Tag Archives: Politics

Activism

U. S. Customs House. Very welcoming.

I try to avoid writing about politics here, but recent events have driven me to be more active.  Usually the extent of my political action is giving money to causes I support.  I have to do more.  I think of my days at Colorado State when we would decide whether to go to the daily demonstration or do something else, like study.  The country was in turmoil over Vietnam and Watergate.  I did my small part.

Now I must again do my small part.  No more just watching Rachel Maddow and deploring the latest attempt at destroying at destroying anything remotely progressive.  I must act, take to the streets.  This won’t be the first time, I went to a rally supporting our Muslim neighbors and had fun wearing my Bad Hombre t-shirt.

Today it is the lunch time protest at Senator Cory Gardner’s office in downtown Denver.  I’m not sure these demonstrations and marches have a great impact, but they are a way to use my First Amendment rights, which seem to be under attack these days.  The current upheaval is in the NFL, and is a classic free speech issue.  The unfortunate result of the turmoil is increasing the polarization going on in our nation since the Reagan era.

I went downtown to a Federal office building where Senator Gardner has hidden his office.  As with most Federal buildings, you must go through security.  I always have to get wanded because my right knee is titanium.  I was alone in his office suite, no going beyond the closed door.  I talked to a nice young man acting as receptionist.  I stated my position and he took notes.  No drama.

The issues this week are about health care and race.  The Affordable Care Act needs work.  The impass in Congress is preventing any rational attempt at fixing the ACA.  Repeal attempts keep failing.  The reason for the attempts to repeal the ACA is, simply, race.  It is a black President’s program so it must go away.  Oh, and it is expensive.

When a new social welfare program goes into place there is always opposition, but. People begin to realize things are better for lots of people.  They just don’t get repealed, they get cleaned up.  Traditionally the Democrats come up with the programs and the Republicans do the housekeeping.  With race behind the Republican’s opposition they have blocked themselves from assuming their traditional role.  Nothing gets done and the status quo lurches along.

There is, of course, money involved as well.  Rich Republicans don’t want to pay for making poor people’s lives better.  Three reasons: greed, race, and Social Darwinism.  Republicans are always opposed to higher taxes.  They want to keep the money for themselves, even though they have plenty.  Poor blacks and hispanics don’t deserve a damn thing, they deserve to suffer.  The reason poor people are poor is because they are inferior to rich people.  Mitt Romney so much as said it.  It don’t work that way, folks.  Poor people are poor for lots of reasons, but not genetics.  The argument they are inferior is half a step from Naziism.

It’s not surprising the radical rightists are on the ascendancy.  We have always had them, but usually events shut them up.  They have to believe they are superior to others, usually because of a deep reservoir of shame.  They deserve our compassion.

There is the real problem.  Social welfare programs are a reflection of compassion.  Governments should be in the business of helping the people.  Good health care reflects compassion.  It is sad so many of our government’s resources are devoted to warfare, not compassion.  We are all in this together, so let’s give everyone a break, use loving kindness.   Hate and insensitivity are not the answer.

There’s Hurricanes in Florida and Texas Had Rain

Colorado Desert

I am a child of the desert, and the guy sitting next to me in the coffee shop is from Saudi Arabia.  Those of us from dry country usually don’t understand why people would choose to live in wet, low country with hurricanes.  Yes, there is the ocean, but we can always go to Lake Powell or Lake McCounaughy.  We do have a few tornados and hailstorms, and one of the canyons floods every 15 years or so.

On the gulf or Florida coast they get a hurricane at roughly the same intervals, but the damage is widespread and many more people are affected.  For some reason, most of the people in the world live close to a seacoast.  Yes, trade is easier and things tend to grow there (not like our Great American Desert).

Too low, too many people, too wet.  And yes, the oceans are headed inland.  It will be even wetter.   It is somewhat harder to make a living here in mid-continent and the seasons can be more harsh, but grand catastrophes are rarer.  I must confess a warm ocean is good for visits, but I did not like the mid-Atlantic, but maybe it was because I was on a troopship.

Another problem with seacoasts is many of them have a tendency to shake.  The tectonic plates collide on the coasts, thus mountains and earthquakes.  I prefer the ground under me to hold still.  When we visited Carol’s daughter in Menlo Park CA, I was a bit nervous being halfway between the San Andreas and Hayward faults in a flood plain.  The real irony is that the U.S. Geological Survey regional office is there.

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Here in Denver, there were big earthquakes once when the Rockies were rising, but it has been a while.  We had a flurry of small ones when they were pumping hazardous waste down a drill hole at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.  When they stopped pumping, the earthquakes stopped.  That lesson was ignored in the Oklahoma oil fields where they pump fracking water back down drill holes instead of treating it.  Most of the state is shaking.

“Do it cheaply, don’t bother with doing what is right.”  It seems to be standard procedure in the extractive industries such as oil and gas and mining.  The solution is regulation, but the oil business owns the government in Oklahoma and Texas.  They are close to owning the U. S. Government.

I seem to have drifted into a rant.  Weren’t we discussing living on the coast?  The coasts stand to reason from a short term economic standpoint.  The rivers are there, shipping is cheap, it is fairly flat, and the climate tends to be moderated by the ocean.  Except when it is not.  Hurricanes, nor’easters, increasingly wetter monsoons, and sea level rise is scary.

Tidal Flood in Florida

How would you like having sea water pouring out of the storm drains in your street at high tide?  What about having your crops inundated by incessant rain?  Do you want the roof ripped off your house and be without power for many days?  Then there are tsunamis.  Take a look at the Japan tsunami on YouTube.  If none of this stuff bothers you, live on the coast.

Politicians, Geologists, Engineers, and Water

Mosul Dam

Mosul Dam

This story relies on a report by Dexter Filkins in the New Yorker magazine.  Mr. Filkins,  a Pulitzer Prize winner, is one of the best writers covering the Middle East. 

The Fertile Crescent, where civilization developed, exists because the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow from mountains in Lebanon and Turkey to the Red Sea.  The terrain along and between the rivers is relatively flat making agriculture feasible.  The rivers flood every spring, bringing water and new sediment to the region.  Those conditions support a significant population, but annual fluctuations have always created problems for the people living there.  During drought years, crops fail and famines ensue.  Wet years bring flooding which displaces people and affects farming.   

These conditions prevail in every arid region dependent on irrigation for farming.  The Nile, the Fertile Crescent, and the Colorado river are prime examples.  In all three regions, the political system has chosen to attempt to regulate the annual fluctuations in the river.  The solution?  Dam the river, store water for dry years and catch excessive runoff in wet years.   

Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam on the Colorado,  Aswan High dam on the Nile, and the Mosul dam on the Tigris are the attempts at a solution.  So, they decide on a dam upstream of the people, hire geologists to recommend a good location, and hire engineers to design and build the thing. 

This worked, to a degree, on the Colorado and the Nile.  Not so well on the Tigris.  The geology above Mosul with its 2.5 million people is a jumble of sedimentary rocks formed in conditions similar to today.  That means flat coastal areas are intermittently flooded by the sea or nearby rivers.  The water evaporates, leaving the minerals dissolved in the water.  That means salt, gypsum, limestone, and a mixture of soluble minerals and mud called marl.   

The layers are deposited in flat layers, but Middle East geology is like Middle East politics, a big jumble with forces pushing from several directions.  Above Mosul, it is quite a jumble, but sinkholes have always formed as water dissolves the soluble minerals, leaving voids that collapse.  It is called Karst topography.  Florida is a prime example, a limestone peninsula in a wet climate surrounded by water.  It rains, the water sinks in,  dissolves the limestone, and goes to the sea.  Florida is dissolving, the rock resembling a sponge.   

The rock above Mosul has both limestone and gypsum.  Gypsum is a sulfate mineral that is called plaster if pretty dry, wallboard if more hydrated, goo if very wet, and then dissolves.  The geologists said “No, no dam, it will fail”.  The politicians then talked to the engineers who said “it isn’t good to build here, but we can make it work”. 

Now, engineers make their money by designing and building stuff, whether asphalt, steel, concrete, earth, or software.  They seldom say “no, we can’t do that”. They would be breaking their rice bowl.  So they proposed grouting the rock below and under the dam with concrete to keep reservoir water from dissolving all that gypsum, which is much more soluble than limestone.  They built a grout curtain under the Dam site, but it wasn’t perfect.  There were gaps. They built the dam, and the increased pressure from the water in the reservoir started dissolving the gypsum at a higher rate.   

Sinkholes developed below the dam before it was built.  They put a big long room made of concrete called a gallery at the base of earthfill dam.  Where their tests show a void is developing, they drill a hole in the floor of the gallery.  Water shoots out, confirming there is a big hole down there.  They then use big pumps to pump grout into the hole until it stops, hoping the void is filled.  They then move to the next place. 

This has been going on since the dam was built in the 1980’s.  All that concrete pumped below the dam has not stopped the leakage, it just moves the leaks to another weak spot.  They will never be able to pump enough grout.  An Italian firm is there now, and they are a bit hopeful they can control the leaks.  The confounding variable is the political situation.  ISIS controlled the dam for a while, and grouting mostly halted, but void creation did not.  The battle lines of the war today are within earshot of the dam.  The Iraqi government is unstable, despite support from shifting coalitions.  The grouting program is at risk.  Maybe that doesn’t matter.  The dam will fail, we just don’t know when.   

Sixty feet of water will inundate Mosul.  Refugee camps with 1.2 million people will be affected.  In two days parts of Baghdad would be under sixteen feet of water. Downstream, an even wider area would be flooded with at least six inches of water.  As geologists always say, “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”  Death toll estimates range from 500,000 to 1.5 million souls.  The Iraqi economy will be destroyed.  Moral, listen to the geologists.

Climate Change

Florida Flooding

Florida Flooding

Here it is, the last day of November, and we still have some tomatoes from our garden.  We had the hard freeze a couple of weeks ago, but we brought quite a few in before it froze.  This fall has been the fall of pasta sauce and tomato soup.  Traditionally the first freeze is in September or early October.  Not this year.  Now, just because we have one warm fall doesn’t necessarily mean global warming, it is a matter of relatively long term trends.  That is happening, folks.   

Worldwide, it is about one degree Celsius and climbing.  The culprit is carbon.  We need carbon, our bodies are mostly water, but carbon hangs everything together.  Florida, for example, is mostly calcium carbonate, limestone.  The limestone formed even the peninsula was underwater with a climate encouraging the growth of untold billions of tiny organisms with calcium carbonate shells.  They die, and if whales don’t eat them, their shells sink to the sea floor.  Well, even if they do get eaten, the whale turds are calcareous.   

Porous Limestone

Porous Limestone

Millions of years and sea level change, and Florida emerges.  The cycle doesn’t end there.  It rains on Florida, and the slightly acidic rain starts dissolving the limestone, sending the carbonates back to the sea.  Enough of the limestone has dissolved to make the peninsula a honeycomb.  Sinkholes, underground rivers, high tides bringing ocean water inland and flooding streets in  Broward county.  The southern part of the state is headed back underwater.   The really big deal is that sea level is rising.   

I have given an example of the carbonate cycle, which is going on worldwide.  The other cycle going on is the water cycle.  Our planet is delicately balanced in temperature around the freezing point of water.  The water evaporates, and if it is cool enough, some of it falls as snow and accumulates, mostly in the polar regions.  At times the ice forming from all that snow has made it as far as Central Park in New York,  that is a lot of water tied up on land.  Sea level drops, and Florida emerges.  

Currently, the cycle is going the opposite direction.  The ice is melting, and the process seems to be accelerating.  Why?  Carbon.  Here in Denver, I see huge coal trains hauling coal south to be burned to run air conditioners in Texas.  The coal, carbon, is ripped from the ground where it has lain for millions of years, mostly dead plant life converted into coal.  It is burned, sending carbon into the atmosphere.  I drove here to the coffee shop burning gasoline, which comes from oil made deep underground from what once were living organisms.  The carbon goes into the air, the climate changes due to human activity.  We are in a new epoch, the Anthropocene.

Elemental carbon is fairly rare.  Diamonds, graphite.  Carbon likes to combine with other stuff to make, well, us and other living things.  That carbon gets sequestered in the earth, reducing the amount of carbon available to make new stuff.  There is a cyclical balance, dependent on worldwide temperature and, lately, us.  We burn carbon based fuels and the carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere.   

The sun shines, warming everything up.  A lot of that heat gets radiated back into space, maintaining a balance favorable to life.  When that radiant heat meets a CO2 molecule, it warms the molecule.  More carbon, more heat in the atmosphere.  That’s greenhouse gas doing its thing.  The global climate warms up, making some regions wetter, some more dry.  We have gotten used to having a relatively stable climate, and we adapt to it in many ways.   

When the rain and snow fall changes, our adaptations stop working so well.  This is especially important in coastal regions, because all that polar ice starts melting and sea level rises.  Most of the population lives near the coast.  With the coasts moving inland, the people and all their stuff will have to move as well.  Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan gets flooded in big storms.  The subway tunnels flood, and people have trouble getting around.  The time is coming when they will be living in central New Jersey.  The horror. 

There are lots of people denying all this, saying it is just the normal weather cycle.  That is true, but it is a new normal, and is changing.   What to do? Stop putting so much carbon into the air and start putting it back into the earth.   That means big change in the way we do things, and those getting rich on the status quo don’t want their businesses upset.   Oil and coal, mostly, but they drive all of our economy.  So, they say it isn’t so, and let’s burn, burn, burn.   

What goes around comes around.  It is just a matter of time.

What to Do Now?

President Elect Trump

President Elect Trump

I have a few strategies for dealing with the President-elect.   Why do I oppose him?  He is a Chickenhawk.  I am a veteran and don’t think much of people who dodge the draft and want to send our servicemen into combat.   

 If he requires all Muslims in the U. S. to register, I plan to register and encourage everyone I know to do so.  If millions of Americans do so, the registry will be useless.  What will they do, deport me to Kansas?  I think all religions are proper for people, so I won’t have any conflict with registering as a Muslim. 

The next plan I have is to be more active in organizations I support.  I am an environmentalist, so the Nature Conservancy, Clean Water Action, and the Environmental Defense Fund will have a new volunteer.  I think taking positive action with organizations is a better strategy than blind opposition.   

I am a Democrat, so I am debating becoming active in the Democratic Party.  Years ago I attended some meetings and wasn’t enchanted by the whole thing, so, maybe.

I write, and will continue to do so. I do not intend to go into attack mode.  I don’t think negativity is the proper course for my writing.  I may try to promote some of my writing.  Mr. Trump uses negativity as his main strategy, so my response will to be positive about promoting positive action in our weakened republic.  I will support good causes and good people. 

 

 

Cops and Repression

Cops are a constant presence in our lives.  When I was a young kid, the town marshal in Fruita drove a red Ford pickup with no lights or siren.  It wasn’t long before there were real police with a cruiser.  I have a lot of interactions with police officers because I am a lousy driver.  
Cops

Cops

The first really negative interaction was during all the demonstrations following the invasion of Cambodia in 1968.  We peace creeps stood across the barrier from helmeted Fort Collins police officers who could hardly restrain themselves from bashing heads.  They were putting up with a lot of verbal abuse.  The cop across from me was hyperventilating.  Fortunately, nothing happened. 

Cops today are shooting people and getting shot.  Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore showed the nation how the police are an instrument of repression in some cities.  Fortunately this is not always the case.  After 9-11, Denver Water placed armed guards at the gates to the water treatment plants.  Most of the guards were retired or off duty Denver Police Officers moonlighting.  They usually worked one shift per week, and I got to know many of them at the plant where I worked. 

It was a shock to me to discover that most of them were really nice guys.  That did not fit my stereotype of cops.  A couple of them, however, were not nice guys.  They were right wing bullies filled with fear and anger.  The hate they projected was almost physically tangible.  They did not make eye contact and their speech was formal with an undercurrent of menace. 

I am sure every police department of any size in the land has a contingent of those fellows.  They are the enforcers, using violence to deal with undesirables.  They are relatively safe form reprisal because of the need for police to provide mutual support to one another.  There is a code of silence and even lying to cover for a fellow officer.  This is more common in some departments than others. 

These men serve as instruments of repression, usually to minorities.  Their self-appointed job is to keep undesirables in line, using any method they think they can get away with, including murder.in the USA, their targets are usually black, with Latinos and other minorities as alternate targets.  

Ferguson Riot

Ferguson Riot

At one time, most of the racial repression came from groups like the Ku Klux Klan, with their cross burnings, beatings, and lynchings.  Today, those groups have waned, and another means of repression has replaced them-rogue cops and rogue police departments.  Cops and police departments have always been part of the system of racial repression, but now they are the default lynchers.  There are no cross burnings on South Table Mountain in Golden these days. 

This system has run into trouble because almost anyone with a smartphone can record police violence and get the recordings to the media.  The code of silence is broken.  In times of unrest like today, the violent incidents are on the television screen every evening, just like the atrocities in Vietnam were in the 1960s.  Change in technology has made those conducting the new lynchings vulnerable.  The old system of other cops and prosecutors allowing the lynchers to get away with their brutality is not gone, as  Baltimore has recently shown, but it’s days are numbered. 

It may be that one factor creating the Trump phenomenon is the breakdown of repression.  The white working class, already hit by the loss of industrial jobs, is facing competition from people who were once sentenced to remain at the bottom.  White working class men once had those minorities to look down on.  Now the minorities are on the City Council and the police department.   

 

At the Crossroads in 2016

This is a guest post by my wife, Carol Leavenworth.

At the Crossroads in 2016

By Carol Leavenworth, LPC

Most of the time I try to ignore politics.  But this year the presidential campaign has become so bizarre that I’ve been watching with a kind of morbid fascination.  How did we get here?  How could a man like Donald Trump possibly have become a serious candidate for President of our country?

 As a Jungian therapist, I have to ask myself how I and other politically liberal people may have unconsciously contributed to Trump’s success.  Observing the contrast that emerged from last month’s political conventions between the Democrats’ positive vision for the future and Republicans’ negative and pessimistic view, I think I have begun to understand why these two wildly disparate standpoints appeal to such vast numbers of Americans.

Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

As a psychotherapist I know that the loss of the fundamental safety and comfort that we enjoyed while we were held in our mothers’ wombs is a universal human experience.  At birth we are thrust into a world of uncertainty and fear where our needs will never again be met instantaneously and our very survival is not necessarily assured.  And life continues to become ever more precarious from there. The story of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden reflects this experience. 

Life outside The Garden is filled with danger and risk.  Growth is impossible unless we embrace this reality.  We must leave our mother’s side and venture out into the world – to school, to work, to new homes that we create for ourselves.  That most of us do this pretty well doesn’t mean we are always comfortable with our lives or that we necessary feel all that safe. 

But we want to be.  A primary motive driving us throughout adulthood is to find the lost wholeness, safety and comfort that some small part of each of us vaguely remembers from the far distant past.

In tough scary times like these, this drive is even stronger.  To allay our fears and satisfy deep needs to feel safe and whole we are inevitably drawn to leaders who  encourage us to lay down our burdens and give over our struggle to a strong parent figure who will make it better for us.  This is a profoundly human impulse, and today Donald Trump is the man who is appealing to that impulse.

 Well good, you might say.  Why not let him do it?  The difficulty here is that it won’t work.  We can’t resolve life’s important challenges by giving in to shadowy fears and returning to old dependencies.  Going back will not help.  In fact whenever we act on these regressive impulses, we risk ending up worse off than before.  Think back on your own life.  Most if not all of us can find instances in our own personal histories when we’ve chosen what we thought was the safe road only to find ourselves with more problems than ever.

But if we can’t go back, what will work? 

It was First Lady Michelle Obama speaking at the Democratic Convention who reminded me of the viable and healing way through dark times.  Her remarks swept away the negative and pessimistic mindset that I had fallen into as I watched the nightly news reports throughout the winter and spring.  Hearing her, I recalled to myself the truths that I try to impart to others in my work as a psychotherapist.  It is the choices we make from our best selves that are the ones that enable us to move forward in resolving life problems, big and small. Even more importantly these are the choices that build the inner capacities and strengths that will ultimately bring each of us to a new experience of the abiding wholeness and safety that can arise only from within.  We heal ourselves and the world in the process of creating, developing and expressing our best selves.

Crossroads

Crossroads

The enormous divide that we see between the two major candidates for President tells us that we have arrived at a great crossroads.  Eight years ago we made a courageous decision to elect the first African American man to the Presidency.  He pulled us back from the brink of worldwide economic ruin and brought us here to the time when we are asked to make the even more courageous decision to elect a smart, politically savvy, seasoned and progressive woman to be our President. 

Hillary Clinton points us to a future where we face the challenges that confront us head on rather than building walls and hiding behind them.  She invites us all to work together to secure our futures.   She affirms that none of the tasks before us can be solved by one person or one group.   She does not promise to take care of us.  She promises to lead us.  And she asks us to dig deep once again and act from our best selves.

When we do, we help the world and we help ourselves.  Acting on our best selves out in the world feeds our souls and contributes to the long and difficult task of rebuilding the inner wholeness that is the true goal of our searching hearts.

 

 

 

What’s Going On?

His Yellowness

His Yellowness

Here we are in one of the most bizarre presidential campaigns in a land marked by bizarre politics.  In many cases, the underlying reason for the periodic upheavals is race.  Yankee slavers hauled terrified captives to a strange land where they were put to work on plantations.  The plantation-owning Southern aristocracy dominated the agrarian south.  Farming in the north was mostly small family farms.  Industrial cities grew and a diverse economy grew in contrast to southern agrarianism.   

Black people were looked on as inferior and deserved their servitude.  The divided country compromised and made a black person worth 3/5th of a white in the Constitution, that standard of democracy.  The race problem became the dominant issue in the nineteenth century and remains so today.  

The split has always been marked by violence.  The tragedy of the Civil War continued after the war with Jim Crow making his mark across the country.  Some change came with the great migration of African-Americans from the rural south to the urban north.  Race turmoil came with the migration.  The civil rights era focused on the south, but the racial divide is as deep in the north as in the north.  Race violence seems to be nationwide.   

I was stationed in Alabama when I was in the Army in the early 1960s.  I was shocked by the segregation.  I was more shocked by the segregation in Chicago.  The African-Americans moved north to find opportunity.  Some found opportunity, but Jim Crow moved north with them.  Things are now changing.  We have an African-American President who made his home in Chicago.  Black people have more opportunity now than at any other time, but it is not enough.   

The divides remain.  White cops shooting blacks, blacks shooting cops.  Rioting comes in cycles, mostly when the weather is hot.  Poor people don’t have air conditioning.  Much of the hysteria around race violence is fueled by television news.  “If it bleeds, it leads”.  People watch these relatively isolated incidents and feel it is happening just down the street.  Chicago’s south side is something of an aberration; gang violence reinforced by a corrupt police department.  After all, we are talking about Cook County with its rich history of corruption and crime. 

The black neighborhoods are a different place.  Being stopped for driving while black is no joke.  It is a means of race-based repression.  The lynchings have not really stopped; the racist bully cops who are a small part of every police department have assumed the role.  No longer is it a rope, it’s a nine millimeter handgun in the hands of a rogue police officer. 

All this brings me to the Republicans.  Our national economy is changing.  Many working class people are politically conservative, wanting more stability in a changing economy that is leaving them behind.  Good paying industrial jobs are drying up.   

A good example is here in Denver.  Gates Rubber is gone, the production moved out of the country.  The former Gates factory which used to dominate South Denver is being replaced with expensive apartment complexes.  Today, the jobs are in offices and restaurants.  The office people move into the apartments, the poorly paid workers move to decaying suburbs or cram themselves into tiny apartments on Capitol Hill. 

There is one growing industry here, marijuana.  Jobs are being created and rents for warehouses for grow operations are going up.  The warehouses were built for thriving small businesses doing light manufacturing and supporting the construction industry.  The Great Recession created by our friends who run things from lower Manhattan killed many of those small businesses.  The working class lost out again. 

The white working class is angry.  Many of the jobs are gone, the opportunity for small businesses has shrunk, and immigrants seem to be taking the jobs at the bottom.  Until this year, the Republican Party has failed to capitalize on this growing disaffection.  The party’s emphasis has been to enrich the wealthy, ignore the poor, take their safety nets away, and keep the minimum wage at poverty level.  Uh, oh, here comes Mr. Trump.  It is hard to tell what he really believes, but his rhetoric has focused on returning to some past that was better for those angry people than the present.  He mocks the liberal ideals of social progress and seems to advocate a return to a dominant, imperialistic America returning to the industrial prosperity of post-World War II America when white people were firmly in control.  He also wants to remove all constraints on free-wheeling development without regard to social or environmental consequences.  More jobs. 

His own record doesn’t support his rhetoric, but the discontent he is exploiting overrules his inconsistencies.  Democrats want a well-regulated welfare state, and Republicans want to make rich people richer.  Disaffected workers are turning to a man who advocates strength, control, and more jobs by rebuilding the industrial economy that has moved to China.  No more free trade, the USA will regain former worker’s prosperity with protectionism.   

The rich will get richer, but the workers will regain what was lost in the shift to a global economy. Trump and Putin will share the spoils of the new nationalism.  Europe can muddle along, but the rest of the world is there to be shared by the U.S. and Russia. 

The voting bloc Trump tapped into was enough to get him nominated, but he will probably lose to Ms. Clinton.  Her problem is much the same as the old Republicans.   She is a reformer who has always worked for those at the margins, however working class economic problems persist.  Those problems created the Trump phenomenon, and solutions are hard to come by.  The Obamas promote college for everyone, but who is going to do the work?   There needs to be some way to build a good life for the workers.  How?  This is the twenty first century dilemma.

 

More on Discontent

The Age of Steam

The Age of Steam

Our economy has been one of change since the beginning.  When the railroads came to Colorado in 1870, a lot of teamster jobs hauling freight from Omaha and Kansas City went away.  The automobile would not have happened without the new petroleum industry.  Coal retained its strength from powering locomotives, heating homes, and fueling industry.  Industry and manufacturing grew, making the American economy one of the largest in the world.

What a combination, land, natural resources, transportation, a growing population of people with ambition, mobility, and a willingness to try something new.  Some were left behind.  Native Americans, African Americans, and those new citizens in the Southwest who were once part of Mexico with its traditional ways.  As always, immigrants ended up at the bottom because of language and discrimination.

There were troubles.  Low wages, a turbulent labor history, drought, an unstable business cycle creating panics individuals were helpless to influence.  There were some adventures the government engaged in, such as Cuba, the Philippines China, Japan, all the trappings of empire.  In many ways the American West was an empire, won at the expense of those who were living there.

John Deere

John Deere

Agriculture was becoming more mechanized, displacing people who moved to the cities to work in industry.  All the change continues.  There is a tremendous amount of wealth in Silicon Valley, not so much in Michigan.

The West has been boom-bust from the start.  The fur trade collapsed, but the gold rushes started.  The government started giving land to the railroads and individuals.  The short grass prairie boomed with hopeful wheat growers, then the droughts came.  Oil and gas grew and grew, and grew.  As old fields played out, new oil fields were discovered.  A couple of big wars really heated things up.

It all looked great.  Yes, lots of change, but people could find good jobs and things steamed along.  The real upheavals were when the business cycle threw millions out of work.  The 1930’s were a terrible time, but a war healed all that.

The West That Never Existed

The West That Never Existed

The 1950’s seemed like a golden age.  Lots of jobs, the U.S. Ruled much of the world, and television built a myth of stability, prosperity, and a bright future for everyone.  the myth came from relative prosperity and the ubitiquous westerns on television promoting a life that never existed.

The 1960’s brought social upheaval accompanied by a growing shift in how people made their living.  Steel mills closed, imported cars were on the roads, and computer-driven automation started taking industrial jobs.  The word Yuppie became a term of derision, but the Yuppies were the wave of the future.  They possessed education and a skill set many people could or would not obtain.

The skilled trades fell out of favor. It is college or else.  The trade jobs are filled the way they have always been filled, by immigrants.  This time however, the immigrants are not easily assimilated Europeans.  They are Latin, and and bring their culture with them.  Many are just not as interested in assimilating, and many are undocumented.

All this change leaves a huge segment of our society out of the good life.  Many are rural, where big mechanized farms haven taken jobs.  Many just do not have social and intellectual requirements to move into the new economy.  What’s left?  Low-paying service economy jobs, often for an out of date minimum wage inadequate for one person, let alone a family.  It is hard to build a life mowing lawns and doing kitchen work.  Much of the time jobs that used to be stepping stones have turned into dead ends.

The trouble is just beginning.  Those people marginalized by an economy where they don’t fit can be radicalized and turn to violence and terror or Donald Trump, which may be same thing.  The discontent is just not with the marginalized working class.  There are lots of well-educated people from middle class families making pizzas and living in their parents’ basement.  They thought they were doing the right thing going into debt to get an education and found nobody wants them.

This is still a rich country.  There is a huge imbalance in the distribution of wealth which has to change.  The change agent must be government.  A true progressive tax structure and an end to the massive influence of special interests in government are desperately needed.  The nation has the resources to provide everyone with an income providing them some dignity and the flexibility to enhance their station in life.  Given a decent income, most will seek ways to do even better.

We will always have the wealthy and the poor.  Now, there is too much concentrated wealth for a few and too many poor.  Trying to revert to an American utopia which never existed will only add to social instability.

Happy Days Are Here Again

Happy Days Are Here Again

There should be no food banks or coat drives.  There should be no one sleeping on the streets.  People with mental health problems should not be cast out.  Everyone should have the time and resources available to build better lives for themselves rather than being trapped in poverty.

In other words, we need a new time of progressive change, not an attempt to return to a myth.  How to pay for it all?  A realistic progressive tax system to redistribute income.

Follow the Money

Lots of corporations and individuals complain about government regulation of their businesses and lives.  The complaints come with much complaining about high taxes.  Other than the paperwork involved with regulation, regulation is good for individuals and business.  Making regulation a political issue is just that, politics.  In some cases profits are affected, but in most cases, not so.   

Let’s use ozone as an example.  Ozone is toxic to us if we are exposed directly.  It is beneficial in the stratosphere as it absorbs ultraviolet light, which is harmful to living things.  UV light increases sunburns, contributes to skin cancers, and is an immunosuppressant.  Worldwide, governments banned chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals used in refrigeration (Freon).  The refrigeration industry fought the regulation, citing increased costs, lower profits, and job loss.  Guess what?  The Freon had to be replaced, and who had to do it?  The refrigeration business.  The increased regulation actually helped the industry and the ozone holes in the atmosphere began shrinking.  The controversy continues, however. 

Refrigeration prices increased, but were more than offset by the economic gains brought about by the change-over to safe refrigerants.  More jobs, bigger refrigeration companies, more profits, all money going into the economy.  The benefits more than offset the cost of eliminating chlorofluorocarbons.  Public health gained from the reduction in sunburns and skin cancers worldwide.  Everybody gained. 

The same applies to the auto industry with all the safety and emission requirements.  Car prices increased, but accident deaths and air pollution decreased.  Everyone gained, and governments will profit from the fines Takata and Volkswagen will pay. My Toyota dealer profited from replacing dangerous airbags. 

In economics the win-win effect of regulation can be explained by the multiplier effect.  If money is spent, the recipient spends those dollars in payroll, capital investment, taxes, and a host of other things.  Those dollars get spent, and the economy grows.  This even applies to digging holes.  People move to Denver and need a place to live.  A developer decides to build an apartment building.  He borrows money from the bank and hires architects, engineers, and contractors.  The contractor needs to put in the basements and foundations.  Thus, a need for a hole.  He hires an excavation contractor who digs the hole.  He is getting lots of business, so he hires equipment operators and laborer.  He buys a new trackhoe from Caterpillar.   The dirt has to be hauled away, so he hires a trucking company, and so it goes.  Government benefits from tax revenue and the fees for all those permits.  The revenue pays for more cops.  On and on it goes. 

The next time you hear someone say. “Get government out of the way.”, ask them if they know about the multiplier.

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