Saturday, September 30, 2017
With his continual lying, childish insults and petty vindictiveness, Donald Trump has proven to truly be a president like no other. But in some ways, he has been just another modern Republican: he denies the science of climate change, surrounds himself with hateful homophobes, and now he has just released a tax plan that greatly favors corporations and rich Americans, in much the same way that Ronald Reagan and George W Bush's tax plans did. So much for the forgotten middle class man that he claims to stand for!
The constant drum beat for more and more tax cuts really began in the nineteen eighties, when Ronald Reagan, promoting a theory put forth by the ironically named Arthur Laffer, claimed that tax cuts paid for themselves by increasing economic growth. During the primaries, then primary opponent to Reagan George Bush called the idea "voodoo economics", although he later swallowed his pride and supported Reagan's tax cutting after becoming vice president. And while there definitely was some economic growth during those years, the massive national deficit that those tax cuts created, showed just how absurd the idea of tax cuts paying for themselves was. And the eighties sadly began a trend that continues to this day, with the middle class losing ground in this country as the rich get richer.
And yet, here it is decades later, and the Republican party is still pushing this crazy idea. This despite the enormous economic growth that occurred in the nineties even after President Clinton raised taxes, and the lack of growth that occurred after George W Bush cut them.
The tax issue is just another way that the modern Republican party is both supported by and completely out of touch with its base. They win elections on racial divisive issues like building a wall with Mexico and demonizing undocumented immigrants, and then once in office go about trying to overturn Obamacare, which would hurt states that went for Trump most of all, and cutting taxes for the rich, which has hardly any benefit to the blue collar middle class white voters who put him in office.
Trump's response to this is, as always, to lie, claiming that the tax cuts wouldn't benefit him at all, even though his most recent released tax returns show that he would save millions every year under the plan. The rest of the party is more subtle in their lies, claiming that the tax plan would help "middle class" families, implying that people who have six figure salaries are somehow in the middle class! While I do think some Republicans honestly believe that tax cuts will help the country on the whole, I believe privately most of them realize that modern politics is run on money, and big money donors to the Republican party expect a return on their investment with tax cuts for them or their businesses.
There's an even more cynical aspect to this: the Trump plan, if passed, would blow a hole in the federal deficit to the tune of one and half to two trillion dollars over the next ten years! It would take an awful lot of economic growth to make up for that, but do Republicans really want to? Remember that for years now they have wanted to reduce the size of (or privatize) Social Security and Medicare, despite how popular those programs are with the general public. Why? Because they disprove the argument that federal government programs designed to help the poor (Social Security was created during the depression to help impoverished seniors) actually work. Just cutting the programs as a matter of course would be politically dangerous, but by saying that the cuts would have to be made in light of the government having less revenue might be the way to convince the public that those cuts are necessary to save them. It's the kind of bait and switch that is falsely called "fiscal responsibility", when what it should be really called is a hand out to rich donors, paid for by the poor and middle class.
Friday, September 1, 2017
In a depressing, but not surprising move, last Friday Donald Trump pardoned convicted Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was famous for his racially motivated profiling of latinos in the state of Arizona. In a typical lack of sympathy and human emotion, the following Monday Trump admitted that he picked the day that Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on Texas to make his announcement of the pardon because, “Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they were normally.” Yes, that is the President of the United States saying that he wanted to use the media hurricane warnings to help raise the ratings of his controversial announcement. Once again, Trump has shown that his only interest in office is the same as it is in the rest of his life: to pump up his own bloated sense of self worth!
The Arpaio pardon is just the latest chapter in Trump's long string of playing to white supremacist attitudes, from saying that Barack Obama was not an American citizen to calling Mexican immigrants rapists. But the Arpaio pardon is particularly galling in that his crimes were so horrible; known as "America's toughest Sheriff", he was actually far worse: he and his men would round up anyone that was Latino, demand citizenship papers, and jail anyone without such papers. The conditions of his jail were so bad, he himself referred to it as a "concentration camp". The prisoners were routinely brutalized and humiliated. One woman claimed that she was shackled during her pregnancy, and not allowed to hold her baby after giving birth. All in all, the legal bills the state was forced to pay out during his reign of terror ran into the tens of millions of dollars. The final straw came when he refused to follow a court order that he stop racially profiling people who were not accused of committing a crime, an order that he publicly said he would refuse to follow. Can we just sit back and take a minute to gawk at the spectacle of a self styled law and order candidate pardoning someone who openly broke the law?
Now let's look at the recent history of white supremacy in this country: the Klu Klux Klan, which had mostly disbanded in the 1870's, began their second reign of terror around a hundred years ago. The number of Americans involved in that movement, or others like it, has waxed and waned over the last century. A real spike in their membership began in the year 2000, when the gallup poll reported for the first time that white Americans were projected not to make up more than 50% of the population within forty years. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 also sadly led to an increase in their numbers.
Given all of this, Trump's successful sowing of white resentment was really more an inevitability than many of us thought: Trump is much worse than a terrible president, he is a negative reflection of the racist attitudes of country, attitudes that so many of us wished were at the very least in decline. Recently, in the wake of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, a recent poll found that 9% of Americans are OK with people having pro Nazi or white supremacist views. While that may not sound like a lot, remember that in a country that has around three hundred and twenty million people, that 9% amounts to somewhere around thirty million. Look at the math, Trump won the presidency with sixty three million votes; assuming that all of those thirty million people who are OK with Nazi views voted for him (a safe assumption, given his campaign) and we can see that almost half of his voters were racially motivated bigots, who will never turn on him, no matter what he does, as long as he continues to do things like defend Nazi marchers and pardon people like Arpaio. Those thirty million are single issue voters of the worst kind. (Clinton was right, half of Trump's supporters were from a "basket of deplorables"!) All we can do is hope that we can sway the remaining thirty million not to support him next time. Assuming he isn't impeached or resigns before then, which, given his erratic behavior, is a possibility.