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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Happy Birthday to our National Park Service

100 years ago yesterday, Woodrow Wilson signed the bill that created the National Park Service (NPS). The National Parks are truly a great American resource, showing us nature in a near-pristine form, much as it might have been thousands of years ago. The parks also give us insight into places that are an important part of our national heritage, such as battlefields, or landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty.

There was a time in America when protecting our heritage through preserving open space was thought to be a civic duty. Alas, that is no longer considered a responsibility by recent Congresses. Obama has used the Antiquities Act as a way around the stasis in Washington, creating several national monuments.

The most recent is the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine. There have been calls for a national park in northern Maine for a very long time, but the lack of federally controlled land and the hostility of local residents who believe the timber industry is going to make a comeback, made it impossible to get a park designation. But Roxane Quimby, founder of Burt’s Bees, gave almost 90,000 acres of pristine land to the government to help make something happen.

Opinions in Maine were mixed. There are more than a few folks who want the land to remain available to the paper mills, should the paper industry ever return to Maine. Republican Gov. Paul LePage denounced Quimby’s donation:

That’s one way to get out of paying taxes to the state of Maine…It’s also an ego play for Roxanne Quimby and Senator Angus King. It’s sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it.

Last time we checked Quimby and King were in-state liberals, and the land was given to America, not to Mr. Obama.

Of course, the NPS faces major problems on its 100th birthday. An NPR report indicated that the service is facing challenges like climate change, overcrowding, underfunding and relevancy. Regarding climate change, the parks are having to adapt to rapid changes as we saw in Glacier National Park, where most glaciers could be gone by 2030. The parks are trying to educate the public about climate change, despite continued hostility from Republicans who refuse to fund it.

Relevance is a big issue. Surveys show that the average park visitor is 41 years old and white, not the future of a young, diverse majority America that will be here about the same time as the glaciers disappear.

Finally, the number of sites managed by the NPS has grown from 35 in 1916 to 400 sites today. That has led to substantial deferred maintenance, and given that Congress is unlikely to come up with additional funding, the NPS is seeking corporate funding, and possibly sponsorship.

Imagine Yellowstone: brought to you by Coca-Cola…

This brings into question of the very meaning of the commons: If we sell sponsorships, who owns the Grand Canyon? Who decides how Glacier National Park should be managed?

But, in a world where the GOP won’t agree to fund the parks, that’s what you should expect.

On a happier note, here are photos taken on our final days in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Here is Moraine Lake, a small, jewel-like glacier-fed lake, created by gigantic rock slide:

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The distinctive color is from the sunlight reflecting off of dissolved particles of finely ground rock called “glacial flour”. And here is a photo of Lake Louise in Banff:

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Lake Louise was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848–1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. Apparently, the Province of Alberta is named after her as well. She never visited.

Here is a close-up of the Louise Glacier above the lake:

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The glacier is 300’ thick at the edge of the cliff wall.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 21, 2016

Although the Wrongologist cannot get newspapers, and only has occasional wifi, the news does not seem to have changed much in the past week. So, here are a few cartoons curated from the wilderness:

Aetna pulled out of Obamacare. Why are you surprised?

COW Aetna

Trump accused Democrats of exploiting Blacks at Minnesota Rally:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Trump told CBS News:

I have seen them marching down the street essentially calling death to the police and I think we’re going to have to look into that…When you see something like that taking place – that’s really a threat, if you think about it. And when you see something like that taking place, we are going to have to perhaps talk with the Attorney General about it or do something.

He also painted the entire African American community as living in poverty with no jobs. Doesn’t that show he’s completely out of touch?

The Clinton Foundation’s practices continue to puzzle Clinton supporters:

COW Zip Line

Ryan Lochte and teammates entered the wrong event:

COW Lochte

Bonus cartoonage from Australia. They cover Trumpology:

Trumpology

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Final Day in Glacier Park

Today we begin at the end of the day’s journey. We left St. Mary for Many Glacier, and after a nice hike around Swiftcurrent Lake, we had lunch and drove into Canada. Our destination was Waterton Lake Park, one of the earliest Canadian National Parks. It is adjacent to and really, part of Glacier Park.

In fact, in 1932, the US and Canada created the world’s first International Peace Park: joining together Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. It was the first Peace Park, and today there are 170 of them. UNESCO designated the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park as a World Heritage Site in 1995.

Waterton lives for the summer season. Its population is less than 90 people, and in the winter, the full-time population drops below 48 people.

We are staying at the Prince of Wales (POW) hotel. It was built in 1927. It is another of the Great Northern Railway hotels, a chalet-style place, without air conditioning, and which only recently added wifi. There are no TVs in the room. OTOH, you stay at the POW for the view, and here is the view from our room:

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Wrongo is looking out the window at that spectacular scene right now, and it is a fitting capstone to our time in Glacier. The day started in St. Mary, Montana. It rained quite hard yesterday, and while the temperature in town was in the mid-50s, down from the low 80s the day before, snow fell on the mountains around St. Mary. Here is a photo taken at twilight last night:

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We spent the morning at Many Glacier, an area within Glacier National Park located north of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, on the east side of the park. The Many Glacier Hotel, was also built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1915, and it fronts on Swiftcurrent Lake. The hotel sits in a bowl of mountains, the most significant of which is Mount Grinnell. Back in the day, people hiked the 12 mile round trip to view Grinnell Glacier, one of the most frequently photographed glaciers in the park. This means that there is a very well documented historical record of Grinnell’s glacier shrinking over the 176 years since the end of the little ice age in 1850. Grinnell is one of the many in Glacier NP that are likely to be gone by 2030.

Here are a few photos of the Swiftcurrent Lake area that were shot this morning. Here is the Lake with Mount Grinnell on the right:

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Finally, here is a shot across Swiftcurrent Lake. Mount Grinnell is to the left in this picture, and we are looking at a part of the Garden Wall that makes up the Continental Divide as we discussed yesterday:

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There was wildlife in abundance at Many Glacier. We saw bear scat while hiking around the lake, and later a couple traveling with us, saw a Grizzly Bear in the lake. There were Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep visible grazing on the slopes above us, and on the drive from Many Glacier to Waterton, we stopped to watch a Black Bear devouring berries, and for the ten minutes or so that we watched, the bear was totally oblivious to humans at the side of the road.

Tip: If you plan to cross into Canada, take Route 17 (Chief Mountain Highway). It is only open from May to September, at Chief Mountain Crossing. It had no traffic when we passed through.

Sources:

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/waterton/natcul/inter.aspx

http://www.glacierparkinc.com/lodging/prince-of-wales-hotel/information-and-policies/

http://www.albertasouthwest.com/waterton_lakes_national_park_community

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grinnell_Glacier

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Mountain_Border_Crossing

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Glacier Park: Days Two and Three

We spent Wednesday traveling the Going to the Sun Road (GTTSR) across Glacier National Park from West to East. The weather was perfect for the 50 mile trip, which we took in one of the red, “Jammer” coaches. Below is a photo taken at Logan Pass, a place to view the Continental Divide, or what the park rangers call the “Garden Wall”. The Garden Wall was formed by glaciers scouring both sides, making it a knife-edge like series of mountains. The Blackfeet called the Continental Divide the “Backbone of the World”:

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The horizontal white line on the photo above is the GTTSR coming from the West Glacier area.

Only 25 glaciers remain in Glacier National Park, down from 150 in the 1850’s, which was at the end of the so-called Little Ice Age that predated the start of the industrial revolution. Here is a photo of one of the most accessible remaining in the park, Jackson Glacier:

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If you want to witness one of the last glaciers, this one is easy to view, and as they say, it’s going, going, gone for Jackson Glacier, maybe in the next five years.

Towards the end of our trip on the GTTSR road, we moved from above the tree line to a “Parkland” forest at about 4500’, Upper St. Mary Lake, on the East side of the Continental Divide. It is almost 10 miles long. Here is a view of Upper St. Mary Lake, looking up the lake at the steep mountains that surround it:

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The little island visible in the photo is Wild Goose Island. This is considered to be the most iconic view of Glacier Park. Triple Divide peak is on the left. It is one of a few spots where water can flow in three different directions, to the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and to Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. The area was scarred by a forest fire in 2015, so while evidence of the fire is very apparent, so are the many wild flowers that grew in the fire’s wake.

No story about Glacier Park would be complete without a discussion of the Blackfeet Indians. The Blackfeet owned the land that became Glacier. In 1895, representatives of the US and Blackfoot leaders met to discuss the purchase, but the Blackfoot were reluctant to sell.

After pressure, the leaders agreed to the sale for $1.3 million.

Glacier Park was created because the Great Northern Railway wanted a destination venue for their railroad. The park provided a tourist destination; the Great Northern provided the transportation and also owned the hotels adjacent to the park. Great Northern promoted the park as an “Indian” destination and referred to the Blackfeet as “Glacier Park Indians.”

Great Northern arranged for these thespian Indians to meet tourists as they got off the train, and tipis were installed near the park lodges. Thursday’s visit by Wrongo and Ms. Right to East Glacier, home of the Glacier Park Lodge, confirmed that the tipis are still onsite.  Glacier National Park Lodge was the brainchild of Louis W Hill, son of the railway’s founder, James J Hill. The lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Here is a photo of the iconic great hall of the lodge:

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As a part of its Glacier National Park promotion, the Great Northern Railway in 1915 produced a movie entitled A Day in the Life of a Glacier Park Indian.

If you ever get to East Glacier, make time to visit the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning Montana; it is well worth your time. Browning is located on the Blackfoot Reservation, and is the capital city of the reservation. If Gregg is there, you will hear a straight forward talk about how the Europeans won the land grab war with many different Indian tribes, and how the Blackfeet have been on their ancestral lands for 10,000 years.

In a sad commentary, Browning is considering bankruptcy

 

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Glacier NP Musings

We stayed in Whitefish Montana for the first two days of the trip. It would be difficult to come up with a town that feels so welcoming and comfortable for tourists. It is a small place, with about 7,500 residents.

The town lives on tourists, with some 800,000 visiting this year in July alone. Anyway, notably nice people, and great food is on offer in the restaurants. We ate at the Tupelo Grille, and at 48° Latitude, both were fabulous. We spent today in the Lake McDonald area of the Park. We took a few pics.

First, on a hike on Beehive Mountain, we walked through an area that had burned in 2003, when 57,000+ acres went up after high school kids failed to put out their campfire. After the fire, plants and flowers grew in profusion. Here is a photo of fireweed, which only grows after the fire is out:

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We moved on to Lake McDonald. There is a fire near Missoula, some 137 miles away that had smoke drifting over the lake. So our photos were hazy, but here is a photo Wrongo took from a small boat:

DSCN5185Finally, we spent time at the Lake McDonald Lodge. It is run by Xanterra, who also have properties at the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yellowstone, Crater Lake and many other National Parks. The Lodge is an old property, built in 1913, and it’s located in a wonderful spot. We were struck by the huge chandelier in the lobby:

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The chandelier was designed by members of the Blackfeet Indian tribe almost 100 years ago. Here is a detail photo Wrongo took on Tuesday:

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You know Wrongo has to close with a political comment. Montana was the first state to send a woman to Congress. Jeannette Rankin was elected to the House in 1916, four years before women won the right to vote after the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She was a Republican and the only Congressperson to vote against the US entering both WWI and WWII.

Glacier Park had its 100th Anniversary in 2010. Visit it soon if you expect to see glaciers. They are forecasted to be gone by 2030.

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Trump’s Same ‘Ol GOP Tax Plan

Neil Irwin at the NYT compared the Clinton and Trump tax plans. Hillary’s raises taxes on the rich, and adds ~$1.1 Trillion to federal tax revenues over the next 10 years. The Pant Load’s plan is under revision (again), but, his old plan reduced revenues by ~$9.5 Trillion over the same period, and while his new plan will probably cost less, it will still create red ink.

Jared Bernstein had a few points which you might not have picked up on:

…the plan is pure, old-fashioned, supply-side, trickle-down orthodoxy. How that squares with Trump’s play for disaffected working class voters hurt by globalization is left as an exercise for the reader.

Bernstein’s best point is about the “pass-through” income loophole Trump creates. His new plan sets the top income tax rate at 33% but creates “a much lower rate than 33% for a substantial number of very-high-income households by allowing people to pay a new low rate of 15 percent on “pass-through” income (business income claimed on individual tax returns). According to the Tax Foundation, pass-through businesses now earn more net income than traditional “C” corporations (like GE or Ford). So of course, Republicans want to lower their tax rates. More from Bernstein:

More than two-thirds of all pass-through business income flows to the top 1 percent of tax filers.

And it will probably get worse: When you can pay a lower rate on a particular type of income, you will visit with a tax lawyer and set up a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). Then off you go to the boss and say, as Bernstein points out:

“I’m no longer Joe Paycheck, I’m Joe Paycheck, LLC. Pay me the same salary but call it a consultant’s fee for services provided by my limited liability corporation”. Joe then passes that income through from the business to the personal side of the tax code and pays 15% on it.

Where Joe might have formerly paid as much as 39.5%. This will allow the hedge fund and private equity guys to move from paying a mere 24% that they pay on earnings today to 15%, if Trump gets the GOP-led Congress to go along.

Trump also wants to repeal the estate tax. Like the prior “improvement”, this one will benefit the Donald personally. The estate size that must pay estate taxes today is $10.9 million. So if a couple has an estate smaller than that, they pay no estate tax. How many are paying it? Only 0.2% of estates (that’s 2 in a 1,000) pay it today.

So none of these are the “small family businesses” and “family farms” that Republicans whine about. If you have the better part of $11 million in assets, you ain’t that small.

A minute more on the LLC: LLCs were created by Congress to give owners of businesses the ability to avoid “double taxation” on taxable income they receive from their businesses. The theory is, business income from a C corporation is taxed twice: once at the corporate level and again at the personal level when dividends are paid to owners. Businessmen could have avoided double taxation by simply operating their businesses as proprietorships or general partnerships. But then they would lose the limited liability protection from creditors that C corporations and limited partnerships provide.

So Congress created the LLC hybrid to enable businessmen to have their limited liability cake and eat it too. But you don’t get the same deal: Wrongo and Ms. Right have paid into Social Security for over a combined one hundred years. Along the way, we could not deduct our yearly SS contributions, which means we paid income taxes on the income that we used to make our contributions. Now that we are receiving Social Security payments, we pay federal and state income taxes again on the payments we receive.

If we use some of our Social Security income to buy gas, we are taxed again in federal and state motor fuel taxes. Same when we buy goods and services, and pay state sales taxes.

Double, triple and quadruple taxation are pervasive throughout our economy, but it’s only the average Joes that pay them. So no tears for Mr. Trump, the Kochs and “job creators” who say they need a break from double taxation.

Or maybe ask your Congressperson for a similar break for you.

Trump is cutting taxes for the rich. If you think he is gonna help the middle class, he is hoodwinking you. You may see a few pennies in tax cuts while the rich take in extra millions to buy bigger, better penthouse apartments.

Meanwhile, the roads and bridges that you use to get to work will crumble even further, because he’s planning to give away the store.

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Where Republicans Are Coming From – Monday Wake Up Edition

(There will be limited blogging until 8/25, as Wrongo and Ms. Right visit Glacier National Park. Keep your tray tables in the upright and locked position while we are away.)

One of Wrongo’s earliest memories, a fragment, was riding in the car with my parents. When I asked where we were going, my mother said: “To elect Mr. Dewey president.” That was 1948. And here is a graphic example of what civic-minded Republicans were doing in Pittsburgh in 1949:

Vote Republican

The photo was taken by Charles “Teenie” Harris, and is in the archives of the Carnegie Museum of Art. It is part of a show of his work that opened on Aug. 13. Pittsburgh was Harris’s home town.

Note the predator’s clutching fingers. Note the long nails that Americans imagined that their Japanese enemies had in WWII. Note the blackface doll carried by the little white girl. While many Blacks in the north still voted for the Party of Lincoln in 1949, this billboard was in many ways a “dog whistle” for the white community of Pittsburgh.

The billboard was part of the Republican Party’s “informed debate” in Pittsburgh’s mayoral election in 1949. Their message was that the streets were not safe for women and children. This, at a moment in American history when we were not suffering lots of crime. In fact, there was a drop in homicides in the immediate post-war period.

There was pushback against the billboard, even among Republicans, in fact, the Pittsburgh Outdoor Advertising Co. refused to honor their contract to put up 100 copies of the image once they saw it. They had to be forced to do so by a local judge, who called the picture “a shocking example of bad taste.” Within a week of the billboard’s appearance, however, the Republicans themselves decided to replace it with a less offensive image. From Blake Gopnick at Artnet:

Back then, at least, a Republican candidate could realize he’d crossed a line and decide to step back from it.

That’s much too much to ask in 2016. Of course today, the Republicans would say the way to make that child safe would be to give her a gun and tell her to lock and load.

So another Monday morning wake-up for the GOP. To help them join the rest of us in the real world, here are Belle and Sebastian with “Olympic Village, 6am”. As we start the second week of the Olympics, the focus shifts to track and field, and so does this video:

For those who read the Wrongologist in email, you can view the video here.

(H/T: LGM)

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 14, 2016

Apparently, President Obama makes a playlist every year for his summer fun time on Martha’s Vineyard. Playlists by politicians are common, and usually are big nothingburgers. Obama has a “Day” playlist and a “Night” list. This year, The Atlantic approves of Mr. Obama’s night playlist, and thinks the day list is a snooze. Guess critics gotta criticize.

Make up your own mind: here is the Obama “Night” playlist.

It was a big week in manufactured news. Trump dominates, but Politico speaks about the Trump campaign thusly: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

What’s bothering people on the [Trump] campaign is that they feel like they’re doing all the right things, but they’re losing every news cycle to Hillary and there’s nothing they can do about it.

It’s doubtful that Clinton has won a news cycle since the convention, but what the Trump campaign is trying to say is that Clinton doesn’t need to win a news cycle as long as Trump “misspeaks” every day. From Karoli Kuns at C&L: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

I think that’s precious, don’t you? Considering that Trump dominates the news for every cycle with his intentional demonization of President Barack Obama and [his] opponent, Hillary Clinton, it’s hard to imagine Republicans wringing their tiny little hands over losing news cycles to her.

Ok, the GOP should keep explaining Trump’s gaffes until America is tired of all the winning.

On to cartoons. Simone Biles gave us a feel-good moment:

COW Americas Great Again

This is the one Burka that Trump likes:

COW Tax Returns

With all of the “resets” and “mansplaining”, the GOP could lose its balance:

COW Balance Beam

This is as understandable as any other explanation by Monsieur big mouth:

COW Trump Backs Up

Trump’s new tax policy is same old, same old. It’s a reconstitution of the standard Republican trickle-down economics that benefits big corporations and a wealthy few:

COW Trump Tax Plan

 

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Words Have Meaning

This captures where we are:

COW Hill's Threats

People are debating whether Donald Trump suggested violence against Hillary with his comment about how “the Second Amendment People” might be the only group capable of stopping Hillary Clinton from appointing liberal judges if she is elected president.

The Trump comment was in the context of what happens after Hillary is elected, and that there was nothing anyone could do about Hillary appointing Justices, except for…Second Amendment people.

He said, “If [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.” There’s “nothing you can do” in this situation because Trump is talking about a time after the 2016 election is over, and Clinton is president.

If he wasn’t talking about after the election, why would he say there was “nothing you can do?” During the election, there’s something pretty obvious you can do: Get out the vote and prevent her from becoming president in the first place.

Then Trump immediately follows it up by saying, “But I tell you what, that’ll be a horrible day.” Again, this suggests the time frame he’s talking about is when she’s already in the White House. Otherwise, both the “horrible day” comment and the “nothing you can do” comment that bookend his Second Amendment remark are total non-sequiturs.

So no, this isn’t about the NRA organizing their members to get out the vote. His comments were about doing something AFTER the election. Why would it be a “horrible day” if all he was talking about was getting out the vote, his vote? It is totally illogical.

There is no ambiguity here.

This seemed to Wrongo to be another effort at a joke by the Pant Load. The WaPo reported that Paul Ryan said:

It sounds like just a joke gone bad. I hope he clears it up very quickly. You should never joke about something like that.

It’s highly unusual for the Wrongologist to agree with Paul Ryan, but that’s probably the best defense for Trump’s words. But when faced with an outcry after his controversial comments, Trump never admits error and never backs down — no matter how strained the defense.

Why should this time be any different?

Trump knew exactly what he was doing, and he did so in the same manner he has been using throughout the campaign.  A suggestion, an inference, a little birdie told him, it is what people are saying.  The dog whistle, the wink, the nod. Some ambiguity to the comment, delivered in a veil of coyness.

Maybe we should remember the very bright line that Sarah Palin crossed a few years ago when she took out an ad that deliberately placed Gabby Giffords in crosshairs, just before Giffords was shot and critically wounded by a gunman. This is different, but really, how different is it?

On ABC’s Good Morning America, Rudy Giuliani gave Trump’s words the real test: How did they play with Trump’s audience?  Getting Hillary couldn’t be what Trump meant, Rudy observed, because if Trump had actually called for Hillary to be killed, the crowd would have gone wild.

Imagine being Giuliani: So invested in Trump’s campaign that you’re contorting yourself into a pretzel to translate the candidate’s Wingbat-ese into English.

And once again, defending the indefensible.

Words matter, especially when delivered by someone who aspires to be POTUS.

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What Can Vietnam’s Success Teach Us?

Wrongo was against the Vietnam War. He was drafted right after college into the US Army while America was fighting the Viet Cong. Once in the military, he was twice on orders to go to Vietnam, but luckily, ended up serving his time in Germany, running a nuclear missile unit.

He has several army buddies whose names are inscribed on the Wall in Washington, but that was 50 years ago, and he holds no grudge against Vietnam, or its people. So, the remarkable recovery that Vietnam has made from the war, their now friendly ties with the US, and their success in becoming a middle income country ought to be instructive to our foreign policy establishment.

From the Economist:

Foreign direct investment in Vietnam hit a record in 2015 and has surged again this year. Deals reached $11.3 billion in the first half of 2016, up by 105% from the same period last year, despite a sluggish global economy. Big free-trade agreements explain some of the appeal. But something deeper is happening. Like South Korea, Taiwan and China before it, Vietnam is piecing together the right mix of ingredients for rapid, sustained growth.

Since 1990, Vietnam has averaged GDP growth of nearly 6% a year per person, lifting it from among the world’s poorest countries to middle-income status. This is similar to India’s or China’s growth, but China then went on to average double-digit growth for years. Check out this photo of today’s Ho Chi Minh City, what GI’s once called Saigon:

Stark Tower 2

The tall building is 68 floors high. It is the Bitexco Financial Tower, but locals call it “Stark Tower” because it looks like Tony Stark’s headquarters in the Iron Man films. While it is the city’s tallest building now, next year it’ll only be the fourth tallest.

So, how did this communist country do it? By moving from state ownership of the means of production to a mixed model. Vietnam’s Doi Moi policy opened up Vietnam to the rest of the world. They revamped much of the legal system to create a transparent and attractive place for foreign investment. This has given foreign companies the confidence to build factories. Foreign investors are now responsible for a quarter of annual capital spending. Trade accounts for about 150% of national output, more than any other country at its level of per-person GDP.

They established the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange in 2000, and de-nationalized many state-owned companies, opening doors for foreign investment. Equity was sold to both foreign and domestic investors, and in some cases, foreign ownership can now be 100%. In 2015, total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was $13 billion.

Vietnam shares a border with China. As Chinese wages rise, some firms can easily move to Vietnam for lower-cost production, while maintaining their links to China’s supply chain for parts.

Vietnam has a relatively young population. China’s median age is 36, while Vietnam’s is 30.7. Seven in ten Vietnamese still live in the countryside, about the same as in India, compared with only 44% in China. This reservoir of rural workers should help hold down wage pressure, allowing Vietnam to build up labor-intensive industries, a necessity for a nation of nearly 100 million people.

Public spending on education is about 6.3% of GDP, two percentage points more than the average for low- and middle-income countries. In global rankings, 15-year-olds in Vietnam beat those in America and Britain in math and science.

Although Vietnam has benefited from foreign investment, only 36% of its firms are integrated into its export industries, compared with nearly 60% in Malaysia and Thailand. While Samsung plans to invest $3 billion in consumer electronics production in Vietnam, there will be very little domestic content, except for packaging. More local value-added must be found to keep GDP growth high.

There are big problems: The fiscal deficit in 2016 will be more than 6% of GDP for the fifth straight year. As mentioned, domestic content in exports is low, and imports of consumer goods purchased by newly prosperous workers fuels a trade deficit.

Vietnam is now classified as a middle-income country; so it is about to lose access to preferential financing from the multilateral development banks. In 2017, the World Bank will start to phase out concessional lending.

Vietnam is successful, despite our dropping 3.5 times the number of bombs on it that we dropped in WWII, while killing more than a million Vietnamese.

For America, Vietnam’s success, despite our past efforts to devastate it, should cause us to reflect on how and why we are a guns-first country when we deal with the third world.

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