Trump using public dollars, dirty tricks in reelection bid

We were one of millions of American families that recently received a post card with a summary of the advice you’ve been getting on how to deal with the coronavirus. The card, which was paid for with tax dollars, came with the headline “President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America.”

I’ve received many government mailers over the years from administrations of both parties. Occasionaly, they’ll include a brief message from the incumbent president, but never a blatant headline like this card carries.

(The headline is a fraud anyway. Instead of providing useful advice on how to slowdown the coronavirus, Trump has downplayed its seriousness, offered false hope for a quick vaccine, and promoted two drugs that have never been proven to treat the disease. Public health experts hold their breath every time he opens his mouth on the subject.)

Trump appears to be viewing the coronavirus pandemic as a way to promote his reelection. Several news outlets have reported that Trump wants his name on every stimulus check mailed to citizens (normally, a functionary in the Treasury Department would sign such checks) and has bragged that the TV ratings for his daily briefings rival those of “Monday Night Football.”

This is not the first time Trump has used public resources to promote his reelection and it won’t be the last. White House social media director Dan Scavino recently tweeted a doctored news clip that appeared to show Joe Biden endorsing Trump’s reelection bid. Scavino is paid by the government, not Trump’s reelection campaign, but that didn’t stop him from spending time on a partisan political stunt.

The clip, which was tweeted and retweeted millions of times, appears to show Biden saying at a political rally that “we can only reelect Donald Trump.” The clip edits out the rest of Biden’s sentence. He’s what he actually said:

“We can only reelect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s got to be a positive campaign.”

Trump, who has never cared about the truth or accuracy, retweeted the clip, as did campaign manager Brad Parscale and campaign senior legal advisor Jenna Ellis. The clip was also tweeted by conservative talk show host Mark Levin and conservative web sites such as Townhall and RedState.

But Trump’s campaign is playing a different tune now, sending cease and desist letters to television stations airing an ad from super PAC Priorities USA Action that’s a scathing attack on Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The ad features a graph mapping coronavirus cases in the U.S. over the past two months with audio of comments Trump has made downplaying the threat of the virus.

The letter, which also suggests the stations’ broadcast licenses might be in jeopardy if they keep running the ad, said the ad “stitched together fragments from multiple speeches by President Trump to fraudulently and maliciously imply that President Trump called the coronavirus outbreak a ‘hoax’.”

The ad doesn’t explicitly say Trump called the virus a “hoax.” It runs audio of Trump saying , “This is their new hoax,” without identifying who he was talking about, as the number of coronavirus cases rises on the graph. Trump was referring to Democratic criticism of the president’s slow response to the threat.

Then there was that fund-raising mailer sent out by the Republican Party that appeared to be an official U.S. Census form, and the high volume of mysterious phone calls that jammed the lines of the Iowa Democratic Party on the night of the caucuses. I can’t wait until the real campaign starts after Labor Day.

Posted in Coronavirus pandemic, Democratic Party, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Media, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spend money on the wealth creators, not the laggards?

Blogger George Rebane, perhaps the leading thinker among conservatives in these parts (granted, there’s not much competition for the honor), takes a dim view of current efforts to lavish money on the people who will be hurt the most by the shutdown of the economy.

Rebane, who has written in the past that employees are costs that owners try to eliminate, writes at Rebane’s Ruminations that “…low- and mid-range workers are continuously pandered to about (sic) the feds bailing out Wall Street capitalists and greedy corporations. They don’t grasp that giving money only to such workers will not help, for they will have nowhere to spend it for their necessities…”

“It is America’s business owners and investors who create and sustain the companies, and take the risks to make the stuff we need while creating the jobs that make our quality of life possible.”

Rebane apparently believes that food, rent and utilities are not necessities that are likely to suck up any money low- and mid-range workers get from the government. There is little else you can afford to spend money on when you live paycheck to paycheck and those checks aren’t coming in.

But don’t think for a minute that America’s major corporations will be denied a spot at the public trough. They have unleashed their army of lobbyists on members of Congress and the administration, seeking low interest loans if not outright bailouts. Companies like United Airlines are threatening to lay-off thousands of workers if they don’t get what they want.

Left unsaid is why America’s corporate titans have scant cash reserves to cushion them for the next few months, particularly since the economy has been growing for a decade and they got a huge tax cut three years ago.

Instead of banking money for a rainy day, they have been spending it on stock buybacks and dividend increases. Given the low interest rates of recent years, many companies borrowed money to do both while also financing acquisitions. Corporate debt now stands at a record $10 trillion.

Even Donald Trump finds this annoying, saying he is disappointed corporations didn’t use the money saved from the tax cut to invest in their businesses. He said there will be no dividend increases or buy-backs if the government bails them out.

Then there are the leveraged buy-outs that burden companies with debt. Take Cirque du Soleil. After a hedge fund acquired the company in a leveraged buy-out in 2015, Cirque was saddled with $700 million in debt. Now that all of its touring shows are out of business, the company is likely to default on its debt payments.

The few corporate scolds left out there like to talk about “moral hazard,” the lack of incentive to guard against risk when you’re protected from its consequences. Corporations know there is little risk when the federal government bails them out, as we learned in 2008-09.

I say it’s time for the creators of wealth to face up to the consequences of their profligate ways. Instead of bailing them out, we should expose them to the tender mercies of Warren Buffett, who currently has over $120 billion in reserves and is looking to invest it.

Buffett comes across as a folksy, grandfather type, but he makes companies pay dearly when he comes to their rescue. Back in 2008-09, he provided a lifeline to Goldman Sachs, General Electric and Dow Chemical, and financed the acquisition of Wrigley by Mars.

What did he charge for his services? The Wall Street Journal estimated in 2013 that Buffett had a gain of “$10 billion and counting” from the bailouts. That’s the kind of “moral hazard” that really teaches a lesson.

Posted in Economy, Financial crisis, George Rebane, Politics, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It's not the system, it's the leadership that matters

“You never let a serious crisis got to waste.”Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to Barack Obama

Perhaps channeling Emanuel, conservative commentators are using the coronavirus pandemic to champion the claim that our free-market health care system and capitalist ingenuity will prevail over single-payer, aka, Medicare for All, medical systems in stopping the pandemic.

To bolster their argument, they have zeroed in on Italy, where the pandemic is out of control and has claimed more lives that it did in China. Critics are quick to point out that Italy has socialized medicine while neglecting to mention it also has the second oldest population after Japan and was slow to implement social distancing and other measure to flatten the curve.

These critics also fail to mention the experience of another single-payer nation, South Korea, in subduing the pandemic, possible because it makes the United States look bad in comparison.

Both South Korea and the U.S. confirmed their first case of coronavirus on the same the day, January 20. That’s where the similarities end. Unlike its free market counterpart, South Korea swiftly implemented mass-scale testing along with consistent, transparent messaging to literally stop the pandemic in its tracks.

Falling back on lessons learned from the 2003 SARS epidemic and the 2015 MERS outbreak, authorities immediately orders up test kits from the World Health Organization and tasked its domestic drug companies with coming up with more test kits quickly. The first ones were ready to go Feb. 10.

Citizens are now being tested at the rate of 20,000 a day at 633 sites around the country, many of them mobile drive-up facilities. Because South Korea has a single-payer health care system, testing is free for everybody. The poor don’t have to delay getting a test because they can’t pay for it.

“Testing is central because that leads to early detection, it minimizes future threat, and it quickly treats those with the virus,” said Kang Kyung-wha, the country’s foreign minister. South Korean deaths from Covid-19 are well below the 3% death rate experienced by other countries.

As we know in the U.S., testing is still a developing debacle. For starters, we rejected the WHO test for one of our own, and the initial version had problems–it didn’t always work. Despite repeated assurances from Donald Trump and various administration officials, tests are still not widely available. Drive-up tests facilities are operating in fits and starts as the bugs are worked out.

As a result, we have no clue how bad the infection rate is in this country. If we’re lucky, we’ll flatten the curve before we even know it.

The Washington Post has reported that Trump blew off intelligence warnings in early January that coronavirus could be a serious problem in the U.S. He and others have denied that, but there is no denying that Trump and his acolytes initially downplayed the seriousness of the disease. Many of his media flunkies called the coronavirus a hoax or political hit job.

As The Wall Street Journal reported in an extensive report entitled “America Needed Tests. The Government Failed” published March 19:

“Health care officials say the current state of testing reflects both technical and planning failures, as well as a broader failure of imagination. Leaders including President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar early in the outbreak appeared unable or unwilling to envision a crisis of the scale that has now emerged…”

Now that we are stumbling and fumbling to get the pandemic under control, Trump is not helping matters by suggesting that existing drugs can treat the disease and that a vaccine is just around the corner. That’s a stark contrast to the approach of Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has deferred to medical authorities and avoided topics where he was ignorant.

The difference between the U.S. and South Korea is leadership. They have it. We don’t.

Posted in Coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump, Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Trump’s perfect stock market rally has evaporated

Donald Trump has been bragging about how the stock market has appreciated since he took office. Less than a week ago, he pointed out a 1-day gain of almost 10% by the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the basis barometer used by investors to gauge the market.

It is certainly true that if you invested in the market the day Trump was inaugurated and then sold everything about 10 days ago, you would have a very big gain. But that was 10 days ago. Today, you would basically be back to where you started.

The D-J 30 Industrials closed downed 6.3% today at 19,898, just 71 points above the closing price the day Trump took the oath of office. Nobdody thinks we’re anywhere near the bottom of this market correction so the Trump “rally” should be in the red by the end of the week.

However, people who invested in the Obama rally are singing a much different tune. The D-J was up 55.1% during the 8 years he was in office.

But hey: The 1% got their tax cut, and that’s what really counts.

Posted in Donald Trump, Economy, Financial crisis, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Lyin’ King tells another big whopper

Donald Trump, aka The Lyin’ King, is well known for his inability to tell the truth. I’m not talking about boasting. I’m talking about outright lies.

Not only does Trump lie on a regular basis, he lies about things that are real easy to trace. But he doesn’t seem to care, nor do his supporters.

His latest bold faced lie had to do with the coronavirus, when he proclaimed Tuesday: “I’ve always known this is real–this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” He repeated the claim earlier today.

This is a complete 180 from what he was saying less than 2 months ago, when he said of the pandemic on Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It is going to be fine.”

At a rally in New Hampshire on Feb. 10, he told a gathering of acolytes: “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” He followed that with a tweet 14 days later: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, and a man who knows you don’t last long if you contradict the president, said Feb. 25: “We have contained this, I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight.”

Trump said the next day: “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” Shortly thereafter, he gave himself a 10 on a scale of 10 for his handling of the crisis.

Either Trump’s an idiot, or he thinks the people he’s talking to are.

Posted in Donald Trump, Republican Party | Leave a comment

Republicans are the new ‘know nothing’ party

Some 58% of Republicans–69% of those who voted for Donald Trump–believe the severity of the coronavirus pandemic is being exaggerated, and only 10% of those over 65 (the most vulnerable group) are worried about it, according to a new poll from Yahoo News/YouGov.

They also believe a vaccine will be available later this year. While these views mesh with those of Trump, they don’t align with the opinions of the top medical experts in this country.

The fact that rank-and-file Republicans routinely dismiss the work of our top scientists is no surprise when you consider that the Republican Party has consistently rejected climate change science, tried to cut spending on scientific and medical research, and lashed out at supporters of vaccinations and other proven public health policies to advance its social agenda.

Trump’s supporters have been enthusiastic purveyors of conspiracy theories and bogus science in an effort to deflect criticism from the administration’s slow response to the pandemic.

Senator Tom Cotton (R, Ark.) continues to promote a bogus theory that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese bioweapons lab in Wuhan, the epicenter of the problem. Rep. Matt Gaetz showed up on the floor of the House in a gas mask to mock the concern over the the disease, and Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted a denial that he and Senator Ted Cruz, both being self quarantined, requested a meeting with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Trump administration has consistently tried to cut spending at the National Science Foundation and on medical research and disease prevention, including the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. When asked why he disbanded the White House pandemic office, Trump called it a “nasty question.”

While Republican legislators like to proclaim “I’m no scientist,” it is clear they have lined up against science in the debate over climate change. In an effort to limit if not end the debate in government circles, the administration has muzzled scientists at the EPA, U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Climate Assessment.

Anti-vaccination crusaders have found willing allies among Republican legislators at the state level. Democrats in six states–Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, Washington, New York and Maine–introduced legislation after the 2019 measles outbreak to make it harder to get children exempted from vaccinations. They encountered Republican resistance in each state.

Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly countered with a bill that would make it illegal to hire, fire or “discriminate” against employees who refuse to get vaccinated. (The bill made no exceptions for hospitals.) Another measure would require school districts to tell parents how they can opt out of vaccinating their children.

Texas state Senator Jonathan Strickland accused a dean at the Baylor College of Medicine of “sorcery” and profiteering after he expressed concern over the rising number of Texas students who aren’t vaccinated. Arizona state Senator Kelly Townsend said mandatory vaccinations reflect “communist” doctrine because you have to “give up liberty, the very sovereignty of your body.”

Former Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin revealed that he exposed his nine children to Chickenpox rather than have them vaccinated. (Bevin was so unpopular in the solidly Republican state that the Democrats managed to flip the governor’s seat in 2018.)

Some Republicans also take a dim view of our medical professionals. Washington state Senator Maureen Walsh opposed a bill that would give nurses uninterrupted breaks for meals and rest. “I would submit that these nurses probably do get breaks,” she said. “They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” (She later apologized.)

In the view of some conservatives, the mandates of God trump science and common sense. Florida state Rep. Mike Hill said God told him to write an abortion bill that allowed no exceptions for rape or incest. “As plain as day, God spoke to me,” he said. The head of the Family Research Council, routinely courted by Republican candidates, said mass shootings are caused by “driving God from the public square,” and specifically teaching children about evolution.

Trump is the perfect leader of today’s Republican Party: It is known that he ignores the facts and dismisses the conclusions of experts when they don’t align with his view or thwart what he wants to do. People who are more comfortable with their prejudices and superstitions than they are with science will find a home in America’s “know nothing” party.

Posted in Donald Trump, Environment, Health care, Politics, Republican Party, Science, Uncategorized, Vaccinations | 1 Comment

The revolution has been postponed indefinitely

You say you want a revolution. Well, you know. We all want to change the world. The Beatles

Much to the chagrin of the Bernie Bros and the Republican Party, the socialist revolution that was supposed to overwhelm the Democratic Party and sweep the county has been postponed indefinitely.

Senator Bernie Sanders has maintained since he ran for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination that the country was ready for a social revolution, and that only he could draw the young, the liberal and the independent voters to the polls in the massive numbers needed to prevail.

That didn’t turn out to be the case on super Tuesday. Instead, Democrats decided they favored the more moderate approach of Joe Biden, a candidate they believe has the best chance of accomplishing their No. 1 goal, the defeat of Donald Trump.

Even Bernie’s comrade-in-arms, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, couldn’t advance the revolution. Two Congressional candidates she endorsed and helped financially faired poorly in their primaries against mainline Democrats.

Biden’s big victory in the South Carolina primary drew other moderate candidates who left the race to back his cause, and this apparently influenced a lot of voters on Super Tuesday. Voters who settled on a candidate just before or on election day backed Biden decisively.

But Trump was the real catalyst. In state after state, exit polls showed voters put more stock in picking a candidate who can oust the incumbent than in choosing one who shares their views–and in state after state, Biden was seen as that candidate. On that question alone, Biden beat Sanders by 15%.

None of this plays into the game plan the Republicans were hoping to use to reelect Trump. The GOP and its media lackeys have been conjuring up images of Karl Marx and a Communist revolution that is sure to end the American way of life if Sanders becomes president. While it is still possible for Sanders the win the nomination, it is less likely than two weeks ago.

The Republicans were also planning to run on Trump’s accomplishments, especially the economy. But the spread of the corona virus and the decision by Trump’s buddies, the Saudis, to start at oil price war may have the U.S. economy in a recession by election day.

But Trump is not interested in running on the issues anyway. His massive ego insists that the election be about him, and he’s getting his way. A recent poll by Fox News revealed that the major issue on most voters’ minds is Trump’s conduct. As his performance in the corona virus epidemic shows once again, Trump is vulnerable if his conduct is the main issue.

***

Doug Fleming, the leading vote-getter for the three contested seat on the Nevada City Council, probably had it right when he implied voters were seeking calm and stability in leadership of the town after the chaotic proceeding under Mayor Reinette Senum.

Senum was the only one of the incumbents seeking reelection to prevail, finishing a weak third to Fleming and Daniela Fernandez. (Incumbent David Parker didn’t make the cut and Valerie Moberg decided not to seek reelection.)

“People wanted an adult in the room, and I don’t say that disparagingly toward anyone else,” Fleming said, perhaps with tongue planted in cheek. “The discord with the council was fresh in everybody’s mind. The people I talked to, they wanted change, they wanted civility, they wanted people to get back to the business of the city.”

Fernandez emphasized the issues that unite rather than divide residents of the Queen of the Northern Mines, and pointed to the diversity the new council will have. “Let’s talk about how exciting it is that this could be the most diverse city council Nevada City every had,” she said. “Nevada City is ready for diversity, not only diversity in race but in sexuality, in age and life experience.”

Don’t expect Senum to change much. She’s not one to back down from her firmly held beliefs, and Nevada City activists who support her wouldn’t have it any other way.

It will be interesting to see if a new majority on council can be formed to confront her. I think I know who the city’s employees are rooting for.

***

It appears that Supervisor Heidi Hall won’t get the “vote of confidence” she was hoping for in the primary election, but she can at least take solace in the fact that she got more bang for her bucks than her two opponents did.

Hall prevailed in the primary with 2,566 votes, slightly over 48 percent of those cast. She could have avoided a runoff in the November general election by getting over 50 percent of the vote.

She was able to lead the field even though she spent less money on the campaign than her two opponents, Deborah Wilder and Michael Taylor. As of Feb. 15, Hall had raised slightly more than $15,000 for the campaign.

That’s dwarfed by the $37,000 raised by Wilder, a former chair of the Nevada County Republican Party. She attracted just 1,386 votes, one more than Taylor received, according to the county totals when I wrote this. There’s still a chance a few ballot are floating around that could put Taylor in the runoff with Hall. He spent over $19,000 on his campaign, mostly his own money.

You have to wonder what has happened to the Republicans in the first supervisorial district when they can’t steamroll a liberal incumbent after outspending her by more than 2-1. Maybe Nate Beason retired at the right time.

***

Recent polls show that most Californians believe it has become too expensive to live in the Golden State, and that may explain why tax increases and bond issues fared poorly across the state.

Nevada County followed the trend, voting down a Penn Valley school bond proposal and an assessment increase to fund the operations of the Higgins Fire District. Local voters also voted by a 63 percent to 37 percent margin against the ill-named Proposition 13, a statewide school bond issue.

What should public officials take from this? Here’s one scenario worth considering: Voters have put a plug in the piggy bank and public officials should start looking at ways to cut expenses, especially the back-breaking pensions most of them are paying.

***

Donald Trump and most of the Republican candidates on the November ballot don’t figure to do well in California, but at least the GOP doesn’t have to worry about the north end of the state.

The three Republican incumbents–Rep. Doug LaMalfa, state Senator Brian Dahle, and Assemblywoman Megan Dahle–easily won their primary elections and should prevail in November. Based on their poor performances in the primaries, the Democratic challengers won’t get must financial support from the Democratic Party. Maybe next time.

UPDATE: Updated numbers were released after I posted this item, and Heidi Hall has increased her total to 52% of the vote. While just 45% of the votes have been counted, she can avoid a November runoff if her final total is above the 50% mark.

Posted in Assemblywoman Megan Dahle, Bernie Sanders, California Republican Party, Deborah Wilder, Democratic Party, Donald Trump, Heidi Hall, Nevada City Council, Nevada County Republican Party, Politics, Reinette Senum, Rep. Doug LaMalfa, Republican Party, Senator Brian Dahle, Uncategorized | Leave a comment