Saturday, February 25, 2017

Okay, I Get It. Trump Has a Political Philosophy. Trouble Is, It's Horrible.

Aside from the fact that Trump is a REAL JERK and handles his job hobbled by an infirmity (his narcissism overwhelms his personal honor at nearly every turn), he brings a despicable outlook to the Oval Office.

Which one is the other's pit bull? Hard to tell. They probably think the other one is.

The political and cultural maelstrom we find ourselves in is the result of a number of factors, and the swirl makes it hard to pinpoint what's happening and why. First, there's the utter incompetence. Then there's the adoption of Hitlerian propaganda practices (okay, I went there. Get over it. Trump literally read the book and follows Hitler's techniques.) Mix in a set of advisers and spokespeople that emulate his "brand." And we haven't even gotten to policy yet.

The policy is emerging but was for a while obscured by what I suppose could be called the Trump Effect. That Effect may be a permanent fixture of his administration (may it be mercifully short!), but in the end it's the policy that will matter.

It can be best summed up as We the People being supplanted by Me the Person. This applies both domestically and internationally, depending on scale. Me the Country is our new nationalism, and Trump embodies it horribly. He was born to be this thug of a guy. He bullies at home and abroad. Fucking his contractors over during his real estate career was fueled by the same instinct that drives him to bully Mexico. Mexico, for Pete's sake!

That instinct drives him to use the Bully Pulpit as the best toy he's ever found. He can turn it on Germany, France, or any country that pisses him off because they might get over on him. It's as simple as that. He trashes NATO because the members are a little slack on their "dues." Other presidents got that the answer there is "So what? NATO lets us extend our power right up to Russia's borders and actually lets us do it on the cheap. NATO for the win!"

Not good enough for a bully. The same instinct that wants Mexico to pay for the wall is what drives him to flail at NATO. The result is the same as any schoolyard bully. He rules the schoolyard and everyone hates him to the core. That's not winning, dude. But bullies never get that.

America First is the schoolyard bully's equivalent of a foreign policy and demonstrates the shortsightedness of the bully's approach. Sure, he controls the schoolyard, but in the end he's isolated. He's got everybody's lunch money, but no one wants to eat with him.

This metaphor works, so I'm going to run with it.

Domestically we can view Trumpism as a battle for supremacy at school. A typical school has an administrative approach to education. Chaos is not a school principal's friend. Harmony and regularity -- following school rules, being on time, doing your homework -- is key and applies to students and staff alike. A bully walks into this harmony and disrupts it. Breaking rules and tossing norms aside is the bully's stock-in-trade, it's his superpower.

So Bannon and Trump want to deconstruct the administration, destroy the norms, abandon the regulations, essentially render government impotent. All they really want is the force, the power, which is, in their minds, rooted in two things: wealth and the military.

First, get the money, which involves soothing the donor class, who'll let them have the military, which insures them of being the preeminent bullies, the toughest kids on the block. The donor class looks at them with a certain disdain, seeing them as the crude ruffians they are. They're to be tolerated because the elite have been placated, bought off with tax cuts and deregulation.

The balance of power is thus achieved. The true ruling class, the hyper-wealthy elite, allow the petty thugs to "run things" while the elite summer in the South of France.

This might be Trump's special sauce. His supporters are not of a piece, not all in the same basket, so to speak. The donor class tolerates him because he gives them their due. The Christian conservatives tolerate him -- heathen though he obviously is -- because he'll give them the Supreme Court picks, keep women barefoot and pregnant, and slap down the gays and other perceived perverts of the newly evolved Free World. The white working class admire him because they aspire to be like him: successful, in charge, and grabbing them by the pussy. His swagger is the swagger they wish to make their own. If only the rubes knew how little he'll do for them, how little he cares.

And so it goes. Putin, by the way, appeals to Trump in the way that one bully might give another bully his props. Trump admires Putin, aspires to be like him (Putin could give a shit about Trump, by the way, most especially because Trump he regards as a patsy), but it's a dangerous game. A Hitler can be useful to a Stalin, even become an ally, but that generally can't last. You know what happened with them!

But thugs, even crude ruffians from Queens that have their day, cushioned by Daddy's money, will come to their end, flaming out in all their glory, or snuffed in a diner like Tony Soprano, never seeing it coming. When the Trump Team runs its course, hopefully America will survive, and Me the Person will return to We the People reasonably unscathed.

In the meantime, Bannon and Trump will run the country through their policy mill and deconstruct what we've built and come to know and love as America, crumbling though it already is from years of underfunding and neglect. Hopefully, we'll recognize it when we get it back, and get back to work.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Trump's Econ 101 -- The Sam Brownback Mistake: Predicting Wild Growth That Can't Happen.

In 2012, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback cut income taxes on top earners, aka "the rich," as well as eliminating them for some 330,000 small businesses, promising an economic miracle. The opposite happened.

The Brownback experiment: Mess up your economy, then go after the judges.

Zombie lie n. Lie that just won't die, no matter what the facts are. Tax cuts lead to higher tax revenue is a zombie lie.

Donald Trump is going the classic Republican route with his "tax cuts on the rich will make everybody rich, believe me," and guaranteeing that "Nobody cuts taxes like I do, in fact I'm the best tax cutter you've ever seen, possibly in the world." Okay, he didn't say that, but he could have.

He's guaranteeing income tax cuts -- along with corporate tax cuts and elimination of the estate tax -- will stimulate growth so much that he's basing his budget on something like 3 to 3.5 percent annual growth. Then he's ordering his budget estimators to back-fill the budget using those growth numbers over ten years. Ordinarily, presidents use the Congressional Budget Office for these numbers, but they're lower, so, no, he says use his numbers.

Can anyone say catastrophic deficits? Anyone? Bueller?

Savvier economists don't simply say, "Who knows, Trump could be right!" They say maybe we're at or near the top of a growth cycle, and it's hard to project high growth. In fact, the Fed is already looking at rate hikes to cool off the economy to stave off inflation. The technical term is "taking away the punch bowl." Oddly enough, Trump is in favor of raising interest rates.

Cooling off the economy just when we get to something like full employment is the same as saying, "Sorry, no more wage growth for you, workers." But that's another hard-to-fathom matter for another day. Suffice it to say lower wage growth is no way to grow the economy at Trump-like projections.

Another reason not to expect a boom is that, unlike Reagan and Clinton, who came into office during economic downturns with plenty of room for an upturn, Trump is coming in during what will probably be called the Obama Recovery, which allows less growth. Also, with the boomers retiring in droves, they're not around to put back to work anyway, not to mention they're saving, not spending.

Finally, Trump wants to shrink the federal workforce while freezing their wages, round up undocumented workers -- even though they make up much of our agricultural and construction workforce -- and send them to Mexico, not to mention trashing Obamacare, roiling the healthcare market that happens to amount to seven percent of our economy, and all at the same time! Oh, and how about a trade war with Mexico and China? That will deliver growth, right? We could put a tariff on goods coming from Mexico and Canada and totally disrupt our supply chains, and that will mean jobs, right?

But, hell, he wants to expand America's number of nuclear bombs, so maybe that'll take up the growth slack.

Here's an article that examines what kind of growth we can reliably anticipate. Here's what Paul Krugman thinks. Here's Larry Summers' dim outlook for secular stagnation, though he feels substituting Keynesian fiscal stimulus for monetary stimulus could help us out of the trap (Republicans hate fiscal stimulus). And here's a look at what Brownback economics have yielded.

Trump, are you listening? (No, he's probably tweeting. Sad!)

Note. It's easy to attribute economic growth or recession to presidents during their terms when they didn't have any control over them. While that's generally true, Barack Obama came into his presidency with a TARP program that he accepted and allowed to run its course. That turned out to be a good move. He also can be given credit for the ARRA stimulus act that has been credited with helping in the recovery from the Great Recession, and his saving of the auto industry can be chalked up to his actions, as well. Finally, he didn't get in the way of the Fed, which under Bernanke and Yellen have guided monetary policy well, keeping interest rates low when they had to be. Quantitative easing worked, and the current low interest rates prove it. (How it unwinds is another story. Stay tuned on that one.)

When I referred to an Obama Recovery that will accrue to his credit, in all fairness what's happened since Trump's election can be properly added to the Obama Recovery while simultaneously being referred to as the Trump Bubble. Businesses and the wealthy are suitably feeling the "animal spirits" unleashed by Trump's promises of tax cuts and deregulation. Give Trump his due.

But here's the rub: Bubbles tend to pop with the gusto with which they are inflated. And, if the Trump Bubble is inspired by wildly erroneous predictions of growth and too much interference with markets in the name of America First, then Trump will write into history his own Trump Crash. He -- and we -- should be forewarned. Don't expect conservatives to do the warning. They've been waiting for this tax-cut and deregulation party for too long.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Donald Trump Is Downplaying Protesters at Town Halls. Dumb Move.

Isn't that how the Democrats lost their majority starting in 2010?

Don't see how this ends well for Republicans. See any "liberal activists?"

First, the tweet that tells the protesters they're on the right track.

The problem for Trump is that they're not "so-called." They're freaking angry, and they're not "liberal activists," they're called constituents. Also, they're angry about losing Obamacare. And the Republicans are intent on taking it away and giving back a shittier plan.
WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders on Thursday presented their rank-and-file members with the outlines of their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, leaning heavily on tax credits to finance individual insurance purchases and sharply reducing federal payments to the 31 states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan and two House committee chairmen stood with the new secretary of health and human services, former Representative Tom Price of Georgia, preparing Republican lawmakers for a weeklong Presidents’ Day recess that promises to be dominated by angry or anxious questions about the fate of the health law.
But the talking points they provided did not say how the legislation would be paid for, essentially laying out the benefits without the more controversial costs.
It also included no estimates of the number of people who would gain or lose insurance under the plan, nor did it include comparisons with the Affordable Care Act, which has extended coverage to 20 million people.
With the House proposal’s rollback of Medicaid payments to the states, it appears likely that the number covered would be smaller.
House Republican leaders asserted in a document describing their plan that they would not “pull the rug out from anyone who received care under states’ Medicaid expansions.”
But Kenneth E. Raske, the president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, expressed alarm, saying the proposals would “put a huge amount of pressure on state budgets and put many Americans at risk of losing health care coverage.”
Sketchy as the outline was, it envisions major changes.
It would fundamentally remake Medicaid, a Great Society program that provides health care to more than 70 million Americans, not just the poor, but also middle-class people who have run out of money and need nursing home care. Under the plan, Medicaid, an open-ended entitlement program designed to cover all health care needs, would be put on a budget.
The Affordable Care Act’s subsidies, which expand as incomes decline, giving the poorer people more help, would be replaced by fixed tax credits to help people purchase insurance policies. The tax credits would increase with a person’s age, but would not vary with a person’s income.
And new incentives for consumers to establish savings accounts to pay medical expenses still assume that workers would have money at the end of a pay period to sock away.
The picture so far:
  • The essential features right now of the Republican plan is to remove the original funding for Obamacare and pay for it with reduced spending on Medicaid. That can only reduce the number of people who can get Medicaid and/or reduce the amount of care available.
  • Also, they want to block-grant Medicaid money to the states and cap it for the future.
  • Next, they want to remove subsidies and replace them with tax credits that favor age over income. That leaves the young and middle-aged poor and lower-income people with reduced care.
  • And they want to push health savings accounts, which working-class people have little or no money to invest in, though it's a boon for the wealthy who can use them as tax deductions. 
  • They also are proposing that we tax work-based health insurance previously protected. That will increase the costs for people currently getting their insurance from work.
  • They also want to reintroduce insurance plans that offer bare-bones coverage that young shoppers favor. The problem is that the income from these plans don't help pay for high-risk customers like those with preexisting conditions.
  • Those with preexisting conditions they want to put into high-risk pools with subsidy support. Those were tried before and mostly became prohibitively expensive.
  • They also won't promise coverage to those with preexisting conditions unless they have "continuous coverage," which looks to be a mechanism for letting people lose their coverage.
  • When the risk pools get out of whack, insurers will drop out of the insurance exchanges, leaving some with few or no choices, leading to the collapse of the exchange system. But that's feature, not a bug, of the Republican plan.
Talk like this won't discourage people from swamping town hall meetings. It will make them yell louder. Those of us who wish to improve Obamacare rather than destroy it, will hope the din increases exponentially.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn Gets Ready for a Town Hall.

Apparently she knows how beloved she is in the Era of Trump.

A little freaked, dear?

Hey, Marsha, why don't you tell them how you're going to repeal and replace Obamacare?

Monday, February 20, 2017

The News Is Real. Trump Is Real. The Lies He Tells Are Real.

If we are to defeat Trump, it will not be by using his framing of ideas and events. It will be by reporting our reality and framing our story and beliefs. Trump is real. His lies are real. A solution to him is real.

I borrowed the above graphic from Juan Cole's clear-minded presentation of Trump's current set of misinformation, focused on a terror attack in Sweden that never happened and an indictment of immigrant crime that is not real. Read it here. Visit Juan Cole's informative blog -- I've been reading it for years -- to get the inside track on events in the Middle East with fewer of the filters the media uses in its regular narrative.

Here's the Trump tweet explaining how he came up with a Swedish terror problem:

Great. It's from Fox News. Our real president relies on a known fake-news site. Got it.

The real story on Sweden? Here's a good look.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Freedom of the Press Is the Enemy of America. So Says Trump.

Right there in the First Amendment, which includes our most important rights, we establish the freedom of the press as the birthright of all Americans. Who knew the press would end up our principal enemy? I mean, who knew?

Donald Trump: What's he doing, practicing giving the evil eye?

I know. I read Donald Trump's tweets just to gauge his mental state. Today:

And Rush Limbaugh, voice of the people, knows better!

Okay. Just an observation here: Calling them the FAKE MEDIA might make you feel good, Trump, but I'm pretty sure they're REAL. It's the news you want to call FAKE. Might work on getting that together. I mean, if you want to make sense. Oooh, maybe you don't. Sneaky!

No Choice: A Full-Frontal Attack on Trump and What He Stands For

In a way -- after watching him froth at the mouth at yesterday's press conference -- we have no choice anymore but to work, 24/7, to get rid of this monstrosity. And of course I mean politically. Our nation's very survival, our way of life, is at stake.

Donald Trump is not fit to lead the U.S. Period.

There are a couple of ways of doing this. We can march, and all of us should attend as many anti-Trump marches as we can. Pick your cause and march. But we can't march every day. But we can do a lot of things to resist:
  • Contact your senators and congressman. I live in blue-blue California, so mostly that's a waste of energy, although sending the email to moderate Dianne Feinstein once or twice is wise. I do on most issues where I think she can be squishy. If you're in a red state, have at 'em, early and often.
  • Contact more than just your own congresspeople. Email as many as you can, and CALL THEM WHEN YOU HEAR THEM ACTING IN CONCERT WITH DONALD TRUMP. Example: You hear or see a senator or congressperson on the media that obfuscates or otherwise buys into the false narrative that Trump and his people perpetuate, call him and tell his office that you're not buying his or her bullshit, and that WORKING WITH TRUMP IS A TICKET TO GETTING PRIMARIED, and you're willing to send bucks out of state to help do just that.
  • Yes, make a stand on social media -- any of them and all of them -- regardless of comments that you're "too political." Tell your friends that we're on dangerous ground. Don't hesitate to engage Trumpsters with logic and truth, at least up to the point where they go into alternative-facts-land. Then just disengage.
  • This is not a "political" moment. This is Trump and his crowd making an all-out assault on the environment, our safety net, our health care, our well-earned retirement security (what little we have), our financial protections, our legal system, our free press, our alliances in Europe and Asia that we've spent generations crafting and preserving. It goes on and on. They want to destroy public education, as well as public health. And make the rich richer while they're at it. So fight back whenever you hear of another outrage. And there will be many.
  • Find ways to work against the alt-media. Let Fox News, Breitbart, etc. know that you'll be looking for ways to boycott their sponsors. Google ways of doing just that. It's worked in the past!
The Internet will provide ways of emailing lots of public officials. Go to the websites and launch the attack. Email members of the media. Join product boycotts.

Trump went on TV yesterday and said, "The leaks are real, but the news is fake." Does that look anything like what George Orwell warned us against? UH, YEAH!

Think of your own ways of resisting and putting the bastards on notice. We can't just drink beer and barbecue anymore. (We can do that, but...) We need something to claim for the Resistance, several times a day. Then have that beer.