Drugs, Jobs, and “Houston We Have A Problem”

There was a short statement from the St. Louis Federal Reserve report last July that grabbed attention for a few days:

“Anecdotal evidence suggests employment is little changed since the previous report. Many contacts reported a desire to hire, but they have been unable to find suitable employees. Manufacturing contacts in Louisville and Memphis reported difficulties finding experienced or qualified employees, with some citing candidates’ inability to pass drug tests or to consistently report to work.”

St. Louis wasn’t the only region experiencing these problems — job applicants who couldn’t pass a drug test.   The New York Times added more details and anecdotal evidence illustrating the issues in July 2017.   However, there were several publications which tried to sound an alarm well before the Fed Report was made public.  Business News Daily was slightly ahead of the report, with an article in mid May, 2017.  Also in mid-May the Washington Post reported high levels of drug screen tests failed.  A bit earlier, in March, CNN reported that some employers resorted to hiring refugees because of the number of home grown applicants who couldn’t pass drug tests.  The Pittsburgh Tribune Review added more to the story in April, 2017.   The reports were generally the same: The employer wanted to hire; applicants showed up; Drug tests were administered; and a significant percentage of the applicants failed.  The Louisville Courier Journal and the Columbus Dispatch published their versions of the oft repeated tales in August 2017.

And then, as the temperature increased on other issues, North Korea, the Russian Investigations, Immigration, Charlottesville… the opioid and other drug related issues faded back into the shadows.   So, why bring this up again now?

Because Houston, and a huge portion of east Texas is going to need rebuilding and this will have to be done by the construction trades — and what is becoming ever more prevalent in that sector of the economy? Drug testing. [proest]

Compounding the problem of finding qualified workers who can pass a drug test may be finding qualified workers in construction trades at all.  The after effects of Wall Street’s Casino Bust of 2007-08 linger on in places like Chicago:

” …lingering hangovers from the recession mean there aren’t enough new workers to fill all the construction jobs, some contractors say.  When work was scarce, some workers retired early and others switched careers, compounding concerns about an aging construction workforce. The median age of construction workers climbed to 40.4 in 2010 from 37.9 in 2000, according to The Center for Construction Research and Training.  In addition, unions put apprenticeship programs on hold. They have come back online as projects have picked up, but the programs are several years long so there is a lag in turning out the needed skilled labor, Redpath said.”

Subcontractors who learned to do more with fewer hands during the Recession may still be reluctant to hire additional employees.  While Chicago, and presumably other major areas around the country, aren’t experiencing major labor shortages for current projects, and the apprenticeship programs are back on track, the rebuilding of east Texas will have an impact on the drawing of skilled labor to that region.  Since “travelers” don’t always have the best reputation for work product, many current projects have locked in specialists (electricians, plumbers, etc.) to meet their schedules with generous contracts and subcontracts.  East Texans will have to compete with these elements during the rebuilding process.  Beginning with the fact that there are already blue collar shortages:

“The problem is expected to worsen in the coming years as demand rises. BLS projects a 13% growth in the construction sector between 2014 and 2024 – far above the average 7% growth rate – resulting in 180,100 new jobs.  If one assumes a conservative 20% replacement rate for retiring baby boomers, the total new demand in the decade ahead is 457,380 added professionals in the construction trades.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, the weak growth rate of labor productivity and the retirement of baby boomers are expected to further exacerbate the issue. A recent study by Conference Board analyzing 457 occupations ranked construction workers ninth in its labor shortages index, and found that the occupation faces a higher risk of labor shortage than 91.4% of all others examined. Skilled trades, such as electricians and welders, are at an especially high risk of experiencing a scarcity of labor.”[cecu]

Perhaps we need to step back a bit and instead of demeaning immigrant workers and visualizing the opioid addiction problem as one associated with “lesser beings,” we need to promote the idea that young workers — home grown and immigrant — will find productive and well paid employment in the construction trades.  It would also be helpful if we invested in drug treatment and rehabilitation programs as a portion of our economic development vision for this country — instead of perceiving it as a ‘crime problem’ or seeing it as a ‘public health crisis.’  The compartmentalization of labor issues, public health issues, and crisis management issues merely serves to obscure the relationships between these three elements.

Take one major regional weather disaster, add a slowdown in the apprenticeship programs in the immediate aftermath of the Recession, add a general shortage of skilled blue collar workers to replace retirees, add the locked in contracts for other major projects, and then subtract the number of individuals who might otherwise qualify for construction employment but will be eliminated from hiring by positive drug tests and “Houston, we have a problem.”


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Filed under Economy, Politics

Patterns and the Perils of Straight Line Thinking: Tax Reform and Corporate Profits

M’Thinks I see a pattern from the Oval Office — this time on the subject of ‘tax reform.’  First, make vague campaign promises such as “health care for everyone,” or now “tax reform for working people.”  Step Two:  Announce equally vague guidelines for the associated legislative program and proceed to dump the issue on the Congress to figure out.  Follow up with Step Three:  Make speeches which range from obstructive to downright unhelpful.  Finally, blame the Congress when the whole steaming mess falls apart.

We witnessed this during the health insurance debate, and we’re getting yet another wave with the tax reform issue.  There is a Trump Tax Plan, (pdf) with “guidance” but little specificity.  It reduces brackets from 7 to 4, it reduces the corporate income tax, and it eliminates the estate tax, aka The Paris Hilton Legacy Protection Act.  However, recent statements would lead a person to believe that the details will be left to Congress, or at least the Republican Congressional leadership.

The reform is predicated on the proposition that corporations need a tax cut to encourage the expansion of capacity to deliver goods and services (and thus hiring more workers.)  There’s a problem with this assumption.  Corporate profits are doing just fine.

During the first quarter of 2017 there were some rosy predictions:

“Higher profits are a good sign for the economy, suggesting that businesses can do more hiring and spend. Many companies are hopeful in early 2017 that a pro-business Trump White House will ease regulatory burdens and take other steps to provide relief, giving them further impetus to expand.

“The post-election surge in business sentiment is broadly expected to support stronger investment – a key support to stronger growth that has been largely elusive thus far in the current expansion,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors.

For all of 2016 the U.S. grew 1.6%, down from a 2.6% in 2015. The last time the U.S. topped 3% growth—the historical average is 3.3%—was in 2015.”

And the forecasts still look positive for corporate profits:

“Corporate Profits in the United States is expected to be 1570.63 USD Billion by the end of this quarter, according to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts expectations. Looking forward, we estimate Corporate Profits in the United States to stand at 1584.26 in 12 months time. In the long-term, the United States Corporate Profits is projected to trend around 1580.69 USD Billion in 2020, according to our econometric models.”

It’s difficult to argue that a corporate tax cut will help spur expansion of employment when corporate profits are high at present, and still there is no increase in hiring more workers.  Return with us now to the only rational explanation for hiring anyone to do anything:  The ONLY reason to hire someone is that the firm cannot meet the DEMAND for goods and services at current staffing levels with an acceptable level of customer/client satisfaction.  Heard this before? Yes, I’ve been pounding on this point for years.

Giving a corporation a tax cut will increase profitability, but increased profitability doesn’t necessarily cause increased expansion — because without an increase in  demand for the goods and services there will be no increase in hiring.

Those who would draw a straight line from decreasing corporate taxes to the hiring of more workers ignore the fact that there are other options corporate HQ can pursue:

(1) Park the money putting it into their own portfolio of long and short term investments.  The return on these investments, obviously, becomes part of the corporation’s revenue stream.  If cash, for example, could be earning more in a short term investment than in a regular deposit, then the corporate profits become a way to increase another segment of the corporate profits.

(2) Pay increased dividends to shareholders.  A note of caution here, looking at dividend yields isn’t all that useful for individual investors [Seeking Alpha] and the use of an index like the S&P is problematic because the corporations included change over time.

(3) Engage in stock buy-backs.

“The unmistakable conclusion from the last few years of stock buyback data is that buybacks are having an impact on reducing shares outstanding. Impressively, since the calendar-year bottom in 2009, buybacks have tripled from $205 billion to $627 billion, and net buybacks have increased by more than $540 billion. Since February 2007, total gross buybacks have grown from $521 billion to $627 billion, and net buybacks have grown from $350 billion to $448 billion.”  [Seeking Alpha]

(4) Pay down existing debts.

(5) Engage in mergers and acquisitions.

” Executives are looking at more targets and deals will tend to be smaller as they target startups and fast-growth technology innovators. According to a survey by EY Global Capital Confidence Barometer, 57% of executives expect to actively pursue acquisitions in 2017 and 49% of companies have more than five deals in their pipeline. What’s more, 76% see the global economy as either stable or improving and 82% see corporate earnings as either stable or improving. Still, modest global growth will drive mergers and acquisitions as companies seek to boost results, according to JP Morgan’s 2017 M&A Global Outlook report. Low cost of funds and high stock valuations will also be positive for deal activity, the report says.”

Therefore,  the 6th option — plant and production expansion — must compete with the other 5 options listed above.  There is no straight line from increased corporate profitability to option 6.

The audience for the next round of speeches from the anti-tax quadrants would be well advised not to fall into the trap of thinking that expansion of production or services is the only obvious result of corporate tax reductions.  There are at least 5 other options available to corporate leaders and NO guarantee they will increase capacity or production unless there is sufficient DEMAND to justify it.

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Filed under Economy, Politics, Taxation

Godspeed East Texas

There are numerous topics worthy of comment, but right now there are multiple agencies and volunteers trying to keep up with the emergencies in east Texas.  They deserve our attention and best wishes for their safety and the safety of those they are seeking to rescue.

And now it’s time for a reminder:  The National Flood Insurance Program must be reauthorized before the deadline — September 30, 2017.

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The Arpaio Audience

The President of the USA uses his first pardon, extremely early in his term of office, to give a pardon to an 85 year old rampant racist convicted of a misdemeanor.  Of course this doesn’t make sense.  It isn’t meant to.  Certainly, it gives a boost to the 9% of the American population who believe that White Supremacy is just fine, but it also gives a warm blanket to the fearful.  The pardon is a bull horn signal that:

** If a person bought into the racist BS about President Obama’s place of birth, you have a friend in the current White House.

** If a person thought sending e-mails about “watermelons on the White House lawn” or “African” photoshopped graphics was amusing, then you have a friend in the current White House.

** If a person is uncomfortable using the N-word or other racial epithets in the company of others at work or when socializing, then you have a friend in the White House who decries “political correctness,” which in the old days simply meant being polite.

** If a person is made so uncomfortable by young Hispanic or African American men that crossing the street, clutching the baggage, or altering course seems advisable, then there’s that friend in the White House.

** If a person hears the Hispanic sounding name of a person arrested for a burglary reported on TV and automatically assumes the person is an immigrant — yes, there’s a friend in the White House for that too.

** If a person assumes that a white shooter in a bloody incident is a disturbed loner, while if the shooter is a Muslim it must be a terrorist,  then there’s buddy in the Oval Office.

** If a person believes that even criticizing law enforcement officers for questionable behavior which exacerbates racial tension is “anti-cop,” then there’s a man in the White House who agrees.  And, if a person believes that members of Black Lives Matter don’t think anyone else’s life is of value as well, then the same friends occupies the Residence too.

Sadly, the Arpaio Audience isn’t limited to the worst of the worst anti-Semites and White Supremacists, it is also composed of the part time bigots who think members of other ethnic groups and minority communities are OK just as long as they don’t send their kids to school, move in next door, use the same parks, go to the same libraries, compete for the same jobs, or participate in the same elections.   They’ve had 40 years of right wing AM radio to tell them they are “victims.”

They “feel oppressed” because they’re uncomfortable in public — their vocabulary isn’t acceptable, their jokes aren’t funny.  They are “oppressed” because they can’t impose their religious beliefs upon others — interesting because not so long ago some of these same people accused Catholics of trying to “hang their religion around their necks.”  They are “oppressed” because other groups have moved into their line of sight — they have to look at all those African American actors or anchors, Hispanic members of Congress, Asian entrepreneurs, on their television sets.

Well,  as the infamous T-shirt said, “F**K your feelings.”

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Filed under Politics, racism

Hellerisms on Parade: Health Care Edition

And then there was this:

“The individual mandate I thought was atrocious, was wrong and shouldn’t have been in Obamacare at all,” he said. “I don’t think your government should tell you to buy something that you can’t afford. And if you can’t afford it you pay a fine. Yet 90,000 Nevadans pay the fine.” — Senator Dean Heller

Let’s start with the assumption that Senator Dean Heller is a capitalist, a firm believer in the free market system.  He’s certainly reinforced this impression given any occasion to do so.  So, why was there an “individual mandate” in the Affordable Care Act?  — The answer is capitalism.

The more precise answer is the “adverse selection” problem in free markets.  The most concise explication I’ve found for this comes from the Economist’s View:

“To explain how the adverse selection problem arises in these markets, note that people purchasing health insurance generally have better information about their health status than the people selling the insurance. If insurance is offered in this market at somewhere near the average cost of care for the group, people will use the superior information they have about their own health status to determine if this is a good deal for them. All of the people expecting to pay less for health care than the price the companies are asking for the insurance will drop out of the market (the young and healthy for the most part; all that is actually needed is that some people are willing to take a chance and go without insurance). With the relatively healthy people dropping out of the insurance pool, the price of insurance must go up, and when it does, more people drop out, the price goes up again, and the result is just like in the used car example above: The market breaks down and nobody (or hardly anybody) can purchase insurance.”

Now, if a person is reasonably conversant with capitalism and the patterns intrinsic to the operation of free markets, then the problem of  ‘adverse selection’ should be part of that person’s lexicon.  Granted it’s not an easy thing to explain, but the Economist’s View post quoted above offers the “used car” analogical example which makes the concept more accessible.   Therefore, if Senator Heller is indeed a capitalist, and if he has better that average economic knowledge base, then his explanation of his opposition to the individual mandate makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

There’s also the political side of the issue, recall that Obama’s original plan didn’t contain an individual mandate while Secretary Clinton’s proposal did, and the result:

“Once elected, Obama quickly recognized the inescapable truth: An individual mandate was essential to make the plan work. Without that larger pool of premium-payers, there is no feasible way to require insurance companies to cover all applicants and charge the same amount, regardless of their heath status.” [WaPo]

There’s just no way to get around the problem of Adverse Selection, and still have an insurance system based on free market capitalism. 

Those still unsure about their understanding of Adverse Selection and how it operates in a free market system may want to consult some of the following sources:  Investopedia is a good source for short, concise, definitions of economic terms such as Adverse Selection. The Economic Times also has a dictionary style definition.  Risk Management specialists have a more technical definition.  Those wishing to dive a bit deeper into the weeds might want to see the World Bank’s explication.   There’s also an explanation from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners which goes into greater depth. (pdf)

Granted the individual mandate isn’t popular — that part is easy — but anyone who professes to be a free market capitalist (as does Senator Heller) can’t ignore the principle of Adverse Selection and how that concept impacts the insurance markets.

The alternatives to a purely market based insurance system in which the most people possible can obtain health insurance at relatively affordable rates are problematic for the free-marketeers.  A public option (federally sponsored insurance program operating in the general market) is one possibility.  Another alternative simply removes the free from free market — the single payer, or Medicare for All proposal, in which public insurance pays for medical services delivered in the private market.  At the furthest end of the spectrum would be nationalized medical health services such as the British or French systems. The arguments for and against each of these are ideological and political, and not necessarily relevant to the discussion of free market based health care delivery.  However, they do mitigate, from divergent directions, the issue of Adverse Selection.

The problem for Senator Heller is that he can maintain his free market positions OR he can oppose the individual mandate, but in light of the persistent and perpetual issue of Adverse Selection he can’t do both.

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Filed under Economy, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, nevada health, Nevada politics, Politics

Deflection, Distraction, and Destruction: Trump & the GOP

“…this is exactly what Trump does when he’s in trouble. He finds an enemy and punches as hard as he can.”  [WaPo]

Now, why is he in trouble? And,  what will happen today in Reno at the American Legion convention?  Additionally, who will be standing with the President at the closed to the public event?  The Nevada Independent, which if you’ve not already bookmarked you should, reports: (1) Adam Laxalt, Tea Party Darling will gleefully meet the President and has wrangled radical right wing VP Pence to his Basque food-fest; (2) Dean Heller, maybe not so much but then he won’t say — so what is new about the Heller rope-a-dope strategy? (3) Mark Amodei (R-NV2) showed up Tuesday and may have skedaddled? “A spokeswoman for Amodei did not respond to a follow up question as to whether or not the congressman would meet with Trump while the president is in Reno.” (4) Governor Sandoval appears to be adopting the Republican Gubernatorial Avoidance Strategy — meet him at the airport and then scamper off out of sight thereafter.  If the crowd is thinning, then why the Great Counter Punch?

What makes the President go into full attack mode?  What sends him off on tangents about white supremacy, statues of CSA ‘heroes,’ and “the Media?”  There’s a pattern, the deflection and distraction flare as the investigation of his connections to the Russians progress.

Why did he fire former FBI Director James Comey? Why was he upset with A.G. Jeff Sessions?  Why did he hammer Sen. Mitch McConnell? — Why the “profane shouting match?

“During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

What happened prior to August 9, 2017 that’s increased the need for deflection and distraction?

On August 1, 2017 PBS reported that the President dictated the message delivered by his son concerning the meeting at Trump Tower during the campaign with a small host of Russians who were very interested in “adoptions” (read: getting rid of the Magnitsky Act sanctions.)  The President’s assertions that the investigation is fake news and a witch hunt cracks a bit when it’s known that HE was aware of the trouble his son was in for taking and arranging that meeting.  On August 3, 2017 the President grudgingly signed the new Russian sanctions bill dictated by Congress. No fanfare, no ceremony, and two explanations or signing statements.  That was the same day the Wall Street Journal reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had impaneled a grand jury in the District of Columbia.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke out in support of the Grand Jury, and Mr. Mueller’s continuing investigation of all matters related to Russian interference, and thereafter was rewarded by a “tweet storm” of abuse from the President, reported on August 7th.  The Special Counsel investigators raided the home of former Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort on August 9.  They were looking for tax documents and foreign banking records, and since they didn’t merely ask Manafort’s legal team for them we can safely assume Mr. Manafort was (a) not as cooperative as his press comments made him out to be, and (b) in possession of things he might very well want to destroy before they landed in Mr. Mueller’s hands.

Events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12 and 13, 2017 intervened to capture public attention as Neo-Nazis and white supremacists took center stage, and as the President waffled about who might have been “responsible.”  Presidential commentary about “history” and “heritage” as if they are synonymous deflected and distracted from the continuing Russia probe.

Fast forward to August 22, 2017 on which it is revealed that the “Trump Dossier” re-emerges into the public consciousness.  Spokespersons for the President have tagged the dossier as “unsubstantiated,” “debunked,” or “unproven” as a general matter, without noting that individual contentions within the document are still under investigation.  The president of the company underwriting the dossier has now spent an entire working day with the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee.    Interestingly enough, the President chose to spend a significant amount of his time during a campaign rally in Phoenix on August 22nd railing about “fake news” and the “unfair media.”

Those dismissing the dossier as “debunked” may be a bit premature.  The origin of the dossier investigation lies within the “never Trump” wing of the GOP, and after Trump secured the GOP nomination the Clinton Campaign was interested in the contents.  For a “debunked” piece of investigation it’s certainly had an impact, and the FBI now has information from the author about his sources, again as of August 22nd.  If some of the allegations in the Steele Dossier can be sourced, investigated, and substantiated, then the generalized “debunking” portion of the President’s defense can start to crack.  And, we wonder why he spent an inordinate amount of time denouncing the media on the evening of August 22, 2017?  Deflection and Distraction?

Perhaps now this paragraph concerning the cracks reported by the New York Times in the McConnell/Trump relationship makes more sense:

“During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

Why would the President become “more animated” about Senator McConnell’s purported failure to “protect” him?  Does the President demand Senator McConnell “protect” the President from the Senate Judiciary and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence?

Protect him from What?  Destruction?  The gamble for Republicans — from reluctant Senator Heller to enthusiastic Adam Laxalt — is whether to hitch their political futures to the distraction/deflection tactics of the current administration or cut loose and hope he doesn’t lead them to destruction.

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, nevada taxation, Politics, Republicans

Translating Republican Discomfort with Racism

It’s inevitable.  Every time a racial issue highlights problems in American society and politics we can count on Republicans to reach back into their barrel of excuses and rationalizations — by now these are clearly obvious, equally transparent, and hopelessly irrelevant.

There’s the predictable from Rep. Peter King (R-NY):

“It’s not just stunning, it’s really disgraceful,” King responded. “They’re talking about somehow trying to unify the nation, and instead they’re using the most divisive type language, the most hysterical rhetoric, and that’s totally out of bounds—it’s wrong. And politically, I think it hurts them because that alienates the American people.”

Who’s alienated? The Representative surely isn’t speaking about people who have seen their DMV offices shut down in Alabama making it more difficult to get the identification necessary to vote?  Is he talking about those whose districts have been gerrymandered to prevent them from living in a Congressional district that’s competitive? Or, does raising issues such as these make white people uncomfortable?

Meanwhile back in Pennsylvania:

 “…on Thursday morning, the Pa. Dems challenged Mango and Wagner again – this time to denounce President Trump over his widely criticized “both sides” remarks. All of the party’s releases were issued after the President’s Tuesday press conference and resulting backlash.

“The Democrats are simply trying to exploit the events in Charlottesville for political gain. It’s shameful, and everyone involved should be embarrassed,” Wagner said.”

Nothing like loading the language.  I “point to specific examples,” you, on the other hand “exploit.”   I’m not in the least bit convinced that pointing to the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists gathered in Charlottesville as the worst examples of human beings at hand is something which should embarrass anyone, any time.

So, here they go again,

“I would say this about the president’s critics as a whole: If nothing will quiet them, than they don’t have America in their sights,” Faulkner said. “They don’t care about us. They don’t care about Americans. And shame on them. They need to step aside and let justice be done. Because if there is going to be justice, it’s going to take all of us together.”

Oh, “togetherness,” how nice.  Yes, it’s going to take all of us to condemn white supremacy and institutional racism, and if this makes Republicans uncomfortable, so be it.   “They don’t care about Americans.”  White Americans?

White Americans expressed their ‘economic anxiety:’

“Obama set racial relationships in the nation back 100 years with his divisional rhetoric. Being a Southerner, the KKK was always Democrat. So to blame it on Republicans is ridiculous. Did they have the right to march? Absolutely. Did the antifa have the right to stop them? No. That’s how violence begins — the two polar opposites don’t want the other to be heard.”

Really? “Divisional rhetoric?”  What might that have been?  Something about his reaction to the murder of Trayvon Martin?

Apparently President Obama, being African American, was just too much for some Alabama Republicans:

“I think Barack Obama is to blame. I think this country is more divided than it ever has been. I think almost all racism in world history can be tied back to liberalism, socialism, the idea everyone’s supposed to have an equal outcome as opposed to equal opportunity — those are liberal ideas that have been propagated over the past eight years through the administration, with just terrible things going on and the rhetoric w’ehe had coming out of the White House during that time.”

“Speaking while Black” makes some whites nervous.  Notice how the logic doesn’t form a chain in the comment above.  There are fragments placed in a series which logically don’t make a bit of sense, but do make an emotional framework to buttress the feelings of the white apologist.  Racism bad + racism/socialist + Obama/Black + ‘rhetoric’ = I’m Okay, those other people are bad.   It’s hard to move from the Racism is good argument of the Jim Crow era to Racism is bad BUT it’s the other side making me feel uncomfortable position of contemporary politics.   It’s hard to find “divisiveness” in the President’s comment on the Trayvon Martin case:

“…finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching.  There has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race.  I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations.  They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.  On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?  Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?  That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.”

Then, there’s downright historical revision:

“I think they’re misled — I understand why they’re doing it; you can’t rewrite history, and so forth. I don’t think Gen. Lee would be disappointed in them moving the statue because I think he would want to preserve the union.  I understand that the guy who drove the car was a Democrat. … You obviously have to be a little crazy to drive a car [like] that. [He says he heard this on Facebook.] Americans need to learn how to resolve issues without violence.”

Someone went to sleep during American History — Lee wanted to ‘preserve the Union?”  That would be no, a resounding, four year NO.  The guy who drove the car was a Democrat? No, he was a Neo-Nazi.  No, you can’t rewrite history, but there seem to be lots of erasures in the history of the Confederacy going on.

Where do we go from here?  If there are people who felt stifled because having an African American president made it socially unacceptable to be an outright racist, and view having a white man in the White House as cover for re-emerging into the public, then it’s time to demonstrate — as the good citizens of Boston surely did — that this is still socially unacceptable.  It would be nice to hear Republicans replicate Bob Dole’s August 1996 speech:

“The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents — The Republican Party is broad and inclusive. It represents many streams of opinion and many points of view.

But if there’s anyone who has mistakenly attached themselves to our party in the belief that we are not open to citizens of every race and religion, then let me remind you, tonight this hall belongs to the Party of Lincoln. And the exits which are clearly marked are for you to walk out of as I stand this ground without compromise.”

Denying history, rewriting it to fit one’s personal prejudices, playing “what-aboutism,” are counter productive.  The sooner the Republican Party disavows the racists and the bigots the sooner it will be free of the anchors weighing it down in the politics of prejudice.

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Filed under Nativism, Politics, racism