Saturday, March 26, 2016

History Class: A Reagan in the Sun

A friend of mine mentioned to me a few days ago that I should write some brief (haha) posts about a historical figure or event, shedding some light on subjects that may be largely misunderstood or hazy to some individuals. What's factual, what's incorrect --and what's the wheat/chaff breakdown? For this series, I'll give the briefest of brief oversights, then simply tackle common points surrounding the subject -- I'll address talking points and common thoughts that often endure to the present.

This friend mentioned that, at her place of employment, patrons would get into anti-Democrat and -Obama rhetoric fests, and reminisce on the great days of Reagan.

She didn't really know a whole lot about Ronnie, so she texted me with the idea of posts like this. I gave her a virtual hug, as I think it's a stellar idea! So for the first installment of this infrequent (?) series, I present the holy grail of conservative idolatry:

Ronald Reagan.

Now, for many of our parents and grandparents, their generation was defined by a particular politician for whom they have much adoration. With little variation, you have two main factions: The Kennedy supporters and the Reagan fans. Their placement on this wavelength is largely due to his/her political ideology -- Democrats were/are typically huge fans of Kennedy, while Republicans worship Reagan. In my personal experience, however (and that may be simply because I live in a largely conservative state), the love toward Reagan eclipses that of Kennedy.


The one thing you should take away from Reagan's mere existence is that he's often thought of as the father of modern-day conservatism; the bigger loathing toward Obama and the Democrats, the bigger the heart bleeding for Reagan. But as with Kennedy, this godly status comes prepackaged with a some patent cases of historical revisionism. And no matter your political views, it's important to be able to navigate through the propaganda -- so you come off as a learned individual rather than a mindless drone programmed to give automated responses.

"Reagan was great for the economy."

Of all the things for which Reagan is known, perhaps paramount is his perceived finesse with handling the economic crises of the time. Looking at static numbers, one would be compelled to agree: unemployment shrank 2.1% during his tenure, amazing job creation (September 1983 saw 1 million jobs created alone), and we avoided the slip into a major recession.

On paper, this is a stellar record. And if you were alive during this time, the Reagan administration was relatively prosperous. During this time. But strict numbers don't actually do justice to the reality of the time.

Unemployment has a net 2.1% loss during his tenure, but it actually ballooned from around 7% to about 11% during his first term. It was during the latter half of said term, as well as most of his second term, that the unemployment numbers came down.

And a surefire way to stop unemployment is to create jobs. And here is arguably the most inaccurate piece of revisionism with respect to Reaganism. As aforementioned, certain pundits like to cite that, in September of 1983, Reagan's administration created a million jobs. Incredible. Until you realize that this is due to hundreds of thousands of AT&T workers going on strike in August, but returning to work in September. And the jobs creation numbers don't take the reasoning into account, so it looks like a surge in creation when, in reality, it was just a lot of individuals returning to a job they already had.

In reality, both Clinton and Carter created more jobs than did Reagan. And Carter is often cited as a very mediocre president -- especially in contrast to the titan who followed him. Sifting through the talking points, it stands to reason that Reagan was good for jobs, but certainly not the deity he's always painted as. In terms of the numbers of his immediate successor and predecessor, in fact, he's actually almost pedestrian.

And it's true that Reagan enacted huge tax cuts (especially for the wealthy), which boosted the amount of money in people's pockets, but the problem is that "Reaganomics" is basically what we derisively refer to these days as "trickle-down economics". It's a political-economic theory that involves gutting taxes for the wealthy, coupled with deregulation, so that the wealthy can create more jobs and opportunities for us common mountain folk. It doesn't work. In the short-term, it gives people more money and allows for more expenditures with disposable income. But in the long-term, especially when paired with that pesky deregulation, it can be horrible. Both Bushes tried it, and both Bushes reeled from unemployment disasters and slower GDP growth.

[Complains about the debt, loves Reagan.]

Reagan fans tend to excoriate Obama for the constant growth of the national debt, but then ignore the facts that point to Reagan being far worse. If you were to look at the raw numbers, again, it would seem to reinforce the idea of Reagan being a whiz. The debt only grew by about $2 trillion during his term. By comparison, the debt will likely have grown by about $10 trillion under Obama.

But facts matter.

Reagan inherited a debt of about $1 trillion, and left office with about $3 trillion -- an almost 300% increase. Meanwhile, Obama will have had an impact of not even 70% of that. It's true that Reagan gutted taxes, but taxes are the main avenue through which a country gets its money. So it was taking in much less money, but spending a heck of a lot more.

And when people complain about defense spending, that can be attributed to Reagan. For his part, he was big on allocating more money toward defense (currently, about 16% of our tax dollars go toward defense). So while he was racking up bigger receipts, he was simultaneously taking in a lot less money to pay for it all.

It is up to you to decide if you're okay with what he spent money on, and in fact, a lot of Republicans are okay with the spending because it was on something they deem important. But it persists that, percentage-wise, he was the worst among modern presidents as it pertains to adding to the debt.

Not saying it's good or bad (you'll learn from a future post how little I truly care about the debt), but reiterating that facts matter.

Drugs, drugs, drugs.

My main criticism of Reagan is one over which a lot of fans of his gloss -- but it's a big one: Some of his domestic policies were inherently racist. I don't personally believe he himself was a racist at all, but specifically his additions to Nixon's War on Drugs (which was literally racist, we learned last week) adversely affected minorities, and directly led to the horrible prison system we currently have.

Under Reagan's administration, drug users were given mandatory minimum sentences. And he publicly declared that marijuana was, "...probably the most dangerous drug." In addition, his administration cracked down (ahem) on crack cocaine -- leading to a 100:1 disparity in sentencing between users of crack vs. powdered cocaine. As is currently the case, crack is more prevalent in inner-city communities, while cocaine is a "white dude drug". As direct results of these initiatives, harmless drug users (chiefly of color) were being corralled into prisons and jails like cattle, taking up space that could be better suited for real criminals.

(Now, I personally don't drink or do any sort of drug. Never have. No interest at all. And as a youngster, I ignorantly projected that same expectation upon everyone else -- I hated drugs and everything about them. But as I think we all should at times, I evolved my views. I grew up and realized the deleterious effects of treating drugs like the worst thing in the world.)

48% of federal inmates are there for drug offenses. And that's absolutely unacceptable.

And despite likely knowing the truth in the matter, Reagan instead made the dangerous choice of demonizing drugs, drug users and, by extension, the black community. And thus pumping herds of harmless folks into prisons with rapists, murderers, pedophiles, and bank owners.

Minus the bank owners.

"You could trust Reagan."

One final point that people bring up is simply the trust they felt in a president Reagan. Brevity is preferred here, so I promise I'll keep it short.

The Iran-Contra affair occurred during Reagan's second term. It involved selling arms to Iran (who was under an arms embargo at the time) in order to 1) secure the release of US hostages, and 2) arm Contra rebel groups in Nicaragua to overthrow their government. Oh, and helping the Contras was banned by Congress at the time. And when an investigation ensued, Reagan's administration destroyed and withheld enumerable documents that would've potentially incriminated him or his staff. So as bad as it turned out to be, who knows how bad it really was? And time after time, the president lied. Call it what you want, but he lied.

If we're being honest, Reagan was probably a pretty average president. He was a phenomenal speaker, and was hilarious to boot. He helped bring down the USSR, championed American values, and ruled with great strength. He helped avoid a recession in the short-term, and he did what he truly thought was best. But he also trampled the poor, hated Medicaid, and continued the ill-advised War on Drugs.

Oh, and he was a Democrat until he was about 50.

Again, I can't stress enough how important it is to be objective when discussing politics -- don't be afraid to heap criticism upon figures who deserve it, even if their policies and views largely reflect your own. Reagan was a man, plain and simple -- not a god, not infallible, and certainly flawed.

But to me, that's vastly more interesting than the fairytales that persist.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Importance of Being Donald

I like Donald Trump.

No, not like how your racist uncle likes Trump, or even like how Donald Trump loves Ivanka Trump.

In fact, I don't even want to bear the depressing thought of having Trump as a a president. I wouldn't vote for him if you gave me a (small loan of a) million dollars, I disagree vehemently with a majority of his positions, and I find him rather annoying.

But he's a blessing -- because he's allowing us to realize a lot of extremely important things about our country, our political system, and the media. And perhaps ourselves.

I'll try to keep this as free from direct quotes as I can, because I'm sure everyone can recite each one more accurately from heart than the Bill of Rights. But this is a series of points that's been on my mind for a few weeks now, but I've just not had the proper medium through which I could illustrate my points. And also, I just feel like these are matters of extreme worth.

A political revolution

First of all, if you're looking for the whole "political revolution" that's been promised chiefly by Bernie and his camp, it's actually best exemplified way over on the other end of the spectrum by Donald and his supporters -- and the commotion surrounding it all.

Allow me to explain.

Actually. Allow Mika Brzezinski to explain.

 I've said this for awhile: Sanders and Trump both tap into a deep-seeded anger held by many individuals who feel under-represented, under-appreciated, and misunderstood; these are candidates who've capitalized off of frustration. Bernie's problem is that only about 12% of Democrats are angry with the government -- a stark contrast to the 32% of Republicans who feel the same way. This is important, because Trump is winning with roughly 37% of the vote at this juncture. Which doesn't sound significant, until you realize that this chunk has been oftentimes running against 3-8 other candidates; it's enough to win (at least, for now).

Bernie isn't doing as well, unfortunately, because he's running for leadership of a party that is largely content with the direction in which the country is headed.


More than any other candidate, Trump exemplifies the idea of being an "outsider" that seems to resonate with a certain sect of folks in 2016. Foremost, he has virtually no political experience. But more than that, like Sanders, he's got no associated Super PACs, no ties to interest groups, and is paying for his campaign largely by himself. Again, this is crucial to folks: Trump is seen as being free to be precisely himself, and -- for better or worse -- tell you exactly what he wants to do.

He's got no ties, no binding agreements, no sense, and no Fs to give.


To best understand the importance of Trump, you have to realize how much the core GOP absolutely loathes Trump.

No matter how he performs here onward, party officials are discussing the possibility of implementing the ol' Ctrl+V of a "third-party" (another Republican) candidate to take him on. And even if he gets the nomination, the GOP elite are strongly considering wooing the delegates to instead pledge support for another candidate. This, of course, is running directly counter to the will of the people [insert the substantial Trump delegate lead].

And people don't realize how serious this actually is.

No matter what your view of the politics in this country, it stands to reason that we have a long-enduring process that has taken place over the past couple hundred years: The people choose their candidate through the electoral procedure, choosing delegates who pledge to vote on the will of the people --you don't vote for the candidate, you vote for people (delegates) who thus vote for your preferred candidate. In theory.

If a delegate doesn't vote at all, or if he/she chooses a different candidate, that individual is known as a Faithless elector.

Except for a few anomalies, or as in the cases of a few notable deaths, faithless electors aren't common -- and they've never actually changed the outcome of an election. In this, the year 2016, we've got potentially hundreds of individuals who may run counter to the will of the people out of fear, bitterness, or even their own sense of self-righteousness. A lot of Republicans are pissed that Trump is succeeding, despite their best efforts.

I can promise you this: If the GOP establishment runs counter to the will of its people, there will be riots. And rightfully so, as it will be a gross bastardization of our very democracy at work; the GOP in particular will be shaken to its very core, and I'd be compelled to predict a complete dismantling of the very party. But that's precisely why, past their ignorance, bitterness, and cunning, the GOP establishment aren't going to actually do anything. I'm a frail, unattractive 23-year-old saying with overt confidence that a dangerous revolt would occur if Trump is hit with the switcheroo. I'm assuming the establishment politicians can see it, too.

And that's precisely why this, right here, is the political revolution. Again, for better or worse.

The millions of people who feel their votes don't matter, who feel like the game is already rigged? What's going on right now?! That completely blows that misguided idea out of the water. Jeb Bush was supposed to have this in the bag. He opened with 2:1 odds in the eyes of many Vegas oddsmakers, received million and millions of dollars from Super PACs (in August of last year, he had more Super PAC money than all other candidates combined), and was assured a spot just because of his family name and the GOP powers backing him.

Dropped like he was hot (ironically...well...).

After him, Marco Rubio was the poster boy of the moderate GOP -- after all, a moderate is generally seen as a safer bet than a purist.


Kasich is a nice guy, but let's stop joking for two seconds.

And Ted Cruz looks like a fat salamander.

So we're left with Donald J. Trump (née Drumpf). The man no one wants to win, aside from his fans. And as simultaneously depressing as it may be, it's also a beautiful thing -- despite the best efforts, hundreds of millions of dollars, and a (well-deserved) smear campaign by the media, Trump is winning. And we can sit here and hate it all day that a man who's had a feral ferret on his head for 69 years is winning, but he's doing it fairly and impressively. And against all odds. The "rigged" system can't even halt his ascension.

That says a lot about the power that we the people have. We're blinded from it by our own anger, but there it beautifully lies. (And those last four words are actually a good campaign slogan for Trump.)

Again, I'm still among those praying that Trump is actually just an elaborate costume and persona donned by Ashton Kutcher to ring-in a new season of Punk'd. I don't want Trump to be my president (and again, I'll say with confidence that he won't be). But it's important that he's making the strides he is.

Because the problem with Trump is that the problem isn't with Trump. He says ridiculous, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and borderline racist things. But so does every fossilized bigot of a white dude in the boonies. The problem with Trump is his supporters.

David Duke.
Ted Nugent.
The 7.5 million people who've voted for him thus far.

Comparing Trump to Hitler? It's embarrassing. In this political climate, it seems we compare anyone we don't like to Hitler. And it's embarrassing. When I see my fellow liberals pull that card, it brings me a lot of shame -- we as a people have to be bigger and better than that. Because then we're marginalizing the systematic extermination of a nearly an entire people, and putting it on the same level as a guy who says he'll build a wall with his legendary penis or whatever.

Let's stop the ignorant rhetoric and propaganda. Trump is a loon, George Bush was incompetent, Obama is this or that, blah blah blah.

Hitler is Hitler.

I've seen people mention that they want Trump to be assassinated, Are we really keen and quick to lower ourselves to the level of scum -- to the extent that we'd wish a violent death upon  a guy who changes political positions about every five years? A guy who admits he says goofy stuff just to get a rise?

It's not Trump's fault. Because this final point on Trump's profound importance is, well, important:

If not for Trump, we probably wouldn't realize how little progress we've made.

He's helped show us that, heck, maybe America really isn't as wonderful as we sometimes think. We've been able to change the channel when we see another black kid gunned down by police; we've ignored legislation that's being passed which places a deeper chokehold on women's rights; we've turned the other cheek while our neighbors get chewed up and spit out by hungry insurance companies.

But no longer.

We can't close our eyes to a reality we don't want to see. Because proud racists, Islamophobes, sexists, and bigots are openly touting their support to a man who's merely a joke. I'm not worried about what Trump says -- I'm worried about what his supporters say. Because these are the people we're going to continue to share a world, a country with -- regardless of how Trump performs in the primary or general election.

So while it's silly that people like Trump exist, it's absolutely frightening that people like (some of) his supporters exist.

And that's certainly not to say that all of his supporters are this way; in fact, I'd like to hope that the majority of them aren't. But they're remaining largely silent in the midst of a deafening crescendo. If you're a Republican specifically, there are a million reasons to be mad. So it makes sense, in theory, to support the candidate who isn't like the others.

But please be careful. And be loud in your dissent toward those who've no shame in saying tragically racist and offensive things in the name of their candidate.

So again. For as much of a joke as he oftentimes is, Donald Trump is arguably the most important candidate we've had in decades. It's a revolution, for sure.

I just hope it's a positive one.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Aw, Hill Yeah

My parents have speculated for years, close friends and associates have mentioned it in passing, and the world seems to be asking for a definitive response: Will I finally come out of the closet?


Much to the dismay of all around me, I have to confirm that I am, indeed, a supporter of Hillary Clinton -- which, I'm aware, makes me about the least popular young person in the room at any given time. Indeed, some have questioned if I'm even a true Millennial at all. Where's your birth certificate? they ask. Your mother wasn't even born a Millennial, they prod. Why did the term 'Millennial' suddenly become hip and cool? they question. I ponder silently at these very same questions.

They question me.

They berate me.

They wonder how long I've been brainwashed.


Heck, when I first told my girlfriend of my intention to vote for Hillary, she responded with the reassuring
:/ why

It's peculiar, the reality that most of these people who grill me for my choice are my fellow liberals. My Republican friends and family don't really care why I choose whom I choose -- they just know it's a garbage choice regardless. In fact, not a single Republican has questioned my intentions. They disagree, and that happens to be the end of that.

But Bernard fans?
They want answers (well, some do -- most just want to tear into my candidate without mercy). They want blood. They want a mental health screening for me. Regardless of what they want, they'll never be satisfied with what I give them; it's a losing battle.

And here's the unfortunate truth: I don't have a single major problem with Bernie. If by some weird stroke of a god who's completely abandoned Hillary, Bernie gets the nomination, I'll gladly campaign and vote for him. There are just several points preventing me from giving him my vote over Hillary -- the specifics of which are for another post.

I'm a tender young'n of 23 modest years upon this floating rock. I started reading about politics in sixth grade during the 2004 presidential election, and I soon became obsessed with the history, the present, and the future of all aspects -- but specifically, the presidency. I love(d) reading about these giants, their platforms, their speeches, their triumphs, their defeats. Their parties.

And without any interference from my fairly politically diverse family, I decided I was extremely liberal. As a 16-year-old, I shunned my mother for voting for John McCain, despite my daily factoids and unsolicited monologues -- the bulk of which was the audio equivalent of rubbing oil all over Obama's chiseled pecs.

Needless to say, in high school I was known as pretty devout liberal. People would ask me questions, tag me in posts wherein they'd need someone to argue a point, and have me help them write silly papers and prepare debates. Suffice to say that people (specifically, liberals) knew me as a guy who knew about politics. I loved the stuff, so I took a fair amount of pride in knowing things adequately for my purposes. In short, I was a super douchebag when it came to politics. But people generally trusted my views as having been informed.

Fast-forward to 2015. For my part, my interest in politics has skyrocketed, but I don't often argue with people over Facebook as much as I used to (my boo hates it). While I enter year 12 of following politics, I'm noticing a lot more of my contemporaries giving their views on politics. Which is great, I reason, because we need less ignorance and more engagement! And then I look a hair closer and realize that every post is a steamy dump upon the face of Hillary Clinton.




I've not seen a single 'Millennial' (Christ, I hate that word) show support for Hillary. Each one is a die-hard Bernie fan, despite never having shown an interest in politics prior. Which, again, sounds beautiful in theory, because I'm a firm believer in the idea that young people should become fans of politics.

But these individuals aren't interested in politics -- they're interested in Bernie Sanders. And they'll rip apart anyone who stands in his way, regardless of which facts seem to stand in their path. Thus, I see dozens of memes and posts and links that I expect to see from my Republican friends. I'm seeing the same anti-Hillary talking points one sees on Fox News. And yet, these are coming from people who are presumably liberal.

Doubly frustrating is the fact that most of their criticisms and links are quickly refuted with a quick Google search, which is something I'd expect foremost out of my generation. It's a sad day when liberals are sharing Young Conservative memes, without any research having been done. Here are some of my favorite points (see if you can recognize any of these fun un-truths!):

Hillary is a neocon masquerading as a liberal.
This is one that has persisted for a few years; a lot of people have Hillary pinned as not a moderate, not even a centrist -- but as a conservative. Now, when vetting a public officeholder, it is most effective for your point that you cite his/her legislative history. After all, the primary responsibility of a politician is to, well, politic. And fortunately for us, each vote on a piece of legislature given during a politician's tenure is publicly available. For an easy reference to every candidate's positions historically, as well as an organized chart in how they've evolved on issues, I'd recommend the non-party-affiliated site On the Issues. It's very clear, very simple. And according to her legislative history, Hillary is identified as a Hard-Core Liberal. Does she swing conservative on issues such as trade? Sure. But that's not at all impacting of her overall standing. In fact, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose name has been on the lips of many liberals these days as a potential great progressive candidate for the presidency, the Supreme Court, etc., is actually just as liberal as Clinton. Moreover, Hillary's legislative history is only slightly more moderate than Bernie's. And, it's worth noting, she's technically more liberal than President Obama.

Hillary is a liar and flop-flopper who will say anything to get elected.
From this particular point comes the fan-favorite nickname "Shillary" -- the idea that Hillary is beholden to interest groups. Again, the facts just don't support the idea; there's never been a shred of evidence that she's changed a vote strictly because of money or an interest group. One of the core bricks of this argument tends to lie in her reversal of stance on gay marriage. But if one turns back the clock to 2008, when 51% of Americans, and 42% of Democrats were opposed to same-sex marriage, and then takes a look at the current state of things, it becomes clear that a lot of Americans have evolved on the issue. In 2008, Obama was opposed to same-sex marriage, but no one would argue that he's been by far the most pro-gay president in our nation's history. He changed stances, Joe Biden changed stances, a lot of people changed stances. A debate ad nauseam could be had on the presumed reasoning behind these decisions, but I would personally assert that all I care about is a person's current voting record. And like the Democratic party in general, Hillary decided -- for whatever reason -- to be on the right side of history. And as long as her current and henceforth stances on the issue are progressive, I couldn't care less what she thought eight years ago. Or what most Americans thought eight years ago.

Hillary is a bitch.
Ol' girl Clinton has been paired with this epithet for decades now. Just today, a coworked shared a story about someone she knows who was under Hillary for many years in the 90s, and who basically confirmed that Hillary is a "bitch". Let me make this abundantly clear: I couldn't care less about how she acts in private. I don't know what it's like to have your life lived under a microscope, and to be a nonstop victim of public scrutiny for every minor action you make. And if I'm being honest, I wish Obama had been more of a "dick" -- he tried for too long to appease an impossible opponent. I like that Hillary can be feisty and prideful, because that's unfortunately what it's probably going to take in this political climate. I suppose it's personal preference, but I prefer my candidates with a little habanero bubbling under the tortilla (and no, I've no idea what that means). Being blunt, Hillary doesn't take shit. And Lord knows the GOP has tossed a few tons her way during the past two-and-a-half decades. She's a thick-skinned bitch, And I like it.

Hillary is too much a part of the establishment.
Or she's "too elite" of a politician. Here's the thing: Women have never been the "establishment" in American politics -- they're inherently unwanted outsiders to many. This connects to the previous point: Hillary had to be a bitch to claw her way into a ring that didn't want her. And through her dedication, she's somehow become known as an elite politician. Which, to me, isn't a bad thing when you align pretty closely with me on the issues. After all, I wouldn't decline to have an "elite" doctor perform my surgery. This whole rhetoric is just baseless propaganda -- it makes no sense, and carries no weight.

Hillary is a criminal.
Again, another Fox News talking point that doesn't actually have any sort of factual backbone. Despite those aforementioned nonstop allegations and assertions from the GOP, there have only been controversies -- many of which are artificial, and no actual wrongdoing. Period. Rose Law Firm? She kept and handed over all the records. Nothing. Whitewater? Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars pumped into an investigation that yielded nothing. Benghazi? Again, millions of dollars later, no wrongdoing. Fully dropped. Emails? She abided by every rule, every parameter, despite a raving Fox that would have you thoroughly convinced otherwise. She did nothing that hadn't already been done by a previous Secretary of State. Dropped.
If nothing else, the GOP are persistent with their efforts. But they aren't successful.

Hey, look! I actually supported Hillary without having to condemn Bernie a single time. Because here's the reality: Your expressed support of a particular candidate doesn't require you to automatically hate his/her opponent. I like Bernie, I really do; I've nothing truly negative to say about he or his views. I just enjoy Hillary for several reasons which are important to me. You'll never see me share an anti-Bernie meme, and you'll never see me using lame names like "Bernie Panders" (which is used by those who were punted as babies).

I like Bernie, I really like Hillary. It's as simple as that. I feel strongly, but attacking Bernie would be exhausting -- and run antithesis to what I believe is the correct way to navigate to progress. And no matter the person for whom you're voting, I'd beg and plead you to please do at least a modicum of research before espousing negativity unto your own base. A house divided against itself, they say...

Politics as usual.