Tag Archives: 2020 presidential campaign

3 Things the Government Must Do to Avoid Economic and Social Collapse

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Americans don’t expect much from their government. But even by the standards of a nation with one of the flimsiest social safety nets in the Western world, the inability and unwillingness of both major political parties to manage and solve the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic is shocking.

President Trump’s lack of leadership is well documented elsewhere so I won’t go into detail here. Democrats aren’t blameless; the DNC-engineered pre-Super Tuesday soft coup against Bernie Sanders replaced a frontrunner whose prescient ideas were tailormade for this crisis with a babbling dolt without an original thought in his foggy brain.

Congress is squabbling over an economic stimulus package as if they had all the time in the world. My favorite part was Mitch McConnell letting the Senate take the weekend off. Hey, Japan, not cool about Pearl Harbor but we’ll get back to you about declaring war in a week or whatever. Meanwhile, experts predict that unemployment could go as high as 30%, significantly worse than the depth of the Great Depression.

But now is not the time to cast blame. The ship is sinking. We can make the captain walk the plank later. Right now we have to fix the problem.

First, we have to save lives.

Trump says he doesn’t want to “nationalize” American companies. Actually, no one’s suggesting that. But they should. This is still a spectacularly wealthy nation with incredible resources and brilliant entrepreneurs. Shortages of face masks, testing kits, ventilators, rubbing alcohol and so on are inexcusable. The federal government must immediately requisition factories, hire workers directly and place manufacturing of needed supplies on an emergency war footing. If a company is already set up to make something we need yet refuses to do so, it should be nationalized and put to work for the American people.

In the fight against COVID-19, the biggest danger to the privileged is the poor health of the underprivileged. You can hunker down in the Hamptons but your newly-purchased freezer full of hoarded steaks won’t protect you from infection as long as others are too vulnerable to protect themselves. Some of the 17 million vacant homes in the United States should be immediately seized to house America’s half a million homeless and other vulnerable populations. The vast majority of prisoners, many of whom are awaiting trial, convicted of minor offenses or convicted of serious crimes but safe to release, should be immediately released from facilities whose conditions create cesspools of contagion.

Healthcare must be free. Hospitals and doctors should send their bills to the government. That debate, along with the canard that we have the best healthcare system in the world, is obviously over.

Second, we have to save the economy.

I’m not normally one to agree with Thomas Friedman, but he’s right when he points out that economic collapse will kill people on a scale on par with COVID-19: “Either we let many of us get the coronavirus, recover and get back to work—while doing our utmost to protect those most vulnerable to being killed by it. Or, we shut down for months to try to save everyone everywhere from this virus—no matter their risk profile — and kill many people by other means, kill our economy and maybe kill our future.”

I don’t think we really need to “let” many of us get the coronavirus. That has already happened.

News coverage that emphasizes test results is an idiotic distraction. Roughly 1/10 of 1% of American citizens have been tested. We know nothing about the COVID-19 status of 99.9% of the population. We don’t call elections based on 0.1% of the poll results and we can’t draw real conclusions from the testing so far.

However, there is reason to believe that many, many people have already had it.

Roughly one out of five people who get the coronavirus will never know it because they are asymptomatic. COVID-19 was first identified in early December in Wuhan, China. Although the median incubation period is 5 days, it can be as long as 11 days. That means we are talking about a pandemic that dates back to late November 2019.

When did it arrive in the United States? Probably in a day or two, the amount of time it took for one asymptomatic and/or incubating carrier—people like this account for about 10% of new infections—to board a plane and fly across the Pacific Ocean. Roughly 10,000 people a day flew from China to the United States at that time.

This is not a new thing—and you should feel good about that.

Let me explain.

The number of new cases in the U.S. has been doubling about every three days. Get a calculator and start multiplying by two: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024. That’s 10 three-day periods, aka the month of December. Keep going. By the end of January you’re at over a million. By February, a billion. The U.S. population is about 330 million. So when New York governor Andrew Cuomo says that 40 to 60% of the population is going to get the coronavirus, he’s being conservative.

The rate of transmission will stop increasing exponentially at some point. Some patients will die. The virus will run out of new Americans to infect. But mostly, we are going to recover and emerge with full or partial immunity to COVID-19. Many, many Americans have already had coronavirus, recovered, and are now fine.

Must they stay at home too? Maybe not. The U.S. government must pull out all the stops to test everyone, not just for current infection, but for past infection. A team at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has developed a promising test for acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that lets you know if you’ve ever had it. We don’t know if it’s possible to be reinfected by coronavirus or, if so, whether a second bout would be equally or less severe. But there are promising signs that the human immune response can tackle COVID-19.

If COVID-19 patients can emerge with total or near total immunity to the strain, they can help people who are sick. There’s no risk of them transmitting the infection or of contracting it. They are the key to restarting our economy. We can’t waste a moment finding those people and getting them back to work.

Third, we have to save people’s individual economies.

As we saw after the 2008-09 Great Recession, there’s not much point saving banks or corporations or the stock market without targeting individual American citizens for direct relief. Bernie Sanders has proposed that the United States Treasury pay out $2000 per person per month until the end of the coronavirus crisis. Sounds right.

Republicans want an absurd regressive form of means testing—the poorer are you are, the less you would receive. Saying they don’t want to subsidize millionaires, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi also want means testing but from the other direction.

Both are ridiculous. There’s no time for detailed analysis or a new government bureaucracy to determine who gets what. Checks and wire transfers need to go out yesterday. So what if Bill Gates gets one?

It’s time to act, not to blame. But if there’s no action or if the action is late and/or insufficient, there will be plenty of blame to go around. And there will be no limit to the rage of the survivors who are suffering against politicians who did not do what was needed to be done.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

A Premature Postmortem of the Bernie Sanders Campaign

Establishment media is ridiculing Bernie Sanders for stating some simple truths: establishment media was out to get him, the DNC was out to get him and young voters who support him haven’t been good about showing up at the polls.

But that doesn’t mean that Bernie Sanders didn’t make mistakes. So let’s take a look at those.

No matter what happens between him and Joe Biden, and it isn’t over yet, Sanders deserves credit for some remarkable achievements. In the face of formidable establishmentarian opposition, Jewish, with a speaking manner that is anything but conventional in U.S. politics, relying only on small individual donations and promoting a political agenda many Americans would consider radical, Bernie Sanders currently controls 42% of the Democratic primary vote against a recent sitting vice president. Much of his agenda, including making college affordable, increasing the minimum wage, and improving the healthcare system, has become mainstream Democratic Party policy after many decades during which the party didn’t even pretend to give a damn about normal people. Bernie Sanders is running an issue-based campaign, not one based purely on personality. Even if he loses, historians will mark this election as evidence of the strength of progressive and left-leaning electoral politics.

But he’s not perfect. There are things that he could have/could still do better.

Politics is first and foremost about framing, and Sanders isn’t great at it. “Medicare for All” is meaningless to millions of Americans who have had no contact with Medicare and don’t know anything about it. “Free healthcare” would have been easier to understand and would not have turned off or confused union members who already have decent healthcare plans. “Free college tuition,” on the other hand, tells too little of the story. Sanders’ plan only helps low-income college students but many voters seem to still think that he wanted to use their taxes to help out children of wealthy people. The “Green New Deal” hasn’t been defined or well-publicized beyond the fact that it would be expensive.

Sanders’ plan for student loan forgiveness was also presented in a problematic fashion. Many Americans don’t have college degrees; they wondered, why should we pay for those who do? Many other Americans went to college, took out student loans and then paid them back. Why shouldn’t millennials do the same? There are good answers to those questions: millennial student debt is many factors higher than Generation X and Baby Boomer debt because tuition has skyrocketed at a rate much faster than inflation. Student loan forgiveness would stimulate the economy by freeing up young people to buy cars and homes. People who already paid their loans should have been added as beneficiaries of his plan so that they didn’t feel like suckers due to a simple accident of birthdate. Most importantly, Sanders should not have proposed student loan forgiveness without coupling it to a free college tuition program and/or job retraining program for people who are older and don’t have college degrees or need retraining in order to retool for the 21st century.

Speaking of costs, I found it endlessly frustrating that Bernie Sanders never seemed able to clearly answer the question of how he would pay for his proposals. Generally, he should simply have said: “I’ll take it out of the Pentagon budget.” Maybe this wasn’t true. If it wasn’t true, he should have made it true. Not only is the defense budget bloated, most Americans, including people who favor strong military, know about the $800 toilet seats. I’m not sure why he didn’t bash the military.

He also hasn’t been good about explaining Medicare for All. What he should have said was, everyone is going to pay less for healthcare, so much less, that even though your taxes will go up a bit, you’ll still come out way ahead.  And if you got hit by something catastrophic like cancer, it would all be covered. Instead, he talked about how European countries somehow managed to pay for national healthcare plans. He’s right about that, but Americans have been told that Europeans pay high taxes. He needed to explain in plain language that that would not happen here.

He ignored my advice to own and explain his self-described “democratic socialist” label. He probably assumed that it would be more of a problem in the general election against Donald Trump, but what he underestimated was the Democratic Party’s long history of red bashing as well as the well-established fact that other people will define you if you don’t do it yourself. He should have followed the example of JFK when he gave a speech assuring Americans that he would not take orders from the pope as a Roman Catholic. Sanders should have given a speech entirely about democratic socialism.

Some things, it’s hard to do anything about. A campaign has the candidate that it has with a personality that he or she comes with. Bernie Sanders has an underlying vulnerability and warmth that his tendency to bellow often covered up. The media had a field day portraying him as a guy who likes to yell a lot. This is where something like “The Man from Hope” video that the Bill Clinton for President campaign created would have come in handy. A biographical look at Bernie’s roots in Brooklyn, his childhood struggling in a working-class family and the premature death of his mother due to poor healthcare would have helped to humanize a very human person.

Images of him being manhandled by cops during his participation in the civil rights movement of the early 1960s couldn’t have hurt him with African-American voters who ended up turning out for Joe Biden.

Of course the biggest mistake Sanders made may not have been a mistake at all. He ran inside the Democratic Party. They were never going to let him have the nomination.

He had to know that.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Joe Biden Obviously Has Dementia and Should Withdraw

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            You Democrats ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

            You spent the last four years criticizing Donald Trump in no small part for his mental state, and rightly so. The founding fathers included an impeachment provision in the Constitution in large part as a contingency to remove a president exactly like him, whose temperament and personality and mental state are incompatible with the requirements of the highest elected office in the land.

Trump is not merely a jerk. Psychologists have been so alarmed that they have violated a core ethical principle of their profession by attempting to diagnose him at a remove. Narcissistic personality disorder is their universal conclusion and it fits like a glove. Among the characteristics of NPD is a lack of empathy—not something one wants or needs in a leader.

            Now Democrats are conspiring to gaslight the American people by engineering the presidential election of a man clearly suffering from dementia, Joe Biden.
            This is no time to be “polite.” We are talking about the presidency. As always, we need a frank, intelligent discussion and debate about the issues and the candidates. It is perfectly fair to talk about Bernie Sanders’ heart attack as well as Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s mental acuity.

            Contrary to current ridiculous Democratic talking points, it is not ageist to point this out. One out of seven Americans over the age of 70 suffers from dementia. (Biden is 77.) If it’s ageist to talk about dementia among the elderly, it’s ageist to talk about immaturity among the young.

            It is neither necessary nor possible to scientifically determine whether the former vice president has dementia. On the other hand, you don’t need an astronomer to know that the sun rises in the east. If you have encountered dementia, you know Joe Biden has it.

            There is so much blame to go around for this BS that I can’t figure out what order to put it in. I’ll go chronologically.

            There are the Democratic Party bosses who, terrified at the prospect that Bernie Sanders might win the nomination, recruited former Vice President Joe Biden out of a comfortable retirement to run yet again.

            There is Biden himself. His family should have known better than to allow a campaign by the guy who inspired the headline “Biden allies float scaling back events to limit gaffes.” Not that gaffes are the issue. Or stuttering. Or being old. Many Americans are as old or older than Joe Biden, they stutter, and they’re mentally competent. Biden is not.

            Of course you also have to cast the stinkeye at Biden’s former rivals Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Mike Bloomberg. Just because the DNC probably urged them to endorse Biden doesn’t mean that they had to. No cabinet position or even a position as vice president should be enough inducement to set aside common sense. Elizabeth Warren earns an honorary mention for her failure to speak out against Biden and to endorse Bernie Sanders.

            None of the media seem interested in the truth about Biden. Democratic media allies like CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post are running interference for the Democratic establishment and Biden by failing to ask any questions about the candidate’s mental fitness. Right-wing outlets like Fox News are gleefully trumpeting Biden’s mental decline but they would say that even if it wasn’t true. The fourth estate has abdicated its duty to follow the truth wherever it leads.

            And finally there are the voters. As a citizen, you have no business casting a vote thoughtlessly or less than fully informed. Deliberately casting a vote for someone clearly suffering from dementia, or turning a blind eye to it, or being simply unaware of Biden’s mental state are inexcusable.

            I spent the last few years watching my mother’s decline due to dementia caused by Alzheimer’s. She had been brilliant. Years before her death, however, she was having a tough time keeping it together. I would have voted for her as president in 2012 but not 2016. It would have been wrong.

No one who has been close to someone deteriorating from that disease could fail to see the same signs in Joe Biden.

            In online discussions Biden apologists sometimes say that a senile Biden is better than an evil Trump. Is this really where we are?

            Consider the 20 or so contenders for the Democratic nomination as of late last year. All of them except for one—Biden­—were mentally competent. Marianne Williamson came off as loopy and Tom Steyer was painfully awkward but both were in full command of their faculties. Congratulations, Democrats, you literally picked the worst of the bunch.

            This is not about politics. No doubt, Joe Biden’s voting record is monstrous. He opposed school busing, sold out Anita Hill, voted to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, supported NAFTA and bragged about the extrajudicial assassination of Osama bin Laden. And yes, Hunter Biden’s job in Ukraine is classic corruption. But that’s not the point here.

But even if his politics were closer to mine—quadrupling the minimum wage, nationalizing major industries, banning all wars of aggression, free healthcare and college—I would be writing this same column. It doesn’t matter how crappy Donald Trump is. It’s anti-American and unpatriotic to vote for someone suffering from dementia for a position with exclusive control over nuclear launch codes.

            What about Donald Trump? If Joe Biden is the nominee, and people don’t vote for him—which I think will be the case anyway—Trump will win a second term. Isn’t it imperative to stop that by any means necessary?

            As I wrote recently, odds are that Trump, like most previous presidents, won’t get much done during his second term anyway. Anyway, there is always a moral alternative to picking between two terrible options. Vote for another party, write someone in, don’t vote.

            But it’s not too late for the Democrats. Joe Biden doesn’t have to be the nominee.

            He can and should withdraw.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Why Is Elizabeth Warren Hiring so Many Right Wing Foreign Policy Hacks?

Elizabeth Warren has positioned herself as the progressive alternative to Bernie Sanders. But a list of her foreign policy advisers reads no differently than it would if she were Hillary Clinton.

Democrats’ Wimpy Impeachment Has Made Trump Stronger Than Ever

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            “Many Democrats fear that Trump may be laying an impeachment trap,” Stephen Collins wrote for CNN last May. “It’s possible that the wider political divides get, the more Trump benefits. The spectacle would help him charge up the political base he needs to turn out in droves in 2020 with claims their 2016 votes were being stolen by political elites.”

            Give that man whatever passes for a cigar in this smokeless age.

            Any number of metaphors serves to illustrate the unintended effect that the hapless failed impeachment of Donald Trump is having on his base of support. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; the Democrats did just that with an attack that didn’t stand a chance of felling its target.

            If you’re thinking about taking a swing at a bully at a bar, be sure you can deliver a roundhouse punch that’s going to lay the bastard out flat on the floor. But if you don’t have what it takes to bring him down with the first blow, sneak out to the parking lot.

            The coronavirus outbreak has me thinking about disease. There’s a medical metaphor that I like best: when fighting off an infection it’s better not to use any medication than to take a weak antibiotic and risk strengthening what ails you.

            No matter the analogy, President Trump emerges from his Senate impeachment trial as a more formidable adversary than he was before. While his overall popularity remains at about 46%, the number of voters who “strongly” support him just hit a three-year high, indicating that he is better off than before impeachment. This should come to the surprise of no one who remembers the humiliation of Bill Clinton. Republican overreach over Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky led to the Democrat leaving office in 2000 with soaring popularity.

            Probably the biggest movement in favor of Trump has been with formerly “anti-Trump Republicans” who now see the truth of the President’s supporters’ claims that Democrats would do and say anything in order to get rid of a sitting Republican president. The ranks of Never Trumpers are shrinking, throwing a wrench into the strategy of centrist candidates like Biden and Buttigieg.

            Polls in key swing states show disproportionately high disapproval for impeachment. Voters in these places tend to prefer antiestablishment candidates. Impeachment allows Trump to frame himself as the rebel getting picked on by the in-crowd, Congressional Democrats.

            Impeachment — more specifically, this very lame, rushed, pro forma impeachment — also dispirits Democratic voters who see, once again, that the Democratic Party only seems to wage wars it knows it can’t win. What’s the point of voting for these clowns?

            One thing is for sure: no matter what perfidy is discovered or comes to light in the future, it’s going to be all but impossible to take a second stab at impeachment. Now Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. Impeaching the same President twice is all but inconceivable.

            How did this happen? Democrats made one mistake after another.

            First and foremost was the lousy choice of impeachment counts. Pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens looked and felt too much like political business as usual, not a breach of normality so outrageous as to justify removal from office. Shades of Rob Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois.

            The Ukraine line of inquiry prompted as many questions as it tried to ask. If Trump is corrupt, what about the Bidens? Why were we giving aid to Ukraine in the first place when millions of Americans are homeless or poor? Why should Americans care about Ukraine? The country certainly isn’t, as Democrats alleged, important to American national security.

            A slim majority thought the Ukraine call was wrong. But they didn’t care enough to impeach him over it.

            Americans did care about emoluments and the president using his office to enrich himself. They did care about his wacko temperament and erratic behavior. They did care about separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Inexplicably, the Democrats let the good bad stuff go.

            Democrats screwed up badly with timing. You don’t have to be James Carville to know that it’s foolish to start an impeachment trial at the beginning of a presidential election campaign. You certainly don’t do it when many of your big-name candidates are senators who can’t campaign because they are stuck in Washington. Yet that’s exactly what Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff did.

            Starting the impeachment process so late in Trump’s first term forced Democrats into a rushed pro-forma process. Because Trump Administration officials broadcasted their intention to resist congressional subpoenas and the courts might have taken months to compel them to testify, Democratic prosecutors didn’t bother to subpoena key Republican witnesses or documents. (GOP obstruction became the basis for a dubious second count, “contempt of Congress.”)

            None of this would have been a problem had the “resistance” started working on impeachment in 2017. If they were worried about the politicizing effort of impeachment on the midterm elections, they could have begun impeachment in December 2018, which would have given them enough time to work through the court system last year.

            No serious student of politics thought there was a real chance that this process, rushed over a relatively inconsequential issue, could convince 17 Republican Senators to vote to remove a president for the first time in American history. Nevertheless, Democrats started a fight they knew they couldn’t win.                        

            Now liberals are dispirited. The president goes into his reelection campaign stronger than ever. A second term looks likelier than ever. Heckuva job, Nancy and Adam.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The Peoples Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

What Is Joe Biden Thinking When He Uses Words like Malarkey?

Joe Biden’s age has become a major issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. Partly this is because he has been showing signs of early dementia while he talks. But it’s also the fact that he uses outdated expressions. Recently the Internet went crazy when he showed off his new campaign bus with its new “no malarkey” logo. Come on, man!

The Good News about Michael Bloomberg Is That He Won’t Bug You

Michael Bloomberg won’t be in the first primaries. He won’t be in the debates. He doesn’t have any policies. If he becomes president, he probably will never hear about him anymore than the people of New York heard from him when he was mayor. So maybe he would be a good president.

Bloomberg’s Campaign War Room Response to Its First Crisis

Michael Bloomberg’s campaign faced its first crisis when the fact that he was a misogynist sexist pig during his Wall Street days of the 1970s and 1980s came out in the press. The good news is, he has so little support that he doesn’t have much to lose.

It’s Not like Progressives Are Exactly Suffering Because They Didn’t Vote for Hillary

Democratic centrists say nothing is more important than defeating Donald Trump. That’s their argument, again, for why progressives should support a centrist Democratic nominee. But it’s not like progressives suffered when Hillary Clinton lost or that they would be better off if Hillary Clinton were running for reelection today.