Category Archives: Personal

Information of a personal nature.

Successful Retirement Secrets™

My Comments: I have just now joined the ranks of internet publishers!

Almost four years in the making, it’s an internet course to help you process retirement information leading to a SUCCESSFUL RETIREMENT.

Among other things, it’s about investment skills and getting the most from Social Security.

In TWO FREE PREVIEWS, I reveal the SECRET.

An enrolled student will develop a system that works in the background, helping someone retire with more money and not less money.

To the first 100 people who enroll before November 1, 2018, I’m offering 50% off the published price.

Click on the link below or the image above, and watch a FREE PREVIEW. Then decide if it would help to have a system to build your road map to a SUCCESSFUL RETIREMENT…

https://successfulretirementsecrets.com/

Advertisements

Civility Has Its Limits

My Comments: Instant gratification, or the desire for it, is the norm in 21st Century America. It may be OK when you discover you’re hungry and have no need to go into the woods and shoot something, or instead of waiting days for the mail to arrive, you simply go to your phone and look for a text message. But…

As a society, we’re experiencing a massive shift in thinking and it’s going to take time, years even. But it is coming. Just as women in the early 20th Century were finally allowed to vote, and before that, years of agony for immigrants from Africa to shake off the shackles of slavery. And here we are 150 years later, still not fully responding to that seminal upheaval of what was then ‘normal’ arrangements in society.

The recent societal and political chaos involving the Supreme Court will be seen in years to come in the same light. This article by Peter Beinart helped me come to terms with what happened and will allow me, hopefully, to move on and resume my ‘normal’ life. I’ll continue to resist, but I now have a positive goal of eventual gratification.

by Peter Beinart on Monday, October 8, 2018

When it comes to Brett Kavanaugh, there are three camps. The first believes it’s a travesty that he was confirmed. The second believes it’s a travesty that he was smeared. The third believes it’s a travesty that the process was so divisive.

David Brooks is in camp number three. The Kavanaugh hearings, he wrote on Friday, constituted an “American nadir.” You often hear such phrases from people who think the biggest problem with the Kavanaugh battle is that the participants weren’t more courteous and open-minded. Jeff Flake said that in debating Kavanaugh, the Senate “hit bottom.” Susan Collins called it “rock bottom.” Think about that for a second. For most of American history, Supreme Court nominees—like virtually all powerful men—could sexually assault women with complete impunity. Now, because allegations of such behavior sparked a raucous, intemperate political fight, America has hit “rock bottom,” a “nadir.”  How much better things were in the good old days when sexual-assault allegations didn’t polarize the confirmation process because sexual-assault victims were politically invisible.

Implying, as Brooks, Flake, and Collins do, that America’s real problem is a lack of civility rather than a lack of justice requires assuming a moral equivalence between Brett Kavanaugh’s supporters and Christine Blasey Ford’s. “What we saw in these hearings,” writes Brooks, “was the unvarnished tribalization of national life.” The term “tribe” implies atavistic, amoral group loyalty: Huns vs. Franks, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Hatfields vs. McCoys. There are no larger principles at stake. “There was nothing particularly ideological about the narratives,” laid out by Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford, Brooks declares, “nothing that touched on capitalism, immigration or any of the other great disputes of national life.”

But gender is indeed one of the “great disputes of national life.” The Kavanaugh fight pitted people who worry that #MeToo hasn’t changed America enough, that it’s still too easy for men to get away with sexual assault, against people who fear that #MeToo has changed America too much, that it’s become too easy for women to ruin men’s lives by charging them with sexual assault. That’s not a tribal struggle; it’s an ideological one. It involves competing visions of the relationship between women and men.

Describing Democrats and Republicans as warring tribes has become a political cliché, but it’s wrong. If tribal implies unthinking or inherited group loyalty, then Democrats and Republicans were actually more tribal in the mid-20th century. Back then, when being a Democrat or a Republican signified less about your view of the world, party identity was more a function of regional or ancestral ties. Whether or not they supported civil rights or higher taxes or the Korean War, Irish Catholics from Boston were mostly Democrats; Presbyterians from Kansas were mostly Republicans. Today, party identity is more a function of what you believe. The parties are so bitterly polarized not because they’ve become more tribal but because they’ve become more ideological.

But for Brooks, depicting the supporters of Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford as tribes is useful because it doesn’t only suggest moral equivalence, it also implies an equivalence of power. The “tribalization” of American politics, Brooks argues, “leads to an epidemic of bigotry. Bigotry involves creating a stereotype about a disfavored group and then applying that stereotype to an individual you’ve never met. It was bigotry against Jews that got Alfred Dreyfus convicted in 1894. It was bigotry against young black males that got the Central Park Five convicted in 1990. It was bigotry against preppy lacrosse players that led to the bogus Duke lacrosse scandal.”

This is misleading. There is no equivalence between the “bigotry” faced by preppy lacrosse players and that faced by black males. There’s no equivalence because preppy lacrosse players, in general, enjoy far more privilege and power and thus, the stereotypes people hold of them don’t generally land them in jail or dead. Similarly, there is no equivalence between the “bigotry” faced by men accused of sexual assault and the “bigotry” faced by women who suffer it. There’s no equivalence because men wield far more power. If you don’t think that matters, try imagining Kavanaugh getting confirmed by a Senate comprised of 79 women.

The struggle over Kavanaugh was, at its core, a struggle between people who want gender relations to change and people who want them to remain the same. And throughout American history, whenever oppressed groups and their supporters have agitated for change, respectable moderates have warned that they were fomenting incivility and division. In April 1963, seven white Alabama ministers and one rabbi wrote a letter to Martin Luther King. The letter articulated no position on segregation and the right to vote. It assumed, instead, a moral equivalence between blacks that wanted race relations to change and whites who wanted them to remain the same. Both sides held “honest convictions in racial matters.” Both “our white and Negro citizenry” should “observe the principles of law and order and common sense.”

The real danger, the authors claimed, was “friction and unrest.” Averting it required “forbearance” and “restraint” on both sides. King, whose Birmingham campaign was titled “Project C”—for confrontation—was purposefully fomenting such friction and unrest through marches, sit-ins, and boycotts. While “technically peaceful,” the ministers and rabbi warned, the “extreme measures” adopted by King and his supporters “incite to hatred and violence.”

In his response, written from jail, King argued that the white clergymen were mistaking symptom for disease. The problem wasn’t “friction and unrest” between Birmingham’s two tribes. It was centuries of oppression, which there was no frictionless way to overcome. “I am not afraid of the word ‘tension,’” King explained. “We must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”

Even as Bull Connor’s men savagely beat black protesters in the streets, King recognized that Birmingham was not hitting “rock bottom.” It was rising from an almost century-long nadir in which white supremacy—no matter how murderous—was barely even a subject of political controversy, in which black powerlessness was the foundation on which comity between two America’s white-dominated political parties rested.

The problem that the Kavanaugh struggle laid bare is not “unvarnished tribalism.” The problem is that women who allege abuse by men still often face male-dominated institutions that do not thoroughly and honestly investigate their claims. That problem is not new; it is very old. What is new is that this injustice now sparks bitter partisan conflict and upends long-standing courtesies. Rape survivors yell at politicians in the Senate halls. The varnish—the attractive, glossy coating that protected male oppression of women—is coming off. Brooks, Collins, and Flake may decry the “tension” this exposes. But, as King understood, the “dark depths of prejudice” can’t be overcome any other way.

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/has-american-politics-hit-rock-bottom/572452/

I’m a Liberal Because…

As a senior citizen, I’m reminded daily that I’m running out of time to make something happen. I no longer have the energy to be angry about what happened in the past, who is to blame, and explore what might have been.

I want to spend my remaining time and energy pushing for what I consider positive goals for the world that will be inhabited by my children and grandchildren. The Republican Party, the home of self styled conservatives, seems to focus on the past at the expense of the future. It is a far cry from the humanitarian party that I respected in my youth.

When it comes to education, I strongly believe that far more than facts and figures comprise the whole matrix. I has to include art and music and writing, all things that contribute to the ability of an individual to exercise good judgement with an awareness of the present and the future. Yes, there has to be testing and accountability, but not to the extent it is now.

Money spent today on education, on infrastructure (roads, bridges, parks, transportation, communication, be it snail mail or via the internet) are critical to the ability of future generations to succeed, and by so doing, help perpetuate the greatness of these United States and the role it plays in preserving the gains made by humans on this planet. All these elements are part of the public domain, that shared environment that contributes to our participation as full members of society.

As an economist and entrepreneur in the world of money, my professional life has given me the opportunity to both fail and succeed when it comes to providing for my family. It has given me the ability to ask the necessary questions of someone when it comes time to evaluate the present and project future goals and objectives. How much is enough? How long does it have to last? What role do you want to play in society as life evolves? At the end of the day, what will you regret not having achieved?

My formative years were as an only child. The first ten happened in Europe during WWII and the post war years. My father was an engineer whose personal history caused him to think there was a better place next door. So we traveled and I was exposed to different languages and societies. My four years in Gainesville as a college student were the longest I’d ever lived anywhere, and after graduation, I felt no compelling need to move away and explore new venues. I’ve never regretted that decision.

My truly formative years, from 1951 to 1960, exposed me to different cultures and societies. I suspect this allows me to feel comfortable with ideas that do not readily conform to what many people in this country consider normal. Our “normal” is often very different from their “normal” and for many people, this is a existential threat, and they are afraid. I consider this an advantage in that I can focus more attention and prepare myself for those existential threats that do threaten my safety and welfare. Things like global warming and running out of money before I die.

After almost sixty years here, I can say with no hesitation that I’ve been a lucky person. Sure, there have been bad days, but far and away, it’s been a good life here and I expect to have many more years. My frustrations these days are largely health related and the threat I feel from those on the right who would take us back in time if they could.

Nothing stays the same; my grandparents would be horrified by what we find normal. I have no fear of the future, in some part because most people are rational and common sense will prevail. Personally, I’m appalled by the hypocrisy of many of our so called leaders, those who would have us believe they are qualified to lead this nation.

As a young adult, I identified as a left leaning centrist. But over these last 50 plus years, the center has moved to the right much more than I have. As the right has moved toward what they describe as conservative, my perception is they have moved away from conservative into radicalism, which is not conservative.

Conservatism, to my mind, is an attempt to preserve the values that clearly worked to bring us to greatness. Those values, are today embraced by liberals who want those same values to be embraced by new members of society, be they born here, or are immigrants. The desired outcome is harmony, both within society and with others in the world. But I see those values being corrupted by irrational fear of change, and instead of looking for ways to adapt to an inevitable evolution of national spirit, instead cling to fuzzy memories of how things used to be.

Being liberal frees me from excessive paranoia. However, being paranoid doesn’t mean there is no one out there trying to get you. The trick is to keep it in perspective and spend time and energy with family and community. I’m not a Christian, as defined by many people these days, but that does not mean I do not believe there is a God. I strongly ascribe to the tenets and beliefs that define traditional Christianity, but don’t try to ‘save’ me, please. I try to live my life the right way and simply choose not to talk about it. If that bothers you, then it’s your problem and not mine.

This is not all I have to say about this, but I appreciate most readers have limits and for many of you, you may have reached yours.

Check your math, central banker says: less immigration equals less growth

My Comments: I have an interest in the immigration debate. I’m an immigrant, granted US citizenship on May 1, 1959. As I read horror stories about parents and others being deported, it has crossed my mind that I’m at risk. Probably not, but with ICE nosing about, who knows?

It’s not just the New York Times that’s publishing articles on immigration. This one comes from Reuters, the global news agency. (Disclosure: my great-great grandmother, Anna Mathilde Kraul married Peter William Reuter on August 10, 1857. Same family as the news agency.)

Anyway, if the administration continues to insist on restricted immigration, and Congress goes along with it, we can expect a slow but pervasive decline in our economy of the next few decades. Talk about ceding global economic supremacy to China, this is the way to make that happen.

Ann Saphir \ August 7, 2017

(Reuters) – Less than week after a U.S. President Donald Trump embraced legislation to reduce immigration, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari urged residents of South Dakota to embrace newcomers instead.

“Just going to math, if a big source of economic growth is population growth, and your population growth slows, either because you restrict immigration or because you have fewer babies, your economic growth is going to slow,” Kashkari said at the Rotary Club of Downtown Sioux Falls, responding to a question about a Trump-backed bill to cut legal immigration by 50 percent over the next 10 years. “Do we want economic growth, or not? That’s what it comes down to.”

Kashkari not alone in seeing immigration as key to U.S. economic growth.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan routinely points out that immigrants have historically boosted U.S. workforce growth, and therefore economic growth, and has warned that the crackdown on illegal immigration could hurt consumer spending. Fed Chair Janet Yellen told U.S. lawmakers earlier this year that slowing immigration could probably hurt growth.

Most economic research suggests that immigration has little effect on wages of U.S. workers, and one recent study of what happened after the U.S. ended a guest-worker program for Mexican farm workers in the 1960s showed that growers, instead of raising wages to attract more workers, simply automated more of their field work.

The U.S. economy has been stuck at about 2-percent growth in recent years, and appears unlikely to break to out of that pattern anytime soon, St. Louis Fed President Bullard said earlier Monday.

“You can either accept slower growth; you can spend a lot of money to subsidize fertility – child care etc, very expensive – or you can embrace immigration. That’s math,” Kashkari told the audience in Sioux Falls, where the foreign-born population grew by more than a third from 2010 to 2014, figures from the U.S. census show.

“You guys have done a pretty good job of embracing immigration and that is a source of economic growth vibrancy.”

Is Capitalism Killing America?

My Comments: In the minds of many, capitalism is the antithesis of communism. And they are essentially right. In the minds of many, communism and socialism and fascism are one and the same. And they are essentially wrong.

Communism is an economic model where the state owns everything involved in providing goods and services to the members of society. All members of that society are bound by a framework that starts at the state and ends at the state. History has shown this is a fatally flawed model.

At the other end of the economic model continuum is capitalism, where the state has no say in the production of goods and services to benefit the members of society. Everything is determined by the individual first and then slowly upstream as determined by the collective will of many individuals. Rules and regulations are anathema and are to be opposed and vilified at every opportunity.

Into this mix appears religion and other social pressures that have evolved over the millennia to create a mechanism which allows us to survive and thrive. I argue that capitalism in it’s unfettered state is an equally flawed economic model.

Bring all this into the 21stt Century and you have arguments pro and con. How does society find that spot along the continuum between the two models to best meet the needs of ALL OF US? It matters not that it doesn’t have a convenient name. What matters is that we focus our time and energy on the creation of a balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of society. The goal is to preserve society such that both individuals and society can survive and thrive.

We are in the midst of such a discussion today. The emergence of Trump and the push back from the non-Trumps will structure the framework that our children and grandchildren will experience as they travel through life. Without an economically viable middle class, we are doomed to failure. Your voice needs to be heard.

September 18, 2017 by Theodore Kinni

On August 2, 2017, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a record-breaking 22,000—its fourth 1,000-point advance in less than a year. That same day, I read the first sentence in Peter Georgescu’s new book, Capitalists Arise! End Economic Inequality, Grow the Middle Class, Heal the Nation: “For the past four decades, capitalism has been slowly committing suicide.”

How does Georgescu, the chairman emeritus of Young & Rubicam (Y&R) and a 1963 graduate of Stanford Graduate School of Business, reconcile the Dow’s ascent with his gloomy assertion?

“The stock market has nothing to do with the economy per se,” he says. “It has everything to do with only one thing: how much profit companies can squeeze out of the current crop of flowers in the garden. Pardon the metaphor. But that’s what corporations do—they squeeze out profits.”

In the latter half of the 1990s, Georgescu shepherded Y&R through a global expansion and an IPO. He has served on the boards of eight public companies, including Levi Strauss, Toys “R” Us, and International Flavors & Fragrances. He also is the author of two previous books, The Constant Choice: An Everyday Journey from Evil Toward Good and The Source of Success. An Advertising Hall of Fame inductee, the 78-year-old adman is still pitching corporate leaders. Now, however, he is trying to convince them to fundamentally rethink how—and for whom—they run their companies.

The fault lines in capitalism

Capitalism is an endangered economic system, Georgescu says. He sees a dearth of demand across the global economy, even as American corporations record their highest profits ever. “How does this magic happen?” he asks rhetorically. “You engineer it. You buy back your stock at 4% and change. Your earnings per share go up and the market says, ‘We like that.’”

What does he mean? He cites the seminal research by economist William Lazonick, who studied S&P 500 companies from 2003 to 2012 and discovered that they routinely spend 54% of their earnings buying back their own stock (reducing the number of outstanding shares and driving up share prices) and 37% of their earnings on dividends—both of which benefit shareholders. That leaves just 9% of earnings for investment in their business and their people.

This financial legerdemain obscures two fundamental fault lines in capitalism, and particularly in the US economy, according to Georgescu. The first is a lack of investment by companies in their own futures. “Our companies are not competitive because they don’t invest in themselves,” he says. “Total R&D investment is down. Total basic research, which is the precursor of innovation, is down dramatically. Investment in infrastructure has fallen to critical levels.”

The second fault line is the lack of investment by companies in their employees. “Innovation is the only real driver of success in the 21st century, and who does the innovation? Our employees. How are we motivating them? We treat them like dirt. If I need you, I need you. If I don’t, you’re out of here. And I keep your wages flat for 40 years,” says Georgescu, who points out that growth in real wages has been stagnant since the mid-1970s.

The engines of capitalism are sputtering

The lack of investment by US corporations in their businesses and people is not only causing the engine that powers innovation gain to sputter, but also slowing the engine of demand that produces topline growth. Why? Median household income in the U.S. is less than 1% higher today than in 1989, according to the Census Bureau. “There’s no middle class, and the upper middle class has very little money left to spend, so they can’t drive the economy. The only people driving the GDP are the top 20% of us,” Georgescu says.

In Capitalists Arise!, Georgescu shows how these issues are impacting the American public. Nearly 60% of American households are technically insolvent and adding to their debt loads each year. In addition, income inequality in the U.S. is reaching new peaks: The top layer of earners now claim a larger portion of the nation’s income than ever before — more even than the peak in 1927, just two years before the onset of the Great Depression.

Georgescu lays the blame for all of these conditions on the ascendency of the doctrine of shareholder primacy. “Today’s mantra is ‘maximize short-term shareholder value.’ Period,” he says. “The rules of the game have become cancerous. They’re killing us. They’re killing the corporation. They’re helping to kill the country.”

Back to responsible capitalism

Georgescu is convinced he knows how to beat this cancer, and he’s pitching it to corporate leaders across the country. “The cure can be found in the post–World War II economic expansion. From 1945 until the 1970s, the US economy was booming and America’s middle class was the largest market in the world,” he says.

“In those days, American capitalism said, ‘We’ll take care of five stakeholders,’” he continues. “Then and now, the most important stakeholder is the customer. The second most important is the employee. If you don’t have happy employees, you’re not going to have happy customers. The third critical stakeholder is the company itself — it needs to be fed. Fourth come the communities in which you do business. Corporations were envisioned as good citizens—that’s why they got an enormous number of legal protections and tax breaks in the first place.”

In Georgescu’s schema, shareholders are the last of the five stakeholders, not the first. “If you serve all the other stakeholders well, the shareholders do fine,” he says. “If you take good care of your customers, pay your people well, invest in your own business, and you’re a good citizen, the shareholder does better. We need to get back to that today. Every company has got to do that.”
We welcome your comments at ideas@qz.com. This post originally appeared on Insights, by Stanford Business.

Source URL: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/capitalism-killing-america

Beliefs vs Reality

My Comments: These are strange times. I’m having a hard time coming to terms with my beliefs and values as a human and the values and beliefs as expressed by others.
Mine have evolved over the past 76 years and encompass everything that defines me as a member of society. I’m comfortable in my own skin and will move on eventually to the next state of being. Meanwhile, others increasingly refute the values that I’ve considered ‘normal’ for my entire life.

So, this article has been helpful in my understanding of the disconnect that I now have with so many people who until recently I considered as being on the same planet as I am. My fervent hope is that life will soon return to at least a semblance of normality and I can live out my days without too much stress. If you too are stressed by how all this is playing out these days, I encourage you to read these words by Daniel DeNicola.

You don’t have the right to believe whatever you want to believe by Daniel DeNicola on June 6, 2018.

Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the willfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: “I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says, and I have a right to believe it!”

But is there such a right?

We do recognize the right to know certain things. I have a right to know the conditions of my employment, the physician’s diagnosis of my ailments, the grades I achieved at school, the name of my accuser, and the nature of the charges, and so on. But belief is not knowledge.

Beliefs are factive: to believe is to take to be true. It would be absurd, as the analytic philosopher G E Moore observed in the 1940s, to say: “It is raining, but I don’t believe that it is raining.” Beliefs aspire to truth—but they do not entail it. Beliefs can be false, unwarranted by evidence or reasoned consideration. They can also be morally repugnant. Among likely candidates: beliefs that are sexist, racist, or homophobic; the belief that proper upbringing of a child requires “breaking the will” and severe corporal punishment; the belief that the elderly should routinely be euthanized; the belief that “ethnic cleansing” is a political solution, and so on. If we find these morally wrong, we condemn not only the potential acts that spring from such beliefs, but the content of the belief itself, the act of believing it, and thus the believer.

Such judgments can imply that believing is a voluntary act. But beliefs are often more like states of mind or attitudes than decisive actions. Some beliefs, such as personal values, are not deliberately chosen; they are “inherited” from parents and “acquired” from peers, acquired inadvertently, inculcated by institutions and authorities, or assumed from hearsay. For this reason, I think, it is not always the coming-to-hold-this-belief that is problematic: It is rather the sustaining of such beliefs, the refusal to disbelieve or discard them that can be voluntary and ethically wrong.

If the content of a belief is judged morally wrong, it is also thought to be false. The belief that one race is less than fully human is not only a morally repugnant, racist tenet; it is also thought to be a false claim—though not by the believer. The falsity of a belief is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a belief to be morally wrong; neither is the ugliness of the content sufficient for a belief to be morally wrong. Alas, there are indeed morally repugnant truths, but it is not the believing that makes them so. Their moral ugliness is embedded in the world, not in one’s belief about the world.

“Who are you to tell me what to believe?” replies the zealot. It is a misguided challenge. It implies that certifying one’s beliefs is a matter of someone’s authority. It ignores the role of reality. Believing has what philosophers call a “mind-to-world direction of fit.” Our beliefs are intended to reflect the real world—and it is on this point that beliefs can go haywire. There are irresponsible beliefs. More precisely, there are beliefs that are acquired and retained in an irresponsible way. One might disregard evidence, accept gossip, rumor, or testimony from dubious sources, ignore incoherence with one’s other beliefs, embrace wishful thinking, or display a predilection for conspiracy theories.

I do not mean to revert to the stern evidentialism of the 19th-century mathematical philosopher William K Clifford, who claimed: “It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” Clifford was trying to prevent irresponsible “overbelief,” in which wishful thinking, blind faith, or sentiment (rather than evidence) stimulate or justify belief. This is too restrictive. In any complex society, one has to rely on the testimony of reliable sources, expert judgment, and the best available evidence. Moreover, as the psychologist William James responded in 1896, some of our most important beliefs about the world and the human prospect must be formed without the possibility of sufficient evidence. In such circumstances (which are sometimes defined narrowly, sometimes more broadly in James’s writings), one’s “will to believe” entitles us to choose to believe the alternative that projects a better life.

In exploring the varieties of religious experience, James would remind us that the “right to believe” can establish a climate of religious tolerance. Those religions that define themselves by required beliefs (creeds) have engaged in repression, torture, and countless wars against non-believers that can cease only with recognition of a mutual “right to believe.” Yet, even in this context, extremely intolerant beliefs cannot be tolerated. Rights have limits and carry responsibilities.

Unfortunately, many people today seem to take great license with the right to believe, flouting their responsibility. The wilful ignorance and false knowledge that are commonly defended by the assertion “I have a right to my belief” do not meet James’s requirements. Consider those who believe that the lunar landings or the Sandy Hook school shooting were unreal, government-created dramas; that Barack Obama is Muslim; that the Earth is flat; or that climate change is a hoax. In such cases, the right to believe is proclaimed as a negative right. That is, its intent is to foreclose dialogue, to deflect all challenges, to enjoin others from interfering with one’s belief-commitment. The mind is closed, not open for learning. They might be “true believers,” but they are not believers in the truth.

Believing, like willing, seems fundamental to autonomy, the ultimate ground of one’s freedom. But, as Clifford also remarked: “No one man’s belief is in any case a private matter which concerns himself alone.” Beliefs shape attitudes and motives, guide choices and actions. Believing and knowing are formed within an epistemic community, which also bears their effects. There is an ethic of believing, of acquiring, sustaining, and relinquishing beliefs—and that ethic both generates and limits our right to believe. If some beliefs are false, or morally repugnant, or irresponsible, some beliefs are also dangerous. And to those, we have no right.

President Trump and Tribalism

My Comments: Some of you will see this as a political statement by me and perhaps recoil from it. I hope not.

We are in the midst of a national, if not global, re-evaluation of the values that underly society. On a personal level, I’m very troubled by Trump and how his values about life, about other people, about truthfulness, about the rule of law differ so greatly from my values. I’m less troubled by the political direction he’s pushing us.

That’s because, short of a global nuclear war, the outcome is very likely to be a re-affirmation of the assumptions that drove our nation and our economy toward greatness. Trump represents an effort to roll back the tides, and you know how that’s likely to play out. (See King Canute above.)

From an economic perspective, it’s a non-starter. Sooner or later, his narrow focus will doom him and those around him. Personally, I refuse to live in the past. I’m concerned about the now and tomorrow.

Ronald Brownstein on Nov 2, 2017

Although in dramatically different ways, Tuesday’s terrorist attack in New York and the Republican tax plan scheduled for release Thursday raise the same jagged question: In the Donald Trump era, is it possible for a deeply divided America to sustain any shared interest or common purpose?

The country obviously faced difficult divisions long before this president was elected. But he’s operated in a uniquely tribal fashion that has ominously, and even deliberately, widened those divides. In office, he has abandoned any pretense of seeking to represent the entire country. How deep a crevice he digs may turn on how much, if at all, the Republican congressional majorities resist his divisive tendencies.

Since announcing his presidential campaign, Trump has prioritized what I’ve called the “coalition of restoration”: the primarily older, blue-collar, non-urban, and evangelical whites who combine unease about America’s demographic and cultural change with anxiety about their place in an evolving economy.

Since January, Trump has repeatedly moved to show his coalition that he will resist the changes they fear. That impulse has been evident in his serial travel bans targeting mostly Muslim countries; his attempt to bar trans soldiers from the military; his forgiving reaction to the white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia; and his support for preserving Confederate monuments.

Trump displayed a similar instinct following the New York attack, appealing to fear of the assailant’s Muslim background. In a flurry of tweets on Tuesday evening, Trump immediately denounced, as a “Democratic” invention, the “diversity lottery” immigration program that allowed the attacker to live in the United States. Leave aside that George H.W. Bush signed the lottery program into law, or that all Senate Democrats (along with 14 Republicans) supported ending it during the 2013 debate over comprehensive immigration reform. The key is that Trump’s reaction betrayed two central components of his political identity: his instinct to view any crisis more as an opportunity to divide than to unite, and how reflexively he portrays immigrants as a threat.

Trump is far from the first Republican tugged toward that dark star. But the party has sent mixed signals about how far it will follow him. On the one hand, this year’s attacks from Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie on so-called “sanctuary cities” and the Central American gang MS-13 have set a template for Trump-like anti-immigrant messages that many Republicans are likely to adopt in the midterms. On the other, Trump has struggled to build momentum for a bill to cut legal immigration in half, and he’s had trouble unifying congressional Republicans behind his demand for a border wall (which faces majority public opposition).

On immigration, Republicans appear genuinely divided—mostly by geography, partly by ideology—over how closely to join Trump in targeting whites most uneasy about the new arrivals. That hesitance is understandable given that, by 2020, minorities are likely to constitute a majority of all Americans under age 18.

But on taxes, congressional Republicans are placing an equally narrow bet. With Trump’s intermittent support, the GOP is advancing a tax plan aimed at a few voters at the pinnacle of the income pyramid. Although the numbers may change somewhat in the new House plan, the most comprehensive nonpartisan analysis of the GOP’s original blueprint found that it would shower fully four-fifths of its benefits on the top 1 percent of earners by 2027.

By diverting so much federal revenue to that one group, Republicans are ensuring future conflict with others. That lopsided allocation leaves them offering only small tax cuts to working-class voters, as well as possible tax increases to many upper middle-class families already recoiling from Trump’s behavior and cultural agenda. Their plan ensures they will pursue deep cuts in domestic discretionary programs that invest in the productivity of the increasingly diverse future generations—including programs in education and scientific research. It also means they will face growing demands from their fiscal hawks to cut entitlements, which benefit the predominantly white older population whose votes underpin their electoral coalition.