CEOh No.

Carly Fiorina. Ben Carson. Donald Trump.
The Republican base has made it clear: we want a President who knows nothing about politics. From Ben Carson's fundamental misunderstanding of the US Constitution, to Carly Fiorina's lies about Planned Parenthood, to nearly everything said by Trump, it's becoming clear that the Republican party is starting to unravel, unable to reign in the Frankenstein's monster of hate and ignorance they have cobbled together over the past 40 years. But above the maniacal conservative arglebargle, one thing is clear:

We get it, Republicans. You're mad as hell. You're sick of the "professional political class." You've put two CEOs and a neurosurgeon at the top of national and New Hampshire polls. Because why not?
Listen to Joel Arends, chairman of Veterans for a Strong America, explain why his group has endorsed Donald Trump. He wants a president with "courage," and he doesn't think experienced politicians have any. "It's time to consider somebody else," Arends said at a Trump rally in Los Angeles. "It's time to say to ourselves, do we really need a former governor?" "No," the crowd roared. "Do we need a current senator?" "No!" "Do we need a reformer businessman?" "Yes!"
Yes, as much as Republicans despise Mitt Romney, they can't quite seem to quit the IDEA of Mitt Romney. "True Conservatives" of America, "Forgotten Men" of America, I will tell you one thing: you most certainly do NOT want a businessman in the Oval Office.
A businessman, a CEO, or whatever cherished title they choose to bestow on themselves, is a terrible public servant by definition. By definition, a businessperson's job is to make money for either him/herself, or for his or her stockholders, the people who make sure he or she can continue to make money. By definition, a businessman will do whatever it takes to ensure his own success or the success of her business, which of course it a function through which he or she can make money.
It all comes down to money. And the President cannot be single-mindedly focused on enriching himself or her own business.
We call them "public servants" for a reason: they are paid through our taxes, they are employed by we the people, they are supposed to do right by the people, not the pocketbook. But, as we have seen increasingly through massive corporations like Turing Pharmaceutical and Volkswagen, companies will routinely work to harm people if it means they can make an extra buck. In the case of Volkswagen, the CEO had absolutely no idea of the misdeeds going on under his watch, which is disturbingly reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's cluelessness during the Iran Contra scandal. The point of our government is not to harm its citizens if it saves someone some cash. The point of our government is to make sure Americans thrive.
For all of his talk of Making America "Great Again," Trump's tax plan undoubtedly benefits the mega-rich... if he can make up his mind about it. Firoina's claim that she "quadrupled its cash flow" while at Hewlett-Packard, she ended up laying off 30,000 working people... to further enrich stockholders. These are not policies you want to see in the White House, unless you're hoping to be one of the lucky few who wouldn't be thrown out of your homes, jobs, or the country itself. And for those of you hoping to be in that lucky few... that train is already full, and they're not taking on anyone else anytime soon.

However, conservatives... if you want to claim that America's President is its CEO, than you should support someone who wants to make their "stockholders," the American people, healthy and prosperous. But if you did that... you'd be supporting Bernie Sanders.

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup

The Great American Revival Tent

How feel-good politics stunted the course of lasting change in America

I heard, not too long ago, a pundit speaking about how much of a disaster the Democratic nomination of George McGovern was in 1972. According to this pundit, said nomination destroyed the Democratic party for the next twenty years. Now, far be it from me to impugn on the veracity of Fox News contributors, but I feel I must call into light two points of order:

1)The Democrats did all right for themselves, particularly in the House, from 1972-92


2)The 1972 elections were the elections that brought us Watergate, the election where a Republican incumbent thought it necessary to spy on his Democratic challenger in a useless plot for what would turn out to be a landslide election for the incumbent.

And, I suppose if we ignore the election of Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1980, we could say that in Presidential politics, the Democrats did suffer. In fact, one could say that the reasoned, intellectual, issues-driven and fact-based campaigns of serious Democrats like McGovern, Carter and Mondale is what caused the Democrats to endure some difficulty in Presidential politics all the way until 1992, where a "New Democratic Party" was ushered into the White House under one William Jefferson Clinton, who managed to, in his term, repeal the act that held back a tidal wave of irresponsible banking that crashed the economy in 2007 much like it had done in 1929.

Somehow, I don't think FDR would have approved.

But how did we get here? How did the Democrats have to cozy up to these new ideas brought on by Clinton or Gore? How did the old guard like Carter and Mondale get unceremoniously shown the door on the heels of Watergate, a Republican boondoggle and one of the biggest scandals to hit the Presidency? If anything, the Democrats should have run roughshod over the Republicans for those twenty years and beyond, but they didn't. So, what happened?

Ronald Reagan happened. And he brought the Great American Revival Tent with him.

In the current climate of intense polarization that is plaguing Washington and has been doing so in some form or another since the early 1980s, it has become more and more apparent just how important the Watergate affair truly was. Before Watergate, Richard Nixon was considered a savior for the Republican party: his tactics and strategies were thought to have dispelled the spectres of Hoover or Harding from the hearts and minds of the American people while simultaneously putting to bed the moderate policies of Republican Dwight Eisenhower, who had himself named a Vice President named Richard Nixon in the 1950s. It was thought that the Democrats went too far left in the 1968 election, and in response Nixon went hard right, implementing the successful, if suspect "Southern Strategy," turning once solid Democratic Southerners into lifelong Republicans on the heels of sweeping Democratic reforms, mostly in the areas of racial equality. The Republican party was back on track where it belonged, and no one could convince them otherwise. The Democrats, meanwhile, still clung to their own platform of standing up for the little guy, and intellectual, if often far too abstract, esoteric causes for nebulous things like "the greater good." In short, the Democrats had won since the Depression of the 30s by becoming a policy of issues: hard issues, issues that mattered when times were tough.

Then Watergate happened.

It is difficult to understand now, in our culture of constant exposure to corruption and government misdoing, a culture that simply takes it for granted that the government is out for itself and for deep-pocketed donors instead of the little guy, but the revelation of the Watergate crimes shocked America to its core. The President of the United States, the pinnacle of American pride and decency, was caught with his hand in the metaphorical cookie jar. How could this have happened? Spying, wiretapping, break-ins... this is not the way American government should behave! All irony concerning the post-9/11 presidency aside, the country, feeling cheated and betrayed, sunk as a whole into a depression that is indicative of the feelings felt by a cheated spouse or a recent divorcee. "What was the point?" we were left asking, "and what does it all mean? How can we go on being like we were when everything has changed so completely? Government was supposed to be watching out for us, and now... now we just don't know what to do anymore."

Now, there are two ways to combat depression, both for a country at large or for an individual. One method is to force oneself, or be coached by another, into setting the world straight in your own mind, coming to terms with the perceived wrongdoings and frustrations, and effectively gathering up one's bootstraps and soldiering on. "You may have knocked me down," the depressed person might say "but God damn you, you won't knock me out! I'll keep fighting, no matter what it takes, because there is too much to do and to be done, life is too precious to waste like this!" The other method is to subscribe to hucksters and charlatans, who soothe your fragile self and coo softly in your ear that it isn't your fault, and there's nothing you did wrong, and that you don't have to look those troubles in the face, you can go on pretending like nothing is wrong. Your life is too precious to worry about anything else but your happiness!"

The human impulse to self preserve is strong enough to allow both of these options to work. However, only one of them will encourage a body to thrive. In the days following Watergate, America as a body chose the opposite of Richard Nixon (or the lame duck Gerald Ford) to represent them in the White House: an outsider, a self-made man who wasn't afraid to tell America that yes, times are tough, but if we work together we can gut it out and thrive... but we have to work for it.

Then, Ronald Reagan happened.

America, still hurt and broken from the Watergate revelation, collapsed in its weakness and fell for the spell of the Huckster. He was a man who claimed to never attain a grade above a "C" in school, a man who, almost bored, claimed "A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?" This wasn't the shady and conniving intelligence of Nixon, that man who broke our spirit... this is a kind, gentle idiot who we're sure won't trick us and, most importantly, will sound good all the while. While James Carter promised a better future tomorrow, Reagan promised an immediate soothing balm to make all the bad feelings go away. An actor, he spoke with a silver tongue and golden throat the sort of panacea that soothed America like a drug. But, as President Reagan himself would caution against in his time in the White House... drugs can be dangerous. No drug, no matter how powerful, will last forever, and soon you find yourself in the cycle of addiction: needing another hit, begging your dealer to set you up, wagering everything and anything for that quick feeling of self-satisfaction. "Please!" America cried, "Make us forget all about Watergate! Make the pain go away, Mr. Reagan! Tell us there's nothing wrong with the American people, make us feel good again!"

Ronald Reagan set up The Great American Revival tent and took center stage as a two-bit charismatic preacher who stood outside the White House and promised salvation for only a nickel, then charged a dime. In the 1980 election, the most famous line was "There you go again," which is often remembered as Reagan's supposedly off-the-cuff, friendly nature to the sterile policy of Jimmy Carter. No one seems to remember, of course, that President Carter was talking about making sure families didn't get bankrupted by medical bills... something we're still struggling with decades later. Instead, we chose to put in our lot with President Catchphrase, Ronald Reagan, because he was a charming movie actor and made us feel good. His speeches were fraught with the sort of nonsense you might find in a self-help book, and he deluded enough people into thinking that if we just felt good enough about ourselves, all of the country's problems would seem to go away.

The corruption didn't stop: in fact, in 1978 the Supreme Court struck down a ban on corporate election contributions, putting us on the ruinous path to what became Citizen's United in 2010, but we were too busy feeling sorry for ourselves to let anyone tell us there was a problem. We knelt at the altar to Reagan and his new show, much like the old show, but refined and codified to not seem overtly racist or classist, to make it palatable to a wider audience. Reagan and his followers, like a young Newt Gingrich, instituted what became known as the Republican Revolution, an utter triumph of style over substances that saw emotion take center stage and saw the federal government completely shut down within one year of Republican House rule. Sound familiar? Suddenly, raw emotion and religious fervor, something that had been so beneficially removed from governance, had taken center stage in the hopes of playing on the primal fear and worry of an America rocked back on its heels by scandal, willing to believe anything the man in the seersucker suit sold them. Sound familiar? Ronald Reagan and others of his ilk took advantage of an America just coming off a very bad relationship, and played themselves up to be a kind and gentle suitor who wouldn't ask anything of poor Columbia in her broken state... and then robbed her blind. They seduced her away with promises and false hopes, away from the sour-faced, but well-meaning Jimmy Carter who knew the only way out of this "malaise" was hard work and education... but old Ronnie just kept cooing in her ear: I'll make it all better. Nothing is wrong. Everything is fine. I'll make you feel good about yourself again.

And he did, but America paid the price. We wagered away our children's future by cutting school budgets, even for children's food, we wagered away our own security by deregulating businesses, and we wagered away our own livelihoods when Reagan broke the unions. But he made us feel good about ourselves, didn't he? And later Presidents would rely on this same strategy, from Clinton's "I feel your pain" to Obama's "Hope and Change," we have been lead down a primrose path with blinders on our eyes as the world rotted around us, as America careened toward the crisis from 2007 that is still being felt today. Much like how Nixon played on the soothing fear of anti-black hysteria in the south to gain votes in 1968, men like Reagan, Bush, Gingrich and even Clinton and Obama have learned the new Soothing Strategy, the strategy that killed the old, competent Democratic party and replaced both sides of the debate with mindless pablum. Politics doesn't matter anymore, it's the issues and, more importantly, how we feel about them.

It's all about you, and how you feel, because America is exceptional, America is awesome... because we told you so. And when we tell you so, you feel good about it... and you stop asking questions. Questions like why the minimum wage hasn't gone up as a share of household income in twenty years, or why we can afford to spend more than the next thirteen countries combined on bombs and guns, but can't spend a penny more to keep people healthy in this country. Why do we constantly preach the values of the Christ, while at the same time hold sacred the tenets of Rand, when one preached giving to the poor and the other taught utter selfishness? Why do the rich now have as many times as much wealth as they did during the heyday of the Gilded Age? These questions don't get asked, because America has simply plugged its ears and repeated over and over that it's not OUR problem, there's nothing wrong with US... that nice Mr. Reagan told us so... so how come it's only getting worse?

Change will come, whether we want it to or not. The divide between rich and poor is only growing bigger, and although the unemployment lines may be shrinking, the lines for public assistance are not. We are working harder, for less money, at more different jobs, for less benefit. We have failed our children by risking it all in specious markets, only to see it tumble down and take gainful employment from our country's children, along with their own sense of purpose. We have been so focused on how we feel as a country, while simultaneously making sure not to feel for anyone else, that we have let the important issues, the "boring" issues, become the place of corrupt and morally bankrupt individuals. We turned out backs on the New Deal Coalition's ideas of hard issues, intellect, and determination for a drug addiction of feelings whose expiration date has finally been reached. There needs to come a Roosevelt Revolution in this country to counteract the Reagan Revolution, where common sense and common decency trump our own personal feelings, beliefs, or revulsions. We need to put aside the Southern Strategies, the Soothing Strategies, and we need to pack up that revival tent and pull the plug on that worn out old Hammond Organ, because their message is only starving those who come to the service. We must now do what President Carter told us to do so many years ago, and what men like McGovern and Humphrey and Mondale lost trying to make clear: times are tough, and we must grit our teeth and put our nose to the grindstone to make this country great again. We didn't pull ourselves out of the Great Depression by feeling better about ourselves, we worked for it. The CCC didn't say "We don't want to!" they said, "We can take it!" Ask not what your country can do for you, because it's time for you to bite down hard and do what you can for your country... because it's up to us now.

It's thirty years too late for us to realize that we have to gut this out. It won't be easy, it probably won't be fun. I won't lie to you: we'll have to work long and hard to beat back the shadows that have corrupted our government while our politicians pranced about singing of milk and honey, but we can do it. We did it when Teddy Roosevelt swung his big stick and regulated industry, we did it when Franklin Roosevelt did everything he could to put Americans back to work and built the bridges, roads and schools we still use today, and it worked when Lyndon Johnson twisted every arm in Washington in an effort to make sure no child grew up as heartwrenchingly destitute as he did in rural Texas. The time has come for courage and honesty in American politics, and a return to a Mondalian model of a candidate who will do what is right despite and perceived political danger. We can no longer afford damaging feel-good politics to further sap the strength of our country, a strength that lies primarily in a strong, and well-informed, middle class.

We are now facing a Republican menace that is even worse than Reagan's tent that destroyed the middle class. I've talked before about how, in a desperate attempt to keep angry voters, the Republican party has had to keep throwing gas on the fire. It appears now, with the advent of maniacal Tea Party legislators who wish to save the government village by destroying it, that the fire the Republicans have kept blazing hot has now jumped its boundaries, and is threatening to consume the Republican establishment itself. The rise of Trump and others like him: factless, charismatic yet borderline fascist demagogues, means that the roiling fire of Republican insanity threatens to burn the entire country down... but before it can do that, it has already begun licking at the corners of Ronald Reagan's singed and fraying Great American Revival Tent.

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup

Our Small Towns

The Labor Day weekend is a great chance for folks in an extended family, some from wildly different walks of life, to come together over great Midwestern food and share just a little bit of their lives with others. These brief glimpses into the soul of people you meet so infrequently can be fascinating and frightening, intriguing and disappointing, but it is always vital and crucial to our growth as social human beings to expose ourselves to all sides of issues, debates, and ideas. It was in that vein that our family Labor Day table got on the subject of a recent Time Magazine cover story, that of the opioid addiction epidemic crippling thousands of Americans from coast to coast.

For those in the more metropolitan areas of the country, it can come as a surprise that the small towns of America are not eternally locked into the Ozzie-and-Harriet, picket-fence-and-golden-retriever stereotype. Another failure of our news media is the proper depiction of what Reagan's America has done to the small town: its economic base hollowed out by massive greedy de facto monopolies, its jobs either outsourced or mechanized, also in pursuit of the golden calf of ever-higher profits, and its schools, roads, and other infrastructure constantly defunded and crumbling thanks to politicians more eager to line their pockets than represent their districts. In this world of despair, desperation, and an economy that tells you there's no choice but to work until you drop dead, it should not be a surprise that the hardest put-upon Americans are turning to drugs to ease the pain.

Prescription painkillers are the gateway drug, pushed by pharmaceutical companies also in search of that rich, rich profit, often to the point where they willingly put dangerous drugs on the market to make a quick buck, content in the knowledge that our neutered regulation system can do nothing to stop them. And so more and more people get addicted, but when the pills are no longer prescribed, or when they can no longer fill the need, you turn to something stronger, which leads to the twin scourges of heroin and meth. We now have a desperate small town population who are constantly told it's their fault that the rich people have all the money, turning in their grief to something, anything that will dull the pain. This pain can be physical from an injury sustained on the job, where your employer will do everything to avoid paying you proper compensation for it (it does cut into profits, after all), to a pain that is easier to hide and harder to find, a pain that strikes to the very core of a human soul.

Addiction is a mental condition. There are literally biological changes that happen within the brain and the body in the case of serious addiction. It alters your brain, and yet there were voices at our family table scoffing at the idea of investing the money, time, and effort of the state into helping these people. There may have been similar incidents over your holiday, or perhaps you've heard it in conversation somewhere. This is the darkest side of the American character: the idea that once your personal self is taken care of, then no one else is worth your time. This is the side of America that put Japanese-Americans in camps in the 1940s and pointed fingers at everyone but themselves during the Red Panic of the 1950s. Simply throwing up your hands and declaring that the situation is unwinnable, and that it's foolish to even try, is not what America is about. This cynicism is the lasting legacy of Ronald Reagan, with his caustic criticism of being "here to help" from the government. The truth of the matter is that the government can help, and more often than not it does, despite massive deregulation and funding cuts.

But it is not enough. America, now experiencing horrific murders on our televisions almost nightly, needs to step up its game and join the rest of the developed world in dealing with mental conditions like addictions. Simply pretending the problem doesn't exist, or cynically declaring that everything is broken and there's no way to fix it, will only make things worse. Be returning tax rates on the richest of the rich to their pre-Reagan levels, essentially demanding the money back we lent them as tax cuts for the past 40 years, we would find the money we need to boost the middle class and, with them, the economy. We would have the money to bring small towns back from the brink, and to properly care for those who have paid the heftiest price of Ronald Reagan's hatred of help. We would have the money to help schools, fix roads, mend bridges, and most importantly Save the Small Towns.

There is no more time for apathy and cynicism. I will admit, I used to be one of those people who decried all politics as useless, until it became very clear that our elected policymakers hold in their hands the tools to bring us into a new Golden Age, or condemn us to the slippery slope of third-world oligarchy. The time is now to take action and make the government work for us, not a fraction of a percent of the ridiculously wealthy. It's time to take care of our own, because however much we want to pretend that it's not our problem, that we're better and above it all, sooner or later it always becomes everyone's problem and those who are suffering in our small towns are damn sure one of our own.

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup

American Zaibatsu

I am not an economist.

However, there's a lot of talk about stagnancy or a lack of decent growth in America's economy, and many people say similar things about the economy of Japan since the 1980s. It seems that Japan had a bubble burst a generation ago and, ever since, it's had tepid growth and trouble really getting its economy up and humming again.  There's even a term for it when talking about Japan: people will often refer to the Lost Decade, referring to much of the 1990s.

Instead of picking pie-in-the-sky, campaign promised growth numbers like Jeb Bush, who decided to just pick a "round number," let's start asking questions. Is this what the future holds for America? Some people are starting to ask that question,  but I've yet to see anyone posit one link between Japan's economy and the American economy that has emerged post-Reagan: the existence of Zaibatsu.

What is a Zaibatsu? In Japan, Zaibatsu are massive corporations that can influence a substantial chunk of the overall economy. When Japan first started to join the industrialized world during the Meiji Restoration in the late 1800s, they basically allowed four or five companies to run the majority of the economy to make up for lost time. Companies like Mitsubishi are the ancestors of the original zaibatsu, which were family companies unlike the current model of keiretsu, which is a term reserved for corporate conglomerates on a massive scale. Think about it: haven't you ever marveled how you can buy a Mitsubishi car, media projector, forklift or commercial air conditioner? These massive "informal business groups" could possibly be one of the reasons Japan's economy has grown so stagnant.

When the majority of your business is controlled by a few large companies or, like the American cable industry, by several large companies working together in agreement, they do not see a need to use their companies for the greater good. At that point, a company exists to make a profit and to be as efficient as possible. However, efficiency does not lead to a growing economy. If everything is working perfectly and efficiently and you're making a massive profit for your shareholders, why would you suddenly start throwing money away by hiring more workers you don't need? Why would you choose to stimulate an economy when the effects of a stagnant or crashing economy will be absorbed inside your massive, amorphous corporate structure? We've already seen it happen in America, where some of the banks who caused the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis are not only back in business, but thriving, some of them bigger than they were when they were judged "too big to fail." But when business gets bigger, when merger after merger, concentration on profit and stressed efficiency become the norm, when the American Zaibatsu have been established (and, in many cases, shored up by government bailout or massive subsidies)... is it really any wonder why our economy is growing so poorly while the Dow has been breaking records?

The economy won't grow faster because it doesn't have to. And eventually, when you can't lay off any more people, and when the profit margins start to take a hit, those sitting in the Zaibatsu will start to demand something to keep their cashflow going.  And that's when interest rates might jump, and that's when the country could dip from stagnant growth into another recession. The super rich are already beating the drum for higher interest rates to pad their wallets, so what should be done to avoid a Japan-like "Lost Decade" in America, economically speaking?

Primarily, dissolve the Zaibatsu and regulate the Keiretsu of America. We need to make sure these businesses don't get too big, and if we come down on them hard enough with increased taxes, regulations, and an increase to wages, we the people will suddenly have surpluses to spend on encouraging Mom-and-Pop style Main Street businesses. For example, McDonald's says it has to pay its employees starvation wages to keep up its profit margins. If the United States were to mandate a raising of the minimum wage, say, in keeping with the rise of inflation, McDonalds would no doubt have to close many of its locations to still keep its precious dividends for its shareholders. Now, with all of this extra tax revenue (because, let's face it, McDonalds is not going to die out completely) states and municipalities will be able to funnel money to prospective business owners, and with higher wages, more middle class Americans will be eager to finally start up their dream businesses and make their dreams come true.

The left will like this, because it encourages stimulus and a bolstering of the beleaguered middle class. The right should like this, because it breaks up the corporate bureaucracy and stops the system of by-proxy subsidies to billion-dollar companies through government payouts in entitlement programs for underpaid employees who don't make enough to survive. This is not a free market, this is a market held hostage by massive companies and an unregulated banking system run amok, and both sides should be able to agree that these American Zaibatsu should be broken up, and their ill-gotten spoils either returned to the government to help the employees they exploit, or given directly to the middle class themselves to create a new, more fair, and more free market with greater potential for growth.

This system cannot be sustained. It cannot go on forever. We cannot hope to continue to automate and lay off human beings and hope the economy will absorb the shock. We will have a Lost Decade in America, if we have not already.  The remedy is clear: you can either work with those who are of the first wave of malcontents, a more compromising wave, or you will have to deal with the mobs. It is up to those in power to either let a new generation make this country theirs and make it work for them as it worked for their parents, or to continue trying to crush us only to have the compacted masses explode back in your face. You cannot keep treating people like this, and it will not last forever. I will leave you with the words of a great President, and a great Republican, Theodore Roosevelt:

''These fools on Wall Street think they can go on forever... They can't. I would like to be the buffer between their foolishness and the wrath that is surely to come. Sooner or later, there will be a riotous, wicked, murderous day of atonement."

At Your Service,

Doremus Jessup