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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Middle Eastern Politics, G.O.P. Thoughts and a Scarce Resource


My Middle East Letter to the Post ... Expanded Upon

Here is a copy of a letter written by me published in the Palm Beach Post  on 4-16-16.   In today's posting, I elaborate on it further.

Can candidates find Mideast path? 

 In his column “Middle East tribal divisions keeping Islamic State alive” (March 31), Thomas Friedman throws in the towel in regard to our being able to solve the problems of the Middle East when he uses the word “impossible” seven times in his first three paragraphs and concludes that the Arab and Muslim world “is too divided, angry, ambivalent and confused to do it.”

For centuries, these problems were contained by colonialism, be it of Western nations or of the Ottoman Empire. But now we have a bunch of supposed countries — many of which still lack the basic prerequisites of nationhood and which probably would be better off if they still were someone’s colony.

Resolving the historic Shiite-Sunni split would be a start in solving the problem; and, as Friedman suggests,   a peace process between Iran and Saudi Arabia is needed to bring that about. Which of our presidential candidates are up to dealing with this problem? 


Well, here is my shot at solving the problem.  Right now, our government is wrestling with the problem of whether they should release the full report documenting Saudi Arabia's connection to the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks on the United States.  A bi-partisan Congressional effort to make the Administration release this information is underway.  This information, it is believed, does not shine favorably on Saudi Arabia.  Add to this the financial and moral support the Wahabi regime there quietly provides to ISIS and we have a situation where our relationship with a supposed ally is strained, at best.

We have to give the Saudis a chance, however, before releasing this informationIn exchange for our "soft-pedalling" the information about their role in the 9-11 attack, we must insist on their sitting down with Iran, whom we can somewhat manipulate with economic sanctions.  The task on the table would be to resolve the Sunni-Shia split, at least from a political and military standpoint.  Theologically, it cannot be done, but other aspects of the split are open to compromise.   

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia must recognize that while they can live under supposed theocracies, their governments must recognize that in the final analysis, politics trumps religion.  Let them be "Islamic" republics or monarchies, but let that religious mantle to their government evolve into something like the role of the monarchy in the United Kingdom, symbolic, but little more.  The Saudi Royal family and the Ayatollahs in Teheran will have to recognize this, sooner or later, if they are to survive.

If the material in the report is fully released, I believe the information about Saudi Arabia's  9-11 role will result in a wide, non-partisan movement in this  country to stop backing, or perhaps even openly oppose, the present regime in Saudi Arabia.  This is the hammer we would hold over them.  Cooperate or lose the support of the United States.

But the Saudis can say "no" to this.  They are already making threats about disturbing the financial world by selling off United States securities if we release the report.  We should ignore such threats.  Perhaps the Saudis would look to Russia or China to be their backer.  If that happens, we should then reply that we no longer need their oil, which we do not, and tell them they are on their own.

Without us behind them, despite the world-wide numerical superiority of Sunnis over Shiites, they will lose control of their neighboring oil-rich states in the region to Iran, whose military capabilities they cannot approach, in short order.   Neither Russia nor China will run to their rescue.  And their synthetic regime, which was only a gift from the British after the First World War, will collapse back into desert sands.

They also could say "yes" and then our task will be to guarantee Iranian cooperation.  We did that in regard to their nuclear program by the use of sanctions and that course would still be open to us.  

Again I ask the question with which I concluded my letter to the Post. "Which of our presidential candidates are up to dealing with this problem?"  It will not be an easy job, and President Obama's present reluctance to release the full 9-11 report 

would suggest that it is already being used as a tool, perhaps a hammer, in negotiations with Saudi Arabia.
Jack Lippman

How Many Republicans Think This Way?
"I am a loyal Republican as were my parents and my grandparents before me.  We work very hard to elect local and state officials and respond generously with time and occasionally donations as well when our Representative in Congress, our Senators or our Governor, all Republicans, ask us to.  We knock on doors, bake cakes, make telephone calls and work at polling places." 

"When our Party has its convention in July in Cleveland, it will nominate its candidate for the Presidency.  I want that candidate to be someone like me who lives, loves and breathes the Grand Old Party, not someone who has run in our primary elections and caucuses and gotten a lot of support that way, but who is not truly one of us.  We welcome him at our convention, but to give him our nomination would be the ruination of our Party.  The nomination belongs to one of us, one who best represents the ideals the Party stands for, and we thank God in heaven for sanctioning the rules of our Convention which I hope and pray will ultimately make that possible."  

And you, dear reader, if things don't quite work out that way, do you think such loyal Republicans will vote for their Party's candidate anyway, stay home on Election Day or just possibly vote for a  Democrat?

Jobs, a Scarce Resource

The big motivator in the Presidential election as well as in the primaries of both parties is the inability of the middle class to see something good happening for them in regard to jobs, wages and security.   Low priced labor elsewhere, globalization and the advance of technology has created this situation. 

Those at the bottom of the economic ladder will continue to be employed in minimally remunerative jobs in agriculture, health care and hospitality (picking crops that machines cannot yet handle, tending to seniors who can no longer care for themselves or serving food or flipping burgers). 

Government programs will continue to supplement their income as they do today.

Those at the top of the ladder, in the legal, medical and other professions will continue to earn good incomes, though not quite so generous as in the past.  And those involved in the creation of technology

will be well rewarded as will those who already possess sufficient wealth to invest it in technology and the financial services required by the economy.

As for those in the middle, the future does not appear very bright. If labor is required to create something, it will be cheaper overseas.  If that “creation” is “brought back” to our shores in some manner, it will only be because technological advances make it less expensive to “create” things here than to use inexpensive overseas labor.  But those technological advances will not create many jobs here, and jobs are the traditional way consumers get money to spend on the things they need.  This not only affects those on assembly lines, but those in management as well and in the service businesses (restaurants, retail, etc.) where money is spent.  The vast number of Americans whose living depends on selling something will also suffer because the jobs which provide the money for middle class consumers to use to purchase things will continue to be scarce. 

It is these middle class Americans, not those on the upper or lower rungs of the economic ladder, who are turning to those candidates who recognize the way things are working against them.  They look to Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders to make things better for them, but realistic, attainable solutions are rarely heard from these candidates.  Words are cheap.

For example, attacking free trade may bring jobs back, but even if technology doesn’t quickly make such reclaimed jobs obsolete, our labor costs will price the manufactured items out of the range of the middle class consumer.  Getting rid of the $15 shirt from Bangladesh and replacing it with the same shirt with a $100 price tag, because our workers are better paid, accomplishes nothing.  The formerly unemployed worker may then have a job, but he won’t be able to afford to buy anything, not even a shirt.

(Juan and Evita Peron maintained control of Argentina half a century ago with the support of “los descamisados,” the shirtless ones.)

No, the solutions for the beleaguered middle class are not the impossible promises of Donald or Bernie, but rather the recognition that our economy requires less and less labor as technology advances, and that jobs will become, from now on, a “scarce resource.”  As I have suggested many times in this blog, jobs will have to be “rationed.”  To accomplish this, we must establish iron-clad limits on how much of this scarce resource Americans can have.  This can be done by insisting that no one work past age 50 and that no one’s work week exceed 30 hours!  Then, and only then, will jobs be available for all of our country’s working force.

To survive on, and ultimately retire on, the income from such employment will require substantial government assistance, and for this, tax increases will be necessary.  In fact, our entire system whereby the government acquires its revenue will have to be revised in order to satisfy the needs of an economy where jobs will have become a “scarce resource.”

Before the days of the income tax, government got its revenue from tariffs and land sales.

(Bought some land and "going west")

When there was no more land to "sell off" to settlers and tariffs became unpopular because they made goods expensive for all, we turned to the income tax.  Nothing is written in stone.  But the government must find a way to keep the economy going as jobs become a "scarce resource."
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Jack Lippman 

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