Monday, November 14, 2016

An Election Analysis by Actual People - Not Politicians, Pollsters, Press, or Pundits - Part 3


One of the pleasures of publishing the Coltons Point Times is the opportunity to share with you the comments of my readers, the everyday persons working to survive and filling their life with everything they love.  A series of post-election analysis will be offered from contributing writers sharing their thoughts on the election.

They are not seasoned journalists but they are dedicated, patriotic Americans.  At times it is refreshing to hear honest observations rather than biased news so do not expect to hear from any professional politicians, pollsters, press, or pundits.

I want to thank the contributing writers and hope we can all learn more about each other if we will just take the time to read.

This Contributing Author post is hosted on the Coltons Point Times.  Contributor authors control their own work and the views do not reflect those of the Coltons Point Times.  If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email in the comment section.

Preamble 2016

Michael Wm. Krafka
November 14, 2016

We the People, in order to form a more perfect union, have some serious work to do.  We are not, at this point in history, beset by an occupying external power.  Rather, we are dealing with what the business community calls “disruptive change” because of this presidential election.  The foundational fissures have been opening over the years from the lingering frustration that economic well being remained out of reach for the vast majority of hard working Americans.  They have watched their incomes stagnating and declining in purchasing power while the corporate profits they delivered through their hard work continue to flow to those at the very top of the economic ladder.  These pent up frustrations have vented and found a singular and unusually disruptive voice.  That voice, through the unexpected co-opting of a major political party, was freely elected into power by marginally less than a plurality of “We the People” who cared to exercise their right to vote.  This duly elected voice makes bold promises he guarantees to deliver, apparently through the messianic force of his being.  Those promises are paired with a corresponding and alarming set of threats to re-impose the centuries-old restrictions to freedom that our Constitution explicitly protects against.

Specifically, establishing Justice and insuring domestic Tranquility may once again be made subject to determining if one is of a preferred race or religion, potentially subject to government verification. Our next president has called for racial profiling by law enforcement. His desire to impose these restrictions was regularly in evidence as he loudly incited mob rule at his political rallies.

To provide for the common defense with an all-volunteer military is a bipartisan congressional responsibility of adequate funding and a militarily strategic matter for the commander-in-chief to deploy that military in the most responsible manner with declarations of war approved by congress.  Today, we are taken aback by cavalier talk of nuclear proliferation to our non-nuclear allies, and, compounding this alarm, by his questioning why we should not consider actually using our nuclear arsenal.  This recklessness not only jeopardizes our freedoms but our very being.

This seventy-year-old has already lived on the nuclear precipice in 1962 during the Cuban missile crises as a high school student in a military academy, certainly not oblivious to that national existential threat. The entire nation was transfixed on its black and white televisions at that time to watch President Kennedy’s address on the developing situation as he cautioned against initiating nuclear war, where the “fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth..”  In the White House, the president was counseling with his Joint Chiefs, some of whom were favoring a strike as they opposed the option of a naval blockade.  I would refer the new presidential advisers to Robert Kennedy’s memoir, Thirteen Days, where he recalled:

“One member of the Joint Chiefs, for example, argued that we could use our nuclear weapons, on the basis that our adversaries would use theirs against us in an attack.”

Apparently, our president-elect has been contemplating this dangerous logic based upon the questions he has raised.  Robert Kennedy continues his observation:

 “I thought, as I listened, of the many times that I had heard the military take positions which, if wrong, had the advantage that no one would be around in the end to know.” 

As they say, elections have consequences – God forbid.

The political divide on how we should promote the general Welfare is foremost in the minds of those who voted for this celebrity business mogul, trusting that he will help them reach a level of prosperity they know they deserve but are unable to achieve in the current political-economic climate.  Unfortunately, for them, his aligned party has consistently stacked the deck against the average wage earner.

He and his party continue to champion financial deregulation, which was at the core of the 2008 financial crisis, allowing predatory lending to run unchecked.  The poster-child of entrenched income inequality is how the bailed out Wall Street banks paid millions in employee bonuses while accepting taxpayer-provided TARP funds to cover their losses.  Citigroup reportedly rewarded over 700 employees with at least $1 million in bonuses while losing nearly $19 billion during that year.

However, by 2008 the middle class and the poor had already found themselves dealt out of the game for some time.  In the forward to his fortieth anniversary edition of The Affluent Society, economist John Kenneth Galbraith discussed what might have changed from his 1958 observations with a perspective of forty years later.  On the attitudes of achieving affluence, he notes:

“Forty years ago I did not fully foresee the extent to which affluence would come to be perceived as a matter of deserved personal reward and thus fully available to the poor, were they only committed to the requisite effort.”

Galbraith’s 1998 observation was just taking root.  Fourteen years later the 2012 GOP convention championed the attitude of affluence equating to personal and moral worth.  Then VP-nominee Paul Ryan coined the term “hammock of dependency” to demean the initiative of those still struggling to recover from the Wall Street catastrophe, or who looked to find a leg up in life.

He insinuated those who were down and out lacked the dreams for themselves and their children, favoring to live out their lives in government-subsidized poverty.  He would divide the worthiness of Americans into two classes, “the makers, and the takers.” 

Presidential nominee Mitt Romney put the nail in his electoral coffin with his infamous “47%” address to wealthy donors, charging that the lower income group would never accept livelihoods out of poverty, apart from government aid.  Those nominees that year found new ways to shrink the Republican tent that resulted in their defeat. 

Yet, this “47%” now makes up some of the electorate throwing their support behind this new outsider and his party, and they may ultimately find that they have voted against their own best interests.  The GOP, again in the Oval Office after eight years and with continued control of congress, will primarily pursue tax cuts first before programs to drive growth.  This will continue to put the middle class at the bottom of the heap.

Speaker Ryan’s Medicare and Medicaid restructuring will first and foremost directly impact senior citizens “by raising out-of-pocket costs for some and shifting others from traditional Medicare coverage to commercial insurance”, according to a Forbes magazine article.  There has been no disclosure on the amount of offsetting tax credits seniors might receive, along with ambiguity on many other details, which is typical for Ryan-authored proposals.

Then will come the promised large tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations which could spike the national debt by $1HYPERLINK ""1.5HYPERLINK "" trillionHYPERLINK "" over ten years according to the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.  Once again, we find the middle class voters who elected this upcoming government left holding the bag to pay the debt.  Par for the course, the net gains from these tax reductions will likely find their way through the loopholes and to the offshore havens that keep the tax rate percentages of the wealthiest lower than 90% of the country.

We have yet to see anything from this next president or his congress that would un-rig this game for the people who put them into office.

Now the election is over and the vote count completed.  The voters constitutionally handed the presidency to Trump, the rogue Washington outsider, widely seen as an ethically and morally challenged demagogue.  The numbers, data, and evidence matters as the results are in and we are required to accept them.

Just as climate science confirms the trend of global warming, we, in the global community, largely accept those results.  If a doctor were to diagnose you with a serious illness, not accepting the result would be foolish.  We must accept the results in each of these cases.  However, accepting the results is not the same as saying these results are acceptable.  Illness, climate change, and this election present long-term outcomes that can trend toward the unacceptable and potentially on to cataclysmic unless corrective intervention is applied.  

So how do we now secure the Blessings of Liberty for us and our Posterity, with the promised threats and observed recklessness this election has delivered?  Fortunately, our Constitution has inherent remedies.  Elections are transient events and no single person or party can fail outrageously and then continue in power perpetually.  However, this election’s outcome also conclusively indicates a need to address symptoms of national fracturing.

First, the tribalization of our country has been exacerbated primarily due to the middle class losing out economically.  People are becoming less and less comfortable, not to mention less tolerant, of those not sharing their ethnic heritage. Cable and Internet “news” media outlets have been the primary accelerant to tribalization, seeing an opportunity to drive racial animus as a political tactic against the first African American president.

This was in full force in 2012 with the current president-elect serving as propagandist-in-chief until Obama was re-elected.  The results of the ensuing “autopsy” prescribed by the GOP party chairman recommended more outreach to minorities and more tolerance of the progressive social views of millennials in order to expand the Republican base.  That recommendation lasted up until the 2016 nomination process where the nominee, with his characteristic unreserved vitriol, carved up America into the racial, ethnic, and religious groups to be demonized, monitored, and otherwise dealt with as his supporters cheered his new xenophobia platform

In the end, the GOP did win the Electoral College but has now lost the popular vote in six of the last seven elections, 2004 being the lone exception. This election has been characterized as a “white wash”.  Eventually, the concept of a whites-only firewall to protect Republican candidates is a losing strategy, especially given the outcome of this latest popular vote. (Yes, maybe Bernie would have won it all.)

But this tribalization is of no benefit to any group politically or economically. The entire middle class and those economically below that line need to unite to challenge the policies that will continue to be passed by this new president and his party that, as history has shown, will continue to undercut their well being.      

Secondly, civil discourse has devolved into one-hundred-forty-character road rage.  (Need I point out who champions this method as his favorite form of retribution? Leadership, anyone?). The cure to our divisions will not occur via text, or Facebook, or impulsive, angry and anonymous comments on a newspaper opinion writer’s column. Offering opposing and constructive views without personal insults might be an approach one would typically use if not separated from another by the Cloud. We rarely see this in practice, especially in the political context.

Finally, elections are cyclical, and in two years will come another opportunity for adjustments. The separation of powers defined in our constitution might supply sufficient safeguards in the interim to constrain someone familiar only with unconstrained authority from acting irresponsibly, but this would not be something we should take on faith.

This nation has been said to be an ongoing experiment.  Had the election results been as all the polls mistakenly forecast with Hillary emerging as the winner, then the outcome of that experiment could be easily predicted; we would have potentially endured four more years of congressional gridlock and ongoing investigations of the new president in order to render her ineffective and, perhaps, impeachable.

However, those were not the results and we have cast ourselves into an unforeseen period of disruption. Now, our current experiment can potentially result in resetting many of the controls on which we have historically relied to sustain our national identity as the model of freedom and democracy, and as the world’s most responsible superpower.  By nature, experiments frequently deliver unexpected outcomes.

If we’re fortunate we may get penicillin. NASA crashed several unmanned launches before putting Alan Shepard atop a Redstone rocket.  In this case we have neither a laboratory nor a test launch pad.  This experiment will be done live and in real time.  It requires close monitoring and the readiness for an immediate response if and when things begin to trend toward the detrimental.

About the author:

Mike Krafka is a native of Ottumwa, Iowa and currently resides in the Providence, Rhode Island area.  Mike has a degree in composition from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and a graduate certificate in Business Analytics from Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island.  He has a career over the past thirty years working primarily in the financial industry as a technology executive with a speciality in systems capacity management. Mike is the father of three sons who are musicians and educators in the New York City and Boston areas.

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