Trump’s Brand is Ayn Rand

Robert Reich explains why Ayn Rand’s ideas have destroyed the common good.

“We have to understand who Ayn Rand is so we can reject her philosohpy and dedicate ourselves to rebuilding the common good.”

On Trump’s Steel/Aluminum Tariffs And So-Called “Trade” Generally

I agree with the tariffs, but not the way it is being done. It should have been planned, phased in, coordinated with US industry and, most important, part of a comprehensive US economic/trade/industrial policy. The latter just isn’t going to happen under Trump nor under a Wall Street dominated economy even with Democrats running things.

Trump’s tariff doesn’t come out of nowhere. This is the result of an actual process. It comes after our Commerce Department ruled on a case that started under Obama that China is dumping steel.

Here is an example of the problem. China increased its capacity dramatically during their infrastructure boom (which is how they got through the recession). Then internal demand dropped as the infrastructure projects wrapped up, but the steelmaking capacity continued because they don’t want to lay a lot of people off. So they are selling the steel wherever they can at prices lower than cost. The rest of the world suffers. Esecially the US “rust belt” workers. But also our country’s ability to make steel as needed. Imagine a conflict with China and they cut off steel to us, after this “dumping” has closed what’s left of our production capacity.

From April 2016’s CAF post, The Big Fight Over Chinese Steel,

When China’s growth was very high, and China was building tall buildings and high-speed rail all over the place they needed a lot of steel. Then their economy slowed. Now China is making more steel than they need.

Meanwhile countries around the world are fighting their own slow growth with austerity policies that literally take money out of their economies – like cutting back on infrastructure maintenance and modernization. And their slowing economies mean less steel use.

… So there is less demand for steel in China and around the world. Current global overcapacity is estimated at 700 million tons – more than seven times what U.S. steelmakers can produce. This is expected to get worse.

But Wait, There’s More – Cheap Labor

OK, now the bigger picture. Economists will tell you about the benefits of trade. I should have said Wall Street economists.

“Trade” is supposed to be about “comparative advantage.” This means a region that grows bananas has an advantage doing that compared to Iowa. But Iowa is great at crowing corn. Iowa trades corn for bananas, etc.

However currently discussion of “trade” really just means using “trade” deals for moving American production out of the country to low-wage places. The “comparative advantage” involved is cheap labor. (The factories aren’t even already there, they are moved there.) Wall Street likes to argue the benefits of lower prices resulting from using what amounts to slave labor outside the US but the real benefit they get from this and the rest of the trade regime is pressure on US wages, which means people have to take what they can get (or drive for Uber) and labor cannot demand a larger slice of the pie.

When they say trade agreements “increase trade” remember that moving a factory across a border and bringing the same goods back here “increases trade” because now they cross a border. “Trade”?

Even More – “Expanding Markets”

There is another part of what we call “trade.” They say trade “opens up markets for US goods and services.” As if those markets are not already being served? What it does is open up “markets” for exploitation by the largest, ost powerful competitors, wiping out whatever has developed locally. There AND here. Look at how “trade’ has wiped out OUR textile, electronics, etc producers. And OUR giant monopolies like to use their power to wipe out local industries elsewhere.

So “trade’ is currently being used by giant multinationals to consolidate their power.

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way. Imagine Democracy.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Imagine if the US had full-employment policies, so everyone who wants a job has one. This is in fact easily done.

Imagine a democracy with rule of law and sensible coherent structures for determining policy. (Those policies would include breaking up monopolies and reducing the power of big companies.)

Imagine a government that offers a job to anyone who wants one, with reasonable above-poverty pay and benefits. There is so much that needs doing, like child care, elder care, retrofitting buildings to be energy efficient, fixing up parks, teaching — you know, the list of things that a democracy would put resources into to make people’s lives better.

So imagine a system where everyone has the ability to get by, and the opportunity to do work that does good. Imagine how jobs would change if employers had to compete to get people to do the jobs they need done. That competition would involve offering jobs that actually do make the world a better place, because people would be able to choose to do that.

This Creates A New Economic Problem – A NEED To Outsource Production

Never mind the societal reckoning full employment policies would bring, with its higher wages, increases in labor’s power, etc. (That’s another discussion…) There would be a new economic problem: Our economy would have trouble finding enough labor to get things done. In other words, the economy would be prevented from running at full capacity by a demand for labor. What to do?

THEN it makes economic sense to move production elsewhere. But then it could be done non-exploitively, bringing higher pay and prosperity to the places we outsource to as well as here. Then trade becomes the benefit it is supposed to be, benefitting everyone. This is how democracies would do it.

And immigration. (But that’s also another discussion.)

In an economy designed to be of, by and for We the People outsourcing production could be good for everyone.

Imagine an economy designed to be of, by and for We the People. Wow.

Russia and Democracy

Russian interference is associated with using anti-Islam propaganda and other divisive wedges to promote Trump.

The US and several countries are now ruled openly or behind the scenes by an elite of billionaire / corporate / princeling / oligarchical / kleptocrats sometimes in alliance and other times in conflict…

I’d love to see our country restore (or maybe you could say just get to in the first place) our ideal of representative constitutional democracy under rule of law, in which we all get to vote (on paper ballots), and where have reason to vote for candidates who have good, honest proposals that tell us how they would make our lives better, and who we can trust to do that and not make corrupt deals that involve enriching themselves in office or later.

I don’t know how we get there from here.

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.”

For Those Wondering Why I Haven’t Been Writing

I haven’t been writing.

I’m having a terrible time grappling with with the national situation. For one thing, I don’t want to write anything that might help normalize what is happening here. That includes using the word “President” for Trump.

Another, I wrote for years saying, “Wake up or the worst could happen.” And by that I meant what HAS now happened. So I’m not sure what I have to offer to help right now. The worst has happened, I don’t know that a lot of us realize how bad it really is…

So I am doing a lot of thinking. And some tweeting, at least, because I just can’t help myself.

I’ll be back.

For some Reason The Public Thinks Politicians Side With Corporations

For some reason, the public thinks politicians side with corporations. Imagine that. and they’re looking for politicians who do not.

The LA Timesreports on focus groups with voters, seeing what they think today, in These voters in Arizona are fed up with Democrats, Republicans and, most of all, Trump,

More than two dozen voters gathered in Phoenix this week delivered a bipartisan broadside against President Trump, Republicans and Democrats, dismissing the political class as serving its wealthy benefactors and abandoning everyday Americans.

… The questions largely revolved around views of Trump and Republican efforts to pass healthcare and tax reform measures. Yet in the process, participants voiced strikingly little support for Democrats nor any enthusiasm about using their vote to cast out Republicans next year.

“Democrats are doing something badly wrong,” said one Democratic-leaning voter, saying the party “should have done a better job” last year. “Democrats are flailing.”

“I think the government is totally corrupt,” said an independent voter who leaned toward Democrats in elections but disparaged both sides.

Republicans see Trump and Republicans siding with corporations. Imagine that.

Asked whether Trump sided with regular people or big corporations, nine of 10 in the Republican group said he sided with corporations. All 10 said Republicans in Congress sided with corporations. Two said Democrats sided with ordinary people. Sentiments were not dramatically different in other groups.

“They’re all the same; they’re all puppets,” said one Trump voter.

People saw government bailing out Wall Street and corporations instead of We the People, and aren’t happy,

“People in Arizona and Ohio, all these other groups in other places in the country, thought after the crash that Wall Street and big corporations were made whole again, and they were left behind,” said Patrick McHugh, the executive director of Priorities, who observed the focus groups.

“Trump made a lot of promises to address those issues. He’s now president…. He’s now responsible for fulfilling those promises.”

So people somehow sense that government sides with corporations. People might be uninformed and misinformed, but they by and large aren’t stupid. They can see what’s going on and want something done about it.

Apart from the obvious racism, Trump campaigned on an economic message. There were people who will tell you they “took a chance” and supported Trump because he promised to “drain the swamp” of corruption in government. He said he was already wealthy so he wouldn’t take bribes. He got a lot of votes from people who were fed up.

If there was a consistent criticism of Hillary Clinton it was that she was beholden to corporations, especially Wall Street, and that her paid speeches and supposed support for TPP proved it.

Lots of people supported Bernie Sanders because he obviously was not in the pocket of corporations.

Many Green voters are Greens instead of Democrats because they believe the party has sold out to corporate interests.

I wonder if there is a lesson from this?

Progressives Should Focus On Russia

Too many on the “left” say progressives should not be focusing on the Russian interference in our democracy. They say it is just an excuse to allow the failure of Clinton and Democratic leadership to offer the public good policies that help people instead of just helping corporations and the rich slide. Some even say it is just old 1950s-style “red-baiting.”

Criticism of Russia is not related to previous pre-1990s criticisms of communism or socialism. Russia is not that. Today it is a kletocracy run by one guy and a bunch of oligarchs, sort of the perfect Koch/Thiel/Trump/corporate state that Republicans are trying to bring about here.

They Did It

The Trump campaign did do this and the Republican Party is running cover for it, just so they can continue to loot us with tax cuts for the rich and taking away the things our government does to make our lives better.

Its better for progressives if the spectrum of power goes from the left to centrist Dems, instead of from centrist Dems to the far right as it does now. Using Russia to get lots of Rs out of power and move that spectrum left only helps us obtain an environment in which Medicare-for-All, free college and university, allowing everyone to vote, restoring taxation and regulation on corporations, breaking up monopolies, bringing racial and gender justice, ending privatization, finally fighting climate change and all the other things needed to heal the country and planet are possible to achieve.

We need the public to understand that conservative/Republican/corporate rule is anti-democracy and not legitimate. Focusing on Russia helps us get there.

The Russia Story Isn’t Going Away

It’s not like the Russia story is going to drop from the news, allowing other things to be discussed. So ride the wave instead of fighting the tide.

The Russia story actually gives us an opportunity to talk about good policies instead of policies that hurt the country, by tying that discussion to Russian efforts to hurt us. All the talk about Russia gives us the opportunity to tie Republican anti-government policies to the ways Russia hoped to benefit from their interference in our democracy. Russia helped put them there in an effort to hurt the country and Republican policies hurt the country.

The Russia story delegitimizes Republicans by exposing their lack of legitimacy. (Along with voter suppression, gerrymandering and other ways they are not legitimately in power.) The more they and their policies are delegitimized the more progressive policies fill the vacuum.

Note how Medicare-for-All is being widely discussed, even while the Russia story dominates.

All the talk about Russian interference in democracy offers us a chance to remind people of what democracy means. erference in our democracy.

Tax Cuts Defund The Very Things That Boost The Economy

After 8 years of complaining about “Obama deficits,” Republicans are proposing huge, dramatic, unprecedented tax cuts, especially for corporations. President Trump wants the rate cut from 35% down to 15%, denying the government $2 trillion of revenue over the next decade. He is also proposing dramatic income tax cuts for billionaires like him.

Republicans call corporate tax cuts “pro-growth,” saying they will give the economy a boost. Trump’s Treasury Secretary says the plan will “pay for itself with economic growth.”

So now they’re for “stimulus”?

But here’s the real question: do tax cuts actually boost economic growth?

What Tax Cuts Actually Do

In 2012 the Congressional Research Service looked at the data from past tax cuts and the effect they had on the economy, and issued a report titled, Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945. The summary explained,

This report attempts to clarify whether or not there is an association between the tax rates of the highest income taxpayers and economic growth. Data is analyzed to illustrate the association between the tax rates of the highest income taxpayers and measures of economic growth.

And what did the study find?

There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.

In fewer words: There is no evidence that tax cuts bring economic growth, but they do cause income to concentrate at the top.

But wait, it’s worse than that. Tax revenues build roads (and bridges and airports and rail systems and and water systems…), educate the population, conduct scientific research, run the courts, enforce regulations, standardize (and enforce) weights and measures, and about a million other things that make businesses prosper.

If you cut taxes, over time the business environment necessarily gets worse because those roads deteriorate, people are not as well educated, scientific research declines, courts clog up, regulation enforcement declines, along with about a million other things that businesses rely on. If you can’t get educated employees, can’t move goods on crowded and deteriorated roads and your competitors can get away with cheating, your business just isn’t going to do as well as it could.

Tax cuts defund all of those things that boost the economy and make our lives better. Over time the economy necessarily gets worse.

Are Taxes Theft?

Republicans say “taxes are theft.” They say “taxes take money out of the economy.” They say it “takes from those who work and earn and giving to those who don’t.” They say taxation “extracts wealth.” The idea behind this is that government is illegitimate and “uses force’ to “take people’s money” so “they” can have it instead. They argue there are “producers” and “moochers” and the moochers outnumber the producers and take from them.

These are all actually arguments against democracy. Substitute the words “We the People” for the word “government” in their arguments and you’ll see how this works. The “they” in their arguments isn’t some “other” that grabs the money, it is We the People. The idea of democracy is that We the People have a government and we decide how to allocate the resources of our economy to make our lives better. That means taxing and spending.

Democracy is taxing and spending. And by definition government sending is on things that make our lives better.

Are tax cuts theft? Or are they really about theft of democracy from We the People?

From Tax Cuts Are Theft,

The American Social Contract: We, the People built our democracy and the empowerment and protections it bestows. We built the infrastructure, schools and all of the public structures, laws, courts, monetary system, etc. that enable enterprise to prosper. That prosperity is the bounty of our democracy and by contract it is supposed to be shared and reinvested. That is the contract. Our system enables some people to become wealthy but all of us are supposed to benefit from this system. Why else would We, the People have set up this system, if not for the benefit of We, the People?

… The American Social Contract is supposed to work like this:

… But the “Reagan Revolution” broke the contract. Since Reagan the system is working like this:

Tax cuts eat the seed corn of our prosperity. We shouldn’t fall for yet another Republican con, this time from the con-man Trump.