that they would certainly have died had they suffered an equivalent wound in any prior conflict.

So, in addition to the huge loss of life and human potential among our young adults who were called to serve in this senseless and stupid war(s), we have the diversion of taxpayer dollars into an abyss; the incredible human and financial costs of caring for wounded warriors who battled in vain; and the continued high terror threats to the U.S. due to religious zealots who – for the next 7 generations, or so – will equate the entire U.S. to the terrible decisions and evil intentions of the Bush-Cheney Reign of Terror Regime.

When Bill Clinton had a momentary loss of judgment and allowed an over-zealous female intern to get under his desk, Congress pounced and after spending countless millions and wasting scarce federal resources, came very close to impeachment.

The Bush-Cheney Reign of Terror Regime created a false and fully egregious story which led to the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) on October 7, 2001, followed by a further fairy tale which opened up Operation Iraqi Freedom, beginning with the invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

In the dozen years since, the U.S. — and the world — has seen zero benefit, plenty of costs.

I’ve heard no call for impeachment, no accusations of impropriety.

When will we draw the line and hold these domestic terrorists – Bush & Cheney – accountable for their evil deeds?