The Good and Bad of Donald Trump

trump good

I think that every liberal friend and relative who knows I am a Republican has asked me what I think of Donald Trump.  The general implication is that any shred of respect they ever had for my opinions will be gone if I say I like him.  Also, several of my conservative Republican friends absolutely abhor Trump and say they would never vote for him, no matter what.  On the other side, a third group of friends think he is the best hope we have to save the country and they fervently support him.

Personally, I am torn by Donald Trump.  To me, he is like the girl in the nursery rhyme with the curl in the middle of her forehead.  When he is good he is very very good and when he is bad he is horrid.  I’d like to discuss the good and the bad of Donald Trump. I will focus on who he is as a person, not his views trump badon individual issues.  Everybody has different views on issues.  My question here is does he have what it takes to be a good president.  Before I do this, however, I would like to share two insights that I think you are essential to understanding Donald Trump.

Insight 1:  The Art of The Deal

The first insight comes from Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal”.  I read this originally almost thirty years ago when it was first released.  I will confess that I do not remember it clearly, but one thing I do remember is that he says that you need to begin with an outrageous, extreme starting position.  As you negotiate, you will negotiate away the outrageous components and you will end up with what you actually want.  If you start with a reasonable position, then as you negotiate you will need to make real concessions and you will end up with far less than you want.

Therefore Donald Trump starts his approach to immigration saying he will deport every illegal alien in America.  The press and other detractors have ridiculed this position saying that it is impossible and/or impractical.  I believe Donald Trump knows that.  This is his outrageous starting position.  If he gets elected president, he will negotiate down and end up with an immigration policy he never could have achieved if he started with a reasonable position.

Insight 2:  The Board Room

The second insight derives from watching Trump for many years on the Apprentice.  In Trump’s boardroom, if you are attacked, you must counter-attack.  If you don’t counter-attack, you get fired, even if you did a great job.  My personal philosophy is that if I am the project leader, everything that goes wrong is somewhat my fault.  My job is to anticipate and prevent other people’s mistake.  I would not have made it out of the first boardroom.  I don’t agree with his philosophy here.  On the other hand, he is a multi-billionaire and I am not.  Maybe he knows something that I don’t.  Whether you think this is good or bad, it is who he is.  You can’t understand Donald Trump without understanding this.

The Good 1:  The CEO

The best thing about Trump is that I think he would be a great Chief Executive of the United States.  The man knows how to run an organization.  Most importantly, I believe he would bring in very talented people to work under him.  Too often, key government positions are political payoffs.  They are rewarded as political prizes, often with little thought given to the ability.  Trump didn’t get to where he is by hiring his buddies.  I am not worried about Trump’s lack of Washington experience.  He can hire people with Washington experience.  Presidents often hire people who will tell them only what they want to hear. You don’t become a billionaire by surrounding yourself with flatterers; you surround yourself with highly competent people that tell you what you need to know.

The Good 2: The Blunt Spokesman

When my son was about five years old, he was randomly selected for a full body pat down at the airport.  While security was busy making sure that Jimmy was not carrying any weapons such as high-caliber squirt guns, multiple people who appeared to be from the Middle East walked through security without being hindered.  Sometimes political correctness is silly.  Sometimes it can get people killed.

I think it is important to have a president who is willing to tackle serious issues and will not be frightened off by political correctness or the fear of offending someone.  Trump is correct when he says he made immigration a major issue.  Before Trump’s initial comments, immigration was a secondary issue and primarily focused on how we should not offend Hispanic voters.  After a few words from Trump, it became the issue in the campaign.  He not only says what needs to be said, but when he says things, people listen.

The Good 3: The Attack Dog

In 2012, the Democrats painted Romney, a person who truly has dedicated his life to helping others, as one of the most horrible people the world has ever known.  Romney, on the other hand, would attack Obama’s policies but he refused to say anything negative about Obama as a person.   Romney lost.  The Republicans cannot make this mistake again.

Many pundits think that Hillary Clinton would mop the floor with Trump.  I have heard predictions she would win forty nine states.  I think that these people have not watched Trump at all.  When Trump attacks, people listen and his attacks work.  His low-energy comments destroyed Bush.  His attacks on Cruz’s citizenship, which I personally think are without merit, have caused Trump to surge in the polls and overtake Cruz in the Iowa polls.  Bill Clinton has been an abuser of women for women for over twenty years and Hillary has helped him do it, but until Trump brought it up, nobody thought anything about it.  After a few words from Trump, Hillary’s poll ratings from women plunged.

Trump is probably the best, most-effective attack dog I have ever seen.  He has the ability to find the attack that sticks and get people to talk about it.  I think he could devastate most opponents.  If his opponent is Hillary Clinton, with so many negatives that most people don’t even begin to know, some of which dwarf the email issues, I think that Trump could be the most effective candidate the Republicans could run against her.

The Bad 1:  The Meanie

I understand Trump’s need to counter-attack his enemies.  I am disturbed how he needlessly says mean and crude things about people who sometimes aren’t even his enemies. Comments on Carly Fiorina’s face or saying McCain wasn’t a hero because he got captured just make me cringe.

I think that Trump’s war on Megyn Kelly is the best illustration of his pettiness.   Megyn Kelly asked Trump a question in the first Fox  debate about his denigration of women. The moderators began the debate by asking each candidate a tough question that would certainly come up at some point if the candidate won the nomination.  In that light, I thought that her question was  totally fair and reasonable.  Since then, Trump has been throwing out a steady stream of attacks on Kelly including a line which I certainly interpreted as being about her menstruation.  It culminated in his boycott of the Iowa debate.    During this time, Kelly has shown nothing but class.  I can certainly understand a candidate attacking the media for being unfair.  It often is.  In this case, though, it is certainly vast overkill.  He comes across as petty, petulant, and just plain mean.  These are not characteristics you want in a president.

The Bad 2:  The Narcissist

I have always thought that President Obama is a narcissist.  In his campaign, he consistently stated how he could make everything right based upon the force of his personality.  The Iranians might hate America under Bush, but Obama would turn them around and make them see the light.  Obama also never admits he is wrong about anything.

I see the same narcissistic characteristics in Trump.  He can make Putin see reason.  He can work with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.  He very seldom says how he will do anything, asking us to trust that he will succeed because he is Trump.  While Trump may have more justification than Obama in thinking he can succeed just because of who he is, I still think is is a dangerous personality characteristic.

Trump also refuses to admit he ever makes a mistake.  For example Trump claimed he saw a newscast video of thousands of Muslims celebrating 9-11 in New Jersey.  Nobody has found such a video.  To me it is obvious and innocuous what happened.  He saw videos of thousands of Muslims in the middle east celebrating.  He saw another video of a few Muslims in New Jersey celebrating.  Over time, he mixed them up.  This is a fairly normal type of thing.  I certainly have done it.  Trump, however, will never admit he made a mistake about anything.  I can’t say for sure it is from Narcissism.  I don’t know if he knows he made a mistake but feels if he admits a mistake, it will destroy the Trump magic.  Maybe it would.  I just don’t want a president who can’t ever admit when he has been wrong.  If a policy is bad, it needs to be changed.  Would Trump change it?

The Bad 3: The Waffler

I have my doubts about Ted Cruz, which I will not go into right now, but I certainly admire his integrity and consistency.  In Iowa, Cruz has stated his opposition to Ethanol subsidies.  Iowa lives on Ethanol subsidies.   Every candidate who ever campaigns in Iowa supports these subsidies except Cruz.  To me this clearly shows that Cruz will stand by his principles no matter what.  I can’t say that about Donald Trump.  I don’t really know what his convictions are.

In the last debate, Trump swore he would not personally bring a lawsuit against Cruz on the citizenship issue, then a few days later he said he was considering it.  How can he consider it?  He just promised he wouldn’t.  Likewise, pledging to support the Republican candidate no matter what, he started hinting again that he might run as a third party candidate if he wasn’t “treated fairly”.  It bothers me that he reneges or at least considers reneging on promises that easily.

With this lack of integrity, I find it hard to evaluate Trump’s true views on many issues.  Earlier in life he espoused some fairly liberal positions and supported Democratic  candidates.  He says his views have evolved over time and he supported Democrats because as a businessman, it is what he had to do.  That might be true, but I don’t have enough confidence in his integrity to know that for sure.  While the Cruz citizenship suit threat might be minor in the grand scheme, it tells me that his promise can’t be trusted. I understand that sometimes promises must be broken due to extreme circumstances.  This, however, is not an extreme circumstance.  If he can break his word here, he can break it anywhere.


I am still torn on Donald Trump.   There seems to be a trend where I start to like him and then he says something that makes me cringe and it pushes me back away from him.  I would certainly vote for Trump over Clinton, Sanders, or any Democrat who I can think might run.  I just kind of sort of hope that the Republicans choose somebody else.  Maybe.  I think.  Ask me again tomorrow.







Basic Economics Part 7 – Why do so many people prefer socialism?

This is the final part in a series on basic economics inspired by the works of Thomas Sowell.

The prior segment in this series clearly shows that a capitalistic, free economy greatly outproduces a centralized, less free economy.  Why then do so many prefer socialism?

Many people actually believe that socialism produces better economic results than capitalism.  I believe I have shown that this is totally mistaken and that the evidence overwhelmingly shows that capitalism outproduces socialism.  I would welcome anybody who can refute my previous arguments here to respond.

Even those who agree that more capitalism leads to greater overall wealth still favor government control of economies to a varying degree, from heavy government regulation to socialism to communism.  These are reasons they give:

  • Capitalism can be corrupt.  People point to “crony capitalism” where government supports favored companies, frequently those who give the biggest campaign contributions.
  • Unfettered capitalism and out of control greed lead to major crises such as the great depression and the financial collapse of 2008.
  • Without regulation, capitalists will exploit the environment, their workers, and their customers to increase profits.
  • Capitalism is inherently immoral.  Everybody should work for the greater good instead of for themselves.
  • Profits represent waste.  Goods and services could be provided more cheaply if there weren’t profits.
  • Wealth isn’t everything.  People are happier under socialism.

I believe that some of these statement contain some truth while others I vehemently disagree with.  I will return to discuss each of these topics in future segments.

Except, I would like to discuss the last issue right now.  I think it is the most important argument, because I think it is the only argument where they are right.  Many people are happier under socialism.

According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, Chile is ranked one of the most free countries in the world, and is the most free in Latin America with a per capita income of $18,419 .  Honduras in contrast is one of the least free with a per capita income of $4,610.  The bottom 20% in Chile has an average income roughly twice the average income in Honduras.  Despite this, in happiness surveys, Honduras rates as a much happier country than Chile.

If you are poor and everyone else around you is poor, you  tend to be happier than someone who is much better off but who is surrounded by even wealthier neighbors.

In remarks before the World Affairs Coucil of Greater Dallas in 2003 Alan Greenspan talked about “the creative destruction” of capitalism where the standard of living rises as new technologies and methods replace old.   This leads to both progress and stress.  He stated, “I do not doubt that the vast majority of us would prefer to work in a less stressful, less competitive environment”.

Basically, under capitalism there are winners and losers.  This is an essential element of capitalism.  Socialism tries to have no losers.  It is much more stressful to have to compete first to survive and then to better yourself.  There is an attraction to having everything handed to you, even if you don’t get as much.

Picture a classroom with no grades.  Nobody passes or fails.  If you show up, you get promoted.  There are no tests.  In this environment there are some who would likely be at the top of the class who would hate this.  The majority would probably prefer this stress-free environment.  Overall happiness would be higher than in a classroom where students compete for grades.  Does anybody think though that the students would learn more in a class without grades?

Economics is a field where we make choices.  Do we prefer an economy that grows and progresses but produces stress?  Do we prefer an economy that keeps most people mired in poverty but produces less stress?

If you found these segments interesting, I recommend that you read “Basic Economics” by Thomas Sowell.   You will find some of what I said embodied in his work while some are my own extensions based upon the Sowell’s concepts.


Tolerance and Hypocrisy – The Brendan Eich Story

I had planned to make my next few posts about fundamental economics.  I also did not plan on addressing current issues until I had better laid the philosophical basis for my views more thoroughly.  Last night, however, I learned that Brendan Eich was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla, the company that develops the FireFox browser and  a leading pioneer of the Internet.  Brendan Eich was the inventor of JavaScript.  Prior to Javascript, web sites count only be displayed and linked.  Almost all other user interaction with the website involves the programming language JavaScript.  Eich therefore is one of the most important people in the development of the Internet.

Eich was forced out because of the uproar about his views on gay marriage.  Eich did not discriminate against gays at Mozilla.  Eich was not an activist speaking out against gays.  Eich’s sin was that in 2008 he made a private $1000 donation in support of California Proposition 8 against gay marriage.  In 2008, this was also the stated position of then senator Barack Obama.

I posted previously that I do not think anything is immoral unless there is a victim.  Therefore, I see nothing immoral in homosexuality and I am personally a supporter of gay rights and gay marriage.  I do understand though that good people may have opposing views and that these views are often driven not by hatred but by sincere religious conviction and/or the belief that society is better off when marriage is defined as a union of a man and a woman.

Last night I participated in a discussion of a proposed law in Missouri supporting gay rights and marriage.   Everybody present supported this new law.   Key principles supporting this law were tolerance and inclusion.  In fact, a primary message of the gay rights agenda is the importance of tolerance.

I therefore find it incredibly hypocritical that in the supposed furtherance of tolerance, people can be so intolerant of people holding opposing views.  The dating website OKCupid went as far as blocking FireFox users from their site, saying that Eich was a hatemonger.

On Will Oremus wrote:

The notion that your political views shouldn’t affect your employment is a persuasive one. Where would we be as a democracy if Republicans were barred from jobs at Democrat-led companies, or vice versa?  But this is different. Opposing gay marriage in America today is not akin to opposing tax hikes or even the war in Afghanistan. It’s more akin to opposing interracial marriage: It bespeaks a conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others. An organization like Mozilla might tolerate that in an underling, and it might even tolerate it in a CTO. But in a CEO—the ultimate decision-maker and public face of an organization—it sends an awful message. That’s doubly so for an organization devoted to openness and freedom on the Web—not to mention one with numerous gay employees.

Think for a second: If you knew your boss rated you undeserving of the same rights as everyone else based solely on your sexual orientation, would you feel good about going to work for him every day?


I am not gay so I tried to think of a comparable situation that would affect me and how I would react to it.  I am Jewish.  Let’s say that I learned that my CEO six years ago gave a $1000 contribution to a group that opposes Israel.  I know that often anti-Israel opinions are often a thinly disguised form of antisemitism.   I also know that there are good people who oppose the actions of Israel who aren’t antisemitic.  I would not call for the resignation of my CEO and I would not have problems working for him.

I stated in a previous post that the way to judge if your position is moral or hypocritical is whether it would be the same if the circumstances were reversed.  Would the people who condemned Eich  agree with someone who stated this, “The CEO gave to the ACLU.  I am a religious Christian and the ACLU opposes the rights of my children to pray silently while at school so he must be fired.”  I don’t think so.

The gay rights movements has made great progress by preaching tolerance.  It should not undermine itself by practicing intolerance.

Previous Relevant Posts on this blog:



The “Right” to Healthcare

President Obama stated that everybody has a right to healthcare and this moral statement was a primary justification for the establishment of Obama-care.  Here the right to healthcare should more precisely be stated as the right to free healthcare, the right to have healthcare whether or not one can pay for it. 

By definition, a right is only a right if everybody can exercise the right.  We say that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are basic rights.  These are rights that everybody can exercise.  My exercising my right to say what I want or to join any religion does not take away the rights of anybody else to do the same.  

In contrast, not everybody can have free healthcare.  I might be able to claim free healthcare and you might be able to claim free healthcare but unless we make slaves of the entire medical industry, at some point, somebody has to pay for the healthcare. Therefore by definition, free healthcare cannot be a right.

A right can only be a right if it does not impose an involuntary obligation on others.  If I have the right to have someone provide me with anything, whether it be healthcare or food or shelter or shoes, at some point it confers upon somebody else the obligation to provide it.  When that person is forced to provide the service for others, the obligated person is unable to exercise the right for themselves.

It may or may not be a good policy for the federal government to provide free healthcare to those who can’t afford it, but we cannot say that anybody has the right to free healthcare.

The Success Equation

If we wish to have success, I think it is helpful to define the components of success, what I call the success equation.  As far as I know, this specific equation is my concept, but the ideas behind it do not require any particular genius so I would not be surprised at all if it has been proposed many times before.

Success = Talent x Choices x Opportunities

Here I define talent as your inborn abilities.  Choices are the sum of all of your decision.  Opportunities are what is available to you in the outside world.

By definition, talent is maximized at birth and is generally a constant.  A disability may decrease it, such as an artist going blind.  Refining and improving talent is a choice one makes.  Also by definition, a person can not create his or her own opportunities.  He or she can only recognize opportunities and then make the choice to take or not take advantage of the opportunity.

Since talent is fixed, any political policies that increase success has to do one of two things:  increase the probability that people will make good choices or increase opportunities.  Conversely, any policy that decreases the probability of good choices or opportunities will be harmful.

To some extent, all three are essential.  For example, in a medieval feudal society a peasant was destined to be a peasant, regardless of his or her talent or choices.  At this point, I would like to postulate that 21st century America is not a medieval society.  There is a multitude of opportunities, even for people who live under the worst conditions.  If there were no opportunities, as the peasant faced in medieval Europe, then nobody would be successful. However, some people are successful, so ergo there are opportunities.  I would also postulate that for a child growing up in a middle class family with a supportive, stable two-parent family, the opportunities are much easier to find and the child is more likely to make good choices.  A child growing up in a slum in an unstable single-parent household will most likely find fewer opportunities, they will be farther from home, and the child will be less likely to make good choices to take advantage of them.

The inherent unfairness of life, however, does not change the equation.  Regardless of the background, increasing the opportunities and increasing the probability of good choices will lead to more success.

In Malcom Gladwell’s book “Outliers” Gladwell demonstrates fairly convincingly that the most successful people such as the Bill Gates’s and Steve Jobs’s of the world would not be successful if they did not have amazing opportunities.  If they were born a few years earlier or later or if they did not have computer access unavailable to most kids their age, they most likely would not have had the same level of achievement.  This premise is entirely consistent with the success equation.  To achieve maximum success, all three elements of the equation,  talent, choices, and opportunities, must all be at a maximal level.   For most of us, however, we do not need to achieve billionaire status to be successful.   We just need to use whatever talent we have with reasonable choices to take advantage of reasonable opportunities and we can achieve enough success to have a fulfilling middle class lifestyle.

So how can a third party, such as the government, increase people’s probability of success?   It can promote policies that provide opportunities and provide incentives for people to make good choices.   The best way to provide opportunities for the most people is to promote a healthy growing economy.   I will discuss this at a later time.  For now, I would like to propose the idea that promoting good choices is much more important.  Even when there are limited opportunities, if a person makes very good choices he or she will find and take advantage of these opportunities.  On the other hand, even if there are fantastic opportunities, a person who makes poor choices will never take advantage of them.  Therefore, the key to promoting success is by helping people make good choices.  How do we do that?  That will be the subject of my next blog.

The First Assumption: Success is Good.

In my last post I talked about the importance of assumptions.  My first assumption is that success is good.  We want to be successful in our lives and we favor policies that promote success, for ourselves, for those we care most about, and for the population as a whole.  The term “success”, however is a very vague term.  Success can be valued in terms of money, fame, professional achievement, impact on the lives of others, personal happiness,  etc.  

Moreover, the perception of success is highly relative, depending on our own expectations and the expectations of others.  For example, most people would say that a baseball player who makes the major leagues and plays at that level for many years is highly successful.  However, if this player was touted as the next Willie Mays and he spends his career as a bench player batting .250, many would consider him a disappointment.

When I speak of success in these blogs in terms of political policies, I am primarily referring to economic success.  Political decisions in economics help determine the overall wealth of the nation and how this wealth is distributed.  Economic success in terms of income and/or net worth is the only practical way to measure the results of economic policies.  While some may say that even though a policy is making people poorer, it is also making them happier, I think most people would be happier with a bit more money.

When I speak of success in terms of personal life, I mostly think of self actualization.  Self actualization is best described by the marine corps slogan “Be all that you can be!”.  This is extremely subjective, but here we are talking about personal decisions.  When we talk about improving the lives of others, we need to be more objective so we can measure results.  When we talk about our own life, we can use our own definitions.

In my personal opinion, success derives from setting and achieving goals.  I will talk about this more next time.


Authors Who Have Greatly Influenced Me

As I am still at the stage of this blog where absolutely nobody is reading it, I am laying a foundation before I actually say anything interesting (assuming I ever say anything interesting).

There are three authors who have profoundly influenced my thinking.  In future blogs I may not adequately give them credit.  Sometimes I am not sure where their thoughts stop and my thoughts begin.

The first author is Dale Carnegie.  Dale Carnegie wrote the most insightful book ever on human relations, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.  There is not a  day where my interactions with others are not affected by what I read in this book, although sometimes I will confess they are not affected enough.  Right after college when I moved to St. Louis I was pleased to drive by a Dale Carnegie Institute.  I took the base course and then I was a graduate assistant for another instance.  I had been incredibly shy.  This course brought me out of my shell and gave me the confidence to talk to people.  I will forever be grateful to Dale Carnegie.

The second author is Thomas Sowell.  Dr. Sowell is an economist and a columnist.  His book “Basic Economics” is a masterpiece in defining economics in plain text without supply and demand charts, etc., so the lay person can understand the key principles.  He then looks at different issues using these basic principles of economics to show the hidden as well as the obvious consequences of different policies.  He then uses these principles as the basis for analyzing issues in his other books.  In short, he trains you on how to think about issues.

The third author is Ayn Rand.  Rand, in both in her non-fiction books on philosophy and her fiction such as “Atlas Shrugged”, starts from the very beginning and logically builds the philosophy she calls Objectivism.  I can’t count the number of times I have heard her name trashed by people saying how horrible she is, but I have yet to ever see anybody rebut her logic.  I would actually welcome an attack on her logic, and I have searched for one, but have yet to find it.  I have always been pro-capitalist but I thought that while socialism just didn’t work in real life, it was morally superior.  Rand taught me that capitalism is morally superior as well as pragmatically superior.

Additionally, I’d like to give an honorable mention to Malcolm Gladwell.  At the suggestion of my cousin Bob Kaiser, I have just started reading his books.  Gladwell gets you to think about issues as you have never thought of them before.

My Politics

I would consider myself a libertarian Republican.  My father used to say that Democrats want the government in the boardroom and out of the bedroom and Republicans want the government out of the boardroom and in the bedroom.  I tend to want the government out of both.

That does not mean I am an anarchist.  Government does have a very important role to play.  More on this later.