Friday, February 23, 2018

Democrat meets a true Trump Supporter... and more...

Last year I was relishing the thought of coming down to Cuernavaca and having amazing discussions with Republican friends about the man they elected.  However, I was quite taken aback when at one point I asked the assembled group of guests, "How many of you in this room voted for Donald Trump?" and not one hand was raised.  Now, none of them voted for Hillary- but I was very surprised that these long-time Republicans could not vote for their party's candidate.

Fast forward to Cuernavaca 2018, and I was delighted to hear that a very well informed, well read and articulate guest proudly announced she had voted for Trump and was very happy with his first-year performance.  She claims she is a capitalist,  and Trump has done wonderful things for capitalism in this country.  When I asked her to elaborate she mentioned the tax plan, which has not had any changes since Reagan 27 years ago, that will be very good for business.  She said because of the de-regulation that Trump has forced through executive decision, corporations are bringing business and money back to the United States.

When I asked her if she wasn't somewhat appalled about his divisiveness, his mean-spiritedness, his debasing tweets, she said she just ignores all of that.  He's a despicable man, but if he's able to do things that will benefit this country she's willing to accept his foibles.

She later told me that Teddy Roosevelt and Andrew Jackson, like Trump, were change agents.  They were renegade, unconventional men that rattled things up and upended the status quo.  The Bushes, Clinton, Obama were not change agents.  They were unable to make any significant alterations to business as usual.

And now it seems that Trump has asked Sessions and the Justice Department to ban bump stock guns - something that no president has been able to do for years.  If Trump can force things through that are good for this country, then Sonia can ignore all the unconventional and unpresidential mannerisms and say he's doing a great job.

This makes me ponder about our political system.  When Obama took office, it was reported that Mitch McConnell said, "‘my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president."  He didn't succeed, but it came clear that any legislation proposed by the Democrats was going to be defeated by any means possible.  Perhaps the biggest win of McConnell's was in preventing Obama's Supreme Court Justice nominee, Gorsuch, from ever coming before Congress.  And indeed, Obama was prevented from doing much of what he wanted to do.  At the last minute, he used his Executive privilege to put many things into effect and then Trump comes along and with the flourish of a grand signature, he has undone many of them.

Now it seems that Pelosi, Schumer, and the Democrats are trying as best they can to shut down the Republican agenda.  If Rubio or Cruz had won the Republican nominee and gone on to become president, would they have been able to pass the tax bill; would they have used the executive power to undo many of the regulations?  Or is the definition of a real change agent someone who lives outside the box, breaks the mold, and is seen as unconventional?

In this particular discussion, I'm not concerning myself with policy.  I'm not debating whether the de-regularizing is good for the county or the tax bill will be beneficial, or even if capitalism is a sound system.  Our political system is mired in a bi-polar bi-partisanship.  I have recently wished that we could form a movement that would unseat EVERY incumbent running for office in 2018.  They've done a lousy job and don't belong in office!  But if we did that, who would we get to replace them?  Do we need to look for crass, hypocritical, egotistical, flawed people who share our views and will get things done?  

I think not.  I have to believe there are good, decent, inspirational leaders who are willing to run for political office that, through their strength of character, will be able to bring about the changes needed to make this country great.  Is it not saying the means justify the ends by praising Trump for his actions but ignoring the way he brings these changes about?

Maybe we can all agree on something Sonia shared with us today:  "Democracy is rambunctious!!"

So much to think about...

Dinner conversation revolved around a lot of names - many of them from Chicago. I wasn't familiar with any of them but it is actually quite fascinating to just sit back and listen to all the connections.  So and so married the daughter of so and so who was the heir of the such and such dynasty.  Then they started to talk about a name I knew:  Ken Griffey.  My ears picked up!  Were they going to start talking baseball?  It turned out it was Ken Griffin, the richest man in Illinois.  He started trading while a student at Harvard, and now he is the most successful Hedge Fund Trader in the country.  Fred said he was worth $8 billion dollars.  When there was a lull in the conversation, I asked Sonia if she would consider Ken Griffin to be the epitome of capitalism at its best.  She said, "Yes. " His success certainly is an example of capitalism working.

It was time to leave the table and go into the drawing room for our evening coffee where the conversation continued.  I had to say that I view someone like Ken Griffin as an example of capitalism gone awry.  I continue to think something is wrong with our society that puts such value on hedge fund dealers or athletes who make millions while teachers are paid so poorly for their contributions.  I acknowledge that athletes and hedge funds generate money while teachers only generate ideas and hopefully contributing citizens.

Conrad encouraged me to think about the center rather than the extremes.  In a socialist society, there is a tremendous gap between the rich and the poor, while in a capitalist country the middle ground is much wider.  Fred claimed, rightly, that there is always going to be disparities.  I responded that I am not trying to get rid of the rich and I don't believe we will ever be without poverty.  However, capitalism is flawed and needs some corrections.  

For example, when I hear about a highly (too highly) paid CEO who is caught for corruption or has run the company into the ground with poor management and then is given a golden parachute for millions of dollars.  If I, as a teacher, were found guilty of something immoral or was deemed to be a poor teacher, I would be thrown out and my salary terminated.  All seemed to agree that the high corporate salaries were outlandish.  Conrad offered an interesting history of how it all began with Goldman and Solomon who were partners.  They paid out all their employees and stockholders and were left with the rest.  Managers of other firms realized they weren't getting near the kind of compensation the Goldman/Solomon partners were, so they decided to bring some equity to their compensation and away it went.  

Fred aptly pointed out that the remedy for this is doomed as it is the CEOs and the Boards who make the decisions about the salaries of the managers.  It's like the Congress voting to decrease their own salaries and compensation - it's unlikely to happen!  I find myself asking once again, "Is this capitalism at work?"

Our next interesting discussion was something Fred raised:  What is the purpose of Memorials and did we think the 9/11 memorial was appropriate.  I had just been to the 9/11 Memorial when I visited Clo and Arthur in their new house in NJ in September.  I didn't go into the museum, but we did walk all around the two blocks of water that were surrounded by the names of all the victims and first responders.  There was an atmosphere of solemnity and reverence.  On some of the names, a white rose was placed.  I asked someone what that indicated and was told that it meant it was the birthday of that particular victim.  I thought this was really lovely and it brought it home that it was not just the Twin Towers that had fallen but many human beings with names and birthdays as well.  So I was ready to defend the 9/11 Memorial with no reservation.

But then the discussion got interesting.  9/11 was a horrible thing with over 3000 innocent people dying.  Are we honoring them?  The names on the Vietnam War Memorial are being honored for their sacrifice to our country.  They gave up their lives in the hopes of keeping us free.  What about other tragedies?  Should we build a monument when over 100 people are killed in a train accident?  Or what about those people who lost their lives or their homes in the Katrina floods?  Should there be a monument to them?  

I asked Fred to name a few monuments that he thought were valid and he mentioned the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington as examples.  These monuments were recognizing greatness and honoring noble men who had a tremendous influence on our country.  There was really nothing noble about 9/11.

I looked up the meaning of monument in the Oxford Dictionary and it gave two definitions:  1)  To give honor to an individual and 2)  To remember a certain individual or event.

Certainly, the 9/11 Memorial is one of remembrance.  It was a horrible, horrible event that affected every American.  Certainly, we don't want to just erect two new office buildings on the site and in 25 years have people not even know what, where or why it happened.  Everyone in the discussion, with the possible exception of Fred, thought there should be some Memorial in recognition of such a cataclysmic event.

But then we discovered that this memorial cost over $700,000,000  - (that's 700 million!!!)  At one point the estimated cost was over a billion dollars, but they reigned that in.  Over 300 million was donated by HUD- the Federal housing authority.  Michael Bloomberg gave $15 million.  The Congress was supposed to vote to give $20 million/year to help with the $60 million/year maintenance and upkeep, but they reneged on that, so to help raise the funds they are charging $24.00 a ticket to go down and see the museum underneath the Memorial, and raising enough money to maintain it is an on-going problem.  

A favorite Memorial of mine is the Vietnam Memorial Wall done by Maya Lin.  I researched the cost of that and found that it cost eight million dollars, all or most of which was DONATED money.  So it gets one thinking.  Even though I thought the 9/11 Memorial was really beautiful, the cost spent on it seems quite outlandish.

I'm sure emotions fed into the plans for the 9/11 dedication, but emotions are most likely a part of all decisions involving monuments.  I'd like for there to be a monument built to honor and remember every child and adult that were gunned down in a school shooting.  It's not that they did anything honorable, but I want something tangible, lest we forget the senseless violence that plagues this country.  It seems our collective outrage only lasts a few months and then life goes back to normal.  We can't solve a problem unless we remember that there is a problem.  But an $8 million dollar wall that brings honor and respect to over 1,118,000 (both military and civilian deaths) is a very powerful and moving testament to those lost.  A lavish memorial with two 1-acre pools with the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States comprise the footprints of the Twin Towers, symbolizing the loss of life and the physical void left by the attacks. The waterfalls are intended to mute the sounds of the city, making the site a contemplative sanctuary. Landscape architect Peter Walker planted many parts of the memorial with white oaks. More than 400 swamp white oak trees fill the Memorial Plaza, enhancing the site's reflective nature.* (Taken from Wikipedia)  The fact that this memorial cost over $700 million to remember 3000 victims gives me pause.  In a way, ALL Americans were victims on 9/11 so one could say that the memorial really honors over 300 million people...  does that make it worth it?

Well, I think that's enough discussion for now.  It is Friday, Natalia, the cooks, day off which means we eat all our meals out.  We had a nice lunch overlooking the Zocalo this afternoon and are heading off to Las Mananitas to see the birds and have dinner.  Hasta Luego!


Glorita Jucá said...

Just to remind you that 9/11 affected not only Americans, but the whole world, in as much as it changed the security systems and impressed fear on individuals living their everyday ordinary lives and taking journeys to holiday themselves. It should never be forgotten! As for capitalism, it's really contradictory.

nanwebware said...

Thanks for reminding me that 9/11 is a global event. All the unintended consequences have affected so many people and so many countries.