FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE BY BOB FRANKEN DIME TIME In 1931, smack dab at the beginning of the Great Depression (although, when was any depression “great”?), it was a big hit: “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” Today, 90 years later, what with ...
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Franken Sense

DIME TIME

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

DIME TIME

In 1931, smack dab at the beginning of the Great Depression (although, when was any depression “great”?), it was a big hit: “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” Today, 90 years later, what with inflation, the 10 cents of yesteryear has a purchasing power of $1.82, so the song in 2021 would be “Brother Could You Spare a Buck 82?” It doesn’t have the same pizazz, does it?
John D. Rockefeller used to throw dimes at the crowds he encountered. Rockefeller was the rich guy of his generation, sort of like Donald Trump, except that Rockefeller was successful in business and Trump was a failure in business but was a success in politics, rising to president once … or twice, if you believe him. As president, in 2017, Donald Trump tossed paper towels at his audience while delivering aid to hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico. He was always that sensitive.
He has been replaced in the White House by Joe Biden, but Biden faces a threat that is known as a saboteur of more than one chief executive: inflation. Rising consumer prices are death to a presidency. Voters don’t want to hear about supply chains; they don’t even know what a supply chain is, no matter how many times TV news broadcasts the same jammed ships stuck full of cargo containers coming from China.
They don’t want to hear about the tragic pandemic that also did lasting harm to the world economy and is causing prices to rise to the highest rates in 30 years. They do want someone to blame for the cost of cars, and the gas that powers them, as they head to the grocery store and to shop for the Christmas gifts they can’t afford, even online, even misdelivered.

No matter how many jobs the new infrastructure legislation creates, inflation is a politician’s nightmare — that is, for the one who is in office. For the one who is running against the incumbent, it’s a dream come true. Joe Biden becomes his or her scapegoat. It’s no matter that he’s less than a year into office and he has three years to go, the heart of the American electorate is located wherever the wallet is.
And the spiral of inflation only gets more intense. From a government point of view, acts by Congress or congressional inaction can only make the economy more, uh, depressing
. Let’s suppose the chicken-playing members of the House and Senate miscalculate, or the administration does, and doesn’t pass a raise to the debt ceiling. That will require the United States of America to become a deadbeat in that it is forced to default on its bills. That’ll cause inflation to get worse at the same time that production lags because of market forces. Put another way, a supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
No matter who is at fault, the president gets the blame. The president is Joe Biden. Even if he stole the election in the grandest of grand larcenies — as Trump absurdly alleged — he’s still the president and will get the blame.
So, Donald Trump can take his cheap shots as the blamer, and Biden will be the blamee. At least if it’s a repeat of the 2020 campaign in 2024. Anyone who holds out hope that Trump’s legal problems will overwhelm him, including the charges of direct involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, should not dream that he will face legal accountability. He won’t. He can demagogue away any charge, no matter how much evidence exists. Besides, inflation as an issue trumps even treason.
Joe Biden knows, or he should know, that the economy is deadly as a campaign issue, particularly when it comes to eating a rising paycheck. And even if they recede or level off, he does not get credit for it. Joe Biden is caught up in that reality battle where the dime store is replaced by the dollar store. It’s made for Donald Trump, whose claim to success is inflating or twisting reality.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


ROSE GARDEN INFRASTRUCTURE

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

ROSE GARDEN INFRASTRUCTURE

Economists estimate (they always guess) that as many as 660,000 jobs will be created by the infrastructure bill, and when the signing ceremony is held, almost as many Democrats will be there to crowd the podium.
President Joe Biden said in a Saturday-morning presidential statement that it would be “millions” of jobs: “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that we took a monumental step forward as a nation.” This was after the measure’s near-death experience the night before that left a lot of House members with their arms badly twisted.
But for Biden, it was a happy photo op, following a bunch of miserable ones along the way. But still the question remains, what is wrong with this picture?
The relieved Democrats were the same fractious ones who quarreled throughout the summer about the Build Back Better social infrastructure sister measure. That became Build Back Less and Less as centrists in the party shattered the dreams of progressives in Joe Biden’s deal-making.

The White House prefers to call it the $1.2 trillion bill, but that combines the new spending of $550 billion with what would normally be ponied up for public works. And it’s far less than the $2.3 trillion Biden asked for early on. In Washington negotiating terms, that’s the “ask for everything but the kitchen sink” version. What’s left of the Build Back Better phase of the social infrastructure bill would add trillions of dollars more, except it’s caught in the Democratic quicksand.
They have lots of work to do before they pass whatever emaciated BBB liberal package they end up with, to say nothing of the fact that they face disaster if they can’t come up with some way to agree on a spending bill to keep the federal government all the way open.
Add a catastrophe (what’s another word for infinite disaster?) if they somehow can’t resolve passage of the debt ceiling. If they don’t, and they always flirt with not doing it, then the United States will be hugely embarrassed, because it will weasel on its sovereign debt. This could be blamed on an inherent weakness in its political system; a democracy-demagoguery that’s a fatal flaw. It would be a shambles.
To a certain extent, it could be back to the drawing board to mess with the Senate filibuster, for example, and by extension make a wreckage of the U.S. tradition of built-in safeguards against the “tyranny of the majority.”
A frenetic month is what’s ahead in December, but it’s been a miserable autumn and summer with the Afghanistan debacle, the trouble dealing with the pandemic, which everyone believed was under control, and various economic problems like inflation. That contributed to tanking polls and that led partially to a miserable showing for Biden and his fellow Democrats, most notably Glenn Youngkin’s and the GOP’s upset defeat of Terry McAuliffe in Virginia.
The White House chorus has not been singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” If the Democrats can salvage the social part of the Biden pledge (and the rubber and concrete chunk was politically easier by comparison) there could be whimpers of “Happy Days are Here Again.” If not, it’s going to be a long hot winter. (It used to be a long cold winter, but that was before climate change.)
Joe Biden describes himself as an optimist when it comes to the American people, meaning most of them agree with him. It’s also positive thinking to think that by 2025, the jackhammers will be making their atrocious noise and infrastructure work will be humming along by the midterms and the polls will recover for the Democrats.
I hate to disagree with the president, but the American people are in a dark mood. If enough of them are caught up in humongous traffic jams because of some project associated with infrastructure construction, they’ll bitterly complain about “Biden’s gridlock.”

(c) 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


THIS FOOL RUSHES IN

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

THIS FOOL RUSHES IN

It’s time to dust off my fantasy live shot.
Anchorperson: “And now we go to Washington and Bob Franken for a report on this year’s election. What does it mean for next year and for the Biden and Trump campaigns in 2024, Bob?”
Me: “Absolutely nothing.”
Only a fool would make any prediction based on Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Joe Biden for Virginia governorship. Pardon me, that’s over Terry McAuliffe, and over all the lethargic Democrats, as a matter of fact.
But then we need to talk and write about something, so this pundit fool rushes in.
Let’s assume it’s a Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden return match off in 2024, a rerun of the 2020 election that Biden won. Or was it Trump who won? I guess that depends on whether you believe Donald Trump’s absurd lie that he was the true victor.
He’s fighting the last election instead of looking to the future. You’ve heard ad nauseam that the next election cycle begins the moment you’ve disposed of the last. For proof, look no further than the fundraising emails I get from all sides.
No sooner had the networks made their projections when I got my first, headlined “Glenn Youngkin is the next Governor of Virginia.” Then it continued with this fundraising pitch, “It is SO CRITICAL that we keep the momentum going to ensure we restore a MAGA Majority in Congress in 2022. We need you NOW MORE THAN EVER!”
And from the Democrats: “This is not the time to get discouraged … Chip in right now — whether it’s 5 dollars, 25 dollars or more … and defend our razor thin majority …” — see more —

And guess who else sent an email: The boss man himself, Donald Trump, the moment he was let go from Youngkin captivity: “Are you ready for another TRUMP RALLY?
“My favorite part about being YOUR President was always traveling the Country and meeting hardworking, American Patriots …
“When my team asked me where we should go next, I immediately said, ‘Why don’t you ask the American People? They ALWAYS know best.’
So, Friend, I need to know — where do you think I should hold my next Trump Rally?
I’m going to announce the location very soon — make sure I see your response in time …”
As usual, it’s a Trump scam to get your email address for his fundraising or perhaps it’s the latest Trump University hustle.
Speaking of hustles. Glenn Youngkin got elected partially because he hid his connection to Trump and partially because Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats got overconfident or for whatever reason, McAuliffe slept through the campaign while Joe Biden’s presidency was caving in. Events in Afghanistan sabotaged Joe’s claim to foreign policy chops. An intraparty battle between Democratic progressives and centrists over an ambitious legislative agenda undermined his contention that he had decades of Washington experience to rely on. He’s only partially there, crowing about 550 Billion dollars in new spending for infrastructure, and a promise to come up with a deal with the progressive wing of his party to push the social infrastructure in a week or so. So it took all that experience to push his promise half way, with Republican help, by the way, that he cannot expect as he pursues the left leaning part.
And there are other treacherous issues to deal with: Inflation has reared its ugly head and the pandemic has reignited, complicating his claim to fame on getting us past the delta variant.
With Trump released to heckle from the sidelines, maybe, in the normal face of governing complexity, his demagoguery won’t look quite so insane. Even his conspiratorial claims that he had the election stolen from him is still rattling around, at least in his “base,” the millions of people whose grievances have not been resolved. Trump’s years in office won’t look so bad to them. Maybe his rallies will provide a reminder.
Given how we can expect him to take credit for the Youngkin victory, he can also use the midterms and the possibility that Republicans take back congressional majorities as a pretext for his running for another term as president. This time, the nation’s amnesia could be enough to put him over the top in 2024.
That’s a bunch of “maybes” and “perhapses,” but if the Democrats don’t get off their couches, we’ll have a one-party government, the authoritarian Trump party.

(c) 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc. BY BOB FRANKEN

THIS FOOL RUSHES IN

It’s time to dust off my fantasy live shot.
Anchorperson: “And now we go to Washington and Bob Franken for a report on this year’s election. What does it mean for next year and for the Biden and Trump campaigns in 2024, Bob?”
Me: “Absolutely nothing.”
Only a fool would make any prediction based on Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Joe Biden for Virginia governorship. Pardon me, that’s over Terry McAuliffe, and over all the lethargic Democrats, as a matter of fact.
But then we need to talk and write about something, so this pundit fool rushes in.
Let’s assume it’s a Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden return match off in 2024, a rerun of the 2020 election that Biden won. Or was it Trump who won? I guess that depends on whether you believe Donald Trump’s absurd lie that he was the true victor.
He’s fighting the last election instead of looking to the future. You’ve heard ad nauseam that the next election cycle begins the moment you’ve disposed of the last. For proof, look no further than the fundraising emails I get from all sides.
No sooner had the networks made their projections when I got my first, headlined “Glenn Youngkin is the next Governor of Virginia.” Then it continued with this fundraising pitch, “It is SO CRITICAL that we keep the momentum going to ensure we restore a MAGA Majority in Congress in 2022. We need you NOW MORE THAN EVER!”
And from the Democrats: “This is not the time to get discouraged … Chip in right now — whether it’s 5 dollars, 25 dollars or more … and defend our razor thin majority …”

And guess who else sent an email: The boss man himself, Donald Trump, the moment he was let go from Youngkin captivity: “Are you ready for another TRUMP RALLY?
“My favorite part about being YOUR President was always traveling the Country and meeting hardworking, American Patriots …
“When my team asked me where we should go next, I immediately said, ‘Why don’t you ask the American People? They ALWAYS know best.’
So, Friend, I need to know — where do you think I should hold my next Trump Rally?
I’m going to announce the location very soon — make sure I see your response in time …”
As usual, it’s a Trump scam to get your email address for his fundraising or perhaps it’s the latest Trump University hustle.
Speaking of hustles. Glenn Youngkin got elected partially because he hid his connection to Trump and partially because Terry McAuliffe and the Democrats got overconfident or for whatever reason, McAuliffe slept through the campaign while Joe Biden’s presidency was caving in. Events in Afghanistan sabotaged Joe’s claim to foreign policy chops. An intraparty battle between Democratic progressives and centrists over an ambitious legislative agenda undermined his contention that he had decades of Washington experience to rely on. He’s only partially there, crowing about 550 Billion dollars in new spending for infrastructure, and a promise to come up with a deal with the progressive wing of his party to push the social infrastructure in a week or so. So it took all that experience to push his promise half way, with Republican help, by the way, that he cannot expect as he pursues the left leaning part.
And there are other treacherous issues to deal with: Inflation has reared its ugly head and the pandemic has reignited, complicating his claim to fame on getting us past the delta variant.
With Trump released to heckle from the sidelines, maybe, in the normal face of governing complexity, his demagoguery won’t look quite so insane. Even his conspiratorial claims that he had the election stolen from him is still rattling around, at least in his “base,” the millions of people whose grievances have not been resolved. Trump’s years in office won’t look so bad to them. Maybe his rallies will provide a reminder.
Given how we can expect him to take credit for the Youngkin victory, he can also use the midterms and the possibility that Republicans take back congressional majorities as a pretext for his running for another term as president. This time, the nation’s amnesia could be enough to put him over the top in 2024.
That’s a bunch of “maybes” and “perhapses,” but if the Democrats don’t get off their couches, we’ll have a one-party government, the authoritarian Trump party.

(c) 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


PHOTO OPS

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

PHOTO OPS

New T-shirt slogan for Democratic members of Congress as President Joe Biden headed out for the G-20 and U.N. climate change summits: “My Grandpa Joe went to Europe, and all I got was this lousy framework.”
Last week, when Biden flew off to conquer the economic, climate and pandemic worlds, he left Congress behind to fill in the blanks of his own domestic economic social program. Now, with a price of $1.75 trillion (that’s with a “T”!), it can hardly be called bare bones. But it had already been stripped from $3.5 trillion by abandoning major progressive goals like paid family leave and many aspects of climate change.
The combined infrastructure legislation and what’s left of “Build Back Better” social infrastructure rebuilding are being finessed with compromise promises to revisit the rejects in the months ahead, before the midterm elections, when the president’s party might lose control of Congress and it all goes kablooie for him. He effectively has lost control of Congress anyway, with a few “moderates” able to gum up the liberals’ hopes.
The names Manchin, Sinema and Gottheimer are not about to set the lefties’ hearts a-flutter, but hey, that’s what legislation is all about. President Biden made his decades of Washington experience a major selling point, and his own party might fail with a thud to deliver the goods beyond the face-�saving stage. He might end the year with nothing more than the knowledge that when you reach for the stars, you can get badly burned.

The new political year — which starts this Nov. 2, Election Day in Virginia — will be cluttered with hundreds of midterm campaigns, which are more about control of the House and Senate and less about governing.
Between now and then, we are treated to the venomous debate over whether to govern at all, as some federal agencies will flat shut down if the Republicans and Democrats can’t figure out some cease-fire in their war to agree to a spending plan for the year.
Not only that, but the “it’ll never happen” rejection of the nation’s borrowing authority could, in fact, happen in about six weeks if some sort of kamikaze group of House members or senators recklessly miscalculates and causes all manner of fiscal chaos worldwide by not voting to raise the debt ceiling, irretrievably embarrassing the United States of America, as if Donald Trump wasn’t enough.
I wouldn’t want to be Joe Biden as he travels to summits overseas. Other world leaders will relish being able to remind him that the USA was a former world power. Those other world leaders being, for instance, the prime minister of Luxembourg or Prince Albert of Monaco.
But while Joe has been testily negotiating to repair the international damage of the Trump administration, accompanied by first lady Dr. Jill Biden, Trump trumped him in the photo op competition by dragging former first lady Melania to a World Series game in Atlanta, and even persuaded her to join the crowd in the bad taste Tomahawk Chop. Democrats and Native American advocates would never participate in that. Advantage Trump (I realize that’s a mixed sports metaphor). Trump showed that in Deep South Georgia he doesn’t have to be as invisible as he needs to be in suburbanized Virginia, where Glenn Youngkin’s strategy has been to deny that Donald Trump exists.
So while Grandpa Joe has been cavorting around Europe, the Democrats have been hard at work collecting souvenirs for his return … slogging through the details of the skeletal framework Biden left behind. No matter how successful they have been in avoiding the pitfalls of climate change, for instance, they face a political climate that is full of headwinds.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

JESS, THE TIPSTER AND THE DONALD

FROM KING FEATURES SYNDICATE
BY BOB FRANKEN

JESS THE TIPSTER AND THE DONALD

I had dragged my daughter Jessica to House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s off-camera briefing. She was just a sprout, but she knew who the Tipster was. He not only had political shrewdness, but so much Boston blarney, Irish blarney. So sure, she knew who the Speaker of the House was.
I was the combined proud father and reporter regularly covering O’Neill. I had arranged with his chief of staff, Chris Matthews (yeah, THAT Chris Matthews), for Jess to attend. I must admit that I was a proud poppa, as she hid her boredom in politeness — until we were leaving, that is. Then, as we were milling around in the outer sanctum of the speaker’s office, Jessica exclaimed in the loud voice that only an 8-year-old can have, “That wasn’t so bad, Daddy!”
Jess grew up around politics and politicians, and grew more and more disgusted with both. I can’t really speak for her, but I’ll try: It was because of what it took to govern this country and what it took in eroded virtue to make any progress at all.
She’ll agree with me, I’m sure, that “money rules” has become the be-all-end-all motivation for change, good or bad, but remembers fondly Tip O’Neill and his association with the belief that “all politics is local.
We pundits have it backward: We take an issue that has tremendous importance back home and immediately report on the political significance. That goes for any deal to appear to solve the latest problem, real or imagined. In truth, the practical effect on a constituent’s wallet — or health or food prices, etc., etc. — will determine whether the officeholder will continue to hold office not some pundit’s praise. .
Tip knew that. He didn’t actually come up with the saying that all politics is local, but he became known as its strongest advocate. He would take perverse pleasure not with Donald Trump’s ugliness but to know that he realized that all political demagoguery is local. So Trump’s  playing to the fears and prejudices at the precinct level would win the day, and, more importantly, win at the ballot box.

That’s why the Virginia governor’s election has such significance. It’s an off-off-year campaign to choose the state’s (excuse me, commonwealth’s, if you want to get pretentious) next chief executive.
So what happens in the deal negotiations between conservative Democrats and liberal Democrats, and, of course, the Democratic president (the Republicans are only participating insofar as they’ll oppose whatever the Democrats concoct), has a real deadline of November 2.
Donald Trump knows this, and so he’s staying away to defer  to his surrogate Glenn Youngkin. It’s not about Trump (except that it is); it’s really how much of a role of imposing parents’ values on their kiddies’ schools plays.
Terry McAuliffe is the former governor is the Democratic candidate. McAuliffe is relying more on his party’s celebs to make his case: Barack Obama, the slick former president who happens to be black; Kamala Harris, the vice president, who represents two minorities; and Joe Biden, decidedly white, notably unslick, who happens to be president of the United States.
It’s the hot political story of 2021, besides the ongoing pandemic, Afghanistan, inflation, infrastructure and climate versus how much parents will control public schools.
This much has not changed since Jessica was a kid (she grew up and flourished, in spite of her obvious disadvantage … me … proving that the acorn can fall far enough from the tree):
Politics is still local. That’s all well and good. The problem is that all politics has also become  divisive and too hateful to accept consensus, and too toxic to be anything but minimally acceptable.

© Bob Franken
King features, Inc.


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