Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 27, 2013

Right now we are watching right wing terrorists hijacking Congress and doing their best “Thelma and Louise” imitation as the federal government hurtles towards yet another fiscal cliff. If you feel like you have seen this movie before – it is because you have. And, not satisfied with simply shutting down the federal government, the radical Teapublicans propose to also shut down the source of basic nutrition for millions of Americans. And finally, it wouldn’t be the New York City mayoral election without something bizarre and Joe Lhota and Adolfo Carrion are searching for Marxists and Leninists in Bill de Blasio’s closet as you read this column. Good luck guys!

Heading to the Cliff – Again

The Teapublican terrorists in Congress seem to wallow in the notion of holding the federal government and the American people as hostages while they demand that the majority of Americans kowtow to their distinctly minority agenda.

Having discovered that they can get the attachment of this country, and indeed the world, by throwing well-timed tantrums, a cabal of Teapublican members of Congress (who only represent about 18% of the American people, by the way) have managed to cause the credit rating of this country to be downgraded in 2011 and bringing about the sequestration debacle in 2013.

Now, in their continuing effort to abolish Obamacare – a law that has been ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court and has been effectively approved by at least 53% of the American voters in 2012 – the Teapublican wing of Al Qaeda is now threatening to first shut down the federal government next week and, if they don’t get their way, they plan to have the United States government default on its trillions of dollars of debt.

And playing the role of Geppetto with these Teapublican puppets are the Koch brothers and other right wing billionaires who plan to profit from the wreckage that their little Pinocchios will bring about.

It is about time to cut the puppet strings.

Let Them Eat………Nothing

If nothing else, the right wing of the right wing in Congress is consistent in its fanatical adoration of meanness. There are very few sane observers of the national landscape who do not recognize that hunger remains a serious problem in this country. Despite the terrible ravages of obesity – many Americans simply don’t have enough to eat in this Land of Plenty.

And it is against this backdrop that the Teapublican Terrorists have decided to demolish the food stamps program in the name of budget austerity. And somehow they have not seen the shameful nature of such a proposal – most recipients of food stamps are children and their mothers and the elderly. The myth of the able bodied man just chomping away on his food stamp funded steak dinner is just that – a myth.

And it appears the notion of compassion for those in need is becoming a myth in the halls of Congress.

Marxism in New York

As the New York City mayoral election moves into the final round, the three major candidates, Bill de Blasio, Joe Lhota and Adolfo Carrion have numerous major issues to address – income disparity, equity in law enforcement and affordable housing are a few of the many concerns. Since Mr. de Blasio is in the lead in all of the polls, it is reasonable that Mr. Lhota and Mr. Carrion have attacked him.

What is incomprehensible is that both Mr. Lhota and Mr. Carrion have spent an inordinate amount of time (that is any time) criticizing Mr. de Blasio because he and his wife went to Cuba for their honeymoon almost 20 years ago. And these Terrible Twins have gone on to express concern that Mr. de Blasio might have socialist or Marxist leanings.

Such a dog of an argument might hunt in Miami but this is New York City. And it is likely that most New Yorkers, if asked about Marx, would say “Groucho?” or “Harpo?” before believing that two mayoral candidates are seriously mentioning Karl in the middle of the campaign.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – December 28, 2012

It is understandable that the Newtown tragedy would cause this country to at least take another look at the issue of guns in American society. What is incomprehensible is arming teachers and principals as a rational response. Lost in the holiday news was the announcement of the departure of Lisa Jackson as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency – despoilers of the environment are already celebrating their “victory”. And finally, as this country lurches towards the fiscal cliff it is also starting to sound like a very bad movie plot.

More Guns and More Guns

The Newtown tragedy led many to believe that there might finally be a sane discussion about guns in American society. It seemed reasonable to think that after yet another unthinkable, unspeakable massacre that it was finally time to figure out a way protect us and our children from the absolute tsunami of firearms that has swept across this country.

It may be time to think again. In the state of Arizona there is a legislative proposal to arm teachers and principals in all public schools. In the state of Ohio a program has already begun to be implemented to provide firearms training to public school principals.

What could possibly go wrong with such insane initiatives?

The specter of high powered gun battles in school hallways is not hard to imagine. Blood soaked schoolyards in the aftermath of a mistake made by an armed principal who may have firearms training but not law enforcement or combat training.

If we follow the logic that the answer to the gun problem in this country is more guns we are going to be swimming in blood…..and drowning in our own tears.

Danger Signs at the EPA

This past week Lisa Jackson announced that she will resign as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. An excellent administrator and an extremely competent advocate for actually protecting the environment, Ms. Jackson has been subject to withering critical assaults from the right wing of the right wing, the Teapublicans and every industrial interest that could be more profitable with less environmental regulation.

It is understandable that after four years of daily attacks that Ms. Jackson may want to lead something like a normal life. But it should be clear that the attacks on Ms. Jackson will now be directed towards the next head of the EPA. And we should not forget that part of the Teapublican dogma included proposals to disband the EPA.

In the brave new Teaparty world there would be no need for an EPA since the American people can rely upon the tender mercies of the oil industry, the chemicals industry and, of course, the coal industry. The Koch brothers are happy that Lisa Jackson is leaving – their next target is the EPA itself.

Cliff Notes

As you are reading this the United States government is hours away from having this country careen off a fiscal cliff of its own making. The immediate impact – loss of unemployment insurance payments, elimination of tax deductions, reduction of vital public services – have all been recounted.

But we should be concerned about the long term impact of a representative government being wagged by the tail call the Tea Party as less than fifty Teapublicans in the House of Representatives seem to have the power to turn the United States into a 21st century version of a banana republic.

Unless and until Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate take a stand against these near-maniacal zealots going over the fiscal cliff will be only the beginning of the self-inflicted calamities that this country will endure.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 9, 2012

To paraphrase R&B legend Billy Preston, the good guys win every once in a while and Barack Obama has been elected for a second term. The pleasure of seeing the continuation of the Obama legacy is countered by what seems to be a Teapublican death spiral. However, there are some lessons that the Republicans can learn from 11.6.12. Meanwhile Donald Trump and an assortment of Karnival Klowns simply refuse to let reality get in the way of a good rant. And finally, is it time for President Obama to make Africa a major agenda item during his second term?

Lessons to be Learned

While the supporters of Barack Obama start planning his second inauguration on January 21, 2013, the Teapublican Party leaders must be wondering what happened. Historically incumbent presidents with high unemployment rates don’t get reelected. Typically, presidential candidates with the most money almost always win. But Mitt Romney lost – and he lost in almost every state that he had to win in order to prevail on Election Day.

So what lessons can the Teapublicans learn while sorting through the ashes of defeat?

1. The Teapublican Party will almost certainly never win another national election by centering their focus on white men. The demographics are simply not there and there aren’t enough white men to provide victory except in the South.

2. Voter suppression is not such a hot idea. The blatant and transparently racist voter suppression tactics pursued by Teapublican governors and legislators throughout the country fired up minorities who were incensed by the notion that the government apparatus was being used to deny their right to vote. Right now David Axelrod is probably writing a thank you note to all the voter suppression advocates.

3. Treating women as stupid and compliant is not such a hot idea either. President Obama received 55% of the female vote and part of the reason had to be the Teapublican embrace of “forcible rape”, transvaginal wands, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and misogyny in general. The Teapublicans are learning, very slowly, that women are neither stupid nor compliant.

4. Money can buy a lot, but it is really hard to buy a national election. The Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court of the United States opened the money spigots for the 2012 campaign and the Koch brothers, Shelden Adelsen and other right wing billionaires did their very best to simply drown the Obama campaign in dollars. The thing is that in 1992 buying a million television ads might have worked. But in 2012 people receive their information not only from television but also from the social media. Guess the Teapublicans never got the memo.

There are many other lessons to be learned but it will be interesting to see if the Teapublicans double down on their right wing trajectory and end up in a museum display case right next to the Whigs.

Voices in the Asylum

One of the more interesting aspects of President Obama’s victory has been the response of Mitt Romney and his supporters. Governor Romney was actually gracious, graceful and pitch perfect in his concession speech. Indeed, if that Mitt Romney had been campaigning the election results might have been closer. But that Mitt Romney could never have secured the Teapublican Party nomination.

Even after CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times had declared Barack Obama as the winner on Tuesday evening, Karl Rove refused to accept the reality. He actually spent several hours awaiting some magical, mystical message from Ohio even after the Republican Secretary of State of Ohio confirmed the Obama victory and went home.

Sadly, Karl Rove reminded us of one of those legendary Japanese World War II soldiers who was left on a lonely Pacific Island continuing to fight a war that ended a long time ago.

Donald Trump went on a Twitter rant claiming that an Obama victory was a “travesty” and that it was time for a revolution. He then went on to call for a march on Washington.
As it turns out the only march on Washington coming up will be the thousands of Obama supporters coming for Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Time for Africa?

Africa has an expanding economy. Democracy is taking root and flourishing in many countries. While challenges continue on the continent, there is no doubt that the countries of Africa represent one of the greatest market opportunities remaining on the planet and it is a market in which American companies are not full participants.

This week in an appearance on CNN Rowland Martin proposed that President Obama move Africa up on his second term agenda beginning with personal visits as well as serious policy initiatives. The American economy needs new markets, new customers and new opportunities.
The Chinese, Indian and European companies have already figured this out, but the American brand is still preferred.

Making Africa a trade priority is a great leadership opportunity for President Obama in his second term.

Its been a great week – Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Taken for a Ride

The G.O.Tea Party debatathon barrels along, coming to a city near you, no doubt. There is a basketful of silly, stupid and mean items of interest. Part of the reason is that presidential politics has turned into the silly season in the land of the G.O.Tea Party as the frantic search for the A.B.O. (Anybody But Obama) candidate reaches a fever pitch.

In the rush to unseat President Obama, the Republican Party has jettisoned all sense of reason, logic or facts. Any ABO candidate is a credible candidate. The only qualification is meeting the ABO test. That rather flimsy bit of litmus paper has produced a political clown show that would put Barnum & Bailey out of business if it ran more than once every 4 years.

The G.O.Tea Party abandonment of reality and common sense has led to some rather bizarre results. Take, for example, the recent Republican debate in Michigan. And keep in mind that if you don’t know anything else about the state of Michigan, you probably know that it has been heavily reliant upon the automobile industry for over one hundred years.

According to the Center for Automotive Research (“CAR”), if the automobile industry had collapsed in 2009 approximately 3,000,000 jobs would have been lost – including direct and indirect jobs as well as spin off employment. In a state as reliant upon the auto industry as Michigan the results would have been beyond brutal.

Of course the automobile industry did not collapse due in large part to a bill that was signed into law by President Barack Obama that pumped billions of dollars into the automobile industry in the form of a massive bailout. That bailout dragged General Motors from the brink of bankruptcy and allowed Chrysler the opportunity to have an orderly merger with Fiat, thereby saving that company.

While Ford Motor Company did not directly participate in the bailout, it certainly benefited from the fact that the surrounding economy did not simply implode. No one wants to own the last house standing after a firestorm.

The bailout that saved the automobile industry saved millions of jobs, millions of families, thousands of communities and a major component of the American economy. Arguing about saving the largest building on the block while it was on fire didn’t make much sense. Arguing that the building never should have been saved once the fire is extinguished sounds pretty stupid.

Yet, during the G.O.Tea Party debatathons we have heard candidate after candidate decry the bailouts as contrary to American ideals. Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Rodeo Rick Perry, Jon Hunstman, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have all pledged to stand by and watch the next American economic building burn to the ground if they are faced with a similar crisis as president.

Incredibly, these Republican presidential candidates went to Michigan – Michigan!!!!! – And stuck to the party line. They stated that the bailout of the auto industry was wrong and that they would never support that course of action in support of the auto industry or any other American industry – or the people who worked in that industry.

Incredibly, the Republican citizens of Michigan who were in attendance at the debate did not hurl rotten tomatoes or walk out in protest. Even if there were no autoworkers in the room I have to believe that most reasonably intelligent residents of the state of Michigan understand the importance of the auto industry to their own livelihoods as bankers, lawyers, barbers or plumbers.

Instead, the G.O.Tea Party zealots in attendance drank the Kool-Aid and asked for more. Whether it is tax cuts for the wealth and the reduction of health and social services for 99% of this country, it seems that these zealots cannot help but vote and campaign against their own interests.

It is amazing that the Koch Brothers and their billionaire cohorts have funded fake grassroots movements like Americans for Prosperity in order to hoodwink and bamboozle a reasonably literate and reputedly intelligent American populace. Today many self-labeled liberals and progressives agree with the Koch-inspired mantra that government must be reduced in size even as the population of this country and its needs grow larger.

If the 2012 election were held today the Koch Brothers and the G.O.Tea Party will have won even if Barack Obama is re-elected. They have already fundamentally rewritten history and erased common sense, compassion and vision from public discourse, replacing these values with self-interest and a warped view of this country that ignores the expectations of the people who live there.

The G.O.Tea Party zealots are being taken for a ride. Unfortunately they are taking us with them.

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Who is This Guy?

The so-called Super Committee of the U.S. Congress, formed in the wreckage of this summer’s budget-deficit crisis, has failed to even come close to meeting its mission of setting a plan for a reasonable deficit reduction plan. “Reasonable”, in Planet Earth terms, would mean some reduction of government spending and a corresponding increase in tax revenues through the elimination of some deductions and selected increases in taxes. But “reasonable” does not translate into the lexicon of the G.O.Tea Party.

It turns out that all six Republican members of the have signed a “pledge” promoted by Americans for Tax Reform. The ATR sole founding principle is to oppose any tax increases –ever. The founder of ATR is one Grover Norquist. Mr. Norquist has managed to get over three hundred members of the United States Congress (House and Senate) to sign his mindless “pledge” effectively paralyzing any serious deliberation related to the budgetary process.

Since the critical function of the Congress relates to the budget, Mr. Norquist has effectively paralyzed the governmental process. If you want to know the father of last summer’s budget-deficit crisis, the DNA process would come up positive for Grover Norquist.

Grover Norquist is someone that most Americans have never heard of, who somehow wields incredible power in what used to be a democratic process. To be fair, Mr. Norquist has been honest in stating that his no tax pledge is a key element in a strategy to “shrink government to the point that it could be drowned in a bath tub”. One has to give him credit for particularly colorful terminology.

The goal of Grover Norquist is to actually, literally and really change the fundamental nature of this country. In the world of Mr. Norquist, there is no need for a robust federal government that would protect the poor, the weak, the environment or the future. In the Darwinian future that he envisions, it will be every rugged individual on his/her own, with losers being consigned to the American trash heap.

The ignorant aspect of the world according to Norquist is that these United States would not have achieved any level of real progress without a robust governmental structure – the Erie Canal, the transcontinental railroad, the Panama Canal, the W.P.A., the G.I. Bill, NASA and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are just a glimpse of the transformative actions of government that have provided an economy, society and nation that has produced a high standard of living for so many of its citizens.

The no tax pledge is the succulent apple offered by the serpent. Paying no taxes while being able to live in a functioning society is a pipe dream typically dreamt in an opium den. Grover Norquist would have you believe that no tax increases in a growing and expanding nation would be a good thing.

In point of fact, Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Taxes is the price I pay for civilization”. Grover Norquist would have the American people believe that reducing the size and scope of government by strangling its revenue windpipe will make this country a better place.

Biting the apple full of worms and lies, members of Congress have signed on to a pledge that, taken to its logical extreme, will virtually eviscerate governmental processes leaving police, fire and minimal health and educational structures. The safety of the food supply, highways and airways and the arts will be left to “market forces”. The health, education and welfare of the American people will be left to those who have the resources to provide for themselves and whatever crumbs of charitable largesse that might be left over.

What is most interesting is that the G.O.Tea Party members of Congress who have signed Mr. Norquist’s “pledge” have seemingly let that “pledge” override the oath of office that was taken when they were sworn in as members of the House of Representatives or the Senate. Indeed that oath of office calls upon members of Congress to support the Constitution of the United States which, interestingly enough, does not contain a no tax pledge and does indeed call for Congress to impose taxes as may be necessary to provide for the defense and welfare of the country.

Mr. Norquist is the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind a curtain of not for profit secrecy (who funds his organization? Could the Koch brothers be far behind?). His vision of a country that would be bereft of progressive thought and an achievable future is dark and desolate yet the G.O.Tea Party members have boarded this ship to nowhere.

In November of 2012 Americans will have the opportunity to decide if this country should really be governed by single minded principles that have no relation to reality. Next year we can decide if someone died and left Grover Norquist in charge.

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A Phenomenon But Not Phenomenal

The Herman Cain phenomenon seems to be skidding and slipping into a morass of terminal stupidity and eternal irrelevance. The fact is that even before his current running battle with sexual harassment allegations his campaign was coming apart at the seams as his “9-9-9” fake tax policy was evaporating upon examination.

The idea that Herman Cain is some kind of representative of the best that corporate America can offer for public service was always as flimsy as cheap gossamer bought from the local 99 cents store. When finally experiencing some pressure, Mr. Cain has shown himself to be by turns arrogant, petulant, and self-absorbed and totally tone deaf – and frankly, very weak. The fact that he could have been the chief executive officer of any kind of company is a condemnation of what passes for leadership in some parts of the business community of the United States.

Before the sexual harassment tsunami hit the Cain carnival attention was focused on the flimsiness of his policy proposals and the empty bucket of ideas that he carried around while pretending that he actually had something important to say. In some bizarre way these allegations of misconduct have helped Mr. Cain as they deflected attention away from the fact that he was quoting a Japanese cartoon character (“Pokémon”) during one of the G.O.Tea Party debates and his “9-9-9” tax proposal actual comes from the Sim City computer game.

Without the sexual harassment issues Mr. Cain might be taking time to explain how he could be a paid mouthpiece for the Koch brothers for half a decade while proclaiming to be an independent businessman. He might also have to take a few moments to once again explain how he could deride government service while having served as the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

While he was at it, Herman Cain might want to re-examine his claim that he is not a politician and that his political virginity makes him different from other presidential aspirants. Clearly his memory has failed him once more as he served as a senior political advisor to the Dole-Kemp presidential campaign. Further, the only reason he can form his lips to say that he is not a politician is because he lost his campaign for United States Senator in Georgia. It seems that Herman Cain is definitely a politician – it is just that he has been a failed and unelected politician.

Mr. Cain has worn his woeful ignorance of foreign affairs as a badge of honor. He dismisses the need to know about “insignificant” countries and has expressed concern about China becoming a nuclear power (someone needs to tell the pizza chieftain that he is about 45 years too late). Rather than retire with some semblance of honor and decency Mr. Cain continues to insult the intelligence of the American public – a herculean task these days that he seems to accomplish with preternatural ease.

The sexual harassment issues will make themselves known over time. Those who are prepared to dismiss them as “smears” should recall that the charges date back over a decade when Herman Cain was famous only for being a successful peddler of pizzas making it virtually impossible that these charges were politically motivated (a very necessary element for any kind of smear campaign).

Claims of “high tech lynching” are sad and offensive. Lynching has a very special and awful place in African American history. The men, women and children who were lynched over a period of century and a half in this country did not have the protective cloak of the Koch brothers and did not have the Fox News network as the their guardians. I would refer Mr. Cain and his defenders to the book “Without Sanctuary” to get an idea as to what true lynching was all about.
For someone who claims that racism is no longer an obstacle for black Americans,

Mr. Cain seems to have misplaced his big boy pants the first time he comes under serious attack. Rather than respond in some reasonable and rational fashion when the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced, Herman Cain played the race card.
We can only surmise that Mr. Cain forgot that when he decided to run for president he was playing in the big leagues and all aspects of his life are fair game, whether it is fair or not. As far as sexual misconduct charges being directed against him because he is a “strong black conservative”, Herman Cain supporters should ask Gary Hart, John Edwards, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich whether a white skin served as useful armor when those particular slings and arrows start flying.

Just as the Sarah Palin star crashed burned and died, Mr. Cain’s time in the spotlight will come to an end as it becomes clear that the pizza emperor has no clothes and not much in the way of original thought either.

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Weekend Edition – October 21, 2011

The death of Muammar Qaddafi was bloody and brutal. Somewhere in presidential palaces in Yemen and Syria and Zimbabwe getaway plans are being plotted. And somewhere members of the G.O.Tea Party are trying to find a way to make the obviously successful strategy pursued by President Obama seem like a mistake. Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh proved once again that you can be stupid and be on the radio at the same time. And it seems that, with his 9-9-9 mumbo jumbo tax plan, Herman Cain may have proved that Michele Bachmann can be right even when the moon isn’t blue.

Was Obama Right After All?

The gory death of Muammar Qaddafi was a lesson to the leaders of nations that seek to impose their will on their people with a sense of entitlement that they seem to believe is divinely inspired. One year ago the notion of Colonel Qaddafi being dragged through the streets of his hometown and slain with a bullet through the head would have been the stuff of fiction. Now it is on CNN.

Leaders in countries like Zimbabwe and Yemen and Syria and elsewhere have seen the decline and fall of their fellow leaders for life. There are some important lessons to be learned. The quick learners will find a way to go to London or Geneva for “health reasons” (which will be true). The slow learners will join the ranks of Qaddafi, Mubarak and Ceausescu and all the others who couldn’t read the writing on the wall.

Meanwhile, the G.O.Tea Party must be searching high and low to figure out how to make President Obama’s successful Libyan strategy look like a mistake. By being smart and leading with his brains instead of his chin he was able to avoid American casualties or turning a genuine Libyan revolution into yet another American misadventure.

And, speaking of misadventures, President Obama announced today that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of 2011. Seeing this country finally extricate itself from this neo-con-inspired morass will do little for the families of all of the dead American troops or for the millions of Iraqis who are struggling to rebuild shattered lives in their shattered country.

We can be sure that the G.O.Tea Party zealots will find some rationale for criticizing Barack Obama for ending this modern American nightmare. I guess that on the Planet G.O.Tea saving American lives and money as well as repairing the prestige of this country is wrong if it is done by anyone named Obama.

Radio Head

Just when you think that Rush Limbaugh can’t get any more stupid, he sets the bar lower.

This past week President Obama dispatched 100 Special Forces troops to Uganda to assist that country in combating the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA, which has been around for over a decade, is a particularly wretched and squalid thug horde which has specialized in torture, rape, murder and gratuitous pillaging through central Africa. Any effort to eliminate the LRA scourge from the lives of the people of Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere should be greeted with approval.

However, Rush Limbaugh, seizing upon the word “Lord” in the title of the LRA assumed that it was some kind of gathering of Christian soldiers waging holy war against murderous Muslims. Limbaugh would be funny if he weren’t so stupid. What isn’t funny is that there are millions of Americans who will actually believe what he says.

The Devil is in the Details

During one of the recent Republican presidential debates – seemingly produced by Comedy Central – Michele Bachmann, commenting on Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” tax “plan” opined that if 9-9-9 was turned upside down it would be 6-6-6 which is, of course, the sign of the Devil. It was a fair to middling laugh line except many observers thought that Ms. Bachmann was serious.

It turns out she was right – and the moon wasn’t blue. Upon further analysis it turns out that the pizza baron’s tax plan, if implemented would raise the taxes on a mind boggling 84% of Americans. Not surprisingly for a Koch brother’s sock puppet, Mr. Cain’s plan would reduce taxes for 26% of the highest earning Americans. A truly devilish outcome that would only increase the structural inequities that already exist.

Mr. Cain asked Americans to “do the math”. The math has been done and it doesn’t look good for him.

Have a great weekend!

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