Friday, June 22, 2018

Meanwhile, Behind the Curtain

The Melania Trump jacket controversy is probably an intended distraction so that the media will incessantly natter about something which ultimately has no real-world consequences, while behind the curtain unpleasant attempts to dismantle the republic brick by brick and to poke holes in the social safety net continue:

1.  For instance, the Republicans' 2019 budget proposal has passed a House panel.  It's all about government debt now that it's going to be made larger by the Republicans' Subsidies For The Rich tax plan:

House Republicans released a proposal Tuesday that would balance the budget in nine years — but only by making large cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare, that President Trump vowed not to touch.
The House Budget Committee is aiming to pass the blueprint this week, but that may be as far as it goes this midterm election year. It is not clear that GOP leaders will put the document on the House floor for a vote, and even if it were to pass the House, the budget would have little impact on actual spending levels.
Nonetheless the budget serves as an expression of Republicans’ priorities at a time of rapidly rising deficits and debt. Although the nation’s growing indebtedness has been exacerbated by the GOP’s own policy decisions — including the new tax law, which most analyses say will add at least $1 trillion to the debt — Republicans on the Budget Committee said they felt a responsibility to put the nation on a sounder fiscal trajectory.
“The time is now for our Congress to step up and confront the biggest challenge to our society,” said House Budget Chairman Steve Womack (R-Ark.). “There is not a bigger enemy on the domestic side than the debt and deficits.”

Bolds are mine.  I added them to point out that even this is smoke and mirrors.  But it does tell us what kind of a country the Republican Party wishes to see:

One where the federal budget is balanced by first cutting taxes in a manner which disproportionately benefits the richest among us, and then by cutting social spending in a manner which disproportionately hurts the poorest, the frailest and the oldest among us.*

The code words for doing that are "government debt" and "deficits," though neither is ever activated when the Republicans want to give the military more money for weapons.

As an aside, Trump promised in his campaign speeches (the ones before the election, not in the rallies he holds now) that he wouldn't touch Medicare...

2.  Trump wants to merge the Education and Labor departments.  The pretend-reason is Trump's desire to "streamline" the government.  The real reasons have more to do with the Republicans' hatred of the Education department, the fact that a smaller combined department would make gutting workers' and students' civil rights more convenient, and the fact that abolishing one department later will be easier than abolishing two.  Finally, the capitalistic imperative here is to only care about the kind of education employers find useful.

He is unlikely to get that merging in the near future, though.

3.  The trade wars are easy to win!  Our Dear Leader told us this.  Some interim reports from the various fronts in this war:

Now the casualties are beginning to return home from the battlefield, and on Capitol Hill Wednesday, the people’s representatives presented some of them to Wilbur Ross, the president’s billionaire commerce secretary.
“Corn, wheat, beef and pork are all suffering market price declines . . . due to current trade policies,” complained Sen. John Thune (S.D.). “With every passing day, the United States loses market share to other countries.”
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) said “we watched the soybean market start to collapse” because of trade-war concerns.
Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) warned about steel and auto producers in Ohio, “hit harder than any other state by the Canadian retaliatory tariffs.”
From Pennsylvania, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey cautioned that Kraft-Heinz may move its ketchup production to Canada to avoid retaliatory tariffs.

The whole article is worth reading, to see how much the US is winning and to try to figure out if you are already tired of so much winning.

4.   Then there are the rich pickings for at least some in the Trump administration, including Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, who appears to have spent $4.6 million dollars (of taxpayer money) on security alone, and more on fine dining and fancy hotels.

5.  Trump's immigration policies are based on what their architect, Stephen Miller, calls zero tolerance. 

I now agree, and have zero tolerance of those policies**.  Not only are they cruel in ways which hurt the innocent the worst but it's also clear that there were never any actual plans about how to reunite the children who were separated from their parents!  Or even about how to house all those detained at the border or how to process all the court cases Miller wants to see.

Note that all the plans about how to house and prosecute the detainees are happening after Trump's policy of separating children from their parents or guardians at the border began. 

This seems typical of the Trump administration's incompetence.  Or perhaps not caring at all about competence, given that its goal is to destroy the administrative state (as one of the original architects of Trumpology, Stephen Bannon, so memorably put it.)


*  The Hill reports:

The proposed mandatory reduction includes $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, $537 billion from Medicare and $2.6 trillion in reductions to other programs such as welfare, nutritional assistance and other anti-poverty programs.

Also note that the promised increases in real wages the Republicans used to sell their tax plan  have not materialized, at least yet.

** I am not opposed to proper immigration polices, but they should begin by considering both the push-factors and the pull-factors. 

Trump has no interest in understanding the push factors, and because of that lack of interest, he will not attempt to ameliorate them.