Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The cornered animal

In recent weeks I've been reluctant to write about Trump, since I imagine anyone reading this blog pretty much knows too much about the President. Attacking him and his administration is, as I've said more than a few times, like "shooting fish in a barrel."

However, at this time, we should all feel a special sense of unease. Trump's world has turned upside-down on him, with the latest -- and perhaps heaviest -- blow being the "raid" on his personal "consigliere" Michael Cohen. There is a good chance that Cohen was caught flat-footed by this (entirely) legal confiscation of records, before he was able to (illegally) destroy them. If this is the case, both he and Trump may very well be playing out the last of their game.

That being the case, what can we expect Trump to do? Many fear that he will find a way -- exactly how is not at this point clear -- to fire Mueller. This may, in fact happen, though I don't think that act will, even in the short-to-medium term, save him. My fear is that he will use the tried-and-true end run of starting a war -- somehow and somewhere. There are lots of possibilities. A massive Gotterdammerung, for someone like Trump, is a very real and terrifying possibility. Those of his followers of the evangelistic persuasion are, after all, looking toward the "End of Days" with some anticipation and would almost certainly egg him on (some are already doing so). 

Arlie Hochschild in her fascinating book "Strangers in Their Own Land" relates how some of the people she studied, when asked about the destruction of their homeland by environmental polluters, explained that ecological destruction is only a brief and contemporary problem, while the afterlife that stretches before them is infinite. While Trump himself no doubt has no such lofty feelings, his followers will certain make it easy for him to move in very bad directions.

Who will tackle him before he does something that may not be undoable?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The failure(s) of the Republican economic vision

On the federal level there is no evidence that "tax cuts pay for themselves" -- even Republicans like Bush Sr. know that it is "voodoo" economics. The "Reagan tax-cuts" were a result of some compromise and came when tax rates were considerably higher. There is, conversely, no evidence that higher tax rates dampen the economy; in fact, Clinton presided over a modest budget surplus in spite of somewhat higher tax rates.

There are, however, two notable examples where taxes have been drastically cut  at the state level. In both cases the result has been a disaster for the state's economy. 

I have discussed the case of Gov. Sam Brownback in a previous blog about Kansas: http://thatmansscope.blogspot.com/2017/06/an-important-story-in-kansas.html

The situation in Kansas was so bad that the conservative Republican legislature passed tax increases over Brownback's veto in order to keep the state from bankruptcy and preserve its basic transportation and education services.

Just recently, the New York Times featured an article on a similar disaster in Louisiana: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/08/opinion/louisiana-tax-cuts.html 

 This has not been resolved yet. The disaster of voodoo economics has been compounded by the usual Republican contempt for the environment, which has lead to terrible contamination throughout the state, especially chemicals along its bayous and oil along its Gulf coast.

The national Republican party tries to pretend that the tax cuts which it advocates are important to keep the federal government "under control". But even that is a phony since the same Republican party, at the state and local level, is constantly attacking any and all taxes. It would seem that their goal is to privatize everything: the schools, with the best ones for the rich; the roads on which the wealthy will pay for the best lanes; the water supplies and beaches and parks (the RMP -- the Rich Man's Party -- wants to use our national parklands for mining). They probably think that they can have private clean air and a private climate: if Scott Pruitt has his way.

The Republicans (not just their President), if left to their own devices, will make this country unlivable for all but their rich masters (the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson e.g.). We have the evidence in Kansas and Louisiana (above) and (Flint) Michigan and lots of other places. 

It is up to us to do the necessary job of alerting people to these "devices" and their failures. So far, the national Democrats have failed to publicize these well-documented results -- all they seem to do is attack Trump and his administration and ask for more money. That's why I don't contribute to their national "committees" but to individual candidates and groups such as Swing Left, ActionNetwork or MoveOn (there are other good ones -- especially on the local level).

Friday, March 2, 2018

What's good for Ohio Democrats is good for Democrats nationally

John Russo, writing in The American Prospect, points out that Ohio Democrats have failed to offer economic reasons for getting white working class votes. Instead of a solid platform, they offer attacks on Trump and fund-raising appeals. This important article can be found HERE.

This lesson is one that the Democrats on the national level could well learn. Each day I receive in my mail letters from the Democrats (usually the DSCC) with scary titles about how bad Donald Trump is (and he is very bad of course), coupled with pleas for money. I have yet to see a Democratic "platform" about how to raise working-class wages (other than vague approval of "minimum wage" laws), help unions, start infrastucture programs, or extol the very real benefits that government provides for all of us (for example: safety laws, food and drug testing, local and national environmental protection, research on disease prevention and cure etc. etc.) Democrats have also been reluctant to laud the many successes of the ACA ("Obama-care") and push for its extension.

In short, the Democratic Party U.S.A. has given us very few positive reasons why we should vote for them -- only reasons why we should vote against Trump et. al. It's almost as if they either have no program, or are afraid of or distrust real ideas. That is a formula for another disaster like 2016.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Robert Kuttner (American Prospect) on Al Franken

Kuttner, as usual, is right on target here. The Dems have been out-flanked again. Here's what he says:

As I wrote yesterday, Democrats made a huge mistake of both principle and tactics by throwing former Senator Al Franken under the bus. They hoped that ousting Franken would create a dramatic contrast with the Republicans’ indulgence of Roy Moore.

But Moore continues to deny that he did anything wrong. Who thinks the ouster of Franken will change one vote in the actual Alabama Senate race?

It would have been much fairer, as well as smarter politics, to allow the ethics investigation to play out, and insist that similar scrutiny be applied to both Moore and to the sexual predator-in-chief who sits in the Oval Office. As David Axelrod recently noted in a tweet, “Strange principle is emerging. If you admit misconduct, you resign. But if you deny it, however compelling or voluminous the testimony against you, you continue in office—or onto office—with impunity.”

The move to force Franken to resign is also hailed as an embrace of zero-tolerance. “I think when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping you are having the wrong conversation,” Gillibrand said Wednesday at a conference. “You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK. None of it is acceptable.”

This strikes me as dangerous nonsense. Just as there is a difference between armed robbery and shoplifting, there is a difference between rape and an unwanted pat on the butt. All are illegal or improper, but Roy Moore’s alleged child abuse and Franken’s bouts of misdemeanor misconduct are not in the same moral universe. Plus—whatever happened to due process?

This season marks the beginning of a long overdue reckoning of male sexual harassment and abuse of women. It doesn’t mark the end of shades of gray, or innocent until proven guilty. Right now, Republican stonewallers and sexual predators are having a good laugh at the Democrats’ expense. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

(See:  http://prospect.org/ The American Prospect.)

Monday, December 4, 2017

3 Riddles

Question: What does a politician have to do to lose the white evangelical vote?

Answer: Act like Jesus. 

Question: Is there any level of hypocrisy and lack of sympathy for their fellows that Republicans won't sink to?

Answer: No.

Question: Do Republicans serve any function other than to transfer wealth from the non-rich to the rich?

Answer: None that anyone these days can effectively detect.

Monday, September 11, 2017

What Trump is not

There's been a lot of talk recently that Trump is emerging as an "independent"; I don't think that this word is correct with a capital "I" since he does not have an official position within any Independent Party, nor does he hew to a truly independent way of thinking. He doesn't hew to any way of thinking actually since he doesn't think in the usual sense of mulling over facts and coming to some sort of reasoned conclusion. He is firmly in what shrinks call the "Concrete Operational Stage", as in: "This is pleasant sounding (feeling, tasting) and I like it, so I'll call it good (The Best! The Biggest!) and I'll do it." Those who think that he is "independent" because he is independent of the two political parties should review his appointments and executive orders: they are all parts of the Republican Wet Dream (RWD); i.e. they are anti-labor and pro-wealth and Big-Business; they are anti-environmental and pro-racism and pro-sexism. You name a Republican fantasy and he has stroked it.

So why is the press suddenly coming out with nonsense about his independence? Simply because he has decided to blame his failure to enact many of his campaign promises on the Republican leadership: Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. In Trump's brain-of-a-pre-adolescent  you have to win and be liked and push people around, and he hasn't been able to do as much of that as he would like. In fact, aside from some petulant words, the only thing he has actually done that isn't part of the RMP (Rich Man's Party) agenda is to agree with Chuck Schumer to extend the dept ceiling for 3 months instead of the 18 months that Ryan and McConnell want.

(The reason that they want the 18 months is that they don't want pesky arguments against a government shutdown to extend to midterm election time. Government shut-downs are not popular with most people who look -- with good reason -- to their government to help them by providing for "the common good" as our Constitution demands.)

In short, Trump is still the ignorant, selfish, childish and vicious (remember DACA?) blowhard who embodies the heart and mind of the modern RMP, especially its more "conservative" (conserving what? The Confederacy?) wing.

Looking for someone independent of the Republican Party? You'll have to find a Democrat or, even better, a Bernie Sanders follower.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Why are they so cruel?

The gratuitous cruelty of the modern Republican Party leaves one asking: Why? Where did this come from? In an essay written more than a decade ago, when "compassionate conservatism" was the phrase that marked (for Bush II) a coverup of this cruelty, George Manbiot wrote in The Guardian an interesting essay tracing this ideology back to the Puritans of the 17th century.

You can find his article HERE.

As my daughter, an historian, points out, puritan thought was also wedded with neo-conservative ideology to produce the modern American Republican Party. Chicago School economists and other apologists for Big Money had maintained academically that the accumulation of wealth was the only measure of success in a capitalist society, and, in fact, gave the only meaning to virtue and value and worth therein. Thus, so-called economic "computations" proved that "greed is good" (in the immortal words of Gordon Gekko, and endorsed by Ronald Reagan).  So, "cold calculation" and economic theory were combined with puritan theology to give us the RMP ( = "Rich Man's Party", formerly the GOP). In summary, wealth was the only analytic measure of value and success, and this was ratified by the Will of God. Neat package, and so far quite politically successful here and abroad.