Posted by: Bruce Allen | August 2, 2019

Julian Castro: Impeach Him

© Bruce Allen   August 2, 2019

Dear Mr. BruAl–

My pre-Post-Trump-Stress Disorder continues unabated. I keep thinking, “If this guy can’t get impeached, no one ever will.” Is there a way for the Democratic Party, the one still functioning, to manage the impeachment process so as to help them avoid the “inoculation” of Trump by a treasonous Senate led by Russian tool Mitch McConnell?

Desperate in Danville

Dear Desperate–

I feel your pain. As does Julian Castro. This from Slate in their post-debate autopsy:


I think he’s on to something, perhaps the only thing, that doing the right thing–airing Trump’s malfeasance laundry on Twitter–making Americans pay attention, interrupting soap operas–will inevitably lead to a purely partisan acquittal in the Senate which must then be aggressively laid at the feet of Moscow Mitch. Doing it this way accomplishes two things: it exposes, for the benefit especially of The Base, the full extent of his self-dealing and general incompetence. Two, it links Trump and McConnell, the self-styled Grim Reaper, to proven Russian interference in the 2016 election and anticipated interference in the upcoming one.

If, as Castro points out, the Dems fail to impeach, Trump will use that failure like a club in 2020.


What the hell?

Then there’s the matter of conscience. To avoid acting in good conscience due to political considerations is something Republicans do. They play harder, and have shown a willingness bordering on glee to play on the Trump team, to buy into the lying, the deceit, the divisiveness, the race-baiting. #SilenceisComplicity.

So, Desperate, get on the horn to your congressman and demand impeachment of Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors. Write him snail mail to which someone in his office needs to spend time responding. Write Trump and demand his resignation if that makes you feel better. Go to some of next year’s demonstrations, get tear-gassed, tell your grandkids about it someday. But there is a way out of this in which both Trump and McConnell eat it in 2020. I salute your efforts.

Mr. BruAl

Posted by: Bruce Allen | July 3, 2019


© Bruce Allen   July 3, 2019

As a recovering resource economics major in college, I am blessed with a vague notion of how economic things work in this world. I recall getting tripped up over the insistence that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” among many other equations concerning capitalism. In conjunction with my politics at the time, I came to the conclusion that private profit is what you get when you subtract private costs from social costs. The social costs go largely unpaid by the capitalist, rather by those living and/or working at, say, a facility which would add value to components while producing identifiable, real, and, in the long term, lethal social costs in the forms of environmental degradation, health issues, mental health issues, resource depletion, etc., etc. Worldwide, examples are countless.

Broken_GOP image


This typical picture of 21st century capitalism relies, for the most part, on capitalists being able to ignore these social costs and force their payment by others. They pay vast sums to politicians to advance their interests in Washington. The overarching example of this is global warming, created by billions of people and millions of businesses who are too busy scratching out a living to worry much about wood smoke or effluent finding its way into the water supply. The “we’ll all run out at the same time” mentality supports this attitude. And, in a great swath of the human population, carbon footprints and arctic ice melt are the absolute last things on peoples’ minds.

So externalities, abusive of people, the environment, the very culture, are what prop up capitalism, for if capitalists had to pay the costs of remediation of these damages they would suddenly become not-for-profit entities. BP can’t always be cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico. As a society, we have embraced capitalism as the way to improve our own little worlds. The problem is that in doing so we virtually guarantee the continuing degradation of the ‘larger’ world, the planet, our health system, the state of marriage and childcare, poverty, warfare, genocide, on and on. The politically expedient approach, always, is to kick the can down the road and let this stuff be someone else’s problem.

The politically expedient approach is not sustainable.

Some people have argued that we have evolved as a species by adapting to and ‘conquering’ the land, having become competitive, having embraced the Western ‘more is better than less’ mentality. In the process, however, we have, as a species, lost the ability to band together as people to combat an existential crisis, one that portends, at some point in the foreseeable future, a great human die-off and thousands and thousands of square miles of shoreline becoming inundated, infiltrated, and, ultimately, uninhabitable by salt water intrusion.

Decision-makers in the world, west and east, recognize all this and find ways to stick such concerns in alexandria-ocasio-cortezsome corner of their brains where they only have to think about them when forced to by circumstance. In John Sanford’s novel about first contact with alien intelligence, the kiosk advised the heavily-armed delegation from Earth that it had been in contact with a number of different civilizations for thousands of years, and would maintain such contacts until the lesser planets invariably destroyed themselves. Which, I suppose, is the point—we are destroying ourselves as a species, and are too busy watching and talking about the Kardashians to do anything meaningful, politically-speaking, to address the problems, to acknowledge that the companies, world-wide, creating externalities will be intimately involved in paying for their remediation. There is no such thing as “government money;” it is all taxpayer money.

I read once the opinion that behind every great fortune lies a great crime. A system of political economy that values achievement and requires growth will, ultimately, sew the seeds of its own doom. People, a high number of whom are business executives, will decide, on a micro/individual scale as it were, to produce externalities of one sort or another—trucking strawberries from California to Indiana. Such practices make no economic or environmental sense and must stop or be stopped. If one were a radical environmentalist, one would want it to be a federal crime to ship strawberries from California to Indiana. In a sustainable world, it would probably be a criminal, and therefore unprofitable, act to ship the strawberries across the country. In June.

As little as mainstream Democrats care about all this stuff—please Lord let it be someone else’s problem, someone not facing a primary challenge next time around—Republicans care even less. Republicans, judging from their actions, are in cahoots with the polluters and carbon producers to keep American laws as friendly as those of other nations. Recently, the list of other nations has been expanded.


So, we, individually, will continue to make the decisions best for our own particular situations for as long as we can, exercising our gift of free will, while the planet melts. The slowest train wreck in history is unfolding right in front of us, but the motion is so slow and sporadic that it largely fails to register. It is considered politically inexpedient, if not downright unpatriotic, to go up against global warming. A few Democratic candidates are going there, but they’re doomed, too. People are willing to give up nothing to save the planet. We still want more, more money, more mobility, more expensive toys, than what the planet can support.

Should one be prone to extrapolation and/or intellection, one would be highly concerned about our planet’s ability to maintain its viability. Malthus and Ricardo said this would happen and, by the 1950s, were fully discredited by mainstream economists, who insisted growth would lead us to the promised land, that resource development, in conjunction with Yankee ingenuity, would deliver us from those grim 19th century visions. By then, willful ignorance of externalities was firmly ingrained in government and politics. Air and water quality were a disaster. And we survived.

With global CO2 concentrations on a solidly upward trajectory, as the expression goes, this time it’s different. Global warming will, ultimately, force all politicians to become one-issue politicians. It is reasonable to expect large areas of the desert southwest to de-habitate, due to a lack of readily accessible drinking water. A migration toward the northeast, and notably around the Great Lakes, will occur, as people will never wish to be without water ever again as long as they live. The political economy will be re-shaped on the fly. A number of industries will cease to exist. This exodus will only delay the problem, it will not avoid it.

It is probably past time for thinking people on both sides of the political aisle to become single issue voters, concerned about reversing climate change first and foremost. The long-term implications of not doing so will reverberate for the rest of human history. The generation which was spawned by The Greatest Generation is on track to become The Worst Generation, boomers like me who destroyed middle management, wrecked the planet, invented student debt, and got blindsided by technology along the way. We boomers must take much of the blame for the way things are.

It’s those pesky externalities…


Posted by: Bruce Allen | May 10, 2019

Republican Orthodoxy in the Trump Era

© Bruce Allen

My wife gets mad at me all the time for taking shots at Republicans for a host of alleged character flaws, and she is, of course, right. Upon some reflection it occurred to me that a healthy number of my Indiana friends are Republicans, so it’s clear my problem is not with Republicans in persona. My problem is, and has always been, with Republican orthodoxy.

This orthodoxy, the guiding principles behind the party’s policy and legislative agenda, has changed radically during my adult life; I graduated from high school in 1969. It has, somehow, gone from bad to worse during this period, its adherents heading the same way, to the point today where discussing politics with one’s in-laws has the potential to disrupt family relationships 50 and 60 years old.

Who Has Represented Republican Orthodoxy Recently?

Dwight Eisenhower—50’s and 60’s

Republicans during this period were generally strong on defense, weak on domestic issues, strong on fiscal responsibility, and against government spending in general on the grounds that it displaces normal corporate capitalist behaviors whereby the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Steely-eyed fiscal hawks, spend it all on defense, not a penny for scenery, etc. Ghetto-ize blacks in concentrated urban areas.

Richard Nixon—70’s

Nixon opened up the relationship with China and brought disgrace to his party; he was busy getting us out of Viet Nam “with honor” while busy covering up an election theft in a race that was already won. But many Republicans stood up when it was time to dispose of Nixon. His subsequent pardon by Gerald Ford produced Jimmy Carter, who immediately confronted a hostile, wounded Congress and hostages in Iran. It was ugly. Lucky for the Republicans that George McGovern was such an inept candidate in 1972, albeit a generally quality guy. As President, Nixon came perilously close to beating the rap in what should have been an opened-and-closed case,

Ronald Reagan—80’s, 90’s

Along comes Ronald Reagan to save the day in 1980. He drives the Soviet Union into the dirt and puts it all on the big U.S. Mastercard, driving the national debt to unheard-of levels. A chicken in every pot, too. So much for fiscal responsibility. He is for free trade, generous immigration laws, but is tough on labor and crime. Big military budgets. Republicans during this period were pretty smug, as the Democrats had trouble getting out of their own way. Paging Michael Dukakis. Riding his long coattails were Bush Sr. and Bush Jr., interrupted by eight tumultuous and otherwise successful years under Bill Clinton. It was the Bushes who transformed Republican orthodoxy into a worldview in which the US is constantly involved in numerous conflicts and that annual spending on defense equals the total defense spending of the next six countries on the list. Oh, and global warming was a myth.

The Bushes—00’s – 2016

Wearing the mantle of Reaganism and adding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan kept father and son busy for twelve years. And that was pretty much it. A strong preference for adding to deficits rather than raising taxes. Unconcerned with social programs. Bush Jr. inherited an annual budget surplus of $384 billion and turned it into a $500 billion deficit in two years, courtesy, in part, of 9/11. It continued to grow from there. Bushism, if there is such a thing, is based upon stumbling into interminable foreign military adventures with no end game in mind. It is an expensive failure, one to which orthodox Republicans are married. It produces a strong economy. Oh, and global warming was a myth.

Donald Trump—2017 – ???

2017 is where Republican orthodoxy got turned on its shoulder and neck area, causing adherents to risk cervical damage explaining The New Orthodoxy. Under Trump, this includes:

  • Everything the President does is good, legal and smart. Same for the Attorney General.
  • Stealing Supreme Court nominations is good, legal and smart.
  • Immigration is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • North Korea is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • China is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • Russia is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • Obamacare is the biggest problem facing this country.
  • Mitch McConnell is a patriot.
  • Global warming is a myth. Historical cycles, y’know.
  • Tariffs produce revenues paid by China. Utterly, obviously, demonstrably wrong. So wrong as to be stupid to promote the notion. And he doesn’t even remotely understand the concept of “balance of trade,” which I know for a fact they teach at The Wharton School. Must’ve skipped that class.
  • His language is sometimes unfortunate.

There’s plenty more, depending upon the day and time. This is a President who does not hold policy positions, but instead has policy moods. This is a President who, since day one, had no intention of ensuring that laws of the United States were executed and obeyed without favor or fraud. This is a President who, after decades of egregious behavior dating back to the 60’s, has never had to deal with any form of consequences. The money he’s lost over the years was always OPM—other people’s money. And now, despite the documented fact that he has attempted to obstruct justice numerous times while in office, he is getting away with it all again.

Senate Republicans, the personification of Republican orthodoxy, are good with this. They are his primary facilitators. They’ve bought into the ethical lapses, the general boorishness, the thousands of outright lies, and come to his defense, committing their own obstructions, whenever Democrats attempt to invoke their Constitutional powers. Trump’s game plan—run out the clock, avoiding disclosing proof of anything big enough to sway the 2020 election until after the election. It appears to be working, as everything the Democrats are doing is headed for a courtroom near you. With Republicans having been beavering away for two years to stuff Federal district and appeals courts with obeisant Republican tools, the likelihood of at least one of them instituting a Constitutional crisis—ordering Congress, for example, to withdraw a properly-issued subpoena—is pretty high. But for orthodox Republicans, it’s all good. Hate the sin, love the sinner.

We Democrats certainly have our own issues. But we haven’t sold our political souls in order to placate this would-be despot. There’s that. As for our orthodox friends, all we can do is pray for them. And us.


Posted by: Bruce Allen | April 9, 2019

Things for which I no longer have time

© Bruce Allen


London during The Blitz, shown for no reason whatsoever

Dear Mr. BruAl–

Now that you’re really what most people consider “older,” do you find you’ve become more crotchety in your dotage? Do more things annoy you? What about letters like this–do they annoy you as well?

It’s just that, like, you’re kind of a dick.


Chafed in Cheyenne

Dear Chafed–

Now that I’m really getting up there–just turned “mid-to-late 60’s”–I’ve learned a few things about myself, despite the fact that when it comes to me I’m a slow learner. There was a documentary on PBS the other night about some poor guy who found his calling when he was 86. I have, at this point, identified a number of things I actively don’t like. From there, it is a matter of deduction to arrive at those things I do enjoy/love/appreciate, etc. No, I haven’t gotten around to the deduction part yet. But among those things I have learned, over decades, to despise are the following:

State-level elected officials who ignore “constituent requests,” due to the fact that they receive campaign money from the other side. I don’t mind getting turned down–well, I do, actually–but at least acknowledge that I took the time to communicate at all. And don’t do like Susan Brooks’ office and Joe Donnelly’s office and send a form letter on a completely different subject.

Remarkably obvious errors by the Indiana Department of Revenue at tax time. Two years in a row they mis-read the figures on my Turbo Tax return, two years in a row they sent me hate mail demanding thousands of dollars forthwith, interest, penalties and possible incarceration, etc.. Together, we discovered an error in their software. I wrote my elected state representatives and never heard a word.

Long, unmanaged or untimed traffic lights, where one sits idling in a queue while no one goes through. The roundabout is as close to a perfect solution to this problem as I’ve seen. Being able to travel considerable distances in the city without hitting a single traffic light is awesome. Ten years from now, when all but one of the lights are gone in Carmel, Indiana, it will be a unique place. To have lived through all of the hundreds of construction projects was just a matter of poor timing. Stuff that occurs when one lives in the same house for 35 years.

The utter, bottomless, cynical depravity at the highest levels of the Republican party. Funny how the perception of the party is growing to fit my mother’s lifelong belief that the vast majority of Republicans are just plain mean.

Any interaction with a commercial or public institution that can only be solved by a telephone call to a call tree. What can a call tree solve that a website can’t? My immediate response is to start shouting “REPRESENTATIVE” at the phone until I get a live person. But having to interact with a living human being at this time in history is unkind and a time-waster. Especially if one is vexed, it is much easier to come across as less of a jackwagon in a text or chat.

Participating in local Democratic efforts to elect good candidates in a ruby red county in a ruby red state. I will find a presidential candidate to support and probably some local Democrats. They are almost non-existent in these parts. Primaries are a running joke. Basically, I’m saying I no longer have time for living in a red state.

Anyone who tries to convince me that global warming is not a thing right now. Or that the American economy is sinking under a multi-trillion dollar pile of debt. Or that Social Security and Medicare are hopelessly, demographically doomed. Or that gerrymandering is the natural order of things in the real world. Or that corporations are people. If so, they would be allowed to own annuities, and they’re not.

Upon the Titanic that is our globally-warming globe, we are busily re-arranging the deck chairs while we vault headlong toward the point of no return–2030 by most counts–having observed that global carbon emissions increased significantly in 2018 over 2017. What’s more, the deck chairs look like crap. We argue about tariffs and human rights, and my own country is leading the way toward an eventual mass extinction in distant parts of that globe. Awesome. Those of you not thinking of your grandchildren at this moment, and their grandchildren, are asshats. Sorry.

I no longer have time to defend the mass consumption of meat. I understand I will have to demote it from a staple of my diet to an occasional condiment, procured from One Bad Day Farms locally, motto, “Why pay less?” This will have a starfish effect on the problem and make my latter years worse to a greater degree. It’s how we liberals roll. Nothing gets old hippies juiced like large, loud, futile demonstrations in favor of unpopular ideas.

There’s more, stuff about turn signals, people who text and drive, Cable modems that need lots of re-booting. Patriarchy. Nepotism. Mitch McConnell. Dogs running loose in the neighborhood.  Five months of damp boxers in the Indiana summer heat. Weeds of all types. Pancreatic cancer and all other cancers. What the Catholic church has allowed to take place within its walls.

Every time I go to confession I confess the same sins. Likewise, these existential problems have all been about the same during my entire adult life. None have gotten much better, and those that have are being assaulted by the reg raiders of the Trump administration as we speak. The point is, having expressed my opinions over the years to no effect, I have resolved to close off certain areas of my mind, refusing to engage in serious discussions about those topics. No time.

Becoming, as it were, a liberal version of the Trump base. This is my very first insight into what makes them tick. This is helpful moving forward.











Posted by: Bruce Allen | March 18, 2019

It’s the Hypocrisy, Stupid!

© Bruce Allen

Dear Mr. BruAl–

Why does it seem you’re always mad at Republicans about something? Aren’t both of the major political parties pretty much the same?

Red State Rodney

Dear Rodney–

Of all the infuriating things about Trump’s Republican apologists on Capitol Hill, and there are scores of these things, the single most dangerous is the artificial reality created when they refuse to acknowledge their own hypocrisy. By allowing Il Douche to get away with so many things for which they would have sent Barack Obama to the guillotine, and then not copping to it–“Damned Dems do it, too.”–guys like the execrable Lindsey Graham in effect order us to believe untruth. This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

As we watch the steady unraveling of the Trump administration, the turnover, the confusion, the lack of policy direction, the lying from Sarah Sanders’ podium, the hypocrisy of congressional Republicans amounts to co-dependency with a president who is over his head, unhinged, and un-briefable. The Republican party, in other words, is in denial of what appears to be a lemming-like following of Trump as he leads those foolish enough to throw in with him over a career wrecking, possibly criminal cliff. History shows it–people who have trusted and helped Trump over the years have been routinely tossed aside upon becoming inconvenient. With promises to keep and no interpersonal concerns beyond his own immediate needs (read: pathological narcissism), this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Once the indictments start flowing from the SDNY, addressed to Don Jr., Jared, Miller, Hicks, Norma?, Weisselberg, Deutsche Bank and several Russian billionaires, life is going to deteriorate, again, for Trump and those around him. Trump may end up pardoning, or trying to pardon, Manafort or Flynn but he can’t pardon everyone and survive politically. Even the most dedicated, most fact-impervious, most ill-informed Trump supporters out in West Virginia and Arkansas would start to smell a rat. And there are numerous state prosecutions gearing up for which no presidential pardon is allowed. Most of those are being filed in blue states. Go figure.

Congressional Republicans are, indeed, caught between a rock and a hard place. They can support Trump and his Reich, or they can dissent and be assured of well-funded primary challenges from the right. This is the 21st century equivalent of the old “silver or lead” incentive used to recruit employees into the South American drug cartels. Support Trump and we’ll pay you. Oppose us and we’ll kill your career. You choose. And if it seems unfair that honorable men such as Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio would have to make such choices, they’ve been playing along all the while and knew what they were getting into. In the case of most Capitol Hill politicians, the salutation, ” The Honorable,” is badly mis-placed.

It feels like we’re in the eye of the storm. The initial Mueller and Michael Cohen chapters have taken place and people are going to jail. That there is a second set being prepared by the SDNY cannot be doubted, and when the subpoenas and warrants go out, things will get worse for Trump. The economy looks poised for a recession next year. North Korea is going nowhere. The Wall is going nowhere. The stock market is going nowhere. No policy initiatives emanating from the White House; too much time spent tweeting and not governing. Political calculations galore; strategic and economic calculations on the back of cocktail napkins.

I, for one, am ready for the back wall of the storm. Republicans need to pay a stiff price in 2020. This presidency is an outrage.

Posted by: Bruce Allen | September 11, 2018

One Issue in November Midterms

© Bruce Allen   Published originally on 9/11/2018. Seems like folks chose oversight.

Sorry, but the 2018 midterms, now officially eight weeks away, are about a single issue. The issue is congressional oversight of the President, as spelled out in The Constitution. Please excuse this rather lengthy and abridged theft from Wikipedia:

“The legislature is authorized to appropriate funds; raise and support armies; provide for and maintain a navy; declare war; provide for organizing and calling forth the national guard; regulate interstate and foreign commerce; establish post offices and post roads; advise and consent on treaties and presidential nominations (Senate); and impeach (House) and try (Senate) the President, Vice President, and civil officers for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

The authority to oversee derives from these constitutional powers. Congress could not carry them out reasonably or responsibly without knowing what the executive is doing; how programs are being administered, by whom, and at what cost; and whether officials are obeying the law and complying with legislative intent. The Supreme Court has legitimated Congress’s investigative power, subject to constitutional safeguards for civil liberties.”

In September of 2018, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is guilty of malfeasance. It has failed to exercise its constitutional responsibility, as the elected representatives of all U.S. citizens, to keep tabs on the President, in order that he not be tempted to abuse the powers of his office, for instance, by using the Department of Justice as a tool for political purposes. In addition to the customary backscratching and pork, the Republican majority can now add “aiding and abetting the commission of multiple felonies, if not outright treason, by Donald Trump” to its list of barbaric legislative accomplishments.

In September of 2018 House Republicans are acting as defense counsel for the President. Paging the loathsome and felonious Devin Nunes. This is not simply a lack of doing their sworn duty at all, or doing it only poorly. It is a matter of doing the exact opposite of their sworn duty. Not misfeasance or nonfeasance. Malfeasance.

The November elections will determine whether Congress, going forward, will begin to exercise its constitutional obligations as regards Donald Trump. Boil it down and the question kind of becomes, “How do you feel about the U.S. Constitution?” Most liberals would say they support the Constitution, as would most conservatives. As for the Trump base, most of whom describe themselves as Second Amendment Folks, knee-jerk support for the Constitution is baked into their consciousness.

Here’s why it doesn’t really matter how one thinks of oneself politically. On the foundational role of oversight in the revolutionary birth of this country, to prevent abuse by the king, you will discover yourself in favor of it. If you were glad it was there during the Nixon years, you support oversight. If you were glad it was there during the Clinton years and the Benghazi years, you support oversight. And, clearly, if you miss it these days, you support oversight.

There is but one way to restore oversight to the United States. It is to turn the House and conduct proper investigations into the abuses and criminal activities of senior administration officials, including the President. Whichever party controls Congress beginning in 2019 will have the future of the country in their hands. As strange as it may sound, here it is: If you supported the impeachment of Bill Clinton and the grilling of Hillary Clinton, if you wish in your heart of hearts that both had landed in jail, you need to vote for congressional Democrats and Senators in November.

If this viewpoint makes you sick and angry, you have to admit that the issue cuts both ways. Either there is constitutionally-mandated oversight of the President and his administration or there ain’t. Under the present conditions it will be necessary to put Democrats in the majority in Congress, if only for a single term, to get to the bottom of the allegations against the President and his family. Only this way can he clear his name and show his own support for the Constitution.

It may be that all of this will become moot once Robert Mueller releases his subpoenas and indictments. Or Trump shuts down the government in September because he feels like it and nobody tells him what to do. Or someone somewhere releases a tape or a video that fatally offends his remaining support among independent or female or southern voters. Or it turns out that Jared wrote the op-ed in the NYT. It may be that, for the Republicans in November, the House is already a lost cause, and they’re going to have to work to maintain their wafer-thin control of the Senate.

Speaking of the Senate, there’s this:

Image may contain: one or more people, eyeglasses and text

It really is a shame that Mitch McConnell is not up for re-election this year. His day will surely come.

Two months out, it feels pretty likely that the trend is for turning the House and not turning the Senate. However, the likelihood of news and/or events and/or revelations and/or indictments between now and November is high. No blue collar Trump supporter in Ohio is going to get jacked up over the fact that Trump’s debt-financed recovery is finally reaching into the middle class or that some slice of unemployment data is 3% better than a month ago. In general, he’s not feeling the big ol’ tax cut very much. He is preparing, however, to receive his 2019 health benefits package in October, which will likely offer him reduced benefits and significantly higher premiums. Goodbye tax cut. For Republicans, there will be no running on the strength of the economy; most of the base isn’t feeling it. Including soybean farmers in Iowa.

Voters in November can be expected to be unable to see the forest for the trees. The prehistoric concept of oversight will probably get shouted down by the noise and confusion of the various machines built and unleashed to influence the way we think and the things we believe to be true. Robert Mueller, Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, etc., ad nauseum. And the things they don’t want us to think about. Such as Republicans having failed to exercise their constitutional authority, as the majority in a highly-polarized House, to oversee the activities and functions of the President.

How do you feel about the U.S. Constitution?


Posted by: Bruce Allen | March 13, 2019

Guns and Butter

© Bruce Allen

Dear Mr. BruAl–

I came across an opinion column from the 1950’s describing a national political debate in which the term “guns or butter” repeatedly appeared. What does it mean, and why don’t we hear it used today? Sounds as if it has something to do with hunter/gatherer societies in the olden days.

Signed, Perplexed in Parsippany

Dear Perplexed–

The period in history during which one heard the “guns or butter” debate was the archaic 1950s, a time in which Federal expenditures, on everything, pretty much equaled the tax revenue generated by the economy. This used to be a creature, similar in many ways to the dodo, known as the “balanced budget.” Due to a combination of political cowardice, inarguable demographics, a grossly inflated military budget, and a general population surprisingly unconcerned with the welfare of their own children and grandkids, this creature, too, will likely never again be seen by the eyes of man.

In metaphorical terms, “guns” in post-WWII America represented favorite Republican themes of support for business, free trade, a strong military, and civilized diplomacy. “Butter” reflected more Democratic preferences for social programs that sheltered and fed the poor, which ultimately led to what we now refer to as “entitlements,” health and income benefits funded largely by one’s own payroll deductions. Medicaid, as separate program altogether, has provided second-rate services to the poor for generations. All of these, and numerous other programs, have become knit together in the social safety net 95% of Americans rely on during their old age.

Back in the day, when Keynesian economics ruled, governments would pursue deficit spending during lean economic times or in wartime, in order to spur the economy to produce more goods, services, jobs and enemy dead. During flush times, when the American engine was hitting on all eight, governments were supposed to rein in spending, operate in surplus, and pay down the debts incurred during the preceding downturn. All the while, the intra-budgetary squabbling focused on how much should be spent on guns and how much on butter, as it was a zero sum game with winners and losers. Still, from a macro perspective, these battles took place upon the ground of keeping revenues and expenditures roughly in line, over time.

The generally spectacular performance of the American economy between 1946 and 1966 led politicians to the belief that one no longer had to choose between guns or butter, but that one could, in fact, have both. Such a decision would, of course, lead to small, permanent deficits which would, it was purported, easily get paid back as the economy outgrew the debt burden. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program, in conjunction with an activist military policy toward southeast Asia–recall the Domino Theory–started us down the road to where we are today, politically jammed up against incomprehensibly large and fast-growing deficits, the carrying costs of which consume an ever-greater percentage of Federal expenditures, putting more pressure on both the gunners and the butterers.

The issue of defense spending is an entire argument unto itself. I used to believe that America over-spent on defense. But with all the bad actors out there, I’m not so certain anymore. Someone else can write about that. But as for the butter issues, they could mostly be solved by the stroke of a pen. The amount of money each year flowing into Social Security and Medicare trust funds is not a matter of economics; it is a matter of politics. Political decisions determine this sum each year, and political decisions are to blame for most of the serious financial problems faced by these socialist income and health programs, without which America would soon resemble a third world country.

The primary issue, of course, is the limits on income exposed to SSI and Medicare taxes. For 2019, this number is $128,400. Above that, incomes are exempt from these taxes. A buttery policy decision to raise that number to, say, $500,000 would erase any looming deficits in these accounts, other than the $1 trillion or so that Congress has borrowed/stolen from them. But the simple mention of doing so gives Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the vapors, and absolutely no one on the Republican side of the aisle will even discuss it. All one ever hears–ever–from Republicans is that fiscal responsibility DEMANDS that we cut SSI and Medicare benefits, funds which aren’t even theirs to begin with.


Until the United States deals in a meaningful way with these two giant math problems, everything else we do as a society, short of trying to prevent North Korea from immolating the planet, is a workaround, a re-arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic. Democrats must seize upon this issue and take the social safety net off the everyday fiscal-cliff agenda, instead looking for real, meaningful ways to cut costs in Medicare and increase Social Security benefits for those at the bottom. Doing so should become a possibility after the 2020 election, presuming Trump resigns or loses and the Senate gets flipped. At which point we may also pay more attention to the fact that the planet itself is melting.

During Lent, we are reminded that there are millions of Americans who enjoy neither guns nor butter. (Well, maybe guns.) Societies, we are told, are not remembered for how they coddled their billionaires. They are remembered for how they treated their poor. In a perfect world, charity would take care of everything and government could stay out of people’s wallets. Needless to say, ours is an imperfect world.



Posted by: Bruce Allen | March 5, 2019

HJC Must Not Become McCarthy Act II

© Bruce Allen

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee

Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee

Rep. Jerry Nadler and his House Judiciary Committee, knives out, have sent a bunch of “any and all” letters to 80-some people for information pertaining to the President. Nadler has papered the world, requesting duplicate documents already requested by other committees which, in a setup like the US House of Representatives, is almost unavoidable. These are not 80 subpoenas, and will be de-duped by White House attorneys on their way to claiming executive privilege for what remains. Lawsuits resisting the subsequent subpoenas will emerge, but executive privilege doesn’t cut it as it relates to the commission of felonies. Such suits take time. Trump is just buying time.

The Dems’ apparent strategy—Political Death of a Thousand Cuts—is to keep a constant stream of damaging testimony coming at the White House for the next year, tainting both Trump and his protectors in both houses of congress. While it will only harden the hearts of those intellectual and moral impermeables, voters who have swallowed Trump hook, line and sinker, it will have a corrosive effect upon enough others overall to put congressional Republicans, lapdogs all, in Goldwater-style jeopardy come 2020. Dems will have to remind critics that all of this is because of the two-year backlog they inherited from House Republicans and they’re just playing catch-up. Wink wink. Nod nod.

Somehow, the strategies of Il Douche and Nadler have coalesced, via different paths. Trump wishes to put off the inevitable—resignation, disgrace, indictments—as long as possible, stretching things out, playing for time, in complete disregard of the problems he will be causing amongst his supporters. Nadler’s Dems will “just be trying to get to the bottom of things” until, that is, they serve papers on Ivanka. At that point, as they say, s**t will be on. Like Donkey Kong. No more Mr. Nice Guy tweeting his brains out. The gloves will come off, New York-style.

CNN and Fox could start selling subscriptions.

I have believed for awhile that the eventual political demise of Donald Trump via resignation will come as a result of potential indictments of his children corroborated by documents and/or other testimony. I suspect Alan Weisselberg will be watched closely by Robert Mueller in the event he starts pleading the 5th, as will other witnesses called by the committee. And if not Mueller than a U.S. Attorney somewhere, or the Attorney General of New York, etc. Once they turn Weisselberg I think The Trump Organization will be exposed as an ongoing criminal enterprise laundering money through Deutsche Bank for Russian oligarchs. The Trump Administration will exposed as having been put in office by the $25 million social media campaign orchestrated by Vladimir Putin with polling information provided by Paul Manafort. The Trump Inauguration Committee will be exposed as having made a bundle from foreign contributors. And on and on and on.

Imagine 1975. Imagine that somehow, some way, perhaps through the complicity of the U.S. Senate and/or House, perhaps the Supreme Court—whatever—Richard Nixon, in utter survival mode, headed the Republican ticket in the 1976 election. Imagine the carnage that would have consumed the Republicans. This, I suspect, is what is facing congressional Republicans in 2020. Add to the political havoc the likelihood of an economic recession commencing sometime between now and then. Imagine the Democrats, somehow, coming up with an electable candidate and managing to unite behind her. Now, imagine running her against an embattled Dick Nixon—cornered, wounded, doomed.

2020 could relegate the McGovern landslide back to second place. It could split the Republican party in half, the liberal side and the Dems able, after some practice, to find common ground on issues while the Trumpians and Penceians bray about anything and everything, making no effort to expand their base. Evangelicals and old white guys with high school degrees or less, ranting about socialism. Terrified by poor old Central American women and the fear of falling off the edge of the Earth.


Joe McCarthy, Chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee

Nadler’s main concern as I see it is to avoid being cast as the second coming of Joe McCarthy, attacking a belief system and its practitioners. Where in the 1950s it was communists and revolutionaries, today it is Trumpists, sycophants, nut jobs—paging Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka—enablers, co-conspirators, minions, anyone tainted by the whiff of Trump. Instead of being blacklisted, many will be facing jail time. Nadler must remember how the public eventually wearied of the parade and (justifiably) turned on McCarthy. Nadler needs to color scrupulously between the lines.

At some point in the foreseeable future we are going to see the results of the Mueller investigation, whether by publication by the Justice Department, Congress or a leaker; the report will see the light of day at some point. The fallout from this report comes before any of the above, setting the stage for the endgame, in which Trump agrees to resign in exchange for the dropping of all federal criminal charges against himself and any of his kids. He would still be exposed to state charges—dozens of them—but would not have to deal with any of his kids going to a federal pen. Pence would serve out the remainder of Trump’s term on the condition that he promise to get trounced in the general election in 2020.

The Senate will fall into Democratic hands. The Dems will approach a supermajority in the House. And one of the 30 or 40 people currently running for the Democratic nomination will be elected President, serving the Republican Party with the electoral punishment they so richly deserve, enabling and coddling this morally and intellectually vacant bully for four years. Let ‘em take a dozen years of irrelevance to repent, see how that feels. McConnell and the Invertebrates. Mitch brought the devil to the dance. At some point, he, too, will have to dance with him.

As my old friend Bobby Berkdale always said, “Cheaters never prosper.” Justice, one feels, will ultimately be served. Democrats and independents must be patient and scrupulous. And the most patient and scrupulous of all must be Jerry Nadler.

Posted by: Bruce Allen | February 11, 2019

It’s Way Past Time for a Woman President

© Bruce Allen

Margaret Colson in WaPo guest editorial  

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) on Capitol Hill in September 2018. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Colson’s great column explaining the logic of electing a woman provides a compelling picture of the additional burdens women face running for office that men do not. For those of us married for at least twenty years, with kids, nothing could be more obvious. No longer beholden to men who had physical strength or financial control, it became obvious to us husbands that our wives are more organized, more strategic, much more capable of multi-tasking, and basically just smarter than their corresponding husbands. Us. One assumes this advantage carries over into the workplace. It is only a vast male conspiracy, alive and well for centuries, that has made a woman candidate’s job impossible.

In the memorable words of Clouseau, “Not anymore.”

Mothers who work outside the home, most especially single moms are, collectively, the Ninth Wonder of the World. The US Marines of modern-day living, they get more done by 8 am than husbands would by 8 pm, the men drifting off to sleep in their chairs, surrounded by piles of dirty laundry begging to be washed, sorted, folded and put away, skills most husbands lack. The good husbands will devote the scores of hours it will take to learn how to do this one simple thing–laundry–their wives do in their sleep. The bad ones will ask their wife to hold their beer. As to the other 19 tasks moms routinely handle, each would have its own learning curve.

There was a woman in church on Sunday with six daughters–boom boom boom boom boom boom–like a xylophone, who managed to get everyone through communion before the wheels fell off of the youngest, at which point mom swooshed them out of the sanctuary and spent the next ten minutes with coats, seat belts and car seats, a task that would have taken a husband most of an hour. Assuming any chance, as dads, of having even made it through the homily, should we learn how? Or do we allow our inner economist to rail on about efficiency, about how the spouse most competent in a given task should naturally do it, which would have the advantage of being true about pretty much everything other than watching sports and drinking beer.

Who organizes the details around going to the pool or vacation or throwing a party or, God forbid, a wedding? Who takes care of most or all of the “kin work,” hours spent on the phone commiserating and keeping up? Who arranges and executes the life calendars for everyone living under the roof while most husbands are simply trying to stay out of the line of fire? Who can look after three or four kids for six hours without a trip to Dairy Queen or, worse yet, the ER?

Women. When it comes to business and politics it is no different. Most men are lazy, vain and greedy. As evidenced by Speaker Pelosi’s clapback to Trump at the SOTU, she is fully capable of running circles around the president and simultaneously building support amongst her caucus. Were she 58 instead of 78 she could easily run for and win the presidency. She seems very happy where she is. And her caucus is, suddenly, full of women. They will become a force to be reckoned with.

Here we are in 2019 AD and men, collectively, have made no substantial effort to deal with the existential crisis that is climate change. The only chance we have, as a planet, is to start electing women committed to the science of saving us from ourselves and showing the rest of the world how it’s done. Everything else–immigration, the economy, judicial reform, everything–is simply re-arranging the deck chairs on The Titanic. Women, who instinctively make better stewards, are going to have to save the world.

The next big issues to dominate headlines will be a no-deal Brexit and the economic, political and social unrest it will set off in England but also throughout the EU. Ripple effects will likely wash up on American shores, roiling markets and bolstering the dollar. Recession in England would be guaranteed; recession in the US would become a real possibility in 2020.

A number of men have, or will, stake their own claims to the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. It says here they are all working from something of a built-in deficit. The top woman who survives the primary season is likely to have a number of genetic advantages over the top man, as evidenced above. Granted, in politics, the best man doesn’t always win, as it were. But 2020, bolstered by heightened political activity among women, appears to be the year where the idea of a woman as president enjoys the greatest possibility yet of its being realized.


Posted by: Bruce Allen | January 26, 2019

The $5.8 billion DACA solution

© Bruce Allen

The President, Il Douche, and the Congress now have three weeks to hammer out a border protection agreement. This is a task comparable to working a compromise between the irresistible force and the immovable object. The Dems, per a compelling Jennifer Rubin column several weeks ago, have an opportunity staring them in the face. Do they, and the Repugs starting to distance themselves from Himself, surrender, giving 45 his $5.8 billion for border security?

Sort of, given the headlines bound to appear on Fox. The final actual payment will be considerably less as future Congresses brush it away. But the opportunity is for the Dems to demand full citizenship for Dreamers. The whole enchilada is the only item that will free up the $5.8 billion. To be complete in, say, three years.

Think about it. All Trump really cares about at this moment is a bunch of headlines telling the world he beat the Dems and won his $5.8 billion for the wall. Having been de-pantsed by Nancy Pelosi, he needs this “signature win” to reinforce his credibility with his base. His potential willingness to trade the Full Monty for Dreamers, to their foaming outrage, is witness to his poor negotiating skills, his willingness to “follow his gut,” and seems well within his reach.

The Dems embrace the Dreamers, and will be joined by enough lucid Republicans who recognize the party to be in a demographic death spiral and are sick of the whole immigration policy arguments dominating events. Give Trump his “wall,” give the Dreamers their tickets, let the Dems know they owe them one, and move on to something else. Republicans are going to have to learn how not to give a rip about how The Base feels about them, because The Base is making like Alka Seltzer before our very eyes. Wait til they connect the dots and see headlines reading, “U.S. Pays $5.8 Billion to Legalize Illegal Aliens.”

The three week delay put the Coulters and Limbaughs of the right in a twist. Imagine the twist if Trump negotiates away the “path to citizenship,” which they loathe above all things. Imagine how not surprised most folks would be to hear that Il Douche had foolishly traded something of value for something worthless; at best, $5.8 billion toward a barrier that will never be completed, whose final costs, ten or twenty years out, would easily top $100 billion. Future Congresses are not going to appropriate $100 billion for a wall.

The art of the deal.

Posted by: Bruce Allen | January 23, 2019

Imagine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as POTUS

© Bruce Allen 


Everyone knows her as AOC. Young, beautiful, brash new Congressperson from one of the most heavily Democratic precincts in the country. Self-proclaimed socialist, Medicare-for-all, job guarantees for all, abolish ICE, everything for everybody. An admitted political neophyte, one with so much to learn, but one whose brings an abundance of energy and a heart in the right place. Almost as dynamic, as radical, as young Catholic John F. Kennedy was as a first-term congressman in 1947. But Kennedy came from money and a political family. AOC came from basically nothing.

Here we are, at the depths of the disastrous Trump administration, the government paralyzed, the president knowingly using a million some people as bargaining chips, the Dems viewing The Wall as a symbol of everything for which this country does not stand, contrasting it with the Statue of Liberty and what it says about the American spirit. A mean, dumb president making things worse with the likes of acknowledged racist Stephen Miller whispering in his ear. Mueller getting set to deliver. Junior facing jail, maybe Javanka, too. A government too tied in knots to pay attention to the existential issue facing the planet, that of carbon dioxide and the attendant global warming.

So, the status quo being the status quo, let’s allow ourselves to imagine a future, a 2020 presidential election in which President Mike Pence faces off against, say, a Julio Castro. Pence gets revealed as a stuffed shirt, Castro galvanizes the Dems, and they ride the heavily-female blue wave to take the White House and the Senate, adding to their majority in the House. Taking on global warming, Castro wins re-election in 2024. By this time, Trump Republicans, those preaching fear and violence, face extinction.

[BTW, I expect Pence to become the nominee when Trump resigns. If Trump is not impeached and does not resign but is tarred by Mueller and everything we already know, it will be like the election of 1976, except that it would have still been Nixon at the top of the ticket instead of Ford. Trump’s chances of being re-elected are probably worse than Nixon’s would have been had he somehow toughed it out. And there is no question Pence will pardon Trump for everything federal, leaving the disgraced ex-president to deal with only the various and numerous state felony charges led by the New York AG.]

2028. AOC has moved up from the House to the Senate as Schumer retires. She wins the presidency. By then, she is well-informed, well-spoken, still bright, still beautiful and energetic. Still a socialist, a campaign finance reformer, beholden to no one and no group. Leading a country in which the fight against global warming is real and people have started to feel the power of progressive politics. Improved health care. Improved living standards for the bottom 20%. Improved schools. The Green Revolution, complete with jobs as well as a mission.

It is easy to imagine that AOC would build a Cabinet and staff top positions with smart, experienced people eager to “put America back on track, making it work for the have-nots.” Countries, after all, are not judged on their ability to coddle their billionaires. They’re judged by how well they take care of the bottom 20% of their citizens and residents. It is easy to imagine how an economy and the society behind it, having undergone eight years of progressive politics, could be primed to allow the pace of reform, change, and long-term thinking to accelerate. A 40-year old former street organizer and bartender, someone who has spent considerable time worrying about paying bills, would be a breath of fresh air in The Oval Office. We would, I believe, find ourselves modeling the progressive systems of Scandinavian countries in our approaches to health care, education, guns, income distribution, and climate change.

As our world, focused on economic growth with billions of people scraping a living out of the soil or the roadside and America focused on the drama and human costs of the Trumpian landscape, stumbles into the CO2 apocalypse, one must remain hopeful. The pendulum that delivered us Donald Trump, felon, will likely deliver an AOC, or someone like her, to take us equally far in the other direction, fighting the tide of a century of plutocracy in which the American military is regarded by everyday people as an invading force in a solid majority of countries in which it operates. This will be a country far less dependent upon fossil fuels than it is today. This could be a country that re-assumes a position of leadership on the global stage, a position so eagerly and clumsily pissed away by Himself.

Those of us concerned about Trump and his issues and anticipating his political demise are looking for some new faces to assume leadership positions in the Democratic party. Sorry Joe, sorry Bernie, sorry Elizabeth, but you are not happening in 2019. You may back into a nomination in 2020 but your politics are seen as too old school, too old boy/girl, too 20th century. The Democratic party needs some young faces willing to challenge the status quo, willing to elevate the level of political discourse to something approaching its previous level. Liberalism and bi-partisanship need to be removed from the list of punishable accusations.

The only way to fix American government involves a progressive tax structure which will be thoroughly unpopular with the top 10% of wage earners and asset- holders and will make the remaining 90% of the country work better. To pretend that such a structure is politically unfeasible is folly. As Dave Barry so eloquently pointed out years ago, the rich people of this country use their Social Security checks to purchase sunbonnets for their racehorses. This is nuts.

Thanks in no small part to Donald Trump himself, the majority of young voters—too early to say for sure about the boys at Covington Catholic—are turning away from the Republican party, becoming independents and Democrats. These people, in another ten years, would be happy to vote for an AOC for president, a vibrant Hispanic woman who was a bartender not so long ago. Rather than complain about her somewhat obvious ambition, I applaud her courage and her approach to government. The Democratic Party needs more like her.

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