No Deal and No Exercises: What Trump Gave up for Nothing

Much has been made of President Donald Trump’s decision to walk away from the Hanoi Summit without a deal towards denuclearization. But when I heard the news, I took a sigh of relief. Not that I wouldn’t have loved to hear about a deal leading to a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but that was never going to happen.

The fear for many US allies was that Trump was going to make some major concessions to for the semblance of progress, when the North has taken no steps towards denuclearization since their first summit. Yet, Trump was so in need for a political win, that many people feared that he would agree to almost anything, just to come back with a deal.

Instead, Trump took the responsible road, and left without an agreement. This was far from a guaranteed outcome going into the summit, even if the world knew that North Korea was never going to give up their nuclear arsenal. Still Trump choose to once again cancel the large-scale war games between the United States and South Korea, because it cost “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

That’s despite the fact that the Pentagon stated that similar exercises have cost about 11 million dollars in the past. Trump has not provided any sources for his “hundreds of millions of dollars” reference. Of course, this is coming from some who thinks war games are “fun and nice”. Something only someone who has never had to complete their day job in MOPP 4 would say.

Trump goes onto say that he doesn’t think war games aren’t necessary, but he doesn’t say they are necessary either. It’s one of those things only Trump himself can articulate:

“And I was telling the generals, I said, ‘Look, exercises is fun and it’s nice and they play the war games, and I’m not saying it’s not necessary because, on some levels, it is. But on other levels, it’s not.’”

Ret. Navy Vice Adm. Robert Murrett had this to say about the repeated cancellation of the joint exercises “It’s very serious because I think our capability with respect to the Korean Peninsula is in the process of atrophying at all the levels”.

But I guess that’s just one of those things that “isn’t necessary”. However, it is important to be able to enter any negotiations from a position of strength, something Trump should be familiar with as the author of “The Art of the Deal”.

And what those war games provides is the ability to negotiate from that position of strength, while ensuring that we are able to defend ourselves if diplomacy fails. Those war games aren’t “fun and nice”, they’re what ensures our service members have the capabilities to defeat any adversaries on the battle field. Giving them up will only hurt our long-term negotiations.

Trump, Kim, and the Hanoi-Summit: Why you should terrified

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey

If past performance is the best indicator of future success, the United States and the world should be terrified of the upcoming Hanoi-Summit, where President Trump will meet with Kim Jong-un for the second time. The last time Trump met with Kim, Trump suspended military exercises between South Korea and the United States indefinitely, a major concession, and got almost nothing in return.

Fears are that Trump will agree to either troop reductions or ease sanctions, without significant steps towards denuclearization from North Korea. If Trump hadn’t agreed to suspend military exercises for nothing the last time the two leaders met, the fear would seem far-fetched, but with Trump it’s anyone’s guess on what he will do.

The summit which will take place from 27-28 February, has the potential to cause major divisions between the U.S. and its allies, but according to just about every expert, has no chance of denuclearizing the peninsula.

Meanwhile, by simply attending a second summit with a sitting U.S. president it gives Kim Jong-un a big political win back in North Korea, but if Trump is unable to accomplish anything critics in the United States will eat him alive. That puts Trump in a bad spot, Kim Jung-un needs nothing from this summit for it to be a success, while Trump needs major concessions.

More than likely Trump is going to stretch to get something out of this summit, which will result in major concessions from the United States, likely in the form of eased sanctions, for phantom returns. Maybe Kim Jong-un will agree to close some of their facilities that are close to being shut down anyways, or get rid of a few of their ballistic missiles, but their nuclear program will remain untouched.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un will have gotten a major concession, and moved one step closer to becoming a permanent nuclear power. All eyes will be on Vietnam next week and putting such a monumental negotiation on the shoulders of Donald Trump should have the world terrified.

Amazon and Taxes: Why you should be IRATE

If President Donald Trump was truly worried about working for the American people, the first thing he would have done after getting elected is to start to close some of the loopholes that major corporations use to avoid paying federal income taxes. It’s something that he has a lot of experience in, he’s run these mega-corporations, he’s used these loopholes, so he knows how to close them.

Instead, he expanded those loopholes resulting in corporations like Amazon being able to pay ZERO dollars in federal income taxes for all of 2017 and 2018. To make matters worse, it’s estimated that Amazon not only didn’t pay any federal income taxes in 2017, but it’s estimated they received a $137 million-dollar REFUND.

That’s right, when Amazon filed their taxes in 2017, the government wrote THEM a check, that’s even though they brought in 5.6 billion dollars in PROFIT in 2017, but that wasn’t enough, clearly, we needed to send them another 137 million dollars. I mean, what could Jeff Bezos do with a measly 5.6 billion dollars? The poor man’s company clearly deserved a refund.

Then after getting a tax refund in 2017, what did Donald Trump and the GOP do for mega corporations in their new tax plan? They cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent for 2018 and beyond. In the minds of President Trump and the GOP, companies like Amazon were paying too much, and they needed a break.

What was the result? Despite Amazon almost doubling its profits from 2017 to 2018, to a whopping 11.2 billion dollars, Amazon still got another check from the federal government, this time for 129 million dollars. If it wasn’t for all the federal income tax loopholes, that President Trump and the GOP allowed to stay in place, Amazon would have paid 6.146 billion dollars MORE then it did in taxes over the last two years.

If you’re still wondering why President Trump doesn’t want to reveal his tax returns, it’s because of loopholes like this. The mega rich don’t pay taxes, they find loophole after loophole so they can hoard their billions, then they turn around and claim that they are paying too much, to try and get further tax breaks.

It’s about time we say enough is enough, and demand that these major corporations pay their fair share, instead of giving them hundreds of millions of dollars every tax season.

The REAL impact of Trump’s “National Emergency”

President Donald Trump rocked the political world by declaring a “National Emergency” to try and power grab his way to 8 billion dollars to build his oft touted “border wall”, that is going to stop all illegal immigration, all illegal drug usage, and keep the dragons from storming Westeros and taking over King’s Landing. Well of course that’s not all true, I don’t think he’s claimed that it’s going to stop ALL illegal drug usage, just most of it.

Still the grab at money here still has consequences, even if the money never gets directed to the wall because of the court system. The money will be coming from a variety of programs from military construction projects to drug prevention programs, and while everything goes through the court system, those funds get frozen.

The Trump administration has said that they plan to use 3.6 billion dollars from the military construction budget, which currently sits at 10 billion dollars. But don’t worry according to Trump, he’s already talked to “the generals” about this and this is what he says they told him:

“I was speaking to a couple of them, they think this is far more important than what they were going to use it for. I said what were you going to use it for, and I won’t go into details, but didn’t sound too important to me”

According to The Associated Press those funds are used for improving housing, roads, hospitals, and other facilities. It can be used to eliminate mold or other hazardous conditions in buildings at well. Those Congressional hearings by military families living in mold and rodent infested buildings this past week? President Trump repaid them by cutting funding towards the repair of some of those buildings, and then said it “didn’t sound too important to me”.

Another area that Trump could choose to cut from is towards a hospital being built at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. I guess that doesn’t sound to important to Trump either?

According to Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, “You are cutting a lot of projects the military was planning on, it means there are facilities, barracks, clinics and office buildings, you name it, they won’t be building”. To that Trump says it doesn’t “sound too important to me”.

These are projects designed to improve the quality of life for service members and their families, but I guess that just isn’t important in the eyes of President Trump.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a letter Friday to Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan requesting a detailed list of all the military construction projects that could be impacted by the move. This is something that needs to be done, so the American people can see just what the President is willing to sacrifice in order to get his wall.

Another area that Trump can pull from to fund his border wall, is from the Pentagon’s drug interdiction program that has an annual budget of about $1 billion dollars. That money is currently used towards counter-drug activities, including towards detection and monitoring. As an example, school counter-drug programs run by the National Guard will probably be nixed.

Don’t worry, it’s not like we have a major drug problem in our country or anything, counter-drug programs for high schoolers seems like it’s something that should be cut for sure.

And while major Democrats are using this opportunity to say that they will be able to use this move in the future when a Democrat is in the White House, in order to address things like climate change (which is a far more real national emergency then the need for a border wall), it only further exacerbates the problem. Because it means that if this move is successful, the loss of funds will be more than a one-time thing. Those funds could be taken year after year, which will end up having a significant impact on the quality of life of our military community.

There is NOTHING “radical” about AOC’s Green New Deal

Photo Credit: Senate Democrats

While much has been made about the “Green New Deal” proposed by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, the biggest controversies seem to be coming from what’s not in the resolution. Critics have clung to text from Ocasio-Cortez’s website, which included, economic security for those “unwilling to work”. And while that was posted on Ocasio-Cortez’s website, it isn’t what was in the resolution presented to Congress.

It’s the same when people bring up “airplanes being made obsolete” or “reducing carbon issues from beef”. None of that is in the resolution, it’s all from text on Ocasio-Cortez’s website on how SHE wants to lower carbon emissions. But even if you don’t agree with her specific plan you should still agree with her resolution. Because everyone should be able to agree on the fact that carbon emissions NEED to be reduced and that we NEED to reach net-zero global emissions.

The resolution is intentionally kept vague and doesn’t provide any specifics so that people with differing views on how to reduce carbon emissions can agree to the resolution. Additionally, it provides common sense information on what Congress should be looking into doing to ensure a world that is suitable for future generations.

The resolution starts out by pointing out facts about manmade climate change. These facts are backed up by the scientific community, and every expert in their respective fields. Only Trump and some of his far-right conspiracy theorist supporters are still in the camp of denying the human impact on climate change.

After presenting some eye-popping statistics, including:

(3) global warming at or above 2 degrees Celsius beyond preindustrialized levels will cause—

(A) mass migration from the regions most affected by climate change;

(B) more than $500,000,000,000 in lost annual economic output in the United States by the year 2100;

(C) wildfires that, by 2050, will annually burn at least twice as much forest area in the western United States than was typically burned by wildfires in the years preceding 2019;

(D) a loss of more than 99 percent of all coral reefs on Earth;

(E) more than 350,000,000 more people to be exposed globally to deadly heat stress by 2050; and

(F) a risk of damage to $1,000,000,000,000 of public infrastructure and coastal real estate in the United States;

 it goes onto some more generic initiatives, that not too many people can disagree with, even if we disagree on how to get there. Still there are some provisions in the resolution that have provided some minor controversies. For example,  

(E) upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification;

The biggest controversy of this statement is “all existing buildings”, but that doesn’t have to be a major upgrade to make a significant impact. Many climate experts recommend a simple step like switching to LED bulbs or treating your windows to let in less light which can reduce heating and cooling costs.

If every building in the country was upgraded with these simple steps it would make a significant difference. And while we can argue about how to implement such a plan, what shouldn’t be argued is that it’s a worthy goal.

Another section that might be deemed “controversial”

(O) providing all people of the United States with—

(i) high-quality health care;

Once again this is a prime example of an action that shouldn’t be controversial, even if we disagree on how to get there. The problem is right now the GOP has no idea how to get there, so agreeing to the fact that every American deserves “high-quality health care” can be a hard sell.

But it shouldn’t be, nothing in this resolution is radical or ground-breaking information, it’s the reality of the world we live in, and it’s time for Congress to wake up to that fact. Only once we get everyone on board, Republican, Democrat, and Independent, can we start making progress to reducing carbon emissions in the United States and do our part to ensure a world that the younger generation and their family can live in.

Click this link for the full text of the resolution presented to Congress.

Defense spending and tax increases: what we need to do to balance the budget

moneyIn case you’ve missed it, the United States is going broke. The current national debt is at 22 trillion dollars, with a national deficit of nearly 1 trillion dollars. With our overall revenue at just under 3.5 trillion dollars a year, it would take us 7 years with the government spending ZERO dollars to just break even.

The bad news, the GOP, who historically has declared themselves the “fiscally conservative party”, has reneged on their promises and shown their true colors over their last two years in office. They have shown that they are anything but fiscally conservative, ballooning the deficit, which was down to 500 billion dollars during the last year of the Obama presidency.

Still with the debt so high what must we do to begin to claw our way out? We need to do the same thing every family does when they realize they are spending too much, decrease spending (budget cuts), increase revenue (taxes), or in this case both.

When you look at the budget, the biggest discretionary spending cost in the United States by far is defense spending (i.e the military). In 2018, the military had a budget of just under 700 billion dollars. That is by far the most any country spends in the world, even when compared to that countries GDP.

What the United States needs to do is start relying on it’s allies more when it comes to national defense and pushing its global interests. Currently the United States GDP is roughly equal to all its NATO allies combined, however, when it comes to defense spending the United States is accountable for close to 72 percent of all NATO defense spending. That means while we are currently spending 700 billion dollars a year, we should be spending only 480 billion dollars a year.  

The United States cannot afford to do this. We need to reign in our defense spending and force our allies to pay their fair share, if not they will gladly let us run our country into bankruptcy as they enjoy the benefits of our free defense services. The only way that they will ever start to pay their share is if we stop covering for them. We need to cut our defense spending, and then the next time Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, or a multitude of other bad actors misbehave, look to NATO to respond.  

Second, we need to increase taxes. It’s the only way to even come close to balancing the budget. While every politician in Washington knows this, the GOP was willing to mortgage the future of the country for a short-term political gain when they passed a massive tax cut in 2017. To make matters worse those tax cuts disproportionately benefited corporations and the super-rich, the same groups that are being taxed at historically low rates, when our country has a larger national debt than ever.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70 percent tax on income over 10 million dollars a year, would bring in an additional 72 billion dollars annually (7% of our national deficit, or 14% if we reverted back to Obama era spending) and that’s just by returning the top marginal tax rate to a figure that it was always at before the 1980’s. There are ways to get our spending in check without catastrophic consequences if we selectively target our tax rates like most European countries do, but we need to do it now before it’s too late.

This country needs to elect politicians that are truly fiscally conservative, those that recognize defense spending needs to come down and taxes need to go up. Something that those in red refuse to admit.

Medicare for all and Tricare

single payer
Photo Credit: Michael Fleshman

Medicare-for-all is shaping up to be a major focus for Democrats looking to replace President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Still when Kamala Harris came out in favor of eliminating private insurance companies – a staple in most single payer systems, Democrats recoiled.

That begs the question do Democrats really know what they are pushing for when they are demanding a single payer system? The closest resemblance to a single payer system in the United States is Tricare, the health insurance military members are given (For those that want to be technical, Tricare Prime).

And as such I think that it’s the perfect way to evaluate how a single payer system would work in the United States. Yes, I understand the funding will be different, but most Americans DO realize that going to a single payer system would result in an increase in taxes – and by how much is still up for a bit of debate, although countries in Europe provide a good estimate for this.

Now as a military member I had Tricare for several years, so I know a few things about how it works from a user’s perspective.

The cost to the user has to be the biggest advantage in a single payer system – now I understand that we will all be “paying” for it in a national single payer system through taxes, but the difference is it doesn’t matter if you get cancer, you won’t get a bill. It’s stress free, you no longer have to worry about if your health or a freak accident is going to bankrupt you. You don’t have to worry about copays or deductibles, you just know your covered.

My kids have a variety of (small) medical issues, their therapies never cost me a dime on Tricare. When I talked to their doctors about what they needed I never had to ask about the cost, instead I got to ask about what the best treatment options were without having to worry about if I could afford it.

Furthermore, with Tricare preexisting conditions don’t matter. Now to get on Tricare as a military member preexisting conditions are a thing, they won’t let you join the military if you have a multitude of different health concerns, thus excluding you from Tricare. However, for spouses or kids, it doesn’t matter what they have – as soon as they marry the service member everything is 100% covered. With a single payer system, you don’t have to marry a military member to get this kind of full coverage if you have a preexisting condition. Simply by being an American you would have healthcare.

Still the biggest drawback on a single payer system is your ability to choose your doctor. In Tricare you are assigned a primary care doctor who handles all your day to day care and refers you out to other specialists if you need them. While that works great if you have a good primary care doctor, if he isn’t any good it can lead to a lot of headaches. While you can change your primary care doctor it can be a pain.

In a civilian single payer system there would have to be a system to address who you can see, if not everyone is going to want to see the top doctor every time their nose runs. I think a system where you have a choice between 3 primary care doctors – think a family health doctor, that can refer you out to specialists is the way to go. Of course, being limited on who you can see is a definite drawback of the system.

With this information and my personal experience on Tricare I am a strong activist for a single payer system. It is insane that in the United States there are people that lose every dime in their savings account or go into massive debt because they fall and break their arm. It’s even crazier that there are people with cancer that can’t get treatment because they can’t afford it. They are sentenced to die because they can’t afford the care that could save their life. People deserve better, and in America we have the option to give them better, it’s beyond time we did so.

 

The Shutdown is Over: Now we need to make sure it NEVER happens again

government_shutdown_sign_(10174816623)What this government shutdown has shown just about every American and politician, is that shutdowns like this cannot happen. Government workers cannot go without paychecks for weeks on end because of political games. And in a sense, we were lucky, this was a PARTIAL government shutdown, and the effects were still profound.

Do you really think that the politicians would have handled the situation any differently if it was a full shutdown? Don’t count me as someone with any confidence that they would have.

With that being said, there is a lesson to be learned here, and a solution to be implemented. The lesson learned? We can’t let this happen again.

What’s the solution? If the federal government cannot get a budget passed on time, then the country should automatically be funded by a continuing resolution until a budget gets passed. To ensure that the CR is not the new permanent budget, it should be reduced by 5 percent every month, with government employees’ salaries the LAST thing to be affected.

This is a bipartisan solution to a problem that has become increasingly worse in recent years. Obama did it in 2013 to get the Affordable Care Act pushed through and now Trump is trying to do it to get his wall built. Holding government employees’ hostage to get what you want is not how you govern.  

A new budget needs to get passed in the next three weeks, and a provision to ensure that a shutdown like just happened never happens again NEEDS to be in it. It’s what the American people deserve.

It’s NOT about a wall

Obama hands over presidency to Trump at 58th Presidential Inauguration

This shutdown has never been about a wall. The whole debacle between President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has cemented that fact. Cancelling the speakers travel plans and cancelling the State of the Union are the actions of immature politicians using their powers to stroke their own egos.

And that’s all this has ever been about, egos between powerful politicians. As the left celebrates their “win” because Trump agreed to postpone the State of the Union, 800,000 people are going unpaid. SNAP is close to running out of funds for the first time since the program was made permanent.

These realities are something that both parties have lost sight of. Each side is worried about “winning” but has lost sight of the fact that nobody wins in a shutdown. What’s even worse is playing overt political games with each other while those that you are hurting are watching.

I don’t know which party will end up “caving” in the end, and I don’t think it matters. It won’t change my opinion of either party, and I doubt that it will change the minds of any of either parties’ supporters.

When this shutdown ends, neither party will have gained the respect of the American people. In fact, both parties will have lost what little respect that they had remaining. These kinds of behaviors are what got Trump elected in the first place, so he could “drain the swamp”.

He seems to have missed his mark, and instead has become a part of the quagmire that his supporters loathed so much.

Why does everyone care about Nathan Phillips?

world_newspapersWhen I first heard of the encounter between Nick Sandmann and Nathan Phillips, I was heavily inclined to NOT weigh in on the situation. First off, no matter what happened, it was a localized event with no impact on anything. It doesn’t matter who you believe, or who was even right, because it means nothing to the American political system, or to you in any sort of way. It’s a problem for the individuals involved to figure out, and that’s about it.

Yet the story went crazy, in large part because of social media. A video was taken with a cell phone, it went viral, so news agencies picked it up and ran with it. It’s a problem that news agencies haven’t quite figured out how to handle yet.

As a news agency, when are presented with a video, that has no context or substance, and you choose to highlight it as a legitimate news story simply because people are watching it, you are bound to run into problems. Of course, if you ignore the video, you are bound to become irrelevant.

So, what should they do? They should present the video as news and allow viewers to make their own decisions on it. The last thing they should be doing is pushing a narrative, and yet that’s exactly what almost every news agency did.

And while I completely disagree with President Donald Trump’s assessment that the media is “the enemy of the people”, it’s mishandled situations like this that give him and his supporters a ton of ammunition.

Mainstream media companies need to do a better job at presenting stories like this in an unbiased manner until all the facts come in. Even then they need to simply present the facts to the public and let them make up their minds about the situations.

That kind of journalism that is essential in a democratic nation. Journalism isn’t the “enemy of the people”, it’s the only thing that keeps society working. However, when it’s handled so horribly wrong it hurts democracy by hurting the image of the media.

Trump’s comments are just a symptom of the problem at hand, and until you fix the root of the problem, you can expect the symptoms to get worse.