George B. Reed Jr.

George B. Reed Jr.

We let Trump get by with justifying his bloated military budget by asserting we were behind our enemies in armaments spending and needed to catch up. But like so many of his other bogus claims, this isn’t just an overstatement or an exaggeration. It’s a bald-faced lie.

Various information sources all show the same results: we are not only ahead of the rest of the world in military spending and armaments, we are overwhelmingly ahead. Last year U.S. defense spending exceeded the next seven highest nations combined and was almost three times that of our nearest rival, China. And we have 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to China’s one, and it was outdated before it was launched. And these figures are easily available to even the most casual computer user. But defense spending isn’t Trump’s number one misstatement.

Our president’s biggest whopper is the immigrant crime card he plays at every opportunity because it conveys emotion and fear and reinforces existing prejudices. But, like defense spending, has anyone ever bothered to check the facts on immigrant crime? FBI records show that our crime rate for native-born males is almost double that for immigrants. These statistics include California, the state with the largest non-white immigrant population. But Trump never mentions that the overall U. S. crime rate has also been reduced by almost half over the past several decades.

How does Trump get by with telling such whoppers? He has been doing it since the beginning of the primary campaign and is apparently confident no one will check the facts on his wild claims. But the real problem here is us and our willingness to be hoodwinked and bamboozled. It’s an acute case of spiritual diarrhea combined with intellectual constipation. In today’s complex world, rather than tackle the sticky issues and ambiguities in areas such as politics and religion people prefer to let spellbinders with all the answers do their thinking for them. That’s a bit scary. But the American working class, the primary target of Trump’s seduction, has no franchise on dissatisfaction with the present economic and social situations.

Historically the fertile soil for communism, fascism and other radical movements, the abandonment of critical thinking seems to have taken an even stronger hold in Europe where immigration is a far bigger problem than here. A festering working-class resentment was evidenced by the Brexit decision in the UK, the rising popularity of the right-wing populist La Pen in France and nativist anti-immigrant movements in Germany, Poland and elsewhere. As here, the new leaders are capitalizing on existing ethnic prejudices and working-class resentments, making wild promises they have no intention of keeping.

I know, I know; correlation doesn’t always indicate causality. But this alarming anti-immigrant populist surge is occurring on the heels of a steady decline of religious faith and commitment in western Europe and, to a lesser degree (so far) in this country. Could these trends be related, irreligion, xenophobia and populist activism?

George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at