A Personal “State of the Union”

PRE-NOTE:  I have struggled a bit about where I, personally, fit into being part of the solution in the current mess that is the United States…and it is a mess.  It is so much easier to be a part of the problem: to lament and to blame.  The thoughts which follow, which took root a few days before the shutdown ended last week, are mostly a message to myself.


Shortly before the President called off the government shutdown last week, I was watching an interview of Gary Cohn at the Davos conference in Switzerland.  The lady doing the interview was doing a good job of pushing Cohn on the issue of the huge numbers of U.S. government workers either furloughed or working without pay.  Cohn is battle tested with such interviews – part of “basic training” for executives.  He held his ground: big permanent tax cuts (POSTNOTE ONE) were a hallmark accomplishment of the first Trump year; the key corporate function is responsibility to shareholders – the entities that hold shares in the corporation are all that matter.

Yesterday, at the local McDonald’s, I heard Cohn’s arch conservative counterpart on the other end of the economic scale rail on at a neighboring table.  Eavesdropping was unavoidable.  He was loudly noting to his table mates, all senior citizens, all men, about how the Democrats had to be investigated.  The reason, it appeared, was that the Democrat House of Representatives was about to begin investigations of sundry matters Trump.  The man on the soapbox was pretty incensed.  In my opinion, the guy is pretty representative of a large (but surmountable) class of angry citizens – we all know people like him.


After watching Cohn, I did a  quick google: depending on what is apparently a loose definition, about half of American adults have some investment in the stock market, either as individuals or as part of groups (as retirement funds) etc.  (The vast majority of “investors” include myself, and many if not most of the people I know.  Most of us are tiny minnows in a pond of predator much larger investor fish.  We are useful as lunch for the big boys and girls, like Cohn.  There is no equality in the stock holding capitalist class.)

Re my old guy neighbor at the other table, later in the day came an e-mail from good friend, Madeline, which adds a little context on investigations, and which I include at the end of this post (POSTNOTE TWO).  My guess is Mr. Outrage and I wouldn’t agree on the meaning of the numbers.  I don’t think he could seriously disagree with the data….  But if to agree or disagree requires consideration of actual data, there is little chance of engagement.  That’s where he stands.  People like me are the problem; people like Trump are the savior.


A quandary:

The shutdown and resulting hardship to hundreds of thousands of government workers has presented a quandary to myself.  Personally, we live in relative comfort.  If we need something we have access to it.

Round one of the federal shutdown is now over.  We weren’t touched, it seems…round two hopefully won’t happen, but there is no safe bet on that.


While the first shutdown was in progress I asked my wife, did she know anyone adversely affected by it?  Her answer was “no”.  I knew no one either..

Most of us were not directly affected by the shutdown.  It’s easy to pretend that there is no problem.  What is on TV is there, not here.  But not necessarily.

A day later I had an unintended discovery.  I had reason to check an old recollection that related to the Dwight Eisenhower administration in, probably, 1952.  It was an historical archive matter, and the obvious place to get my answer was the Eisenhower Library in Abilene KS, a place I had actually visited in 1983.

Mine was a spur of the moment question.   I simply google’d the web site and a screen came up, similar to the screen which appears here.    The library and its services were shut down due to the government shutdown.  (I am not sure if the advisory about the site services being temporarily closed is now listed, but it definitely was, as recently as earlier this afternoon.)  I don’t know who’ll ultimately field my question at the Eisenhower library, but that person was one of those real people furloughed without pay in the longest government shutdown in American history; he or she lost, at least temporarily, 35 days pay, and is probably worried about future possibilities of a repeat.


How to react?  What to do?

During the shutdown I was troubled by my own relative lack of concern for those 800,000 or so Federal workers on the street as political pawns.  What could I do, especially since the problem did not appear to be in my backyard, or even much in my own state?  There wasn’t so much as a jar in which to leave a buck for someone’s cup of coffee.

Personally, I decided to give an additional  $100 donation to the local food shelf, Christian Cupboard Community Food Shelf.  There are other local needs.

And then I learned about the unknown researcher in KS who was affected.  I can’t help that person directly or even, probably, indirectly.  But this unknown person helps identify for me the present reality of our country.  We are not independent entities; we are all tied together, regardless of where we live.

My challenge to myself will be to use my personal learning experience into action in the very small universe which I identify with.  That includes you.

I’m only one person, but I am one.  And that is my “State of the Union”, Tuesday, January 29, 2019.

Let’s get to work.


Postnote 1 – “Tax cuts”.  A year ago, in late March, I had my annual appointment with the tax man.  This year, the results were pleasant – a reduced tax bill thanks to Uncle Sam.  My tax guy included a summary sheet which held a caveat: don’t count on this cut continuing in future years.  The corporate tax cuts in 2017 were “permanent”; the tax changes for the rest of us sunset on a schedule some years out.  Who will pay for the “loss” for which we were (and some may still be this year) beneficiaries?  Of course, it will be ourselves, and it will be paid, according to some dreams, from cuts in “entitlements”, things like social security and medicare and programs for the most vulnerable, the people without a political voice of their own.  It won’t happen immediately, but in a few years we’ll look back and wonder “how could we allow this to happen?”  Well, we did, and we thought it was great when we got that refund last year….

Postnote 2 – Investigations, from Madeline: The below listing comes from easily identified public data that we see on the media every day.    

Just so we’re ALL clear:

Hillary Clinton Benghazi “Investigation”
4 years
0 indictments
0 convictions

Hillary Clinton Email “Investigation”
2 years
0 indictments
0 convictions

Trump-Russia Investigation

15 months

34 Indictments/Charges (Individuals) (and counting)

3 Indictments/Charges (Companies)
5 GUILTY pleas (and counting)
4 CONVICTIONS (and counting)

Indicted: Roger Stone
Indicted: Paul Manafort
Indicted: Rick Gates
Indicted: George Papadopoulos
Indicted: Michael Flynn
Indicted: Michael Cohen
Indicted: Richard Pinedo
Indicted: Alex van der Zwaan
Indicted: Konstantin Kilimnik
Indicted: 12 Russian GRU officers
Indicted: Yevgeny Prigozhin
Indicted: Mikhail Burchik
Indicted: Aleksandra Krylova
Indicted: Anna Bogacheva
Indicted: Sergey Polozov
Indicted: Maria Bovda
Indicted: Dzheykhun Aslanov
Indicted: Vadim Podkopaev
Indicted: Irina Kaverzina
Indicted: Gleb Vasilchenko
Indicted: Internet Research Agency
Indicted: Concord Management

Guilty Plea: Michael Flynn
Guilty Plea: Michael Cohen
Guilty Plea: George Papadopolous
Guilty Plea: Richard Pinedo
Guilty Plea: Alex van der Zwaan
Guilty Plea: Rick Gates

Over 191 Criminal Charges (and counting):

Conspiracy against the USA (2 counts)
Conspiracy to launder money (2 counts)
Bank fraud (8 counts)
Bank fraud conspiracy (10 counts)
Subscribing to false tax returns (10 counts)
Making false statements (6 counts)
Failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts (14 counts)
Unregistered agent of a foreign principal (2 counts)
False FARA statements (2 counts)
Subscribing to false tax returns (10 counts)

Assisting in preparation of false tax documents (5 counts)
Conspiracy to defraud the United States (13 counts)
Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud (2 counts)
Aggravated identity theft (24 counts)


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