Friday, January 06, 2017

An American Disgrace: Trump on the Verge

Most of the Trump Administration’s key positions have been filled and it is a pretty scary group in composite. I will highlight the key figures and a little on their relevant background tomorrow, but today I wanted to consider the Trump transition over the past few weeks beyond the figures that will lead us into 2017 and beyond.

A lot more has happened over the holiday season regarding Trump and his future plans and much of it appears to be bad news for the average American … though possibly better for Russia. There is too much to cover in one post, but I thought I would summarize some of the lowlights over the festive period, beyond the growing collection of corporate lackeys, climate change deniers, racists, homophobes and crackpot conspiracy theorists that will now populate the corridors of power in DC come January 20. Yes, that’s right, a mere 14 days until the most arrogant, megalomaniacal and ill-prepared President in history takes office.

Fake vs. Real Policy
Like the fake news that is so beloved by Trump and his supporters, it appears fake policy has entered the fray even before Trump officially enters the office of president. A few weeks ago, Trump was first lauded and then criticized in certain circles after “saving” 800 jobs with Carrier. The facts surrounding the case are open to interpretation and employees themselves made it clear they were less than impressed. He has also taken credit for other companies keeping jobs in the U.S., including hyping Ford’s decision to add 700 jobs (The Economist) even as those jobs and the ones at Carrier came with huge tax reduction windfalls for the company that essentially hurt average Americans more than they help the few workers who have kept their jobs, at least for the short term. Paul Krugman provides an interesting analysis of what he calls “fake policy” and its relationship to the more substantive and real policy prescriptions we need to turn around the slumbering economy for most American workers (NYT). As Krugman points out, the push for “fake policy” is the natural corollary for the fake populism that ultimately vaulted him to the presidency, along with more than a little help from his friends in Russia and a certain FBI official.

Speaking of Russia
Another story that has been getting big coverage for well over a month is the intervention of Russia in our election and the assistance they gave to Trump, which almost certainly helped to get him over the hump. Trump, of course, refuses to accept the conclusions of the FBI and CIA (NYT), instead claiming that it is a “witch hunt” (). In fact, the most recently released information suggests Putin himself ordered the hacking and fake news spreading that supported Trump’s surprise victory (WP). I assume this is just the start of a trend that will continue with Trump as president, ignoring or refuting any story that is inconvenient to his standing or the policies he pursues. Sure the experts have probably studied the issue under examination a lot more than me, but as a megalomaniac who doesn’t really care much about facts, my opinion is not only AS valid as theirs, but MORE valid. That appears to be his stance on everything from climate change and the war on terror to intelligence and the election results themselves.   

Conflicts of Interest No Longer an Issue
That appears to be the position of Trump, who cancelled a news conference a few weeks ago where he was going to explain how he would tackle the very real, and troubling conflicts of interest that could beset his administration right from the onset. The idea of a “blind trust” run by his children appears to have been abandoned, even as the possibility of that actually being a blind trust was as suspect as his claims about Russian hacking, climate change or most of his policy prescriptions. At one point he actually had the audacity to say he could run his business and the country at the same time, but has been smart enough not to repeat those troubling claims. But with Ivanka and the rest of the family setting up shop in DC, and sitting in on meetings with top executives from technology companies and foreign leaders, it appears the Trump clan assumes that either the media will tire of the story or that their supporters are so deafened by the echo chamber of false news that they won’t bother to care as he makes business decisions in his own interest that could damage the country and its rather larger interests.

Fact Checking Trump
Following on a theme, Trump continues to have a precarious relationship with the truth in the information he spreads to his twitter followers (though we can’t speak to his relationship with the media, since he has been ignoring them for months). The Washington Post has started a nifty series to fact check Trump’s twitter account on a weekly basis (WP). Just this week, they report the following inaccuracies and downright lies: a) Reported that Chicago murder rate in 2016 was record-setting. It was high, but not record level high, a tendency we have seen rather frequently from our future Commander and Thief, b) Trump claimed Chevy was sending their Cruze line from Mexico to sell in the U.S. That is false on two levels – first, the cars sold in the U.S. are made right here in Ohio and the majority of those made in Mexico are actually sold abroad. c) Trump tweeted “People must remember that Obamacare just doesn’t work, and it is not affordable – 116% increases (Arizone). Bill Clinton called it ‘crazy.’” There are a lot of errors in this statement, including the 116% increase. It was actually 25 there and some states have seen decreases in premiums. Those who premiums increased, like mine, are not eligible for subsidies. And Clinton’s quote? It was only for the tax subsidies, not the entire plan. d) As mentioned above, Trump took credit for Ford scraping a Mexican plan due to “Trump Policies,” even as he is not even President and thus does not yet have “policies.” But the truth is even further afield, as Ford abandoned that plan because they do not see the future in small cars but in electric vehicles, though they did give some credit to their outlook under a Trump presidency. e) Going back to Russia for a second, Trump sent two tweets that are especially suspect, one falsely claiming the intelligence briefing had been moved to Friday (and that it was quite suspicious) and the other backing up the lies from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange about Russian help with his hacking of the DNC.


Trump has been unpleasant to downright vociferous in taking on enemies real and perceived. But others are already suffering under his rather thin-skinned approach to opposition. The latest appear to have done nothing other then the work they were assigned to during their stay as foreign ambassadors. The general policy is to give these officials some time to clear out their desks and get family business in order, but Trump has ordered all of them to vacate their posts and return home by the day of his inauguration (WP). Classy guy!

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