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Why Trump Will Win Reelection and What to do to Stop it

 

By Said E. Dawlabani                                                                                                     Published in Medium January 25, 2020                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Photo credit: Foreign Policy 

I had several chances to nap in the middle of the day this week. Not because I needed the rest, but because I was bored to death listening to the Democrats make their case in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. The Democratic Party remains under the delusion that the law matters to the GOP in its current state. They and one half of the US population have made the case of “he broke the law” a million times since Trump was elected in 2016. Three years have passed and still, the Dems and their supporters refuse to accept the new reality that we live in a Post-Truth world where very little matters and truth is no longer the domain of the virtuous. This is a new era where the law, just like many of the abstract concepts entrusted to a democracy, has become just another alternative narrative to those who support Trump. Based on what has happened since Trump’s election, the GOP under his rein is on the fast track to have the entire US government and its Constitution subverted and its responsibilities handed over to the Russians, to thugs, and to bankers and the private sector.

 

The disappearance of the pillars that upheld the ethos of human decency weren’t just limited to truth. Today, the Digital Age has given the world a million alternative narratives for every virtue we had taken for granted. What chances does a 233-year old paper called the US Constitution have in the face of this deluge of insolence that has tribalized and polarized the world? Neither Plato nor the founding fathers ever anticipated these existential challenges to a fragile construct called democracy. To see this drastic change in the collective values of the US, one only needs to go back 47 years. Just think of Nixon’s impeachment when he famously defended himself with the phrase “I’m not a crook” and when evidence began to pile up against that argument, he resigned. Compare that to Trump’s actions that challenge the very foundation of a constitutional republic. It is as if he’s saying “I’m the biggest crook. What are you going to do about it?” So far, no one has been able to do anything about it. Today, Trump remains the most powerful corrupt man in the world.

Trump is not presidential; he is a transactional narcissist with evil intentions. In 2016 his base of support included people whose values are dominated by a free market narrative. To them nothing else mattered other than the virtues of making money, and Trump delivered on his promise to them. He passed a tax reform law that punished liberal states by taking away many of the tax deductions they enjoyed and rewarded real estate developers like himself with new tax saving incentives. This is transactional narcissism at it’s best with the added bonus of punishing his enemies, half of the American people. He lowered corporate tax rates and, just like a thug ignoring established rules, he intimidated the Fed into lowering interest rates. Today with low unemployment and a stock market that has gone up more than 10,000 points, Trump by virtue of his adolescent economic policies has ensnared a far greater segment of the US population into his net of insolence.

Today, as the Democrats continue to pursue the noble virtues of enforcing the law of the land, they continue to miss the big picture, the one that is blinking in bright neon lights 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it’s blinking the words “Only Money Matters.” They still think that they can offset the appeal of money and a good economy by exalting the virtues of decency and responsible citizenship. To an increasing number of people the idea that Trump broke laws no longer wins against the argument that “my stock portfolio has doubled in value since he became president.” Money has subversed virtue. The so-called swing voter who was on the fence on the morality issue with Trump is no longer there. He has fallen into the Trump camp fully intoxicated with the spoils of the free market. He had overcome the moral conundrum of right and wrong. Today, more and more American believe that their net worth is far more important than their moral worth. It is a place of depraved decay for which we will all pay a high price. It is also a place where the Trump administration is hard at work luring more Americans into its dark and evil web that will surely affect the outcome of the 2020 election. Today the Trump Administration is preparing to roll out another tax cut. This one will target the middle class and will probably be passed into law as early as when the Senate exonerates him, but no later than a few weeks after the Democrats pick their presidential nominee.

While the Democrats proclaim to be progressive politicians, they haven’t progressed beyond traditional remedies for problems that are existential in nature. Yes, Trump is an existential threat to democracy and that means the Democrats must look beyond the impeachment, call it a distraction, and find different tactics to save the republic. What will matter in this election is money, and if the democrats are going to have a chance at the presidency in 2020, they must hit Trump and the GOP where it counts. This is not an issue of which candidate raises the most funds for the presidential campaign. Trump will win that competition hands down. The Democrats will not win on moral appeal alone. What they need to do is to start thinking in structural terms in order to pull this existential threat to democracy from its roots. They must think of the economy. No Republican or swing voter is going to vote for a democrat who will surely roll back  tax cuts and introduce new taxes and regulations that will bring an end to a record bull market. The majority of voters who have a reasonable net worth or those who are approaching retirement and have concerns about their 401K are not going to vote for either Sanders or Warren. These are the two candidates who know what structural reforms the capitalist system needs, and Trump knows exactly how to spread fear about them being in power.

The stock market gave legitimacy to Trump and it must be the stock market that takes that legitimacy away. I will argue that if democracy is going to be saved, then the Democrats must do everything in their power to cause the stock market to collapse. It is long overdue for a correction, and the Democrats must see to it that the correction happens before the 2020 elections. They, of course don’t have the power to do that themselves, but they can call on their liberal Billionaire investor friends to begin to systemically short all markets beginning in the summer of 2020. Yes, it might be immoral or even illegal, but illegal and immoral, thanks to Donald J. Trump have been legitimized, optimized, monetized and glorified. These are desperate times, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Remember the bright neon sign shining on the hill. If we want other things to matter, then money is the narcotic that preventing those other things, including the US Constitution from mattering.

This will be the ultimate test of Progressive values under this historic existential threat. It will test the likes of George Soros and Jeff Bezos and the thousand other CEOs and hedge fund managers who claim to be Progressives. I doubt that this level of courage even exists anymore, but it is what has become necessary. What the Democrats and their supporters must understand is that this is no longer a fight between the left and the right side of the political spectrum. It is a fight for the very soul of democracy without which no stock markets and no amount of money matter.

 

 

 

 

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The Business Roundtable, The Most Powerful CEOs and the Legacy of Milton Friedman

Six years ago I ruffled some feathers at a conference organized by the friends of Milton Freidman of the Chicago School of Economics. Friedman is the father of Monetarism, an economic ideology that has taken the world by storm. It has elevated neo-liberal economics and politics to the stratosphere and is now responsible for most of the instability that world economies are grappling with: Record government and private sector debt, bubble economies everywhere, and dangerously high balance sheets of the world’s top central banks. It delegitimized the very function of central banking and contributed to social instability and the greatest wealth gap in modern US history.

If you live in capitalist society, the best way to understand Friedman’s philosophy is by substituting the words “only money matters” for everything that ails you personally. If your wife leaves you, only money matters, you get a better-looking trophy wife right out of a catalog. If your dog dies, only money matters, you buy a more expensive dog. If government takes too much of your paycheck, only money matters, you kill government institutions, or you buy its politicians.  Focusing solely on the power of money and the overuse of monetary policy as prescribed by Freidman -as foolish as it seemed- became the dominant thinking in the world’s leading universities and at its most valued corporation.

The controversy at that conference started when I criticized Freidman for leading corporate America to believe that the sole purpose of a publically traded corporation is to serve the stockholder. Repeat after me, only money matters. Several people walked out of the room when I introduced the stakeholder model that’s at the heart of the MEMEnomics Corporate Sustainability Platform. You can call it Other Things Matter More. This is a model that serves the 5 P’s for Sustainability in the MEMEnomics-Spiral Dynamics framework: Purpose, Profit, People, Planet, and Process. A modified version of Don Beck’s original conception has been adopted by the Conscious Capitalism Movement, which continues to be informed by the Spiral Dynamics model till this day.

Friedman’s ideas represented a legitimate way for businesses to abandon all other virtues that fall under corporate social responsibility and pursue the sole goal of making money. So much so, that in 1978 the Business Roundtable which is made up of the most powerful CEOs on the planet, adopted Friedman’s guidelines as its end-all be-all source for corporate governance. So, why is this relevant today? In 40 plus years, the Business Roundtable has rarely deviated from supporting what they call shareholder primacy – until a few days ago.

On August 19, 2019 the Business Roundtable, in a major shift in focus announced that it’s moving away from the stockholder model and embracing a commitment to stakeholders such as employees and suppliers. The signatories to this statement are the who’s who of the most powerful corporations in the world, from Apple’s Tim Cook, to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and heads of every Pharmaceutical and Oil Company on the planet and everything in between. (Click here to read the full statement and see the list of signatories)

Does this new statement of corporate purpose reverse the damage that monetarism has caused over the last 4 decades? Since 1978, nothing has been more important for the American corporation than preserving shareholder value. Capitalism became a simple mathematical equation. On one side was management hiding behind this fallacy of efficiency for the sake of the shareholder and on the other was the worker fighting the uphill battle to keep his job. The working class that built American cities and factories and those who supplied them became a variable in an equation that needed to be reduced to as close to zero as possible.

Fighting for the shareholder became a blood sport. This wasn’t a fiduciary responsibility like it’s supposed to be. To attract this rare industrial butcher talent, CEOs were offered a generous amount stock and their compensation was tied directly to the price of that stock. The brightest Friedman clones had taken over corporate America and its financial markets and they immediately went to work. They increased the price of the economic pie instead of creating a bigger pie because only money mattered. Jobs were outsourced, streamlined and offshored because only money mattered. Businesses, large and small were securitized, monetized, and downsized, because only money mattered. Jobs, unions and workers disappeared and you guessed it because only money mattered. Then as this whole house of cards was crashing down in 2008, instead of seeing the fallacy of an economy based on Monetarism our clueless politicians finished the job of debauching whatever value was left of our currency by making money available at 6 times the normal liquidity.

The Business Roundtable’s new declaration from a few days ago is like a statement made by a habitual criminal in court proclaiming innocence and vowing to change his ways. It reminds me of the movie series The Purge where, in a dystopian America, mayhem, anarchy, and murder are condoned for one night out of a year and where reality looks a lot different the morning after.  Well, corporate America has been purging its stakeholders for four decades in favor of those who became the 1%. They have systemically murdered any sense of loyalty they have for Main Street America. Now, They are realizing that the purging is reaching an ugly end and that a new and threatening dawn is on the horizon.

These powerful CEOs are looking to mitigate the damage caused by the rise of a new economic era that doesn’t fit their narrative for business as usual. It’s driven by those who haven’t drunk the shareholder Kool-Aid. They see the anger of the Millennials who witnessed their parents’ jobs being downsized then outsourced to places where slave labor increased shareholder value. They don’t understand why this new generation would rather “share” than “own.” They spend billions on consumer research but they won’t bother to look inward to examine their own conscious and sense of patriotic duty. What they do see is a new breed of politicians who are ready to put an end to the fallacy of an economy based entirely on money and stockholder value.

When only money matters, unending greed becomes the only virtue. When that virtue defines corporate values and culture for over four decades, the behavior becomes the norm. Jeff Bezos is a man who’s company put tens of thousands of stakeholder mom and pop shops out of business. When he says he supports the new stakeholder model, I have my doubt about corporate America being in touch with the stakeholder. If my work with evolutionary values over the last two decades tells me anything, it’s this: corporate America has become the habitual criminal in the court of public opinion, and with all it’s arrogance and desperation it’s asking us to believe that it’s ready to voluntarily go on the straight and narrow path. What it hasn’t noticed is that the judge and jury have changed. The pendulum is swinging the other way. It’s empowered by a culture with higher values and a new breed of politicians who see the deep damage that Milton Friedman has caused to the cultural fabric of America and the world.

 

 

 

 

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Paradise Lost, The Sequel: Nature’s Tipping Point

This article was published Spring 2019 in Kosmos Quarterly 

John Milton’s epic poem about the fall of Man from heaven and his ultimate expulsion from the Garden of Eden has so many parallels to the story we seem to be writing for ourselves. His is of a biblical nature that chronicles the frailty and temptation of mankind, while ours is about us blindly destroying; piece-by-piece the heaven on earth Mother Nature has given us. Our paradise is an era which started about 11,000 years ago called the Holocene which has enabled life on earth to thrive the way it has for as long as it has. Click here to read the original piece .

You can download a PDF version here

 

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Uncovering the Values of a Regenerative Future