Pages Menu
TwitterFacebooklogin
Categories Menu

Posted by on Mar 29, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Personal, Politics | 4 comments

Lyft’s IPO: Buyer Beware

 

 

Buyer Beware:  Why Lyft’s Current Business Model is Unsustainable and the Stock is Probably a Losing Long-Term Investment

 

A few hours from now, the rideshare company Lyft will go public.  Shares of stock will be offered on the NASDAQ.  A few people are about to become insanely rich overnight.

Lyft began operating in 2012.  In the seven years since, the high-tech startup has grown into the second-largest rideshare transport company.  Uber, which ranks first, enjoyed a four-year head start on their rival.

However, some analysts now believe Lyft’s long-term prospects are brighter given the number of cities where the company operates (300) and growth projections within those markets.  Certainly, Lyft will be an attractive investment for initial speculation in what’s been a booming American economy.  The timing of Lyft’s public launch couldn’t be better than now.

However, Lyft is beset with many questions and potential problems.  What are my credentials to make this statement?  Well, admittedly, I know nothing about the company’s ownership, its management team, its technology, or anything whatsoever to do with its finances.  What I do know is its current business model is badly flawed and hence, unsustainable.  Lyft can’t continue to operate as it’s now doing and expect to generate much of any profit for investors.  In other words, don’t expect dividends to be paid soon.  In fact, profits may never come.

We’ve seen this false hype before — high-tech stocks and even great ideas that seemed they couldn’t miss, go from boom to bust.  Anyone remember the late 1990s?  Apparently not.

Lyft is expected to sell 32.5 million shares at around $72 each in the initial public offering phase (IPO), taking place on Friday, March 30, 2019.  The company will instantly be valued at $25 billion, a remarkable degree of investor confidence for such a young company that has yet to produce a profit in any of its seven years of operations, to date.

Read that again — yet to produce a profit.

Sure, Lyft (and Uber) have set the stage for what seems like a transformative enterprise that could change how millions of people get around in urban centers.  Most of us have used the service and do find it appealing.  The convenience of simply pulling out a smartphone on any city street, typing in an address, and getting a car direct to your doorstep within minutes is an attractive feature.  Moreover, ridesharing doesn’t require the handling of cash since all transactions are done by credit card (which is already on file when the consumer signs up for an online account).  Finally, ridesharing fares cost significantly less than taxis and other means of private transportation.  And therein lies the problem.

Lyft and Uber have been competing in a heated rivalry, especially over the last year or so, which has really been great for riders, but bad for both companies and especially their drivers, which are not employees but independent contractors.  The battle to inflate market share has kept fares ridiculously low in some cities, which has resulted in drivers’ pay being cut.  Lyft has been able to weather financial losses until now, and the infusion of IPO capital surely will give the company a huge boost.  However, there’s simply no way to generate profits in the long-term based on any of the current numbers.

Why not?  :et me explain.

Presently, Lyft is losing money.  To make a profit, the company must either:

  1.  Raise prices
  2.  Reduce labor costs
  3.  Ramp up technology (which will reduce labor costs)

Sorry, riders — but paying $8.45 for a six-mile ride cannot continue.  That fare isn’t feeding all the mouths that need to be fed when it comes to operating a motor vehicle, maintenance, fuel, labor, customer service, management, marketing, insurance, and other associated costs.  Making up the current deficit and then generating a profit for shareholders will require implementation of one or more of the options above.  There’s a reason the taxi costs $12 while the Lyft ride costs $9.  It’s because the trip is somewhere between $9 and $12 in cost, and Lyft is undercutting the competition.

If prices increase to a level that offsets costs and generates profit, ridesharing won’t be nearly as attractive to consumers.  Right now, many people are turning to ridesharing because it’s cheaper than a taxi.  That won’t be the case if fares go up by a substantial margin, which is probably inevitable given the costs of driving in urban markets.

If labor costs are cut, which means driver’s pay is slashed, rideshare companies won’t be able to attract new talent, nor keep those the drivers they have.  Uber and Lyft have been in a war to the bottom to see which company can pay its independent contractors less, presumably in an attempt to make their balance sheets look good.  With high turnover, rideshare companies are now bombarding social media channels desperately trying to attract new drivers, even offering so-called incentives to sign up.  Check your Facebook feed after visiting the Lyft page sometime and see what pops up.

Ridesharing is still a relatively new phenomenon and many drivers may be fooled into thinking it pays more than what’s actually accrued after time, investment, fuel costs, and wear and tear on personal vehicles — not to mention the inherent risks that go along with working odd hours driving on the streets (crime, traffic tickets, auto accidents, and so forth).  As the word spreads that many Lyft drivers make barely above minimum wage, it will be increasingly difficult to find the gullible.  Furthermore, the low rate of pay (which based on my personal experience varies between $8-14 per hour, and that’s — before taxes and zero benefits) will inevitably discourage better drivers and attract people of lesser quality.  Seriously, who can live in cities like New York, Washington, San Francisco, or Los Angeles on $11-an-hour?

Poverty-level wages, essential to profits, will attract marginal people — both in quality and character.  Increasingly, expect to see problems (like Uber sexual assaults, which have risen significantly).  There’s simply no way to attract a viable workforce paying $11 an hour with no benefits.  It’s a lettuce picking job behind the wheel.

Investors may be attracted to the company’s high-tech prospects, which could be on the horizon.  The most revolutionary component of ridesharing of the future is autonomous vehicles.  If Lyft (and Uber) can convert cars into a driverless experience, that eliminates significant labor cost.  Inner-city transportation would never be the same again.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, just yet.  While the technology does exist and the rideshare giants undoubtedly would chomp at the bit to convert to driverless cars if given an option, nevertheless, significant legal and practical objections do remain.  How many cities and states will allow hundreds or perhaps thousands of cars to be driverless and how long would this process take?  Additionally, what happens when a driverless car kills someone, as happened last year in Phoenix?  Accidents are part of the equation and are bound to occur (even if they aren’t caused by technical malfunctions).  Will city and state governments allow this controversial new technology on the streets?  Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all — what about consumer confidence and traditional habits?  Will riders get into a car that doesn’t have a living person as the driver?  Sure, high-tech might make driverless cars statistically safer and perhaps these concerns shall be overcome.  But I’m not convinced that either Lyft or Uber will be able to convert to a driverless vehicle fleet, not anytime soon.  Any investor would be a fool to think this is the game changer that will suddenly make rideshare companies profitable.

Hence, rider fares must increase (jeopardizing profit), labor costs must be reduced (jeopardizing profit), or high-tech must become the lifesaver for Lyft and Uber (probably the only viable option).  Then, add the uncertainty of gas prices now at a historic low (when adjusted for inflation), rising automobile acquisition and repair costs, and other economic uncertainties, and it’s impossible to imagine a better climate for ridesharing companies that right now nor how things will improve.  If Lyft and Uber can’t make a profit in these extraordinary conditions, how will they make money when the inevitable slowdown or downturn occurs?

This isn’t to say Lyft and Uber are doomed to fail.  To the contrary.  Ridesharing is here to stay.  It’s great for consumers.  But it won’t be nearly the bargain later on when operating costs and shareholder expectations create pressure to raise fares.  A ride from the airport can’t be delivered at $12 when the actual cost is higher.  It’s unsustainable.

No doubt, Lyft is going public at the ideal time for their owners.  Uber will likely be following suit, soon.  Unfortunately, those who invest in all likelihood have never driven for the company, seen the day-to-day operations, nor done the math.  I have.

Those who buy shares in these companies early and then hold rideshare stocks could end up in a riderless investment, with no idea when to bail out.  Short-term, Lyft could be an attractive investment.  But as reality sets in, no one knows where the profits will come from.

My advice is, don’t get in.

__________

 

Read More

Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 5 comments

We Don’t Need the Mueller Report to Prove Trump Colluded, Conspired, and Covered Up

 

 

We don’t need the Mueller report to prove that Donald J. Trump colluded with the Russians and committed obstruction of justice.

The evidence on this is overwhelming and incontrovertible.  We have video and audio.  We have eyes and ears.  We know what we’ve seen.  We know what we’ve heard.

We’ve seen Trump — the candidate — make a personal plea to the Russians to go after his political opponent.

We’ve seen Trump — both the candidate and the president — repeatedly deny that he had business dealings in Russia.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — lie boldly and incessantly when asked if any of his aides and/or family members secretly communicated with officials working in coordination with the Russian Government.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — viciously attack those connected to the investigation, fire those who could do him harm, ridicule and intimidate witnesses, and threaten his own former associates who gave their cooperation.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — fuel the incendiary fires of a so-called “Deep State” conspiracy, deliberately and actively trying to discredit a federal criminal investigation.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — openly admit to firing former FBI Director James Comey after he fumbled his excuses and couldn’t get his (entirely fabricated) story straight in a nationally-televised interview.

We’ve seen Trump — the president — demand loyalty pledges from prospective appointees to the Justice Department.

It’s all there, in blood orange.

No number of lies, no amount of deflection, no degree of masquerading, no barrage of name-calling alters the fact that on July 27th, 2016 candidate Trump stood before television cameras and actively encouraged foreign powers, including Russia specifically by name, to hack into his political, Hillary Clinton.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

In other words — go for it.

It’s all right here:

 

No candidate has ever so brazenly solicited the help of a foreign government in a presidential campaign.

We just don’t know all the facts, yet.

What we certainly do know is that about a year prior to Trump green-lighting Russian meddling, hackers affiliated with the Russian government penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s network, stealing large volumes of data and then maintained that access for about a year.  The timing of this nesting of potentially-damaging information is critical.  Shortly thereafter, thousands of Russia-backed social media accounts began sprouting up and spreading propaganda and disinformation, attacking Clinton while exhibiting a clear preference for Trump.

What we certainly do know is that George Papadopoulos (later convicted) joined the Trump campaign as a special adviser.  A short time after joining the campaign, Papadopoulos knowingly met someone who had connections to Russian government officials.

What we certainly do know is that Donald Trump, Jr. received an email from a Russian expatriate professing close ties to Moscow with allegedly “incriminating evidence” against Hillary Clinton.  “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” the email stated.  The younger Trump replied that same day: “If it’s what you say — I love it.”

Both during the campaign, and as president, Trump used surrogates, including campaign aids, advisors, and even his own family to create secret backchannels of communication with the Russians that couldn’t be deciphered.  Jared Kushner, the president’ son-in-law was one of those directly involved.

What we certainly do know is there’s a cesspool of troublesome circumstantial evidence that remains unexplained.  Why has Trump never criticized Russia for meddling in the election, nor for any of a myriad of other international violations and transgressions?  Why did Trump openly take Putin’s side in front of the entire world while when asked about the comprehensive assessment of American intelligence agencies that Russia had indeed meddled in the 2016 campaign?  Why does Trump go after virtually every other political leader on social media, but remains silent when it comes to anything connected to Putin and Russia?

Yes, there was collusion.  Yes, there was obstruction of justice.  Yet, we still don’t know what Trump knew, how much Trump knew, or anything about Trump directing his associates to break the law.  Despite the investigation’s findings, to borrow the late Sen. Howard Baker foreshadowing phrase from 1974’s Watergate proceedings, we must continue to ask:  What did the president know and when did he know it?

I was not surprised by the Mueller report’s “conclusions” — at least what we know, so far.  Keep in mind, few details pertaining to the president’s conduct have been released yet.  Let’s also remember Trump backtracked from his public statements that he’d agree to be interviewed in person by Mueller’s investigative team.  Trump’s awkward flip-flop probably saved him from perjuring himself, which would clearly have been an indictable offense.  Trump’s echo chamber of delusion probably means that he wouldn’t know the truth about much of anything, anyway.

Another legal battle is certain to follow, as to the actual details within the Mueller report and what information will be available to the American people.  Don’t be misled by the smokescreen of professed transparency.  Mark my words — Trump and his legal team attempt to block every facet of discovery related in any way to his conduct.  He will use every trick in his ghostwritten book to stonewall potentially damaging information.  There’s certainly dirt in there.  Trumps’s background, character, and conduct are way too jaded to believe otherwise.

Indeed, the disinformation campaign has already ramped up into high gear.  Trump’s sycophants are claiming a victory.  But Trump’s own hand-picked Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary-letter included this public statement:

“The Special Counsel states that ‘while the report does not conclude that the President has committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

“…..it also does not exonerate him.”

Since the statement was released, Trump and his lackeys have ignored half of it.  They have falsely and repeatedly claimed the report “exonerates” Trump.  Is anyone shocked by this flagrant dishonesty?

No, the report does not “exonerate” Trump.  Apparently, they can’t read.

Let’s acknowledge that there was a conspiracy of some kind connected to the 2016 presidential election.  The Russians and its proxies used social media as a weapon to assist the Trump campaign.  That’s neither a hunch nor a hoax.  It’s a fact that’s been established by multiple intelligence agencies.  Even conservative pro-Trump media have retreated from their previous false claims the Russians “no impact on the 2016 election.”

Let’s also knowledge Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wanted Trump to win the 2016 election because he believed Trump’s policies would be more friendly to the Kremlin.

“Yes, I did.  Yes, I did.  Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal,” Putin said, standing alongside Trump at a joint news conference in Helsinki.

Trump denies all of this, of course.  Trump has falsely claimed on numerous occasions that Putin would have preferred to see his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the White House.  He’s completely delusional.

Let’s acknowledge that Trump met Putin that same day behind closed doors, demanding that no Americans be in the room, nor any official notes be taken of the discussion.  In all of American history and diplomacy, such a bizarre set of circumstances has never happened before.  There’s no reason for such secrecy, particularly while a criminal investigation was being conducted on the very question of Trump colluding with Russians, unless of course, Putin did have the American president on a chain.  It’s certainly a huge red flag.  This is entirely Trump’s doing at his insistence — not something the “fake media” created.

Let’s acknowledge Trump’s statements remain fishy.  And smelly.  His own actions and tweets baited the waters of suspicion.  A little truth from Trump might have gone a long way toward silencing critics and dissolving the many claims against him.  What else were we to think when Trump lied so many times about his surrogates meeting with Russians when the record showed that at least 16 Trump campaign officials were in direct contact?  [CLICK HERE]

Let’s also acknowledge Republicans apparently have no problem at all with foreign nations meddling in American elections.  In July 2018 the Republican-controlled Congress voted against protecting our national security by refusing to increase funding to counter high-tech espionage in future elections.  This is madness. [CLICK HERE]

What if before the Mueller investigation began we had a crystal ball?  What if we were told that 34 defendants would be charged with various crimes, including six close Trump associates, including his former campaign manager and disgraced National Security Advisor?  Would anyone claim the president had been “exonerated?”  Would anyone think this was a “witch hunt?”

Trump would have gone ballistic if the indictments would have been delayed until the very and and basically revealed he operated as a political mafia don.  Apparently, the timing of embarrassments is everything.

If nothing else, Trump has clearly exercised appallingly bad judgment and might be the most naive individual ever to occupy the Oval Office.

Trump and his defense team claim indictments stemming from the Special Counsel’s investigation didn’t prove collusion. since some of the charges were for crimes not directly related to Russia’s nefarious role in the 2016 election.  This is true.  But it’s also circumstantially relevant to our assessment of what really happened.  If all those Trump associates did nothing wrong, then why did they repeatedly lie about it so many times?

That Trump hasn’t been led away in handcuffs and paraded around in an orange jumpsuit doesn’t alter an irrefutable historical timeline.  It doesn’t erase what we have seen and what we already know — yet alone, things we don’t know and will gradually come out. History isn’t written in a flurry.  History is typically more of a slow trickle, like sandstone, carved out over time.

Twenty years ago, following a long ordeal, O.J. Simpson exited from a Los Angeles courtroom a free man and declared victory.  A “not guilty” verdict in the criminal trial happened because the evidence wasn’t there to convict and many say the prosecution did a poor job.  But the court’s verdict didn’t change the prevailing public perception and the fact he committed the crime.

Trump too, is exiting this legal round as a victor in the eyes of some.  But he still faces a gauntlet of legal hurdles ahead for a myriad of other crimes, mostly committed prior to taking office.  Barring an expiration on the statute of limitations, those charges will plague him to the grave.

We don’t need Mueller’s report to tell us what we know, what we’ve seen, and what we’ve heard, directly from Trump himself.

Trump is guilty of collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice.  As he wiggled out of legal troubles so many times in the past — in racial discrimination, bankruptcies, sexual assault charges, affairs, fraudulent business dealings, and fake diploma mill — his lawyers will continue putting in plenty of overtime to shield a guilty man from justice.

We don’t need a special report to know Trump remains a vile, dishonest, corrupt, incompetent, self-serving, vindictive, horror show for this country.

The evidence on this is conclusive.

__________

 

Read More

Posted by on Mar 5, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 2 comments

Is Michael Jackson’s Legacy Ruined Forever?

 

 

After HBO’s devastating documentary “Leaving Neverland” exposed the late Michael Jackson as a serial pedophile, what should we make of his legacy?  Might everything associated with him now become toxic?  Or, will the Jackson epochal circus roll on and continue bringing in the cash?

 

Michael Jackson was bad.

Any lingering shreds of confidence in the icon’s self-proclaimed innocence were obliterated by a devastating four-hour documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” which aired on HBO.  It was the equivalent of smashing a crystal vase with a sledgehammer.

For the first time ever, two of Michael Jackson’s child-victims were interviewed on camera.  They appeared not only to be thoroughly credible.  They also produced physical evidence of what happened to them at the ages of 10 and 7, respectively.  Their recounts of sexual abuse were corroborated by an unmistakable timeline of events.  Moreover, the repeated acts weren’t just an aberration or a drunken fling.  The abuse was ongoing.  It was deliberate.  It was planned.  It was explicit.  It was nauseating.

The two victims, now young men in their early 30’s, bravely described countless sex acts with the late entertainer in excruciatingly graphic detail.  I couldn’t help but admire them for speaking out and for their willingness to share such painful memories in front of millions of viewers certain to watch the show.  Their testimony should be a final calamitous blow to Michael Jackson and everything associated with his legacy.  Deservedly so.

Or, will it?

Michael Jackson reportedly earns more dead than alive.  The deceased entertainer’s boundless business empire remains insanely lucrative, having acquired the rights to a vast catalog of music and the beneficiary of innumerable licensing agreements worldwide which continue to rake in bundles of cash for the use of Michael Jackson’s iconic image, his songs, and his creative endowment.  Here in Las Vegas, there’s even an entire Cirque du Soleil show devoted to Michael Jackson.

There was Elvis.  Then, The Beatles.  Then, Michael Jackson.

So, what happens now?

How are we to react both individually and collectively speaking when one of Michael Jackson’s songs gets played somewhere out in public?  What’s the appropriate reaction to seeing a Michael Jackson impersonator perform onstage?  Does any major company now want to be associated with a serial pedophile who performed hundreds of sex acts with elementary school boys in the closed confines of Neverland, which now appears to have been devoted entirely to intoxicating children into a vulnerable state?  The giraffes, the merry-go-round, the chimp — they were used selfishly by Michael Jackson to lure boys into the bedroom.  Neverland is like the Playboy Mansion, only for a pedophile.

The entire place should be bulldozed.

Indeed, Michael Jackson deserves to be pegged someplace in-between Harvey Weinstein and John Wayne Gacy.  Say what you will about Weinstein’s petty perversions, who pursued his greedy fantasies with mostly younger women of adult age.  And say something else about Gacy, who was gay and murdered lots of young men, also of adult age.  Jackson not only had a sick thing for little boys, he selfishly pursued his perversions, manipulated his victims, and shamelessly used is power and privilege to bed kiddies.

Anyone with any association to Michael Jackson should be in hyper-crisis mode right now.

How the mega-MGM corporation, which owns Mandalay Bay can continue to rake in profits from a show which essentially pays homage to Michael Jackson is baffling.  It will be quite interesting to see what action, if any, the entertainment conglomerate takes after revelations have now been corroborated that the gloved weirdo with his image plastered across 30 floors of a hotel skyscraper probably deserved to be locked up behind bars for life for his crimes, if he was still alive.

I don’t want to hear any of Michael Jackson’s music, anymore.  At least not now.  I don’t want to see his face or his silhouette.  I won’t buy any products which use his music or his image.  I don’t care how fucking talented he was, or how much money he makes for unscrupulous morally-indifferent investors.  Michael Jackson and his legacy deserve to be shunned and treated as poison.

Then and now, given the gravity of his influence upon generations of adoring worshippers, it may be impossible to totally ignore Michael Jackson as a musician, performer, and monumental titan of influence.  But we must try.

We can’t put Michael Jackson on trial and lock him up for his terrible crimes against children because he’s dead.  However, one thing we can do is treat him as persona non grata.  A castaway.

Justice demands it.

__________

 

Read More

Posted by on Feb 26, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 4 comments

The Evaporation of Pride and Evolution of Prejudice Against the Working Class

 

 

I’ve talked with many young people lately.  They’re mostly guys in their early 20s.  They’re young enough to be my children.

Just about all of them are pursuing “careers” which seem impractical and even a bit far-fetched.  I recall one guy who wants to be a music producer.  Another is determined to make films.  Still, another hopes to race motorcycles for a living.  A few aspire to be professional poker players.

Pursuing one’s dreams is certainly a positive thing.  Each of us should aspire to jump higher, to move forward, and achieve the goals we set for ourselves.  But those goals must also be realistic.

The last few generations, I fear, we’ve lost all sense of reality.  We’ve made “working for a living” a stigma rather than a source of pride.  Labor has become a dirty word.

Discussions with these young men revealed something else that’s troubling.  This trend isn’t gender-specific.  They alleged that girls were far more attracted to guys who wanted to be music producers, filmmakers, motorcycle racers, and poker players.  Presumably, that made them more interesting.  The girls didn’t want to go out with guys who wanted to be plumbers, electricians, machinists, and auto mechanics.  They certainly didn’t want to date cooks, construction workers, and bus drivers.

So, it appears career choice isn’t just shaped by individual ambition.  A pervasive collective bias against the working class has mushroomed out of control.  This shift illustrates an alarming disconnect in American culture from reality that is both dangerous and in the end, self-defeating.

Let’s face it.  We need more bricklayers than basketball players.  We need far more dental technicians than disc jockeys.  What we need is — a lot more common sense.

During the first half of the 20th Century, working-class occupations weren’t merely the manifestation of self-identity, but also a tremendous source of personal pride.  Highly-skilled, mostly unionized workers manufactured cars, constructed bridges, paved highways, and essentially built the America we live in today.  When I was 21, I remember working one blazing hot summer as a unionized sheet metal worker in Dallas when all the high-rise buildings were springing up all over the city, and the workers pointing at and bragging about the skyscrapers they had “built.”  Call it what it was — working-class pride.

Of course, lots of highly-skilled jobs have disappeared since then, the casualties of both automation and global corporatism.  Union-busting has devasted the middle class.  Stock shareholders and bonus-chasing CEOs demand that every last farthing of profit be squeezed out of each division, project, and worker.  Wall Street has totally undermined the economic foundations of the once-great heartland and torpedoed what used to be called “The American Dream.”  Shortsighted short-term gains have metastasized into a long-term nightmare for the working class, which has seen wages stagnant since the horrors of “Reaganomics.”  No one wants to work at a low-paying dead-end job, with no benefits, nor economic security.  Thanks a lot, Laffer.

But working-class stigmatization goes much deeper than that.  It’s not just an economic and cultural trend, but now a social reality brought on by the way we interact and communicate, and ultimately how we judge one another.

America has become one giant reality television show with 320 million cast members all vying for the starring role in the “hey, look at me!” category.  Every single thought, experience, meal, party, toothache, and personal encounter now gets tagged and then blasted worldwide across social media.  Our identities have become almost entirely digitized.  Posting selfies at the nightclub have become the credit line of cultural value, a sort of twisted Kardashian cryptocurrency  No one posts selfies of themselves replacing the hot water heater.

Democratic Socialists want to make college tuition-free.  I agree with this ambitious vision, at least in principle.  More than any other metric, education is the ticket to upward mobility.  Not enough poor people have either the means to rise out of systematic poverty.  So, we must collectively do what we can to promote greater opportunity for everyone.

But let’s ease into the “free tuition” idea one step at a time.  First, let’s make vocational and trade schools, rather than universities, free to those who want to pursue their education and training.  I think lots of people, of both sides of the political spectrum, would get behind that idea.  Let’s also target poor areas and populations which desperately need more workers to build and renovate their communities.

Fact is, we don’t need more MBAs and so-called marketing gurus.  We don’t need more realtors.  We don’t need fast-talking con-men in rented hotel ballrooms “teaching” seminars to gullible suckers on how to be successful.  We have more than enough “experts” on how to make money, already.  Instead, we need pipefitters and concrete masons actually working in depressed areas, making money with the sweat of their brow and then spending their paychecks locally.  That’s how an equitable society is built.

Restoring pride in working-class values demands that we first admit there is a serious class division within America that is widening.  It’s not getting better.  It’s getting worse.  It’s not a class division just of income, but of a mangled distortion of misplaced priorities and the way workers and occupations are perceived.

We need to work towards a far more egalitarian society where a bunch of young guys can hang out together and talk about pursuing their dreams — which are entirely achievable, productive, prideful and won’t leave them with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt to parasitic banks and loan companies.

What we desperately need are more working-class heroes along with a heavy dose of realism.

__________

 

Read More

Posted by on Feb 19, 2019 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 3 comments

Bernie Sanders 2020: The Right Message, the Wrong Messenger, at the Worst Time

 

 

It pains me to write this article and say this:  I wish Bernie Sanders would not run for president in 2020.

As a fellow democratic socialist, I admire Sanders and agree with what he stands for.  He champions virtually everything I believe in.  But he’s also the wrong messenger at the worst possible time.  Sanders is making a mistake by joining a crowded Democratic field and running for president.

To his credit, Sanders and his 2016 campaign altered the course of contemporary American politics.  Should anyone doubt his impact, just look at what’s happened since the defeat.  It’s virtually unheard of for the losing nominee to shift the direction of a major party, reboot its national priorities, and continue wielding influence upon a significant percentage of devoted followers who liked what Sanders had to say and looked up at a then-74-year-old career political activist somehow as a fresh face on the national stage.  Even nemesis Donald Trump, in a bold rebuke during last month’s State of the Union address, felt the need to blast the growing tide of socialism in America.  That’s largely Bernie’s doing.  Socialism simple isn’t a bad word anymore to most Americans.  Such a thing would have been unthinkable ten years ago.

For the first time in a half century, certainly not since the ill-fated presidential campaign of the late Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, Sen. Sanders made unapologetic in-your-face liberalism cool again.  After decades of running away from the Leftist moniker, and in the process abandoning the working class while losing its collective soul, Sanders didn’t shy away from our core conviction that big government can (and must) be a force for good in society.  While mainstream Democrats scurried from one fundraiser to the next trying to out-elbow Republicans for corporate affections, Sanders the maverick candidate with nothing to lose openly spoke his mind and preached peaceful revolution.  All we were saying, was give Bernie a chance.  He embraced all the seemingly forgotten tenets of social and political idealism.

A new term within the political lexicon, “Berniecrats,” now refers to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, along with Left-leaning Independents.  Sanders’ grandfatherly delivery and astute frankness attracted millions of supporters, including a disproportionate number of young people who become politically active for the first time.  These are Bernie’s disciples, and will ultimately become his most deeply lasting legacy.  He alone ignited the seeds of a much broader movement that’s likely bear fruit when the next’s generation’s time comes to make the laws.  Sanders was, and very much remains, a viable political force to be reckoned with.

So, given Sanders’ impressive track record in exceeding everyone’s expectations and even changing the political game, why am I so convinced he’s making the wrong decision to run again in 2020?  Why have I come to bury Sanders rather than praise him?

Well first, there are lingering questions about Sanders’ party allegiance.  After all, he isn’t a Democrat and therefore shouldn’t be running under the party’s official party banner.  Most Democratic voters pretty much ignored this minor issue the last time around, since it was believed the “crazy socialist” posed no serious threat to the continuation of the Clinton dynasty.  He won’t be cut as much slack this time, since the Vermont senator remains a self-described Independent — with a Capital “I” next to his name.

Sanders’ wide periphery of political influence in other states makes him essential to Democrats, and they know it.  The party should be made aware they’ll need what remains of Berniecrats to show up at the polls and vote, come 2020, because so many didn’t in the last election and that’s one reason we ended up with the chaos of Trump.  Indeed, let’s remember that more Americans call themselves Independents now — than either Democrats or Republicans.  Yet, an astounding political reality still remains:  Winning elections in America requires candidates to align themselves with one of the two major parties.  Democrats can’t afford to lose independents.  If they do, that spells a possible Trump 2o2o victory (assuming the criminal isn’t removed from office first).  So, dealing with Sanders and his base is very tricky for the party that can’t afford any mistakes.

Sanders would be age 79 if he somehow wins the 2020 nomination.  Yes, ageism is terribly unfair, but it remains a significant political factor.  Ask around.  Some people insist they won’t vote for a candidate who would be the oldest man ever elected to the presidency.  And while former Vice President Joe Biden also carries much the same burden (he’s the same age), and President Trump in his 70s clearly demonstrates alarming cognitive decline, Sanders enters the presidential race with serious baggage as to whether someone in his 80’s would be fully capable of the day-to-day pressures of the job.

Moreover, there’s no compelling reason for Sanders to join the 2020 race, other than for personal vanity.  In 2016, Sanders was a compelling force and an attractive alternative to Hillary Clinton, the embodiment of the old Democrat establishment.  Progressives desperately needed a horse in the race, and the long shot damn near won the whole derby.  Yet, this isn’t the case four years later.  The landscape and the field have changed completely.  Out of the dozen or so major candidates on the Democratic side, perhaps a third of the current potential nominees can rightfully be tagged a liberals in the Sanders mold.  All the known candidates have embraced some of his views.  It seems redundant to add yet another candidate to the stage and keep slicing the progressive pie into smaller pieces.

Then, there’s political practicality.   The 2020 race will require a completely different approach, both in tact and substance, than we’re used to seeing.  Democrats need to pull out the switchblades and quit treating this like a chess game.  2020 will be a knife fight in a dark alley at 3 in the morning.  When one side plays dirty, it’s suicidal to play nice.  So, this time, let’s play to win.  Sanders, while passionate as an advocate and fiery as a speaker, remains profoundly intellectual in his disposition.  Accordingly, I’m not convinced he’s the best counter-puncher to an unhinged bully.  When Trump throws right hooks, we’re going to require a left uppercut with the weight of a sledgehammer, and a knockout.  Sanders simply isn’t the right street fighter for what will be necessary.

Finally, there are growing concerns, even among some supporters, that Sanders and his repetitive messaging has become stale.  He’s “so 2016.”  Sanders was correct to make income inequality and class division the cornerstone of his previous campaign.  To a large extent, he’s already won the ideological war for the heart and soul of the party since virtually all Democrats now favor raising the minimum wage, adopting some form of universal health care, and making the tax system more fair for the working class.  But Sanders’ ceaseless attacks on billionaires, while certainly warranted, won’t be greeted with nearly as much enthusiasm when its clear the real boogeyman to America isn’t named Warren Buffet or Elon Musk, but Donald J. Trump.

Petty party suspicions will hurt Sanders.  Ageism will hurt Sanders.  Tougher competition will hurt Sanders.  Legitimate questions about whether he’s the ideal candidate to face Trump will hurt Sanders.  An outdated message will hurt Sanders.

Instead of running again, which is likely to be an wasteful exercise in futility, a regurgitation of familiar themes we saw in 2016, and ultimately another defeat, Sen. Sanders should take a well-deserved bow for being electric shock therapy to a dysfunctional and thoroughly corrupt political and economic system.  He can still be a game changer, perhaps the Left’s elder-statesman.  Bernie:  The New Lion of the Senate — ala Ted Kennedy.  As the largest newspaper in his home state pined only a few weeks ago, he was elected to do a job for the citizens of Vermont.  His interests, Vermont’s interests, and the interests of the American progressive movement would best be served by passing the torch to a new generation of visionaries.

Thank you, Bernie Sanders for all you have done and for what you will continue to do as a legislator.  You have changed the political landscape for the better.  Now please, step aside, and let your followers take the lead from here.

__________

 

Read More
css.php