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As 2016 wound to a close, and we look ahead to the transition of the presidency and governing powers in Congress, I think it’s wise to see what the successors of the past 8 years are inheriting.

First, remember that in 2008, the financial crisis had already begun in 2007 with the subprime mortgage crisis. The stock market took a dive, unemployment soared, and the stimulus package was already signed into law as Obama took office.

Through various policies and challenges, the government attempted to right the proverbial ship. While recovery was not as fast as many would have liked (and there were some obstructionist factors for this), the economy has recovered. Let’s look at some data.

stock-market

Above, you can see the great dip in 2008, and then see it’s massive and constant recovery through 2016. One would think that the DJ would be at least one indicator of a stronger economy, right? (This probably has something to do with the massive wealth inequality, but aren’t the rich–who are benefitting from the markets–supposed to trickle down their ducats?)

unemployment

Meanwhile, unemployment has steadily gone down on a similar, inverse trajectory. Again, another seemingly no-brainer as an indicator of the improvement of the economy over the past 8 years. Now I’m sure some out there argue that these numbers are meaningless (ignoring the fact that it’s used by investors to gauge the economy’s health, or it only seems to matter when it’s high so detractors can hypocritically blame the president for a weak economy), so let’s look at their favorite statistic when unemployment is low: Labor Participation.

labor-participation

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Here we can see a few things right off the bat. First, the people not participating in the labor market (for whatever reason) has gone down, particularly since the late 1990s, but continued to do so throughout the last 8 years. Second, labor participation is still higher than it’s been since the mid-1970’s. Third, even as participation has shrunk since, say 2008, it has only done so by about 3%. But man, to hear some of Obama’s detractors’ put it, that 3% is just devastating and proof that the economy is failing.

So what’s behind these numbers? Someone has done a more detailed analysis than me (and by someone, I mean various analysts and the Congressional Budget Office). About half of that 3% comes from a sharp increase in those retiring out of the work force (i.e. Baby Boomers–see the chart below). Another 1% is related to temporary factors that are part of the business cycle. That leaves about 0.5% that is accounted for by “unusual aspects of the slow recovery that led workers to become discouraged and permanently drop out of the labor force.” Yup, a whole 1/2 of a percentage point. Seems a lot less impressive when one actually digs into the data, eh?

retirees

See that steep uptick at the end? Them’s retiring folk not participating in the labor market anymore.

Finally, some folks misrepresented Obama’s concerns about automation acting as a factor that was slowing the recovery of the economy. Well, remember those jobs that Trump “saved” at Carrier? The investment to keep the company competitive (and out of Mexico) is going to be for…automated robots to replace human workers.

Ok, enough about the economy. What about all that “out-of-control” violence spuriously tweeted by Trump?

violent-crime

Source: FBI crime statistics.

Well, 2015 and 2016 did see an increase in violent crime, in part because by 2014, such crime was at historic lows for the last 44 years! Perspective is an interesting thing, right? Further, while the murder rate has gone up in some major cities overall, much of that percentage increase is attributed to 10–or 3–cities with more drastic increases (outliers spike averages).

Remember when some folks were worried that Obama would come and take our guns (as late as 2015 and 2016? Shockingly, that didn’t happen. What did happen was continued gun violence, crime, and theft by other citizens. That’s right, the government isn’t taking our guns away, our neighbors are.

How about the Affordable Healthcare Act? (Also known as “Obamacare”). Health insurance premiums are going up, so it must be repealed (so the main part of the argument goes). While that’s true, premium growth has been slower under Obama than his predecessor. Sure there’s problems with it, but fundamentally people agree with many of its premises, particularly in those states that went red and are soon in danger of losing their coverage (and some are realizing that danger).

president-obama

While there were, in fact, several things I was disappointed with over the past 8 years (some foreign policy issues, Eric Holder’s failure to hold anyone accountable for the banking crisis, etc.), overall, I think history will judge President Obama to be a successful, thoughtful, and intelligent president. His farewell speech was poignant, and his two terms were scandal free.

Trump has some mighty big shoes to fill, and I daresay he is not up to the challenge.

 

 

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Truth trumps Trump

Watching the Machiavellian-esque tactics that led to the rise of Donald Trump as the front-runner for the GOP nomination for President of the United States, I ask myself: why did it take me so long to dust off the keyboard and write another blog that some 4 people are going to read?

All whinging aside, spewing my opinions into the blogosphere is the least I can do (literally). And while I do not support Trump in anyway whatsoever, this is not about bashing him. This is about looking at his understanding of the presidency, issues facing our country, and other substantive platforms of his campaign as he has presented them during the debates, interviews, and on his website.

Note: As readers of this blog well know, I normally source my quotes with direct links. However, I refuse to give Trump any more free air time, so you can check my sources with the Great Google, but rest assured, they are direct quotes with all relevant context.

First, he seems to have a flawed understanding of the presidency and how the Executive Branch works in conjunction with the other two branches.

If he becomes president, Trump vows to “open up our libel laws” so “we can sue them and win lots of money.” Putting aside the fact that one of his apparent goals as President of the United States is to “win money,” the president doesn’t actually get to write or amend laws. That’s the job of Congress (the Legislative Branch). As part of the Executive, his job is to ensure the land’s laws are enforced. That’s two different things.

Screen shot 2013-01-19 at 10.44.16 AM

Perhaps this kids’ activity could clear things up for him…

Trump also states that “On day one of the Trump administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare.” Perhaps he is unaware of the 60 times this has been tried by the GOP (tried and failed). Perhaps he is unaware of the non-binding nature of such a request (again, 2 separate branches). Most importantly, perhaps he–and many of his supporters–are unaware of the benefits they’ll be stripped of should the Affordable Healthcare Act actually be repealed (like actually having insurance to cover their expenses).

Second, he seems to misunderstand the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.

One of only 6 issues stated for his platform, the 2nd Amendment comes in second-to-last on his list. Trump avows: “The Second Amendment to our Constitution is clear. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period.” But, of course, that’s not what it actually says. The Amendment begins with the clause “A well-regulated Militia,” and for more than 2 centuries, the Supreme Court made this important distinction for the regulation of arms by the Federal government. Not until 2008 did the (activist) Court reinterpret the Constitution as applying to the individual. But I guess one only complains about “activist” courts when they go against one’s own opinions.

He (among others) also likes to call out those who protest at his rallies as violating his own right to free speech, this also isn’t correct. The First Amendment protects against the government restricting a person’s speech (which it did not against Trump), and at the same time charges the government to protect other’s ability to speak out and simultaneously not be “vetoed” by protesters (which it protected on both accounts). If Trump decided to cancel because he could not handle the protesters, then that’s on him, not the government, and certainly not the protesters.

Third, while he “knows words” and has “the best words,” he still seems to have trouble with the meaning of his words.

Recently he referred to “Bernie, our communist friend.” Communism is a political philosophy, while Senator Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist. The former is a centralized government that has no private property, the latter is a push for social equality within a capitalist economic system (admittedly with Sanders’ self-clarification). None of Sanders’ issues, stances, or speeches indicate his preference for the tenets of Communism.

He also called the US media “the most dishonest people in the world.” While he may be accurate with some networks (Fox News is a notable example), his statement is clearly and wildly ridiculous at face value. Has he not listened to anything coming out of North Korea? Saudi Arabia’s “Anti-Witchcraft Unit”? (Yeah, that’s a real thing with a hang up about Harry Potter). Disney movies?

JUMP-TO-CONCLUSIONS-MAT

That’s right, if you use the “Jump to Conclusions” mat from Office Space, you’ll still know more about news events than Fox News viewers.

Further, Trump consistently calls our military “very weak,” and steadily “being decimated.” Even though top-ranking military personnel disagree with him (and tell Congress to stop buying equipment they don’t need), the numbers are telling: in 2015, the US spent more on the nation’s military than the next SEVEN nations combined. How can this possibly be called “weak” or “decimated?”

u.s._and_world_military_spending_chart.png

Finally, Trump calls himself a “unifier” of people. Yet he plans to build a wall to keep out Mexicans; ban Muslim immigrants (and put those in the country into a database); and calls women “dogs” and “ugly,” reduces their existence to a “young and beautiful piece of ass,” and justifies sexual assaults against them in the military. Having offended more than half the US population, who exactly is Trump unifying?

inigo-montoya_that-word

Fourth, and perhaps most disturbingly, Trump not only overestimates the threat of terrorist groups (like ISIS), but also advocates engaging in war crimes against the families of those groups’ members.

Since 2001, some 3,066 (or 3,380) Americans have been killed by terrorist attacks (the vast majority of which–2,902–occurred during the attacks on 9/11 itself).  By contrast, during the same period, more than 400,000 Americans have been killed in the US by firearms. Every year, between 32,000 and 42,000 people die in automobile accidents. On average, for the past 15 years, more people in the US have died from bee stings per year than terrorist attacks. Yet there has been no campaign against driving or to eradicate bees. There has been a campaign to loosen the laws surrounding the very instrument of US deaths that outpaces terrorist attacks by a factor of 100. Of course, there is no convenient “other” to blame or direct our anger against in most of these cases (though I’m sure we’ll soon hear about building a giant net to protect us against the notorious African Killer Bees). Fear is a big motivator, but inevitably leads to poor decisions and policies (and the radicalization of even more terrorists).

death-and-dollars

Part of Trump’s campaign against ISIS is that “you have to take out their families.” The targeting of civilians is against the Geneva Conventions (of which the US is a signer), and charges for such crimes have been brought against such illustrious groups as the Taliban, North Korea, and the Nazis. Officers in the military have already voiced their opposition to such orders, and declared that their soldiers would refuse to follow such illegal orders. Trump rebutted by saying “they’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.” Let that sink in: Trump, as president, would plan on attempting to strong-arm the military into illegally targeting and killing civilian women and children.

And just try and ignore the irony of Trump advocating the exact same thing that an extremist cleric preaches (though the latter actually has the caveat that “killing women and children is usually not permissible”). Yes, Trump and terrorists want to use the same tactics against each other.

yoda fear

I could go on, but I’m weary–and you probably are, too. (Although comparing the clinical symptoms of Narcissism and Trump quotes would make for an illuminating drinking game, it would inevitably end in a blackout due to the copious amounts of alcohol one would have to imbibe).

This tirade isn’t about how others would be a better president (that’s a different post to look through THAT thorny problem), but rather about how Trump would make a very poor, dangerous, and seemingly amoral president. The election of the President of the United States is not a reality show, and we need to stop treating it as such.

I realize that Trump resonates for a lot of people out there, be it with their anger, misconceptions, or just plain prejudiced views. That anger, pain, and confusion are very real, and it will remain a wound in our nation’s psyche if we can’t begin to address and heal our citizens’ anxiety, whatever form it takes.

 

Thankful Thursdays 8/2/12

A few fun things cropped up this week; I’m thankful for:

1. Being awarded a Versatile Blogger Award…my first bling for my site! (Holla Teri)

2. Starting the Science Fiction and Fantasy course online with my old prof to get my lit fix in.

3. My wife’s awesome zucchini bread!

4. Getting to do a minor presentation at the SAA meeting in San Diego!

How about you?

See, it’s not just me! 🙂

The Courage for mine

We the People, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare and hence, and secure the Blessing of Liberty, for ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution, for the United State of America.

I have to admit that I just recited* that. Actually, I sang it, and I have to give credit Schoolhouse Rock. (If you are not sure what I am talking about, please reference the catchy tune.) I was reminded of the Preamble of our Constitution while I was reading The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin,  a phenomenal look at the power and influence of the highest court in our country.

What I am reminded of is that our founding fathers had amazing foresight, not for everything they included, but in the structure…

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I’m a relatively new pilot to the blogosphere, but I’m trying to catch on quick.  One of the things I’ve noticed is how often people comment on particular subjects (or don’t comment as the case may be).

With the “Pour Your Heart out Wednesdays,” I initially posted about parenting as I saw that most of the other posts were about the same thing, and I figured I’d give it a shot.  I had a great response (views and comments), and I was glad to increase my readership.

The next week, I decided to switch it up (especially since the site says to write about anything you’re passionate about), and did a piece on politics.  The views were much lower and there were no comments.

While I realize that parenting is one of the most important aspects of our lives, I can’t help but think we have many other things going on as well—and that those things that need scrutiny/discussion.  So I guess the question I would like to put to the community is: why?

Certainly we all have opinions on something as volatile as politics (or any other number of subjects). Perhaps such issues are better raised in other venues, but I would like to hear from a community that I know is very vocal.