Thank You for Being Late (part 2)

November 15, 2018

Previous | Next

Today I’ll discuss two chapters of Thomas Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late that I found especially insightful: Ch. 8 on the implications of new technologies for employment, and Ch. 9 on the problem of global order.

The future of work

Friedman begins his discussion of work with a bold pronouncement: “Let’s get one thing straight: The robots are not destined to take all the jobs. That happens only if we let them–if we don’t accelerate innovation in the labor/education/start-up realms, if we don’t reimagine the whole conveyer belt from primary education to work and lifelong learning.”

I was pleased to find that Friedman’s position is similar to the one I laid out in my critique of Martin Ford’s The Rise of the Robots Ford predicted a future of massive unemployment, with millions of displaced workers relying on government for a minimal income. We could get a taste of that during a transitional period, but I don’t think that’s a very good description of where we are ultimately headed.

Friedman doesn’t deny that smart machines can now perform many tasks currently or formerly performed by humans. But he makes a sharp distinction between automating tasks and automating whole jobs so as to eliminate the human contribution altogether. The upside of automation is increased productivity. Workers aided by new technologies can produce more per hour, reducing the unit cost of what they produce. That can create a larger market for the product, increasing the demand for labor in a given occupation. A car was an expensive luxury item before the assembly line cut costs to create a mass market and a booming industry. Friedman reports that “employment grows significantly faster in occupations that use computers more,” as in banking and paralegal work.

To give an example from my own experience, financial planning software has automated many of the most tedious tasks involved in preparing a retirement plan, such as mathematically projecting future income from savings rates and asset allocation choices. But that hasn’t resulted in a reduced need for financial planners. On the contrary, it has made the services of a planner affordable for more people. Planners can spend less time doing calculations but more time relating to their clients.

Friedman says, “Jobs are not going away, but the needed skills for good jobs are going up.” What are disappearing are well-paid jobs with only modest skill requirements, like twentieth-century manufacturing jobs.

Retooling education

In general, today’s good jobs require more education; yet it does not follow that a college education necessarily qualifies a person for a good job. That’s not because a liberal education is a waste of time, but because it is only a foundation that must be built upon with lifelong job-relevant learning.

Friedman quotes MIT economist David Autor, who stresses the need for more than one kind of learning: “If it’s just technical skill, there’s a reasonable chance it can be automated, and if it’s just being empathetic or flexible, there’s an infinite supply of people, so a job won’t be well paid. It’s the interaction of both that is virtuous.”

Friedman is a strong believer in a broad, basic education that includes “strong fundamentals in writing, reading, coding, and math; creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration; grit, self-motivation, and lifelong learning habits; and entrepreneurship and improvisation….” Even a robotics enthusiast like Martin Ford acknowledges that humans surpass robots in general intelligence, as opposed to specialized task capabilities.

However, recipients of this basic education will also have to cope with rapidly changing workplace requirements. Technology will play a central role here, both in creating the automated systems with which workers interact, and in enhancing learning processes themselves. Friedman wants to “turn AI into IA,” by which he means turning artificial intelligence into intelligent assistance to support lifelong learning. “Intelligent assistance involves leveraging artificial intelligence to enable the government, individual companies, and the nonprofit social sector to develop more sophisticated online and mobile platforms that can empower every worker to engage in lifelong learning on their own time, and to have their learning recognized and rewarded with advancement.” When the time comes to pick up a new skill, you can probably find an app to help you learn it.

Friedman describes AT&T as one company that is demanding more lifelong learning of its employees, but supporting it with measures like tuition reimbursements, online courses developed in collaboration with online providers, and promotions for those who acquire new skills. This represents a new social contract between employer and employee–“You can be a lifelong employee if you are ready to be a lifelong learner.”

Every major economic shift has involved the rise of a new asset class, such as land in the agrarian economy and physical capital in the industrial economy. The rising asset class today is human capital, and that is where society’s investments must be increasingly concentrated.

The threat of global disorder

In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, The U.S. remained the only superpower and the most obvious model for other countries to emulate. Many thinkers expressed the hope that the world could move faster in the direction of American-style democracy and capitalism. But then the interventions in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan failed to produce stable democracies, the Great Recession called into question capitalist progress, and Americans lowered their expectations for world leadership.

What Friedman calls the post-post-Cold War world is characterized by shrinking American power, especially in the Middle East, and new challenges arising from the accelerations in technological change, globalization and environmental degradation.  In large areas of the less developed world, the danger is that states will fail and societies will sink into disorder, dragging the global political order and economy down. Environmental disasters like deforestation in Central America or drought and desertification in sub-Sahara Africa are uprooting people from their traditional relationship to the land. And while some poorer countries are advancing by providing cheap labor to the global economy, the future may belong to those who can provide smarter labor, and that requires greater investments in human capital.

Friedman says that during the Cold War, superpower competition gave America a reason to assist developing countries, in order to keep them in our camp. The mid-twentieth century economic boom also gave us the means to do so. While many Americans are now inclined to turn their back on the rest of the world, Friedman makes a case for renewed global involvement: “While we cannot repair the wide World of Disorder on our own, we also cannot just ignore it. It metastasizes in an interdependent world. If we don’t visit the World of Disorder in the age of accelerations, it will visit us.” The dislocated people in failed states can become refugees or terrorists. The same technologies that can empower people to learn and produce more can empower them to build improvised explosive devices triggered by cell phones, or perhaps a weapon of mass destruction.

In Friedman’s view, the best thing the U.S. could do to “help stabilize the World of Disorder and widen the islands of decency” would be to help fund schools and universities. He would also like to see us help the poorest people make a living in their own villages by assisting them with their environmental problems. He points out that it costs only 100-300 dollars to restore a hectare of degraded land.

In a world of enhanced interdependence, the haves would do well to invest in the development of the have-nots, domestically and globally. If we do not rise together, we will very likely fall together.

To be continued

Thank You for Being Late

November 13, 2018

Previous | Next

Thomas L. Friedman. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

This book is New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s latest reflection on social change–technological, global and environmental. The title refers to his experience of having someone show up late for an appointment, and then realizing that the extra few minutes provide a time for reflection in an otherwise busy day.

Friedman’s basic premise is that “the three largest forces on the planet–technology, globalization, and climate change–are all accelerating at once. As a result, so many aspects of our societies, workplaces, and geopolitics are being reshaped and need to be reimagined….In such a time, opting to pause and reflect, rather than panic and withdraw, is a necessity.”

Technological acceleration

In chapters 2 through 4, Friedman pulls together a wealth of examples to provide a fine overview of developments in digital technology. I can’t do justice to all the detail, but here are a few highlights.

Remarkable breakthroughs have affected all five of the basic components of computing:

(1) the integrated circuits that do the computing; (2) the memory units that store and retrieve information; (3) the networking systems that enable communications within and across computers; (4) the software applications that enable different computers to perform myriad tasks individually and collectively; and (5) the sensors—cameras and other miniature devices that can detect movement, language, light, heat, moisture, and sound and transform any of them into digitized data that can be mined for insights.

The result is “one of the greatest leaps forward in history.”

All this computing power is not just on a desktop or a laptop, but in the “cloud”, or what Friedman calls the computing “supernova”. The ability to tap into this universal information-processing capacity is deeply empowering to individuals, groups and organizations. The challenge is to use that power constructively and not destructively, for collective liberation and not just for domination or other selfish purposes. One downside is that technological innovation is occurring faster than “the average rate at which most people can absorb all these changes.” For example, we are not yet accustomed to the kind of lifelong learning that the information age will require.

Friedman also asks why it’s taking so long for technological change to raise economic productivity. In The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Robert Gordon argued that the extraordinary productivity gains of the “special century” from 1870 to 1970 are unlikely to be repeated. Friedman is more optimistic, pointing out that productivity gains from electrification took several decades to materialize. New factories and business processes had to be designed, and a new generation of managers and workers had to emerge. Many technological breakthroughs are far too new–a number of them emerged in 2007–to assess their effects on social institutions. I find it exciting to imagine a new era of rising productivity and wage gains, which might go a long way to alleviate class, race and gender tensions.

Global acceleration

Electronic connectivity is one of the main factors accelerating human interactions across vast distances. The total value of global flows of goods, services, and finance increased from 24 percent to 39 percent of world GDP between 1990 and 2014.

William H. McNeill, the historian noted for The Rise of the West, argues that “the principal factor promoting historically significant social change is contact with strangers possessing new and unfamiliar skills.” People may perceive such contacts as either a threat or an opportunity, but in the long run they provide societies with more solutions to human problems. Friedman believes that “those societies that are most open to flows of trade, information, finance, culture, or education, and those most willing to learn from them and contribute to them, are the ones most likely to thrive in the age of accelerations.” Although Friedman has little to say about the Trump presidency in this book, we know from his columns that he has little use for nationalism or isolationism.

Friedman does recognize that people whose lives are vulnerable to disruption by globalization will need help coping with this new world. “If a society doesn’t build floors under people, many will reach for a wall–no matter how self-defeating that would be.” Nevertheless, his chapter on globalization contains his most optimistic statement:

[I]f there is one overarching reason to be optimistic about the future, and to keep trying to get the best out of digital globalization and cushion the worst, it is surely the fact that this mobile-broadband-supernova is creating so many flows and thus enabling so many more people to lift themselves out of poverty and participate in solving the world’s biggest problems. We are tapping into many more brains, and bringing them into the global neural network to become “makers.” This is surely the most positive—but least discussed or appreciated—trend in the world today, when “globalization” is becoming a dirty word because it is entirely associated in the West with dislocations from trade.

Environmental/demographic acceleration

The human impact on the planet is increasing, as a result of both our dramatic population growth and our intensive use of the Earth’s resources.

Here Friedman is most concerned with global climate change, and he does not explain demographic trends as much as I would like. Human population growth accelerated especially in the twentieth century because of progress in reducing mortality rates, especially for infants and children. Just between 1900 and 2000, world population increased from 1.65 billion to 6 billion. Smaller families and declining birth rates have reduced the rate of growth somewhat, but the world population is now 7.7 billion and expected to add a couple billion more before leveling off.

A team of scientists specializing in Earth systems identified “nine key planetary boundaries we humans must make sure we do not breach.” Unfortunately, we have already breached four of them. We have put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than we should, if we want to hold average global temperature rise since the Industrial Revolution to 2 degrees Celsius. In some places, biodiversity is already below 90 percent of preindustrial levels. The portion of the earth’s original forests that remain has fallen below 75%. And we have been poisoning the earth by adding far too much phosphorus, nitrogen and other elements.

Other boundaries that we are currently staying within, but not by much, involve how much we are acidifying oceans, using freshwater, loading the atmosphere with microscopic particles, and introducing other novel entities into nature, like plastics and nuclear wastes.  One area where we are moving in the right direction is in restoring the thickness of the ozone layer that protects us against dangerous radiation.

Technological breakthroughs–especially in clean energy–are helping. But we also need to change our behavior more rapidly, in order to apply known solutions on a large enough scale.


Progress on Health Insurance Coverage Grinds to a Halt

November 4, 2018

Previous | Next

On the eve of the midterm elections, health insurance has emerged as a prime issue dividing Republicans and Democrats. While President Trump tries to mobilize the Republican base by appealing to fears of immigrants seeking asylum, Democrats present themselves as defenders of the Affordable Care Act, especially its protections for people with preexisting conditions. Alarmed by their vulnerability on this issue, Trump and some Republican candidates have tried to claim that they are more committed to providing such protections than Democrats are, a claim that has no basis in fact.

Back in 2017, I reported on the Republican bills to repeal and replace Obamacare, all of which failed to pass. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bills would have increased the number of uninsured Americans by millions. Some of those would be uninsured by choice, because of the elimination of the individual mandate to buy insurance. Others would be priced out of the market because of reductions in Medicaid funding or eligibility, reductions in federal subsidies to pay premiums, or higher premiums charged by insurance companies. Insurance companies were expected to raise some premiums to compensate for lost customers as the repeal of the individual mandate allowed healthy people to go without insurance. Another predictable effect was that some people would be insured, but with plans that wouldn’t cover as much. Under some of the bills, states could get waivers from Obamacare’s strict standards of coverage (requiring ten “essential benefits” and prohibiting annual or lifetime caps on payouts). In at least one bill, states could even opt out of requiring insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions.

In short, if Congressional Republicans had had their way, the country’s health insurance system would be looking more like it was before Obamacare, with affordable coverage for the healthy and wealthy, but millions of uninsured or underinsured among the rest.

Although these attempts to destroy Obamacare failed, Republicans have continued their efforts to weaken it. Their tax “reform” included elimination of the tax penalties for failing to carry health insurance, effective in 2019. The Trump administration is already declining to enforce them in 2018. Although the penalties were unpopular, they did encourage healthy people to carry insurance, and that enabled insurers to spread the cost of covering the sick among more customers, helping to keep premiums down.

With the penalty for carrying approved coverage eliminated, the Trump administration has announced that insurers can now offer plans that fail to comply with Affordable Care Act standards, although the ACA is still the law of the land. These cheaper plans will be available to healthy people, but probably not to people with preexisting conditions. The administration will also stop making the “cost-sharing reduction payments” that helped insurers who complied with ACA standards hold premiums down. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 2019 premiums for ACA-compliant plans will be 12% higher than they would have been without these changes. (Premiums might actually have fallen in 2019, since insurers raised premiums unnecessarily high for 2018 to cover themselves amidst the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the law.)

According to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, the percentage of Americans who lack health insurance fell from 13.3 percent in 2013 to 8.8% in 2016, as the ACA took effect. No further progress occurred in 2017, however. One reason was that the Trump administration put an end to most federal efforts to sign people up. Another is that the states that were most receptive to expanding Medicaid—that is, blue states—had already done so.

Republican control of the federal government constitutes a threat to affordable health insurance for two reasons. First, the Republican leadership says it will try again to repeal the ACA or have it declared unconstitutional. (The attorneys-general of twenty states are suing for that purpose right now.) Second, even without repeal, Republicans are making it easier for healthy people to go without coverage or obtain cheaper, minimal coverage. That makes it harder for insurers to offer full, high-quality coverage at a price people can afford, especially for people with preexisting conditions. Republican control at the state level is also an obstacle to coverage, especially since it usually means no expansion of eligibility for Medicaid.

Progress toward universal health insurance, which many democratic countries have already achieved, is stalling out in the U.S. under Republican rule. And what progress has occurred could easily be reversed if Republicans remain in power.

Who Put the Hate in Hate Crimes?

October 29, 2018

Previous | Next

Once again, the country is shocked and outraged by acts of mass violence. Cesar Sayoc allegedly sent pipe bombs to fourteen prominent Democrats. Robert Bowers allegedly killed eleven people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Both men were troubled loners holding extreme political views.

Once again, we will debate whether the responsibility for these actions lies with the individual perpetrators alone, or whether responsibility is more widely shared. If we do agree that it is shared, we may ask if both sides of the political divide are equally responsible for hatred and violence, or if Donald Trump and his supporters have played a special role in the decline of political civility.

Trump has referred to people like Sayoc and Bowers as “wackos” and “sick, demented people.” He is right to the extent that their actions are far from the general norm. We may reasonably ask what peculiar circumstances and life experiences helped create these mass murderers. Sayoc, for example, was abandoned by his father and apparently desperate for a strong authority figure, which probably contributed to his alleged attraction to Adolph Hitler. Such explanations are only starting points, however, since not every female-headed family produces a budding Nazi.

The sociological point I want to make is that deviations from the norm certainly matter, but the norms themselves matter too. When we normalize hatred by vilifying some out-group, we make it easier for violence-prone individuals to act on their impulses. We tell them who it’s okay to hate. Apparently, Cesar Sayoc had no strong political affiliation until Donald Trump came along. Then Trump became his authoritarian father-figure, and he let Trump define his enemies for him–Obama, the Clintons, immigrants, etc.

Robert Bower hates immigrants too, calling them “invaders that kill our people.” But he has been less supportive of Trump because he doesn’t think Trump goes far enough. Bower focuses his hatred especially on Jews, blaming “the filthy EVIL Jews” for bringing “the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!” One particular object of hostility that Trump, Sayoc and Bowers have in common is global investor and Democratic donor George Soros, who is Jewish. Right-wing conspiracy theorists have been accusing him for months of funding the Steele dossier and immigration caravans, and Trump has also accused him of financing opposition to Brent Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. When Trump attacked globalism the other day in the oval office, his young supporters started chanting “Soros! Soros! Soros!”

Trump himself does not have to be as extreme as Bower or Sayoc to give some comfort to their views. I trust that Trump does not approve of sending pipe bombs to Democrats or murdering Jews in synagogues. But he has vilified immigrants by exaggerating their association with violent crime, attacked the legitimacy of our first black president, and characterized the press and his critics as public enemies. The nationalism he has espoused is widely understood as white, Christian nationalism, since his support comes overwhelmingly from those groups. That helps normalize racial and religious intolerance. It feeds into a narrative of white, Christian victimization that discourages power-sharing and encourages domination.

The Republican Party was already well on its way to becoming the white, Christian party before Trump appeared on the scene. As the Democratic Party became more open to civil rights, religious neutrality, and gender equality, Republican politicians saw an opportunity to gain or hold power with subtle and not-so-subtle appeals to white supremacy, Christian supremacy, and male supremacy. They played on fears that many Americans have of living in a more pluralistic global community. Robert Bowers just takes those fears to an extreme when he says things like “Diversity means chasing down the last white person.” He didn’t develop his hostility to diversity in a political or cultural vacuum. Historically, no political party has had a monopoly on politically-motivated violence. In the 1960s, I saw violent acts by liberal protesters as well as violent attacks on peaceful demonstrators by defenders of the status quo. But currently, I see the greater threat of violence from the political right.

Are Sayoc and Bower gross violators of social norms? Of course they are. But the Party of Trump has also been changing the norms themselves, working harder to antagonize and divide while failing to respect and include. I cannot recall an administration or party as content to govern on behalf of an angry minority and as disinterested in building a larger consensus. Getting rid of any policy associated with Barack Obama has become more important than actually solving social problems. Keeping the base in a state of fear and loathing of anyone or anything new and different has become a way of generating support without actually doing much.

Anxieties about globalization are reasonable. Playing on those anxieties to set one group of Americans against another is not. Progressives can present a more constructive response to global diversity and competition than what the right has to offer. It must be one that challenges individuals to earn status through their accomplishments and social contributions, not demand it on the basis of race, religion or gender. It will also have to challenge social institutions to make the investments in people that help them become as accomplished and socially useful as they can be. I see no other way to build a community in which love trumps hate.

Midterm Elections Present Clear Choice

October 23, 2018

Previous | Next

Midterm elections are primarily about which political party will control the houses of Congress. This year’s elections are mainly a referendum on Republican control of the whole federal government, since Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, in addition to having won the presidency despite losing the popular vote.

Given the unpopularity of Congress (currently only 21% approval), as well as President Trump (the first modern president with approval consistently under 50%), one would think that the electorate would be ready for a change. Certainly most Democrats and Independents would like to see Democrats win at least one house of Congress to provide a check on a president they view as dangerously unfit for office. On the other hand, Republican enthusiasm for the Trump presidency remains high, and Republicans have a better record of turning out the vote in midterm elections.

Although the outcome is uncertain, the choice seems clearer than any that voters have had in my lifetime. It is a choice between one-party rule by what has become the party of Trump, or better representation for the majority of Americans and the aspirations they have for their government.

Here I will describe some of the differences between our two major parties in the age of Trump. I make no claim to be neutral, since I think that continued domination of government by our less popular party will take the country in the wrong direction.

Some party differences

Neither political party is uniform in its beliefs or policies, but political polarization has made each party more uniform and predictable. President Trump and Congressional Republicans are usually on the same page, despite the protestations of a few “flaky” Senators who make a show of bipartisanship before voting with Trump most of the time. Although Democrats disagree in some respects on what they would do if they could actually pass legislation, they are pretty united in their opposition to most Republican policies.

Democrats respect the scientific consensus on climate change and want to take measures to reduce carbon emissions. President Trump remains in denial about the science, and his EPA has been dismantling Obama’s Clean Energy Initiative, loosening regulations to allow more emissions. While Trump is preoccupied with protecting fossil-fuel industries, Democrats are more interested in creating jobs in the cleaner industries of the future. We already have far more jobs in solar energy than in coal.

Republicans want to grow the economy mainly from the top down, by cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, while claiming that the benefits will be widely shared. Mostly they haven’t been, although unemployment has continued its long decline since the 2008 recession. Democrats want to grow the middle class through direct spending to create middle class jobs, raising the minimum wage, and making college more affordable.

Democrats support the Affordable Care Act, which made health insurance affordable for millions and would have done even more if red-state Republicans hadn’t blocked the expansion of Medicaid. Republicans failed by one vote to repeal the ACA, and they have vowed to try again if they retain control of Congress. They quickly moved to repeal it without developing the better alternative that Trump promised during his campaign.

After having failed to perform their constitutional duty to even consider many of President Obama’s mainstream judicial appointees, including the very moderate Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, Republicans have rushed to approve extremely conservative justices who could push the judiciary far to the right for a generation. While hot-button issues like abortion and guns get most of the attention, the conservative majority has quietly been strengthening the rights of corporations and weakening the rights of workers, consumers and voters.

Democrats support comprehensive immigration reform that would balance the need for border security with the benefits of a path to citizenship for hard-working, law-abiding “dreamers” and humane treatment of refugees. While net immigration has actually been modest in the last decade, Trump’s fear-mongering has aroused nativist hostility to immigration in general, and his policy of punishing asylum seekers by taking away their children has become a national embarrassment.

Democrats are cautiously supportive of free trade, although they want trade agreements to include protections against unfair trade practices, low-wage sweatshops and environmental pollution. Trump’s more general hostility to foreign products threatens to hurt the global economy generally, with ill effects at home as well as abroad. Few economists think that his tariffs will produce much job growth in the United States. His withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership will probably just help China dominate the region.

Democrats respect our longstanding alliances with other democratic nations. President Trump admires dictators and oligarchs, and is willing to overlook their gross humanitarian violations as long as he sees the relationships as financially profitable.

As for our own democracy, it cannot function well without an informed electorate and leaders who accept the responsibility to tell them the truth. Donald Trump is the most relentless liar we have ever seen in the presidency, and far too many Republicans–along with their favorite TV network–repeat his falsehoods. They must, of course, also discredit any fact-checking by the mainstream media by calling honest reporters “enemies of the people.” Democratic politicians are not always paragons of truth either, but they have less reason to lie about what they are trying to do, since their policies are actually intended to help ordinary people. In just the past week, Trump has claimed that the Republicans are about to pass a middle-class tax cut, while the Democrats are planning to cut Medicare and veterans benefits. No one besides Trump seems to have heard of such initiatives, but only Democrats and reporters seem interested in fact-checking his statements.

What was once the party of Lincoln has now become the party that caters to white people. Now that the Republicans on the Supreme Court have weakened the Voting Rights Act, many red states have moved to enact voting restrictions that impact disproportionately on black voters, passing them off as responses to mostly fictional voter fraud. The Democratic Party is the party of diversity, the party that stands up for the rights of racial minorities, women, and the LGBTQ community. The last thing the country needs as we continue to make slow progress toward social justice is a president and party who seek white votes by playing on fears of white victimization, all the while accusing Democrats of playing “identity politics.” What is at stake here is national identity. Americans need to understand themselves as a pluralistic people leading the way in a pluralistic world, not a bastion of white male privilege hostile to women and people of color.

The Trump administration has also been the most scandal-plagued administration since Richard Nixon’s. While Watergate was a domestic scandal, in this case the allegations include cooperating with foreign powers to undermine our democratic process. Democrats support our intelligence community and investigatory agencies as they try to determine what actually happened, while Congressional Republicans have worked to impede and discredit the investigation. President Trump has filled his administration with people who have suspicious ties to foreign oligarchs, as well as with administrators who seem to care more about profiting from their positions than carrying out the responsibilities of the agencies they head. If anyone is really going to “drain the swamp,” it will have to be Democrats.

At some times in our history, the Republican Party has been a forward-looking, even reform-minded party, as it was under Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Today’s spirit of reform is alive and well, but mainly in the Democratic Party. That’s where we find the greatest interest in campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, government accountability, infrastructure improvements, equal opportunity, energy transformation, and human capital development for a twenty-first century economy. Democrats have a lot of work to do to translate their ideas into effective policies and mobilize popular support for them, but at least they are trying to rise to the challenges of the new age. Republicans have not only become a backward-looking party, but they are increasingly resorting to deception and political trickery to hold onto power. Trump may have shown that lying and fear-mongering can win elections, but he has also shown that it takes more than that to govern. Take away his tough, angry and deceptive rants, and there isn’t much there that the majority of Americans really want.

It’s time for Americans to become better informed citizens. Time to vote on the basis of facts, not fears!