Sunday, March 15, 2020

Dialog wth small business people; message to progressives

For Grand County small businesses,

The message is that whatever programs progressives propose, do not put the burden to pay for them on small business.   You cannot get blood from a turnip.
Our family has many points of view, those who feel the Bern and those who live in the real world of small business. One family member, son Ted, is a Harvard MBA (Stanford economics) and an international consultant and he has been a part time resident of the Winter Park area since 1967.  He brings with him a world, literally, of experience and many contacts.  His dialogs with friends contain some warnings for progressives.. I am going to reproduce this here because I think it deserves serious consideration from a perspective we do not hear often in this valley. If I can pin my grandson down, I will give him a platform, too.  For now..his uncle has the floor.

From an Oregon small business friend,Spence::
My freight business consistently runs with 5% pre-tax margin. Remove Silicon Valley firms and my average is on par with vast majority of American businesses. To put that in perspective, I run in the red for 28.5 days out of the month. That is not fun. It creates a lot of stress for myself and staff. Of the 1.5 days of profitability, taxes take one third.  This leaves me 1 day for profit, employee bonuses (I pay  30% ea mo to employees), and new investment. The progressive movement has noble goals, but must find excess to reallocate and I don’t think there is enough excess in day 30 of the month to achieve all those goals. The American people understand to attempt it (with uncertain outcomes) is like making a radical move at the front of the pack in a NASCAR race of nations. Risky to say the least. 

Ted's response: Spence,  I hear you! This is the single biggest problem with the idea of spending something like 70 trillion dollars on a new society and essentially using smoke and fog about how it is going to be paid for. We are all going to pay for it and especially small business owners. I share your concern. It is one thing when billionaires and multi millionaires can propose glowing ideas about changing the world, it is far different when you talk to hard working business owners and their employees about how this impacts the real world. The Democrats will not win in my opinion if they do not see that and to all my progressive friends out there, sorry.. that is why I am with Joe.

There are a lot of good things we can do to improve our society. But there is no way to pay for all of what Bernie wants on the backs of just the rich. The math simply does not work. Should the rich pay more?  Absolutely. Should we change our tax codes and start rewarding work rather than wealth? Absolutely. Should we make investments in infrastructure, communities,  education and access to affordable health care for all and save the environment?  Absolutely. Should we blow out our public debt even more to do it? Definitely not. Should we tax at rates like Denmark and Austria where average middle class taxes are 50%+ of gross pay? No. Should we continue to subsidize large corporations with corporate welfare? No. Trump's tax cut did benefit many small businesses. It is a fact. But it also gave away an unnecessary windfall to large corporations who did in fact just use it to prop up their stock prices. Let us work for a fair and more just society with a balanced and reasonable and transparent approach to how to pay for it. Let's get rid of this systemic corruption in our politics. Let us reward work, innovation and perspiration - not inherited wealth and excessive greed. We can make the tax code fairer and simpler. We don't need a revolution. We need practical solutions.

Interweaving two interesting conversations here from another of Ted's friends.  Spence, my eight member law firm, from a financial viewpount, is a small business, too, like a restaurant or hardware store. By the time we've paid rent, staff salaries, staff group health (which is getting harder and harder), and taxes, we take our profit and divide it, and then we're individually taxed again. Long way of saying our profit margins are thin. Not complaining, but to fund anything on the scale of LBJ's Great Society, the money will have to come from somewhere other than the middle class and small businesses. Not saying we shouldn't make major investments like the interstate highway system or whatever, or that the money's not out there, but it's not going to be found in the aforementioned places (middle class and small businesses).

Saturday, March 14, 2020

When reality collided with spin

Published in the Winter Park Times March 20 2020
Updates March -April follow as well as links to bibliography....

April 29, update  May 22, 2020
From Trump the promoter in chief, in his happy talk spin, raised hydroxychloroquine as a preventative drug and a treatment.  Trump said he had been taking it. What does he have to lose?, he asked. If he can convince voters that the cure to COVID 19 is right around the corner, then he may avoid a defeat in November due to his bungling his response to the pandemic. To answer what he had to lose, was possibly his life or heart problems. Per an authoritative study in the British Journal, The Lancet, even when combined with Z pack, the "A study of 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents found that those who received an antimalarial drug promoted by President Trump as a “game-changer” in the fight against the virus had a significantly higher risk of death compared with those who did not.

People treated with hydroxychloroquine, or the closely related drug chloroquine, were also more likely to develop a type of irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia, that can lead to sudden cardiac death, it concluded.
"If we compare, for instance, the number of people who died in the United States from COVID-19 in the second full week of April to the number of people who died from influenza during the worst week of the past seven flu seasons (as reported to the CDC), we find that the novel coronavirus killed between 9.5 and 44 times more people than seasonal flu. In other words, the coronavirus is not anything like the flu: It is much, much worse."

What happens when reality and political spin collide? Thanks to modern media and the internet, events happen in warp time.  We get whiplash as we are bombarded with conflicting messages and daily changing public policies. So it is with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The results have been both comic and tragic. Many who believed the spinners who first downplayed the danger have failed to take the threat seriously enough to undertake personal precautions, gambling with their health, getting the affliction, and infecting the unaware.  Others, driven by the fear of the unknown and without the availability of widespread testing, lose faith in the credibility and competence of the White House. They panic and hoard toilet paper.
 What a difference a few weeks made. The unknown is fertile ground for spinners and there is plenty of unknown and misinformation to go around.    In our bifurcated media world, those who exclusively listen to Fox and ilk or MSNBC or  CNN and their ilk live on different planets.  Stories they follow and the emphasis they give, opinions that are expressed by their pundits, are very different.  The echo chambers that result, tweets retweeted, postings on social media and talking points voiced by their partisan politicians, are reflected in public polling. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported March 15 that 68% of Democrats feared someone in their family would get the virus; only 40% of Republicans believed likewise. 80% of Democrats believed the crisis would get worse;  only 40% of Republicans thought it would.  In retrospect, what was reported by the liberal media for several weeks was a warning of what could happen in the US. A few weeks of denial later, Trump was reading from a teleprompter and declaring a national emergency.
It is not clear whether Trump's media friends had been echoing the President or were writing his talking points for him. In any case, we were getting an earful from the FOX folks that this virus was not a big deal, no worse than any other flu, people die from flu all the time, and the hype of the "liberal media" coverage was a hoax Democrats had cooked it up to hurt Donald Trump in his re-election campaign.  This was in spite of knowing what other countries were going through. This flu 's death rate experienced elsewhere is on the average ten times more than other flu epidemics, ranging as high as 14% for those over 80 years old who get the virus. Unlike other pandemics and epidemics we have experienced recently, there is no vaccine and no effective way to stop it once a person is infected, and no widespread testing yet in the US to know how many are already sick from it.  The Trump administration believed their own spin and at first paid little attention to the preparatory work that was needed.  Trump dithered at first, said the numbers would go to zero, like a miracle it would go away in April, offered a happy talk on tests, made a happy talk on the outbreak, ignored scientists, made this all about himself and his re-election, and then finally declared a national emergency.  In a press conference on March 13, Trump played his "buck does not stop here" card.  He took had no responsibility for disbanding in 2018 the National Security mechanism for coordinating an early response to pandemics like Ebola.  Voters may yet hold him responsible in November. for his misleading the public and his slow start.  The newest forecast from the White House is the "crisis, may last into July or August".

We have heard of historical comparisons to COVID-19 to other mega pandemics.  There are certain advantages of my living so long, but still vivid in my memory bank was the polio epidemic of the late 1940s when I was in elementary school and before Salk and his miracle vaccine freed us from fear. Like the 1940's polio, COVID- 19  has no vaccine and no medicines to stop its progression. We can only treat the symptoms and avoid those who are infected.   We did not call it social distancing then, but we did it.  In sweltering summers of eastern Oklahoma, we were not able to go to swimming pools or to cool off in air-cooled movie theaters.  We could only play with our neighborhood gang.    We did not complain.  We did not try to avoid the rules.  One look at the pictures in Life Magazine of children lying in rows of iron lungs was enough to put the fear of God in us. It worked. Our neighborhood gang escaped the disease.  The irony has not escaped me.  As a child, I was the most vulnerable to polio; as a person well over 60, I am once again the most vulnerable to another deadly epidemic and I am socially distancing myself with a vengeance.March 26; There was a playbook to deal with a pandemic left by the Obama administration and ignored by Trump's.  One more example of Trump's judgment and priority failures.  A poll conducted by the Daily Beast shows most people do not believe Trumps spin

March 19 update:  Once again today, as yesterday, Trump refers to the Coronavirus as the Chinese virus. Hopefully, most Americans are mindful this is his way of saying "not my fault; I didn't cause it". The Chinese government also bears responsibility for attempting to suppress the threat. However, the knowledge that did emerge was in early February and the US was asleep at the wheel until mid-March. 
What will be his fault will be the lies and spins and politically motivated denials that made us as prepared for the virus as Italy. Those who believed every word he uttered was true and the media and social postings who became his megaphone were part of the problem. His turn around once he figured the stock market was crashing regardless of his attempts to deny the threat may have caused the remarkable conversion. For that we can appreciate for once he listened to his experts and applied science.
Per the Washington Post March 21, 

U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic

Officials reported that China appeared to be downplaying the outbreak and said swift action could be needed to contain the coronavirus.
From a recent Pew poll:  "One difference that stands out within party is based on the media diet, particularly on the right. Among 30 news outlets asked about in an earlier survey, Republicans who got political news only from outlets whose audiences lean right politically are more likely than Republicans with other media diets to think the news media have greatly exaggerated the risks associated with the virus and to think COVID-19 was created intentionally in a lab. (Details on the 30 news outlets and the audience compositions can be found here.) Some differences also emerge within Democrats based on media diet. Those who don’t get news from any outlets with left-leaning audiences in some cases stand part from Democrats with other media diets, including thinking the virus was created intentionally by humans."

Trump did nothing to prepare for the virus during February.  Here is his answer when pressed to explain.  

Below: Published in the Winter Park Times March 20 2020 videos of Trump's lies, spins and denials leading up to his declaration of a national emergency s-coronavirus/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0K5Jc2H0TCoF7fO_D1eCVgkclugOVrkdn9cl5eonucUl770VxiSoaafo
In late January, Chuck Schumer and 31 Democrats wrote a letter warning about coronavirus.  This was in the middle of the impeachment process.
 videos of Trump's lies, spins and denials leading up to his declaration of a national emergency s-coronavirus/index.html?fbclid=IwAR0K5Jc2H0TCoF7fO_D1eCVgkclugOVrkdn9cl5eonucUl770VxiSoaafo

COVID-19 causes more severe disease than seasonal influenza.
While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease.
Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.
Third, we have vaccines and therapeutics for seasonal flu, but at the moment there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for COVID-19.

From email distribution from the Washington Post. by line Amber Phillips, March 19, 2020, the five m inute fix:
"President Trump says daily that the coronavirus caught him and the world off guard. “It’s something that nobody expected,” he said last weekend.
That’s not true. And reporting on Thursday drove home that the warning signs were there, sometimes right in front of him.
  • The New York Times reported that last year, the Health and Human Services Department performed startling government simulations to show how underprepared the United States was for such a pandemic. Nothing was done in response.
  • As Trump was coming into office, the Times reports, “outgoing Obama administration officials ran an extensive exercise on responding to a pandemic for incoming senior officials of the Trump administration.” A year later, Trump disbanded the government’s pandemic-response team.
  • NPR got an audio recording of the top senator on the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), privately warning businesses in February that the virus, which was already in America, was going to be “aggressive” and “akin to the 1918 pandemic.” At the time, Trump was still comparing it to the flu."

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The quiet men won

In 1952,  in the wake of nerve and life-shattering World War II, the movie "The Quiet Man",  won the hearts of a nation.  John Ford, the director got an academy award and John Wayne made his mark starring in a non-western.  This week the quiet men won, too.  Competence and credibility spoke louder than any tweet or shouts over helicopter engines or exhortation from a rally podium.

Joe Biden, who had no campaign money, no get out the vote on the ground organization,  no fancy in house polling to target voters,  no multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, no thousands attending his rallies, won even in Michigan. Why?  His years in the public arena spoke louder than any the tools magnifying modern campaigners' shrill voices and high tech methods.  A quote uttered by a mourner of FDR's death and repeated by more than one candidate this winter, "we know him and he knows us",  was a message that rang clear to a wide and diverse group of demographics. Biden's blue-collar  Scranton PA roots, the tragedies in his life that shaped him to be a dignified empathy in chief, and his having Pres. Obama's back for eight years spoke louder than any words.  His most effective inoculation against his opponent's attacks on his person, that his stutter speech impediment means he is senile or demented, failed as his confidence returned in his voice and he appeared back on his game. The Russian disinformation machine is betting on their bots and the Trumpsters' tactics to paint  Biden as over the hill.  Tuesday showed many ignored Joe's life long stuttering problems causing him to search for words and they still preferred him over, crowd-rousing orators.   His quieter voice contrasted with the current occupant to the White House and served to elevate Biden's appeal as a competent, effective, and experienced public servant.  His quiet voice won.

More quiet men spoke. Vice President  Mike Pence quietly conducted a Coronavirus update press conference and allowed the scientists and experts to speak.  His administrative experience as a governor and development of voter support for public policy initiatives kicked in, garnering praise from numerous media pundits.  Getting nationwide recognition for his efforts,  Colorado's Governor Jared Polis quietly explained on national television why seventeen confirmed cases of Coronavirus (including those in Vail and Summit County)  in Colorado triggered his declaration of a state of emergency.  It gave him tools to give special attention to protecting the most at-risk citizens and expanding access to testing. He announced he was directing the  Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to ensure paid sick leave for workers in food handling, hospitality, child care, health care and education who are awaiting testing and to find ways to cover sick leave for people whose employers do not provide it, such as unemployment insurance.

More thoughts about Biden's unexpected surge on March 10.

I really do not know who is pushing whom...the voters or some controlling factor in DNC, because I am not aware if the DNC had phone banks or other techniques to get that kind of turnout and vote for Biden. Biden was broke, had no ground organization or advertising bucks, but the voters already knew him and who he was and knew where he was coming from and why. That was the upside of his being effective and left of center all of his many years of public life. However, the DNC may have had a great deal of pressure on those candidates in the "moderate" lane to endorse Biden just before the March 10 vote. Except for a few states, Bernie's votes were in the mid-'30s and if the "moderate lane" candidate votes were added together, the moderate lane total was higher than the Bernie/Warren votes. That was true in Colorado. The DNC is rather broke, too. In a perfect world, idealism should prevail and addressing people's needs should be the motivation for voting for this or that. It usually is. This year what is unusual is that the electorate is thinking strategically. That never has happened in my years in politics. I think Bernie is making a mistake is claiming voters for Biden were the "establishment". Voters for him probably do not think of themselves as "establishment" . and puzzling, too. It was a simultaneous and organic uprising of the middle, not a manipulated one by media or some incredible political organizing. That this time electability is foremost may have been foremost for two reasons: hating Trump and what he stands for and the sad realization that if the candidate is not electable, we give Trump 4 more years to work his evil. I think those character issues and Trump's misogynism accounted for the suburban women surge in turnout. Why did then every single county in Michigan go for Biden instead of Bernie? I had not expected that either at all. I do not know. why, but I can speculate. Partly I suspect that Biden was not Hillary. Hillary had no blue-collar bonafide unlike Biden and the other, much to my feminist dismay, Biden was not an aggressive woman. I am working through my channels to get Biden to embrace Bernie's priorities if not his method of a socialist revolution. and changing the basic economic structure of the country. I am looking forward to the debate on Sunday to see how Biden responds to Bernie's clear issue challenge. Hopefully, Biden rephrases the goal and methods and embraces similar goals and concepts. I think most voters like Bernie's goals, just not using a revolution to get there and will settle for Bernie light. Another factor, voters realize that unless there is a blue wave that brings in a blue Senate (and enough to threaten the filibuster) and keeps the House...and occupies the White House, neither Bernie's platform and or Biden's have a prayer in hell of being enacted for years. Another factor, speaking as an old person, it is a demographic that has a gut negative reaction to the word socialism and communism. The younger generations have not gone through the cold war and do not fear the word. The Michigan vote was a bit like Obama and Iowa. Biden had to demonstrate he could win in a state where the majority electorate in the primary was not African American but was representative of the rust belt states exactly the ones that swung to Trump in 2016. Biden is right about the importance of the youth vote, and I hope the party and Biden can come together. In the long view, I think none of this will be factors in November. There will be a huge voter hangover from the Coronavirus and a realization among the unaffiliated and more rational republicans that Trump is an incompetent fool and Biden's experience is to be valued. I also think the Coronavirus has exposed and laid bare the failure of our current health system and such issues as paid sick leave and levers the government can use to remedy the gaps of capitalism that progressives support. A word about Grand County...our demographics are not typical of the rest of the nation: we are 89% White, with only 8% foreign-born/or ethnic or racial minority. It is no wonder Trumpists carry the county and Democrats have been in the minority. I do not have much faith this will change in the future until the demographics change.