Froma Harrop - Trump warming to Paris agreement?

Will President Trump bring the country back into the Paris climate agreement? The bets are on, and this bet says he will.

The past few days have produced clashing reports that he may or may not come around. Confusion is how Trump gets turnarounds past the base.

What happened right after he spoke of helping the "dreamers," immigrants brought to this country illegally as children? He defended his earlier controversial remarks equating the Charlottesville racists to the protesters. And he retweeted anti-Muslim sentiments.

After his call to ban transgender troops from serving in the armed forces, our military leaders pushed back, and Trump pulled back. Defense Secretary James Mattis is now tasked with devising a new policy months hence. Meanwhile, transgender people are re-enlisting.

What makes one think that Trump will follow a similar trajectory on the Paris climate deal? Several things.

One, and I hate putting this first because it should be the least consequential: his approval ratings. They've been inching up from the depths for three weeks in a row. Trump's moves toward moderation, which includes working with Democratic leaders, are surely playing a part. A rising applause meter lowers a reality TV star's blood pressure.

Two, and it's a shame this has to go second, is Emmanuel Macron. The French president excels in courting Trump's grandiosity. As other European leaders gave Trump a wide berth, Macron gallantly invited him to Paris for the Bastille Day parade. At the Elysee Palace, Macron had Trump sitting on gilded chairs that the gilded chairs in Trump Tower wish they could be. Trump was so impressed by the Bastille Day spectacle that he's proposing a Fourth of July parade in Washington that would "top it."

This relationship has led Macron to opine that Trump may reverse the decision to leave the Paris deal. Shortly thereafter, economic adviser Gary Cohn said Trump still plans to withdraw. But no matter.

Macron said there will be no renegotiation — "we won't go back" — but added the "door will always remain open." The dance is a minuet, controlled and ceremonious.

Three is Cohn's participation in the climate issue. Cohn had been an advocate of staying in the Paris agreement. During the United Nations General Assembly, he met with the climate ministers from big-economy countries. Note Cohn's words. He said the withdrawal will happen "unless we can re-engage on terms more favorable to the United States."

However, the Paris agreement lets countries set their own targets for cutting greenhouse gases. That includes lowering them. Also, every country can meet the targets in its own way.

So Trump can change some numbers under the Paris rules and call it a renegotiation. He's good at that sort of thing.

Next, there is an economic downside to standing outside this international treaty. Not being part hurts America's ability to profit from the booming clean energy economy. Some countries have already been threatening to slap tariffs on American products made under lax environmental standards. And our pullout has opened a leadership chair that China is now filling.

Lastly, and this should really be first, climate change is feeding America's devastating natural disasters. Scientists widely agree that warming waters are making hurricanes more vicious. Witness the monster storms ripping up parts of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean. Higher temperatures are also seen playing a role in the intense wildfires threatening much of the West.

Trump so far has shown little interest in addressing climate change, but more and more of the American people do. Rejoining the Paris agreement would probably do wonders for his approval ratings. And this brings the argument full circle.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

 

  • Written by Edward Engler
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Pat Buchanan - Who truly imperils our free society

"The Barbarian cannot make ... he can befog and destroy but ... he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in the decline or peril of every civilization exactly that has been true."

Hilaire Belloc's depiction of the barbarian is recalled to mind as the statues honoring the history and heroes of the Republic and of the West continue to be vandalized and smashed.

A week ago, the statue of missionary and Catholic Saint Fr. Junipero Serra was beheaded at the Santa Barbara Mission he founded. A century-old Columbus statue in Central Park was defaced and spray-painted with: "Hate will not be tolerated."

Baltimore's monument to Francis Scott Key, who observed the bombardment of Fort McHenry on a British warship late in the War of 1812 and was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner," was covered in red paint. "Racist anthem" was written across it.

In Berkeley, home of the Free Speech Movement, the university last week had to spend $600,000 to protect an invited speaker of the college Republicans from being assaulted.

But St. Louis was where the real action was. Friday, a mob hurled rocks and bottles injuring 11 cops, leaving one with a broken jaw. They smashed windows at the mayor's residence and marched miles to the Central West End to berate diners on patios of restaurants with the menacing chant: "Off the sidewalk. Into the street."

Saturday, the mob invaded and shut down a suburban mall, and then smashed windows across a nightlife district.

The protesters rationale: rage at a not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of ex-cop Jason Stockley in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith — in 2011. Stockley's police van had been struck by Smith's car, who had been nabbed in an alleged drug deal and led police on an 80-mile-an-hour chase, at the end of which Stockley emptied his gun in Smith. Yet even Attorney General Eric Holder declined to investigate.

On Sunday, Black Lives Matter showed up at the St. Louis' police headquarters chanting, "Stop killing us!" But if the killing of black folks is a legitimate grievance, we need to ask: Who is killing them?

Last year, there were 4,300 victims of shootings in Chicago and 762 deaths. How many of those shootings were by cops? How many of those shootings, mostly of blacks, were acts of "terrorism by White supremacists, White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan," all of whom our ever-heroic Congress demanded that President Trump, in a joint resolution after Charlottesville, denounce.

Nowhere in the resolution was there any mention of Antifa, the "anti-fascist" fighters on the other side of the Charlottesville brawl, where a protester was run down and killed by a Nazi sympathizer.

What is it in their DNA that causes Republicans reflexively to sign on to a one-sided Democratic denunciation of President Trump for the sin of suggesting there were two parties to the Charlottesville brawl?

And are neo-Nazis really a threat to the republic?

In 1963, this writer was at Dr. King's March on Washington, which began on the Monument grounds where George Lincoln Rockwell's Nazis were yelling slurs. On the site where Rockwell's Nazis stood, there stands today the African-American Museum.

When my father was a 21-year-old Al Smith Democrat in D.C. in the Calvin Coolidge era, scores of thousands of anti-Catholic Klansmen strode up Pennsylvania Avenue, and the national Klan numbered in the millions. But is the KKK of today a serious threat to civil rights?

Lately, St. Louis and East St. Louis have boasted the highest murder rates in America. Is that the doing of white supremacists?

This morning we read there have been so many smashed and stolen bicycles that Baltimore is canceling its Bike Share program. Did David Duke and his Klan friends steal all those bikes?

Who are the ones shouting down speakers? Who violently disrupts political rallies, on campuses and off? Who engages in mob violence after almost every police shooting of a black suspect? As for interracial assaults, rapes and murders, according to FBI crime statistics, these are primarily the work of black criminals against white victims.

The Justice Department should report on hate crimes by white racists. But from the stats, anti-white racism is far more common and far more manifest in crimes of violence. Who reports that truth?

Are Christian supremacists murdering Muslims in Europe, or are Muslim supremacists committing acts of terrorism in Europe and conducting genocide against Christians in the Middle East?

The left has been marinated in an ideology where the enemy is always to the right. People blinded by ideology, unable to see the true enemies of their civilization, end up losing it, and their lives as well.

"We sit by and watch the Barbarian," wrote Belloc, "We tolerate him ... We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond; and on those faces there are no smiles."

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

  • Written by Edward Engler
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Froma Harrop - Elite cities should share the wealth

As Seattle ascended into the club of superstar American cities, its housing became expensive and its streets congested. That's the price of success. These factors helped prompt Amazon.com to announce plans to build a second headquarters somewhere else in North America.

This move could herald a neat solution for cities seeking choice jobs and for those burdened by crowding and astronomical rents. In this vast continent of ours, it's crazy to shoehorn so much ambition, innovation and technical prowess into New York, San Francisco and a handful of other coastal cities.

For the "elite" cities, sharing the growth would reduce pressure to tear down their beloved neighborhoods to build forests of soulless towers — all in the name of improving affordability. That's the "remedy" pushed by developers and foes of zoning, historic preservation and sane urban planning.

The explosive growth of New York City's population has driven the subway system to near breakdown. Some see congestion pricing — charging new fees to drive into midtown Manhattan — as a fix for perpetual gridlock. That would encourage more people to use the subways, the argument goes (but see two sentences above).

Get this. New York has just "upzoned" the Midtown East business district to allow the construction of at least 16 new office towers. That would bring 28,000 more workers to the area. Things have gotten so crowded the city is removing some subway seats to pack in more people.

Companies increasingly demand urban settings where people bounce ideas off one another and younger workers congregate. But there are fine urban settings far from the coasts, and employers are going to them. Denver and Phoenix, for example, have become magnets for finance companies strained by the high costs of San Francisco.

Amazon's casting call included some specifications. The city's population must exceed 1 million. The site must have access to public transportation and be near a university and international airport.

Amazon has its hand out for tax breaks and assorted public subsidies. Waving 50,000 good new jobs should bring out a good number of eager contestants.

Cities cited as likely finalists include Columbus, Denver, Nashville, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Antonio and Toronto. (Remember they said "North America.") A few may want for artisanal bakeries and curated wine lists, but add 50,000 tech workers to the mix and watch the urban amenities grow.

As for those left behind in the elite cities, they too have reasons to welcome seeing some of the people headed for other destinations. After all, the cure for very high housing prices isn't just more supply; it's less demand for housing.

And that would take some pressure off their middle- and working-class neighborhoods. Their low buildings often occupy the sites developers most covet.

Some cities are already densely developed. Those on the coast couldn't grow gracefully even if they wanted to, because they are hemmed in by oceans and such. Other cities, particularly the ones prone to sprawl, could benefit from added density. And their older housing stock close to downtown might need the loving attention of newcomers.

In the meantime, let's put in a good word for smaller cities that don't meet Amazon's size standard. There's evidence that some young, educated people are moving back to the devastated Rust Belt cities their families abandoned, places like Youngstown, Ohio. Love of place draws them, not expectation of high pay. But wouldn't companies value having employees like them?

Let's see whether Amazon's move kicks off a trend to create a second power center outside the superstar city of a company's birth. It would make so much sense, both for cities burdened with too many people and for those wanting more.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

  • Written by Edward Engler
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Alan Vervaeke - The Gravy Train is for my dogs

A recent letter suggests that Democrats need to look inward and find their heart and soul. Agreed! Republicans have always been about smaller government and less regulation, and Democrats have been about compassion through taxation, i.e. take more taxes from folks making more to help improve the lives of folks with less, and if more government is necessary to do so, then so be it. But it’s high time “those with less” get some examination.

We hear “welfare” and negative connotations abound. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) had been around since 1935. After promising to “end welfare as we know it” Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act into law. That produced Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), which placed time limits on welfare assistance and included stricter conditions for food stamps eligibility, reductions in immigrant welfare assistance, and recipient work requirements. It also moved most mechanisms for maintaining and monitoring welfare to state control. The next 15 years saw welfare rolls staying lower than they had in four decades. The federal budget for this line item dropped and the Republicans claimed a success.

During the Great Recession, numbers went back up. In 2012 the Obama Administration allowed states to waive work requirements if they could prove that numbers of available jobs had increased. Liberal states took advantage of this based on the number of new minimum wages jobs being created during that period. This was an issue since minimum wage jobs don’t provide a “living wage” and many in those jobs still required assistance. There is something gut wrenching about working 40-50 hours each week and still needing help to survive.

Federal statistics claim 40 percent of welfare recipients are off assistance within four years. But some have been on it for decades — even in Laconia. Call it “generational welfare,” Imagine paying for physically healthy adults to stay home when ONE has a drug habit and the other cares for them and a child. We’ve all heard of or witnessed folks pulling out their food stamps or SNAP card while carrying a bundle of cash and driving a Lexus. These are not myths.

Crazy Governor Paul LePage of Maine ran on a welfare reform pledge in 2010 in a state that had grown reliant on assistance programs. He imposed a 5-year limit on benefits, re-instituted a work requirement for food stamp recipients, and tried to bar food stamps from anyone with more than $5,000 in specific assets. And while I am probably more compassionate than many, I have to say I agree with him: I don’t like giving away something for nothing. And that’s the point — we must continue to reform welfare and reduce the addiction to it. Like opioids, many people just don’t have the will to get off of them.

Republicans often say that Democrats keep giving away benefits to ensure those voters are theirs. This leads to the simplistic notion that welfare recipients vote Democrat — especially in urban areas — and thus why the big cities always go Blue. The reality? Studies say most welfare recipients don’t vote. A study by The Tax Foundation also shows that states consuming the most federal welfare dollars all went red in the last election. Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Georgia, Arizona, and Alabama are nine of the top ten states with the largest percentage of their state’s welfare revenue coming from Federal tax dollars. Why?

There are large populations of people in each of those states who’ve previously been on assistance, and yet they vote Republican because of the waste, fraud, and abuse they observed while in the system. You want to win back Flyover/Middle America? Eliminate that negative aspect of the welfare system. Stem the fraud. Boot the leeches. Eliminate a public perception of something for nothing. The number of people at or under the federal poverty limit in these states is huge and at least half of them didn’t vote either. You want to win back Flyover/Middle America? Create real jobs that return a sense of pride. Enough with programs and freebies and giveaways — save them for those people who actually need them. Get the feckless and indolent away from my paycheck.

If President Trump wants to rebuild our infrastructure, then take a page from FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps and put welfare recipients capable of it back to work. Can’t work because you have no child care? Take 10 percent of those folks and put them into a Child Care Corps so the other 90 percent can work. Single and on assistance because you can’t find a job? We have mothballed military bases around this country with empty barracks for free housing while you work a paying job for your country. Have a minor disability? Create data entry jobs to track the labor and jobs that need to get done. First-time offenders — we have roads and bridges and railroad tracks that need repair. There’s nothing like good honest labor and on-the-job training to get a country moving again. COME ON. There are 43 million Americans on food stamps.

Between both parties we can get most Americans off assistance, working, earning a fair living wage, and providing for their families. The USS Gerald Ford — our newest aircraft carrier — has cost so far approximately $16 billion dollars. Our newest stealth ships are $2 billion each. You’re afraid of reducing our readiness posture? Let’s audit federal pensions next. That was $125 billion last year. The GOP wants to eliminate the Johnson Amendment? Let’s start taxing all religious entities at just a mild 5 percent rate and we could have a budget surplus. Where there’s the will, there’s a way.

Whoever comes up with the best ideas for moving America forward gets my vote. I don’t succumb to fear, I’m too intelligent for the BS that gets promised, and I can read. Inspire me. America is and always has been great. Let’s make America prosperous again.

(Alan Vervaeke is a veteran and father happily living in Gilford.)

 

  • Written by Edward Engler
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Jim Hightower - Medicare for all

Believe it or not, we can get Congress to enact a new program providing good quality, lower-cost health care for your family and (what the hell, let's think big here) for every man, woman and (especially) every child in our society.

Step One: eliminate every dime of the multimillion-dollar government subsidy that now covers platinum-level health insurance for all 535 Members of Congress and their families. Let those laissez-faire ideologues who have saddled us with an exorbitantly-expensive, dysfunctional and (let's admit it) sick system of medical profiteering experience what they've wrought, without any government pampering. This includes shutting down their "Office of the Attending Physician," a little-known spot of pure, 100 percent socialized medicine conveniently located in our U.S. Capitol to provide a full range of government-paid doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who give immediate, on-the-spot attention to these special ones. A seriously sick child, a car wreck, a cancer diagnosis — and suddenly the civilized idea of Medicare for All will start making sense even to anti-government, you're-on-your-own Republican ideologues.

Well, you might say, they still won't feel the pain, because they're one-percenters, pulling down $174,000 a year each from us taxpayers, meaning they can afford to buy decent health insurance. Ah, but here comes Step Two: put all of our congressional goof-offs on piece-rate, pay-for-performance salaries. Why pay them a flat rate whether they produce or not? For example, American babies are more likely to die in their first year of life than babies in Poland, which provides universal health insurance for all of its people. So, every year that the U.S. Congress fails to provide health coverage for every American family, the members should get their pay docked by a third. Pay them only when they deliver for the people, not for their ideological purity.

When Congress finally assures good health care for all of us, then its members would get the same coverage. But until they deliver for the whole public, the public owes them nothing.

It's true that America is No. 1 in health care, but before erupting in chants of "USA! USA!" — note that we're only No. 1 in health care spending. Ouch.

Our country lays out more per person for health insurance and out-of-pocket payments than any other advanced nation on the planet — nearly $10,000 a year for each of us. Germany, Canada, Australia, England, Japan, Poland and all other advanced democracies pay only a fraction of that — yet their people get far better care, are healthier and live longer than our people. That's because they have nationwide, public health insurance systems providing comprehensive coverage for everyone while eliminating 25-30 percent of every health care dollar that profiteering insurance corporations take for their administrative and advertising costs, exorbitant profits and executive pay, paperwork and waste.

Why don't we Americans have such an efficient and effective system? We do: Medicare! It's a proven no-hassle, quality care for each of America's senior citizens. It works!

But what about children, young people and the middle-aged ... the majority of our people? Glad you asked.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (along with Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and 14 others) have just introduced the "Medicare for All" act, extending this successful commonsense program to everyone.

Sanders' proposal (like Rep. John Conyers' bill in the U.S. House) will cut the health care costs paid by typical working families from some $6,200 a year to $466. It'll also cut out the complexity and stress of getting the care you need — just go to any private doctor you choose, show your public insurance card and — Bingo — you're in! No more co-pays, deductibles or fighting with corporate insurance bureaucrats trying to keep you out.

Learn more about Bernie's Medicare for All plan to create a people's health care system!

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

  • Written by Edward Engler
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