Public Figures and Directional Changes Needed for the New Year

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by Ralph Scharnau

When considering New Year’s resolutions for individuals with high public recognition, President Donald Trump stands apart from all others. Marked by administrative chaos and dysfunction, Trump’s tweets and policies put him in the category of one of the worst presidents in U.S. history.

Trump and the Republican leadership in Congress have had a hand in turning the U.S. into the leading developed country with extreme inequality. The nation has the lowest rate of social mobility compared to any other rich nation.

A mid-December poll reported that just three in ten said the nation is headed in the right direction. President Trump’s job approval stood at just 32%, making him the least popular first-year president on record. Only a year after taking the oath of office, moreover, Trump faces unprecedented lawsuits, calls for resignation, and impeachment attempts.

A number of factors, personal and ideological, help account for Trump’s low approval ratings. First, he comes to the nation’s highest office without any elective government or military experience, and it shows. This man built his reputation on casino gambling, property holdings, and “reality” television shows. He lacks a moral compass and puts profit-taking for himself and his wealthy allies above the common good of the rest of the population. He glories in endless adulation of himself, and treats critical press accounts with contempt.

Trump’s initiatives are often marked by incoherence and danger. He plays nuclear brinksmanship with North Korea; drastically cuts taxes for the rich and corporations; reduces regulatory protections for the middle and working classes; makes life more difficult for immigrants; slashes assistance for the low income and poor; disrespects blacks, Muslims, LGBTQ and transgender folks; and abuses women.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “feminism” became the word of the year in 2017. Given the recent volume of reports of female abuse, it is not surprising that many people looked up the term to remember what it meant. More and more women are no longer afraid and demand accountability from men in power. This includes the president’s history of alleged sexual harassment and assault, charges which have already resulted in the resignations of high-profile lawmakers, entertainers, and journalists.

It has also been a banner year for political whoppers, and Trump has emerged as Liar-in-Chief according to He stands out for the sheer number of his factually false statements. He also brazenly refuses to admit error when proven wrong. By telling so many lies, Trump violates some of the most fundamental norms of human social interaction and decency.

Unlike Trump’s penchant for making egotistically fallacious statements and inexcusably denigrating people, professional athletes recently took a principled stand that unfortunately generated little news coverage. On December 14, 2017, professional sports unions worldwide unveiled a universal declaration of player rights. Listed as 17 articles, they include the rights to unionize and bargain collectively, express opinions freely, and receive equal pay for equal work. NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said, “Men and women who play sports did not choose to give up basic human rights that we would want for every worker.”

Trump is not alone in his self-absorbed quest for public accolades and unhindered profiteering. Yet Trump’s self-regard borders on self-worship. The nation, however, needs leaders who understand public service in all fields: government, law, organized labor, business, education, and non-profits. All leading public and private sector figures should resolve to put helping people, especially those struggling with meeting a basic standard of living, as their most important duty.

Ralph Scharnau

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