What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Tax reform. This country needs real reform of the tax code. Whether you fall into the “tax the rich in oblivion” camp or find yourself in the “Why the hell do 50% of Americans not pay a penny of income tax” team, the need for reform is the one thing we all seem to have in common. The terms of the current Republican tax plan are still largely shrouded in secrecy, but I’ve already seen two items kicked around that will be will mean I can’t support it as long as they’re in play. I’ll be writing my representative this weekend to let him know that the home mortgage deduction and state/local tax deduction are non-negotiable points for me. Those are two big pots of available cash and I know how tempting that must be for the average politician to put their filthy hands all over… but still, going after two of the most popular deductions around feels like just about the most tone deaf way to get the process started.

2. Temptation. There was beer at work today. Sort of. It was the start of this year’s Oktoberfest celebration – an event that my employer has a tremendous amount of love for, which I can only assume comes from the number of employees who have spent some part of their career in Germany since 1945. Look, if the option is to go sit around listening to oom-pah bands and knocking back cold beer or stay at my desk and pretend to be interested in email, well, there’s not really much of a competition. The problem comes when you’re a few drinks in and everyone is starting to get a little lubricated and entertaining. That’s when the little voice in my head trips an alarm to remind me that it’s probably time to go before I say something that’s both funny and true, but wholly unprofessional. The real temptation, though, was to stick around just out of curiosity to see what offensive or inappropriate sound bite might come flying out of my pie hole.

3. Jared Kushner. Having spent a good portion of 2016 being hot and bothered by Secretary Clinton and her email server, it’s only fair that I call out Jared Kushner in his capacity as Senior Advisor to the President. His use of private email to conduct official business should be investigated by Congress. His files and records should be subpoenaed. If there is evidence indicating he has broken the law, he should be charged criminally and tried. While I’m on the subject, I’ll remind those on the left screaming for Kushner’s head, that there is a world of difference between official email and classified message traffic. That being said, it’s apparently impossible to keep either one on non-government servers. Asshats.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Non-final decisions. Should I ever find myself deified and empowered to pass judgement from high atop Olympus, the cardinal sin that would earn my condemnation would be indecisiveness. If you’ve got the charter to lead, then by God, lead. Make a decision. Do something. Or just keep deferring any kind of actual decision until the diminishing number of hours available in which to act precludes all but one possible course of action.

2. Partisan politics. When Party A goes to the wall screaming about what Party B is doing, I mostly tune it out. I know my mind and no amount of rending of Congressional garments for the cameras will change that. When Party A spends the day screaming about something that Party B is doing and it’s exactly the kind of procedural jackassery Party A did when they were in the majority, well lord, I don’t know why anyone would ever think we could have a functioning legislative branch. I’m sick to death of politicians and people in general who only find something objectionable when it’s done by someone else, but perfectly fine when they do it.

3. Lack of marketable skills. My particular skill set is pretty closely tailored to work on the inside. There just is’t a lot of call for someone who can slam together a 150 slide powerpoint briefing, plan a party for 55 of your closest friends without breaking federal law, or estimate how much ice or water you might need after a hurricane (and know how to order and ship it). I’ve been on the inside so long now I wouldn’t even know how to apply for a gig outside. Of course there’s too much now tied up in retirement and benefits to really consider a wholesale change – especially when the jobs that sound even remotely interesting would lead directly from professional bliss to personal bankruptcy. I’m feeling just a little bit trapped and that makes me fantastically edgy.

The hundred days…

Dear America,

Donald Trump has been president now for (almost) 100 days. Civilization has not collapsed. We’ve not all been forced to start speaking Russian. There are still 50 states. And as far as I can tell, not one left-leaning celebrity has actually carried through with their promise to leave the country.

From my vantage point, the country isn’t all that much different than it was at 11:59AM on January 20th. The Democrats in Congress are fighting a long war of attrition hoping to gain ground during the mid-terms. The Republicans in Congress are at war with themselves. No major legislation has been passed and we’re racing towards another impending government shutdown at the end of the month. Abortion is still legal. Everyone can still get married. And states still don’t have to recognize the 2nd Amendment.

The 25% of the population who think’s President Trump can do no wrong are the same 25% of the population who thought President Obama could do no right. The 25% of Americans who think President Trump can do no right are the same ones who though President Obama could do no wrong. The 50% of us in the middle are still utterly perplexed by the extremists on both flanks.

Our politics is brutal and ugly, but the market keeps ticking along flirting with Dow 21,000. Home sales are brisk. Unemployment continues to trend down through the statistical area known as “full employment.”

FDR, with the help of a willing Congress, set a ridiculous standard for the first hundred days of a new presidency. In contrast, Lincoln saw seven states leave the Union before he was even sworn in to start a hundred day countdown. All I’m saying is that the first 2400 hours of an administration may not be the single best tool by which we measure where we are and how it’s going.

My suspicion is there have been far better and far worse times to be both alive and American simultaneously… but that it’s neither as bad nor as good as some of us think it is in the moment.

Best regards,

Jeff

Admitting when you’re wrong…

Last night I put my money on effectively seeing “no change” in the power dynamic in Washington. I called for a Clinton win, Democratic Senate, and maintaining a Republican-led House. It was a conventional prediction based on conventional, if basic, analysis of the news over the few days prior to the election. It was conventional and I was absolutely wrong in reading this most unconventional of elections. In light of the banner headlines on every news site I’ve seen today, I feel like I needed to call myself out.

The Washington Post, not a Republican mouthpiece or cheerleader for conservative ideas, confessed sheepishly that “Republicans have achieved the almost-unachievable: Near-absolute victory.” As an occasional member of the Republican Party (yes, I’ve left and come back more often than I care to think about), it’s the kind of story that makes me happy on this day after. It also fills me with a special kind of dread, because elections have consequences… and the major consequence of this election is that Republicans are going to have to get their act together and figure out how to govern again, versus just being obstructionist douchecanoes.

Mario Cuomo, the one time Governor of New York, said “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” I can’t speak for the quality of the poetry we’ve seen in 2016, but I hope that our prose somehow manages to move the bubble on our state of political dysfunction in this country. Yesterday we saw the resurrection of a political party that was all but written off as dead due to shifting demographics. If we don’t mangle the job too badly, maybe, just maybe, the election of 2016 can be something more than a last gasp of an angry electorate.

Election night prognostication…

So if you will all indulge at least one more post about the election of 2016, with polls a few hours from closing here on the East Coast it’s time for a little prognostication from your kindly local proprietor. It was a busy day today and I didn’t have time to do much reading or casting entrails or reviewing exit polling data, but that’s not the kind of thing that would ever stop me from giving you my two cents about what I think is going to happen tonight. To put it another way, my opinion on this is going to be educated rather than purely informed.

With all that said, you’re probably wondering what the election results are going to look like. Here’s my best guess of where things will stand once the dust settles and the last votes are tabulated: Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States. The Republicans will maintain a razor slim majority in the US Senate (51-49) and the House of Representatives will continue to be Republican controlled by a small, but comfortable margin.

In the end I think what we’ll find is that we’ve spent billions of dollars on this election season and absolutely nothing of significance will change. Washington will still be gridlocked. There will be even fewer moderate voices on both sides and the interminable bickering will continue for 25 months until the first voices start “exploring” opportunities to run in the presidential election of 2020.

That’s my best guess on where we end up when this long election cycle reaches it’s agonizing end. We’ll all have a few less friends, we’ll be a little more jaded, and politics will continue as usual. Ain’t that a kick in the head?

The continuing state of (dis)union…

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Congress, honored guests, and fellow citizens:

In 1975 President Gerald Ford came before the Congress and reported that the “state of the Union is not good.” It’s a description that was as apt then, in the immediate aftermath of Watergate and Vietnam, as it is now. President Ford presided over an economy with 85 million workers and a national debt racing towards $500 million. Today there are 149 million Americans at work at the debt is a staggering $18.8 trillion.

We live in a country where one third of the people align with the right politically and detest and are detested by the 1/3 of the people who align with the left. The remaining third is either too enamored with the Kardashians, obsessed with the latest release on Netflix, or too stoned to care what else might be going on around them.

The global climate may (or may not be) changing depending on your trusted source for information. The military is being cut down to its smallest size since before America’s entry into World War II. Our borders are largely undefended. We’re beset by radical Islamic terrorism at home and abroad. And home grown militias are able to occupy federal buildings and property at will – all with little sign of having the national resolve to do much about it.

Our Constitution requires the president to give an annual report to the Congress and “recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” If pressed to give a real response to that requirement, I can only say that the state of disunion is strong and growing stronger – and I have no earthly idea what measures might be necessary, expedient, and popular enough to garner 50.1% of the vote in order to correcting that situation.

Thank you. Good night. And God bless America.

Common sense…

In the wake of today’s presidential decree of executive action on the issue of gun control I keep hearing the refrain that we need “common sense” legislation. That leads inexorably to the discussion of how we define common sense. The very definition of those two words will be very different depending on whether you happen to be one of my gun grabbing friends on the left or my open carry friends on the right. What smells like common sense to me likely wouldn’t satisfy either group. Perception is a bitch like that.

Until we arrive in a place where one side isn’t viewed as wanting to put a rifle in every hand and the other side isn’t viewed as wanting to melt every barrel for scrap, I don’t see a way towards even a basic definition of what “common sense” legislation might look like. Until we find that definition we’ll continue to have what we have today, which is both sides entrenched and able to hold the other largely in check indefinitely.

As long as we’re locked into an argument where the slightest retreat by either side is seen as threatening the collapse of their entire position, I can’t imagine what common sense might look like. I foresee only continued entrenchment and both camps racing away from the middle of the discussion.