03 Jan Revisiting the Themes of 2020
TLR’s most important narratives center on bridging America’s divisions …, and 2020 provided plenty of grist for that mill.
Progress in any culture and any political system requires a constant re-examination of goals and realities. In America today, progress depends on a critical evaluation of the soundness of the structures underlying America’s success in the context of the 21st Century’s national and international truths …, which means that partisans from all bands of the political spectrum – a broad one in any functioning democracy – must seek common ground to address the future consensually and do so by engaging in civil discourse. TLR is an advocate for bipartisan dialogue, most recently on September 27th in “To Bridge America’s Partisan Divide,” on November 1st in “The Widening Partisan Divide,” and on December 6th in “A 2020 Holiday Wish” … which brings to mind the plea of President Jack Nicholson in Mars Attacks: “Isn’t the universe big enough for both of us? What is wrong with you people? We could work together. Why be enemies? Because we’re different? Is that why? Think of the things that we could do…. There is nothing that we could not accomplish. Think about it. Why destroy when you can create? Why can’t we work out our differences? Why can’t we work things out? [W]hy can’t we all just get along?” The Martians, believing that they had superior strength (a trait common at different times to both Republicans and Democrats), rejected Nicholson’s entreaty. That rejection didn’t result in a happy ending for Earthlings … or for Martians. America’s politicians should take a lesson from the movie’s script. A failure to do so may mean that America too will not have a happy ending.
Aside from efforts to bridge America’s partisan divide, TLR’s 2020 commentaries were about change … and about the rapid acceleration of incipient trends-of-change.
As a Presidential Election Year, 2020 brought abundant openings for candidates to “Seize the Moment” …, though neither did. The February 12th and August 30th TLRs urged the Presidential candidates to begin by simplifying America’s Internal Revenue Code (which stretches over 2,600 pages). Does any American believe that America’s tax system is efficient or works well … or that it’s fair … or that it should continue to consume the intellectual capital of so many tax lawyers, tax accountants and tax return preparers … not to mention working-class Americans who could better spend their time in productive pursuits? A silly question? Apparently so since tax reform – true reform – hasn’t been a part of America’s political discourse since the mid-1980s. Tax reform – as opposed to politically-motivated adjustments to America’s overly-complex Code – has become lumped with Social Security and Medicare as the “third rails” of American politics … with powerful special interests invested in the status quo and in partisan lobbying.
What about health care? TLR addressed the antiquated antecedents of America’s health care system in the May 16th “National Health Insurance in America.”
Abortion rights? TLR asked “Whither Roe v. Wade” on October 11th.
Our electoral and judicial systems? The U.S. Constitution is more than 230 years old and America’s jurists disagree on whether it should be interpreted as originally stated – the originalist wing of the conservative movement – or as a living blueprint to be reviewed in light of both evolutionary and revolutionary technological and social developments. TLR discussed the Constitutional issues on May 2nd in “The Federalism Wars,” on June 21st in “The Supremes and DACA Dreamin’,” and on November 22nd in “Pick a Party.”
The principal, though far from the only, accelerant of change in 2020 was Covid-19 … both in the worst, and the best, senses. Covid-19 was an arsonist, spreading biological lighter fluid to ignite a conflagration that consumed people, livelihoods, economies and, potentially, the balance of global power. In America, it was a societal disruptor in the most negative of ways. As an accelerant of history, it made projections about the rise of China a nearer reality, and of the decline of US Dollar hegemony that much closer in time. But Covid-19 also acted as an accelerator of revolutionary advances (April 19th) … in technology, medicine, ruralization (September 6th), biology, etc. It was a positive force in bringing the future closer …, and that’s a good thing. “The Future Begins Now” was TLR’s December 20th most recent contribution.
TLR wrote more about the effect of Covid-19 in 2020 than on any other subject – primarily about its economic fallout and societal consequences. Covid-19 made its first appearance in TLR in “The China Virus” on February 18th when TLR warned that comparisons with the SARS virus were premature – “past results are not necessarily indicative of the future spread of a new virus” – and cautioned that the economic consequences very well could be catastrophic, highlighting the likely impact on crude oil prices. On March 15th, TLR predicted that Covid-19 would result in “upwards of 500,000 American deaths” and on March 22nd TLR pondered whether, with the “Economic Winter in America …, how much colder might it get?” The chart-shape of America’s economic recovery from Covid-19 was the focus of the June 28th “The Covid-19 Alphabet,” where TLR derided the optimistic prospect of a V-shaped recovery, a conclusion reinforced in the August 2nd TLR titled “Coronanomics 201.” The K-shaped impact of Covid-19 – the current consensus – was a theme running throughout TLR’s Covid-19 commentaries (see the May 9th “Coronanomics 101”).
The economic impact of Covid-19 encouraged the U.S. government to further experiment with economic Statism – government participation in America’s businesses and its capitalist system –, the subject of the July 5th “Capitalism vs. Socialism, the False Dichotomy” and the August 16th “CoronaStatism.” TLR urged America’s Political Parties to stop “subsuming private industry to State interests and adopting the policy that the State has a necessary and legitimate role in directing the economy, either directly through State ownership or indirectly through economic interventionism and regulation – centralized planning by another name.” TLR in the August 9th “Coronanomics 201.2,” the November 29th “Nearing the Edge of a Fiscal Cliff,” and the December 27th “Do you Have an Interest in Interest?”, similarly highlighted the push-pull of inflation and deflation – inflation in stock and bond prices and deflation in goods and services –, America’s ever-increasing debt burden, the fiscal risks inherent in spending programs like the CARES Act, and Federal Reserve money-printing through Quantitative Easing and other financial engineering measures. TLR nevertheless projected rising stock prices in the October 18th “America’s Love Affair with TINA.”
TLR in 2020 continued voicing concerns about the rise of Chinese hegemony and its alliances with other sanctioned nations. The January 2nd TLR explored the ongoing cooperation and anti-American efforts of the “Axis of the Sanctioned,” and on April 25th set out China’s “Hegemon’s Handbook,” outlining steps that China is taking to become the global hegemon. TLR noted that America’s sanctions have had little impact on China – its economy continued to grow in 2020 while America’s contracted – and its GDP now is expected to surpass America’s in 2028-29 … instead of in 2033-34. American sanctions and its trade deal with China – as well as Covid-19 – have not reduced America’s trade deficit. To the contrary, the combination of sanctions and Covid-19 has weakened the US Dollar and America’s agricultural industry while significantly increasing America’s debt. In the February 5th and August 23rd commentaries (“The Weakening Dollar” and “The Fracturing US Dollar”), TLR emphasized the Dollar concerns raised in July 19, 2019 in “Be Careful What you Wish For.” America has pursued a weak-Dollar policy which has been undermining the Dollar as the world’s Reserve Currency. A weakening US Dollar is bad for America and one reason why America’s enemies have been making every effort to replace the Dollar, emphasizing the need for actions that support a policy reversal.
A recap of 2020 would be incomplete without an expression of thanks to Cassandra for sharing her predictions on the stock market (on September 20th) and the Presidential election (on October 3rd) …, both of which turned out to be wrong. Those publicized mistakes did not discourage The Washington Post on December 30th from advocating that “We should embrace the Cassandras when the next disaster comes.” To TLR, the lesson taught by the Cassandras of the world is always and everywhere to hope for the best … but make certain that you are prepared for the worst. That’s even more true today in the latter stages of the Covid-19 pandemic for, as TLR discussed on March 15th: “Global pandemics – like world wars – portend broad, long-term consequences. They change the world…. Covid-19 will continue to ravage the health of people and the economies of countries around the world. It will continue to sow havoc that will cost not only lives, but also jobs, businesses and, possibly, governments. In order to cope, we all will need to change our individual, societal, economic and political expectations. Momentous changes are afoot.” Success in addressing those changes requires that Americans work at building bridges, bridges of discourse to cross what has become a chasm of distrust and nonfunctionality. “Come senators, congressmen, Please heed the call. Don’t stand in the doorway, Don’t block up the hall. For he that gets hurt, Will be he who has stalled. The battle outside ragin’ … will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, for the times they are a-changin’.”
Finally (from a good friend)