Democracy and Corruption

I wrote this in May, June 2017 but it was never published. I’m getting around to posting it now.

How Did Trump Happen To Us?

How did Trump happen to us?

We are experiencing a shock and awe attack. Every single day we face a flood of terrible things being pushed at us so fast that we do not have time to react. Our system and commons and norms and standards and protections and rule of law are rapidly being dismantled. We are overwhelmed, exhausted, our spirits wear down, we don’t know what to do. Worse, the country risks normalization and eventual acceptance of the cruelty and insanity coming from the top.

Will we get out of this? With the nuclear codes in the hands of a crazy, egomaniacal, racist, malignant narcissist, will we live another year? If we’re alive will we be in jail?

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Who Are We To Object To What Putin Is Doing?

There are people who say, “The US has been and is doing bad things all over the world. It interfered with Russia’s elections. It bombs people. It overthrows governments.” Etc.

The United States interferes with elections in other countries. It has overthrown governments in other countries, bombed and even nuked other countries, supported brutal regimes, etc. It has committed genocide against Native Americans, held slaves, enforced an apartheid, made people of color second-class citizens, fought unions and kept wages low, allowed terrible environmental destruction, tortured people … and done a lot of things we are all against.

In general that United States has done everything it can to keep We the People here and everywhere down and under the thumb of a wealthy few.

So who are we to object to what Putin has done and is doing?

Wait, Did WE Do That?

But is that United States that does those things OUR country? Did “we” do those things?

The instances of the US doing these kinds of things here and elsewhere have been when our democracy is undermined, corrupted, manipulated by anti-democracy moneyed interests for their own gain.

That isn’t “US.”

The United State is under the control of a wealthy few anti-democracy plutocrats who OPPOSE what the “We the People’ Constitution stands for. That is the bad version of the United States that progressives fight, now and historically.

Trump is the leader of THAT United States and he is aligned with Putin to make things even worse for We the People.

WE did not go to war in Iraq, we were against it. WE are not helping Israel suppress the Palestinians, we are against that. WE are not helping the Saudis bomb Yemen, we are against that. WE did not support apartheid, we fought it.

We the People of the United States have not decided we should do these things. We the people just want a better life and the freedom to make our decisions over how our government should operate – and every time that actually happens things get better for people, more equal, more just.

What Trump was and is doing — with Putin’s Russia by his side — is to further promote this very undermining of the “We the People” democracy that we fight for.

There Are No Real Republican “Deficit Hawks.” Here’s Why.

Democrats are making a terrible mistake fighting the Republican tax cuts by saying they add to the deficit, that they will “blow a hole in the budget,” etc.

Why are Democrats saying this? They are using the “increase deficits” line because they think they can appeal to a few “deficit hawk” Republicans who spent the Obama years complaining about government sending and “deficits.”

It is a mistake for Democrats to think they can “get Republican votes” by mouthing Republican deficit-fear rhetoric without understanding the strategy behind their rhetoric.

Strategy: Republicans Create Deficits, Stoke Deficit Fear, Then Campaign Against Government Spending

Here’s the thing. There are no real Republican “deficit hawks.” Republicans stoke deficit fear, and then say they are opposed to budget deficits. But they always, always increase deficits. On purpose. There’s a reason.

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Trump Destruction, For The Record

No help for Puerto Rico? No science at the EPA? The State Department dismantled?

The destruction is the POINT.

Trump sent the following email this week:

Friend,

TIME Magazine thinks this is an ATTACK against me?

“How Trump’s cabinet is dismantling government as we know it.”

Good! The federal government is a broken, lobbyist-infested cesspool of corruption that abuses its power, cooks deals for crooked politicians, and despises hardworking Americans.

America didn’t vote for the same old thing. You voted for a wrecking ball to obliterate the status quo and rebuild a new government OF, FOR, and BY the PEOPLE!
But the swamp is revolting! That’s why it is so important now more than ever for you to accept your 2017 Sustaining Membership BEFORE MIDNIGHT TONIGHT.

The Fake News Media will do anything to try to rip apart the strong bonds of our movement. But they will never succeed — because we are fighting to save our country, and that’s a fight we will NEVER surrender.

I hope to see your name on our next list of 2017 Sustaining Members before midnight.

Please contribute $1 to accept your Sustaining Membership.

Thank you,

President Trump Signature Headshot
Donald J. Trump
President of The United States

He brags that he is a “wrecking ball.”

Impeachment Is Not Enough

The problem with impeachment is it doesn’t really solve our problem. The problem we have goes so far beyond just Trump and into flaws in the the design of our system.

George Washington established rule by “norms” when he declined to run again for President, saying we are not a nation of kings. So it became a norm that presidents hand over power. In the years since we developed a system of democratic norms instead of laws that can be enforced, with systemic mechanisms to ensure enforcement.

So now we have a president who has no interest in norms or rule of law, and we have no laws and no systemic mechanisms to do anything about it. He and his cronies are destroying our system of democracy and rule of law.

These clowns got into office illegitimately and we have no mechanisms to stop the destruction of all the “public structures” We the People own and treasure, from our public land to our public schools to our public infrastructure to our system of checks and balances to our democracy itself.

They got into office illegitimately using a corporate-and-billionaire-financed propaganda machine (and possibly non-US “dark money” funding sources) spewing lies at us 24/7/365 for decades, massive voter suppression, possible election-rigging, the electoral college designed around maintaining slave states, lies (“I will drain the swamp”) and all the other things they have done.

And beyond the presidency we have the gerrymandering lock, states populated by cows but with two senators, and other ways they maintain a grip on power when they can’t get the votes.

All impeachment does is move the incompetent, loathsome Trump out of the way, after he signs the things they want and they are through with his usefulness. But the entire fraudulent crowd will still maintain illegitimate power.

What we need is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that can sweep away all the corruption, illegitimacy and lies and find ways to restore democracy and return Power To The People.

An Innovative Solution To Corporate Taxation

While we’re talking about taxes…

Over the weekend The Zero Hour with RJ Eskow interviewed economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, to talk about “A New Way to Make Corporations Pay Their Fair Share.”

The idea is, as Baker wrote last week in the LA Times, Instead of taxes, make corporations give the government stock,

If the tax reformers are serious, and I hope they are, here’s one simple way to largely eliminate the gaming opportunities that have made these people rich.

Instead of traditional taxes, the government could require corporations to turn over a portion of their stock, say 25%, in the form of non-voting shares. The government would benefit from any dividends or share buybacks but would have no voice in running the company.

This system would eliminate almost all opportunities for gaming since a company would not be able to deny the government its share of profits unless it also withheld profits from its other shareholders. And we would not call that “tax avoidance” but outright theft – the sort of thing that gets people sent to jail.

This government (We the People) share of corporations would replace taxation, because the government would collect dividends or the value of the share would increase along with the profits (formerly taxable) of the corporation. The government and corporate tax-accounting bureaucracies would be unnecessary. Our democracy would receive revenue so it can do things to make our economy and lives better.

Why should the government (We the People) have a share of corporations? People generally do not understand what a corporation really is, and this common misunderstanding works to be benefit of those who make money off of them.

Corporations are entirely creations of government. They don’t exist without government. A corporation is a package of laws designed to accomplish a public purpose.

Individuals do not generally have the kind of capital available to accomplish large-scale projects like building a series of factories to make cars or airplanes. It’s also risky to sink so much of one person’t holdings into something like that so those with sufficient resources might not do it.

So government (We the people) created corporations to enable pooling of capital and reduction of individual risk. We (through our government) grant these entities the right to enter into contracts, write checks, hire people, borrow money, file lawsuits, etc. as if they were a “person.”

A common misconception is that shareholders “own” corporations. They do not, but shareholders do elect the Board of Directors, which hires people to manage the corporation according to the Board’s instructions.

People tend to think of and talk about corporations as sentient entities. But corporations do not think or decide or act or anything else. The managers of the corporation do that. For example, “Wells Fargo” did not “decide” to commit fraud against their customers, the corporation’s executives — people — did that.

Another common misconception is that corporations are required by law to do whatever they can to make profits for the shareholders. In fact this is a relatively recent concept that flourished as people’s understanding of the purpose of corporations diminished. In fact government does much to limit what corporations can do while seeking profits. They cannot (aren’t supposed to) kill or injure people to increase profits, cannot poison the air and water, cannot commit fraud, etc.

So the idea that government should keep their hands off of corporations and not hold some percent of them for the benefit of We the People is really preposterous. This thinking misunderstands what a corporation is, how and why it exists and what its purpose is.

The goal of Baker’s idea is to create a system where corporations are paying their share to We the People, without all of the incentives to come up with schemes to avoid taxes. Baker’s idea accomplishes that goal. Baker suggests that government hold 25% of corporate shares, but the tax rate has already dropped from 52% to 46% under Reagan to 35% today, and the corporate share of the overall tax burden has fallen from 32% to only 10%. SO perhaps a higher share would be appropriate for restoring revenue and democracy.

(See Lynn Stout’s The Shareholder Value Myth for a deeper dive into what and why a corporation is.)

This Isn’t Just Trump. This Is Who the Republicans Are.

So far President Trump has signed very few bills. One lets coal companies dump waste into streams. The other lets oil companies bribe foreign dictators in secret. And he is moving to block a Labor Department “fiduciary rule” that requires financial advisors to act in the best interests of their clients when advising on retirement accounts.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t just Trump doing this. The Republican House and Senate passed those two bills, and the Republicans have been fighting that fiduciary rule tooth and nail.

It’s not just Trump, Republicans as a party are using Trump to engage in a general assault on protections from corruption, pollution, corporate fraud and financial scams.

This is who they are.

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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.

We Are Saturated With Annoying Sales And Scam Calls

We are on the “Do Not Call” list, “land line” and cell. (We still have a land line because I do radio shows…)

We are SATURATED with sales and scam calls. Sometimes 5-6 a day. In fact if the land line rings it is for sure a scam call of some sort.

Why doesn’t the government enforce the “Do Not Call list?