Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Conversation Between Donald and Melania Trump?

Donald: What the hell do I do now, Melania? I'm the frickin' Republican nominee! That wasn't supposed to happen! This was supposed to be fun for a few months. I'd get to feed my ego and pretend that I actually have a shot at being president. Tons of free advertising. Would be great for business. The brand. Bring more viewers to The Apprentice. More people to my hotels. Instead, I'm the one who got fired on Apprentice, and bookings at the hotels are way down. This is a nightmare!

Melania: But Donald, wouldn't it be fun to be president?

Donald: Fun? I don't want to be president, Melania! Don't you understand? That's a horrible job. We'd have to move to Washington DC and live in that little house. And instead of having everyone kiss my ass all the time I'd have to kiss everyone else's ass...Congressmen, Senators, world leaders, the press. And they hate me there. Here I'm The Donald. The boss. When I say 'jump' they say 'how high?' In DC no one would listen to me.

Melania: But Donny, you always say 'When Trump calls and asks people to do things, they do it!'

Donald:, Melania, my saucy Slovenian sex goddess, are you dumb!? That's all just BS I say on the campaign trail. Life doesn't work that way. In NY if people don't listen to me I fire them. I can't fire anyone if I'm president. They don't have to listen to me.

Melania: So then how do you get out of this mess, my sweet sexy orange manchild?

Donald: I don't know. I've tried everything. I've called Mexicans rapists. I rant about building a stupid wall. I say I'll ban Muslims. I call women bimbos and fat ugly pigs...and say they're not "10's" like you, my hot little immigrant baby mama. I've mocked the crippled. Bashed war heroes. Cozied up to David Duke and the KKK. I've even taken on the freakin' Pope, for God's sake. I've bragged about my shlong size! And they still love me! There's nothing I can do to turn them off. They're really stupid, these people. They think I actually give a shit about them. Too dumb to even see how I've used them. I live in a gold-filled mansion in the sky, travel on private jets and helicopters, ride in limousines...yet somehow I've convinced these bozos that I'm one of them. What's wrong with these people?

Melania: What else can you do, Donny?

Donald: Maybe I should amp up the nastiness. Call gay people fags. Throw the N-word around. Maybe come up with some nasty nicknames for world leaders. Ugly Angela! Gangsta Vladimir! Fat Kim! Jewboy Bibi! Maybe that'll finally scare people bigly!

Melania: But you know I don't like it when my Donny is so mean!

Donald: Maybe I'll shoot someone! Like Cheney did! I'll take Lewandowski hunting with Eric and Don Jr. We'll make it look like an accident. They'll say I'm too dangerous to be president!

Melania: Ok, Donald, that sounds like a great plan!

Donald: No it doesn't! You really don't understand the problem, do you!? I could actually kill someone and my crazy fans will make excuses for it. They'll say the person deserved it. 

Melania: So what are you going to do, my big strong spray-tanned love savage?

Donald: I don't know. Maybe I'll name Bernie Sanders as my running mate. But ya know what? His fans are just as crazy as mine. That might just clinch the whole thing for me. What do 'The Jews' say, Oy Vey?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Congratulations Donald Trump!

Congratulations, Donald! My hat's off to you. I'm not exactly sure how you did it, but you actually ended up the Republican presidential nominee. You accomplished what I and just about every other pundit except the loathsome Ann Coulter repeatedly predicted was the impossible. Though I disagree with virtually everything that's come out of your blabbering, bullying, sexist, racist mouth, I have to give credit where credit is due. You made history. You changed politics as we know it. You did it your way, all the way. Now we just have to pray to the gods of politics that you never get elected.

I admit, you made me look foolish. I predicted you'd drop out early. I predicted Jeb Bush would win. I said Republicans would never elect such an ignorant, polarizing, rabble-rousing empty-suit like you. I believed at some point you'd say something too offensive, go one step too far, be caught in such an obvious lie, that your circus-like campaign would come crashing down like a house of cards. What I didn't expect was that 45% of Republican voters would gleefully embrace your incendiary rhetoric. Your bigotry. Your shameful defiling of the office of the President. I gave them way more credit than they clearly deserved. My bad.

You're the first person since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 to win the nomination without a day of political experience. You raised and spent almost no money. You offered no substantive policy proposals. You pissed off virtually every ethnic group. Mocked people with disabilities. Disparaged countless women, calling them "bimbos," "fat pigs" and "ugly." Engaged in name-calling like a 12-year-old. Cursed like a 1970's Times Square pimp. Called for violence at your rallies. Refused to release your tax returns.  You lied more than Pinocchio. You've essentially told the heads of your party, including RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and House Speaker Paul Ryan, to f**k off. In short, if there was a "Things Never to Do or Say If You're Running for President" instruction manual, you'd have violated every commandment. You've defied the odds like no other phenomenon in the history of phenomenons.

The conventional wisdom is that once a candidate wins the nomination he or she will move to the center to win over moderates and independents. But "conventional wisdom" are two words we've all learned not to use in the same sentence as "Trump." As such, judging by your juvenile behavior over the past couple of weeks, you clearly have no intent to lower the temperature, tone down the rhetoric and unite the party.

To be sure, now that you're in the infancy stages of a general election battle with the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, you show no signs whatsoever of slowing down. You're continuing to tear up the presidential campaign playbook and do it your way. Afraid of nothing. Of no one. As mean, nasty and belittling as ever. Maybe even more so because you're empowered like never before. Because your rapacious id has been feasting for a year now on monumental adulation and attention. Talk about enabling.

And so, incredulously and perhaps a tad arrogantly, including from this writer as well, the predictions will start up again."Trump can't win in November!" "The general electorate is much smarter than Republican primary voters!" It's gonna be Hillary in a landslide!" Except this time they'll be made not out of confidence and assuredness, but from an overpowering sense of frustration, panic and fear.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Why a National $15/Hour Minimum Wage Makes No Sense

The minimum wage earned by most Americans is shamefully low, varies by state, and is in desperate need of increasing. It currently (as of January 1, 2016) ranges from $5.15 in Georgia and Wyoming to $10.50 in Washington, DC.  Many states have already passed legislation that would raise the rate to $15/hour over the next several years. But the politicizing of this issue is both misguided and disingenuous. Calls for a national $15/hour minimum wage simply make no sense.

To be sure, in the current hotly contested presidential election year this is a very sexy issue that generates a lot of noise, in particular from Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton who are engaged in a back and forth about how much is enough. Sanders promises $15, while Clinton believes the issue is nuanced and seeks at least $12, an amount which has brought her much criticism from her opponent. Donald Trump, the Republican presumptive nominee, has added to the rhetoric as well, merely saying the rate should be "looked at" but has not yet committed to what that means in terms of actual dollars.

From a purely logical business perspective, Clinton is correct. Oversimplifying the minimum wage debate is both politically expedient and irresponsible. Consider the fact that the cost of living varies tremendously from state to state. Let's use Tulsa, OK and Smithtown, LI as examples. The average rent in Tulsa is $720 vs $2550 in Smithtown.  A gallon of gas costs $1.82 in Tulsa vs $2.33 in Smithtown. A dozen eggs in Tulsa is $2.25 vs $3.00 in Smithtown. Isn't it therefore fair and reasonable to suggest that the hourly worker on Long Island might be justified in receiving a higher wage than his or her counterpart in Tulsa? Should they truly be earning the same hourly rate despite having such disparate expenses?

Similarly, isn't it logical to assume that businesses in Tulsa have a much lower overall cost structure than businesses on Long Island? They pay less for rent, utilities, transportation, supplies and staffing, and also have a lower cost-of-goods-sold, lower prices and lower profit margins. In which case they can't afford to pay the same higher hourly rates as the businesses on Long Island that, while paying higher costs, can also charge more and have higher gross incomes to support the higher cost structure.

Which brings us back to Clinton's point that this is a highly nuanced issue that requires thorough analysis and sensible legislation, not people-pleasing talking points. Sanders' call for a universal $15/hour wage makes about as much financial sense as his call for free college tuition for all without means-testing to ensure that only the children of the truly economically disadvantaged benefit from it rather than children of privilege. Both proposals are little more than red-meat rhetoric to the "Democratic Socialist's" base.

Yes, the minimum wage must be raised. But it needs to be done in an intelligent, practical manner taking varying state-to-state economic factors into consideration.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Hypocrisy of Bernie Sanders' Income-Inequality Revolution

Bernie Sanders has run one of the most successful "outsider" campaigns in the history of American politics. The self-proclaimed socialist has done so largely as a crusader against income inequality.

Yet in 2014 Bernie and his wife Jane earned $206,000 according to their federal tax return, placing them in the top 6%. Even if you use just the Vermont Senator's $174,000 salary, he's still an 8%'er. And then there's the $200,000 golden parachute his wife Jane took upon her departure as president in 2011 from Burlington College after nearly bankrupting it over a bad real estate deal. The poor and middle classes are lucky to get two weeks' notice when they get fired.  Talk about inequality. Excuse me if I see a bit of hypocrisy in the Bank of Sanders.

Bernie's supporters argue that his high salary is what the U.S. government pays him, as if that's some sort of justifiable excuse; an excuse they surely don't accept from Hillary Clinton when defending her $200K Goldman Sachs speaking fee with, "that's what they paid me!"

As the man or woman on the street would tell ya, $174,000 is a lot of dough. More than what 92% of Americans earn. Jane's $200,000 exit payoff is nearly four times the average U.S. annual household income. How come Bernie doesn't take a big chunk of his taxpayer-paid salary, $75,000-$100,000 for example, and donate it to NARAL Pro-Choice America, Black Lives Matter or any one of the numerous charities that help single mothers and people living in poverty, such as A Safe Haven?  Wouldn't that make his Robin Hood campaign that much more credible?

How does Jane's golden parachute--a financial practice typically reserved for corporate bigwigs, the very people her socialist husband relentlessly and mercilessly rails against--square with Bernie's income inequality crusade? Could she have taken this obscene sum and donated it as well?

The Sanders' 6%'er household income and Jane's parachute is like a movie being played out with two vastly different narratives. The first act tells the story of a relatively unknown righteous underdog of virtue who fights tirelessly to level the economic playing field in what former North Carolina Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards referred to as "the two Americas."

In the second act we struggle with the inherent hypocrisy of the man's own elite financial standing and Goldman-esq payment to his wife. The audience squirms and asks, how is this possible? Why take Bernie seriously while, when it comes to his pocketbook to support his own standard of living, he seems all too comfortable cashing checks that make him wealthier than 94% of the population? A man who has no problem with his wife accepting a $200,000 Wall Street-ish golden parachute as he demonizes the very same industry for engaging in the very same practices that serve to create the very same income and wealth inequality he's made the cornerstone of his revolution? The goose and the gander come to mind here.

So the big question is, what does the third act have in store? There's no indication that Sanders will alter his personal financial landscape to match his fiery anti-corporate/wealthy rhetoric. So is Bernie a "Democratic socialist" because this contradictory label allows him to say one thing and do another? To tell the rest of us how unfair our economic system is while he nestles comfortably in its bosom?

Perhaps this is how the film will end: that after 45 years in public life as a relatively obscure progressive outsider from Vermont, Sanders simply took to his newfound celebrity and rock-star status (who wouldn't love thousands of young women chanting his name at packed arenas?) like a junkie on a crack pipe. That he's now had a taste of this unprecedented fame and political fortune he simply cannot let go of it. For his legacy's sake, hopefully he won't turn the Democratic nomination process into a chaotic mess, helping Donald Trump ultimately win the presidency, and end up a mocked and scorned footnote in history like Ralph Nader.

To be sure, it doesn't appear that, despite having no rational, mathematical path to the Democratic nomination, this 74-year-old white-haired Thomas Paine is throwing in the towel anytime soon. Instead, he's disingenuously filling his supporters' heads with more inflammatory red meat about a "rigged system," rather than a lack of votes and delegates, that's denying him his inevitable seat in the Oval Office.

So despite the enviable veneer of altruism and selflessness, is Bernie Sanders just a typical politician who lies to his constituents, feeds them empty promises, all the while living the life of the kind of wealthy, privileged American he attempts to shame at every turn? Only time will tell.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Who the Super Delegates Are and Why They Will Not Switch to Sanders

Math. Path. Wrath. This has been the process through which Bernie Sanders' supporters travel. They don't get the math, so they continue to see his path, and if you disagree and speak to the realities of the campaign, you'll reap their wrath. And what's their main fuel? The super delegates. Hillary Clinton has about 500 more of them than Sanders. But according to Sanders' ferociously loyal legion of millennials, Bernie can still win the nomination because the super delegates could dump Hillary for him at the convention. And herein lies the massive delusion.

To be sure, Sanders' supporters hate the concept of super delegates, and are in denial over their allegiance to Hillary. "They don't count" is the common refrain. But all this bluster only serves to demonstrate a lack of understanding of who the super delegates are and why the chance of them switching from Clinton to Sanders is less likely than Knicks president Phil Jackson abandoning the triangle offense.

So let's analyze for a moment just who these mysterious folks are. Super delegates consist of members of the Democratic National Committee, party leaders, Senators, Congressmen/women and state Governors. Stalwarts of the Democratic establishment. Prominent people such as Andrew Cuomo, Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Jim Clyburn, Joaquin Castro,  Dick Durbin, Kirsten Gillibrand, Terry McAuliffe, Claire McCaskill, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel. At best it's misleading for Sanders and his surrogates to repeatedly drum into supporters' heads that these super delegates can be co-opted. They can't. And won't.

One needs to understand why the super delegate process was created in the first place. It was part of a set of rules created by the Party following the 1968 nomination of Hubert Humphrey, who hadn't run in a single primary and who eventually lost in a landslide to Richard M. Nixon. It was a failsafe strategy designed to ensure the nomination of electable candidates; to prevent a candidate precisely like like Bernie Sanders--an independent, socialist outsider who's not part of the Democratic machine--from winning the nomination.  So to understand this super delegate system is to understand why there's no chance these Washington "insiders," the establishment, would not only not abandon the candidate who currently has the most votes and pledged delegates but, more so, would suddenly throw their support to someone who is not one of them.

The real rub here is that Sanders himself knows all this. Yet he continues to fan the flames of anger and resentment, amping up his rhetoric of a "rigged system" where super delegates either don't count and/or will magically propel him into the Oval Office despite there being absolutely no logical or historic basis for them to switch allegiance. It's time that he share this reality with his supporters.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders Supporters

Dear Bernie Supporters:
Enough with the "rigged system" claims. Please. The system is not rigged. Or corrupt. Or disenfranchising any of you. Last time I checked, you guys are all over the place 24/7. On TV, at rallies, in the voting booth. You've made Bernie Sanders what he is today: a major contender. But make no mistake: there's simply not enough of you. That's it. No vast left wing conspiracies. No back-room shenanigans. No covert mission by DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to keep your guy from winning. Bernie's losing for one reason and one reason alone: he hasn't convinced enough of you to vote for him. And it's because his message hasn't resonated as well as Hillary Clinton's. Period. 

Bernie is losing because America's democracy works. It's a process he signed up for (as an independent running as a Democrat), and one which has allowed him to go from being a relatively obscure Vermont socialist (yes, socialist) a year ago--60% behind in the polls--to running an unprecedented "outsider" campaign as a very close runner up. Think about that: he's gone from being a political nobody to giving the powerful Clinton machine the most nagging yet effective opposition it's ever experienced. That in mid May Sanders continues to nip at Hillary's heels is not just a testament to his grass roots appeal and tenaciousness, but to the very election process that's got him there.

Sanders' success has become not just a national phenomenon but one that's garnered him worldwide praise and respect. Sounds like "the system" has worked pretty well for him. That he now is turning on that very system for politically expedient, populist purposes speaks to character. This narrative he's reinforcing of a rigged system is irresponsible and disingenuous. He's telling you that he's not winning because of cronyism and corruption, not because he can't gain more traction with voters. He's riling you up with trumped up (pun intended) baseless charges that he and you are being robbed, rather than simply outvoted. The awesome legacy he could have is dangerously close to being destroyed by his ego and selfishness.

How about answering one simple, obvious question: If the system was/is so rigged for Hillary, how come she's having to have this close a fight right down to the wire? To be sure, the campaign has certainly been no cakewalk for her. She's had to fight way longer, way harder and way more expensively than she ever hoped and expected. If the system is rigged, it's the worst rigging in the history of rigging.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

What is "Broke Donald" Hiding?!

Donald Trump loves nicknames. Over the year-long course of his bombastic campaigning he's come up with a bunch of 'em for various opponents: Lyin' Ted, Little Marco, Crooked Hillary, Low-energy Jeb and his latest, Goofy Elizabeth and Crazy Bernie. So it's time we slap a label on Trump himself: Broke Donald.

And why Broke Donald? Because his refusal to release his tax returns raises major suspicion that he's either insolvent and/or involved in business transactions or investments that portray him in a negative light. Is there another explanation for why he refuses to hand them over until at least after the election, if at all? He claims he "can't" release them because he's in the middle of an audit. But as I wrote back in March, even the IRS states that the decision to release his tax returns is Trump's and only Trump's.

Every presidential nominee for the past forty years has released tax returns before the election. So Trump's refusal raises the billion-dollar question, what's he hiding? Is he broke? Will the returns show low income? Low tax rate? Massive debt? Business losses? Do the returns show an embarrassingly low amount of charitable contributions? And to whom he's contributed to, or not? For example, has he not supported veterans as he's claimed? Do the returns show questionable deductions and/or offshore investments and shelters? Something even worse? As the GOP's 2012 nominee Mitt Romney suggested Tuesday, is there a "bombshell" in there?

Contrary to Trump's claim that "tax returns show very, very little," these official documents actually show quite a lot, and provide an official window into an individual's true financial standing. So maybe Trump's insistence that they remain private is because they're the house of cards that could bring down the house of Trump.

And there's the problem. For an individual who's anchored his entire narrative to his "huge" wealth, perhaps those tax returns would be a devastating blow to the Trump mystique and brand. Imagine what life would be like for Trump if it appeared that he wasn't worth the $10-billion he's claimed? If he couldn't brag about his success and those billions. Shielding his tax returns from the public certainly allows him to continue his relentless trumped-up self-aggrandizing.

Let's be clear: it's not been the American people who've entered Trump's personal wealth into the campaign as the candidate's primary political asset. It's been Trump himself who's consistently claimed for a year now that his personal fortune and business success are his core presidential calling cards. Which is why verifying those claims should be an essential part of the vetting process.   

Hillary Clinton should embrace "Broke Donald" and run with it. She should define the presumptive Republican nominee as a financial fraud. She should attack him where it'd hurt the most. The one button that when pushed would rattle Trump like no other. His wealth is how he defines himself. Attack the money and you attack the man. And it's what she should do non-stop until November. It'd keep her on offense and him on defense.

Imagine the following ad: "Broke Donald. Refuses to release his tax returns. What's he hiding? Is his "huge" wealth just a myth? Is Donald Trump a financial fraud? I'm Hillary Clinton...and I approved this ad..."