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Today’s show focuses on dissecting the content and meaning of Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) speech earlier this week. Not really a normal SOTU speech, but a classic ‘agitation’ speech designed to roil and mobilize his political base for the upcoming election.  Little was said about where the country may be headed economically or socially in his final year of his first term—as is typical in past SOTU speeches. A lot said about the ‘enemy’ (immigrants) and its ‘coddlers’ (Democrats, California) and Trump’s vision to intensify his appeal to hate and fear in the run up to the November election. Rasmus outlines the 6 features of an agitational speech, and how Trump’s SOTU fills the definition. What Trump did not say about trade, taxes, family leave, social security, space force costs, foreign policy failures or plans. How Latinos are the criminal-enemy. His plans to attack Sanctuary Cities (and California), and expand gun rights, school prayer, private school education, drug prices, etc.  Trump’s new racism appeal: split the minority vote by appealing to blacks and attacking other minorities. Trump lies about the US economy (GDP, jobs, wages, incomes), healthcare insurance, family leave, pre-existing conditions, ISIS defeat, challengers to US economic empire, and phony Israel-Palestine peace plan. The SOTU as his launch to attack Democrats in 2020.

Dr. Rasmus provides his reflections on the Senate trial of Trump and the further crisis and decline of Democracy in America that it represents. How James Madison’s worst fears and warnings are being played out before our eyes historically in the (T)rump trial underway.  How the outcome now will embolden Trump to engage in similar behavior and move further to ‘govern’ by bypassing Congress. The trial as the expansion of the Imperial presidency in domestic as well as foreign policy. How current events are very much like 1856 America. The potential impacts of the Coronavirus on the China, Asia and global economies are reviewed. The imminent big impact on stock and other financial markets. How consumer spending in the US has begun to slow appreciably since November already, and business investment and manufacturing continues to contract. The virus may be the factor yet to push the US economy into recession.  Rasmus discusses the weaknesses of Trump’s China trade deal and the just signed NAFTA 2.0.  Why Brexit plus virus now entering Europe will mean a ‘double’ hit to the Europe economy on both sides of the channel.

As a follow up to recent shows focusing on the 10 most important economic, technology and political events in the US for 2019, today’s show delves deeper and looks at the 10 most important of the past decade, since the great recession and financial crash of 2007-09. Topics covered include: Obama’s failed economic recovery program of 2009, Obama’s $6 trillion in extended Bush tax cuts for the rich and business, the $1T austerity program of 2011 cutting social programs, the Federal Reserve Bank’s $5T bailout of the banks and investors via QE and zero interest rates for banks for 7 years, the US debt acceleration for government, households and business, the financial asset market boom and bubbles (stocks, bonds, derivatives, etc.) still underway, $10 trillion in corporate stock buybacks and dividend payouts, the deregulation of the ACA and Dodd-Frank healthcare and bank Acts of 2010, and the rise of digital currencies like Bitcoin, Libra (proposed), and others.  On the political side of the past decade, most important events include the Supreme Court passage of Citizens United, Obama’s failure to bail out Main St. in 2010 and Democrat party debacle in the 2010 midterm elections, the shift in the ‘Red’ states and consequent spread of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and red state dominance of the electoral college, Trump’s transformation of the Republican party into a sycophant base and personal following, the cultural decline of America witnessed in rising opioid addiction, gun killings, and suicides, the Muller Report and Democrats outmaneuvered by Trump, and the Impeachment of Trump in 2019.  

 Dr. Rasmus dissects the just announced signing of the US-China Phase 1 trade deal. Trump claims of achievements are debunked and revealed as mostly smoke and mirrors. Trade terms claimed by Trump, and analyzed by Rasmus, include: majority ownership by US companies in China, ending China’s manipulation of its currency, gains in IP and Tech transfer limits on China, the claim of $100B more a year purchases of US farm goods by China, and another $100B in purchases of manufacturing and services by China. What’s fact and  what’s Trump fiction in these areas? Rasmus agrees with the Council on Foreign Relations conclusion that China has only restored agriculture purchases and provide “nice words on IP” and that Trump got what he could have had two years ago! Rasmus explains what’s coming (and not coming) next in Phase 2; why Trump’s trade war(s) are over; why the US-China tech war will now escalate; and what’s behind Trump still keeping $370B in tariffs. The costs of the China-US trade war are described, including the facts about the trade deficit effects, costs to US businesses, impact continuing on the US farm sector, the average hit to consumers of $806 from rising prices, impacts on US business investment contraction, and global investment and GDP, and absurd claims by Trump’s administration (Kudlow and Mnuchin) of the impact on US GDP growth. (Next week show: ‘The 10 Most Important Economic and Political Events of the past decade, 2010-19)

Dr. Rasmus provides an analysis of the events of the past week involving Trump’s ordered assassination of Iran’s general, Soleimani, and how it represents the way the USA typically precipitates military confrontation that often lead to war. (Read Rasmus’s article, Trump’s Déjà vu Wartime Playbook and 2 other articles posted on the blog, jackrasmus.com). How the US wartime playbook involves a definable pattern of provocations followed by issuing an unacceptable demand that often leads to military action—similar case examples from Vietnam to the 1st Gulf War to Afghanistan to the Iraq war and now being repeated in the Trump provocation (assassination) and eventual unacceptable demand aimed at Iran. In the second half of the show Dr. Rasmus follows up his last week discussion of the 10 most important US Economic events of 2019 with a discussion of the 10 most notable US political developments of 2019: the Trump v. Iran provocation set in motion in December 2019, Trump’s Impeachment; the Mueller Report; the growing US Constitutional crisis; Trump’s packing of federal courts; Neocons taking over US foreign policy; US ‘Red’ states continued anti-democracy drift expanding voter suppression and gerrymandering; US social-cultural decline (opioids deaths, suicides, gun deaths, record homeless, millions without health access, and household debt crisis); Trump’s ‘Space Force’; and the continued internal realignment of the Republican (now Trumpublican) and Democratic Parties. 

 Dr. Rasmus reviews the 10 most important economic events of 2019 in both the US and global economies. Topics include the Fed’s prior policy reversal and 2019 interest rate cuts, the Repo market crisis, Trump’s trade wars (phony and real including USMCA and China deals), the US 5 mo. manufacturing recession now worsening, the 9 mo. long contraction in US real investment, the stock market and bond boom of 2019 (and what’s driving it), Trump’s official budget deficit of >$1 trillion, Trump’s further tax cutting. US productivity slowdown, and US debt—public and private—now exceeding $60 trillion, with the consequences with the next recession. Globally, the top 10 events include: global trade stagnation, global manufacturing recession, central banks’ shift again to QE, global stock market boom, $15 trillion in negative interest rates, >$10 trillion in global non-performing bank loans, emergence of alternatives to the US dominated SWIFT international payments system, Latin American economies’ currency crises, growing financial instability in India, and China’s economy with slowing GDP, manufacturing, and rising debt and emerging defaults. (Next week: the Top 10 political developments of 2019 in the US and globally).

Dr. Rasmus summarizes the 12 key economic events of 2019: 1) Fed’s interest rate cuts and policy reversal, 2) Global Economy Trade stagnation, 3) Trump’s Trade Wars: China, USMCA & Phony All Other, 4) $Trillion Dollar US deficit and $23T US federal debt + >$1T deficits annually for another decade, 5) the Global Manufacturing Recession & economic slowdowns from Germany to Japan to Latin America to China-India, 6) the Repos market instability in US, 7) Challenges to the US ‘SWIFT” international money payments system by Instex, Libra, etc., 8) US & global stock markets’ record boom (US up 30%, others 20%).  In Tech impacts on the US and global capitalist economy now emerging: 9) ‘Adversarial-Generative Neural Networks (AI)’ creation of fake voice + fake facial reproduction, 10) the Tech War between US and China, 11) Amazon’s ‘next day’ delivery effects on ground-air distribution companies, 12) development of hypersonic missiles/tactical nukes/US Space Force and the advent of less than one minute notice before world war III. ( In the last third of the show Dr. Rasmus welcomes guest Alan Benjamin to provide latest developments in the French strikes and the possible General Strike after January 2, 2020.  (Next week: Dr. Rasmus summarizes 12 most important political events of 2019 + further interview of Benjamin on France’s looming General Strike).

For the past week a general strike has been happening in France, the focus of which is to protest and prevent President Macron from introducing an ‘American Model’ of retirement system that would raise retirement age and reduce pension retirement benefits. What’s the ‘American Model’? Dr. Rasmus provides a historical overview of that model, created in the late 1940s based on the so-called ‘triple stool’ of retirement: social security, defined benefit pension plans (DBPs), and personal savings. Each was supposed to provide one-third of income of a reasonable retirement. Rasmus explains the evolution of social security, DBPs, and savings since Reagan and how all three have been steadily undermined, reduced, or destroyed since the 1980s—replaced by 401ks, cash balance plans, raised retirement years, and privatization of pensions. Today more than half of workers have no savings whatsoever, 401ks provide less than $50k on average for the rest of lifetimes, and social security averages less than $1,200 a month. Retirees are forced to work until they drop now, the fastest growing segment of the US labor force as they return to part time employment. Tens of millions are now facing a retirement crisis of unimaginable dimensions. (Next week: a guest, Alan Benjamin, an eyewitness to the strike in progress,  will describe what’s actually going on in the French strike to prevent the ‘Americanization’ of the retirement system in France).

Dr. Rasmus provides an update on the Brexit UK Parliamentary election vote yesterday and on Trump’s announcement to delay and reduce tariffs on China imports as part of the US-China phase 1 mini trade agreement. Why Boris Johnson and the Conservatives won an overwhelming victory and why Labour was trounced. What was the role of short term electoral strategies and tactics; and what was the longer run role of the rising tide of manipulated nationalist appeals and decline of Social Democracy. Plus, why Trump caved in to China’s demands and agreed to reduce tariffs in order to get an agreement before the December 15 deadline. Dr. Rasmus for the remaining 45 minutes of the show then welcomes Michael Albert, a well known progressive writer and advocate of socialism and participatory democracy in the workplace, to begin a discussion on what is this thing called Socialism and why now a majority of millennials in the US say they would prefer Socialism to the current form of US capitalism. Both Rasmus and Albert agree the importance why a vision of an alternative to capitalism is important, but perhaps disagree somewhat on the composition and elements emphasized in that alternative vision. (For more of Michael Albert’s view, check out his articles on the blog, ZNET, at zcomm.org).

Dr. Rasmus traces the decline of Democracy under Trump, a process on-going since the advent of Neoliberalism. Topics include: the transformation of the political parties, actions by the Supreme Court on behalf of money in politics, spread of gerrymandering and voter suppression, expansion of the lobbyist state, revolving doors, attacks on civil liberties and restrictions on bill of rights guarantees, etc. How decline of Democracy has accelerated since 2008 crisis and now under Trump. Examples of Trump attempts to usurp constitutional role of Congress and his trend to favor himself as above the law (e. g. tyranny). The linkages between Neoliberalism in crisis and decline of Democracy. In the second half of the show an interview and discussion is held with union and community leaders holding a conference in Cleveland on December 7 to plan the creation of a third political party as the solution to restore Democracy.

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