Trade Insights

March 9, 2018

The apparently unplanned announcement from Trump that the U.S. was imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports provided an unusual amount of insight into the Trump Administration, but perhaps more on the GOP Congress. The announcement of tariffs came without any apparent preparation. There was no formal statement prepared. The Departments of Treasury, State and Defense first heard the news from television. It was chaotic, which is what we have in Trump. It also tanked the stock market, and since we have been hearing constantly about how Trump has driven the stock boom, should we expect a statement that Trump is not responsible in any way for the crash in the market? Maybe not.

The policy itself was not only nonsensical, it was also destructive. I’m not even sure there was a policy behind the announcement. Trump initially said it was intended to counter steel dumping on markets by the Chinese. However, it penalized our allies who have not been dumping steel such as Canada and Mexico. The next day, after the EU and virtually every other steel an aluminum producing country threatened retaliation, Trump virtually blew the minds of every economist CEO and Republican Congressperson by saying that trade wars were good and easy to win. His statement ran contrary to, well, pretty much all human history and led to two World Wars. Then he said the real target was the EU, which had a huge trade deficit with us (which was untrue). Tomorrow there may be another target – or more likely another crisis.

We’ve come to expect this kind of chaos, confusion, and utterly ignorant statements from Trump, but the Congressional response was unexpected by some. There was a strong push back from GOP Congresspersons. Some expected the GOP to support Trump’s statements or at least his policy pronouncements, but the reality has always been that the GOP Congress is owned by big money and that means Wall St.

Paul Ryan says nothing after racist statements from Trump, misogynist statements, he supports the unethical (if not illegal) activity of Nunes to obstruct the Russian election interference, but when Trump imposes tariffs potentially costing Hedge Funds billions…

The potential internecine conflict between Trump and GOP Congress may reveal the true nature of the two, but the sad reality is that it will be at a cost to the Middle Class.


Geoffrey Fieger Takes on Trump’s Proposal to Arm Teachers

March 9, 2018

The proposal made by President Donald Trump to arm teachers with guns is not only unfeasible, it would be worse than ineffective. What we need is a rational discussion of rational proposals.

Arming, training (and maintaining what would be the equivalent of the third-largest army in the world) would be a logistical and economic nightmare. There may be some teachers willing to carry guns, but the vast majority of teachers do not want guns in the classroom. Recruiting armed teachers would be difficult, a fact recognized by Trump who proposed a “bonus” for volunteers. Normal attrition of licensed and trained teachers means the cost would continue and grow every year.

Then there is screening volunteers, training them and securing their weapons. This would require hundreds of millions of dollars, and I don’t hear the gun manufacturers, or the NRA volunteering to pay for it.

There is also the issue of liability, though it is likely that the U.S. Congress would grant the schoolhouse gun-slingers immunity from charges for killing children. The Trump administration has already spent us into record deficits, and many school districts are in debt. The reality is that arming teachers would not prevent mass murders, and would actually increase gun violence in schools.

The proposal to arm teachers is based on an absurd premise. Proponents claim it would act as a deterrent. Most school shootings are perpetrated by emotionally unstable white men. Their impulse is not guided by rational calculus. They are driven by irrational emotions. They have no plan for escape. They are motivated by the need for revenge, public recognition or self-destructive impulses. Many of the schools that have experienced shootings already had armed guards, and that did not deter.

Arming teachers does not mean it would be an effective response to an active shooter. The military spends at least six months training recruits on the proper handling of weapons and effective responses on the battlefield, with additional training to avoid shooting innocent people.

Trump, in another ad lib argument against his own proposals, observed that one deputy had spent his “entire life” training for the situation and failed to respond as trained. This is a well known phenomena, and the reason why law enforcement trains incessantly.

So what would make a teacher, with virtually no training, respond more effectively? Virtually all of the people supporting arming teachers have never been on the wrong end of an assault rifle, and base their claims upon ignorance and bravado.

Handguns are much less accurate than a long rifle and have less capacity. Law enforcement officers support an assault weapon ban for good reason — they know that a handgun is no match in a firefight. So, even if a teacher does choose to engage a shooter, they would be firing a less-accurate weapon (around panicking children) with far less capacity and firepower.

Unless we want teachers wearing Kevlar body armor and slinging an assault rifle while they teach, the proposal is obviously ineffective. It puts teachers and first responders at greater risk. In the chaos of a gunfight who is the shooter?

Did you know that the Republican Congress has outlawed scientific research into gun violence? What little data that is available demonstrates that the presence of more guns in a community only increases the incidence of gun violence. Putting a million more guns in schools will only increase gun violence in schools. So, in addition to mass murders, we would also have more gun deaths in schools.

I am the son of a school teacher, and the father of three school-age children. All rational people want schools to be safe in every way possible. But we must use effective and safe methods to protect our children. Red Flag Laws, extensive background checks, closing Gun Show Loopholes, banning sales of weapons of war — are all proposals that would work, and that a large majority of Americans support.

If anything is worthy of being a one-issue vote, it is the safety of our children. Here’s a proposal to make schools safe: the next time a candidate asks for your vote, ask them if they will take money from the NRA. If they say “yes,” then tell them they will not get your vote.

Geoffrey Fieger is the lead attorney at Southfield-based Fieger Law.

This article originally appeared as an op-ed in The Detroit Free Press on March 9, 2018. Find it here.

Teachers With Guns

March 8, 2018

The most current solution being floated by the NRA is for more people to have guns. Shocker there, right? Specificaly, they advocate that teachers carry guns. It’s not feasible, would not be effective and it’s a typically insane if not self-serving proposal from the merchants of death.

Is it feasible? If 20% of all teachers were armed, it would be the equivalent to the second largest army in the world. There may be some teachers who would want to carry a gun while in the classroom, but they would be a fraction of the 20% needed, and a tiny fraction of all teachers who overwhelmingly do not want anyone to have a gun on the classroom. Trump implicitly recognized this reality and has suggested a “small bonus” be offered to the classroom gunslingers to increase the volunteers.

The costs associated with about 1 million new guns, training, licensing, and safe storage would be hundreds of millions of dollars, and we don’t hear any politicians or the NRA offering to pony up the funds. Not even gun manufacturers have offered to pay for the army of the classroom, even though they would make a fortune in profits. Then there would be the cost of liability insurance, except it is likely that Congress would give immunity to any teachers who negligently shot and killed a child in the classroom. If a child is killed by an accidental discharge of a gun in their kindergarten classroom, well, in their minds it’s a small price to pay for the profits.

Would it be effective?

Congress has made it illegal to research gun violence, but the one thing we do know is that the presence of more guns increases gun violence.  Period. With a million more guns in schools the number of gun deaths is going to increase.

The armed services take months of training recruits on the proper way to handle a weapon and to respond to being attacked. They take months longer to teach trained soldiers and Marines to not shoot innocent bystanders when attacked. This is because the military knows from experience that unless a soldier is highly trained they are a bigger danger to themselves or their fellow soldiers than the enemy. Then there’s the issue of responding to fire from an assault rifle vs. a handgun. Police around the country have advocated for an assault weapons ban because they know from experience that even highly trained police officers are no match in firepower.

Handguns are not nearly as accurate as long guns and have less capacity for ammunition. In yet another instance of a Trump ad lib arguing against a Trump proposal, he told reporters that an officer in Parkland who “had spent his entire life training for this” didn’t do the job. So, their idea is to have a less trained teacher, run into a hallway with children running every which way and engage in a gunfight with a less accurate gun with less firepower and ammunition? First responders would have to distinguish teachers from shooters, putting both teachers and responders at greater risk. Then again, the teachers trying to respond to semi-automatic would most likely already be dead. Maybe the teachers should have an assault weapon slung over their Kevlar body armor as they write the daily lessons on the blackboard… it’s insane. I am all for increasing protection for schools. No measure will be completely effective, but a combination of common sense protective measures would reduce the number and lethality of the attacks – none more that a ban on assault weapons. Proposing more guns, more shooters and turning schools into a shooting gallery is not a common sense solution.

Invisible Hands and Money That Talks

March 7, 2018

My mother was a teacher. I have three children in school. So, I have more knowledge about (and emotional investment in) the most recent debate over how to end mass murders in schools than the average person. We have these debates often, after every school shooting (which happens often) – and maybe that says more about us as a society than the mass murders itself. We are the only country in the world that has this kind of mass murder and post massacre debates so regularly with no results. We have made a deliberate decision to allow our children to be slaughtered in their schools. You can deny your decision and protest that you don’t want children butchered, or that you don’t understand the issue enough to have an opinion about what to do… but if you haven’t even taken the time to send an e-mail to your congressperson demanding that SOMETHING be done, then your inaction makes you complicit. More than 80% of Americans say they support stricter gun laws, but what have that 80% done about it? Marco Rubio denied that taking $3 million from the NRA has affected his position on gun legislation. He said that people follow his position and then donate money to his campaign. Yet the overwhelming majority if his constituents support positions on gun laws that he has blocked.

We know why Congress has refused to reflect the will of the people on gun laws, and nobody kids themselves about the power of the NRA. They have money and they have an ability to mobilize their base supporters politically. The NRA is only the most powerful of several pro-gun groups (and they are pro-gun, not pro- 2nd Amendment – there is a distinction). The invisible power behind these groups is corporate, the merchants of death, the Military Industrial Complex. They make a lot of money by selling a lot of weapons. They own the leadership in these organizations and dictate the policies and strategies. Even a majority of NRA members believe in stricter laws, such a closing the gun show loop hole and more extensive background checks. In Congress they have men and women with no moral compass and an insatiable need for campaign money. This malignant relationship may be the best example of how money has corrupted our democracy. Money from the NRA has caused the will of the people to be ignored by a corrupted Congress and enabled the slaughter of nearly 100 children across the country in the first few months of 2018 alone.

There are people in the U.S. already identified and known to be sympathetic to ISIL – they go on ISIL websites and they contribute money to ISIL – are able to buy assault weapons and unlimited ammunition event though they are on the “No Fly” list? After the last mass murder in Las Vegas the only law on gun purchases were not to ban bump stocks – it was a law that enable mentally ill people to purchase assault weapons?

There is a movement to make gun laws a single issue vote and it is long overdue. If the safety of children in schools, or the safety of your own family is not the most important issue to you than what is? This should be the first question to anyone running for office: “Do you accept any money from the NRA?” If they answer “yes” then let them know they will not have your vote. Period. That’s the short term solution, but disempowering the NRA does not address the real power behind the curtains: the arms manufacturers.


The Faces of Evil

March 6, 2018

One of the more sickening aspects of the mass murder in Parkland Florida is the flood of condolence Tweets from the members of Congress who were accomplices to the murders. I’m talking of course about those members of Congress who accept money from the NRA in exchange for supporting unlimited gun access. We are used to the familiar dodges and excuses. Paul Ryan literally uses the same lines he uses after all the previous school massacres. For example, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Ryan said that it was too early to consider legislative solutions and not all the facts are in. Ryan said the same thing after Orlando, Las Vegas, and now after Parkland. Sandy Hook massacre was in 2012, and Ryan is still promoting guns. Men like Ryan, McConnell, Trump are morally hollow and we know they will continue to enable murders in schools through inaction. We’ve come to expect that and sadly almost have accepted it.

What is a more recent and offensive ritual is the “thoughts and prayers” Tweets. In Michigan we had at least two men who mocked the victims with their Tweets while they pocket NRA money and enable school murders by blocking any sensible laws restricting guns, such as an assault weapon ban.

Congressman Jack Bergman (1st District) sent his “heartfelt” thoughts and prayers. No doubt he will also have more heartfelt stuff after the next school massacre. As a retired Marine he knows the power of the assault weapon used in Parkland. He knows the weapon because his Marines used the military version of the AR-15 and he knows it was designed for only one purpose: to inflict maximum damage on as many people as possible. Congressman Bergman takes money from the NRA and its unlikely he will do anything to prevent gun violence directed against children. His knowledge of the carnage that assault weapons can create makes his face a particularly exquisite example of the evil of inaction.

Bergman is joined in murderous complicity by Congressman Tim Walberg of Michigan’s 7th District (just south of Detroit Metro area). Congressman Bergman was “heartbroken” by the fruits of his NRA funded labors to enable school massacres.  Mr. Bergman’s bio indicates he is a religious man, which makes for another example of gun loving hypocrisy. Wasn’t it Jesus who said “Suffer little children and forbid them not to come unto me…”? Apparently, Congressman Walberg interprets that to mean something very different than how most think. The NRA certainly has an idea of how to send children to Jesus. I don’t intend to be flippant, but how can these so-called “Christians” not only fail to protect children, but promote policies that enable children to be slaughtered? Maybe Mr. Walberg can Tweet on that topic.

One of the more encouraging aspects of this situation has been the amazing comments coming from the young people who were in the school. Witnesses to the carnage have had the courage to speak out, some very eloquently and some very bluntly. One of my favorites was from a girl responding to Trump’s Tweet saying that they didn’t want his thoughts and prayers. They want action.

How about a campaign to vote against any politician who takes money from the NRA no matter what.?


Morally and Spiritually Sick

March 5, 2018

At least 17 dead children in another school shooting as a teenager armed with an assault rifle systematically slaughtered them. There is a school shooting every 60 hours in this Country. There is no other Country where this happens. When the weakest and most vulnerable of a society are slaughtered with the passive permission of adults, it is a sign of moral and spiritual bankruptcy. We live in a sick society.

Already, we are seeing the same sick post slaughter ritual: 24/7 news coverage with endless loops of the same video shots from helicopters, Congressmen saying it’s “too early” to talk about preventing the next slaughter… And we know how it will end – the same Congress bought out by the NRA will do nothing. After the last mass murder, Congress actually passed a Bill to permit people with mental illnesses to purchase any weapon! That’s sick. School districts now have regular drills for students and teachers to respond to an active shooter in their school. Think about that. The only drill most of us had in schools were fire drills. Our children must drill for mass murder. That’s sick. How does that affect their psychological development?

This school actually drilled for mass murder situations and by all accounts, the faculty and students responded just as trained. Still, at least 17 are dead and more critically wounded. You cannot prevent mass casualties when a murderer is using an assault weapon. Period.

I started out by saying that our children are being slaughtered in schools with the passive permission of adults. The fact that over 90% of Americans want some form of gun controls, especially on assault weapons is not a sign of sanity – quite the opposite. Evil is defined by actions AND by inaction. If you have never written or called your Congressman to demand reasonable gun control laws, then you have been a partner of that evil. If you have not made your vote for them contingent on passing gun control laws, then you are part of the evil. Let me argue another defining characteristic of evil: an NRA membership card.

If some organization, or country had given ISIL millions to enable them to acquire the weapons to slaughter American children, it would rain Hellfire Missiles. Yet the NRA has literally bought and bullied Congress for decades to allow virtually unrestricted access to weapons of mass murder. To cure this social sickness requires more than political activism. It requires PERSONAL activism. You need to shame every friend and family member belonging to the NRA. They can’t hide behind cultural values BS any longer – what culture allows children to be slaughtered?  They can’t hide behind phony Constitutional BS – the Courts have consistently ruled that gun control laws can be Constitutional. They can’t hide behind arguments about criminals, mentally ill, or blaming the victims. There will always be criminals and mentally ill (although mentally ill people, as a whole, are far less violent than the rest of society). There are mentally ill and criminals in every country, but only our society has become so sick as to allow mass murders of children. The only thing we can control is their access to weapons of mass murder. It seems a small consolation, but if the shooter had only a handgun then more children would have survived. Denying a murderer an assault weapon is not an infringement on your Constitutional Rights. If anyone is a member of the NRA, they are advocates of allowing children to be slaughtered in schools, and you should let them know it and make them own it.  NRA members are part of the problem of enabling/promoting evil. So are you if you do nothing in response to this evil.


Liberal Voices

February 15, 2018

Ted Sorensen was an unapologetic voice of Liberalism in the Kennedy White House (and quite a contrast to the wife beating Sorensen who writes for Trump). As President Kennedy’s Chief Speech Writer, he helped the President to articulate the liberal vision of civil rights and reigning in the arm’s race during a time when those ideas ran against popular sentiment. I’ve written a lot over the years on the accomplishments of American Liberalism (as well as the failures). Liberal economic policy saved the Country from the Great Depression of the 30s and the Great Recession of 2008. It built the infrastructure that made America the largest economic engine in the world. American Liberals mobilized Americans to fight and win WWII, even as Conservatives argued for isolationism. Liberal economic policies created the American middle class. The GI Bill, Student Loan Programs, and investments in hard science research created a University system that made us the incubator of most Nobel Laureates in Science and Medicine during the past 60 years. We could go on, but there is one aspect of Liberalism that I feel is missing in our contemporary politics. Courage.

It took courage to raise taxes for essential infrastructure and jobs stimulation, even when desperately needed. It took courage to fight for civil rights in the 60s. Where is that courage now with the defining rights issue of the time – Immigration? This business with DACA seems so symptomatic of the anemic Liberalism of the last two decades. They lacked the courage to shut down government over CHIPS and DACA. The relatively few Liberal voices heard during the debate were from Dreamers and not Democrats. When did Liberals lose their backbone?

Some blame the decline of Liberalism to the concessions of LBJ to the military – Viet Nam in exchange for The Great Society. Some blame the political ineptitude of Jimmy Carter (a wonderful man who was too decent a human being to be a President). Liberals have been defensive and reactive since Reagan. He may, or may not have won the Cold War, but Reagan certainly did it with massive deficits and the consequent economic problems, breaking the back of Organized Labor, and setting into motion the continuous decline of the American Middle Class since. It also spawned the libelous attack on Liberalism by hate radio as being ineffective and bleeding hearts. Clinton certainly didn’t help with his strategy of “triangulation”, and Obama’s cerebral style lacked the willingness to defend Liberalism and his own accomplishments (he did save the Country from the Conservative’s Great Recession).

Unfortunately for us all, Citizen’s United has all but buried the possibility of the Liberal impulse of altruism as a political policy. The only way to get elected now is to solicit money from big donors and Hedge Fund guys are generally not interested in the common good. Only courageous Liberal voices will win over a society that is now trained to be hostile, if not skeptical of social and economic policy that promotes the common good over special interests. And there should be no doubt that only Liberal Policy can reverse income inequality, the brain drain of American science to Europe and freedom from the emerging Quasi-State religion.