Trump’s Absurd Plan To Dismantle Government’s Protections

Donald Trump released a video announcing his agenda for his “first day in office.” One of the things he said is, “I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.” Can we count the number of ways this is absurd and dangerous?

Under Trump’s 2-for-1 idea, if we want to have a regulation that a company can’t store explosives next to an elementary school, we have to eliminate a regulation that protects us from food poisoning AND a regulation that stops companies from taking money out of your bank account for no reason? (Or how about creating fake accounts and charging them fees?)

Or how about we eliminate the regulations requiring seat belts in cars? Or requiring cars to have headlights? There’s two more! And think of all the money this would save the car companies! (Ignore the pain and suffering and loss this would cause regular Americans — that’s not money.)

Here’s one that can go: eliminate the regulations against defrauding students using high-pressure sales techniques to get them to enroll at scam universities. Or against “financial elder abuse“.

Government Is We The People

In the United States government was once supposed to be about We the People organizing to accomplish things that make our lives better. We vote, our representatives impose taxes and spend and make laws and regulations toward that end.

The ongoing corporate/conservative attack on the legitimacy of government and democracy have eroded public understanding of these concepts. Education. Firefighting. Scientific research. Health care. Parks. Transportation. All are core things a government of, by and FOR the people does to make our lives better — and all are under attack, “privatized” or “eliminated” by representatives who have been “captured” by corporate/conservative money.

Government of, by and for the people by definition stops some people from doing things that hurt others. In particular for this discussion, it stops people who have businesses from defrauding others, harming others, polluting our air and water, selling dangerous products, and other destructive practices. But this means that these people make less money, so they complain, and sometimes they use their money to influence those who would regulate to stop them.

“Burdensome government regulations” all cost companies money: food inspection, clean water, fire codes, zoning rules and drug safety rules. They all “get in the way” of a company scamming, hurting, polluting or whatever makes them more money.

Regulations too often come about as a reaction to something terrible happening. Fire codes came from times when entire towns burned down. Drug-safety rules came from “snake oil” scammers selling poison and leaving town before the damage is done. Seat belt regulations came from terrible traffic injuries and deaths.

Regulations are about “how can We the People do this better?”

The Underlying Assumptions Behind Trump’s Absurd Plan

Underlying Trump’s plan to “eliminate” government regulations is the premise that “government regulation” is itself a bad thing. And underlying that is the premise that government of by and for the people itself is illegitimate. It gets in the way of business. We the People making decisions interferes with efficient decision-making done for the narrow purpose of making money.

Corporate-financed conservatives will always tell you that government and its regulations are always bad. Government just “interferes” in things it knows nothing about. They will say that government regulations hold back businesses from expanding and hiring and generally getting things done that make money. But these are self-interested complaints from people who make their money scamming or hurting or polluting. People like Donald Trump.

We should see Trump’s proposal for what it is. This is not an approach to governing, it is about dismantling what government is for so that an already-wealthy few are free to fleece, scam, harm and and pollute in the name of greed.

The Damage From Free Trade Helped Elect Trump

It seems that lots of media/political/business people “on the coasts” don’t get how big a deal trade played in Tuesday’s election.

Sold On Free Trade

In the late 70s the country was told that “protectionism” — protecting wages and key industries and — is bad for the economy and was sold “free trade” as a way to bring prosperity and jobs. “Trade” in this usage meant one and only thing: close a factory here and lay off the workers. Open a factory “there” to make the same goods, bring those goods back here to sell in the same stores to the same customers. It’s called “trade” because now those goods cross a border. The “sell” was that all those laid-off workers would be “freed up” to get better jobs.

Well, they never got better jobs — those were also outsourced or privatized or relabeled as low-wage “contractors” with no protections or benefits. So instead they had their homes foreclosed, their local stores forced out of business and their downtowns boarded up. Local and state tax bases dwindled so schools became terrible, infrastructure crumbled, public services cut and cut and cut. Meanwhile the investor class that pushed this and executive class that managed it pocket the wages these regions used to generate for themselves. (They also got huge tax cuts.)

Entire Regions Bled Dry

In the decades since entire regions have been bled dry of ways to make a living, their cities and towns and downtowns left behind to crumble, their aging former factory workers scrambling for WalMart jobs and turning to opiates for relief.

Take a few days and drive around the regions once known for manufacturing or steel production. See what this kind of “free trade” has done to them,

As you drive from town to town in Michigan and Ohio you see one after another a ring of the “big box” stores and national chain stores around each city. You also see the “brownfields” of rusted-out, closed factories, empty, falling-down buildings. Then you go to the downtown and you see boarded up houses, empty storefronts, deteriorating and deteriorated communities, idle people standing on corners. As you drive into these towns you can just see what is happening in a nutshell.

Bled dry. First by “trade,” then by Wall Street-owned chains and banks then by the Wall Street collapse that sucked away the remaining assets. And then Wall Street got bailed out by their taxes but they didn’t. These regions never got any help from the government, even as they watched the Wall Street types and executives and coastal elites living it up — on their money.

Wall Street was bailed out. But for decades this country allowed entire regions and populations to deteriorate and die, and inequality to soar, and didn’t do a thing about it. No one fixed it.

“I Alone Can Fix It”

Tuesday a lot of righteously angry people with nowhere else to turn got fed up, took things into their own hands and voted for the lying, insulting, women-groping demagogue who promised that he and he alone can fix it. “I am your voice … I alone can fix it.”

Pick a former manufacturing area, and look at how that area voted in Tuesday’s election. Key “swing” states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin were hit hard by deindustrialization and little to nothing was done to help the people there. And they voted for Donald Trump because he promised to “fix” it.

Trade Mattered Where The Votes Mattered Most

Andrew Flowers, writing at the FiveThirtyEight polling analysis site in Might Chinese Trade Explain Trump’s Success?

Recent research has indicated that trade with China has been more disruptive than previously thought. MIT economist David Autor and co-authors have documented how rising Chinese imports wreaked havoc on competing U.S. industries. In total, their research found the surge of Chinese trade was responsible for the loss of more than 2 million jobs between 1999 and 2011. But, interestingly — and this is where Trump’s electoral map comes in — it had a concentrated geographic impact. States in the Midwest, Appalachia and the Southeast were where Chinese trade hit hardest. Take a look at these maps showing where the U.S. industries were most exposed…

Click through to see the maps. Flowers then explains, “At first look, this map sort of overlaps with Trump’s success. He has won or is currently leading in several manufacturing-heavy Midwestern states; anti-trade sentiment is rife there.”

Exit polling drives this home. CNN’s exit polls, for example, tell the story:

Rust belt states agree with Trump that trade costs jobs

Donald Trump made trade a key message in his campaign. He promised to bring back the manufacturing jobs that he said were lost to trade deals.

Large shares of voters in key rust belt states key to Hillary Clinton’s electoral map agreed with Trump’s view that trade agreements have hurt American workers. And they overwhelmingly supported the billionaire businessman at the ballot box.

Half of Michigan’s electorate feel trade takes away jobs, and these folks supported Trump by a 57% to 36% split. The 31% who think it creates jobs backed Clinton by a 65% to 31% margin.

In Ohio, 47% of voters say trade hurts workers, and they lined up for Trump by a more than 2-to-1 margin. The 46% who say it creates jobs or has no effect strongly backed Clinton.

And in Pennsylvania, 53% of the electorate agree that trade is bad for jobs. Some 62% supported Trump, while 34% backed Clinton. Among the 35% who feel trade is a job creator, Clinton was the favored candidate by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Trump Talked Trade From The First Day To The Last

Trump saw this and used it to propel his candidacy. Trump’s very first speech, announcing his candidacy, talked about trade — a lot.

“That’s right – a lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs because there are no jobs because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have our jobs.

[. . .] I’m going to tell you a couple of stories about trade, because I’m totally against the trade bill for a number of reasons.

… Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have people that are stupid. We have people that aren’t smart, and we have people that are controlled by special interests and it’s just not going to work.

He went on to tell those stories. And more. There’s much, much more about trade in that first speech. From that moment on in his campaign, he continued to talk about trade, in almost every speech, in the debates, and then in his final “closing argument.”

Trump’s final ad displays a picture of Bill Clinton and the word NAFTA as Trump says, “The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals…” Then, as a deserted factory is displayed:

“The political establishment is responsible for the destruction of our factories and our jobs as they flee to Mexico, China and other countries all around the world. The global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

There’s no question about it: Trump used trade to propel himself to power.

Not Just Trump And Not Just Here

This is going on around the world. Elite “neoliberal” economic policies are driving inequality while wiping out the middle class and entire regions. Right-wing politicians are taking advantage of the distress and offering scapegoats, using xenophobia and racism to gain political power — just like Trump did.

Trump’s surprise win echoes the surprise win of Brexit — Britain’s vote to exit from the European Union. That vote was driven largely by the economic damage that EU’s open border and free trade policies were doing to the British working-class.

Glenn Greenwald writes about this at the Intercept, in Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit,

The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino-gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population — all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction — are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They’re going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture that they regard, not without reason, as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, You can ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people some of the time, and ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to some of the people all the time, but you cannot ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people all of the time.

And here we are, with Trump soon to become President of the United States. Great. Just great.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

The Reality Of This Election Is Trump Or Clinton

The reality of this election is that this year two choices for president, and only two choices. Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will become president.

And this election is entirely about Donald Trump. You are either for him or against him, period. There is just no way around it.

Trump will have the keys to the FBI, NSA and Department of Justice. Imagine Chris Christie as Atty General and Rudolph Giuliani as Director of National Intelligence. Maybe Newt Gingrich running the FBI. Imagine Trump with the NSA surveillance apparatus under his control. All rubber-stamped by a Republican Congress. He’s already talked about firing all the generals, imagine what happens to the rest of government. our government will become entirely a support-Trump operation — not unlike how Putin runs Russia. Do you think you’ll be safe?

Trump promises a “deportation force” that will round up Muslim and Latino families — and do what with them? Black, Jewish and “mixed-race” families obviously are in line to be on that “Skittles” list. What happens to the rights of Gays and political “politically correct” opponents? His crowds chant “lock them up” about the news media. No, if you are someone who is reading this you won’t be safe if Trump wins.

If you think this is a just exaggerated talk or a joke, everyone also thought it was a joke that Trump could win the Republican nomination, or be anywhere close to becoming President. Yet he did and he is.

This is serious shit. Bernie Sanders is traveling around the country right now to spread this message:

“The stakes are much too high. This is not a personality contest. You are not voting for the senior class president at the local high school. You are voting for the most important public official in the world. The differences between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump are day and night.”

If you do not want Donald Trump to become president you have to vote for Hillary Clinton. If you do not vote FOR Clinton you are voting to allow Trump to become president, period. You might not be able to stand Clinton, but you have to decide if you want Trump to be president, with all the consequences that brings. Because that is what it could mean if you do not show up and vote for Clinton.

My very first blog post ever was this July, 2002 post: Ralph Nader is a Scab,

In the union movement we learned the hard way that the only way to fight the moneyed interests is to stick together. It’s called SOLIDARITY. It’s what “union” MEANS.

When unions are in a fight the members stick together, and those crossing the lines are called “scabs”.

In the 2000 election it was the usual fragile Democratic coalition fighting the usual moneyed interests. Ralph Nader broke the solidarity, divided the coalition, and lost us the election. Ralph Nader is a scab.

Even if you are in a “safe” state you still have to vote for either Trump or Clinton. Not voting for Clinton to “send a message” keeps her “numbers” down nationally which, if things are close elsewhere could leave Trump with more votes nationally but lose the electoral college — like what happened to Gore. If that happens it encourages Trump’s neo-Nazi followers to take up arms.

In 2000 people voted for Ralph Nader to “send a message.” Solidarity was broken and Bush became president. No message was received and nothing was done about climate for 8 years, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed in an illegal war that brought lasting chaos to the Middle East. And our economy was ruined. A Trump win promises far, far worse consequences.

Report Warns TPP Will Force Another Mass-Migration Into US

“Look around the rain-fed corn farms in Oaxaca state, and in vast areas of Mexico, and one sees few young men, just elderly people and single mothers.”

Trade agreements can be used to boost prosperity on all sides of trade borders by increasing business opportunities, raising wages and increasing choices. Or they can be used to concentrate corporate power, cutting wages and choices.

Guess which model our country’s corporate-written trade agreements have followed? (Hint: look around you: we have ever-increasing concentration of corporate power and concentration of wealth, limited competition, falling wages and limited opportunities to start new businesses.)

One way our corporate-written trade agreements have hurt most of us has been through forcing working people to compete in a race to the bottom. The effects on most of us are just devastating. For example:

“The Men Have Gone To The United States”

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) forced many small Mexican farmers out of business. Many of these small farmers were forced to migrate north in search of a way to make a living.

A McClatchy Newspapers report from February, 2011, “Free trade: As U.S. corn flows south, Mexicans stop farming,” examined the dynamic:

Look around the rain-fed corn farms in Oaxaca state, and in vast areas of Mexico, and one sees few young men, just elderly people and single mothers.

“The men have gone to the United States,” explained Abel Santiago Duran, a 56-year-old municipal agent, as he surveyed this empty village in Oaxaca state.

… A flood of U.S. corn imports, combined with subsidies that favor agribusiness, are blamed for the loss of 2 million farm jobs in Mexico. The trade pact worsened illegal migration, some experts say, particularly in areas where small farmers barely eke out a living.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) gathered migration facts in, “How U.S. Trade Policy Has Contributed to Mass-Migration to America.” Some of the numbers:

● In total, nearly 5 million Mexican farmers were displaced while seasonal labor in agro-export industries increased by about 3 million – for a net loss of 1.9 million jobs.iii

● The annual number of immigrants from Mexico more than doubled from 370,000 in 1993 (the year before NAFTA went into effect) to 770,000 in 2000 – a 108% increase.

That Was Then, This Is TPP

Now another corporate-written “trade” agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is probably coming before Congress in the “lame duck” session following the election. Like NAFTA, this agreement is likely to cause another forced migration northward from Mexico, Central and South American countries as jobs move from those countries to even lower-wage countries like Vietnam.

A report from the AFL-CIO titled “Trading Away Migrant Rights: How the TPP Would Fuel Displacement and Fail Migrant Workers” warns:

The TPP categorically fails to protect workers in the Pacific Rim. As currently drafted, the TPP would increase corporate profits and power while exposing working people to real and predictable harm, including lost jobs and lower wages. Migrant workers already are subject to extreme rights violations in some TPP countries, and this new trade deal would make it even harder for many families to find decent work at home.

The TPP is a recipe for destabilizing communities, perpetuating low wages and stifling labor rights—all of which are factors driving migration.

On a Monday press call discussing the report Celeste Drake, Trade and Globalization Specialist with AFL-CIO, explained how the report shows that TPP is likely to make working families in TPP countries less secure.

The agreement fails workers by offering no transition assistance or safety net for workers who lose their jobs. Mass displacements are not easily remedied which can spur mass migration. Then as economic factors increase migration TPP provides displaced workers with no protections, no labor rights and does not set up a task force to address trafficking and abusive practices by labor recruiters.

Shannon Lederer, AFL-CIO’s Director of Immigration, explained that migration should be a choice not a necessity for survival. Trade should lift all boats, not facilitate a race to the bottom. But TPP would not help to advance these goals. It would in fact make efforts to achieve them harder. She also noted that TPP has a complete lack of protections for migrant workers. Migrant workers face exploitation and trafficking.

The AFL-CIO report explains how TPP will kill jobs in Mexico , Central and South America, forcing people to migrate:

The TPP is poised to disrupt North and Central American supply chains by granting substantial trade benefits, including eventual duty-free access for all TPP countries to the U.S., Mexican and Canadian markets. This will set CAFTA and NAFTA countries up against even lower wage countries in the TPP like Vietnam and Malaysia.

… The inclusion of Vietnam in the TPP is a major concern to apparel workers due to the size of Vietnam’s apparel industry and extensive government subsidies and ownership of large apparel manufacturing facilities. Vietnam is already the second-largest textile and apparel exporter to the United States, shipping more than $11 billion in product to the United States in 2014. This level could surge under the TPP, which would put enormous pressure on Central American manufacturers and workers. Much Central American production could transfer to Vietnam, with its lower wages and authoritarian regime, further degrading Central America’s jobs base and uprooting those dependent on textile jobs.

Likewise, Malaysia’s electronics industry is rife with forced labor, according to the U.S. government’s own reports; yet the TPP would force workers in Mexico’s maquila sector to compete with Malaysian production standards. Loose rules of origin requirements mean that competition not only will come from Vietnam and Malaysia, but also China. Workers in the Americas displaced by these factors may have few options but to emigrate in search of better opportunities in the United States and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, changing economic opportunities associated with increased production and growth in countries like Brunei, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam could amplify job churn and both “push” and “pull” workers into countries with poor labor rights records.

TPP offers nothing to protect these workers or protect the rest of us from the resulting race to the bottom. But maybe that’s the point.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

“Underbanked” Report Shows Need For Postal Banking

Millions of Americans can’t get bank accounts, so they can’t even cash a check. Many millions more might have an account but can’t get even a small loan. The numbers (below) are just outrageous.

These millions are forced to turn to predators like the payday loan and check cashing industry. Even those who can get full-service accounts are scammed by the likes of Wells Fargo.

Meanwhile We the people are prevented by our captured-by-Wall-Street Congress from setting up the obvious solution that would solve so many problems: Postal Banking.

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Watch Out For The Coming Corporate Tax-Break Trickery

One of the biggest fights coming up in the newly elected Congress next year will be “corporate tax reform.”

If you follow policy news you’ve been hearing that Congress wants to “reform” corporate taxes (again). When you hear talk of “reform” from our corporate-captured Congress it means you need to run as fast as you can — and organize. The way they use the word, it always means give them more and We, the People get less.

Senator Schumer Talking About Massive Break On Taxes Corporations Already Owe

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) might be Senate Majority Leader after the election. In a Tuesday CNBC interview he said he is hoping to work with Republican House Speaker Paul “Gut the Government” Ryan on “some kind of international tax reform tied to a large infrastructure program.” In the interview Schumer said:

If you can get overseas money to come back here, even if it’s at a lower rate than the 35 it now comes back at, and you can use that money for a major constructive purpose such as infrastructure, if you did an infrastructure bank, for instance, you could get $100 billion in equity in the bank and get a trillion dollars of infrastructure.

When Schumer says “at a lower rate” he is talking about a “tax holiday” allowing corporations to pay less than the 35% tax rate they owe (minus deductions for taxes already paid overseas) on some $2.5 trillion of profits they have stashed in “overseas” tax havens. These corporations owe around $720 billion or so on those profits. So rewarding them for tax dodging with a lower tax rate means handing them up to hundreds of billions of dollars that the country needs for schools, health care and yes, infrastructure repair.

These tax-dodging, multinational corporations used schemes and tax havens to dodge paying taxes they owe. Meanwhile other corporations — usually smaller, domestic companies — paid their taxes. This gave the multinational corporations that used schemes and tax havens to dodge paying their taxes an advantage over the honest, domestic companies that did pay their taxes.

So why should Congress reward tax-dodging, multinational corporations by letting them keep some of the taxes they dodged, thereby punishing the domestic corporations that did the right thing for the country? See if you can guess why. (Hint: the tax-dodging corporations have “captured” Congress using a portion of that money.)

Revenue Neutral?

The corporations are also trying to sell “tax reform.” This “reform” is really just another huge corporate tax cut that is explained as a “revenue neutral” deal to “cut corporate tax loopholes” and use the resulting revenue to cut the corporate tax rate. The term “revenue neutral” means the tax revenue coming to the government stays the same. “Revenue neutral” sounds like a good deal but in reality it’s just a trick. It means taxes go up for some companies but way, way down for others. Guess which companies lose out. (Hint: it won’t be the giant multinational corporations that have captured Congress.)

The top corporate tax rate used to be 52 percent. Under Reagan it was 46 percent. Then Congress “reformed” taxes and dropped the rate to just 35 percent. Corporations used to shoulder 32 percent of the total tax burden. It has fallen to only 10 percent of the burden. That is a drop of two-thirds. See if you can guess who pays that two-thirds difference. (Hint: it isn’t corporations or their wealthy owners. It is cuts to schools, infrastructure, health care and all the things that used to make our lives better. This is one part of the economic squeeze everyone feels.)

On top of that they are also trying to sell a scheme that lets them off the hook for profits made outside of the country. See if you can guess how fast every corporation moves its profit centers and production out of the country if that passes. (Hint: every single corporation will move every job, factory, profit center etc out of the country if that passes.)

What Budget Deficit And Debt?

Our country has a budget deficit and a large debt caused by tax cuts and wars. The current hysteria over deficits is driven by corporate-and-billionaire-funded PR “think tanks” that pump out propaganda and hysteria 24/7/4/12. Can you guess what 24/7/4/12 means? (Hint: 24 hours, 7 days, 4 weeks, 12 months of the year.)

With a budget deficit and a large debt the fact is that a “revenue neutral” tax reform for corporations who have already had their tax rates cut and cut and cut is the very last thing the country needs to do. What we need to do instead is close that loophole that lets giant, multinational corporations hide $2.5 trillion in profits in “overseas” tax shelters, and make them pay the $720 billion or so of taxes they owe now, plus the $90-100 billion or so of taxes they will dodge every year after. Period.

Revenue neutral, Schumerutral. Just make these giant, tax-dodging, multinational corporations pay what they owe. Don’t reward them for tax-dodging. And restore the 52% corporate tax rate instead of cutting it even further.

PS Take a look at this Fact Sheet: Corporate Tax Rates from Americans for Tax Fairness.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.