Some thoughts on the Donald
There are so many issues to deal with when engaging on a subject like Donald and the most recent election. So let me tackle them one by one.
Trump the man:
Clearly this man has some sort of personality disorder. Most likely narcissistic personality disorder. Which is to say that he has an issue with his ego where he requires constant validation. He has an inability or at least a disability to see his own faults. It is almost impossible to isolate his policy positions as he lies and contradicts himself so much. One can’t help but thing that he is just talking to impress, saying things that he thinks people want to hear. There are those who say that this is some brilliant Machiavellian plan on his part and it is all planned out to get the attention of the media and pull the strings of popular opinion. Well, no doubt that his actions are calculated to do that, but also these are things he believes. This is just him turning off his filter if he even does have the ability to turn it off and on. Or if he even has a filter in the first place.
So which is it? Is he a liar or does he believe what he says? Both. He speaks without a filter, but when he is called on it in a way that would embarrass him, he lies about it. Problem for him is that we have video tape and audio tape that clearly proves that he said what we said. The lie is so over the top and outrageous that it boggles the mind. So how to do process these outrageous things he says. Is he getting attention, does he mean it, is it just a manner of speech?
Thought experiment: You have a female friend who has a boyfriend. This boyfriend, when angered makes threats of violence even threatening to kill her or cut her throat in her sleep. So far no violence, aside from overturned furniture and verbal abuse has happened. When confronted on these threats, he claims they never happened or downplays them. So should these threats be taken just as a manner of speech? What to make of the fact that he lies about making them in the first place? Is he just so ashamed that he lies? Would any sensible person not see this as a problem, and see that there was a very real possibility that he could kill your female friend at some point in the future? Wouldn’t a real friend tell the women to get out of the relationship immediately all the while keeping in mind her safety?
How does this work differently for Donald? In what situations do we listen to over the top assertions and just ignore them? And when that person lies about making the claim in the first place, do we ignore that? In any situation, at home, work, school, with friends, we always take this behavior seriously. Well, there are cases where we don’t take it seriously. Those would be cases were that person was a preschooler. And this, I’m afraid, is where Donald stopped making my emotional growth.
Now he’s going to have the launch codes for the nuclear arsenal. While I don’t think, he’ll go that far. It is a concern. Just like I didn’t think he would win the election, but it was a concern. Ultimately, winning the election wasn’t his fault, it was the fault of the people who voted for him.
What about the lies?
I do find it interesting that, when hearing from Donald supporters, not one one of them has ever disputed that he was a liar or constantly contradicted himself. I have to assume that, maybe, they have the understanding. Perhaps they think that he is mocking the establishment. Perhaps he is breaking the rules, shattering norms and all the while making fun of the opposition. As if they had just found out about punk rock and wanted in. Could it be that there is a kind of wink and nod between Trump and his followers when he makes contradicting statements?
Maybe it is just a form of anti-intellectualism. They reject convention because they don’t want to be controlled by it. Even though it cause more pain and less comfort, it is better to not be controlled. Donald, in breaking every rule of discourse, confuses the intellectuals and makes them look stupid (or so it seems). What could be more gratifying to a drop out who breaks out of the prison of school than to look the math teacher in the eyes and loudly assert that 2+2 = 5. The rejection of the establishment is so complete, even facts are rejected. Donald will give new facts, the real facts. These new facts will show us that we are right and you are wrong. As if it is not the message itself, but the tone of the message or the spirit of the message. The real message is between the lines for anyone to read: “go fuck yourself.”
Maybe it is that they have an understanding that when Donald gives contradicting statements that what he really means is the more outrageous of the two and the other statement just serves to confuse the media, the pundits and those who aren’t tuned into the real meaning. It is as if REAL Donald supporter have an internal secret decoder ring that tells them what Donald really means.
Maybe, and I think this might be closer to the truth, supporters like to project their beliefs onto Donald. Provided that, at one point or another Donald has said something that you agree with, you like to think that he means it despite the fact that he contradicted or walked back that statement latter. They see that there is a level of “politically correctness” that will be expected from more mainstream conservative voters. Donald’s more politically correct version will be accepted as truth by those brainwashed by the media in the mainstream. They are willing to sacrifice the truth for votes. Maybe Donald’s more mainstream voters see it as the opposite.
Are his supporters racist?
Given the support of the Donald by white nationalists groups, someone might conclude that all Trump supporters are racists. Considering that many of the same people who voted for Obama twice, then voted for Donald, I wouldn’t insult them by calling racist. Are they merely tolerant of racism? The though process might be something like, “Well, he’s kinda racist, but he’s going to get things done.” While Donald undoubtedly has the vote of nearly every white nationalist in the United States, that is not a very large group of people.
Let’s create a sliding scale of racism. We’ll imagine a scale of 1 to 10. Ten being the most racist, placing hardcore Nazi skinheads who admire Hitler as a 10 and we’ll put a person who is not very racist at all, but just a little bit at a one. The kind of person I’m thinking about as a one would be an otherwise average person who, given the choice between living equally nice houses in neighborhoods which have equally low crimes rates, one in a majority white neighborhood and one in a majority black neighborhood, even when the house in the black neighbor was $50k cheaper, would still want to live in the white neighborhood. Let’s say that person is not very racist but just a little racist. This low level racism could be a function of tribalism or in group loyalty maybe.
Given this, where would Trump or his followers fall on this scale? Of course they would fall into a range. It is not hard that some people are zeros on the scale and overlook Trumps statements about Mexicans being rapists as blustering. It isn’t hard to imagine that many of the 10’s on the scale have projected their political views on the very non-pc Trump. Not at an unsupportable position considering that Trump has given Steve Bannon a place in the white house.
It isn’t hard to think that there are many 1’s, 2’s and 3’s voting for Trump. These people wouldn’t be segregationists and wouldn’t even object to their children entering into romantic relationships with people of other groups. Still, Trump would represent a change. His racist tendencies wouldn’t be so dangerous as they could be kept in check by a culture so opposed to racism. Perhaps it might even be good to have someone push back on the politically correct culture that has opened itself up to abuse by those who want to get away with things they shouldn’t get away with.
Any cultural norm created with the intention to help those in an “out group” can be manipulated. So if we create a culture where criticism of black culture is frowned on, there will be some black people who use that against white people in inappropriate ways. Playing on the cultural norm or the guilt generated by it to create an atmosphere more permissive to a criminal element.
So, this might be an issue of backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement. I, personally, think there are some cases of the movement overplaying their hand. The knee jerk reaction of “guilty until proven innocent” for any case of use of lethal force by police being a key issue. Instead of investigating these cases themselves or waiting for an investigation to be done, the knee jerk reaction is that America is the most racist country in the history of the world. Some white people don’t appreciate the sentiment.
Trump the fascist:
I’m guilty of calling Trump a fascist on many occasions. Truth is, I’m not sure what he is. His rhetoric is pessimistic, telling his audience how bad things are and how he will act with almost magical powers to fix the complex problems with simple strong, decisive actions. He plays of the fears and prejudices of the in-group (Americans) and blames out-groups for all the problems. So he is clearly scapegoating. This makes him a demagogue, but not a fascist.
Is it possible that he is a fascist? Is he acting to consolidate power in a way that all will answer to his authority? As of this writing, it looks like he is going to play by the rules of the republic. It doesn’t help that with the Congress and Supreme Court poised to support many of his positions he doesn’t need to make any power grabs.
I said before that he would model his leadership style on that of Vladimir Putin. That was because he clearly admires him — a man who (I think) blew up apartment buildings full of his own people to get political support for the war in Chechnya. He controls the press and keeps everyone line by pulling the levers of power which only he has access too. He really is a fascist, although the Russians could never bring themselves to admit they are living in a fascism.
Yet Trump is a real estate developer and not a former KGB agent. He is president of a country with a very strong national identity of individual rights and fair elections. Russia is a country that has never had any real freedom — you might argue that they had some immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. While there was some democracy there, there wasn’t any stability and the result was a failure of the democratic project and the rise of a strong man.
Trump is not ideological. He is just flying by the seat of his pants here. At some point, he might decide that he knows better than everyone else and that all these politicians and people marching in the street are only getting in the way of progress. We have to discredit him before that moment arrives. We have to have a contingency plan ready for if that moment arrives.
Donald seems to be a fascist in a democracy. He works in the democratic system to gain power, but if it were the case that the culture of democracy breaks down, he wouldn’t hesitate to become a dictator. It is interesting that he wants to run the country like a business. Business are all run like dictatorships. You don’t need to pass a bill trough a government body when you want to drop your employee’s vision and dental plans. You just do it.
Trump the economist:
I heard on that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, set her staff to going over Donald’s policy speeches to inventory his policy positions. Yet Donald contradicted himself so much that it was unclear what his positions actually were. I’ve got the same problem. He seems to be making up his policy as he goes along. He fashions himself as a populist who is going to bring back jobs to the rust belt. He is going to protect working Americans from low wage competition in the form of illegal immigrants who are desperate for work, sneaking across the border to work low wage jobs although those Americans couldn’t survive on the wages that those jobs paid.
He makes it sound easy. Every economist and politician that has preceded him has completely screwed up. But he’s going to walk in and immediately see the problems and fix them through the power of common sense. His demeanor is reminiscent of a high schooler who gets an job as a assistant manager and immediately knows everything that the old timers just didn’t have the intelligence to see. Why don’t they just kick some butt, yell at the slackers, strike fear in the hearts of the workforce with a few firings, completely rearrange systems that had worked for years but “weren’t doing it right” and get everything running at peak efficiency? When these geniuses do get their shot, their personalities and incompetence are met with so much resentment and sabotage when the don’t self-sabotage themselves, things get worse.
He is not proposing a public works program to build infrastructure and create jobs, which a proposal that Obama made, yet was blocked time and time again by an obstructive congress that couldn’t give him a political victory and make him look effective. The idea of a jobs program is a progressive idea. FDR relied on it heavily to end the Great Depression. This is essentially, to use the language of our time, tax and spend. We tax the wealthy using a progressive tax rate where the wealthy pay more tax on higher rates of income. Then we spend that revenue on public works. Except that’s not were Donald is going with this. At least I don’t think so. I think he intends to spend the money to create the public works, yet plans on giving the wealthy a tax CUT. Which would, by default would mean that the money to be used for these projects, would be borrowed. And ah, there’s the rub. He could tax and spend (progressive policy) or cut taxes and cut spending (conservative policy) or borrow and spend (which seems to be the policy of people who want to bankrupt the government).
All indications lead me believe that he is going to follow the economic policies of the neo-conservatives. Tax cuts for the rich, deregulated the market and try to cut government spending. Of course, what is cut is selective. What gets cut are services for the poor and government agencies that regulate the interest of the wealthy. That government agency that makes sure that toxic waste isn’t being pumped into the river upstream from a city gets cut. Because the “free market” will take care of things like that and that agency was a needless government bureaucracy. The Navy and Army that ensures the security of trade routes and international corporate interest, those get built up. The money comes from tax cuts somehow (it ends up getting borrowed).
Donald is in an unenviable position. He now has to produce results. He has the presidency, the congress and the supreme court. His supporters and the conservatives are expecting him to use the George W. Bush model of economics. Somehow, people still believe in this stuff. If we just cut taxes on the rich, let corporations run without regulation the markets will take care of everything and create a utopia for people willing to work hard. The problem is that those rich people get too much money, they try to invest that money. This causes a problem of too many dollars chasing too few investments. This creates bubbles. Stock gets more expensive, real estate gets more expensive. Gold gets more expensive. They can also just hold the cash. Piles of cash just sit in vaults which necessitates policies like quantitative easing — the printing of cash to pump into the economy. This is necessary not because the economy is growing, but because cash is being stockpiled and not circulated.
The conservative myth dictates that this capitol would be used to create jobs. That is true to a large degree. The problem is that the investor class want to keep their money, not give working people a job. Not that they are adverse to providing work for people, but that work that they pay for has to provide a profit for them. They only create jobs with the intention of making a profit. That’s fine. The problem is if there are not a lot of consumers who are spending money out of fear, or simply don’t have money, then no consumers are spending money. Why build a factory making widgets, when no one can spare the money to buy widgets? If people are spending so much money on rent because the real estate market is overvalued because the investor class have no other place to put their money, so they end up over bidding on property, then those people aren’t going to have the money to buy a widget. They just don’t have the money. So why invest money on a factory making widgets? Some in the investor class do make nice prices on the increased rents though. What do they do with that money? Buy more real estate thus driving the price of rent estate higher? This become a cycle which gets worse and worse for as long as the system is allowed to continue unchecked.
There is much to be desired out of our trade agreements. I guess I would have less of a problem with trade if there was a more of a trade. Now it seems like one country selling things to another country for cheap. What Asia seems to buy from us seems to be intellectual property which doesn’t do much in creating a lot of jobs. Working Americans do get something out of trade with low wage countries like China and Mexico though. They get cheap stuff. Very cheap stuff. This is like a pay raise. So it is unfair to say there is no advantage. I think the key problem with China and Mexico is that their millionaires and billionaires are doing the exact same thing that our millionaires and billionaires are doing financially. They are getting vast revenues and, seeing little returns on investments that would create jobs, then they stick their money into stocks (inflating the price), real estate (inflating the price) or simply stockpiling the cash (causing inflation which necessitates quantitative easing or printing more money). The money never trickles down back to the working classes.
Hence the protectionist problem: sure, we could erect trade walls and bring those jobs back to the United States. Things would be more expensive, but some people would have more money. In the end it wouldn’t create any difference. Money would be sucked up to investor class were it would go out of circulation.
Below is the basics of how an economy would work.
I spend money because I have money,
I have money because other people spend money.
Other people spend money because they have money.
Other people have money because I spend money.
I spend money because I have money.
I have money because other people spend money.
(and so on, to infinity)
But this cycle would break down if I had too much money. More money than I needed to spend. Here I’m not talking about enough money for a family trip to Silver Dollar City, I’m talking about millions of dollars of extra income I couldn’t spend if I tried. I would simply park this money somewhere and sit on it. It would go out of circulation. This could be in the stock market, bond market, real estate market, in a bank or in a vault.
The only solution that would get the money back into circulation would be for the government to take the money from me and spend it. A progressive tax system does this very well without being overtly confiscatory. It is confiscation, just to be fair to the critics, but it isn’t unfair. It is necessary for the survival of the economy. Anyone who has played the game of monopoly for long enough knows where a game without redistribution goes. One winner, everyone else a loser. This isn’t an issue of work, all players work equally hard, but it is the system that needs corrections.
What I am saying is that we can have all the trade in the world, or we can have no trade. I’m just going to assume that trade is better than no trade. If you have a problem with that then just look at countries with trade embargoes and try to explain why the embargoes hurt these economies. The real problem is income equality. The rich have too much money, the poor have too little. Not just in our country, but more so in other countries. I know that the policy of redistribution can be taken to far, as in Cuba or Venezuela and can create a situation were there is no investor class. We want a balance. We want to prevent the investor class from getting so much of the money in the economy that there is no longer any reason for them to interact with the working class.
Donald and the people he surrounds himself with don’t understand this. Either that or they don’t care. Trade deals, when written fairly, are the wrong target. I’ve heard that when Donald says, make America great again, he is referring the 1950s. Let hope his is not referring to the segregation but to the strong middle class of that time. Well, if Donald would just use his power of somehow pulling miracles out of his ass and return us to the progressive tax system we had in 1950, well before the Reagan tax cuts, then I think we would be well on our way to making America great again. A lot of our infrastructure was built at this time. Eisenhower build the interstate highway system. Yuge jobs and interstate commerce between the states. The middle class grew. But there is a price. The wealthy have to pay taxes at a higher rate.