Happy Memorial Day! Our government has been taken over by a gang of traitorous, larcenous gangsters. Nothing else really matters.
And yet, life goes on in America.
I drove my convertible in my local Memorial Day parade for our local Democratic party. It was a real small-town Mayberry parade with brass bands, scout troops, and civic organizations of all types, not to mention a flyover from a World War II bomber. Our club was #52 in a parade with 76 entries. We got lots of waves, cheers, and encouragement from the parade watchers. But where are the torches and pitchforks? Where are the angry crowds surrounding the White House, demanding the impeachment and/or resignation of this master crook/liar?
The Founding Fathers never imagined a man like Trump in the presidency. Or a band of low-life crooks like the GOP in power. Our kind of representative government relies on the good faith of the legislators. “Respect for the rule of law” is something that should be taken for granted, especially when we’re talking about the highest offices in the land. Obviously, Trump and his enablers have no respect for the rule of law. Nothing is beneath them. Just look at how Bill Barr hides and distorts the Mueller Report, working as Trump’s fixer, not as Attorney General. Democracy can’t work if people purposefully sabotage the system.
Slandering long-time civil servants such as Jim Comey, Robert Mueller, Jim Baker, Andrew McCabe and many others, as well as impugning the entire apparatus of our government as some evil “deep state” is a deeply unpatriotic thing to do. And it is now the main thrust of Trump’s defense. I watch Fox News (when the TG is out of the room). I see how they work. These are the people who wear American flags on their lapels and showboat their patriotism all the time, and yet blindly defend working with Russia, our greatest adversary, to win the presidency.
And this didn’t start with Trump. The GOP has been chipping away at the integrity of our system ever since Reagan declared, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
When Mitch McConnell refused to allow the process of confirming Merrick Garland to move forward, it signaled a new strategy of ignoring all precedent in favor of whatever hyper-partisan move they could get away with. All bets were off. The GOP would now do anything – including working with our greatest adversary, the Russians – to win. America, be damned.
If you ask the GOP to do something for the common good for the country—like start to repair our neglected infrastructure (not to mention invest for the future) -- and they are nowhere to be found. They only service their donors and their base. Three super-rich families – the Mercers, the Kochs, and the Adelsons – exert huge influence over the GOP. That’s why the only major legislative “accomplishment” of the Trump administration was a tax cut that benefited the super-rich.
Why does the GOP like Russia so much? Could it be because they both admire white-supremacists, ultra-rich oligarchs, and dictators and hate Muslims, minorities, a free press, and democracy?
Did all our dead soldiers and sailors die in wars so that Trump & Co. can defile our democracy in a dozen different ways? That’s what I was thinking as I was driving through all that red-white-and-blue today.
THE ECONOMY VS. “STANDARD OF LIVING”
I keep reading how well “the economy” is doing. A better-than-expected GDP number for the first quarter of 2019 (why it happened doesn’t really matter) and a record-low number on unemployment. I keep reading how this healthy economy is going to help Trump in 2020, and that’s what he’s going to run on.
But what do the numbers mean? The macro-economy – corporate balance sheets, the stock market, etc. – is doing fine, but how does that translate to the lives of average Americans? In the big picture, the US economy might be doing well, but what does that have to do with the way Americans are living?
The day-to-day lives of average Americans are not easy:
13.5% of Americans (43.1 million) live in poverty – most of them, children.
100 milion (about one-third of the population) live in “near-poverty”
78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck
34 million have no health insurance
About 60 percent of low-income people said they couldn't pay their bills at times.
40 percent of U.S. families, including middle-class households, sometimes struggle to afford housing, utilities, food or health care
Almost 40% of Americans don’t have enough cash on hand to cover an unexpected $400 expense.
One-quarter of working Americans have no retirement savings at all. 44% worry that their savings won’t be enough.
42% of workers between 18 and 29 have no savings
17% of households can’t cover their bills each month, leading them to forego making rent or mortgage or utility or credit card payments.
One-quarter of adults skipped medical care in 2018 because they couldn’t afford it, and 40% have unpaid medical debt from unexpected bills last year.
Half of all US workers earn less than $38,000 per year. (The average cost of living for an American family of four, depending on where they live, is between $58,900 and $148,400.)
Three people – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett -- own more wealth than the bottom half of the population
So when people say that they economy is doing so well, ask “FOR WHOM?” Wall Street is doing fine; Main Street, not so well.
Sure, the unemployment rate is low – but the jobs that are out there are lousy and low-paying (if the employer can get away with it.) If there were still powerful unions, workers might have a better chance. Instead, the “gig” economy grows. Now, one-in-five workers is a “contractor,” with no benefits, no paid vacation, no 401(K), no one to stand with them against discrimination or wage theft, no nothing.
On the World Happiness scale, an international metric, based on --
• GDP per capita
• Healthy life expectancy at birth
• Social support from friends and family
• Freedom to make life choices
• Generosity in the form of donations to charity
• Perceptions of government corruption
-- the US finished 19th in the world – our lowest rank ever.
I say it all the time to the TG: “I don’t know how people live in this country.”
MICRO-LIFE VS. REALITY
I should be so happy. I have “everything” – health, security, the love of a wonderful family. And now: another grandson here and another novel on the way.
We saw a fabulous performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.2 by Lang Lang with Gustavo Dudamel conducting. (The critic in the Los Angeles Times’ review was rapturous, saying that Lang has joined Glenn Gould, Vladimir Horowitz, and Martha Argerich at the absolute pinnacle of piano artistry.) We’ve seen many great pianists over the years, but Lang’s playing was something very special.
We saw a satisfying performance of Beckett’s HAPPY DAYS by Dianne Wiest. Beckett’s my “favorite” writer. It’s his autograph that hangs on the wall next to my desk (a long-ago Christmas present from the TG).
And this week we’re going to see a Los Angeles Philharmonic rehearsal of Mahler’s Eighth – The “Symphony of a Thousand” – conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, who is a real Mahler-lover. This should be fantastic. I love watching Dudamel work with his orchestra.
I’m whipping through Howard Stern’s book. Some of the interviews I remember, some I don’t. A few I never heard. A good, fast, fun read, and a very well edited and produced book.
There’s been some great basketball on TV, even if it’s not the Lakers. The Dodgers are playing superbly, setting us up for another autumn of heartbreak.
Everything should be just about perfect, but instead my happiness is capped by what these villains are doing to my country. There is a big gray cloud over all over us. We can pretend that things are fine, but they’re not.
Lang Lang stuff
Lang – Live in Vienna – from the Musikverein, the most beautiful concert hall I’ve ever been in
Lang – Chopin’s Valse Brilliante
Lang – Mozart’s Turkish March
Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth Symphony “Symphony of a Thousand” – from Caracas in 2012 – Monumental music-making.
The trailer for the Yale Repertory Theatre production with Dianne Wiest from 2017, coming to the Mark Taper in LA in May
HAPPY DAYS – with Irene Worth and George Voskovec (the Joseph Papp production, directed by Andrei Serban)
HAPPY DAYS – with the Irish actress Rosaleen Linehan and Richard Johnson – from the 2000 project Beckett On Film
The great Fiona Shaw on playing Winnie
Kawhi Leonard’s Game 7 winner for Toronto
Kawhi Leonard dunks on Giannis Antetokounmpp
Cody Bellinger – April 2019 highlights