Finding the Fight: the Trump Challenges as They are Today

One of the biggest challenges in writing about the new administration is the rapid pace at which everything changes. No sooner is the research wrapped than it becomes dated and irrelevant. The past few weeks have brought a new reality and the events that define that reality are already set in stone. Depending on which side your opinions fall, you may or may not agree with your neighbor, your husband or even the Twitter handles you follow. Here are a few things that aren’t likely to fade into the background anytime soon.

The incredulous insistence of the president regarding wiretapping has taken on new meaning. After weeks of going back and forth about whether he has any kind of secretly recorded media of his meetings or conversations, he finally pulls back and says he has nothing. By my count, he’s not only wrongly accused the previous president of wiretapping him, but he also wrongly accused himself of wiretapping…himself.

Healthcare

The new healthcare plans have been hashed out, argued, debated and picked apart by every media outlet in the country over the past 48 hours. Keep in mind, for all the bickering and tweeting and debating, this bill is not likely to pass as there are at least five Republicans who’ve been vocal about the shortcomings of the bill. If just two Republicans opt to vote the bill down, it quickly becomes a has-been and a waste of time. Some have laughed at what’s included in this latest version. Here are a few of the biggest obstacles:

Medicare’s going to take a hit. They can dance around it and sugar coat it, but most are saying a hit between 15 and 20 percent reduction of services is how it shakes out. As the bill stands now, it’s a kick in the teeth to those who depend on these programs. AARP estimates 17 million older and/or poverty-stricken Americans will lose with this bill if it’s passed as-is. Just like the House bill a few weeks ago, many groups have come out against this latest effort, including many nursing and physician organizations.

As it stands (and the figures differ somewhat, though not substantially) around 500,000 veterans will lose Medicaid coverage.

Some media outlets are now saying the Senate decided at the last minute to include penalties, similar to the Obama tax, on those who have no coverage at all.

The Senate bill will also likely be to updated to reflect a six month suspension from coverage if even one insurance premium is not paid on time. That’s not been cemented, but there’s no doubt it’s going to be heated if it comes full circle.

Jobs

At the end of November, 2016, Carrier announced it had reached an agreement, courtesy of President-elect Trump’s negotiations, to keep nearly 1,000 jobs in Indianapolis, IN. One worker told Fortune, “I just couldn’t believe that this guy, all this stuff he said the whole campaign—he’s not even president yet and he worked on this deal with the company. I’m just in shock. A lot of the workers are in shock. We can’t believe something good finally happened to us. It felt like a victory for the little people.”

This week, those same workers learned their jobs were being relocated to Monterrey, Mexico.

In South Carolina, Trump was able to round up support – and votes – by striking a deal with Boeing to keep jobs in the state. He claimed success and said those workers’ jobs were safe.

This week, those same workers learned their last day at the Boeing plant will be August 25th.

Qatar

On June 9th, the president accused Qatar of being a “high level sponsor of terrorism”. On June 14th, he announced a newly-inked deal with Qatar, worth $12 billion, that would provide several fighter jets to the country.

Of course, this barely scratches the surface, but these topics are sure to remain front and center in the coming days. In the meantime, I’m working on an executive orders list of what’s been passed, what’s worked and what’s failed. I’m trying to figure out how to ensure it remains a living document, of sorts, with updates. I’m open for suggestions if anyone wants to toss any my way.

Advertisements

What’s Not in the News is a Problem

As President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and other countries in the region begins, his staff is working double time in convincing everyone that there are no tensions outside the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went so far as to say no one else in the rest of the world is even remotely interested nor do they have time to watch what is “happening domestically here”. That’s not exactly true. There are many reasons for more than a few countries to pay attention to U.S. actions.

North Korea

Today, Tillerson is trying to convince North Korea to  “trust the U.S.” and that we intend to keep a promise of no hostility. Tillerson also is trying to convince those leaders to “refrain from conducting anymore nuclear or missile tests so as to create the right atmosphere for talks”.

Also this week, Russia decided to ignore Trump’s call to tighten sanctions against North Korea. While many countries happily obliged, Russia decided not to. A weekly ferry service between Rajin, a North Korean port, and Vladivostock, a city in Russia begins in days.

Syria/Russia

I think it’s important to note the lack of any coverage from the media regarding yesterday’s U.S. strike against the Syrian Army. Both Syria and Russia are fuming.  Russia’s Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov made it clear, “This is totally unacceptable; it is a violation of Syrian sovereignty. Of course, it does not help the political process”.

Another Russian leader, Senator Konstantin Kosachev, said:

(The English translation isn’t shown on some apps, so I’ve included a screenshot below as well)

Turkey

Before Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan arrived here earlier this week, he too had harsh words for Trump’s decisions. Last week, Trump decided to provide arms to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units. The U.S. policy that allowed this to happen is rarely used, mostly because the U.S. hasn’t had any reason to aggressively confront Turkey. The Kurdish group is considered to be a terrorist organization by Turkey, though Trump clearly disagrees. Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim reiterated his country’s stance and said that it would be wise for the United States to reverse its decision, or else, “The consequences will bring negative outcomes, not only for Turkey but also for America.”

This week, Erdogan was in the U.S. to meet with Trump. The protests outside the White House turned violent and Erdogan watched his own people attack American protesters. In all fairness, he couldn’t exactly make his way to the street brawls and order them to stop no more than Trump could have. It’s the quiet contentment that is so remarkable.

Between these ongoing problems, and there are more, coupled with problems here in the U.S., my guess is Trump’s feeling like a fish out of water. The attention he’s receiving isn’t what he had in mind once he donned the U.S. President cap.

Does AHCA Turn the Clock Back to Pre-Obamacare and Little More?

Had a chance to examine the “Republican American Health Care Act” or AHCA, as it’s now known? Only the American government can put together a series of words that are as fascinating as they are incredulous. I’ve written several pieces today to cover the House approval of the new healthcare bill and you can be sure there remains some uncertainty with future obstacles as it moves through the American legislative process.

Here are a few of the bigger points – and again, there are still a lot of opportunities for our elected officials to bleed over the Act with their demands. This is not a complete look at the bill – not by a long shot, but it does address the key concerns everyone’s talking about.

First, one of the big changes is that you are no longer required to have insurance and you won’t take a hit on your taxes each year. Tax credits are redressed, too, if you do have coverage.

Guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions is still built in, but there are a few elements that define that aspect of the rule. For instance, an insurance company can’t charge you more for a pre-existing illness, at least not directly. There are three specific waivers that are really the “meat and potatoes” of this bill and they speak to the pre-existing conditions confusion.

The big fact: your state can apply for any or all of these waivers. To get a better idea of what your state might or might not do, take a look at the current breakdown here.  You can see, in detail, what’s referred to as the Essential Health Benefits Benchmarks by state. It might give you some insight as to what to expect. Here in Mississippi, you can bet our governor has a far different take on the waivers than what the governors of California or New York might have.

Under Obamacare, or ACA, an insurance company could not refuse to issue a policy because of one’s health status. That requirement remains in the overhaul (or whatever Team Trump is calling it). Here’s where your state’s position becomes important:

  1. One waiver focuses on the applicant’s age and how much an insurance company can charge. As it is now, an insurance company can charge older policy holders up to three times more than what they offer younger policy holders. The new rules allow an insurer to increase that difference to five times – with a door left open for even more increases in the coming years.
  2. You may remember the huge debate surrounding required coverage with Obamacare. Insurance companies were bound to cover outpatient services, emergency medical services, hospital stays, pregnancy, pediatric care, substance abuse programs, mental health services, prescription drug coverage, lab services and a few other services. Birth control and “breastfeeding coverage” was also required, though I’m not entirely sure what kind of health coverage a breastfeeding mother would require. There was some controversy with a few of the covered services.

Your state’s leaders will now define the parameters as they are tasked with the responsibility of determining what essential benefits residents will have access to as part of their insurance coverage. I don’t know how each state views coverage for certain illnesses, but I do know that Florida has had one hell of a time dealing with the opioid drug crisis. Many of that state’s leaders are blind to the problem. These are the kinds of challenges that will have to be addressed – there are lives at stake and nothing will ever change that, no matter how many times you change the name of the law.

  1. Insurers will be able to raise their premiums if a person drops his coverage for any reason. If you drop coverage and don’t re-enroll within 63 days, you’ll likely get hit with a higher premium – and the insurer is free to increase it considerably. Here’s the problem with that:

In 2015, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a report, “Medical Debt Among People with Health Insurance”. (On a side note – the information presented is a perfect snapshot of the common challenges with healthcare in this country.) As part of the report, 23 people from all walks of life and with varying income and family dynamics were selected.

The goal was to find out how medical debt affects families, especially if they have healthcare coverage. Of the 23 people, 18 said they have had an illness that triggered an income loss. All said they experienced damaged credit ratings as a result of those illnesses. It didn’t need to be a financially catastrophic illness, either. All agreed that “much smaller amounts proved unaffordable”.

Of course, major health events triggered big problems, and for the “vast majority of those interviewed, the medical event associated with the debt also left the patient unable to work or prompted a working family member to quit or reduce hours in order to become a caregiver.”

Take one guess as to what happens next.

They can no longer afford to cover their insurance premiums.

They can re-enroll later, but if it’s outside the 63 day window, they face a punishment penalty for dropping coverage and now, there likely exists a pre-existing condition that the insurer is free to price into the policy.

So, what does all of this mean? Best I can tell, we go back to a pre-Obama healthcare world. That’s not a bad thing entirely, but there were some much-needed protections that were a part of Obamacare. It’s a tradeoff, but whether or not it’s worth it is something each person will have to determine for himself. Here’s an interactive Kaiser map where you can enter your state, age and a few other details and get a better idea of what to expect.

Trump and Dodd-Frank – What You Don’t Know

In 2009, I began working for several financial sites –  mostly keeping up with their blogs and some white papers. It wasn’t too long before the 2009 CARD Act was signed into law and within a year after that, so was Dodd-Frank Act.  I had to immerse myself in a crash course as to what these laws meant for consumers. Both were straight out of the Obama Administration.

It wouldn’t take long to realize the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was founded under Dodd-Frank, was a different regulatory agency. Under the guidance of Director Richard Cordray, many Americans saw there were government agencies that really had no ulterior motives. Let me say this: most of those who drive the financial sector machine in this country are reliable, honest and truly work to do good each day. It’s the ones who don’t, the ones who can’t see past the dollar signs, who cause so many problems.

This week, less than a month into his term, President Trump has effectively unraveled every protection Americans had against everythingcapture-20170215-182226 from “too big to fail” banks (JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America), predatory college loans, insane interest rates on mortgages, and much more. By repealing Dodd-Frank, he’s also eliminating all of those financial protections the average American relies on. By the way, it’s important to note, this was the solution to ensure we would never see another mortgage meltdown that we saw in 2008 with the record number of foreclosures for millions of American families.

Here’s what you might not know:

February 5, when asked by a reporter what his intentions were, President Trump said “We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank.”  He said this during a White House meeting with big business leaders and bank presidents, including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. That’s a problem.

It’s interesting that the president would say something like this during a meeting with Dimon and his counterparts, mostly because of the headache CFPB has been for many of these CEOs – and most certainly JPMorgan’s leader. Here are just a few of the clashes JPMorgan Chase has had with CFPB.

CFPB Orders Chase and JPMorgan Chase to Pay $309 Million Refund for Illegal Credit Card Practices

SEP 19, 2013

CFPB Takes Action Against Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase for Illegal Mortgage Kickbacks

JAN 22, 2015

CFPB, 47 States and D.C. Take Action Against JPMorgan Chase for Selling Bad Credit Card Debt and Robo-Signing Court Documents

JUL 08, 2015

CFPB isn’t reserved just for the banks. It has also focused on predatory lending on everything from payday loans to mortgages to aggressive collection actions:

CFPB Takes Action Against Two Law Firms for Misrepresenting Attorney Involvement to Collect on Medical Debts This one ordered medical debt collection law firms to refund $577,135 to consumers.

JAN 09, 2017

CFPB Takes Action Against NewDay Financial for Deceptive Mortgage Advertising and Kickbacks

FEB 10, 2015

CFPB Takes Action Against ACE Cash Express for Pushing Payday Borrowers Into Cycle of Debt

JUL 10, 2014

This agency has sought to protect consumers on all things financial, including student loans and the aggressive manner in which collection agencies collect debts. Imagine your parents filing for social security and being told they couldn’t until YOUR student loans from thirty years ago were paid back. That’s what this agency does – takes these kinds of disturbing companies down. Well,  maybe not so much now.

The reality is Trump had an opportunity to fix what wasn’t working with Dodd-Frank. In all honestly, the accounting and different regulations are confusing. I’m sure there are analysts who can dissect the law far better than I could begin to understand. I’ll leave that to them. In terms of the every day family with typical challenges and not knowing who to trust in the financial sector, this is a real disappointment – even if no one realizes it right away. Mark my words – you’ll soon see the next time you apply for a college loan or a mortgage and feel like a loan officer is playing fast and loose on your unfamiliarity of contracts or if an unethical debt collector begins seeking you out on social media.

Trump’s Texas Tests

In a year that included an election where everyone lost money in the office pool (and Clinton lost far more); a protest that actually accomplished something; and a scandal that rocked not only the DNC, but the collective American political system, there was bound to be some residual damage. Some are happy with the results of the election while others are still threatening to use their passports to escape an evil president-elect who makes them cry. Truth is, there are more than a few red flags on the horizon reminding us that just because it happened in 2016 doesn’t mean it won’t follow us into 2017. You can be sure Trump will be put to the test.

Up first, big oil – also known as the black snake in Sioux territory; fossil fuels in the Rockefeller circles in New York and paychecks in many homes across the country.

capture-20161213-065202

The Drama

This time last year, those who held a stake in the Energy Transfer family watched closely as several events unfolded. At the end of September, the company’s owner, Kelcy Warren, announced a merger between Energy Transfer Equity and Williams Companies ($WMB) that would be worth more than $37 billion. There were many questions, including a few about Warren’s ethics – from both personal and business perspectives. Initially, his efforts in acquiring Williams were unwelcomed. The first offer made to Williams was for more than $53 billion. Two months later, it was worth around $37 billion. Williams accepted the offer, recognizing any kind of recovery in the sector would be slow; it opted to cut its losses.

As 2016 kicked off, there were cracks in Warren’s golden egg. There was little doubt the deal was going south and eventually, a judge allowed Warren to rescind the offer based on some tax loophole. Even as this was unfolding, Warren was taking steps to cover his assets. In a SEC filing, he disclosed the “completion of issuance of convertible units” which would allow a few investors to “receive the Preferred Distribution Amount”. It was legal, even if it was underhanded. By the time this bad deal was put to rest, Energy Transfer’s CFO Jamie Welch had left the company and filed his own lawsuits against his former employer.

#NoDAPL

This summer, setbacks continued. This time, it was the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the pipeline is too close to its primary sources of drinking water. The Tribe is ~10,000 strong and located mostly in the Dakotas. What’s awe-inspiring is the way they’ve carried out the months-long protests. They’ve drawn thousands of supporters and have a GoFundMe campaign that’s collected more than one million dollars, making it one of the most successful in GoFundMe’s history.

The protesters have been peaceful. Law enforcement, on the other hand, used high-pressured water cannons and “concussion grenades”, against protesters. These crowd control efforts led to many injuries, many serious enough to require medical attention. There’s been at least one injury to the arm of a protester who still may lose it and another protester may lose her eyesight. Dogs from different law enforcement agencies have also attacked protesters.

The Army Corp of Engineers issued a ruling earlier this month that effectively halted the progress of the pipeline. It should be noted the pipeline is nearly complete – less than 1 mile remains unfinished. It’s costing millions every month the protests continue and the project remains unfinished.

Warren has become the villain of the natural gas and oil industry. When the ruling came down earlier this month, he immediately declared it“politically motivated” and that drilling would continue with no reroute to bypass the area that’s being contested. The company lost another battle this past week when a judge refused to allow the drilling to continue and instead said the court would hear arguments at the end of January.

Here’s where it gets interesting. If the pipeline’s not finished by January 1, 2017, the companies involved can opt to renegotiate the contract or they can simply walk away. That’s the likely scenario. The initial contract was signed when oil was closer to $100 a barrel versus the $45 per barrel it is today. There was a justifiable use for the new pipeline three years ago, but these days, the oil fields aren’t at capacity, again, courtesy of the collapse in the energy sector. Whether anyone wants to admit it, there’s really no reason for adding to the intricate freeway of underground gas and oil pipes that crisscross through this continent. Major investments are being made in cleaner energy sources and that is not going to change.

From The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis report:

Because the economic prospects for Bakken oil producers have dimmed dramatically since early 2014, oil shippers…may attempt to renegotiate terms when ETP misses its Jan. 1 deadline, seeking concessions on contracted volumes, prices, or contract duration. Moreover, if oil prices remain low, as projected, Bakken oil production will continue to decline, and existing pipeline and refinery capacity in the Bakken will be more than adequate to handle the region’s oil production. If production continues to fall, DAPL could well become a stranded asset—one that was rushed to completion largely to protect favorable contract terms negotiated in 2014.

Texas Taxes

As if all of that weren’t enough, Energy Transfer is now in the crosshairs of the tax man. Texas, like every other state, offers incentives for companies. One controversial program has been manipulated in such a way that allowed Warren’s companies to claim more than $250 million in tax breaks. In a five-year period between 2011 and current day, there have been at least 15 deals uncovered that link to the Texas Economic Development Act, which is touted as the state’s largest corporate welfare program. This story broke a few days ago and has the potential to snowball.

The Trouble with Trump

So how does the new president fit into all of this? Trump has consistently come out on the side of ETP. He’s vowed to undo the Army’s project halt as well as anything Obama tries to do in his final days in office. By the time Trump takes office in late January, it may be too late since the contracts expire January 1. Trump received campaign donations and up until a few weeks ago, he had investments the ETE family.

Two things happened as I was writing this and there are bound to be huge uproars:

Trump is expected to announce he’s chosen Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, as Secretary of State this morning. The question is: will Exxon be allowed to run with the $500 billion deal with Russia it worked out before the sanctions hit? He’s not the only Texan who will be named part of the Trump team later today. There’s a lot of debate when it comes to Putin’s own motives, but we need Russia as an ally. We must find a way to rebuild those important, though fragile relationships with the countries Obama spent 8 years tearing down.

Trump is also expected to formally announce he’s tapped his one-time political foe and former Texas Governor Rick Perry to oversee the Energy Department. Perry was given a lucrative position on the Energy Transfer Partners board in February 2015. The Houston Chronicle offered, “Life outside the governor’s mansion has proven profitable for Rick Perry”. You may recall this was around the time Perry was facing felony charges in Texas, but that didn’t serve as any kind of speed bump for Warren. When Perry announced he was running for president a few months later, it was Warren who greased the financial wheels. And now, Perry will likely be named as the head of the Energy Department in the Trump Administration.

The Clinton Crisis: Contradictions and Confusion

capture-20161030-154317Never let it be said the 2016 election cycle was anemic, weak, boring or uneventful. We’re down to 9 days and I’ve said no fewer than 5 times a day how glad I’ll be when this election is put to rest in the history books that are bound memorialize anything but the truth.

Each new story raises the insanity monitor a notch or two. Take a look at a few of these tweets. Are we seeing the same irony?

In July, the FBI announced it would not seek charges against Secretary Clinton. A few days later, Clinton said in an interview with Fox News, “Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people.” Ah, he was a good buddy of hers, no doubt. I’m sure it was a delightful and whimsical friendship.

Now, though, Clinton is on the defense in the worst kind of way. Here are a few of the many tweets sent after the announcement was made late Friday afternoon regarding the lost emails and server and how it involves her bestie, Huma Abedin and her husband, Anthony Weiner. Pre-emptive scramble to save her cookies, yes?

capture-20161030-142608

How’s that for loyalty, Director Comey? Did he really think that woman has an ounce of loyalty, a dish of ethics or an ability to even remotely empathize with others?

And then there’s this. Always the hopeful one, Clinton is. What if this week brings daily WikiLeaks drops of HER emails? That could distract her, right?

capture-20161030-142916

The best way John Podesta can be of service to Clinton at this point is by giving her pointers on how to handle the world reading her emails over a Yoo Hoo and a Little Debbie cake. Remember, WikiLeaks hasn’t released a cache of Clinton emails. Yet. A girl can hope, though. Unlike all the other men in her life: her husband, Comey, Kaine and God knows who else…Podesta just hasn’t felt the Queen Clinton sting. I hear it’s pretty horrendous. Still, is this the best use of his time:

capture-20161030-142806

Finally, take a look at this little gem. She is going to do to us what she can’t force Trump to do: make us pay for the college education of anyone who wants to attend. Sound familiar? Does the word “Obamacare” come to mind?

capture-20161030-143329

capture-20161030-143312

When it falls apart, as it will if she is elected, maybe she can take a cue from the last time a “sure thing” was passed into law. Maybe Obama can give her a few pointers? Turns out it’s a colossal failure, but what does Obama care? He’s phoning it in at this point.

capture-20161030-143555

 

The Bad News is that One of Them Becomes President

capture-20161014-175943The good news is we’re now down to days before we can finally come out of this disturbing and disgusting and surreal state of reality we’ve all been forced to endure in various stages for the past year. The bad news is we have days left before we can finally come out of this surreal state of reality. Typically, election season gives Americans an opportunity to explore their options. Who supports the issues that matter to a family? Which candidate will keep us out of war? Which candidate is going to be remembered for the good he or she did for Americans and humanity in general? Each national election brings with it a certain degree of embarrassing revelations, silly bickering and promises that if one candidate is elected over another, the country’s going to hell. That’s not the case with the current season – not by a long shot.

Imagine the worst kind of criminal; one who is the epitome of pure evil with his dark and brutal ways. Imagine the trial and the truly tragic details of his victims’ final moments that emerge each day. You know these details because the trial in its entirety is being broadcast live. Now think about the divide the trial causes between supporters and those who hate the accused. Can you imagine it being any worse than what we’re witnessing in this election? Yeah…me either.

These candidates have made history, no doubt. They’ve divided a nation. They have created the same weaknesses and fears that are usually reserved for a category 5 hurricane headed straight for our hometown.

When you take a step back, and I’m sure many will begin to see this once the election is behind us, there are common denominators in that trial, the hurricane and the election. Pride and money and notoriety and a place in history are those ribbons woven through each. The politicians warning of the hurricane walk a fine line in how they tell people to evacuate (or not), where the storm makes landfall and when to declare states of emergency for the “imminent landfall”. If that hurricane doesn’t make landfall, there goes the credibility.  If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, there goes the perfect conviction record the DA loves to brag about on a daily basis. It all comes down to being right and winning and no shortage of taunts directed to the loser. Losing, to them, is like a death.

These candidates have spewed so much hate in an effort to win that they don’t realize they’ve burned beyond recognition the entire election process and everything our founding fathers intended. Each time a “game changer” breaks into our daily routine, via breaking news emails, Twitter trends and “exclusive interviews with the victim tonight”, we’re forced to factor it into our decision-making process. If we believe everything each side swears is true, we can decide between a rapist and a rapist’s wife. We can choose a murderer if we’d like or maybe a serial sexual harasser. We can choose the candidate whose daughter bought her education or we can opt for the candidate whose children are “destined to turn out like their predatory father”.

There’s no shortage of information from which to make that decision, either. We can believe an Australian computer programmer and journalist who’s hiding out in an embassy to avoid facing his own sexual assault charges. We can also take our pick of an ever-increasing number of women who say they were victims of sexual harassment by their former boss, who’s now wanting your vote. And let’s not forget the women who have, for years (unlike the other candidate’s accusers), insisted a former president and husband to the current candidate raped, molested or otherwise assaulted them. We can believe a “kill list” or we can believe a group of people whose egos convinced them to try out for a reality show years ago because they wanted to be in the spotlight. We have countless audio tapes and no shortage of teary-eyed victims who turn it on as soon as they cameras whir to life.

So successful are their efforts that they have managed to annihilate bonds that were previously stronger than any super-duper new must-have product being shown on Shark Tank. Families are divided. Best friends are now at one another’s throats and are being closely monitored by terrorists everywhere for tips on how to wreak the most damage to the human psyche. Facebook and Twitter are the new battlegrounds and that amazing actor many were convinced should star in every TV show, major film and documentary has now become dirt under a fan’s feet because of his “insults to the fans”.

How in God’s name did we get to the point that no recognizable shred of human compassion and intelligence and goodness and sense of fairness can be found in our political candidates? When did we, as a society, decide it’s OK to treat people in a disrespectful way? It used to be that Facebook was filled with those ridiculous messages of inspiration for humanity: “Tread lightly, you don’t know what challenges he’s had” or “Be kind to everyone. God may be testing you”? No, these days it’s “If you vote for candidate B, you’re white trash” or “Unfriend/unfollow me if you support candidate A”. I admit, there were times when those sugary-sweet memes hit my timeline that I’ve wanted to add a touch of sarcasm, but after this election, I’ll take a timeline FILLED with those cheesy sentiments over the darkness of political memes.

We’ve all hit new lows, not just these candidates and campaign workers. We all have responsibility to the monstrosity this has become. It’s bigger than any of us. If there’s anything at all we can all collectively agree on, it’s that we’re about to emerge from this 10th ring of hell we’ve endured. That’s the good news. The bad news is one of these candidates will win.