How Did It Come to This?
Our nation has all but thrown away its reputation as leader of the free world for up-and-coming banana republic. Warren Buffett once said that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that you'll do things differently."
That sentiment seems to be completely lost on our current White House occupant and his team of downward-spiraling misfits. Our current theatre of the absurd actors seem to believe that they're reality show contestants. Somehow, albeit barely, we've survived Trump's first year in Washington.
But the damage already rendered to our democratic institutions, at home, and to our alliances abroad will linger long after he leaves office. Global confidence in U.S. leadership has fallen to a new low, according to an opinion survey conducted across 134 countries.
The U.S. rating is down nearly 20 points from the 48 percent approval rating in the last year of President Barrack Obama's administration, Gallup reported. He evidently believes that a seemingly booming economy vindicates all. It doesn't.
Over the past year, the stock market has boomed, GDP growth has improved and unemployment is at an almost 17-year low. However, job gains were lower than any of the past six years and wage growth was less than last year. Trump inherited an economy that was on a good trajectory with solid job growth and low unemployment.
Trump's own mark on the economy will be based on the long-term impact of his new tax laws. The most significant (economic) questions going forward are how much growth will tax reform generate, and what will Trump do with the various trade agreements such as NAFTA?
These may determine what will likely happen to the U. S. economy and the stock markets over the next few years. Listening to Trump boast about the recent surge of the stock market, one might get the impression that the bull run of 2017 was greater during his first year than any other.
In fact, of the few areas where this president produced higher numbers than his predecessor, most were dubious achievements: the 2017 deficit under Trump climbed to $666 billion, up from $585 billion in 2016.
The national debt crossed the $20 trillion threshold and is projected to rise faster in the future. And America's trade deficit, which candidate Trump famously blamed on poor presidential dealmaking, was worse during Trump's first year than in any of Obama's eight. Like most of Trump's boastful pronouncements, his claims clash with reality.
America's standing across the globe has been greatly diminished by isolationism and vitriolic tweets. Trump insulted the prime minister of Australia, despite that country having stood by our country for nearly a century. He also attacked Germany, our most steadfast ally in continental Europe, leading Chancellor Angela Merkel to tell her countrymen that they can no longer depend on the United States.
But Forbes noted that the stock prices grew at a faster pace during the Great Depression. Even Obama's first year in office saw the broad S&P 500 Index exploding by 23.5 percent compared with last year's 19.4 percent clip. Wage growth also declined after Trump became president.
Trump also insulted France's young leader by expressing support for his right-wing opponent and withdrawing-contrary to U. S. interests-from the Paris climate accords. He even blasted both the British prime minister and mayor of London after a terrorist attack.
If that wasn't bad enough, Trump reaffirmed his well-documented poor character with a disgusting slur against people from El Salvador, Haiti and countries in Africa. Trump's ally-bashing was matched by his elevating the status of dictators and racist organizations. His kowtowing to Putin was as unrelenting as it was disgraceful.
Not much has changed since 2015, when he praised the Kremlin autocrat as a “strong leader" who “gets things done." Trump also praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for a bloody drug war marked by extrajudicial killings. He even saw fit to lavish praise on Turkish autocrat, Recep Tayyip Erdogan for human rights abuses, giving him “high marks" and that it was “a great honor" to meet him.
Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of NBC
Our unrepentant Commander-in-Chief is cementing his legacy...
The most damning legacy of Trump's first year is simply that he has ruled as an unapologetic racist and sexist, incapable of empathy and anything that slightly demonstrates leadership.
He provided comfort to white supremacists after Charlottesville, attacked black athletes to garner cheap political points and fought-tooth-and-nail-to close America's doors to anyone who doesn't look, think or act like his most fervent sycophants.
At least 22 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct...
In a 2005 recording obtained by The Washington Post before the presidential election, Donald J. Trump talked about in vulgar terms to Billy Bush, then the host of “Access Hollywood," how he can get away with assaulting women, because he's famous.
Bush is no longer employed by “Access Hollywood," and Trump is now the 45th President of The United States.
Following the October 2016 release of the now infamous “Access Hollywood" tape, in which Trump was recorded as boasting about grabbing women's genitals in 2005 many women came forward. Some others made their stories public months before the tape's release, and still others came forward more recently.
Trump has dismissed all of the allegations made against him as “fabricated" and politically motivated accounts pushed by the media and his political adversaries, and promised to sue all of his accusers after the election is over. Although Trump has not made good on his promises to sue these women, one-Summer Zervos-has sued him for defamation.
Summer Zervos (R). Photo courtesy of Business Insider
During the second presidential debate, Anderson Cooper asked Trump point blank whether he had either kissed women-without consent-or had groped them. Trump asserted that “nobody has more respect for women," Cooper persisted, “Have you ever done those things?" Trump denied that he had, saying: “No, I have not."
And yet, in Trump's own words, he reveals an entirely different narrative of repulsive behavior. During an April 2005 interview with radio host Howard Stern, he said that he regularly walked into contestants' dressing rooms on the beauty pageants he owned while women were not dressed: "I'll go backstage before a show and everyone's getting dressed and ready and everything else. And you know, no men are anywhere. And I'm allowed to go in because I'm the owner of the pageant," he said. "You know they're standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that." Despite all of Trump's denials, 50 percent of voters-59 percent of women and 41 percent of men-surveyed in a Quinnipiac poll released December 19 think the president should resign as a result of the sexual misconduct allegations against him.
One accuser, Samantha Holvey, who recently spoke out again about her experience with Trump as a Miss USA pageant contestant, said that while his election was painful, she and others see the #MeToo movement as an opportunity to “try round two." At least 22 women have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct between the 1970s and 2013...let that sink in for a moment. He has consistently denied all of the allegations, calling the women “liars." But if there's one common theme, when it comes to Trump, it's that he has a consistent pattern for sexual misconduct and then denying it.
Once again, the question begs asking, how did it come to this?
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."