Chapter 9: American Agenda for Greatness -
Trump Won't Get Us There. This Will.
So, are we looking at "Better Times Ahead?" or "April Fool?" in the days ahead?
Will Trumps plans "make America Great" again? As one who has negotiated globally for both Fortune 500 and small companies (as described in Better times ahead april fool), and as someone who has been a small business owner and a Congress candidate, the answer is clear. NO. Trump's ideas will not only not work; they will destroy the U.S. more than any number of terrorist attacks ever could. In fact, his election was the dream of ISIS, but that we'll address later.
We now have over 2 million U.S. high-tech jobs that Americans don't have the skills to fill! However, Chinese workers and those in India do have those skills. So, either American acquire those skills or the jobs will go to those who do... Democrats believe in retraining workers and educating them for the inescapable high tech global economy we now live in. The GOP has wasted trillions on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while letting our education system starve to death and our 50 year old bridges and pipes collapse around us.
Another way of seeing this: the skills need to assemble a car or dig coal are so simple any worker from Mexico to Nigeria to China can perform just as efficiently as an American, and do it for less money. Gone are the days a semi-skilled worker can demand $25 an hour to put bumpers on cars-- someone in Mexico will do it for $10 a day which they can live on. But even those unskilled workers are facing the day when they will be replaced by robots doing that work as they now perform routine tasks like spot welding in an auto assembly line. And the robots never complain or call in sick or take a smoke break! Only the highly skilled will do well in this new future we face.
Those assembly skills are not good enough run a computerized machine tool which would pay a worker $70,000 or more. That is where our future is: it's not competing for jobs offering the lowest wages, but for the highest skills for the highest wages. Don't expect mining jobs to come back when it was low-cost natural gas that killed coal --not to mention the negative impact on our environment (China's air is now BLACK from burning coal--yet they are now the world leader in building out clean, renewable energy because their air is killing them and they see that industry as the future.)
If you are someone living in Ohio or the "rust belt" your future is not returning to the days of working in a dangerous, hot steel mill pounding steel. It's in writing software code for this high tech economy we now live in, or flying drones that do aerial surveys of pipelines and will be soon delivering pizzas. If you were making buggy whips when the car came along, you either changed jobs or bite the dust. It is the same today. CHANGE is the one constant in this world. Nothing ever remains the same. We either adapt or die.
Then they focused on more high-end products, like the "electrostatic precipitators" --basically a multi-story steel box they shoot electricity through to knock the dust out of the exhaust of coal-fired electric plants, a technology which took me to China as a solution for their coal fired power plants in the early 80's. That is when I got to see the beginning of the "Chinese miracle" going from a nation of nothing to a superpower of know how in 30 years. Their economy is about to be No. 1 in the world, passing us. India will be No. 3. Everyone else is an afterthought.
Studies show that every low wage, low skill country has seen its jobs migrate to a lower wage country. Even China is now losing jobs to places like Vietnam because their labor costs are lower.
A person starting out with millions has no idea what it is like being poor or broke; they know nothing of the pain in choosing between paying the rent or buying food, having a medical emergency they don't have insurance to cover or having the power cut off. Pick someone who knows that pain of being poor as your president, someone from the 99% who does know what it is like to start humble and get the education and experience needed to succeed.
Picking a spoiled rich kid who has a need to belittle people has insulted even our closest allies with his ignorance (declaring "Korea was once a part of China" for example), a man who has cheated on wives and taxes his entire life has no clue how to make America great.
In fact, Mitch McConnell, GOP leader of the U.S. Senate, admitted publicly “We want to make him a one term president.” They did it in order to claim he wasn’t doing his job so they could win future elections. They weren't putting American jobs and workers first.
That hasn't changed. In 2016 the GOP Senate continues to refuse to work with the president or even hold hearings or an up-or-down vote on his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Mr. Garland, and hundreds of other nominees. That's like poking sticks into the wheels of government instead of finding bipartisan solutions on behalf of the American people. The GOP majority House still can't even pass a budget! Even with a majority in the House and Senate they couldn't even repeal Obamacare! What a bunch of jokers.
I made minimum wage of $1.60 an hour as a high school senior in 1968; that would be over $10 an hour today if it was adjusted for inflation. Congress should do that now. Even $10 is not enough but it is a start.
Your job can't be saved by rejecting the new technology, only by adopting it. When the computer came along we either learned to operate it or became technological cavemen with no connection to the new world.
"I will bring jobs" is all talk, not a plan; its bullshit.
Voodoo economics is back. Mr. Trump has called for a 45% tariff on imported goods from China. Such a tariff would increase the cost of consumer goods like his shirts "made in China" overnight by 45%--a $100 shirt would suddenly cost $145! Mr. Trump’s tax plan would cut taxes on the rich and generate an additional $20 Trillion in the federal deficit (Hillary Clinton’s would increase the debt only $1 Trillion).
Without a willing partner in Congress, he was able to stabilize the economy, and unemployment has dropped to about 5%. But the lack of Congress action has left the folks in places like Ohio and the rust belt wondering "is that all there is?" when it fact a Democratic Congress would have taken action to give them a hand up.
I know because of one reason. I left a farm. Got a law degree, and found myself flying the world negotiating deals. That turned into being a 911 terrorism analyst on TV in Houston warning against an invasion of Iraq because I had been in the Middle East and knew what was going on. Anyone who had not been involved would have made assumptions that proved to be false - like the Iraqis would welcome our invasion. Unfortunately, Congress was given bogus information on Saddam's alleged WMD program, which turned out not to exist (unless you are a Fox News viewer and still think the world is flat and WMD's were 'found'.)
Life expectancy at birth for American men was 75.6 years and 80.8 for women in 2007― 36th and 33rd in the world! In Texas, 25% of our residents do not have health insurance, the worst rankings in the U.S. The U.S. is the only developed nation in the world that does not provide healthcare as a citizen's right. Since when should medical care to save a life only be a privilege and not a right?
Today's $20 Trillion debt comes from the structural deficits created by the Bush tax cuts. It would have been higher but for Obama's success in reducing our annual deficit to a fraction of what it was.
For a visual picture of the changes in the last 30 years, check this out:
For another technology comparison, the next photo is one of a train I took in China in 1982:
One thing is clear: we can’t win it by not knowing the global facts we face as a nation. Nor can we win by having Republicans and Democrats become so extreme that they are unable to reach across the aisle to pass the simplest law to advance our future. An ostrich doesn’t avoid becoming a predator’s dinner by keeping its head in the sand. Trump's administration won't get us there with its anti-science, anti-education lineup of bizarre characters trying to kill the EPA, etc.
The recent events with ISIS and Ebola should be yet another reminder that the world is not going to go away and leave us alone. What happens on the other side of the planet can and does impact Americans, like it or not. For example, the war in Syria resulted in millions of refugees fleeing death from ISIS, which has overwhelmed all the European countries from Greece to Belgium. Unstable countries has led to greater instability for Europe--exactly what Mr. Putin wants! It has also given ISIS a training ground so they could send fighters back to their home countries in Europe, as we have seen in the bombings and shootings in Paris, Brussels, etc.
I was a farmer and became an international expert without the necessity of going to a Harvard or Yale. Anything is possible in America – if we keep the dream alive for everyone including those at the bottom of the economic food chain.
Putin's Russian hacking trolls continue to interfere in elections in France, Germany, etc.
A year or so ago, it was reported that the Office of Personnel Management lost over 20 million sensitive personnel records to hackers because it had failed to encrypt the files! Even the head of the FBI had his information compromised. In spite of this, Congress has refused to even pass a cyber-security law that would have prevented this from happening. Had Hillary used a State Department computer, it would have been hacked, because their ancient dinosaur computers have been breached by Chinese, Russians, etc. How is this inaction by Congress good for our security?
China learned that lesson. Long ago it built its "Great Wall." I've been on it (see photo). Yet that wall was easily breached; Genghis Khan from Mongolia simply bribed the guards!
Why should the American taxpayer subsidize rich, profitable companies? No one can support themselves on a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Mr. Trump ran for the GOP nomination opposing raising the minimum wage, saying “people already make to much” money. Now, he says he might favor raising it, so who knows what he really believes. Hillary Clinton has always supporter raising the minimum wage and the only question has been whether it would be $12 or $15, she can accept either.
In November 2016, when hurricane season officially ended, I went on a cruise through the Panama canal. The guide in Panama said "We never get hurricanes!" Well, the next stop was north in Costa Rica - and the captain of the ship announced that we could not go there because a "hurricane from no where" had just formed! So, we are having hurricanes and hurricane-force winds nearly year round now.
We are frantically searching for the last of the fossil fuels instead of using our brains and diversifying our energy sources to include as many renewables as possible, which would avoid future damage to our fragile planet and move us closer to energy independence.
American tax policies under Presidents Reagan and George W Bush favoring the top 20% have given the lucky few at the top over 84% of the total U.S. wealth!
When Trump took office in 2017, he inherited from Obama a healthy economy that had produced over 15 million jobs and an unemployment rate less than half of when he took office. Two months later Trump tries to claim credit for 600,000 jobs created under the Obama-created economy he inherited!
Recently water pipes broke in one of the buildings housing U.S. Senators due to age. It is a symptom of a Congress that refuses to invest in our aging infrastructure. Houston, for example, is losing millions in dollars because its water pipes are so old that they are leaking billions of gallons of much-needed water at a time we are in the worst drought in our state’s history. Our gas lines are exploding across the country because they are so old.
Sooner or later, we will need that protection of our planet as much as we now need an "Ike Dike" to protect our Texas coast from the next hurricane that could wipe out 25% of our country's gas refining. A few billion spent on coastal protection is vastly better than yet another overpriced F35 program. Another hurricane hit in the Houston area would flood out refineries and fill Galveston Bay with toxic mass of chemicals, killing everything. It would cause gas to skyrocket to $7 a gallon overnight--because we were warned but didn't invest or prepare. That's pretty stupid for an "intelligent" species!
Investing in a new station is a far better use of money than a useless border wall with Mexico - a complete waste of money. Show me a 20 foot wall and I will show you a 21 foot ladder (much cheaper) or a tunnel. We have had a border barrier for years. Guess what? Most of the drugs come across the border in vehicles crossing our checkpoints! Yep. In the future drones could hop the wall no problem at all. I am reminded of the Great Wall built by China to keep the Mongols out. I walked on it. It cost tens of thousands of lives - its known as the longest graveyard in the world. The Mongols found it easy to bribe their way across.
The Pentagon has never been audited. Immense waste has gone unnoticed. One study that has been hidden showed that the pentagon could save $125 BILLION by eliminating duplicate programs! Now Congress is pretending not to notice.
We should audit the Pentagon to cut waste and fraud, potentially savings billions per year in unneeded costs. This same Pentagon recently has been trying to force veterans to repay bonuses to get them to go to Iraq during the worst period in 2006, 2007! For a measly $20 million, they are sticking it to the vets. The pentagon spends more than $20 million on toilet paper every year folks! It's chump change.
Russia and China are now planning a high speed rail link between their countries, linking them economically and politically as each vie to compete with the United States in technology and control of the seas and space. NASA astronauts are riding Russian rockets into space while Russia’s Putin is grabbing territory from Ukraine and Russian leaders laugh about us using a trampoline to get into space. Our best bet to get Americans traveling on American rockets again is by private space companies like Space X.
Another thing. The U.S. gets billions in tourist dollars every year from foreign tourists coming to the U.S. With the Trump travel bans and bombastic attacks on nearly everyone including allies (but excluding Mr. Putin!), tourism to the U.S. is DOWN. That means we have lost over $30 billion at last count in income for our travel industry, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, hospitals, etc. He is killing our economy, not improving it.
Inversions are another tax rip off –basically companies renounce their citizenship even though they don’t change their business presence in a meaningful way. Today, a Halliburton or a Noble Drilling based in Texas can send a couple of people to Dubai, and suddenly they are no longer an “American” company and not subject to U.S. taxes on their income, even though the company building -- and 99% of its employees -- are still sitting in Houston! (However, their employees still here can’t claim an exemption from their taxes.) That tax loss means less for the cities and counties need for roads and schools needed to compete in the global economy. General Electric made billions, yet paid ZERO taxes.
Energy saved is energy we don’t have to burn and dangerous carbon that doesn’t go into the atmosphere, adding to climate change. At the same time we could "harden" the building envelop to prepare for the more common hurricane-force winds we get even without hurricanes!
We have seen a presidential candidate actually encourage violence at his campaign rallies against protesters. Now he claims the system is "rigged" (by people like him, yes; but not our voting system which is decentralized and controlled by each of the 50 states).
It's bizarre, like a chapter from fascism in the past. It's all about fear without a solution in sight. "Believe me" is not an economic plan. It's snake oil. Changing your position to both sides of an issue is not credible, consistent or believable. His "business experience" has been one of bankrupting even casinos, where the odds are stacked in favor of the house! It takes special talent to bankrupt a casino along with Trump University (whose students are now suing him for FRAUD; trial set for this Nov. 28).
When I ran for U.S. Senate in 2014 in the democratic primary in a district near Houston, I saw a diverse group that looked like America—gay and straight, black, white and Hispanic, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Christian as well as non-believers. That is our future. When I ran in 3 GOP primaries starting in 2000-2006, I saw only white people (old ones) at the party meetings. It did not look like the America I saw everyday; the America of our future success.
In fact, Trump's claim that he would authorize our military to shoot Iranians who give our troops "the finger" could kill more of our military in 1 day then we lost in 8 years in Iraq! How? Google the "Millennium Challenge" wargames of 2002, an imaginary war with Iran. We lost 16 ships including an aircraft carrier before they called it off. One Chinese made Sunburn missile fired by Iran could wipe out a carrier and its 5,000 crew in a few seconds. This is why you don't want an ignorant man in the oval office.
Why did I have a clue? It was because of my international travels into the Middle East. I was lucky. I saw things few Americans get to see: dozens of countries and their legal systems, customs, and laws. On one trip I'd be in China; on another I would travel to India or Vienna or London (on business, not as a tourist). I had to study each system to know the best way to proceed. I found a journal entry I had written which mentioned Saddam Hussein in 1981―nine years before he attacked Kuwait! That knowledge is what I based my 9/11 prediction on. That is the kind of knowledge in Congress that makes a difference between a good decision and a bad one, like starting a war.
We have to reform a system where Congress pays more attention to rich corporations than their voters who aren't handing them big checks. The U.S. Supreme Court, for the first time in American history, because of Citizens United , has allowed corporations to spend unlimited billions to buy this election to elect the candidate of their choice, allowing them to get more special breaks for themselves.
For America's sake, we need that vision. I believe the only party willing to offer this vision is the Democratic party. Pass it On...!
or his “Global American” newsletter
Agenda for American Greatness was developed from the global experiences of the author, Michael Fjetland, BBA/JD, detailed in "Better Times Ahead April Fool"(looking back at the future of America). Time warp around the world the last 30 years and experience vicariously some bizarre adventures that gave the author a front row seat to the complex global gamesmanship between America and the world -- a magic carpet ride for less than the cost of a Starbuck's coffee.