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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Can Exhausted Americans Make The Most Of The 'Great Resignation'?

Amazing to read that over 4 million Americans quit their jobs in September — part of a mass labor pullout being called the Great Resignation. The social and economic chaos unleashed by COVID-19 has apparently jumbled pre-pandemic assumptions.

Many of the job leavers have used the downtime time to re-imagine what they want out of life and are concluding that "work no longer fits into that picture," Barron's reports.

Where is this going? The answer depends on what the resignees did before they terminated their employment. Most probably don't plan to permanently erase paid work from their future but rather to take some personal time off. Best situated for trying out leisure are those who kept their paychecks during the shutdowns.

Others working the front lines may be quitting out of exhaustion. We speak of health care professionals burdened with treating thousands of dying patients. Or retail workers forced to confront mentally unbalanced shoppers throwing tantrums over mask mandates.

Same goes for flight attendants who had do deal with nasty, crazy passengers. Those who stayed on the job deserve a medal for valor, but it's understandable that some of their colleagues turned in their wings.

After a rest, many of these burnout cases may drift back into the work world. Some may have seen the labor shortage reducing the risk of temporary unemployment. They figured they could always get a job when the money runs out.

It's true that many of us learned how to make do with less. But making do with less is not the same as living on nothing. And Americans in general have not exhibited a genius for financial planning.

About 51% have less than three months of emergency savings, according to the website Bankrate. For those with only three months' worth who quit in September, the clock runs out in December.

Some Americans are reportedly moving their retirement up a few years. As for those we hear about with plans to retire at the tender age of 55, one must ask: Who the heck are they? Heirs? Lucky techies? Survivalists?

These child retirees may lack the assets usually prescribed for breadwinners choosing a standard retirement age. After all, a couple leaving the work force at 65 may need $300,000 just to cover health care expenses, Fidelity estimates.

A retirement adviser revealed to Barron's what he has to tell some clients seeking an early exit: "This isn't going to work out unless you're not planning on living past 75." With life spans growing, he cautions people even in their late 60s to amass enough savings to last 30 years.

This is not to dismiss the value of using the Great Resignation to reassess one's priorities. Many of us experienced the sweetness of more time at home with self-cooked meals, simple wardrobes and no commute.

But work is in the American DNA. An Italian friend once asked me why the Rockefellers work. I responded that in our culture, people find dignity in work.

In 1883, Theodore Roosevelt abandoned his soft life in New York to do brutal ranch work in the North Dakota badlands. "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing," he said, not surprisingly.

Also, having a place outside the home to socialize, such as an office, has psychological benefits. A way to stay moored to others, it wards off loneliness, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

But Americans need the money, too — even if not as much as they thought before. The proceeds from a job that doesn't crush the soul plus a better handle on spending could be the lovely flower that grows out of the Great Resignation.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

As A 'Crisis,' Food Price Inflation Is A Turkey

Economists tell us that the current high rate of inflation is not forever. And it's not all bad, certainly not for workers whose rising wages play a part in the climbing prices. How seriously Americans are taking it may be reflected in this Wall Street Journal headline: "Retail Sales Rose by 1.7% in October Despite High Inflation."

Anyhow, the media angst over jumps in the broad consumer price index often overlooks the big price differences in the categories that go into it. And what more timely subject for those intent on squawking about inflation than the price of turkey?

As an example, CNN anchor John Berman recently declared, "There's a good chance that the grocery bill is going to be quite high on Thanksgiving." Business correspondent Christine Romans took it from there delivering the scary-sounding news about the Thanksgiving bird.

"We're expecting the price to top a record high of $1.36 per pound this holiday season," she said. That would be "22 bucks for a 16-pound turkey."

Let's unwrap this. A 16-pound turkey feeds something like 18 people. That would come to $1.22 per person. Put in perspective, a Sausage Biscuit with Egg at McDonald's costs $2.79.

But things could go downhill from there. You might not get any turkey at all, Romans warns. "Economists are saying, grocery stores are saying, they expect a run on turkeys, a run on birds." There's also a "risk," she goes on, that "you may not get the size bird you want."

Aha, just the thought that alarmed Americans might do a run on turkeys, fearing they won't get one, could cause ... a run on turkeys. Recall last year's ransacking of shelves for toilet paper. Though inexplicable, it did create some cute memes: Did you know that the Charmin bear was behind the coronavirus pandemic?

Oh, and there are other Thanksgiving food items. The price of potatoes was up 1.7 percent last month from a year ago. Potatoes in October 2020 cost about 82 cents a pound, which means Americans are now spending slightly over 1 cent more a pound this year for potatoes.

Consider the worst-case scenario. Just suppose the turkey shelves at the supermarket go bare in the days before Thanksgiving. So, you have eggplant parmesan for dinner or hamburger or chicken pot pie. No one is going to starve. After all, the American people did get through the Great Depression.

But let's not interrupt a good cry. As The New York Times reported, "Thanksgiving 2021 could be the most expensive meal in the history of the holiday." But then comes the line five paragraphs down that put things in a calmer light: "Granted, last year the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 was the lowest it had been since 2010, according to the American Farm Bureau."

In other words, the increase in prices comes on a low base. That is, prices a year ago were unusually depressed because of the pandemic.

That also applies to gasoline, an item whose price has truly surged. The national average is now about $3.41 for a gallon of regular, according to AAA. There are several causes, but a spike in demand after a year when far fewer people were driving is a big one.

By the way, back in July 2008, unleaded gas hit $4.11 a gallon — and $4.11 in 2008 would be worth $5.17 in today's dollars. Life went on then, too.

As for the price of turkeys, who's panicking, other than certain media desperate for a hot headline during the mid-November doldrums? No need to panic. Black Friday is right around the corner, and as national obsessions go, shoppers-gone-wild are hard to beat.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Why Progressives Should Let The Rich Deduct State And Local Taxes

No serious economist believed that former President Donald Trump's 2017 tax law would pay for itself. On the contrary, that buffet of tax cuts will explode deficits by almost $2 trillion over 11 years, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Though the benefits went overwhelmingly to the highest-income Americans, red-state Republicans cleverly added an item that purported to raise some taxes on rich people. But not so much their rich people. It primarily targets those in high-tax, high-income blue states. We speak of the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction, or SALT, designed to drain revenues from the likes of California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

It's sad but expected that naive progressives — think Democratic Reps. Pete Aguilar of California and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — would fall for this attack on their own constituents' tax bases. That the supposedly sophisticated minds at The Washington Post and The New York Times would also portray efforts to restore the deduction simply as a tax cut for the rich is astounding.

There should be no cap on this deduction, which lets people subtract what they paid in state and local taxes from federal taxable income. However, a possible compromise among House Democrats to raise the SALT deduction to $72,500 would represent genuine progress.

Curbing the deduction forces Americans to pay taxes on income that's already gone to paying taxes. But it's more diabolical than that. It acts as an incentive for upper-income Americans to move to states with regressive tax laws and meager social safety nets — while at the same time degrading the tax bases of the very states that maintain progressive tax policies.

The reality, furthermore, is that the SALT deduction is used by decidedly middle-class people in high-cost-of-living areas such as Long Island. A cop married to a nurse in Levittown could easily report over $160,000 in combined income while also paying over $9,000 in property taxes.

"Folks have been moving away in droves since our state and local tax deduction was gutted," said Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat.

The top marginal individual income tax rate is 13.3 percent in California and 10.75 percent in New Jersey. There is no state income tax in Florida or Texas. For their revenues, those states rely far more on sales taxes targeting lower-income people. What sane progressive would want to degrade the tax base off which they pay for education and health care?

As for conservatives who lecture us on the need to pass power from the federal government to the states and localities, how can they justify stripping those jurisdictions of their ability to raise revenues? By the way, local taxes are the way communities actually fund their police.

For the simpletons who think that any tax hike that hits any rich person is fair, consider this ridiculous scenario: Imagine a new tax levied only on high-paid gastroenterologists. You may ask: What about neurosurgeons and hedge fund managers? Good question.

It may be reasonable to raise federal taxes on the richest Americans. But a tax increase on the $800,000-a-year executive in Florida or Texas should be the same as the tax increase on the $800,000-a-year executive in California or New Jersey.

The Democratic House had earlier passed a repeal of the SALT cap. Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn't even consider it. After all, why would a Kentucky Republican want to challenge a tax law that milks money from blue states?

With Democrats now nominally in charge, restoring at least some of the deduction is imperative. Smart liberals understand this. May a lightbulb illuminate the stakes for the other liberals. The SALT deduction serves their progressive goals.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Hey Sunrise Kids, You're Not In Charge

Reprinted with permission from Creators

The Sunrise Movement didn't get what it wanted. Because its young climate activists have been led to believe they are supremely important to the Democratic Party, they are very disappointed that more of their demands were not met in the final infrastructure deal.

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Virginia Election Delivered Lesson To Democrats -- And Republicans

Reprinted with permission from Creators

Contrary to many political prophecies, the election of Republican Glenn Youngkin as governor of Virginia does not augur a bloodbath for Democrats in the 2022 midterms. If it finally pounds in the lesson that the woke crusades of the far left are poison to the party, it may even improve the party's prospects.

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They’re Not Making Republicans Like Powell Anymore

Reprinted with permission from Creators

Confession: I used to be a Republican. I briefly became one years ago while living amongst the ultrawoke on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Their authoritarian diktats drove me crazy. And their narrow definition of economic interests as the rich versus the poor — with the middle class almost invisible — underscored their political naivete.

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Yes, Our Economic Problems Are ‘High Class’

Reprinted with permission from Creators

Here's how TV news works: What is just an annoyance becomes a concern. A concern turns into a serious worry. And a serious worry is elevated into a crisis. Stoking anxiety is how they keep the public glued.

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Let’s Stop Being World’s Biggest Suckers For Overpriced Drugs

There's a drug war on TV. It has nothing to do with cocaine or heroin but does involve an addiction — the pharmaceutical industry's compulsion to charge Americans an average 3.4 times more for brand-name drugs than people in other countries pay. Step 1 in the rehab program is to let Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices.

The drug makers, represented by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, the main industry lobbying group, are running scare ads where seniors fret that they'd be denied lifesaving drugs if Congress applies brakes on what they can charge Medicare. In opposition, the leading interest group for older Americans is sponsoring ads in support of price negotiations. The AARP insists its elderly members would still get the drugs they need, pay lower premiums and get new benefits.

The AARP is right. Most Democrats agree, and so did Donald Trump when he first ran for president.

"We are not allowed to negotiate drug prices. Can you believe it?" candidate Trump said in 2016. "We pay about $300 billion more than we are supposed to, than if we negotiated the price. So there's $300 billion on Day One we solve."

Upon getting elected, Trump made a top drug-company executive head of Health and Human Services, and the campaign promise vanished. But we can now update his figure on savings to at least $450 billion over 10 years, based on Congressional Budget Office numbers.

Most of those savings wouldn't leave the Medicare program but, as the budget plan says, go to providing dental, hearing and vision coverage. And beneficiaries would enjoy a $14 billion cut in their Part D premiums by 2029, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Then there are the taxpayers. General revenues — that is, federal income taxes — cover 71 percent of the costs of Medicare Part D, and states another 12 percent.

This proposal hardly starves the pharmaceutical companies of revenues. It would cap the prices charged Medicare at 120 percent of those paid in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. In other words, we could still be paying more than these other rich countries. The difference is that drug makers could no longer gouge Americans with impunity.

The proposed Medicare cap would have reduced U.S. spending on insulins and 50 top brand-name drugs by 52 percent during 2020 — a savings of $83.5 billion, according to a RAND Corporation report. (The Veterans Administration has long negotiated prices and pays 54 percent less for drugs than does Medicare.)

PhRMA's public relations department recently wrote that efforts to stop drug makers from charging the federal health insurance program for the elderly whatever they want "should enrage every senior who relies on Medicare for their life-saving medicines."

Actually, they're not enraged. An AARP survey finds that 87 percent of Americans 50 and older support letting Medicare negotiate drug prices. And nearly 90 percent of the general public wants it, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

One PhRMA ad falsely claims that politicians will "decide which medicines you can and can't get." The budget bill does no such thing. It would not require a prescription drug formulary. Insurers offering Medicare drug plans would still decide what drugs to cover. The negotiations would apply to only a few drugs that account for the highest spending and that lack generic competitors.

Lawmakers intent on protecting the drug-pricing racket include some Democrats. What most have in common with like-minded Republicans is open palms at the bottom of Big Pharma's money chute.

At some point, Americans will stop playing the world's suckers. Letting Medicare negotiate drug prices would be a fine place to start recovering our self-respect.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Yet Again, Republicans Skip Out On When Their Bill Comes Due

Reprinted with permission from Creators

This is not about what would happen were the United States to default on its debt. It's about what occurred in 2011 when one party just threatened to let that happen.

A Democrat, Barack Obama, was president, and for crazy partisan reasons, the Republican leadership deemed it a smart move to play games with the full faith and credit of the United States. Wouldn't crashing the economy sully the record of a Democratic administration and reward us at the polls? That's what they seemed to think.

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France’s Agony Over Submarine Deal Was Unavoidable

Reprinted with permission from Creators

About France and its submarines: Australia's decision to cancel a $60 billion contract to buy them and purchase American nuclear subs instead had to hurt. In response, France's foreign minister called the U.S.-backed move a "stab in the back," and President Emmanuel Macron recalled his ambassadors from both Washington and Canberra.

The backstory should take precedence over the drama flowing from the rift between America and its oldest ally. It centers on a growing alarm at Chinese aggression in the Pacific and how seriously the U.S. and its Pacific allies are taking it.

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As Markets Rise, Biden Takes A Bow (And Trolls Trump)

"Biden's Stock Market Returns Continue to Trounce Trump's" reads a recent Forbes headline. Sophisticated investors know this, but most of the public may not because Democrats have this self-defeating aversion to boasting about bull markets during their watch.

That seems to have changed under President Joe Biden.

Recall how former President Donald Trump tied every record high to his alleged brilliance as an economic manager. "The Dow Jones Industrial just closed above 29,000!" he tweeted about six weeks before the 2020 election. "You are so lucky to have me as your president. With Joe Hiden' it would crash."

Not quite. Ten months after Biden was declared winner, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was over 34,500. As for the broad-based S&P 500, that stock index has closed at at least 40 all-time highs since Biden has been president.

Happily for Democrats, Biden has claimed his bragging rights. Even better, he's trolling Trump with Trump-like swagger. "The stock market is surging," Biden crowed in a speech honoring labor unions. "It's gone up higher under me than anybody."

Actually, presidents don't have nearly as much control over the stock market as they may claim. New technology influences economic developments, as do black swan events, such as the September 11, 2001, attacks. Then, there was COVID-19.

That said, stocks have certainly done better so far under Biden than under the previous guy. From the last election to late August, all three major indexes — the Dow, S&P 500 and the NASDAQ — had produced higher percentage gains under Biden than in the same period under Trump, according to Forbes.

Stocks did great under President Barack Obama, too, but you heard nary a peep from him about the Dow. And until recently, Biden didn't talk about it either.

Democrats had reasons, not all good ones, for their reticence. In downplaying gains in stock market wealth, they often note that ownership of shares is heavily weighted toward the richest Americans.

That is true. About 92 percent of stocks owned by Americans reside in the top 10 percent of households. We're including stakes in 401(k)s and other retirement plans, and mutual funds.

Nearly half of all Americans own not a single share of stock. And of the households that do, the median stock value is only $40,000.

But these Democrats often underestimate how many Americans rejoice over a rise in stock prices delivering gains of even a few hundred dollars. And many who don't own any stock associate booming markets with general economic prosperity.

Some liberals, meanwhile, have this sourpuss idea that there's something not quite wholesome about making money in the stock market. After the Trump-era tax cuts favoring rich investors, they want to raise taxes on those with very high incomes, and that makes sense.

But then they must also recognize that stock market rallies produce more taxable income. And the sweet part is that proposals to raise tax rates on capital gains and very high incomes have evidently not depressed Americans' lust for stock investing.

Complicating the messaging for Democrats is that well-to-do Americans account for more and more of their voter base. In 2020, 59 percent of counties with a median household income over $80,000 went for Biden, whereas only 39 percent favored Trump.

Biden later swerved back to his party's earlier talking point that the stock market is not the economy. He complained about some people "seeing the stock market and corporate profits and executive pay as the only measure for our economic growth."

But did Biden use the word "exponentially" to describe rising stock prices under his presidency? He sure did. "I'm glad it's gone up," he added, "no problem." Good for him, and if this change in tone continues, good for Democrats.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Believe It Or Not, Giuliani Once Had A Finest Hour

Rudolph Giuliani was always somewhat off-center, even in his glory days as New York City mayor. But people who recall him then were stunned by his decline into a conspiracy-mongering swamp creature of Trump world. The 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 lets us remember that on that day of horror, Giuliani was on the chaotic scene, passing out courage and hope.

At 10 a.m. on 9/11, I was in New York on a train being kept underground in Penn Station. The two planes had just hit the World Trade Center.

The conductor came on the loudspeaker telling us repeatedly that "this is the safest place you can be right now." We didn't all have cellphones then, but a guy in the back of the car did and informed us that the Pentagon had been hit and the first tower, and then the second, had come down. The conductor asked us to pray for the people in the World Trade Center.

We were scared and shuddered imagining the terror downtown. We didn't know at that point who did it, why or whether they had stopped. We wanted to get out of town, but the train wasn't going anywhere because the tunnels were being searched for bombs.

The conductor came on one last time and told us to stay calm, take our bags and leave the train. We ascended into the light and a totally transformed city, country and world.

A public filled with dread needed consoling. President George W. Bush was incommunicado most of the day. But Giuliani was there among the smoking debris, the only visible political figure offering solace and, even more importantly, reassurance that life would go on.

He spoke eloquently about the collective grief. Asked how many had died, he said, "The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear."

But he also pleaded with New Yorkers to keep faith in the future. "Tomorrow, New York is going to be here," he said.

The most calming thing he said that afternoon, though, was that two of the subway lines were again operating and named which ones. Yes, it was going to be OK.

Giuliani became "America's Mayor," hailed as the ash-covered leader of 9/11. Time magazine made him "Person of the Year," and Queen Elizabeth gave him an honorary knighthood.

The backstory of Giuliani's role in 9/11 was less inspiring. One reason he became the hero of the streets was that he had pushed to place the Office of Emergency Management headquarters in the worst possible location, on the 23rd floor inside the 7 World Trade Center building. The office was created in response to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and the site was considered among the top targets for terrorists.

Giuliani has long had a strained relationship with the truth but went over the deep end in 2019 by peddling a theory that Ukraine tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. He forever disgraced himself by pushing lies that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump — culminating in his speech on Jan. 6, calling on Trump supporters to engage in "trial by combat" right before they ravaged the capital.

Giuliani had already fallen far. In 2018, he attended a game at Yankee Stadium, and when the announcer said, "The New York Yankees wish a very happy birthday to Mayor Giuliani," the crowd burst out with boos.

There's been much speculation about what happened to him. In New York City, he could have had bridges, roads and schools named for him. All that's left is a memory of Giuliani's finest hour urging battle against fear in the darkness of 9/11.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

When Only Veterinary Science Will Do

You know things are off the wall when even the FDA can't keep a straight face. What could the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say to Americans who refuse to get a coronavirus vaccine administered by medical professionals but instead go to a livestock supply house for a drug designed to deworm horses and cows? Ivermectin in big animal doses can easily make a human sick and possibly dead.

The FDA did issue a warning for people using ivermectin to prevent or treat the virus. But it also playfully tweeted: "You are not a horse. You are not a cow."

Some might deem it inappropriate to apply humor to a matter attached to serious health consequences. Some anti-vaxxers of the right-wing persuasion may accuse intellectual elites of looking down on them. They're not wrong, but average functional folk are also rubbing their eyes in disbelief.

The only logical explanations are stupidity, mental disability, and terminal ignorance. That Sen. Ron Johnson has endorsed use of ivermectin for early treatment of COVID-19 does not change the explanation.

After the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Johnson issued the following statement: "Our federal health agencies have not been forthright with the public about how these life altering decisions have been made or what science and data they are based upon. ... The American people deserve full and accurate information so that they make up their own minds regarding vaccination."

I understand little about aeronautics, but I get onto jet planes anyway because I know credentialed engineers have overseen the building of a safe aircraft. I don't feel I have to study the "science and data" of flight, because I know that experts are on the case.

Now you see people on TV, not all right-wingers, say they won't get the shot until they've researched the evidence on the vaccine. Some look like they couldn't operate a toaster, but if they want to examine the science and data, there are scholarly papers on the virus and its spread at their disposal, courtesy of the National Academy of Sciences. (Surely, they know all about interquartile ranges.)

Likewise, I could devote a decade to studying how those planes get off the ground before boarding one, but I'll pass.

A feed store in Las Vegas that ran out of ivermectin has posted a sign saying it will not sell it to customers who can't produce a picture of them with their horse.

Shelly Smith, manager of V&V Tack and Feed, recalled a man telling her that his wife wanted him on the "ivermectin plan." She told him that it was not safe to take, to which he said, "Well, we've been taking it, and my only side effect is I can't see in the morning." Smith said she responded, "That's a big side effect, so, I mean, you probably shouldn't take it."

Confusing matters, ivermectin in far smaller doses has been used to treat certain parasitic infections in humans. Rest assured, however, that reputable doctors are not prescribing horse paste to human patients.

Resistance to vaccines designed for humans and openness to horse meds seems especially acute in so-called conservative parts of the country. The anti-vaccine hordes of the right seem to be charging unarmed into the reality of a well-equipped and heartless virus. It's a free country, right?

Fifty years from now, documentaries about the COVID-19 crisis may relieve the grimness with a short section about the run on horse meds set to playful music. The associated tragedies will probably be forgotten, mainly because they were self-inflicted.

What can you do about people who choose veterinary medicine over the human kind? Nothing, really.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Afghan Mission Impossible Was Not Possible

As the images of chaos at Afghanistan's main airport looped on the news channels, "disaster" quickly became the favored word of commentators, followed by "disgrace." What we saw was disturbing, especially the evidence that U.S. forces hadn't secured the airport early on.

But 20 years after the U.S. first sent its soldiers to police the country and spent billions arming a huge Afghan army — a force that quickly melted away — Americans saw their country finally getting out of an impossible mission, that of transforming a very foreign political culture to our liking. The audience at home did not share the unhappiness expressed by experts on TV criticizing what they saw on TV.

Everyone saw the hundreds of Afghans running on the tarmac. They heard commentators opining with no information that the mob was all frightened Afghans who had helped the U.S. But some could have been using the confusion to immigrate to a better life in America. Some could have been slipped into the crowds by terrorist organizations. No one then knew.

And if, in the middle of the craziness, someone clings to the bottom of a packed U.S. military cargo plane as it takes off — and that person falls to earth — what are we supposed to do about that?

Since then, the optics haven't been all bad. Hundreds of Afghanis gathered in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and other cities to protest the radical Islamist takeover, and the Taliban responded with violence. In the end, though, this is the Afghans' fight.

America's presence did give women 20 years of relative freedom. We learn that some are now buying up burqas but also that other brave women are venturing onto the streets with uncovered faces.

Afghans facing the Taliban on their streets without an American escort is a good thing. Also potentially positive are signs that the Taliban may want the world to see them as less monstrous than before. America's job now is to ensure that they don't again send terrorists their way.

This can be done through intelligence. As National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told the media, we are already dealing with the threat of terrorism in Somalia, Syria, Yemen and across the Islamic Maghreb, "without sustaining a permanent military presence."

Media pests, meanwhile, were demanding apologies to liven their chyrons. "Will you publicly disclose what went wrong?" one journalist asked. No, the U.S. is not going to issue a what-went-wrong report, Sullivan responded, but it is going to look at "everything that happened."

Another reporter asked, "Will the U.S. government commit to ensuring that any Americans that are currently on the ground in Afghanistan get out?" It can sure try, but how many American soldiers' lives are you going to risk searching remote mountain villages for U.S. nationals?

A dumb foreign journalist asked, "How can you just claim to be a global leader without making sacrifice?" Sullivan showed great self-control in noting that 2,448 Americans had lost their lives and many thousands more were injured in Afghanistan, and the United States has spent more than $1 trillion there.

There's been much simple-minded lumping of the evacuation from Kabul with that from Saigon in 1975. There was a big difference: Americans were obsessed with the war in Vietnam. They hardly thought about Afghanistan.

The recent exit has been painful, as evacuations tend to be. But claims that it cost America "credibility" — that it was a "betrayal" that will "live in infamy" (George Packer inThe Atlantic) — can be ignored.

Most Americans understand that trying to redo the politics of this very different place has been mission impossible. For them, this withdrawal was not a foreign policy calamity. It was a relief.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Should Mainstream Democrats Primary AOC?

When will mainstream Democrats start fighting back? When will they stop playing nice with a left fringe that regards them, not Republicans, as the opposition, if not the enemy?

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's threat to kill President Joe Biden's hard-fought infrastructure deal should have been a last straw.

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How Mental Illness Spikes Street Crime And Political Extremism

Antisocial behavior has reached pandemic levels. Disruptive airline passengers are punching flight attendants. Thugs are attacking Asians, gays and other minority groups. Criminals have grown more brazen in bringing violence to the streets and into American politics as seen in the savage invasion of the Capitol on January 6.

Mental illness clearly underlies a lot of these disturbing trends, with the cracks widening during the COVID-19 scourge. The pandemic deprived many of community, personal interaction and, for those on the edge of psychic breakdown, the in-person mental health services they relied on or need.

America's system for supporting good mental health has never been strong to begin with. The 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act did help expand coverage, but getting insurance to pay for treatment of serious psychiatric problems remains problematic.

And the need has risen. From March through October of last year, hospital emergency rooms saw a surge of patients seeking urgent mental care, according to JAMA Psychiatry. The numbers were far lower in the same months of 2019, right before the pandemic hit. The crises ranged from suicide attempts to drug and opioid overdoses to abuse of partners and children.

Last year, a third of American adults displayed symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That was up from 11 percent in previous years.

Many of the Capitol insurrectionists had a history of mental illness and related social dysfunction. We made fun of several.

Eric Munchel of Nashville, Tennessee, who brought restraints police use on hands, legs and arms to the Capitol, was dubbed the "zip-tie guy."

Actually, Munchel had been charged with assaulting a man and woman in 2013. Recently fired from his job at a bar, he entered the Capitol costumed in paramilitary gear, his mother at his side.

Sean McHugh of Auburn, California, who attacked Capitol police with chemical spray, had accused the officers of "protecting pedophiles." McHugh, it turns out, had done jail time for statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl.

It was thought at first that Rosanne Boyland had been crushed to death in the rush of stampeding vandals, but the medical examiner concluded that the Georgia resident died from an overdose of amphetamines. Boyland had a history of drug use, including a charge of felony drug possession. The pandemic cut off her in-person group meetings of addicts.

When you look at some of the creeps who had been attacking Asians, you find something more than the usual racial animus. The homeless man seen viciously stomping on a 65-year-old woman of Filipino origin in New York was on parole for having killed his mother in front of his five year-old sister.

Another homeless man with 90 prior arrests was charged with slashing a gay man. Both the criminal and the victim were Latino.

You see madness in the faces of airline passengers throwing tantrums over demands that they wear masks. Videos show the protesters, usually women, making noisy and self-righteous stands for their right to break the rules. No matter how normally these disrupters dress, they radiate the look of the unhinged.

The mission here isn't to solve the dearth of psychiatric services for those barely hanging on. Others can better do that. Rather, it's to note that fragile psyches often lie beneath the growth of appalling behavior. And a society in the grips of fraying social ties is going to suffer more of it.

We now have an evil mix of social isolation and extremist rhetoric that some use to confer an air of respectability to their delusions. The social services that keep the mentally unbalanced in check need to be strengthened — and soon.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Not Getting Your Shot May Cost You Your Job

The CEO of Morgan Stanley wants all the boys and girls back in the financial giant's Times Square office by Labor Day. "If you can go to a restaurant in New York City," James Gorman told them, "you can come into the office. And we want you in the office."

Gorman added: "If you want to get paid New York rates, you work in New York. None of this 'I'm in Colorado ... and getting paid like I'm sitting in New York City." Clearly, the time employees may happily Zoom in from a lakeside cabin or suburban sunroom is drawing to a close.

This is a sentiment less colorfully shared by other captains of Wall Street finance, where group effort is often required.

"Having worked in the industry for 25 years," James Davies, a top Deutsche Bank executive said, "it was somewhat strange to walk onto the trading floor ... and see, you know, I guess six to 10 people here, versus the hundreds we would normally have." He wants them back, too.

Say what you want about Wall Street bosses, they're refreshingly uninterested in indulging the preferences or prejudices of their high-paid workers. It should thus surprise no one that they'd insist that the returnees are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

They're not heartless. Gorman says those who don't want the vaccine for genuine health or religious reasons will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Arguing that you don't want the shot because Tucker Carlson says it is dangerous, however, will not work.

It takes less of a mental leap to understand why hospital staff would also be told, no jab, no job. That didn't stop a nurse from becoming lead plaintiff in an unsuccessful suit against her employer, Houston Methodist Hospital, for firing workers who refuse to be vaccinated. Jennifer Bridges claimed she was being asked to become a "human guinea pig."

The Texas federal judge who rejected her case stated the obvious: "Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer."

A medical assistant seeking to stop a similar mandate at Indiana University Health contended that these medical institutions would "lose a lot of employees" as a result. Well, some people should not work in health care, particularly those who would expose vulnerable patients to a deadly disease.

Do note that most of these workers are already required to get an annual flu shot and to be immunized against measles, mumps, chickenpox, and other infectious diseases. Suits to stop these mandates have also gone nowhere.

Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine say all three vaccines authorized for emergency use are highly effective in preventing a serious disease, and their benefits greatly outweigh the rare risks. They would know.

The issue of liability is not insignificant. Hospitals could face serious legal consequences if an unvaccinated worker infects a patient, James Hodge Jr., a law professor at Arizona State University, told Stateline.

The mayor of a city near Los Angeles, meanwhile, says that city employees who work with the public must get vaccinated. If you won't, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris told them, "we'll help you find another job in the city to do until this crisis is over." But you could also be suspended without pay.

For the record, Parris is a Republican. And one can assume that the Wall Street executives who won't let returning workers spread pestilence on their premises are fairly conservative. They all have businesses to run.

No one has to get the shot, but no one should have to employ those who won't. Playtime is over.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.