Friday, July 29, 2016

The National Political Conventions

I have just spent my evenings for the past two weeks watching first, the Republican National Convention and second, the Democratic National Convention. I find that I cannot, in good conscience, support either candidate nominated by their party. I have been watching national political conventions since Margarete Chase Smith took on Barry Goldwater at the 1964 Republican National Convention and this year's were the worst.

The Republicans

I found the Republican convention to be amateurish and insipid. There were too many speeches by little known to unknown people and too few speeches by those who I would expect to be the rising stars within the party. Watching the convention on television, it seemed as if all of the experienced party members had abandoned Donald Trump and his campaign, going into hiding instead. Even the host Governor, John Kasich, did not show up to welcome the delegates.

The speeches sounded too many sour notes. Of course, this country has problems: that is obvious for all to see. The speakers spent lots of time listing them. What I did not hear, however, was how Donald Trump, if elected, and the Republican party is planning to fix them. Their ideas: law and order, build a wall, create good jobs, renegotiate trade deals, destroy ISIS, block some immigration, grow the military, support the Veterans and so forth, were just that – ideas. How to do this and, more importantly, how to pay for these solutions was never seriously addressed.

For me, the highlight speech was by Ted Cruz. He was the only speaker who talked about what America is ALL about, referring to our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights.

Donald Trump's speech had too many "I will" and not enough "We will," sounding like he was a one-man party. It sounded to me like a vain man's ego trip, not a serious speech by a Presidential contender. HE must learn that at all times, the President of the United States and by extension, those running for President, are more than national figures; they are world figures. His choice of words gave me the impression that he forgot that many, if not most, of his world-wide audience do not speak English as their primary language. For this audience, humor and sarcasm falls flat. Talk about working with one of our allies may, in another country, be seen as lining up with their enemy.

He said that HE will fix this, fix that, and fix the other thing. HE will make America great again. HE will create good paying jobs, bring back jobs outsourced overseas, and punish companies that send jobs abroad. He has conveniently overlooked the fact that many so-called "American" companies are no longer just American – they are global companies, headquartered in London, Frankfort, Dublin and hundreds of cities scattered around the world. The "American corporation" part that does business in the United States is just one subsidiary of many.

Missing from the convention, were the speeches extolling what the Republican Party stands for, the goals and aspirations of the party, and the vision of the future, not just for the next four years, but for our children and our children's children. Instead, it sounded like a meeting of "Whiners Anonymous." Do you what cheese with your whine?

The Democrats

I found the Democratic convention to be better orchestrated than usual. There were the usual gaggle of protests outside the convention site. This year offered LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, and a dozen others. Inside the hall, the Bernie Sanders delegates showed a surprising amount of spunk before they were steamrollered by the Hillary Clinton juggernaut.

The speeches were far more optimistic. Yes, the country has problems: poverty, shootings by police and at police, terrorism, to name a few. Again, the speakers said that Hillary Clinton, if elected, and the party would fix them. They added, however, that ALL Americans must work together to fix these problems. They also put forward an ambitious social agenda – free college tuition, higher minimum wage, affordable day care, affordable medical care, justice system reform and so forth. Again, details were lacking and no serious proposal on how to pay for it all was given.

Several speakers extolled the virtues of the United States, pointing to our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. In fact, if you closed your eyes, you could easily imagine that you were listening to the Republicans speak. Hillary Clinton gave lie to everything they said with the words "I am a Progressive." For my generation, Progressivism is the "Brave New World" of Aldous Huxley, with the "Big Brother" surveillance state, enforced political correctness of word and thought, hypervigilant policing and many other dystopian ideas.

The tone of many of the speeches gave me the impression that Hillary Clinton was entitled to be the nominee and to be elected President.

Common Themes

There were a few common themes of both conventions:

  • Crime and Justice
  • Schools
  • RobTax the Rich
  • Destroy ISIS

Crime and Justice

Both candidates agree that crime is a major problem, citing urban murder, unjustified police shootings, and police being ambushed. These topics were all flavored with race relations and racism. Donald Trump wants more policing and faster prosecution. Hillary Clinton wants to overhaul the entire criminal justice system. Neither can do what they want. Criming and policing are handled on the state and local level, thus out of reach of the President.

The President can, however, set the tone and use Teddy Roosevelt's "Bully Pulpit" to push the states for change.

Changes in policing and prosecution are not enough. We need to find ways to prevent the senseless (to us) "drive-by shootings" and "gang violence" of many of our inner cities. We need to seriously research the causes of this behavior. The liberals point to poverty and poor housing. That, for sure, may play a part. But, there are many poor areas with bad housing that does not produce violent criminals and gangs. Others point to drug abuse. Again, drug abuse is not just an urban phenomenon any more and not all areas where drug abuse is rampant have this problem with violence. I do not believe that social scientists actually understand why certain urban neighborhoods spawn this type of violence and other similar neighborhoods do not.

Schools

Both parties point to problems with our school systems: too many are academically below where they should be, too many are dropping out, too many going to college incur too much debt, and too many graduates are not ready for the workforce. Hillary Clinton says raise teacher salaries and throw money at the public schools. Donald Trump says let parents choose where to send their children. Both, again, are wrong. Public education, whether elementary, secondary or college, are state and local issues. Private schools and colleges are also governed by state rules.

Bernie Sanders fought for the inclusion of free college tuition into the Democratic platform. Great idea! But will Hillary Clinton push for it, if she is elected, and where will the money come from to pay for this?

The Federal Government can, using the powers of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, other Federal banking regulators, the Security and Exchange Commission and the GI Bill of Rights, can place controls on student loans. Lenders do not want to risk their own money, thus, they want to bundle the loans and use them as collateral to borrow more money to lend or sell the bundles and use the proceeds to lend more money. Both these processes are subject to Federal rules. The Veterans Administration can, under the GI Bill, can simply set rules for lending to Veterans.

Tax the Rich

Both parties are saying "tax the top 1%" to pay for new programs. Let us look at the math:

  • Let us assume 350 million people in the United States.
  • The top 1% is thusly 3.5 million people.
  • If we tax them an additional $1,000, the take is only $3.5 billion dollars. A lot of money, to be sure, but just a drop in the bucket when measured against the annual Federal deficit. Taxing the top 5% would only raise only $17.5 billion – again, just a drop in the bucket.

To raise the money needed to pay down the national debt or to cut the deficit, you cannot just tax the rich. There just are not enough of them. You have to go where the money is: business community and the middle class.

Destroy ISIS

Everyone agrees that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) needs to be stopped. They wrap themselves in the cloak of Islam, but their actions are not Islamic, or for that matter, within the beliefs and philosophy of any major religion. Insults and perceived insults to Islam and Islamic leaders only act as recruitment posters.

As Harriet Tubman once said, "You cannot conquer an idea with an army." We need better ideas within the Islamic community to lead people away from ISIS. This is largely out of American hands.

In Closing

I will post this for now. I will review and rethink it and may revise this in the future.

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