Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
March 3, 2017 (posted March 6, 2017)

Mr. President:  Coming from you, it was a remarkable speech, the measured tone, the
presidential timbre ... plus it offered something to everyone.  Increased military
expenditure of $54 billion to establishment Republicans, immigration controls to the
Tea Party wing, tax cuts and a repeal of Obamacare for both, and the sop of family
leave to the Democrats.

Thus went the address to a joint session of Congress.  Now comes the hard part, the
implementation.  The first item on the agenda is likely to be healthcare.  Yes,
Obamacare has problems, but it has insured the poorest with government help --
individuals who did not have insurance before.  The insured seek help earlier
encouraging preventive care and reducing expensive visits to hospital emergency
rooms.  If they do go, hospitals get paid assuring their support for Obamacare also.  
The Republican proposal to offer tax credits doesn't help these people because their
income is insufficient to rack up enough credits when they are paying very little in
taxes.  Will the Democrats have anything left in them, they will put up a fight.

The U.S. spends more money on defense than the next eleven countries put
together.  Moreover, President Obama initiated a 20-year $1 trillion program to
update nuclear weapons.  What this and the proposed $54 billion will do is to increase
pressure to cut social programs:  education, government sponsored early childhood
programs, aid to families who qualify, food stamps and so on.  Simply put, defense,
Social Security (pensions etc.) and Medicare i.e. healthcare insurance for the over 65
take up most of the budget and are impossible to cut given the politics, leaving social
programs (not loved by Republicans) most vulnerable.

Martin Luther King Jr. called out three evils:  racism, militarism and economic exploitation.  In the near five
decades since his passing, there has been much progress although economic segregation becomes
tantamount to racial separation, and military adventurism is increasing.  A shocking fact:  Since independence
in 1776, the U.S. has been in some sort of conflict in all but 17 years of its existence
(http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/america-war-93-time-222-239-years-since-1776.html).  In Yemen,
Trump ordered a failed mission almost as soon as he came into office; now direct bombing has begun -- under
Obama the U.S. only refueled Saudi aircraft.

As it appears, the proposed military spending increase is certainly more concrete than the (so far) abstract public-private investment in infrastructure,
which is likely to take longer to reify.  The trouble is military spending is the worst way to grow an economy
(http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2009/11/guest-post-confirmed-defense-spending-creates-fewer-jobs-than-other-types-of-spending.html).  A simple
example:  If the military buys a smart bomb, what it does is make a several million dollar hole in the ground; if you buy a car, its maintenance adds to
the local economy.  Better still, educating your children increases their earning capacity , the GDP, and returns your investment many times over.

So, such are the politics and policies in the U.S., the only industrialized advanced
country not offering universal healthcare -- hence the slogan 'Medicare for All' at
rallies.  As congressional battles are reported on, it won't be long before the bloom is
off the rose.

The press with one scalp to its credit, (Lt. General Mike Flynn) is after another.  This
time it is Jeff Sessions, the newly confirmed Attorney General.  The fact is when asked
during confirmation hearings (in the context of an election question) if he had met with
any Russian officials during the election campaign, he answered 'no'.  Now a news
leak duly checked out shows he met with the Russian ambassador twice.  Mr.
Sessions claims the meeting pertained to his job as senator and a member of the
Armed Services Committee and had nothing whatsoever to do with the election so his
answer was not incorrect.  At the time, he says, he was a senator who had no inkling
he would be considered for the job of attorney general.  And there it stands, the
situation hinging on whether the media frenzy gets a sympathetic ear from the public.

The Trump White House's war with the press has heated up.  It barred some major
news organizations including CNN and the New York Times from a press event on a
day when President Trump was using the charged words 'enemy of the people' to
describe certain media outlets.

While the Trump campaign routinely barred certain news organizations from
campaign rallies and other events, the circumstances become critically different when
they concern the nation's business and the White House, the people's house.  The
stunt was condemned by almost everyone including, of all people, former President
George W. Bush who was criticized and lampooned mercilessly by the press.

On a positive note, the $1 trillion proposed for infrastructure repair is sorely needed.  
Yet the amount necessary according to an estimate by the American Society of Civil
Engineers is $3.6 trillion.  The U.S. is also one of a few major industrial countries
lacking a proper high-speed rail system.  For now, that must remain a pipe dream ...