Opinion. Views presented here are individual member views and do not represent the collective view or opinion of the Intellectual Conversation Group (ICG). ICG is a group of South Florida’s finest intellectual thinkers discussing topics with broad interest appeal as well as a think tank.
Submitted, Thursday, March 10, 2016
Bill was a great president but he had twin winds at his back, a collapsed Soviet Union leaving the only Superpower, now called a Hyperpower,without opposition; and a technological revolution that created a boom in the markets and the US economy not seen since the end of WW2. His major mistake was in absorbing Eastern European countries into NATO when no threat existed and threatening Russian’s survival when even our Defense Department described Russia as a friend to the US. (imagine if a victorious, USSR had absorbed Mexico and Canada into the Warsaw Pact) I believe this action coupled with limited efforts to bring Russia fully into the community of nations brought about the rise of Putin.
Bush wasn’t a bad man, just incompetent, and feckless, what I describe as a hapless, frat boy. He was just so ordinary. But “President” Cheney was not ordinary. He and his neocons proved the axiom that absolute power does corrupt absolutely. His regime brought on two wars, one, Iraq, completely unnecessary, which gave us the Middle East of today and was the first time in history the US had ever embarked on a preemptive war.
Bush also gave us a 5 trillion dollar increase in the deficit, the largest in history in dollar amounts, and that during a time of relative prosperity, financed at least partly by China. A believer in the now discredited Supply Side economic theory (what I call “build it and they will come”), he dropped tax collections to about 17% of GDP, bellow the generally accepted norm of 20% to 22% of GDP. Virtually the entire increase in corporate profits during that period went into the pockets of the top 1% (or really the top .01%).
A real estate bubble developed during that period which, to be fair, both parties were responsible.
While Paulson, under Bush, justifiably bailed out the banks and AIG (where every loan was repaid in full with interest) Obama inherited a collapsing economy, losing 700.000 jobs a month, and an impending depression that would make the first one look like a walk in the park.
It can be argued that it was Pelosi and Reid, not Obama, that saved the American economy and gave us the lowest unemployment rate and highest GDP growth in the developed world today but he was where the “buck stopped” as Truman said. Therefor, much of the credit for what was accomplished in those first two years, before they lost a veto proof majority to an obstructionist Congress, must reside with Obama. He passed more economic legislation in those first two years than any president since FDR. His crowning achievement was the bailout of GM which, if not done, would have eliminated an estimated 4.1 million primary, secondary and tertiary jobs. As fragile as the US economy was at that point it would almost certainly have brought down the US and therefor the world economy.
After that, the Republicans, essentially, shut down Congress.
I hope that this isn’t too much prep but I felt it was needed to prepare for what follows.
In the post Industrial information age, manufacturing is essentially dead or dying in developed countries and it should be. Of course there are many exceptions but they are shrinking. An economic model called the Smiley Curve explains that the highest reward and returns for both entrepreneur and worker exists at the top ends of the “Smile” At one peak the the inventor and then the engineering, at the other, distribution, sales, marketing and service. The drudgery and lowest pay belong at the bottom of the Smile, to manufacturing, and should be sent to newly developing economies whom it benefits the most.
At the turn of the Millenium, Germany, the “Sick Man of Europe”, for 20 years with chronic 10%+ unemployment, decided to follow this model. Working hand in hand with labor (for a change) they formed work councils, sent low paying manufacturing jobs to the developing world, concentrated on the top ends of the Curve and created an economy with unemployment rate of about 5% that is dominating the rest of the EU. An example for America
The presidential candidates today find a strong economy with the soundest economic fundamentals on the planet… and a bankrupt political system, corrupted by money and ineffectual to the extreme.
On to those candidates; a demagogue is described in the dictionary as one who “appeals to one’s fears and prejudices” not ones intellect. It surely has a picture of Trump next to it. A pure demagogue he pushes the button on issues that most of us are concerned with but has no rational solutions for them. A man, with reasonable intelligence, but intellectually incurious about the world around him for his entire life, he has virtually no knowledge of that world and has consistently shown it by his dissembling and obfuscation during debates and interviews. And that’s just the intellectual side of him.
President Reagan was probably the least intelligent, least educated, least knowledgeable and yet most successful president in the last half of the 20th century. What’s most important is a man’s character, his psychological profile if you will. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say Trump is a misanthropic, misogynistic, xenophobic, jingoistic, nativistic, nihilistic, narcissistic, anachronistic, prevaricating racist. I think we all have seen examples of Trump behavior that can support any of these terms. He’s a true horror of a man. What the Republican columnist David Brooks calls “the dark Id of the American mind”. But go to Romney’s description of him. It’s comprehensive and entirely accurate.
Some have said that Trump is a forceful, successful businessman. But he doesn’t have the quiet confidence of a Bloomberg or a Buffett or a Gates he has the temperament of an insecure, school yard bully. Would you really want his finger on the nuclear button the first time a foreign leader insults him? As for his business acumen, I point to his may bankruptcies and outright fraud from companies that sold meat or took money for phony educations. And in his brilliance he started a mortgage company in 2006!! In any event don’t confuse business experience with economic expertise needed to understand the world economy.They’re totally different As an example, Trump proposed a 45% tariff on imports from China. Every economist has condemned it, from the Right or Left. It’s basically a repeat of the 1930 Smoot/Hawley Act that accelerated world into a deeper depression. It’s Keyensian 101, any first year economics student knows that. Trump doesn’t. Having no knowledge he has no ideology. His appeal, therefor, is not ideological, it’s psychological.
His appeal, mostly, but not always, is to those who, like himself, have little understanding of the issues and like all good demagogues he has created stalking horses, bogeyman, to attract and distract his followers. Hitler used the communists and the Jews. Trump uses aliens and those on welfare. He is a man unguided therefor unhindered by principle.
Cruz is completely different. Highly intelligent and highly educated, he has extensive knowledge and an extensive, conservative, ideology. His ideology wants to take us back to the time of our founding fathers. It does sound attractive. The problem is only 1% of Americans could vote them, 40.000 out of 4 million. All property holders. The rest, women, children, blacks, were either slaves or, essentially, indentured servants (yes, the women too).
I wonder if it’s a coincidence that the number was 1% then and 1% now. I think not.
Rubio: glib but little substance; Kasich: a competent and knowledgeable man with social views that would take us back to the 50’s.
On a brighter note. Bernie is a good man, knowledgeable, honest, a truly enlightened man but who’s economic views are too narrow. He doesn’t see the entrepreneur in the equation. But perhaps he’s necessary to balance the distribution of the fruits of our successful economy, to give back what has been taken away from the middle class. I consider the growing feudal economy one of the two greatest dangers facing the US. The other is the environment.
On to the most viable candidate, Hillary. Brilliant, highly educated and knowledgeable about the issues of the day, both foreign and domestic, she lived and worked beside Bill, and no shrinking violet, she had involved herself in everything he did. Whether Bill lives or dies his knowledge will live on in her.
Her efforts at health care for all and gay rights brought disapproval from the public and a Republican Congress in 1994. Sadly, she was ahead of her time.
Let’s examine the aura of mistrust manufactured by the Republicans that poisons her campaign today, even among many Democrats. I doubt that she had any idea of the importance of her server and email during a time of technological transition. People of her (and my) generation didn’t understand or focus on it and would have delegated it to an assistant. But it is still a threat to her and time will tell how much.
As for Benghazi, her efforts to control the spin were so minor that it shouldn’t even be considered. Perhaps Bush, spending trillions of dollars and sending 5.000 men to their deaths in Iraq with 10’s of thousands injured, on manufactured evidence, might be a bit more of a crime.
Her term as Sec of State did show little success. Her greatest achievement was in determining what the Iranians needed to give up their nuclear program and rejoin the economic community. They realized that the sanctions imposed, because of their nuclear program, was destroying their economy and, in any event, was no longer needed since there was no longer a threat of an American invasion. What they needed was to save face, all important in the Middle East. She, and subsequently Kerry, made sure they did. Ending the very real threat of a nuclear conflict is no mean feat. And she participated in that.
As for domestic policy, her entire history, before New York, has been about helping the middle class and the disadvantaged. Yes, being a Senator from NY required her to cater to bankers and Wall Street, it goes with job.
Presidents are concerned with one thing, their historical legacy. Everything else is secondary. Hillary will work for the middle class and, with a little help from the other side of the aisle (questionable), she will be successful.
George Robbat has been a long time member of Intellectual Conversation Group as well as table discussion host and facilitator of current events discussion. Currently retired as a business manager of several companies including Orlando Nightclub Enterprises, Roxy Management Corp and other business concerns relating to night club industry.