Opposition to the Trump regime is surfacing rapidly. The most recent issue of Rolling Stone (February 25 – March 9, 2017) features an interview with John Oliver, discussing his plans for “Last Week Tonight” in this first year of Trump’s administration. Oliver, a British Citizen working in the U.S. on a green card, at the invitation of Jon Stewart, has been a major part of the “comedy news” trend. So far this year, a major focus of his show has been Trump’s lies.
There is also in that issue an energetic article by Matt Taibbi : “The End of Facts.” Always a bit of a sensationalist, he provided this overtly critical introduction:
The order floated down from the lunatic’s castle late on a Friday. No more visas of any kind from seven countries, Donald Trump decreed, and mayhem replaced a weekend.
Thunderstruck customs officials scrambled to make sense of the surprise order: planes landed and innocent travelers were detained; the Internet exploded; protesters stormed airports everywhere; the acting attorney general refused to go along and was fired like a contestant on one of Trump’s shows; it was Keystone Kops meets Pinochet.
And then there were the lies. If there is one thing the first few weeks of the Trump administration have proved, it’s that keeping track of what we used to call “objective fact” is now a fool’s errand.
Taibbi went on to document conflicting stories coming out of the administration about the application of the order to green card holders. This instance might be characterized as confusion, but for the general trend of more aggressive enforcement of immigration laws (“New Trump Deportation Rules Allow Far More Expulsions,” by Michael D. Shear and Ron Nixon, The New York Times, February 21, 2017).
On the truthfulness question, Taibbi is adamant: “There’s nothing wrong with calling Trump and his minions liars. They are liars.” I think it is abundantly clear, at this point, that Trump misrepresented himself as a populist and entered the White House as a “Trojan horse” for the plutocracy. Taibbi’s overview seems apt: “Clearly, we’re in the midst of a mass-hysteria movement that approaches the McCarthy era, with the caveat that our version is utterly ridiculous, in addition to being terrifying.”
Lies and lunacy are appropriate watchwords for this administration, so far. Sadly, there is no reasonable basis for the point of view that this is “normal” or “sane” behavior in a democracy. Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor for Bill Clinton, and an expert on inequality, has recently posted on his blog “7 Signs of Tyranny” Here is his list:
- An exaggerated mandate to govern;
- Attacking the media;
- Repeated lies to the public (even when confronted with the facts);
- Blaming minorities or immigrants for economic stress;
- Attacking the motives of all opposition (including judges);
- Appointing family members to high level positions; and
- Keeping personal finances secret and profiteering from public office.
These behavior patterns do, indeed, suggest a new proto-fascism, which of course would constitute a severe decline in representative democracy.
Warren Buffet has famously insisted that we are engaged in “class warfare,” and remarked: “My side is winning.” The November 2016 elections looks very much like a decisive victory for Buffet’s side. The only real opposition to the interests of the wealthy class came from Bernie Sanders, who stirred the middle class to action with his attack on inequality. On February 21, 2017, the following post on Senator Sanders’ Facebook page was republished by Reader Supported News:
Trickle-down economics is a fraudulent theory designed by the rich and their think tanks in order to protect the billionaires and large corporations. At a time of grotesque income and wealth inequality, the rich do not need more tax breaks and working people and their kids do not need cuts to education or other basic needs.
I’ll be in Kansas on Saturday. The state is in real trouble because the governor, Sam Brownback, pushed tax cuts for the wealthy claiming it would boost the economy.
Guess what. It didn’t work! Kansas’s economy grew slower than the rest of the country, and jobs did not come flooding in. What Governor Brownback did manage to do was create a billion-dollar hole in the state’s budget. Now even some Republican state senators want to roll back Brownback’s tax cuts.
Let’s be clear. Corporate America and the 1% want it all. They are not content with the top 1/10th of 1% owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Their greed is unquenchable. That is why we have got to stand together and demand a progressive tax system where the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes. How absurd is it that our billionaire president doesn’t pay any federal taxes.
The RSN blog contained some high quality, thoughtful comments on the Sanders position. Here are a few of them:
“Trickle down economics” is also called Reaganism, Supply side economic theory (from the Austrian school), Neo-Liberalism, and Thatcherism. This economic practice was rammed down the throat of the world from Reagan and Thatcher to today — about 40 years. It has been a total failure for 99% of the world’s people. Now it is coming to an end. No one is fooled anymore, except maybe for the economics writers at the NTYTimes or Wall Street Journal.
The political party and individual politicians who can seize the next phase will control government in the West. Sanders is as usual right on the mark. He should be the new leader of the Democratic party. Why isn’t he. Who the hell is Kieth Ellison?
Part of how they do it is by screaming “Class War” any time someone tries to “redistribute their wealth”. Never mind that the real class war was waged by them starting in 1980 with Reaganomics. Amazing how many in our country have been blinded by the corporate media to the real class war.
# Realist 1948
The top 1% often claim that they are the “job creators” and are therefore contributing to the greater good by hoovering up the bulk of our nation’s wealth. IMHO [In my humble opinion] the arguments against this are too often made in abstract or statistical terms. Perhaps some concrete examples would help people see how absurd the trickle-down argument is.
Case in point: One of the wealthiest Americans is Larry Ellison of software powerhouse Oracle. One of the things Ellison did with his immense fortune was to commission construction of an enormous yacht, “The Rising Sun.” This $200+ million plaything was built in Europe (no U.S. jobs were created).
When Ellison got bored with his toy, he sold it. It’s this sort of extravagant waste of money that shows “trickle down” to be a hoax. In an economy where roughly 70% of activity is consumer spending, we need a more equitable distribution of income just to keep the economy humming, with spending by middle class and lower income citizens.
# librarian 1984
This is where actual reporting might come in very handy, yeah?
Instead, the press focuses on politics as a business and entertainment story. They no longer inform US on policy. Fake journalists are celebrities, and content-free. Millionaires covering other millionaires.
But when it comes to our schools, climate change, health care, war, election integrity, wealth inequality .. We don’t get stories about any of those things, about anything that matters. We are bombarded by propaganda 24/7/365. We are herded like sheep, manipulated by fear.
All of US, liberals and conservatives and everyone else, would benefit from rejecting the fear that has been driving us for so long. The oligarchs, using the media, divide us through fear.
It is not easy to break free of it. It is frightening to find all your bellwethers are false. But it could be the beginning of a better age … and what choice do we have?
America, by-and-large, now understands that trickle-down is an utterly fictitious myth. It’s easy to grasp that fact when you consider that cutting their taxes leaves the wealthy with more money, and the government, equivalently, with less money. The government must cut its spending, unless it borrows an equivalent amount. The radical-right idea that tax cuts “pay for themselves” is completely false, as Paul Krugman tirelessly emphasizes, and in fact it’s a mathematical impossibility. Everyone else would have to see sufficient after-tax income growth, with no change in their tax rates, to match the revenues lost at the top.
Incomes below the top can’t possibly grow that fast, period. The generally unrecognized truth, in fact, is that inequality growth shrinks the level of economic activity, further reducing aggregate GDP and, hence, aggregate tax revenues.
Look at it this way: The Reagan revolution boils down to a decision by the ultra-rich to stop paying their share of progressive taxes and, instead, to lend money to the government, collecting interest as well as avoiding taxes. The result, after only 35 years, is a national debt totaling over $19 trillion, and growing at an accelerating pace. The current total is nearly $60,000 per capita and of course it can never be repaid.
Our bankrupt federal government is headed rapidly toward default. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in 2014 projected that the interest on the debt would exceed the entire DOD budget by 2022! That is by far the largest segment of federal discretionary spending. This is clearly the height of irresponsibility, and an impartial CBO would have said so.
Words can no longer adequately convey the depth of moral depravity all of this represents. Bernie Sanders is exactly right in saying that “Corporate America and the 1% want it all” – and to characterize the inequality generated by the Reagan revolution as “grotesque” is certainly not hyperbole. The intense greed that produced this result is simply insane.
The wealthy seem to relish the prospect of shrinking the government to the point where it can be “drowned in a bath tub,” as Grover Norquist has famously quipped. But they cannot have it all – and they will lose most or all what they have, eventually, in the inevitable deep depression that waits at the end of this road. At that point, all they will have accomplished is massive misallocation of resources, extreme environmental damage, and massive poverty and social decline.
IMHO, ordinary intelligent people understand all of this, implicitly. Voters were already turning against the GOP’s economics in 2016, and it looked as though their social issue distractions would not suffice, until the Donald Trump populism scam surfaced to save the day for the plutocrats.
This scam will not be repeated again in the United States. As # librarian 1984 points out, we have some waking up to do, but we are doing it.
JMH – 2/23/2017