The Political Landscape…errr Wasteland

Shep Rose



I’ve been casually following the 2016 presidential candidates for both political parties for several months now. To me it would be hard for any informed and mature citizen to not have rudimentary knowledge of what is happening out there, and it’s essentially a freakshow: with villains, mad scientists, evangelical nut cases, blowhards, liars, impractical idealists, finger pointers, fearmongers, you name it. Everyone except a hero, a calm rational pragmatist who isn’t perfect but isn’t borderline insane.


That’s all I'm looking for. It’s my feeling that these fringe candidates have gained so much momentum in response to the acute polarization and partisanship in politics. There’s nobody representing the middle, because there seems to be no middle ground. Nobody is willing to compromise or collaborate. And ultimately the normal/rational american person has become disenfranchised, and extremism is selling like hotcakes. Leaving those of us who see value in certain parts of each side’s philosophies with no one to turn to.


I was originally going to write a treatise on the Affordable Health Care act, or Obamacare. You see, I was hit again this year with a 65% increase in monthly costs, where the year before it was a 75% bump. I sure as hell hope all this money I'm sending the government is helping save lives, but I highly doubt it. However, I’ll end this narrative here, because all of this can be explained and/or rationalized by politics, and more specifically, by analyzing the handful of candidates that we have to choose from in the upcoming elections next fall. Let me say this, never in my short life have I been more depressed about our choices. So lets tackle them one by one.


Donald Trump


There’s really no better example for my carnival analogy than Trump. The ultimate carnival barker. Embarrassing in new creative ways every new week, it’s kind of exciting to watch. There’s no denying that he’s had success in life. Although he has declared bankruptcy FOUR separate times. (Many US states and cities governments have as well, so at least he has good company) That, and that alone is the only appeal of Trump, that he is a successful business man, and not a career politician. I believe this is much of what is behind the Make American Great Again slogan; domestically he’ll have an idea how to help American businesses succeed because he’s been in the trenches and won’t tax and regulate the economy to death, the man is a deal maker if nothing else. 

However, everything else is fairly loathsome, he ruthlessly attacks people on TV and social media, calls them losers, and other schoolyard bully names, but when Megyn Kelly (the moderator from Fox) had the temerity to call him out on this he acted like a spoiled and very thin-skinned child. So he can dish it out but he can’t take it. Not the best of leadership qualities. He also is somehow buddies with Russia’s Putin, who himself is a egomaniacal bully of Eastern Europe. I don’t think we need another one.

I hear some friends say it’s refreshing to hear a politician who is unfiltered. I agree with that to a certain extent, but not if behind the filter is slander, pettiness and hatred. I just can’t see any condition where having him in the White House would be good for America. Especially internationally where some countries are actively voting for him to be banned from entering. The man is a cartoon. 


Hillary Clinton


Now on to the Clinton Political Machine. If you want a really interesting look into Hillary and her fiercely protected (to the point of neuroses) inner circle read the article by Sarah Ellison in Vanity Fair “How Hillary Clinton’s Loyal Confidants Could Cost Her the Election


It's a fascinating look into a career in politics spanning over 25 years. All the bumps, bruises, triumphs, failures, scandals, and God knows what else. It especially pertains to the revolving door of personal aides that she’s had and the complete lack of transparency associated with her political and person life. Everything is very cloak and dagger, even their PR personnel won’t respond to reasonable questions about her past and present. 

To me the Clinton’s are a very talented and bright couple that are basically a complete sham. I haven’t observed a more loveless couple since Al and Peg Bundy. Their rise to power and 2 term presidency was impressive and at times beneficial for the country. I think Bill Clinton was a masterful politician who very much collaborated with the Republicans in the name of implementing policy; achieving some notable successes. It’s their desperate grip on holding onto political office since them (embodied mostly by Hillary) that has seemed Nixonian and desperate. For her to look into the camera and say she just wants to help people is almost laughable, she wants POWER, and that’s it. She’s hit the pipe, and she wants more. She’s been bought and paid for so many times over I bet it’s confusing which PAC she owes favors to on any particular day. (picture a pill box Monday thru Sunday). Her chief rival in the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders (we’ll get to him soon), is so far left and has so much momentum that Hillary is claiming that the Clintons have always been liberal and anti-corporation and big money, well that is just blatantly revisionist history and lies. Whichever way the wind blows, that’s the direction Hillary faces in her pursuit for the most powerful position in the world. The crazy thing is that if she just said, “yes, I’ve been in politics for a long time, experienced a lot, fought many battles, been on the wrong side of some issues, but I want a chance to get it right once and for all” or something to that effect, she would gain a lot of respect and support. But all the deflection and twisting and turning is making her very polarizing and unattractive as an option.


On more thing, that might seem trite but I think it’s important: There’s a sentiment in political and personal interactions with Hillary that “when she smiles, she doesn’t smile with her eyes.” Why is this important? Maybe it’s not, but when someone is genuinely happy, amused, or glad to see you their whole face reveals the emotion (think about…maybe even try it) she’s infamous for a plastic/fake smile. Eyes dead, brain thinking: Who in this room can help me get to the top.


Ted Cruz


This guy is the worst. A robotic evangelical right wing nut. How he’s even gotten this far is amazing and a testament to how crazy and fundamentalist sections of the republican party have become. Completely out of touch with reality; against gay marriage, Marijuana legalization, funding for planned parenthood, more guns, less regulation…it goes on and on. What a dick. But don’t take my word for it. In a hilarious twitter rant his former roommate at Princeton went ballistic on how terrible Cruz was/is: (a funny must read)


My favorite quote:


“And, you know, I want to be clear, because Ted Cruz is a nightmare of a human being. I have plenty of problems with his politics, but truthfully his personality is so awful that 99 percent of why I hate him is just his personality. If he agreed with me on every issue, I would hate him only one percent less.”



I’ll keep going:


Even former republican presidential candidate Bob Dole is getting in on the action now. The former Kansas Senator spoke out against Cruz in an interview with The New York Times published last week, saying, "I don't know how he's going to deal with Congress. Nobody likes him." Dole, the GOP presidential nominee in 1996, said Cruz was an "extremist" who was unwilling to work with his own party.


I’m going to stop here with Cruz, mostly because I’m laughing thinking how much of a creepy loser he was in college. But honestly, I don’t need to go on, he’s not very likely to win, but lets hope for the sake of his ex-roommate’s outstanding twitter feed, that he doesn’t bow out anytime soon.


Bernie Sanders


And finally we get to the fringe darling of the Democratic party and young idealists all over the country. A true Washington outsider, who doesn’t kowtow to any corporation, PAC or special interest group. He appears to be genuine, sincere and passionate; and his unofficial slogan “Feel the Bern” might be the best in history. He scares the shit out of Wall Street, which I find sort of awesome. So there are many admirable things about this man, things that make you grin out of the side of your mouth when he’s speaking. But here’s where I’m going to pick up on the ObamaCare story I begun at the beginning of this writing.


So my health care cost have increased almost 3 fold since 2013, while my health has been great. Some might scoff at this and say, “you can afford it, you’re a spoiled brat” etc. And yeah, I can afford it, for now. But the conversation I had with a bartender last week in Charleston made me extremely angry and worried for the country’s future:


She is a healthy 25-year-old girl who works hard and makes a decent living tending bar in Charleston. This year she is being made to pay $240 a month for health care under ObamaCare, if she didn’t get healthcare she would be exposed to a tax penalty, not to mention the risk of injury or sickness while uninsured.

(I did the math and if you make over $30,000 per year and you are single, you HAVE TO PAY at least $210 per month for health care)

So this bartender friend of mine pays $240 per month for health care, plus student loans, plus car payment to get back and forth from work, and plus rent for an apartment. It doesn’t seem like there’d be too much disposable income for her to spend. Go to work, go home, pay your bills, go back to work. 


Why do I bring this up? Because Bernie Sanders wants to drastically expand this to universal health care AND free college for everyone. And he shouts at the top of his lungs about making the obscenely rich Wall Street bankers who use tax loopholes and off shore accounts to shield their assets to foot the bill for all this. This all sounds like a nice plan to many young idealist, after all, the rich Wall Street bankers all seemed to have gotten a free pass after the crash of 2008, they skated by with little to no penalty and are still flying privately to their summer homes on Cape Cod. Back to business as usual; just send their lobbyist up to Capital Hill with a bunch of nice fat checks and all is forgotten. Actually it doesn’t sound all that bad to me, I’m more of a pragmatist, but even Warren Buffet admits that he’s not taxed enough, and maybe these hedge fund guys shouldn't be able to make $100 million of taxed income and $150 million of untaxed carried interest per year (carried interest deserves a whole other entry, its basically a tax loophole that is ravaged by I-Bankers). 


However, do you know who also will get hit up by the government to pay for all these “free programs” that Bernie wants to implement? My bartender friend—but she will have to pay more than $240 per month and will be levied a new tax for all the free college. And what about a working mother and father who have busted their ass for 20 years and finally have a combined income of $300,000 with 2 kids, childcare costs and a mortgage on their dream home? They’ll be heavily burdened with new taxes as well. Because in theory, socialism takes from the rich and distributes to the needy, creating a more level playing field. But the unintended consequence is that people trying to climb up to a better life and maybe take the family on a vacation for a week,  get taxed down to the lower middle class. Their initiative and ambition is sapped. Their disposable income is shrunk causing them to buy less goods and services, this shrinks the economy. They lose some of the INCENTIVE to work harder and be more innovative. And guess who sometimes also loses? The very people you are trying to help. Now that there’s more free and easy resources for them, they lose incentive to work harder to get out of the “basement.” 


I could go on about the pitfalls of socialism, and please don’t talk about Denmark or another Scandinavian country, they are much smaller and comprised of a vastly different population (much less complicated than the US), its not even apples and oranges, its airplanes and Legos. But I’ve said enough; I just can’t endorse Bernie, because while I agree that the system is flawed and needs to be shaken up, I just don’t think his policies will work, there just isn’t enough money, and America, with all her faults, was built on free enterprise and the pursuit of happiness. We can take spoonfuls here and there to try to improve the overall prosperity of all our citizens, but a bucket in the face during these insanely polarizing times, would just cause more chaos and vitriol. 


So one might ask, who the hell do you like in this putrid race for the White House? I know this sounds kind of crazy, but I’m hoping Michael Bloomberg decides to jump in the race. I’ve heard whispers. By all accounts he was a terrific mayor in NYC for many years. A very successful businessman, tough on crime, also compassionate. We’ll see what happens, it’s a pipe dream, but it isn’t out of the question.