Category: Trump

Time to Move On From Coal

Few things in life are more distressing than losing a job or profession. But nothing is more wasteful than throwing good money after bad, or raising hopes that will never be fulfilled. So it is with coal in the VA9th.

Pictures are worth a thousand words. What the Virgina Coal Extraction image atop the page tells us is that:

  • Despite what Morgan Griffith has inaccurately labeled Obama’s war on coal, coal production in Virginia peaked in 1988 and started its precipitous decline under George H. W. Bush.
  • Coal production and the associated jobs aren’t coming back, despite claims by Griffith and Trump.
  • The best assistance we can provide to former minors is to find alternative opportunities, not make empty promises.

As confirmation, in a recent study, Indiana University researchers found that “Current federal efforts to revive the coal industry will likely do more harm than good to fragile Appalachian communities transitioning from coal as a major source of employment.”  The study’s key conclusions were:

  • Rolling back environmental regulations will not lead to a significant resurgence of the coal industry because those regulations played only a minor role relative to slowing demand for electricity and a surge in cheaper, cleaner sources of energy.
  • Promising coal communities a return of their jobs has the potential to fill them with false hope, which can threaten the very progress that has been made in launching job training programs and other transition steps.
  • Government programs should focus on helping communities find and harness new economic and human development opportunities with a focus on health and education, professional growth, and public services.

It’s natural to feel empathy towards those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own. But the correct focus is on finding new jobs, not promising the return of jobs that will never come back.

Data Sources:

The chart atop the page is from David Roper, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech.

You can find data sources for the image here.


Trump Family Values (The Grift is in)

Congress is working on tax cuts, the benefits of which will largely go to the very wealthy. Some small benefits may accrue to parts of the middle class, but these will be temporary, They will sunset in no more than ten years. Other middle-class folks may find that their taxes will increase.

In eighteenth-century England at the time of the Revolution, the upper class thought it was their due that the wealth of the nation should flow primarily to them. We now have a President and a wealthy Republican donor class that seems to hold similar values. Given the massive gift Congress is about to bestow on the Trump family and other billionaires, it is an opportune time to explore how the Trumps gained their wealth.

According to Trump family biographer Gwenda Blair, Friedrich Trump, the President’s grandfather, immigrated to the US in 1886 to avoid conscription into the Germany army. He bounced around New York a few years and then headed to the gold fields of Washington State and later the Klondike. In both places, he operated restaurants, hotels, and bordellos. He sold his establishment in the Klondike just before the Mounties rode in to close the place down. Now wealthy, he returned to Bavaria for a period and married. He lost his Bavarian citizenship for evading the draft and for not paying taxes. He was then forced to return to America. Settling in Queens, he began dabbling in real estate.

Fred Trump, Friedrich’s son, and the President’s father, became a builder and real estate developer as a young man. He was successful and attained great wealth during and immediately after the Second World War. During the war he built barracks and apartments for Navy personnel and after the war federally subsidized housing for returning veterans. In the early fifties he was investigated for war profiteering. He was accused of pocketing payments earmarked for architectural and contracting services and also pocketing the excess funds from overestimating construction costs. He slickly evaded culpability by saying that keeping these funds was not strictly illegal and it was necessary to get the work done fast.

Donald Trump’s ethically challenged business practices are too numerous to fully list here, but they include lying to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to get his gaming licenses, being fined for money laundering at his casinos, bilking investors out of their life savings for condos that were never built, and promoting dubious schemes like Trump University. He has a decade’s long history of not paying subcontractors and suppliers, some of whom were forced into bankruptcy. Unable to get loans from most American banks after several bankruptcies, he turned to Putin-connected oligarchs for financing.

On October 4, 2017, the New Yorker published the results of its probe (done with Pro Publica and WNYC) into a criminal investigation of two Trump children. From 2010 to 2012 the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the Manhattan DA’s office built a criminal fraud case against Ivanka and Donald Jr. There was evidence that the two had conspired to use false information to lure prospective buyers into purchasing condos in the Trump Soho South project. An indictment seemed likely when the case was inexplicably dropped after Marc Kasowitz, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, visited the DA, Cyrus Vance, Jr., and made a substantial contribution to Vance’s reelection campaign.

Grifting seems to be an inherited talent in the Trump clan, and now, the biggest scam of all is being foisted on the American people. This is the proposition that there is anything good for most Americans in the proposed Republican tax cut. Independent analyses concur that huge benefits will flow to the one-percent and that the federal deficit will explode.

This is all supposed to work out because corporations and the rich will use their windfall to reinvest in the economy and spur growth. It does not, however, take a degree in economics to know that this is blather. After the Reagan tax cuts, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing enterprises moved offshore, and the Bush tax cuts led to financial speculation and the Crash of 2008. Indeed, if the Reagan and Bush tax cuts had worked, there would be no need for Trump tax cuts. That is obvious common sense. So, why are the Republicans doing this? To paraphrase Senator Lindsey Graham, they need to deliver for their wealthy donors, and as for the Trump family, millions will flow into their pockets. The grift is in.

(Editor’s note: Image is from here, another great article on how Trump is destroying the presidency.)

David Stockman on Fox News – Why Trump’s Tax Plan Won’t Work

Stockman was budget director for Reagan, and he brilliantly details why Trump’s tax plan won’t create jobs or stimulate the economy, holding off five Fox News “experts.” If you have only ten minutes to learn about the Tax Plan, watch this video.

Global Warming is Real (and the Earth is Round)

In the 1970’s, Gordon Moore accurately predicted the speed of computers would double every two years.  As a retired research scientist, I believe his principle can be applied to many areas of science and technology. Just look at how fast technology advances. Our cars and cell phones now talk to us and I’ve noticed it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, the technology works the same.

Just behold the developments in medical science and the many diseases that are now being cured. Once again I’ve noticed both Republicans and Democrats embrace these cures and offer thanks to God for the wonderful scientists who discover them.

In fact, I marvel at the ability of the brilliant scientists who were able to determine the time, to the exact microsecond, of the solar eclipse on August 21. Republicans and Democrats alike believed the scientists and spent gobs of money on special glasses and lenses to observe this rare phenomenon. Because of the expertise of modern day science, the Republican President knew exactly when to look skyward and witness the eclipse.

Yet when these same brilliant scientists conclude that human activities cause global warming, so many Republicans, including the sky-gazing President, decide they don’t believe so much in science after all. No, they seem only to believe in science when it’s convenient, like the treatment of an illness or viewing of a once-in-a-lifetime eclipse.

Kim Baughman
Elk Creek

Photo courtesy: Greg McCown

Trump: Lessons from Atlantic City

By Nancy Liebrecht

From 1984 to 1990, I worked at two architecture firms in the Philadelphia area. Both companies worked in Atlantic City, and one designed a portion of Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal. Atlantic City was booming then; casino and condo development was flourishing. The good times continued for another fifteen years after I left, but the bottom began to fall out around 2005 when gaming was legalized in nearby states. Despite the competition, some Atlantic City casinos have continued to operate and even increase revenues. Harrah’s and the Tropicana (above) are two that predated Trump’s Atlantic City ventures, and both seem to be still going strong. Donald Trump has claimed that he got out of Atlantic City at just the right time, but clearly, with good management, his casinos need not have failed.

There were signs of trouble with Trump’s projects as early as 1987. Construction cost overruns and accumulating debt left the Casino Control Commission wondering whether he would be able to open. He managed to convince the Commission that he could get financing because he was the Donald Trump, but he lied about the source of the money. Still, he got his financing and his gaming licenses because nobody wanted to believe that Donald Trump would so mismanage his casinos that they would go belly-up long before there was any competition from neighboring states. Trump’s first bankruptcy occurred in 1991 (see How Trump’s Atlantic City Gamble Went Bust in Mother Jones).

Despite reorganization, Trump’s casinos never made a profit even during the boom times. When he says that he personally did well, that is true. He siphoned a lot of money out the businesses for himself while transferring his personal debts to his company. While he was getting paid for putting his name on cocktail napkins, there was not enough money to keep the casinos afloat, but despite gross mismanagement, Trump was able to convince investors to give him even more money. This is Donald Trump’s genius. He is a first-class flim-flam man.

It is human nature that we sometimes keep investing in failing enterprises because we cannot believe that we initially made a mistake. We believe that if we just wait a little longer and put in a bit more money, everything will turn around, but it does not. A lot of people in Atlantic City regret giving Donald Trump one more chance.

There is accumulating evidence that Donald Trump is running the country the way he ran his casinos. The Trump family is profiting from the presidency, but the business of the country is chaotic. Republicans are struggling to pass a healthcare bill that will deprive millions of coverage. Our allies do not trust us. The EU and Japan just signed a major trade deal that pointedly excluded the US. The administration has no clue how to create jobs in a modern economy. Plus, there is a new scandal every other day in the White House. Time to wake up and smell the coffee. This time Donald Trump could tank the whole country instead of casinos in Atlantic City.

Liebrecht is a retired landscape architect and environmental scientist. She lives in Fries. This article was also published in the Wytheville Enterprise.

An Illegitimate Presidency

By Nancy Liebrecht

In his January 20 newsletter, Congressman Morgan Griffith celebrates the peaceful transfer of power and criticizes the nearly seventy congressmen who boycotted Mr. Trump’s inaugurations. He writes that “laws govern, not men” and because the Constitution set forth the procedures for choosing the president, Mr. Griffith states that these congressmen should have respected the office of president and the laws that permitted his election. He goes on to state that this particular boycott was “unprecedented,” and he castigates those members of Congress who called Mr. Trump an “illegitimate” president.

As a lawyer and student of history, Mr. Griffith should know better. It used to be that every high school student read Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 essay “On Civil Disobedience.” One of the key tenets of that essay was the right, indeed the obligation, of citizens to protest unjust laws and actions of government. Thoreau stated that conscience requires citizens to not wait passively to vote against injustice, but to promptly resist. To delay is to become complicit with evil.

There is a long and proud history in this country of civil disobedience. Abolitionists, the Suffragettes, striking coal miners in Appalachia, and civil rights activists in the 1960’s were all part of resistance movements that ultimately made the country a better place for all of us. Our new president has excoriated Congressman John Lewis for boycotting his inauguration and challenging the legitimacy of his election. John Lewis, however, has a long and distinguished history of resisting injustice. While Donald Trump was playing squash at his Ivy League university and developing the bone spurs that got him out of the draft, John Lewis was risking his life to bring an end to segregation in the South. John Lewis and the other boycotting congressmen have sound reasons for questioning the legitimacy of Mr. Trump’s election.

For over a hundred years, from 1888 to 2000, the winner of the popular vote in presidential elections became President. For most of my life, the Electoral College seemed a quaint artifact from the eighteenth century that just ratified the popular vote. That view changed in 2000 when George W. Bush squeaked into the presidency by winning the Electoral College but losing the popular vote in a tight election. The 2000 election might have been considered an aberration except that sixteen years later we have another minority president, but one who lost the popular vote by a substantial margin, nearly three million votes.

Coupled with this we have just endured six years of legislative gridlock wherein a Republican House of Representatives has blocked initiatives proposed by a popularly elected President. This situation becomes even more exasperating when considering that in 2012 Democrats running for Congress collected over a million more votes than Republicans or 50.59 percent of the popular vote, but they won only 46.21 percent of the seats in Congress.

After much analysis, all sorts of reasons have been attributed to the Democrats repeated losses despite winning more votes overall than Republicans. Probably the chief reason for Republican dominance is gerrymandering, but voter suppression laws and low voter turnouts also play a role. No matter the mix of reasons for this situation, the primary lesson is that our democracy is in real trouble when the will of the people is subverted. If the rules of the game ensure that we repeatedly elect presidents and congressmen who do not represent the majority of the electorate, then we no longer have a functioning democracy. Our institutions are deeply flawed. For people of conscience, protest is now an obligation.

Republicans control the government, but even though they are in power, they should be as concerned as Democrats about our corrupted institutions; that is if they care truly care more about the country than party loyalty and retaining power. When Morgan Griffith celebrates the transfer of power in this election, he is celebrating a caricature of democracy. He is celebrating its empty form, not its values, not its substance.

Republican, Democrat, Independent, liberal or conservative, we have a lot of work to do together if we want to restore our democracy. The first step is to get out of our echo chambers where our beliefs are reflected back to us. We must read with an open mind what the other side has to say and connect with the opposition. Find common ground, and recognize that nobody owns the truth.

Liebrecht is a retired landscape architect and environmental scientist. She lives in Fries. This article was originally published in the Roanoke Times.