Postcard From London

Coffee Shop Conversations: Is There Hope for America?

I am in London to work on my millennial-elder project. On Thursday I met and talked with four British college students at a Café Nero coffee shop.  All four are interested in and well read about US politics.  All four are baffled, wondering how a great democracy that thrilled the world with Obama’s election can tumble so far so fast. They are not sure if we will ever recover.

But the general sense I am getting from talking with various folks in the UK is that they have more hope in us then we have in ourselves. As a vacationing Canadian academic I met at a sidewalk cafe said, “The world covets American leadership. It seems that no matter how bad things might appear to be, America has always been a light that leads out of the darkness.”

When I asked how he could think this after our years of blundering through Iraq, Afghanistan and other skirmishes of choice––– and now by blundering in our domestic politics with the election of Trump–––he responded, “The redeeming thing about your country has always been your resilience. You recognize and acknowledge your faults, then turn onto a new path.

“After the Bush years you elected Obama, and despite a brutal assault on everything he tried to do, he made a positive mark internationally on issues of climate change and human rights. He confronted brutal dictators, and supported international cooperation and partnerships. He stood firm in repudiating the “American first and America alone” philosophy of his political opponents.

“Electing Trump was a huge setback for the U.S. and for the world. The question now is whether that disastrous mistake becomes a death march away from hope and into the darkness of isolation; or, a resurgence of your natural progressive spirit that will lead into the renewed light of hope.”

The British Press and US Politics

The Guardian’s Steven Thrasher wrote: “Six months into Donald Trump’s term, and Democratic politicians’ ability to be an opposition party is, in a word, pathetic. When the poll came out saying that “Democrats stand for nothing more than opposing” Trump, I thought to myself, ‘If only that were true!’

“But they can’t even do that well. When House Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Crowley was asked by the Associated Press just what his party’s core message was, he “hesitated” and then said, “That message is being worked on.”

Who Is to Blame for Obamacare repeal Failure?

Molly Kiniry writes an American Values column in The Sunday Telegraph. Today she wrote about the apparent demise of the Republican commitment to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). “Who is to blame” for the failure, she asks. “Some point to Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader who failed to corral his party into backing an Obamacare replacement. Others say McConnell was left with an impossible task by Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who steered the bill through the lower chamber fully aware it would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate.

“But the sad truth is that this morass is no one’s fault. Rather, it is a symptom of a deeper disease in Washington. The modern two-party system prevents meaningful legislative action except in emergency situations. Individual politicians are so dependent on the party machine that none will break ranks, even if their constituents would benefit from bipartisan cooperation. Disloyalty to party can lead to swift retribution or an evaporation of funding.”

Later in her article she writes, “A failed healthcare system means sick children out of school, and missed cancer diagnoses. This is the sort of human misery which no responsible government should inflict upon its own people—and precisely the sort of indifference which has relegated the Republican Party to the pariah status among those concerned about the welfare of America’s poorest.”



Skimming Through the News; Random Tidbits, Thoughts and Ideas

Is Universal Basic Income a Possibility in today’s America?

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Kathleen Pender reports that “the idea of a universal basic income—monthly cash payments from government to every individual, working or not, with no strings attached—is gaining traction, thanks in part to endorsements from Silicon Valley celebs.”

She cites Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerman and co-founder Chris Hughes, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and Y Combinator’s president Sam Altman as suggesting the idea is worth exploring. The article explores different ideas for implanting the concept of a guaranteed annual income, some from conservatives who see it as a way to combine all existing dollar transfer programs into one.

President Trump’s World View

Two of President Trumps top advisors, H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the president sees the world “not as a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and business engage and compete for advantage.” Continue reading “Skimming Through the News; Random Tidbits, Thoughts and Ideas”

America’s Sacred Trust

The founders of America made a sacred promise to the generations that would follow them:  the blessings of justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, and liberty would endure for posterity.

While it has often been a struggle, their promise has been upheld as a sacred trust since the Constitution was drafted in 1787. But I fear that we are in danger of becoming the generation that breaks the promise. Continue reading “America’s Sacred Trust”

America’s Pillars of Success

If you were searching for a candy metaphor to describe the United States, what would your choose ? In their 2011 book (That Used to Be Us) Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum embraced the metaphor idea when they likened the nation to a lollypop.

They extolled the virtues of what they believe are the “five pillars of America’s past success,” but then lamented the extent to which we are falling short today: “Today’s United States is faced with era-defining challenges and is responding with the vigor and determination of a lollipop.” Continue reading “America’s Pillars of Success”