Monday, June 24, 2019

Disgraceful Conditions in Children's Detention Camps on the Border Exposed in Magazine Article


Clint, Texas, facility where children are being detained under horrible conditions.


To read the article in the forthcoming issue of the New Yorker dealing with the horrible conditions under which children are being held in detention camps by our government, CLICK HERE or it that doesn't work, copy and paste https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/inside-a-texas-building-where-the-government-is-holding-immigrant-children on your browser line.

This is the story being discussed at length on TV programs such as Morning Joe and other TV news outlets today.

YOU CAN DO YOUR PART BY PASSING THIS ON TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILIES AND TELLING THEM TO DO THE SAME.  EVENTUALLY, SOMEONE IN WASHINGTON WILL LISTEN.

Jack Lippman



And while on this general subject (Immigration), we see that the President has postponed by two weeks his announced operation to gather up and deport all those living in this country illegally.  Aside from the enormous logistical problems such an action would create, if indeed it were legal, is the emotional effect it has on families which may, or may not, fit into that category.  Children going to school, a spouse going to work or out to shop for groceries ... all live under the fear that on their return their family might not be where it was a few hours earlier.  Try to imagine the emotional stress involved.  On adults, and more so, on children. 


But it all fits in with the President's skill as a negotiator. Keep changing your position.  Be slippery.  And then no opponent will be able to handle you.  That's his game with immigrants, with health care, with Iran, with trade.  People who have been swindled (Trump University students, Casino contractors, etc.) don't know they've been had until it’s too late.
JL

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Trump and Iran - "Selfish Socialilsm"



Iran and Donald Trump

The President does not come up with original ideas.  His approach is to denigrate something that is being done, destroy it, and then come up with the same thing with a different label, one identified with his personage.   He did that with NAFTA in regard to trade relationships with Mexico and Canada. It’s now called USMCAN and he claims credit for it as his baby, making him a genius in terms of international trade. But all it amounts to is a few tweaks made in the old NAFTA, which could have been accomplished without his destroying it.  But then, he would not have had NAFTA as a whipping boy to blame for unemployment in certain areas, for which it might not even have been responsible.

The same thing is now going on in regard to Iran.  During the Obama administration, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany joined with the United States to sign a treaty with Iran whereby in exchange for the removal of certain sanctions and the release of Iranian assets being held in the West, Iran would limit their development of uranium refinement to levels below weapons capability.  This treaty was working out well with inspections confirming Iran’s adherence to it, until Trump decided to tear it up and walk away from it, declaring it to be “defective at its core.” 

That is the way this goon operates.  In the real estate business, a big-time developer such as Trump claimed to have been, might have second thoughts on the price he had agreed to accept for a piece of property when he learned that some changes in the neighborhood suddenly made it worth twice as much.  So he would rip up the sales agreement and tell the buyer to “go sue me.”  That’s the way our President believes we should deal with other nations … and that’s what he’s doing with Iran.

Well, it looks like Iran is back in the business of working to develop uranium at weapons capable levels, and that can be blamed on Trump tearing up his copy of the treaty, which, incidentally, the other signatories are still honoring.  The President’s reaction at this moment seems to be vacillating between bellicosity and showing a desire to sit down and talk with Iran’s leaders who in turn are flexing their military muscles. 


Hormuz Straights - Current Flashpoint in Middle East


I suspect that despite some “war hawks” in the White House, like John Bolton, Trump would rather negotiate than go to war.  I believe that talks will happen at some level … and a new treaty will be the result … but just as USMCAN replaced NAFTA with Trump taking the credit, the new treaty with Iran, similar to the old one but with just a few tweaks, will replace the one the Obama administration had signed.  This time, however, it will have Trump’s name on it, and he is willing to risk a war to accomplish that.  This is sort of the way Donald got his name on so many buildings and other enterprises but it is no way to run a nation. 

(Oh well, It’s only about sixteen months until the 2020 elections … or about six weeks to the deadline I have arbitrarily set for starting impeachment proceedings. Incidentally, even though the polls show the President falling behind in crucial states, his backers claim that because Trump voters refuse to participate in polls, their results are meaningless. Proceed with caution.)

Jack Lippman

Why the “Selfish Socialists” Always Vote Republican

Up there somewhere north of Orlando and south of the Ocala horse country in the middle of Florida is a massive retirement community known as “the Villages.”  It is totally self-contained with golf courses, tennis courts, theatres, stores and whatever the 50,000 residents there need as they scoot around the place in their golf carts.  The place always votes solidly Republican and in fact, G.O.P. candidates like to kick off their campaigns there in its friendly environment.  And after whomever they pray to in their houses of worship, Donald Trump comes in a very close second.


Pleasant Scene at the Villages


If a speaker were to ask these benign folks what they thought of “socialism,” they would be greeted by a collection of boos and catcalls.  Yet, almost all these people receive Social Security payments each month and are on Medicare.  Those who end up in nursing homes, and some do, turn to Medicaid after they exhaust their savings.  Many who served our country, on their passing, are buried in VA cemeteries.  Hey folks!  Wake up!  That’s “socialism” in which you are participating.

(Let me make it clear that I understand the actual definition of socialism is “state control of an economy’s means of production and distribution.”  To the folks I am discussing here, however, it is simply reduced to government involvement in their lives and in this piece, I am accepting that vague definition.)

“Yes,” they would respond, “but it is a different kind of “socialism” from what the evil Democrats are peddling!” 

It’s their own brand of “socialism,” one that they cherish and want to keep.  Because they hold it so dear, let’s call it “Selfish Socialism” like the socialism the private sector relishes when the government steps in to save it from destroying itself and the nation’s economy, as it did in 2008.  The Villages people would still want to call it something else, something less radical-sounding, but for the purposes of this piece, I’m sticking with what it truly is, “selfish socialism.”

Villages residents worked hard all their lives, including contributing to Social Security, to be able to afford to retire.  In effect, they feel they have paid their dues, to the government and otherwise, and believe that they are entitled to be selfish about the preservation of what they have, including Social Security and Medicare and other government benefits.


What they object to is for “others,” whom they feel have not “paid their dues,” to share in these benefits.  That’s what the Democrats always want to promote, and in their eyes it’s simply a way for Democrats to go for the votes of those who depend on the “safety net” aspects of “socialism” such as unemployment and disability benefits, nutritional benefits (food stamps), child care, welfare payments, free or subsidized higher education, subsidized health care and tax breaks including refunds when they haven’t even had any taxes withheld, to get by.  That’s the part of “socialism” they’re against. 


They know that the only way the Democrats can afford to provide these things is to increase taxes on almost everyone else, not just the wealthy, and the Villages people probably consider themselves within that target.  They identify it as leftist “wealth redistribution” and not part of the “Selfish Socialism” they adore, but more like “Godless Communism.” They see it as “taking something away from them and giving it to others who never earned it. And that’s why, even though these retired folks depend on “socialist” programs historically initiated and maintained by the Democratic Party’s officeholders, they will always vote Republican. And though the Villages people are reluctant to admit it, those “others” are often members of minority groups, so their selfish approach to socialism sometimes has overtones of racism.

This attitude extends to many of the other smug retirees in Florida, far beyond the Villages, whose allegiance to the Republican Party is based on their unshakeable loyalty to “Selfish Socialism.”  This is one of the reasons why Democrats, who are actually a majority in the Sunshine State, do not win statewide elections.

JL

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Keeping the Mueller Report Alive and Three 'Politicklers'



Congress (and the Media)Please Keep the Mueller Report in the Spotlight




I hate to keep harping on the Mueller Report, but frankly, the Administration’s delaying tactics in responding to the House’s attempts to question witnesses who provided the meat of that document are serving to push it into the background. That is their aim.

Out of the spotlight, out of mind. 

To them, the Attorney General’s whitewash was the end of the story and moved it into history, where any excuse for delay can further push it back.  The Mueller Report contained enough to sooner or later put Donald Trump behind bars.  Nancy Pelosi alluded to this a few weeks ago, but even that is fading away.  That’s why this blog will not ignore the Mueller Report and continue to try to keep it in the spotlight.

I really wish someone would confront the President with the following request asking that he read the Mueller Report aloud, as quoted below, in the questioner’s presence, ideally under oath before a Congressional Committee.  Of course, this will never happen.  An alternative might be to write a kind personal note to the President in which the same request is made.  Such a polite letter might read as follows.  (Feel free to copy it and send it off, if you wish.)


Mr. President: 

I know you are a busy man but it is important that you take the time to read a little bit of the Mueller Report.  Here’s the conclusion drawn at the end of Volume Two of the Mueller Report, dealing with obstruction of justice,.  It reads as follows:

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.  Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgement.  The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.  Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” 

Surprised?  It doesn’t exonerate you, despite what the Attorney General says.  Listening to him can get you into trouble, sir.  Read it for yourself!  If it exonerated you, the Report would have said so!  And it didn’t.  Please, sir, read it yourself.

As for you claiming that it also said that there was “No Collusion,” please next go back to the Introduction to Volume One of the Report, where it deals with Russian interference in our election process. It goes out of the way to clearly state that:

“In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion.” In doing so, the Office recognized that the word “collude” was used in communications with the Acting Attorney General confirming certain aspects of the investigation’s scope and that the term has frequently been invoked in public reporting about the investigation.  But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code., nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law.  For these reasons, the Office’s focus in analyzing the question of joint criminal liability was on conspiracy as defined in federal law.”

Yes, Mr. President, because there is no such crime as “collusion,” the lawyers who wrote the Mueller report considered the evidence under the closest thing to that in the law, and that is the law regarding “conspiracy.” While the evidence was not bad enough to meet the tough standards that the crime of conspiracy requires, the Report never said that there was “No Collusion.”  In fact, in the sentence preceding the above quote, the Report also states:

“A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean that there was no evidence of those facts.”

This means that while the standards required to establish the crime of “conspiracy” were not met, the evidence was still there.

Now that you know what the Mueller Report really said, sir, you at least will be prepared when Congress fulfills its responsibility and points out to you that the Report did not exonerate you of the charge of obstruction and never came out with the verdict of “no collusion” either. 

A Friend

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 Three “Politicklers”

1.    In his Orlando 2020 campaign kick-off rally, Trump defined his supporters as “a great political movement … that believes a nation must care for its own citizens first.” That reminds me to suggest, if you haven’t done so yet, to check out my recent review of the Okrent book, “The Guarded Gate” on this blog.  Better yet, read the book.


2. Recently, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reminded us that “The Trump White House may be a clown show and a criminal enterprise.  But it’s also an actual  presidency.  It’s turning out to be a genuinely reactionary administration led by a wannabe authoritarian who refuses to recognize constitutional checks on power.  The real danger is not the antics but the policies.” Friends, this is a warning to us all.  He’s no longer a joke, as other despots throughout history have sometimes been initially viewed by their public, much to their later regret.  That's why I no longer laugh at the amusing cartoons about the President occasionally forwarded to me. Dowd is absolutely correct.  The White House 'clown show' is no longer a laughing matter.
 
Dowd


3.   One of the most interesting postings on this blog was the one dated March 1, 2016.   Other than my ultimately disproven conviction that Donald Trump was not electable (I called him a “sure-to-lose” candidate), it was otherwise right on the mark in regard to the cowardice of the Republican Party.  It also dwells upon the significance of the folk song “The Blue Tail Fly.”  Go back and check it out and find out what “Jimmy Crack Corn” REALLY may have meant.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A Book Review - "The Guarded Gate"



I’ve just read “The Guarded Gate” by Daniel Okrent (Scribners – 2019) which deals with “bigotry, eugenics, and the law that kept two generations of Jews, Italians and other European immigrants out of America.”  There’s enough in this book for all Americans to be ashamed of and for the scientific and academic communities, both of which (with rare exceptions) failed to live up to the standards expected of them for half a century, to share in that shame.  Okrent’s critical perspective is sometimes a bit overwhelming, but the vile nature of the subject matter makes that understandable, making the book more political and social commentary than pure history.

Some of the material in the book clearly resonates even today.  Here’s an example, taken from the period just after World War One, when some Americans feared that an increasing number of immigrants were on their way here:  “One congressman … claimed the Soviet Union was smuggling one hundred Bolshevik agents into the United States from Mexico every day (and) … had become chairman of the House Committee on Immigration.” (pg. 255)
 
Another example citing communication between two leaders of the immigration restriction movement had one asking the other, “Can we build a wall high enough around the country, so as to keep out these cheaper races or will it only be a feeble dam which will make the flood all the worse when it breaks?” (pg. 256).  

Even more:  In Calvin Coolidge’s first Annual Message to Congress in 1923, the President stated that “America must be kept American.  For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration.” (pg. 336)
"Send These, the Homeless, Tempest-tossed to Me ....

The book concludes, after World War Two had shattered many of the mistaken ideas of the immigration restriction movement and the phony science of eugenics (which Adolf Hitler had adopted), with President Lyndon Johnson signing a new Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965 within sight of the statue of Liberty.  The author closes his work saying that “for believers in the promise of the nearby statue, the future of American immigration policy looked as bright as the brilliant sun overhead.”

Now, 54 years later, I am not so sure.  I suspect that if our 45th President were to read “The Guarded Gate,” he would ally himself with some of its “bad guys.”  And they were truly bad, ranging from the courtly Senator Henry Cabot Lodge to the media gurus at the old Scribner publishing house and at the Saturday Evening Post.

These vicious, usually wealthy, gullible, often misguided, sometimes not very bright and sometimes very selfish, but always very respectable, Ivy-League educated people almost destroyed the American dream in their effort to keep America frozen in the elitist, White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant heritage which they believed was essential for the nation’s "biologic" survival.   Though they were reluctant to publicly admit it, their groundless fears for America's "bloodline" were grounded in antii-Semitism and a abhorrance of Italians, the groups most involved in immigration to the United States.

The restrictive, genetically-designed immigration quotas spawned by half a century of lies, reinforced by pseudo-scientific nonsense, were undeniably perniciously racist, and sadly, the American people bought into them in the 1920’s and 1930's, knowing no better.  In this light, incidents like the refusal of the United States to allow the refugee-carrying vessel, the St. Louis, to land in 1939 become more understandable, although still inexcusable, 
 
The goals may be a bit different today but you can still see some of these discredited ideas hard at work in slogans like “America First” and “Make America Great Again.” That really means "like it was before 'other' people started getting off the boat, or crossing the border," just as their own forebearers had done years before, but they’ve forgotten about that.

Jack Lippman

Sunday, June 16, 2019

George Will and Some Advice for Democrats

Practicality Versus Ideology!

In a recent column, George Will suggested that “sooner rather than later, even Democrats will come to suspect that denigrating people until they vote for you lacks a certain strategic plausibility.”  He’s talking about people like ME, who in this blog have repeatedly blamed the presence of an incompetent, failed, immoral, business cheat in the White House on the gullibility, if not the stupidity, of the American voter.

In this vein, I have frequently quoted the otherwise reprehensible H.L. Mencken who said that “as democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s delight at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

I guess this is not the best way to “win friends and influence people” and more importantly, to get them to vote for your candidates.

Will suggests, if you follow his sophisticated reasoning, that the Democrats had better nominate someone who will attract the votes of those for whom “government is more a practical than an ideological concern.”  Targeting African American voters as a crucial group, he mentions their concern with health care, employment and schools rather than impeachment, abolishing the Electoral College and other “gesture-promises” which to them “probably are distractions.”

Trump’s victory in 2016, Will points out was based on this kind of practical, rather than ideological, appeal when he went after the votes of “non-college whites” part of a faction which “felt itself a casualty of an economic dynamism that had most benefited people who admire this faction least.”

Will’s words are a caution to the Democratic Party, suggesting their candidate should be one who soft-pedals ideological reform and concentrates on what is practical for crucial voting groups.  Keep your eyes and ears open during next week’s Democratic candidates’ “debates,” which are not really debates but rather forums in which they will state their positions.  If Will is correct, polls in crucial states after the debates should favor those whose positions come off as the most practical rather than the most ideologically pure.

Jack Lippman

Someone"s Watching You





Someone's Watching You and it's Not Big Brother


I read the other day that this year, digital advertising businesses like Facebook and Google will be bigger in the US this year than traditional advertising businesses like TV, radio, and newspapers! That’s where the money is being spent. Check it out, if you wish but that’s what is happening. 

Why?  Well, traditional advertising is a “scattershot” process, hoping you pick up the magazine or newspaper, or tune in to the TV or radio station where their ad appears.  Sure, they place those ads where their research suggests their potential customers are (such as readers of ‘Vanity Fair’ or ‘Money’ magazines) but that research is nowhere near so sophisticated as is the ability of digital advertising businesses such as Facebook, Netflix or Google to hone in on potential customers for their advertisers with great precision.  That’s because these advertising platforms know about their users in great, if not intimate, detail and can use that information to sell ads to their micro-targeting advertisers who would like their ad to reach, for example, middle-aged married women who like Italian food and have a kitten as a pet!

A follower of this blog alerted us to a website which lists many of these digital advertising business websites, some of which you certainly have visited, and to which you have provided information over the years, intentionally or otherwise, about yourself.  CLICK HERE NOW to visit https://www.vpnmentor.com/research/whos-watching-you/#/ or, copy and paste it on your browser line if that doesn’t work for you.  Learn a bit about the strategies of those who are watching you when you visit their sites.

(Please, because we are no longer sending out “blog posting alerts,” visit www.jackspotpourri.com whenever you have a chance!  The blog is now being updated several times a week.)

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Understanding the Mueller Report

"We wrote it.  You read it."

Hey ... I am getting to enjoy these more frequent, brief, postings on the blog.  Keep "tuning in" to them.  And tell others to visit www.jackspotpourri.com.


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Understanding the Mueller Report

A letter-writer published in today's Palm Beach Post suggested that all Special Counsel Mueller's investigation was supposed to involve was Russia's interference in the 2016 election.  "Not so," says I, resulting in my writing this letter, setting readers straight, on what the Mueller Report really said.   I hope they publish it.


Being retired with adequate time on my hands to read the Mueller Report, I have done so.  I do believe that many who comment on it have not done that.  An example of that is the letter-writer of June 11 who declared that the extent of Special counsel’s role “was to investigate Russian influence and the Trump presidential campaign to establish whether a crime was committed and provide the requisite evidence to support his findings and if need be, recommend indictment.”  That is incomplete.  It goes much further. The introduction to Volume Two of the Report specifically states that “The order appointing the Special Counsel gave this office jurisdiction to investigate matters that arose directly from the FBI’s Russia investigation, including whether the President had obstructed justice.”

Further quoting from the introduction to Volume One of the Mueller Report, “‘A statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts. In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion”.

Unfortunately, the legalese language in which the Mueller Report is written, by lawyers for lawyers, prevents most Americans from understanding that cooperation did indeed exist between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, although not to the level which qualified as criminal under conspiracy law, and that in regard to the President, immune from indictment according to Department of Justice opinions, it concluded Volume Two by stating that “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.  Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgement.  The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.  Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” 

The June 11 letter-writer obviously feels that such a conclusion goes beyond the scope of the Special Counsel’s mission.  I disagree. Those who have not read the Mueller Report should be encouraged to try to do so before commenting upon it.

It's all there in the Mueller Report, but unfortunately, getting at it is comparable to bothering to read all of the fine print in the deed to your home, your mortgage or rental agreement or even the "Terms of Service" of the internet service through whose servers you are reading this.


"All of the Above is Fake News.  I Wuz Exonerated."











A Survey Where the Loser is the Winner!


Democrats sometimes lose the presidential electoral votes in states where they actually are a majority and should win.  The key is getting out the vote.  Even one percent more might be a significant difference.  See if the following hypothetical exercise helps you choose your choice for the Democratic presidential candidate.

It’s Election Day, it’s raining out and you haven’t yet voted early or by mail.  You probably will grab an umbrella and go out to vote for your favorite.  Fine.  But think about it this way.  With which one of the following leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination at the head of the ticket are you MOST likely to decide not to get your feet wet and stay home, skipping voting?  Hmm. Interesting question.  (Listed in alphabetic order).  The one who gets the fewest votes in this hypothetical survey should be the Democratic candidate. 

Other aspirants for the nomination are not included in this poll because none of them, really, have a large enough loyal following which would go out in the rain to vote for them.  I believe these five do, but some more than others … and that’s what this survey is all about.

___ Joe Biden
___ Pete Buttegeig
___ Kamala Harris
___ Bernie Sanders
___ Elizabeth Warren

Remember, the loser in this survey, the one with the fewest votes, WINS!

Note:  If you really want to participate in this survey, send me your choice as to which of these five, heading the 2020 Democratic ticket, would deter you from voting on a rainy 2020 Election Day. You know my email address. (Riart1@aol.com) And remember, the candidate with the fewest votes in this hypothetical poll might be the one with the greatest chance of winning on Election Day.  They would get that elusive one percent to the polls.

Jack Lippman






Saturday, June 15, 2019

Nineteenth Amendment, the President's Behavior, the Hatch Act and some Economic Thoughts

Poor Anna, Poor Tess

It has been 100 years since the Nineteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution of the United States, giving women the right to vote.  The rights of women have been trampled on throughout history. (It even goes back to the Bible.  Today's clergy bend over backwards to explain that.) 

To get some insight into the way thing were, read about what women had to put up with just fifty years or so before the Nineteenth Amendment became law.  Two monumental novels well make this point.  Both are set outside of the United States, but things were pretty much the same here as they were in late Nineteenth century Imperial Russia or Victorian England respectively, where Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” and Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the D’Aurbervilles” are set.  (For both Anna and Tess, things didn’t end well.  They're both "good reads" if you have the time, which I doubt.  Originally serialized in Russia, "Anna" runs on for 817 pages.)
Jack Lippman
  

Why He Is Like He Is


Are you puzzled over the behavior of the President of the United States and what he thinks is ethically proper and what is not?  All he is doing is applying the level of ethical morality which is routinely acceptable in the business community to what he does in government.  Why, if such behavior is considered normal in a free enterprise capitalist society, is it not acceptable in running the government which manages that society?  

If a lawyer in the private sector can tell a businessman how to “legally” do something that is otherwise “illegal,” why cannot the President do things that are “illegal” so long as his lawyers and the Department of Justice manage to rationalize those acts, cloaking them with the garb of “legality.”  That is the problem in electing a businessman to public office.  Different ethical codes apply.

And while on the subject of our businessman in the White House, several weeks ago, on this blog, I modified my position on impeaching him.  I had been against it because it would never make it through the Republican whores in the Senate and give the President something about which to brag.  “Hey, they failed to impeach me!”

My modification declared that if court actions and House committee hearings do not bring out enough impeachable documentation by the end of July, sufficient to convince the Senate to change its position or even convince the President to resign as Richard Nixon did, the House should then start impeachment hearings.  I still am of that opinion.  July 31 is the deadline.  After that date, expect things to get nasty.


Kellyanne & the Hatch Act

Kellyanne with spouse

Many years ago, I was active in the South Ward Young Democratic Club in Newark, N.J.   We had a member who had a minor city job of some sort downtown in Newark’s City Hall.  Whenever he was asked to participate in some campaign activity or other, he excused himself by saying the Hatch Act prevented him, as a government employee, from political campaigning.   (Since the Hatch Act pertained to Federal employees, his excuse was an invalid one, but we didn’t know any better and never challenged him.) 


This is the same Act which some are now claiming that Kellyanne Conway violated by doing political campaigning while being paid as an advisor to President Trump.  It’s very difficult to get and hold a government job of that nature without manifesting political loyalties.  I would suspect the Hatch Act is being violated every day in this administration as it probably has been in every administration since its passage in 1939.  Moreover, since the Hatch Act specifically exempts (besides the President and the Vice President), persons whose compensation is paid from the appropriation for the office of the President as well as heads and assistant heads of executive departments, it is extremely unlikely that Ms. Conway’s position would not be squeezable into one of these exempt categories.  My view (and I’m from New Joisey) in regard to the Hatch Act and Kellyanne?  Fuggedaboudit! 


Here's Where I Play Economist

(Those who have read some of my occasional economic thoughts in the past should know that I consider economists to be more like astrologers or alchemists than scientists.  That didn't stop John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman from both being held in high esteem while diametrically opposed in theory.)  

The Interest-Dependent Profit Motive in Banks and Insurance Companies as Opposed to Other Businesses

All real businesses exist to make a profit.  Of course, there are some that do not or even operate at a loss, but those are not “real” businesses.  They continue to exist, or fail to go out of business, because their negative bottom lines are useful to their owners for tax purposes.  Forget about them. We are talking about “real” businesses, all of which are structured to make a profit.

Any business, after paying the costs of producing its product or providing its service, its employees’ salaries, its taxes, its rent, its equipment, its accounting, advertising, legal and other operating expenses, hopes to have something left over.  That is its profit for its owners or shareholders.

This is easily understandable when we talk about businesses with tangible products such as manufacturers, restaurants and retail establishments as well as those that deal in necessary services such as delivery companies, dry-cleaners, utilities and such professional services provided in the healthcare, legal, accounting and other professional or quasi-professional areas.

In all such enterprises, more money should come in than goes out.  Otherwise the business ultimately fails, even if the temporary input of cash through loans or investment can postpone that day.  But let’s get to companies whose stock in trade is not a tangible product or service, but the manipulation of money.  We’re talking about insurance companies and banks.

Banks provide services to their retail customers in the form of savings accounts and checking accounts for which they charge either through fees or by the failure to pay the real current interest rate on the money they are holding.  They don’t lose money on their checking and savings customers.  But that is only a tiny part of the business they are in.  


The funds in or moving through these accounts enable them to access further funds (for which they themselves pay interest) from the Federal government, and that is the larger pool of money banks use to make their real profits, which is the interest paid to them for home loans, auto loans, mortgages and most importantly, loans and credit made available to businesses of all sizes to enable them to operate as if they had their anticipated profits already in their accounts. 

Sometimes, a bank may not even bother with the “seed money” provided by retail savings and checking accounts to have a large pool of money to thusly invest.  Their sole customers are those to whom they provide money.  We call them “investment banks (Goldman Sachs is an example)” as opposed to those that still also have retail customers for savings and checking as well (Wells Fargo is an example of such “commercial banks”).  

Of course, ostensibly purely retail financial institutions such as credit unions and savings banks also depend on how they invest the money they are holding to make them profitable, something the profits made from their retail customers cannot alone do.  And for all intents and purposes, “pseudo-banks,” those companies in the venture capital and private equity fields, require that the money they lend or invest produce income at a generous interest rate, just as “real” banks do.  No one goes into the money business with the aim of failing.

Looking at insurance companies, they also provide money for investment and that is where they make their profit.  The products they sell, be it life insurance, health insurance, automobile insurance, homeowners or renters insurance, business insurance, etc. are all cut and dried as calculated by actuaries whose professional skill is to know when and what claims might be anticipated, how much will be needed to pay them, and what premiums to charge in order for that amount of money to be available.  Because these premium payments supposedly accumulate for the possible payment of future claims, the interest rate at which that money accumulates is crucial to the pricing of insurance.  Of course, interest being earned is important in banking as well, but in insurance, it is even more important since long term commitments are always involved.  In any event, insurance companies do not make very much money from the premium payments their policyholders pay.  Those amounts are determined by formulas which dictate how much will be needed to pay future claims, and there is little, if any, profit built into them, remaining after “overhead” expenses are paid.  

The real money insurance companies make is from the interest they earn from the loans and investments they make on the enormous amounts of money they are holding to cover future claims.  (An investment banker I knew once, looking at this pool of money, greedily referred to insurance companies as “cash cows.”) The long-term interest rates plugged into their actuarial assumptions are usually far more conservative than what the insurance companies’ investments actually earn.  Hence, insurance companies usually make a lot of money.  (When an insurance company fails, and it does happen, it is usually because its management has fallen into the hands of sales-oriented marketing people recklessly attempting to increase that pool of money to invest, rather than traditional conservative number-crunchers.)

Federal Reserve Bank's DC headquarters
It should be noted that in the operation of such "money" businesses, interest rates are what it is all about.  Key in the determination of those interest rates is the Federal Reserve Bank, a supposedly independent agency which regulates the availability of money to banks in a variety of ways.  Oversimplifying, the greater the money supply (cheap money), the lower the prevailing interest rate, and vice versa.  The "Fed" controls that spigot. Keeping politics out of the Fed’s decision-making, something the President fails to understand (I doubt that he ever set foot in the Wharton School), is very important.

Banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions mentioned above should not be permitted to operate without careful oversight and regulation by Federal and State agencies.  We have that today, but the trend should be toward more, and not less, such monitoring.
Jack Lippman