Donald Trump: a common sense what-what?

Much to the horror of my brand manager, Donald Trump has taken to calling himself, “a common sense conservative.” Well, sorry Donald, in the wild-west world of internet domain land-grabbing I am the de factalg-donald-trump-jpg-300x220o owner of that term and you are going to have to pass some pretty stiff tests before I let you run around stealing my spuriously claimed handle.

Personally, I think Donald Trump is a blowhard and a bully. He’s not the schoolyard troublemaker with the biggest fists, he’s the one with the mouth so fast, that his zingers win the fight before the first punch is thrown. I respected these guys when I was a kid but I feared them too. Like all bullies, they know their skill and use it to belittle others and artificially increase their relative stature. I would really like to see how successful his name calling or water bottle spilling is in a dust-up with Ronda Rousey. (God, will you please let this happen?)

But I suppose a common sense conservative can be a bully and a blowhard. Readers of this blog are learning a few of the things I care about (as am I). But off the top of my head, the list looks about like this.

  1. An instinctual understanding of economics – in particular that smaller governments make healthier companies, healthy companies make better jobs, and better jobs make happier people.
  2. That people are happier earning than being given to.
  3. The recognition that “collective bargaining … cannot be transplanted into the public service” (FDR, August 16, 1937)” and why.
  4. Fiscal responsibility which requires that the government cannot spend more than it takes in.
  5. That no one gets credit for forcing other people to do what they think is right (Penn Jilette) and no one gets credit for spending other people’s money.
  6. The appreciation of capitalist democracy as a free-est form of government and the US’s place in the creation of the 123 that currently exist.
  7. The intention to support civil rights continuing march forward without hindrance.
  8. A commitment to support women’s health issues.
  9. A commitment of inclusion for all people.

Trump does pretty well on this list. He may use rhetoric that we are not used to hearing (or makes our ears bleed), but he understands business, and what companies need to succeed, he understands the benefits of a balanced budget and the consequences of the contrary, he recognizes the importance of a strong and active American military, he supports civil rights – in a common sense way if not an active one, and he has supported Planned Parenthood over and over – not for its abortion component but as a valuable resource to women.

The place where Trump strays from the litmus of a common sense conservative, is this last one – the inclusion of Hispanics. Although his plan to get Mexico to pay for a wall turns out to be slightly less ridiculous than it originally sounded, it still ignores the threat of tunnels, the three other borders, and the inefficacy of physical walls in general. Furthermore, his deportation plan is inhumane and fortunately impossible to carry out. It is very likely that both of these promises will eventually be reduced to metaphors for a secure border, and better documentation of people here illegally.

Last night, following Trump’s super Tuesday victory he held a lively press conference rather than a teleprompter speech. He took a surprising, humbler tone, turned down his insults, and offered lots of praise for his competitors. Megyn Kelly (the biggest winner of this campaign so far), a woman known for telling it straight with respect to The Donald called it “presidential” and “very smart”.

As for a common sense conservative, I am not willing to concede my title, but for the first time ever, I have to admit, I think he looked pretty good.

When I met the original Jenner


Although this is an economics and policy related blog, I may take the occasional Friday to write something lighthearted. Today’s story came back to me through all the recent press on Bruce and now Caitlyn Jenner.

As the accompanying souvenir suggests, I met Bruce Jenner in 1984. I had just gone away to college and left my high school job at Chuck E Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater. I was a good employee. In fact I was named employee of the month in my first month – a little like being named rookie of the year in a sport no one cares about. I worked every position in the place and not surprisingly, my favorite task was playing the costumed rat (yes, he is a rat). I was animated, good at pantomime, and shined in this role. If you know me, this isn’t a surprise.

After I went away to college, Pizza Time Theater, as the parent company was called, sponsored a city-wide Wellness Day with Rockford Memorial Hospital that involved a foot race and a fun run. They scheduled and likely paid Bruce Jenner to come support of it. With 20% unemployment, this was probably Rockford’s darkest period and Bruce Jenner was a big deal. Consequently, the management at the restaurant wanted to look their best. They called me and asked me to come back for the weekend and play the plushy role. In return, I would be paid my standard minimum wage and get my Greyhound bus fare reimbursed. I felt a little like a celebrity myself after that offer.

The late summer day of the event was one of the hottest on record with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees. My job was to don the full fake-fur (and not entirely pleasant smelling) rat costume and run the entire 1 mile fun run….And then return to the half way mark and do it again… and again and again until all 300 kids had crossed the finish line. With nothing on under the suit but a pair of teeny ‘80s running shorts, I did it. I ran the full mile once, and then did the half mile 4 more agonizing times. Following my final finish line cross, I collapsed and mimed a heart attack to some good laughs and deserved applause.

Still in costume I was escorted over to the VIP tent where I was finally allowed to take-off the huge inner tube lined suit. I was dripping wet, practically naked, and exhausted. And there was Bruce Jenner laughing heartily at my efforts. I wish I would have had a camera so I could have had a portrait with him, but selfies were years away. Instead I grabbed one chuck E Buck off the table and asked him to sign it. As he did, he said “Young man, you must be worn out. I don’t think I could have done that.” Coming from a decathlon gold medalist I took that as quite a compliment.