What An Actual President Would Say About Charlottesville

President Donald J. Trump

The White House, USA, Parallel Earth

The tragic events of last weekend have saddened and angered every good American. The horrific violence, instigated by extremists whose hateful ideology belongs on the ash heap of history, has destroyed our complacency and forced me to address a problem I hoped would go away.

You see, even worse than the Confederate and Nazi flags, the hateful rhetoric and the violence that disturbed a beautiful college town, was the implication that these extremists were, at least in part, motivated by my election to come out of the darkness. The chants of ‘Heil Trump’ and ‘Sieg Trump’ have haunted me. The leaders of these vile death cults have invoked MY name, and I can no longer tolerate or ignore these provocations.

So, let me be perfectly clear. Mr. Duke, Mr. Spencer, and all who follow or emulate them: You do not speak for me. You do not speak for the tens of millions of loyal and decent Americans who came out in Primary and General elections all over this great country to cast votes for Donald Trump last year, and the tens of millions who continue to look to me for leadership. Hundreds of thousands of loyal Americans have died to destroy your regimes of hate and fear, and I will not dishonor their sacrifices with my silence in the face of their return. I do not want, no, I WILL NOT ACCEPT YOUR SUPPORT.

I have directed Attorney General Sessions to begin an inquiry into the feasibility of federal hate crimes and civil rights charges against the suspect in the fatal hit and run attack in Charlottesville on Saturday. I have sent a letter to the Speaker and Minority Leader in the House of Representative, and the leaders of the Senate, asking for their support to increase funding to intelligence units at the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, specifically to combat white supremacist organizations and to determine their criminal and civil liability in these and other acts of terror.

Many have pointed out that my senior advisers, Mr. Miller and Mr. Bannon, have often expressed views in accord with the resurgent white supremacist movement. I find it hard to believe that they could sympathize with such odious views, but their record of statements and writings has caused millions of Americans to doubt their stance on hate and on justice for all Americans. While I still believe that these men are good Americans, no Americans can doubt where the White House stands on extremism and hate. Accordingly, I have reluctantly asked for, and received, the resignations of both men.

I have written a twenty million dollar personal check to my foundation, and will ask for donations from the public for four times that amount, to found an anti-extremism office that will fund groups and programs that help the victims of hate groups and assist former members in leaving their lives of hate and violence. I have asked my daughter Ivanka to lead that effort full-time.

There can no longer be any confusion. Hate has no home, and no friends, in the White House. While these groups have not had a monopoly on violence, and such acts will not be tolerated by anyone, Neo-Nazism, White Supremacy, and Fascism must and will be consigned to a sad chapter in our past.

 

God Bless America, and all Americans, and good night.

There Is No Mystery To Health Care

There are four models of health care financing in the world today. The Bismarck model, used in Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and Belgium, is built on employer-provided private insurance with subsidies and cost controls to make the system universal. The Douglas model, used in Canada, France, and Taiwan, establishes a universal public insurance model that includes all legal residents and is financed by taxation. The Beveridge model, as seen in the UK and Hong Kong, is built on public clinics and hospitals that all legal residents can access without payment at point of service. The fee-for-service model is the tyranny of the market: If you have money, you see a doctor; If not, you stay sick and die needlessly. What ALL of the countries that have fully implemented one of these models have in common is that they cost a lot less per patient than what we spend in the United States. What the first three models have in common is that they cover everybody AND cost a lot less. While they all have problems, those problems pale in comparison to the insane costs and needless suffering of the chaos in the American non-system.

The root of the problem with the US health care system is that we try to implement all four systems.

Veterans use the VA system, which like the UK’s National Health Service, offers state-owned hospitals and clinic staffed with government employees that provide care and medications directly for no or nominal cost. By directly providing services to patients, costs are kept very low, making it the cheapest part of the American non-system, despite the fact that its patient population is a high-risk subset of the population. That’s the Beveridge Model.

Americans with disabilities and those over 65 use the Medicare system. The poorest Americans may qualify for Medicaid, depending on which state they live in. Those systems are government-provided health insurance plans that pay largely private providers according to mandated rates for defined services, like Canada’s Medicare national health insurance. Unlike Canadian patients, American Medicare enrollees usually pay copays at the point of service. That’s the Douglas model.

Americans with white-collar jobs at large companies get their health insurance through work. They enjoy “community rating” and “guaranteed access,” meaning that they and their dependents cannot be denied coverage or charged more because of age or medical history. Employers and younger or healthier colleagues are in effect subsidizing the costs of covering older, sicker employers and family members. While each company is treated as a risk pool for purposes of establishing premiums, the private health insurance companies make a profit through risk arbitrage because of their much larger risk pool. If each policyholder could take advantage of the cost savings of unifying the whole risk pool of all private insurance companies, the result would look a lot like a national Bismarck-style system. In such a system, public plans or subsidies would cover the unemployed or those at small companies, while making prices uniform across the system as a whole to control costs.

Tens of millions of Americans fall through the cracks of these partial systems. Providers must maintain large staffs to navigate multiple billing systems. Networks of providers keep getting larger to provide more negotiating power with insurers, continually driving up prices of medical goods and services. All these interest groups hire armies of lobbyists to make laws and regulations absurdly complex, making services more expensive yet.

The whole premise of conservative political thought on health care reform in the United States today is that there is some combination of policies that will turn a fee-for-service model into a functional system, because markets. One of the major ideas of the conservative movement is that health insurance shouldn’t cover routine care, but should be like homeowner’s insurance or auto insurance, and only cover catastrophic events. The problem with this theory is that 46 percent of Americans couldn’t produce $400 in an emergency, it costs hundreds of dollars for the uninsured to see a doctor in this country and those most at risk from chronic disease would be those most likely to forgo primary and preventive care. This will dramatically increase the risk of illness among those least able to provide for their care and push them onto public health programs at the state level that will be cut or curtailed because the poor have no political power in America.

The Affordable Care Act is the most workable form of pro-market ideology in health care. Despite all the conservative apoplexy it has attracted, the intent of Obamacare was to implement a Bismarck model in the United States using the existing systems of employer-provided care and Medicaid, while filling the gap by creating new state-level risk pools to make the individual market operate like the group market as seen at large companies. The problems with that system are an indictment of the incompleteness of the ACA, not of the Bismarck model itself. The basic ideas in the ACA derive from conservative thought, originating at the Heritage Foundation and first implemented during Mitt Romney’s time as the governor of Massachusetts. It’s an attempt to provide something like universal coverage with minimal state intervention. Of course, conservatives are universally in favor of scrapping it, because reasons.

There isn’t some magical formula issuing forth from the ghost of Milton Friedman. If there was, it would have been found during the forty years in which conservatives have run the economics profession in the United States. The right-wing think tanks have published many thousands of papers in the search for such a model. Obamacare is the direct descendant of those ideas, using private insurance and the individual mandate to move toward universal coverage. Conservatives of both parties successfully defunded the risk corridors, killed the public option, largely scuttled the Medicaid expansion, and weakened the mandate, thus creating the actuarial problems the ACA has today. The purpose of all of that was to prevent the ACA from working, because if it did, it was feared that the resulting ideological dislocation would weaken the conservative movement. The fact that they felt this way about an idea that began life at Heritage highlights how extreme the American right has become.

The ugly truth is that there is no fifth model. There are four, and if you want a functional system, you have to implement one of them. The reason our system costs so much without delivering very much is that we have tried to implement all four simultaneously. There simply is no intellectually honest conservative approach to health care policy. The right claims to want to fix the incomplete Bismarck model we have, but really wants to replace it with a fee-for-service model, which would benefit only the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

 

Justin Amash Is In Need Of An Ex-Lax

Nothing puts a smile on my face like killing my supporters!
Nothing puts a smile on my face like killing my supporters!

In an absurdly mendacious Facebook post, far-right ideologue and supposed Michigan Representative Justin Amash said, in effect, `y’all need to chill the fuck out!’:

The AHCA repeals fewer than 10 percent of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act. It is an amendment to the ACA that deliberately maintains Obamacare’s framework. It reformulates but keeps tax credits to subsidize premiums. Instead of an individual mandate to purchase insurance, it mandates a premium surcharge of 30 percent for one year following a lapse of coverage. And the bill continues to preserve coverage for dependents up to age 26 and people with pre-existing conditions.

I want to emphasize that last point. The bill does not change the ACA’s federal requirements on guaranteed issue (prohibition on policy denial), essential health benefits (minimum coverage), or community rating (prohibition on pricing based on health status). In short, Obamacare’s pre-existing conditions provisions are retained.

This is, (how should I put this?), ….

a bald-faced lie.

For all its faults, the Affordable Care Act cut the uninsured rate in half in this country, bent the cost curve down, saved at least 50,000 lives, and shaved at least half a trillion dollars off the 75-year debt projections.

What the new bill does change is significant. It ditches means-based and geographically-based subsidies altogether in favor of an age-based subsidy, so that Bill Gates would get a higher tax credit to purchase a plan on the exchange than I would. At least $600 Billion of the revenue that makes the ACA work is cut in the AHCA. The Medicaid expansions, about half of the ACA reduction in the uninsured, are phased out after 2020, affecting millions who will have little to no access to health insurance if this bill becomes law. That will cost tens of thousands of lives every year.

The changes in subsidies, the uncertainty of the non-statutory cost-sharing subsidies, and the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion will trigger a death spiral on the exchanges and for rural hospitals that will deny millions of Americans life-extending health care and cause immense quantities of needless suffering and death. At least 24 million of those insured on the exchanges and through Medicaid because of the ACA will lose coverage. The coverage losses from the exchanges are probably worth at least another ten thousand deaths a year. These losses will hurt Republican voters the most. Coverage loss maps show that the areas of greatest insured reductions are in some of the reddest places in America, like Nebraska, Kentucky, and Kansas.

Even for those who get health insurance through their employers or those of their family members, about 150 million, the bill has a serious problem. The states can petition this administration for exceptions to the mandated coverage provisions. They will get it. Then, there is a provision in the bill to allow large employers in any state to adopt the exemptions of the most backward state, so that employees of large companies can lose hospitalization coverage, or maternity coverage, or prescriptions, or whatever. I guarantee you will see at least some of this.

The idea that this bill makes no significant changes because somebody did a word count and found 90% commonality in the text is a childishly disingenuous dodge. It doesn’t take much textual change to cause suffering for millions.

And for what? To put some money in the pockets of a tiny handful of wealthy donors and to make a political point. Justin Amash is, how to put this delicately, ……

stunningly full of shit.

Blame the Framers

640px-Scene_at_the_Signing_of_the_Constitution_of_the_United_StatesOur Separation of Powers Presidential system is supposed to prevent any one person or small group from seizing control over American government. By constraining executive power with independent legislative and judicial branches that supposedly prevent abuses and excesses. Our federal system puts constraints on the power of the central government, reserving rights and powers to the States.

From the standpoint of the Eighteenth Century, the Separation of Powers system looked like it offered more benefits than problems. Disconnected from the rest of the world by one, and later two, oceans, the United States could afford to bumble and squabble. The only real threats were armed enemies, and nobody would prevent war against them.

The modern world is a different and faster place. Air travel, mass communications, modern weaponry, and a global economy have meant that problems move faster than our multiple veto points can move policy. Like many state systems, ours is designed for conventional interstate war, and that’s an obsolescent threat.

Not only can problems like climate change and gun violence fester and worsen while corporate lobbyists use our veto points to stop effective action, the lack of coherent policy breeds a dissociative type of politics where the bases of both parties see themselves as in opposition. The voters never get to see an ideology enacted, so festering ideological disputes are never resolved. As you can see in the contemporary conservative movement, the incentives are to become more and more extreme, using the language of oppressed minorities to ratchet the rhetoric more and more.

Now, even with one-party government, the State is paralyzed. We narrowly avoided a government shutdown over the weekend. Under conditions like these, it’s easy to see why every American-style government on Earth has collapsed into some kind of discontinuity, coup, crisis, or civil war. It’s also worth noting that, although our system was supposed to protect the people from excesses of government power, the United States has amassed a series of atrocities worthy of its status as a great power.

Won’t Somebody PLEASE Think Of The Childr … er … White People!?!

image.imgAmerican sociologist Arlie Hochschild garners immense praise for her articles and book detailing the reasons for Trump support among rural whites in Louisiana. Along with J.D. Vance’s acclaimed Appalachian memoir Hillbilly Elegy, Hochschild’s work was used as Exhibit A in the case that A Lack Of Empathy For Rural Whites Caused The Cataclysm of 2016. This has become the standard mainstream media line to explain what happened last autumn.

I don’t understand this idea that the rest of us lack empathy for rural whites. I’m a middle-aged suburban Southern white man, and the cultural and political influence of conservative rural whites was everywhere when I was growing up. A quarter of my state’s resident’s lived in my county when I was a teenager, but it took me an hour to drive 6 miles because the rural whites in my state refused to allow us to spend our tax dollars on mass transit and highway funding. The music and literature of rural whites was mandatory in my school and my home. My school had inadequate sex education because of the power of rural whites. I lived in a group home for awhile, and the rural white version of religion was mandatory. The staff used punishment to try to force me to adopt evangelical Christianity.

In the intervening years, the influence of Southern rural whites was, if anything, even greater. We had a teen pregnancy and STD boom for several years because rural whites imposed a ban on real sex education for suburban and urban youth. Rural whites imposed tax cuts and unnecessary wars that have burdened the federal budget and starved vital public services. How comfortable are you with that bag of pre-washed spinach right now? We’re still fighting the same battles over textbooks that we fought 40 years ago. We failed to restrain climate change to two degrees, very largely due to the political power of rural whites. Rural whites who work in agriculture are the recipients, directly or indirectly, of huge federal aid.

Compare all that to the national response to Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem. Do you remember how the media treated the case of Tamir Rice? How about how the media treats any attack by a brown person as terrorism, but if the same act is committed by a rural white, he’s just a troubled person? Ask rural whites to sympathize with ANYONE else. If you think rural whites are struggling to cope with deindustrialization, ask the people of Detroit or Flint how they are doing.

While I understand the tactical purpose of this point, it makes no moral or political sense. The excessive deference to the preferences of rural whites is a major contributor to the dysfunction of our nation. I fail to see how doubling down on that particular error is going to fix anything.

Why It Matters That UAL 3411 was NOT Overbooked.

Millions of Americans watched in horror Monday as 69-year-old Dr. David Dao was forcibly removed from a seat on United Airlines Flight 3411 from O’Hare to Louisville for which he had paid in advance. He was knocked unconscious, suffered a bloody nose, and was dragged out of the aircraft. When the video went viral on social media, much of the professional press seemed to be employed by United Airlines. There were explanations for why flights must be overbooked, assertions that passengers can be removed for any reason, and arguments that, since four United crewmembers had to get to Louisville to operate a flight, removing four passengers from the flight was in the interest of the greater good. There were discussions of the regulations, defense of United’s property rights, and a general plea for passengers to follow the rules. This was certainly an improvement on United’s official attempts at damage control.

All of this was so compelling, it had only one tiny flaw: the central claim that supported the entire line of argument was, well, not actually true. The plane was not oversold, and even had it been, they would have had the right to deny boarding, but not to forcibly remove a passenger not in violation of the contract of carriage. The need to move crew from a delayed flight was, in fact, due to United’s mistake, and they didn’t have the right to forcibly eject passengers as a consequence.

The media’s response to this event and the long delay that will ensue until Dr. Dao is compensated speak to the culture of impunity for corporate wrongdoing in contemporary America. United has professional attorneys, managers, and PR flacks who can work full time to protect the interests of their company while ordinary citizens have jobs and responsibilities that will not permit them to secure their interests. Government has largely abdicated the job of tipping the balance toward consumers and workers. The result has been a steady drain of power, wealth, and influence toward the wealthy that is working to corrode our social cohesion. Whatever ideological objectives conservatives and neoliberals hope to serve will be undermined by a fragmented and mutually suspicious social order.

Trump, Syria, And The Ford Principle

Historian Rick Perlstein, in his political history of the mid 1970s, The Invisible Bridge, points out that at many points of Gerald Ford’s partial term as President, he faced a dilemma:

This new presidency [Ford’s] was evolving a theme: Damned if he did, damned if he didn’t.

Rick Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge, Page 309

When President Obama, fresh off the triumph of removing his nation from the quagmire in Iraq and giving the order for the successful assassination of Al Quaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, was confronted with the catastrophe of the Syrian civil War, he was faced with a similar choice: He could do his best to ignore the war and its atrocities and preserve his accomplishment of diminishing our war-fighting in the region, or he could react to a probable no-win situation with deepening involvement in a chaotic free-for-all without apparent good guys where our strikes against the Assad regime would likely strengthen Islamic State or vice versa. When he misspoke about a ‘red line’ being the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian war, he was trapped. Defying most of the advice he received, and in the absence of support on the Hill, he decided to try to negotiate away Assad’s chemical weapons. As we can all see, that approach ultimately failed.

The galling thing is that if he had gone the other way and done what Trump is doing now, that would likely have failed, as well. IS was much stronger in Syria in 2014 than it is now, and any effective program of strikes against the regime would have strengthened Islamic State even more. Obama’s critics in both parties would have seized on the strategic error as evidence of his unfitness for office and military naiveté.

As it is, the consequences are likely to be open-ended. Syria is allied to both Iran and Russia, meaning that its retaliation could appear anywhere along the spectrum of escalation, from suicide bombings to nuclear war. Syria has retaliated against American interests for less in the past, from nightclub bombings to the destruction of the Marine barracks in Lebanon. The Syrian regime seems likely to have carried out the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, as well. The American government blamed Libya for those attacks, for what I believe to be political reasons. I’m convinced that Syria launched those attacks as part of a campaign to drive the United Sates out of the Middle East. Those acts were carried out in retaliation for far less serious offenses by the US against the regime than Trump’s attacks on Syria last night, and against a regime less desperate and less ruthless than the war-ravaged government led by Hafez’ younger son.

President Trump believed that decisive action would show him, despite all evidence to the contrary, to be a better President than Barack Obama. He might want to be careful what he wishes for.

Why Obamacare Repeal Failed, or The Dangers of Believing Your Own Sales Pitch.

“… government had always been big for people like us [whites], and we were fine with that. But beginning in the 1960s, as people of color began to gain access to the benefits for which we had always been eligible, suddenly we discovered our inner libertarian and decided that government intervention was bad …”
Tim Wise, Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority

For four decades, the story of American politics has been the story of the triumph of conservative ideology in government. From the rise of Reagan to the impeachment of Clinton and the triumph of Trump, conservative messaging has driven political debate in the United States. Even at their lowest point in 2006-9, the conservative-dominated Republican Party was able to push back against liberals and moderates in both Federal and Sate government. The high point of Democratic legislative power, the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act of 2010, was based on conservative ideas, took the form of a giveaway to private industry, and was explicitly modeled after Gov. Romney’s popular health care reform in Massachusetts. The “public option” idea for the legislation was removed to get conservative Democratic support in the Senate.

In broader strokes, public higher education, which was once almost free in much of the country, is now increasingly unaffordable for families without substantial savings, placing education and opportunity out of reach for a large and growing share of America’s youth. The top tenth of one percent of income earners, deriving most of their revenue from investments, pay a fraction of the tax rate of those they employ. Financial services represent the largest sector of the economy. Business regulation has been largely dismantled, permitting multi-billion dollar companies to operate with illegal business models. Education and health care are increasingly influenced by politicized Christian radicals.

With all this success, it was natural for GOP leaders to assume that the broader public supported their anti-government, pro-business views for the same ideological reasons they did, thumbing through well-worn copies of Von Mises, Hayek, or Rand. With the ascension of Donald Trump and the collapse of Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act under the weight of angry town halls across the nation and a 17% approval rate, that assumption has earned some scrutiny. The question remains, however: If middle-aged white voters didn’t share the minarchist ideas of the House GOP caucus, why did they keep returning them to office?

One answer that suggests itself is that the pro-police, pro-military, theocratic, anti-government platform of the Republican Party appeals to people with, ahem, ethnonationalist, views.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*gger, n*gger, n*gger.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*gger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*gger, n*gger.”

  • Lee Atwater, 1981

The roots of the modern War On Drugs are to be found during the Presidency of Richard Nixon, whose chief domestic policy advisor told Harper’s writer Dan Baum:

“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

If the public has been absorbing this ‘dog whistle‘ message for two generations, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that they got the message loud and clear, or when the Lieutenant-Governor of South Carolina opposed providing free school lunches to poor children because, as with stray animals, it encourages them to breed. Nor should we be shocked when former Speaker of the House and all-around great guy Newt Gingrich calls Barack Obama the Food Stamp President.

Nor should be be completely blind-sided when, decades into this process of racialized radicalization, some of the those the Party manipulated this way become the Party’s leaders and the dog whistle becomes a megaphone:

Racial Anxiety‘ or ‘Racial Resentment‘ have become the largest drivers of support for Republicans and their policies. For a crucial margin of white voters, feelings of white victimhood are their conservatism. Far from laissez faire, they’re closer to the ideology of Herrenvolk Democracy, in which democratic participation and the benefits of the State should be reserved for members of the majority culture.

Enter Paul Ryan, from youth a believer in Austrian and monetarist economics and in Ayn Rand, the novelist and pop philosopher who viewed the wealthy as the possessors of all moral merit. Ryan probably believes that refraining from taxing the wealthy would produce more wealth overall, but supports it regardless as a moral value. He may be tactically pragmatic, but has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to shrinking the role of the State as a moral and ideological crusade, which is what he has in common with the ideological leadership of the Tea Party and the members of the House Freedom Caucus. Unlike Lee Atwater and John Ehrlichman, they no longer see law-and-order and anti-tax policies as racial code. The grifters fooled their successors.

So, when Caucus members and Republican “mainstream” congresspersons,  who are ideologically identical, ran into a buzzsaw at town halls from red-state crowds dependent on Obamacare, they had a conceptual as well as tactical problem. They had made the mistake of taking the sales pitch for the product because they are the generational inheritors of the modern conservative movement, not its architects. They either will not acknowledge or don’t realize the role of white racial resentment in forming conservative allegiance in the general population.

For a decisive minority of white people in the nation’s interior, the consequences of deindustrialization can naturally be blamed on trade, aid, the rising minority share of the population, and immigration, even if the facts do not support that conclusion. Neither do they see any conflict between that view and the other tenets of modern American conservatism. Unlike the ideologues in the conservative media and on the Hill, they see no conflict between interventionist, protectionist Herrenvolk Democracy and “religious freedom” laws, the Drug War, and “tax reform.” This explains why, despite the protestations of pundits, the vast majority of Republican voters had no trouble touching Trump on their voting screens. Paul Ryan may have forgotten he was talking in code, but the voters didn’t. They wanted the benefits of the State, as manifested in the ACA, at the same time as they wanted the racially-specific “undeserving” excluded from such benefits. That’s why the House GOP’s American Health Care Act, which would have penalized exactly the modest-income middle-aged whites who were Donald Trump’s margin of victory in the Rust Belt, had a 17% approval rate even though it was what the GOP had been promising for years.

Ultimately, American Conservatism is in a crisis because its leaders don’t know what movement they’re leading.

None Of This Is Donald Trump’s Fault

President Trump responded to Friday’s withdrawal of the American Health Care Act by claiming/threatening that the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare will fail, forcing Democrats to come to the table with the GOP. On Thursday, he gave a bizarre interview where, among other crimes against truth, he claimed that his bullshit claim that President Obama wiretapped him had been vindicated when it had not. Of course, these were just the latest in a bewilderingly lengthy series of bizarre, unnecessary, and counter-productive falsehoods that have helped to make the Trump Administration feel like it’s in it’s second term instead of its first quarter.

donald-trump

President Trump’s lies, are, despite being diverse and profound, not the worst thing about his administration. When he keeps his word, the results can be even worse. He has ripped families apart and moved ahead with his absurd Potemkin Wall. His travel ban makes no sense and causes needless hardships for innocent people. He has proposed taking food from the mouths of some of the poorest and most helpless people in America for the sake of his ridiculous “hard power” budget. He acts like he doesn’t see other people, particularly those who lack wealth and power, as being authentically human. This well-documented tendency has helped fuel speculation that Donald Trump suffers from a serious personality disorder. All these tendencies seem to come to the fore when he can’t get his way.

Despite all of that, I don’t think it makes any sense to blame Donald Trump. In the final analysis, it’s not his fault that he doesn’t know how to relate to the world, or even to objective reality. Projecting childish fantasy and treating the middle class and the poor with contemptuous disregard has worked well for him throughout his life, keeping him in business decades after he should have been driven to the poorhouse. He sells crappy wine and steak, signs up students to a fraudulent “university,” cheats workers and contractors out of what he agreed to pay them over and over again, commits serious acts of violence as a boy against teachers and fellow students, and no real consequences ever materialize. Seven decades of privilege have built a wall between Donald Trump and the objective universe, Affluenza Boy writ large. What did we think was going to happen? Donald Trump as President is a living symbol of the price we pay for our decision to give impunity to the rich. He is our national comeuppance.

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It is our responsibility as citizens to demand that the rich do not enjoy undue privilege. It’s on us to punish politicians who strip legal services for the poor so that only the rich enjoy due process while the poor are forced to plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit. It’s our job to throw prosecutors out of office who let the rich get away, quite literally, with murder.

We must vote out elected officials who dole out favors for cash, who take outright bribes or whose family members take well-paid jobs for which they don’t have to show up. We have to punish legislators who vote to exempt “investment” income from taxation while soaking workers by hiking their payroll taxes and denying them the benefits they have earned. We have to make it hurt to be a Janissary for the rentier class. We have failed, not Donald Trump.

When we demand that citizens who run for office tell us what we want to hear instead of the often unpleasant truth, we are begging to be lied to. When we demand to be entertained all the time, we are agreeing to be manipulated. When we insist that the governance of a nation of 320 million people (in a world of seven and a half billion) never confront us with complexity or hard choices, we are voting for narcissistic, empty-headed used car salespeople. That’s why Donald Trump is uniquely qualified to be President in Twenty-First Century America. In a very real sense, he is the ultimate contemporary American.

So, the next time you hear of some absurd lie or horrible misdeed emanating from the White House, don’t blame Republicans on the Hill. Don’t point your finger at the media or decry right-wing radio. Don’t look to the Klan or the Nazis. No, instead take a long, hard, look in the mirror. Donald Trump is not some alien monster, installed by shadowy foreign forces. He is us. He is you and he is me.

The Price of Screwing Workers

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The only economic program centrist politicians had to offer in the Western world over the last 30 years was the continuation of globalization, offset with redistribution to compensate the “losers.” Whenever fiscal constraints appeared, those redistributive measures were the first to go, even if they weakened government accounts. Thus were low-wage workers sold out.

The victory of the Leave campaign in the UK and the Republican nomination of Donald Trump in the United States represent a revolt of working-class voters against the mainstream politicians who mortgaged their futures. Only time will tell what the long-term results will be, but the chances of a trans-Atlantic recession in the short-term just got a whole lot better.

The only possible bright side is that this marks the first time in contemporary economic history that the wealthy have paid a direct, tangible price for screwing over working people. This might change the political and economic calculus of class warfare. In the meantime, of course, the poor will suffer the worse. What else is new?