Tag Archives: global politics

The Brilliant Incoherence of Trump’s Foreign Policy

My Comments: This may be far too long to read in one sitting. But if, like me, you are willing to absorb some rather heavy reading, you may find yourself somewhat relieved by the message.

Stephen Sestanovich | May 2017

Every 20 years or so—the regularity is a little astonishing—Americans hold a serious debate about their place in the world. What, they ask, is going wrong? And how can it be fixed? The discussion, moreover, almost always starts the same way. Having extricated itself with some success from a costly war, the United States then embraces a scaled-down foreign policy, the better to avoid over commitment. But when unexpected challenges arise, people start asking whether the new, more limited strategy is robust enough. Politicians and policy makers, scholars and experts, journalists and pundits, the public at large, even representatives of other governments (both friendly and less friendly) all take part in the back-and-forth. They want to know whether America, despite its decision to do less, should go back to doing more—and whether it can.

The reasons for doubt are remarkably similar from one period of discussion to the next. Some argue that the U.S. economy is no longer big enough to sustain a global role of the old kind, or that domestic problems should take priority. Others ask whether the public is ready for new exertions. The foreign-policy establishment may seem too divided, and a viable consensus too hard to reestablish. Many insist that big international problems no longer lend themselves to Washington’s solutions, least of all to military ones. American “leadership,” it is said, won’t work so well in our brave new world.

With minor variations, this is the foreign-policy debate that the country conducted in the 1950s, the 1970s, and the 1990s. And it’s the same one that we have been having for the past few years. The rise of the Islamic State, the Syrian civil war, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and China’s muscle-flexing in East Asia jolted the discussion back to life in 2014. Presidential debates in 2015 and 2016 added issues (from Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal to his Asian trade pact) and sharpened the controversy.

Those of us in the foreign-policy business are always glad to have our concerns get this kind of prominence. Down the decades, these debates have tended to produce a consensus in favor of renewed American activism. Yet each version unfolds in its own way. The global turmoil of 2016 meant that nobody could be completely sure how this one was going to turn out.

We still don’t know. The advent of Donald Trump—his candidacy, his election, and the start of his presidency—has given our once-every-two-decades conversation extra drama and significance. Some commentators claim that Trump wants to cast aside the entire post–Cold War order. To others, he is repudiating everything that America has tried to achieve since 1945. Still others say he represents a break with all we have stood for since 1776 (or maybe even since 1630, when John Winthrop called the Massachusetts Bay Colony “a city upon a hill”).

That we talk this way is but one measure of the shock Trump’s victory has administered. The new president is raising questions about the foreign policy of the United States—about its external purposes, its internal cohesion, and its chances of success—that may not be fully answered for years. Yet to understand a moment as strange as this, we need to untangle what has happened. In this cycle, America has actually had two rounds of debate about its global role. The first one was driven by the 2016 campaign, and Trump won it. The second round has gone differently. Since taking office, the new president has made one wrong move after another.

Though it’s too soon to say that he has lost this round, he is certainly losing control of it. In each case, we need to understand the dynamics of the discussion better than we do.

‘He’s a Performance Artist Pretending to be a Great Manager’

My Comments: I really want 45 to be successful. The health and welfare of my children and grandchildren depend on it. And I really don’t want the never ending distraction now caused by, first, his apparent incompetence and secondly, by the constitutional crisis that will result if he fails.

I find him intellectually lazy. Yes, he is smart and knows how to tell a story to help people grasp what he is attempting to say. He probably has the skill sets necessary to run a successful business empire, or at least one that appears successful on the surface.

But 45 appears unwilling to apply the necessary intellectual curiosity to prepare himself for decisions that need to be made by a President of the United States. The orders he has signed coupled with the results so far suggest they were made emotionally and not from any careful evaluation of how they might achieve the desired outcome. I suspect the Yemen raid that went wrong happened because he simply wanted to kick some ass, and not because he carefully evaluated the pros and cons. That would require a mental effort that he seems unable to master.

His need to take the weekend off at the end of every five days in Washington further supports my concern about his lack of intellectual vigor. He might have the necessary skill sets to run a successful real estate empire, but the skill sets required to assure the future health and welfare of my children and grandchildren seems to be lacking. Big time.

By Michael Kruse  /  Feb 27, 2017

More than 27 years before Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, Bruce Nobles, then the president of the Trump Shuttle airline, assessed with some befuddlement the business and managerial practices of his boss. Nobles had climbed a conventional corporate ladder at American, Continental and Pan Am, companies with org charts any MBA would recognize. The Trump Organization, on the other hand, was smaller, looser and much more freewheeling, and working for Trump, Nobles discovered, was a markedly different experience.

“It surprised me how much of a family-type operation it was, instead of a business kind of orientation where there is a structure and there is a chain of command and there is delegation of authority and responsibility,” Nobles told a reporter from Newsday in the fall of 1989. “As the organization gets bigger, and it seems to be getting bigger all the time, he’ll have to do a better job of actually managing the place as opposed to making deals.”

Mere months into Trump’s time as the owner of an airline—the purchase was finalized that June—Nobles already had concerns. Trump had overpaid with more than $400 million of borrowed money, he seemed most interested in cosmetic touches like the size of the “T” on the tails of the planes, and the debt service quickly became crippling. Once, Trump suggested cutting costs by flying with two pilots, not three, and Nobles had to tell him that would be illegal.

Trump’s appetite was greater than his ability to manage what he had acquired. Last week on the phone, as Trump passed the one-month mark in the White House and prepared for tonight’s speech before a joint session of Congress, Nobles told me that what he sees now is what he saw then. “His behavior to date,” he said, “is consistent with the behavior I saw 30 years ago.”

CONTINUE-READING

It’s the Economic Inequality, Stupid! The Gaping Wound That Led to Trump’s Win

retirement_roadMy Comments: I’ve been talking for several years about income inequality and how it must be reversed if our children and grandchildren are going to avoid rioting in the streets and economic chaos. Recently we’ve seen Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter and now Trump protesters rioting in the streets. The waiting has ended; rioting has started.

I’ve written that much of the tension involving lives lost to law enforcement errors, to the tension between rural and urban America, between racial groups, and dozen’s of other conflicts, including those in the Middle East, have economic roots. The tension grows out of a frustration that surfaces when otherwise normal humans find themselves unable to work and provide for their families in a way their parents and grandparents were able to. Or how images and stories on Facebook suggest how other people are living better lives.

This writer describes it as a gaping wound, and while I have reservations about Trump’s ability to forge a remedy, the economic inequality is very real and until or unless we find a remedy, it’s going to fester and get worse.

Kadira Pethiyagoda | Nov. 18, 2016

The people didn’t ask for Donald Trump, they asked for change and settled for Trump. It was the change Obama had promised eight years ago. While Trump fired up some pre-existing xenophobic elements of the Republican base, what delivered him the victory that eluded his Republican predecessors was an appeal to the “forgotten men and women” i.e the working class. Venting at the ‘establishment’ – was a way to articulate the deep anger driven by ever increasing economic inequality and political powerlessness. While division is the story touted across the punditry, Trump’s election also exposes something with greater transformative potential: a political realignment reflecting a re-emerging class consciousness. Suspicion of minorities has long found a home in Right Wing Republican politics; Trump merely took it to its logical conclusion. More uniquely though, he coupled it with the relatively Left Wing traditions of protectionism, public infrastructure spending and non-interventionist, non-anti-Russia foreign policy. Trump also did something Democrats have too-often shied away from – he actually used the term ‘working class’. Further underlining the return of economic class consciousness is that fact that right up to the election, unabashed socialist Bernie Sanders outpolled Trump. This enormous blow to establishment neo-liberalism underlines the imperative for the Left to return to its roots of angrily fighting for working people and elevating economic equality as its flagship cause.

This article, the first in a series discussing this most important of trends sweeping the US, UK, Australia and the Western world, will focus on economic inequality. The second piece will focus on the ‘rigged system’ and powerlessness, discussing the lack of influence ordinary citizens have on policymaking. The third will argue that only a Left Wing movement that fearlessly advocates economic change can match Trump and the populist Right.

Inequality is the biggest scandal of our time and the masses have woken up to it. Despite the cartoonish level of irony implicit in the born-rich billionaire posturing as a hero of the working class, Trump tapped into real anger. This anger and his support grew as the mainstream media handed him bonafide outsider status through its attacks on his personality, however justified. Trump placed his arm around the shoulders of people hurting from economic injustice and whispered to them that they should blame minority scapegoats and some elements of the establishment (though not others) – punching both down and up. Economic inequality provides the most fertile ground for a demagogue to ripen hatreds (alongside other factors like a pro-military intervention media).

While anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia were significant factors in his victory, they were far from being the only drivers. The statistics of key states show that many who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, less likely to be racists, also voted for Trump. These people helped swing the election. The greatest new division in this election wasn’t the race gap; racial minorities had long voted Democrat over Republican. Trump won a higher proportion of the Latino vote than Mitt Romney. African American support for Clinton was down from Obama’s numbers. The biggest new division wasn’t even the gender gap. Non-college educated white women voted for Trump over Clinton, 62% to 34%, more than the majority Hillary had with women overall. The biggest new divide was the class gap. Trump excelled in Northern blue collar regions, winning non-college educated whites by 39 points.

This bucked the trend which has existed since the days of Nixon’s ‘Southern Strategy’, where Republicans use the anti-Civil Rights backlash to ensure that social issues were the only acceptable ground upon which political battles could be fought. This evolved over time to issues like religion and abortion being harnessed to fire up the base and snatch up working class voters whose economic interests would be better served by the Democrats. The only debate over economics permitted was the ‘big government’ versus ‘small government’ pantomime. The US Democrats and UK Labour Party endlessly conceded ground to the Right to the point where ideological choices like trickle-down theory, privatisation, deregulation and ever-increasing tax cuts were accepted as irrefutable truths. Hand in hand with 50 years of the Left’s economic retreat came rising inequality and the gutting of the middle class, to the point where the top 10%’s share of national income became the highest since the Great Depression, ultimately surpassing that of the bottom 90%’s.

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When the Global Financial Crisis finally cracked the veneer of the infallible free market, a groundswell for change led to people putting their hope in a relative outsider. But despite a progressive background, inspirational speeches of hope, and superficial characteristics suggesting the potential for change, Obama turned out to be a steadfast moderate and pragmatist. 95% of income gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the top 1% of the earning population. In 2015, America’s top 500 CEOs each earned, on average, 335 times the average worker’s wage.

Now, economics is back with a vengeance. The two candidates who inspired the most passion throughout the whole process were economic populists Trump and Bernie Sanders. During the primaries, family values crusaders like Ted Cruz abjectly failed to ignite passions. Hillary’s critiques of Bernie’s slightly worse record on gun control gained little traction in comparison to Sanders’ attacks on her proximity to Wall Street.

What the mainstream media failed to realise was that peoples’ lives have become so abysmal that they care little whether Trump, as a person, makes deplorable comments, or even does deplorable things. Anyone who has experienced the stripping of dignity that poverty brings, or the survival instinct that kicks in with the lingering threat of poverty, knows that change, any change and rage become the superseding drivers. A woman working two insecure jobs and overwhelmed by debt knows the gender of the next president or heart-patting speeches by Beyonce won’t stop her still being poor tomorrow. Worrying about a candidate’s personal morality was a luxury to many. What mattered was their perception, however erroneous, that Trump would stand up for them with policies that affect their lives.

The role of economics and class were perhaps clearest in Trump’s redrawing of the electoral map. He surged in the de-industrialised Rust Belt, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as Wisconsin which no Republican has won since 1984. These places epitomised the stagnation of incomes and living standards that have ravaged workers’ lives since the Right began to successfully tear down the welfare state and public spending.

People have finally cottoned on to the injustice of the system. Levels of inequality are so astronomical that even though the public is only aware of a fraction of it, even this fraction is enough to inspire indignation. The table below reveals the richest 20% own over 80% of the wealth, while most people think the richest own less than 60% and would like the richest to own around 30%.

The inequality might not have been so obscene had there been less rampant poverty. Almost 40% of American workers (leave aside the unemployed), earned less than $20,000 in 2014. 51% made less than $30,000. The poverty line for a family of four was $23,850 in the same year.

This election points to a convergence at the economic bottom that provides opportunities for both ends of the political spectrum, not only the extreme Right, but also the real Left. In the UK, inequality was the underlying factor that led not only to Brexit, but the much less appreciated rise of Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn. This is a man who, despite almost complete hostility from the establishment media, has managed to use his message of genuine economic change to re-energize and grow the Labour Party in a way not seen in half a century.

While immigration and globalisation may feel like salt rubbed into a wound, the economic system and its rampant inequality are what created the wound in the first place. A class consciousness is being revived that has not been seen in decades. This is a gathering at the peripheries of which Trump can only capture the white half. The working class is awakening, but this time only its white members were offered a champion for their cause. There are signs Trump may even squander this, already having begun his rapprochement with the establishment, hiring ex-bankers and suggesting he’ll cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15%. The stage is definitely set for a more fundamental upheaval. To correct the massive inequalities which divide the country, however, the Left needs to embrace its economic populist past and reposition itself as a true champion of working people.

“I am a Democrat in rural, red-state America. My party abandoned us.”

Peasant-Wedding-Bruegel-the-ElderMy Comments: As we come to terms, from either perspective, with the idea of Donald Trump for the next four years, it helps to better understand how he won the election, if not the popular vote. This understanding is critical for those of us who are by nature more liberal than those who will be in charge going forward.

Jane Lindsay | November 15, 2016

I come from rural Texas. I am one of the handful of people here who votes blue – and I put up with all kinds of ridicule and rejection because of that. Many of the people who voted for Trump are my friends and family. Yes, some of them are racist but not all of them are. The reason they support Trump is simple: their needs have been thrown aside for years.

Donald Trump is a horrible person. I am glad people are protesting him. But many people here do not see an alternative. The Democratic party does not care about our issues, our culture or our people. There are hundreds of towns in this country just like ours. Well, Donald Trump came and said he cared. That’s why he won: it is not rocket science. We need to look at the truth so we can bring about change.

People here are losing everything that generations of families have worked to build. They depend on their churches for help. They believe people should work hard. Most of us work six to seven days a week, every week. It is no good to judge us instead of understanding us.

We have two private prisons in this town that sustain us in this crunch. Do I agree with private prisons? No. At the same time, if our prisons close it will wipe us out. Not one blue politician has offered a plan to deal with what happens to us then.

It’s the same with climate change. My hometown flourished for years because of oil. Now that the price of oil is down, this town lives on one-third of the budget they had. Nobody in Washington DC cares about that either. No wonder so many people in coal country voted for Trump: they were worried about their jobs and income, and they felt that he was the only one listening.

The people who are writing us all off as racists and deplorables have not seen the community and kindness that exists here. When our elementary school burned down the year before last the whole community everyone dug deep to find the money to buy and build a new school.

In my community, I see a mother whose kid has been in the hospital for a month come home and start her coat drive the next day. I see another mother who spends the month of October collecting junk and selling it for money to send care packages to the military overseas.

I see another woman build one of the state’s best animal rescue centers. She makes sure that everyone can afford to get their pet neutered. I see her spend every Saturday driving 40 miles for dogs to find a home. I see the local community board provide me with space to make a community garden that is free so everyone in town will have access to organic food.

Rural culture is as important as any other culture and is often thought of as backwards, dumb and redneck. At university, people assumed I was stupid because of my accent. A colleague said right in front of me that my southern accent and enthusiasm should be overlooked because, actually, I was smart. Now that Trump has won, I see countless people say that my community – and communities like mine – voted him because we are ignorant and bad-hearted. How is that going to help things?

I completely understand why people voted for Trump. I do not agree with it but I understand it. If people want things to change they need to understand us too: we are hurting. We need help to turn our communities around – otherwise, people like Trump will continue to get votes here.

Trump vs. Clinton: 10 Ways the Next President Will Impact Your Wallet

roulette wheelMy Comments: New and existing clients are asking me what I think will happen to their money after the election. My gut tells me there will be a correction before long anyway. If Trump is the winner, the correction could be dramatic with chaos in the years ahead. If Clinton is the winner, the correction will be muted. Necessary changes are going to happen; it’s the natural order of things. But I’m ready for less drama and an orderly transition into the future. Trump will try and turn back the clock on many levels, including globalization, and it will be disastrous for lots of reasons.

This comes from Kiplinger, and is with most everything I post, I did not ask their permission. I’m giving you the text of the first two, but if you want the rest of it, then here is a link to their site where I found it all.

http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/business/T043-S001-clinton-trump-money-issues-affecting-your-wallet/index.html

By Meilan Solly and Douglas Harbrecht | September 2016

The policies that Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump say they’ll bring to the White House could have a dramatic impact on your wallet, your job, your health care and your retirement. Here’s where the two candidates stand on major economic and financial issues, with key differences in their approaches. We also threw in a few campaign quotes that help illustrate their views. Take a look:

Economic Growth and Jobs

Key differences: Trump wants to pull back from worldwide economic engagement in pursuit of tougher trade deals and creating more jobs at home. His approach is similar in many ways to the Brexit vote to pull the United Kingdom out of the European Union. Clinton emphasizes economic development that relies on trade. And she supports more liberal immigration policies, which Trump opposes.

Key Clinton quote: “We need to raise pay, create good paying jobs, and build an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the top.”

Key Trump quote: “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect. The respect that we deserve. Nobody knows the system better than me. Which is why I alone can fix it.”

Trump’s proposals are a radical departure from 100 years of Republican pro-business, free-market orthodoxy. He wants to force some American companies to bring their foreign manufacturing operations back to the U.S. from China, Mexico, Japan and Southeast Asia. To put Americans to work, he advocates a huge infrastructure rebuilding program at home (more on that later in the slide show), including building a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration. He says he’ll deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living illegally in the U.S. and place new restrictions on H-1B visas, which allow skilled immigrants to work in the U.S. for up to six years.

Trump supports a federal minimum wage of $10. He wants to declare China a currency manipulator and impose huge tariffs on Chinese and Mexican imports “if they don’t behave.” Such threats concern economists, who worry that they will provoke a trade war and increase the likelihood of a global recession.

Where Trump waves a stick, Clinton favors a carrot approach: She would create tax and economic incentives to entice multinationals to bring jobs back to the U.S. She supports creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., and supports the H-1B program. In accordance with the Democratic Party platform, Clinton would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25. She says trade has been a “net plus for our economy,” yet she opposes President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement. Economist Chris Farrell worries that neither candidate is embracing retraining and financial support for workers who have lost their jobs to international competition. “Yes, protectionism is wrong. But so is not sharing the bounty from freer trade with those on the losing side of trade liberalization,” Farrell says.

Taxes

Key differences: Clinton’s plan would increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Trump’s would cut taxes across the board — from the lowest-income earners to the top 1%.

Key Clinton quote: “I want to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share, which they have not been doing.”

Key Trump quote: “Middle-income Americans and businesses will experience profound relief, and taxes will be greatly simplified for everyone. I mean everyone. […] Reducing taxes will cause new companies and new jobs to come roaring back into our country.”

Under Clinton’s plan, taxes would change slightly or not at all for the bottom 95% of taxpayers, while the top 1% would see sizable increases. This is because Clinton wants to implement a 4% surcharge tax on income over $5 million, plus the Buffett Rule, which would ensure that individuals who earn more than $1 million annually pay a minimum effective tax rate of 30%. Clinton’s tax plan would also cap the value of itemized deductions at 28% for folks in higher brackets. This limitation would apply to other tax breaks, too, such as the write-off for IRAs and moving expenses. And it would nick some currently tax-free items, such as 401(k) payins, tax exempt interest, and the value of employer-provided medical insurance. Finally, her plan would increase estate taxes, and place higher taxes on multinational corporations.

In a speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Aug. 8, Trump modified his proposal for overhauling the tax system.He still wants individual rate cuts, but they’re not as deep as in his original plan. Many said his first plan, with four brackets topping out at 25%, was too costly. Now he sees three brackets, maxing out at 33%, the same as the House GOP plan.

He continues to offer up a 15% rate on corporations and pass-throughs, such as partnerships and LLCs, and would extend the rate to sole proprietors. He favors full expensing for new asset purchases such as buildings and equipment. And he wants to do away with the estate and gift tax.

He’s silent on capital gains for now. His prior plan called for rates from 0% to 20%, compared with a 16.5% top rate under the House GOP blueprint. Also, he gives no details about which write-offs will be on the chopping block. He’ll probably keep breaks for home mortgage interest and donations to charity. But most others would have to disappear to help offset the cost of his proposed rate cuts..

Says Roberton Williams of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center: “The Clinton plan is basically stay as you go. You’ve got a basic tax plan in place right now. She has so far proposed no major changes to that structure other than to raise taxes significantly on some high income people. That’s not a very radical change. Trump’s changes are much bigger.”

WHY IT MATTERS: Income Inequality

Peasant-Wedding-Bruegel-the-ElderMy Comments: I’ve argued frequently that if income inequality is not addressed, our children and grandchildren will be rioting in the streets of America. I’ve also argued that the recent rioting in Louisiana, and elsewhere, ostensibly because of racial issues, is as much caused by economic disparity as it is racial disparity.

At the extreme, in the Middle East, the rise of ISIS is as much an economic issue as it is a religious issue. If there are no jobs for young men and women to aspire to and become the economic foundation of a family, one is left with strapping on a suicide vest and causing chaos.

We better hope the next round of elected leaders in Washington and elsewhere pay attention to this problem.

By Josh Boak – August 18, 2016 –

WASHINGTON (AP) — THE ISSUE: The rich keep getting richer while more Americans are getting left behind financially.

Income inequality has surged near levels last seen before the Great Depression. The average income for the top 1 percent of households climbed 7.7 percent last year to $1.36 million, according to tax data tracked by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. That privileged sliver of the population saw pay climb at almost twice the rate of income growth for the other 99 percent, whose pay averaged a humble $48,768.

But why care how much the wealthy are making? What counts the most to any family is how much that family is bringing in. And that goes to the heart of the income-inequality debate: Most Americans still have yet to recover from the Great Recession, even though that downturn ended seven years ago. The average income for the 99 percent is still lower than it was back in 1998 after adjusting for inflation.

Meanwhile, incomes for the executives, bankers, hedge fund managers, entertainers and doctors who make up the top 1 percent have steadily improved. These one-percenters account for roughly 22 percent of all personal income, more than double the post-World War II era level of roughly 10 percent. One reason the income disparity is troubling for the nation is that it’s thinning out the ranks of the middle class.
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WHERE THEY STAND
Hillary Clinton has highlighted inequality in multiple speeches, with her positions evolving somewhat over the past year. Bernie Sanders held her feet to the fire on that subject in the primaries. Clinton hopes to redirect more money to the middle class and impoverished. Clinton would raise taxes on the wealthy, increase the federal minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, provide universal pre-K and offer the prospect of tuition-free college.

Donald Trump offers a blunter message about a hollowed-out middle class and a system “rigged” against average Americans. Still, he has yet to emphasize income inequality in the campaign. To bring back the factory jobs long associated with the rise of the middle class, Trump has promised new trade deals and infrastructure spending. But Trump has also proposed a tax plan that would allow the wealthiest Americans to keep more of their earnings.

WHY IT MATTERS
President Barack Obama has called rising inequality “the defining challenge of our time.” And experts warn that it may be slowing overall economic growth. Greater inequality has created a festering distrust of government and of corporate leaders whose promises of better times ahead never fully materialized.

The result has been a backlash against globalization that many Americans feel tilted the economy against them. For the top 1 percent, the ability to move money overseas and reach markets worldwide concentrated pay for “superstars,” according to economists. At the same time, factory workers now compete with 3 billion people in China, India, Eastern Europe and elsewhere who weren’t working for multinational corporations 20 years ago. Many now make products for Apple, Intel, General Motors and others at low wages. This has depressed middle-class pay. These trends have contributed to a “hollowed out” labor market in the United States, with more jobs at the higher and lower ends of the pay scale and fewer in the middle.

Social factors have amplified the trend as well. Single-parent families are more likely to be poor than other families and less likely to ascend the income ladder. Finally, men and women with college degrees and high pay are more likely to marry each other and amplify income gaps.

The Rise of Liberal Intolerance in America

babel 2My Comments: I’ve been a registered Democrat since I first registered to vote back in 1962. Back then you had to be registered as a Democrat if you wanted to participate in the primary elections. Republicans only showed up on the November ballot.

Democrats lay claim to a higher level of tolerance for those whose expressed values and opinions differ from their own. Today, there is a growing level of intolerance among those on the left. It’s no longer the exclusive territory of those on the right. With contemporary technology and vastly more ubiquitous communication channels, mass intolerance seems to be growing, and I don’t like it.

Life never moves in a straight line; there are always ups and downs. My approach is to embrace the volatility and learn to manage the risk instead of railing against what is uncontrollable and living in the past. I try to embrace the future and the challenges it brings to all of us. This was written some months ago but is worth reading again.

Edward Luce November 29, 2015

It ought to be a triumphal moment for American liberalism. In the space of a few years gay marriage has been accepted, marijuana has been legalised, America has twice elected its first black president and may well be gearing up to elect its first woman. Yet the revival of political correctness on US campuses — and the increasingly shrill tone of much of the intellectual left — tells another story. Instead of championing free speech, the left is trying to shut it down. In the name of diversity, it demands conformity. At stake is the character of US democracy. If elite Ivy League schools cannot stand the heat, what kind of kitchen will it be?

Far from outgrowing race, the PC movement is entrenching it. Princeton students this month occupied the university president’s office demanding the name Woodrow Wilson — America’s 28th president and former head of Princeton — be scrubbed from campus. That included the prestigious Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs, residential halls and a mural of him in the dining hall. Protesters also demanded “cultural competency training” for faculty members and the introduction of mandatory courses on marginalised peoples.

The case against Wilson is simple. He reintroduced segregation into the federal workforce. The case in his favour is that he is an important historic figure. He was also author of the Treaty of Versailles. Once you start eliminating names, it is a journey without end. Logic would demand the renaming of Washington, since America’s first president owned slaves. Others, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were guiltier. Should they be judged solely on that? Winston Churchill was an unabashed imperialist. Yet history judges him kindly for standing up to Nazism. What about Franklin Roosevelt? America’s 32nd president did not lift a finger to advance civil rights. He also interned 120,000 Japanese-Americans in the second world war. There is no such thing as an uncomplicated historic figure.

The point of higher education is to inculcate a spirit of inquiry and toughen up the mind for the confusing world beyond. Yet US campuses are moving in the opposite direction. Today’s mantra is to create “safe spaces”. Campus libraries put “trigger warnings” on works of fiction: students are warned off Ovid’s Metamorphoses because it depicts rape, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (anti-semitism), F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (misogyny) and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (patriarchy). The term “microaggression” — giving unconscious verbal offence to marginalised groups — has entered everyday vocabulary. I have lost count of the conversations I have had with faculty heads who admit to censoring their language for fear of giving offence. Their jobs are sometimes at stake.

The goal is to eliminate prejudice from the mind. Yet it can have the perverse effect of heightening awareness of race. There is a boom on America’s campuses — and beyond — of what one critic has dubbed the “race therapy complex”. University faculties are bulging with multicultural guidance counsellors, diversity officers and those whose task it is to provide training in racial etiquette. Their job is to detect racial insensitivity. Naturally, some find it where it does not exist. The more such positions are created, the greater the vested interests behind it. As Upton Sinclair said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

There is no doubt that racial prejudice is alive and well on the streets of America: look at the frequency of trigger-happy police responses to unarmed black suspects. But quashing free speech is no answer. Last year student protests forced a number of outside speakers — including Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund; Condoleezza Rice, former US secretary of state; and women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali — to withdraw from campus events. As head of the IMF, Ms Lagarde was a “primary culprit in failed developmental policies in the world’s poorest countries”, according to the students at Smith College. Ms Rice was a “war criminal” for supporting the Iraq invasion, said students at Rutgers. Ms Ali was guilty of Islamophobia, said students at the University of Michigan.

This year was notable for safe commencement speakers. On UK campuses it is called “no-platforming”: to deprive those with whom you disagree of a chance to speak. For the record, I think the Iraq invasion was a colossal mistake and Ms Ali plays up dangerous stereotypes of the Muslim world. But different voices should be heard and debated.

What does this mean for the future? Forget about universities. The future has already graduated. Anyone with ambition in US public life has long since learnt the value of self-censorship. A word out of context can ruin your chances of being confirmed by the US Senate. Risk-taking is penalised. Blandness is key to career advancement. Little wonder large swaths of the American public have lost faith in their leaders’ integrity. When a politician speaks, the effect is too often chloroformic. The vacuum that spontaneity once occupied is wide open for others to fill. Next time you wonder why a demagogue like Donald Trump is doing so well, ask why there is such high return to his plain spokenness. Could it be because it is being rooted out of public life?