Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Be-twitched Bothered Bewildered

I’m still recoiling from Meet the Press last Sunday, in particular Chuck Todd’s brief interview with Ted Cruz.  If Donald Trump is a symptom of a malignancy in American politics, Cruz is part of the disease itself. Here’s a brief except from that interview:

I want you to react to something here that President Obama said at a fundraiser, responding to the tone of Donald Trump rallies. Here it is, sir.
And what's been happening in our politics lately is not an accident. For years, we've been told we should be angry about America and that the economy's a disaster. And that we're weak. And that compromise is weakness. And that you can ignore science and you could ignore facts and say whatever you want about the president. And feed suspicion about immigrants and Muslims and poor people and people who aren't like us.
That's the president essentially saying, "This has been happening for years," before most of his term.
You know, Chuck, Barack Obama's a world class demagogue. That language there is designed to divide us. No, Mr. President, we're not angry at that. We're angry at politicians in Washington, including you, who ignore the men and women who elected you. Who have been presiding over our jobs going overseas for seven years?
Who have been cutting deals that are enriching the rich and powerful, the special interests and the big corporations, while working men and women are seeing their wages stagnating?  And he talks about immigrants and Muslims. Mr. President, we're mad at a president who wants to bring in Syrian refugees who may be infiltrated by ISIS. And you're unwilling to be commander in chief and keep us safe. So don't engage in attacking the people, like the president did.

Wow, it takes a demagogue to call someone a demagogue.  Psittacisms for the masses, from both Cruz and Trump.

This brought Mr. Cruz into power as a leading Tea Party advocate. His obstructionist voice has been a leading one during his Senate occupancy, effectively shutting down any hope of compromise.   No wonder the President had to resort to his much criticized use of Executive Orders, although his use of such orders has averaged less than George Bush’s.
And, yet, there is the whiff of truth in some of what he says, no, not about Obama being the cause, but about a long-building anger, much longer than Mr. Cruz et al would like it to be known.  Bernie Sanders taps into similar angst.  At the heart of that fury is the American socio-economic landscape which has changed over the years, but you could count them in decades.  The last seven years were more of the same for the disenfranchised middle class, watching their earning power and employability decline in relation to better educated, higher income families. Consequently, wage inequality has grown, but this has been going on for thirty five years, well documented by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)
Unfortunately, there is no easy panacea for this other than for our country to come to grips with the reality of today’s world.  The industrial revolution has morphed into a cyber revolution, where geographic borders do not exist.  Workers are being displaced by technology, robotics.  It is not a question of bringing manufacturing jobs home any more; it’s the challenge of educating workers in new skills.  Any politician who holds out the trade war card is delusional, playing a simplistic card to get elected.  We’re a country after a quick fix and it sounds good, make “tough” deals with China, tax their goods sky high.  Wait until the quick fixers see the new prices at Walmart.  None of them will like that either (unless a President Trump makes Walmart reduce their prices! :-)

Many of the recommendations suggested by the EPI for turning the tide of income inequality were also advocated by the Obama administration but have been cut off at the knees by the Party of No, one for example enacting public investments in infrastructure to create jobs.  And there are others.

But nothing rings truer for the disenfranchised than the Trumperian throwaway that in 15 minutes he’d solve the trade deficit.  Our trade agreements have evolved over years of negotiations and it’s not that simple Donald (or Ted).  Admittedly the currency manipulations on the part of governments all over the world throw aspects of trade agreements under the bus, each region fighting for a larger piece of a pie that is growing only oh-so-very-slowly.  We have the “advantage” of having (at least seemingly) the currency of last resort, and this is yet another factor in the strong dollar, but that further contributes to making foreign goods cheaper and our exports more expensive.  It is the inverse of the early 1980’s when the dollar was cheap and interest rates were double digits, inflationary fears running amuck.  Today there is little inflation with whiffs of deflation.

This is all in the wake of the most dangerous economic crisis we have faced since the Great Depression.  In the absence of Congress being able to agree upon fiscal policy the temporary fix was radical monetary policy engineered by the Federal Reserve.  Someone had to act.  But the Fed now is blamed by the Party of No.

Nonetheless we are left with debt; it could have been less with sounder fiscal policy, but that was not to be.  Where would Ted Cruz’s flat tax plan and tying the dollar to the Gold Standard leave us?  And the Trump solution?  “Trust me, I make good deals.”  Whatever that means.

For anyone who has read thus far, I leave the reader with an “out-of-the-box” review on the subject (hat tip to my son, Chris).  It is the most cynical analysis I’ve ever read, authored by “Cognitive Dissonance,” Down the Trump Rabbit Hole - Manufacturing Consent. 

It attempts to explain Trump in light of the “system” which “Cognitive Dissonance” equates to “The Empire,” its purpose to always move forward, to consume. Everyone within the empire serves the Empire, including its individual and corporate ‘citizens’. This especially holds true for its upper level civil ‘servants’, political appointees, elected office holders, state and federal judges, the military at all levels including ‘civilian police officers, the oligarchs and elites. And most importantly, the President of the United States. All are beholden to the Empire and constitute the court of the Empire. While the president may be considered the Chief Executive Officer, the president works for the Empire and is controlled by the Empire’s court. The power of the president flows up from the Empire’s court, not down from the president

So how does this relate to The Donald?  When your credibility is suddenly called into question and people begin to seek alternative ‘authorities’, give the people what they want…though not exactly what they want, just what you have conditioned them to believe they want. Or as is the case with our current situation, since anyone who is presently an authority is not to be trusted, give people the antithesis of the existing authority structure.  The Donald.

“Cognitive Dissonance” goes on to argue that as Clinton is a “child of the court,” she cannot deliver what the Empire’s subjects perceive to be needed for the Empire’s very survival.  Only the anti-establishment holds that power but expect Trump to concoct some mighty reforms which will bleed and permanently weaken the middle class even further. You didn’t expect the elite and court to actually pay for the reforms…did you?

I would like to believe that this cynicism is merely an exaggeration of the truth, that we’re better than that, and reasonable people can come to long term solutions.   Yes, more and more time will be needed as the can is kicked further down the road.  To deal with the national debt we first have to work towards a balanced budget.  A tall order in today’s world, one that will exact pain, particularly for the Plutocracy, but in the end for us all.  We’ve lived long enough by borrowing against the future.  Do we have the fortitude, the patience, and above all the willingness to make compromises? 

If not, “Cognitive Dissonance” might be right on the mark.

On the other hand, “Stonekettle” has hit it out of the ballpark once again.  I’ve mentioned this blog before.  Its views are compelling, brutally honest, no holding back for Jim Wright, the blog's author.  His take on the topic was published in two parts, the latest being his The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part II.
Far too many Americans still think of Trump’s campaign as a joke and they keep waiting for the laugh ... but somehow the punch line never comes.

It never comes because, you see, the joke is on us. All of us, conservatives and liberals, republicans and democrats and the independents.

In effect, to understand Trumpism, look in a mirror.  We’ve given rise to him.  As Wright concludes, if you want a better nation, be better citizens.

I thought I was done with this.  In the process of posting this entry President Obama was delivering an eloquent speech, nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.  Mitch McConnell now responding in the background, with “let the people decide.”  We did in 2012.  So, the beat goes on….