Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day







Monday, February 25, 2019


February 24, 2019
 There are two ways to evaluate Donald Trump as President.  We can tote up his lies, boasts, evasions,  fabrications and delusions, note his impulsiveness and dangerously bad ideas, then add the evidence of foreign influence and possible collusion leading to his semi-election, and reach the unavoidable conclusion that he should be removed from office.  Alternatively, we can shorten the list, simplify the task and reach the same result by recognizing that Trump is intellectually and emotionally a child, attempting to get his way through tantrums.  (The Nation ran a column entitled “Trump at Two,” referring to the midpoint of his term, but it could as well describe his level of maturity).
Making all reasonable allowance for party loyalty, political ambition and fear of reprisal, how can Congressional Republicans not conclude that, under either analysis, leaving Trump in charge is an unacceptable risk?
His current tantrum is the declaration of a national emergency to allow him to take funds from other programs, which he has discovered have money to spare, to build a wall.  He is so incompetent that he has declared that the wall isn’t urgently needed: “Well, I got $1.4 billion. . . .  I was successful, in that sense, but I want to do it faster.  I could do the wall over a longer period of time.  I didn’t need to do this.  But I’d rather do it much faster.”[20] He’d rather do something wasteful and unnecessary, requiring condemnation of private land and prompting multiple law suits, faster; that’s the basis for his seizure of more power.
The current plan is to spend the $1.375 billion authorized by Congress, plus these transfers from other funds: $600 million from the Treasury Department’s drug forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from drug interdiction activities of the Department of Defense and $3.6 billion from the military construction budget.[21]  All this  to build a wall we don’t need. 
The national-emergency ploy was bad enough when Trump pretended that there was an urgent need for the wall.  Now that it’s just his whim, Congress should be in revolt.  Some Republicans indeed may rebel, but not all the movement relative to Trump has been away.  In 2015, Senator Lindsey Graham called Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” and said that the way to make America Great again was to “tell  Donald Trump to go to hell.”[22]  In February 2016, Graham said of Trump “I think he's a kook. I think he's crazy. . . . He's not a conservative Republican, he's an opportunist. He's not fit to be president of the United States." [23]  In March 2016, Graham offered this prediction: “We're going to lose. You'll never convince me that Donald Trump is the answer to the problem we have with Hispanics. . . . Here's what I want to tell people when we lose to Hillary: I told you that the immigration issue is killing us. We're doubling down on the problem we have with Hispanics. We went from self-deportation to forced deportation. . . . So here's what I'm going to say in November when we lose: I told you so."[24]
The new Graham has seen the light: recently he tweeted, “If White House and Congress fail to reach a deal then President @realDonaldTrump must act through emergency powers to build wall/barrier.”  One segment of funds to be lifted from the military construction fund was to have built a new Fort Campbell Mahaffey Middle School in Kentucky.  Graham’s response: “I would say it’s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border. We’ll get them the school they need, but right now we’ve got a national emergency on our hands.”[25] 
Apparently the fact that Trump — unexpectedly — won transformed him from a race-baiting, xenophobic bigot into a statesman who recognizes that “the problem we have with Hispanics” is that there are too many of them, that any more would bring the country to its knees, that hordes are poised to pour across the border  and that only a wall will save us.  Graham is an extreme example of the attitude that has kept Congressional Republicans in line.

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20. From his rambling, incoherent Rose Garden press conference February 15.

21.https://abc3340.com/news/connect-to-congress/white-house-says-emergency-declaration- gives-trump-8-billion-for-border-wall

22. https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2015/12/08/lindsey-graham-donald-trump- xenophobic-bigot-interview-newday.cnn/video/playlists/lindsey-graham-2016/

23.https://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/269675-graham-republicans-will-get-slaughtered-if-trump-nominee

24.https://www.cbsnews.com/news/lindsey-graham-were-gonna-lose-to-hillary-clinton-with- donald-trump/

25. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/transcript-sen-lindsey-graham-on-face-the-nation-February-17- 2019/ 


Sunday, February 17, 2019


February 17, 2019
    There are two strong, dangerous trends today, climate change and the concentration of wealth.   Let’s look at the latter issue.
    The usual way to limit the accumulation of large fortunes is through taxation.  An automatic reaction from the right is to claim that high taxes will stunt growth.  That complaint is based on the notion that those receiving high income will invest and drive the economy, to everyone’s benefit.  If that trickle-down theory needed further debunking, the recent tax cuts provided it: much of the additional net income went to dividends and stock repurchases, further enriching the wealthy.
    The other standard response on the right is that redistribution is ethically wrong, but redistribution upward somehow isn’t included in the ban.  That attitude is, unfortunately, an American tradition.  Cordell Hull, who advocated income and estate taxes in the early twentieth century, put it this way: "An irrepressible conflict has been waged for thousands of years between the strong and the weak, the former always striving to heap the chief tax burdens upon the latter."
    There is no plausible reason that the wealthy should not pay more: more than they have recently and more proportionately than those less well off.  That is not punitive.  As Hull put it, “I have no disposition to tax wealth unnecessarily or unjustly, but I do believe that the wealth of the country should bear its just share of the burden of taxation and that it should not be permitted to shirk that duty. . . .[T]he chief burdens of government have long been borne by those least able to bear them, while accumulated wealth has enjoyed the protection and other blessings of the Government and thus far escaped most of its accompanying burdens.''[19]  That lesson, from a century ago, has been forgotten.
    Economic inequality is not simply an offense against fairness, it is a negative force.  Democracy is in peril because, among other reasons, wide economic divisions destroy any sense of our being in it together; wildly uneven distribution of wealth creates separate societies and separate political priorities.  Instead of the divisive “nationalism” of MAGA, we need a true national bond. 
    Can anything be done?   Elizabeth Warren has proposed a wealth tax.  In her formulation, it would be a yearly tax of 2% on household net worth above $50 million,  3% on net worth above $1 billion. My first reaction was negative; we should tax income, not property. 
    There are legitimate arguments in favor of a wealth tax.  One is that it would discourage the growth of family dynasties, but that can be addressed by restoring the estate tax to reasonable levels.  A better argument is that inequality in wealth has grown, in part because income and estate taxes have been slashed, and only a wealth tax will address that problem.  That there is huge and growing inequality is undeniable, as is its negative effect.
     However, I think that a wealth tax would be unmanageable.  It would require valuing a myriad of assets — annually — many of which have no realistic market value, such as art works, and it would be easy to avoid by, for example, splitting family assets into units falling below the tax threshold, assigning those units to various family members or other nominees.  There also is some concern that a wealth tax would be unconstitutional.
    A better plan is to overhaul the income and estate tax codes, raising rates and eliminating the lower income tax rate for capital gains, which are a vehicle for the rich to get richer.

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19. Hull quotes are at http://www.taxhistory.org/thp/readings.nsf/ArtWeb/F6769F770B0FC 289852 5803700432EE1?Open Document   (53 Cong. Rec. 10652)  

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


b>February 12, 2019
            Apparently I had been bad, for my resident conscience insisted that we watch the State of the Union address.  Which of my sins could have been so serious as to deserve such punishment?  I must reflect.
            A columnist had suggested recently that the S of the U was obsolete and should be scrapped.  I thought that to be extreme, but after watching about forty minutes of this one, I am tempted to agree.  True, not every President will be as pathetic as Trump, but the standing ovations, not merely ritualistic but signifying support for or at least tolerance of his delusions, indicated that the Congress is a group not to be subjected to stress.  Clearly it is not strong enough to resist assaults on its intelligence, and needs to be protected.
            Thinking about the fallen state of the nation, the metaphor, barbarians at the gates, came to mind, but Trump has seized and misused that image, so let’s just refer to our decline and fall; the former is well under way and, far from making us great again, Caesar Donald is pushing us toward the latter.

Monday, February 4, 2019


February 3, 2019
     Rachel Maddow has pointed out that several of Trump’s allegations about the border — “trafficked women in cars at the southern border, their mouths taped shut . .  Muslim prayer rugs in the southern desert  . . smugglers’ amazing cars” — are scenes from a movie. 
     She’s done a service by pointing out that Our Leader’s build-the-wall obsession is based on fiction, but she was slightly off in this comment: “Now  in any normal  administration it would be insane to suggest . . . even joke about the president of the United States seeing stuff in a movie . . . and maybe thinking it was real — or at least real enough to justify an actual military deployment of thousands of active duty U.S. troops to the border.”  Leaving aside the reference to deployment, that’s not quite so;  This is not the first time that a President has been accused of confusing movies and reality.
     There were two credible reports that President Reagan stated, in discussing the Holocaust and describing concentration camps, that “he had served as a photographer in a U.S. Army unit assigned to film Nazi death camps” or, in the second exchange, that he was "a member of the Signal Corps taking pictures of the camps."  Reagan wasn’t there; his wartime service was in Hollywood making training films. Apparently he confused seeing films to with taking them.[17]
     (Trump isn’t even original in using Make America Great Again as a slogan.  Bill Clinton used the phrase in speeches in 1992 and, in a 2008 ad, said  Hillary “Will Make America Great Again.”  Campaign posters and buttons for Reagan in 1980 read “Let’s Make America Great Again.”) [18]    
     Former Presidents have had  flaws, some serious, but the incumbent stands alone in his combination of insecurity, lack of political experience and low intellect, and in his compensating boasting, bluster, and disdain of expert advice. Does the country have a problem? “I alone can fix it.”  Has someone pointed out his lack of smarts?  “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault."  Do intelligence professionals see the world differently than he does?  They “should go back to school.”
     Speaking of presidential delusions — in this case those of a presidential hopeful — Howard Schultz, unpopular in his home town for selling the Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder ), has achieved that status on a national scale by declaring his interest in running for President as an independent.  Assuming that he drew enough votes in a critical state or two, and assuming that he, a nominal Democrat, drew more from the Democratic candidate, he would cause Trump to win again, presumably not his aim.  His delusions are twofold; that he could win, not merely be a spoiler, and that there is a large constituency for his platform of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism.  Maybe he got his ideas from a movie.

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17. Article by Lou Cannon, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1984/03/05/ reagan-38/26b480c6-3d54-46d0-b0fe-1c426c139847/?utm_term=.a1dcbcce7b64. 
See also Cannon’s book President Reagan: the Role of a Lifetime, pp. 486-89.

18.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Make_America_Great_Again#cite_note-8